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.


Oohhh, People, people

I took the kids on a rather big adventure today....we ran errands. I tend to avoid making more than one stop when I am alone with all the children, but today, I went to several different places. I wore either N or A in a wrap, had 2 others in a cart, and JR or M walked along side. The kids were awesome, and I felt right proud of our success. OK, I'm done bragging.

During one of my errands, a lady with a little boy came up and asked about the children. Turns out she, too, was a mom of 4 youngsters, all of which were adopted from foster care. She had 2 that were adopted transracially, and several had been meth exposed. I took the opportunity to mention some of A's symptoms. Sure enough, all her meth-exposed babies had had the same symptoms. If I wasn't convinced of exposure before, I am now! We had a lovely chat, exchanged phone numbers and e-mail, and agreed to meet up for a play-date.

N, 6 weeks

While we were chatting, we noticed a middle-aged woman pacing around us, stealing glances at all the children. She had a strange wobble, and I still do not know if she was drunk or had some type of disability. Finally, she approached us, smoking a cigarette, and started asking questions. Turns out she had overheard the majority of our conversation, so, she looked at me and asked, "So these are your adopted kids?" Since I still wasn't sure whether she was drunk, I just briefly nodded yes. Then, having no tact whatsoever, she looked at A (who I was holding) and asked, "So, is he a half-and-half?" EXCUSE ME? "Is he a half-and-half? Half white, half black?" I was so shocked by those words for some reason, that I honestly can't remember my response. Obviously, it is another response I need to develop prayerfully and lovingly to add to my "list" for the future.

Any adoptive mother knows that comments like that, spoken directly in front of all the children, will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Sure, we have adopted children, and yes, it is a fact of our lives. But we do try to be a bit more tactful in the way we choose our wording--particularly if the children are around. We try to be careful to never introduce a "label" of being "adopted" or "our own" to our children. Unfortunately, I am learning it is a label to many folks, and I am beginning to see more of that. All of our children are "our own." Some were physically born to us, while others were "born" in our hearts. When it comes to their skin color, of course, it is obvious that we are different from each other. But that is a blessing from God. He created each individual after His likeness, and to be unique, and that is something we have learned to treasure with our children. To call my child a "half-and-half" is quite offensive. That is a type of cream, not my child. Don't get me wrong, I honestly do not mind answering people's questions. I love to educate--whether it be in regards to service animals, training horses, or adoption. Over the years, however, I have learned there are those who genuinely seek answers, and although their terminology and questions may be somewhat innappropriate, I realize it is an innocent mistake. In fact, I have made many of the same mistakes as I have learned. I am certainly not known for my smooth way with words! *blush* There are others, however, who are just plain tactless. They seemingly do not care who they offend, who they label, and who they look down on. For some reason, they do not view all people as equal in God's eyes. As much as I would love to educate these people, I have found it is very difficult. I tend to have little nerve in such situations, and hate confrontations, and often times, I have found these people already have their minds made up. A quick encounter in a store parking lot will not likely change that mindset.

Thank you for allowing me this little vent, and for those of you who have gone through these adoption processes with us, I thank you for your support and encouragement. When we decided not only to adopt, but to be open to transracial adoption, we had a lot of concerns. We did receive a few negative opinions and remarks, but in most cases, we learned that we are surrounded by people who see all children as God's creation. You can see the bigger picture of how God puts families together, and that love knows no bounds. I can't tell you how much that support has meant to us.


Kiddo Updates

I recently realized that it is March, N is 6 weeks old, and I haven't given any updates on him. He is doing beautifully, growing like a weed, and is just the happiest baby. N is so far proving to be our easiest baby yet. Since the miracle with his hips, he has had absolutely no health issues worth speaking of. He is on a really good schedule, eating every 3 hours, laying awake for a while, and then napping. We are still working on night times, but we have now had 3 with only 1 feeding during the night. Hopefully that will go soon as well. He is also very strong, already supporting his head quite a bit, and starting to sit up fairly straight with support. Developmentally, he seems right on target, and possibly slightly ahead. I mentioned he is growing like a weed.....he was 5 lbs 5 oz when I got him at 4 days old; as of yesterday's well-baby check, he is 9.5 lbs! I did not know that kind of growth was possible! The pediatrician explained his theory that N may have experienced "intra-uterine growth restriction," meaning that for some reason, his growth in-utero may have been stunted. We just don't know enough about the pregnancy to know if or how early he was, or if there was any reason for this growth restriction. In any case, now he is eating more than normal apparently, and his body is catching up. Here is a photo I took just tonight.

And yes, he has gotten bigger, fatter, darker, and his hair is getting curly.

Since I'm doing updates, here a few photos of the other kids.
We couldn't ask for a more patient dog than Will! All our babies have loved him!

No, A did not outgrow his pack'n'play. M had a toy one for her baby dolls that he likes to push around as he walks along behind it. On this particular day, he got it jammed into a corner, and decided to climb in. Bet he wouldn't be that happy in a full-size one!
Aaahhh, and this would be my little farm-girl wanna-be. She loves to wear her boots almost as much as she loves to wear her dresses. As long as we aren't going out in public, I figure it isn't worth battling over!
M walked in yesterday looking like this, and said, "Look Mommy, I Mary and this is Baby Jesus!" Ooooh, she may be cute, but do not be fooled....
This is poor Will after Daddy allowed M to use some scissors and left her unsupervised for a moment. He has these little clipped areas all over the front half of his body!
And I couldn't resist capturing this sweet father-son moment.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure:

Honey Oatmeal Bread

Here, by request, is the recipe I recently used for this yummy bread. I wish I could say I created it from my own imagination, but I actually got it from the West Bend Bread Maker Company.

7.5 ounces lukewarm water (7 oz + 1 Tbs)
3 Tbs honey
2 cups bread flour
1 cup raw oats
1.5 Tbs. organic dry milk
1 1/4 tsp salt
1.5 Tbs butter
2 tsp active dry yeast

Assuming you are using a breadmaker, follow the directions for your maker. Mine directs to add ingredients to pan, in the order that is listed. Gently level the dry ingredients. The butter should be quartered, and one quarter placed in each corner of the pan. Dig a small well in the center and pour in yeast. This bread is perfect baked for a medium-crust setting, or about a 3 hr and 10 minute cycle in my West Bend machine. Top it off with homemade butter and/or a little raw honey for a delectable treat!

Makes a 1.5 lb loaf


Question for you experienced homesteaders...

S and I will soon sit down to review our plans, anticipated start-up costs, and other details to get our farm up and running. We try to do this once to twice a year to make sure we are still on track, and to make any necessary changes and adjustments to the plan, as we are always learning more. So for all of you more experienced homesteaders and self-sufficiency "experts" out there, we could use a little advice.

Our current "final" plan is to have horses, a cow for milk and to breed for beef, possibly some goats for goat-milk soap and land clearing, a hog or two for tilling and pork, chickens for meat and eggs, a vegetable garden, a salad/kitchen garden, and a fruit orchard. Because I am already very familiar with horses and chickens, we are planning to acquire those immediately upon moving in. But after that, we will pretty much be learning as we go. What order of importance do you recommend? We have our ideas, but I am really curious to hear from those of you who have been through it. Or if you had it to do all over again, whether you would change anything? Also, regarding major acquisitions such as animals and crops, is there anything ELSE you would recommend?

Thanks in advance! Just leave me a comment with your recommendations!


Self-Suffiency, Here we come!

WARNING: this post is NOT for the weak-stomached!

Yesterday was an amazing day! I feel like we took tremendous strides toward our eventual goal of being self-sufficient. It all started when I found out on Thursday that our beef was ready for pick-up. Since no one else was available to make the 8 hour-round-trip drive, I invited JR to go along with me. He jumped at the chance. He was so excited to go get our "cows," he was dressed and ready to go when I went into his room at 6:30 Saturday morning. We ate a quick breakfast, loaded up and headed out.

It was a beautiful day, with perfect temperatures, fresh mountain air, and absolutely gorgeous scenery. JR and I had several discussions about the variety, color, and creativity of God's creation in nature.

JR kept asking if he would get to watch them kill our cows (typical boy!), and I assured him the cows were already processed and we would just be picking up the meat. When we arrived at the butcher shop, it was literally an old rancher's house with a cattle pen in the back yard, a few industrial freezers in a shed, and a rig for slaughtering and butchering the cattle. No one was around the shop when we arrived, so we set off walking toward several trucks I saw near the cattle pens. When we got there, we rounded a corner to find the butcher was in the middle of skinning a freshly-killed steer--aka a bloody mess of hide, muscle, and bones. My first thought was "great, I have just subjected my child to emotional trauma that will take years to recover from." JR, on the other hand, was immediately fascinated. He started asking questions about the process and the animal itself. I answered what I could, and then the butcher took us over to the freezers to collect our beef. Our total hanging weight (for you more experienced beef folk), between the two small animals we purchased, came to 620 lbs, so the final cut and wrapped weight of what we actually took home was around 450 lbs of beef! For those of you who are not so experienced, I will give a better idea how much beef that is:

Our new 7.5 cu. ft. freezer

4 large coolers full

4 cu. ft. freezer partially filled

After getting it all arranged for our trip home, the butcher left us to return to his steer-in-progress. JR insisted we had to follow. So, I told him we only had a few minutes. We walked over to watch, and JR stood there just mesmerized. The butcher explained what he was doing, and I pointed out different parts of the steer. After a few minutes, the butcher walked over to us with a mass of intestine in his hands, reached into the center, and pulled out a perfect specimen of a heart to show JR. Talk about an unexpected anatomy lesson! We briefly discussed where the heart is, and on the drive home, JR asked more questions about the heart and its functions. I showed him how and where he could feel his pulse and what it meant. I really have no idea how much of that a 4 yr old can absorb and understand, but he seemed pretty clear when he later told his daddy about it. As if that wasn't enough, as we turned to leave, JR walked over and started pushing something with his foot. He said, "Look mom, its a sheep!" Sure enough, I hadn't even noticed a perfect complete sheepskin laying right behind us, complete with head (eyes removed, of course). This brought on more questions, which I did my best to answer. Finally I succeeded in dragging JR back to the van to leave.
On the way home, we stopped by the dairy where we get our raw milk. Because this multi-state region is very limited in raw milk sources, this dairy is the closest source to us. Now, this particular dairy happens to be run by an LDS Fundamentalist group. I figure they have been producing raw milk for a long time to feed their own families, so it is most likely a good source. I expected a woman in a prairie-style dress and braided hair to be running the register at the dairy store. What I did not expect was an entire town of LDS Fundamentalists, with a large number of them shopping at the dairy store at the same time I was. Let me tell you that a tomboy/ wanna-be-farmgirl in blue jeans (ME!) feels VERY conspicuous in a bustling town full of women in prairie dresses! I felt like I had come from another planet and dropped onto the earth 100 years ago! Man, what an experience that was! JR, of course was oblivious to this whole issue. Nonetheless, I left the dairy with a good supply of fresh raw milk, some raw cream, and raw cheeses. Finally, we headed home.
On the way home, we stopped for lunch. At one point, we witnessed what appeared to be a very irritated grown man half-dragging a young (7 mo?) beagle puppy on a leash down the side of the road. The puppy was panting and limping, obviously in a great deal of pain, and really struggling to keep up with the man. As much as I wanted to say or do something, being a woman alone with my very young son, and seeing the apparent irritation of this man, I decided it was probably much safer to leave this situation alone. I wanted to call someone, but had no idea who to call in this strange city (you can't use 911 for something like that). So I did the best thing I could think of at the time, and that was to try to use the situation as a lesson for my son. We discussed how God has created animals for many reasons. Some provide companionship (like the puppy), others help in nature, and others are intended for food. No matter what their ultimate purpose, however, God expects us to take care of them, love them, and keep them as safe and healthy as possible. Even though we sometimes have to kill and eat them (like our cows in the back of the van), we are to do it in such a way that the animal feels little or no pain and does not suffer. I do not know if my decision not to intervene was the right one, as I can't stand to see an animal suffer, but I hope my son was able to glean some understanding of our roles in life so at least he will grow to have a healthy respect for God's creatures.
Upon arriving home, we immediately set to work sorting meat and filling coolers with meat for some friends who had purchased some of the beef with us. I am still in shock that we managed to fit the remaining 300 or so pounds into our freezers! Then we got this bright idea to try making some butter for the first time. I poured a little cream into a jelly jar, and gave JR the privilege of agitating the jar.
He thought it was great fun, but of course, he got bored with it after a few minutes, and passed it off to S.

S agitated the jar while reading up about making homemade butter. Then, he decided to take over bath time for the kids and let me agitate the jar while I fed N. After bathtime, S came down and took over the jar again. Finally, about 45 minutes after our agitating began, we had something!

This shows our clump of butter still in the buttermilk. Unfortunately, I realized I did not have the required strainer to strain the butter out of the buttermilk, so we used a wet papertowel as a filter of sorts. S, with his goofy tastes, decided he wanted to drink the resulting buttermilk.

Our beautiful, fresh, homemade butter.

We put the butter into a dish, covered it, and set it in the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours. I was so curious how it tasted (but don't care to eat butter by itself), so I put some bread into the maker and set the timer for morning. We put the butter out to soften overnight. I woke up this morning to the scent of freshly baked Honey Oatmeal bread, and had a delicious breakfast of warm homemade bread topped with fresh homemade butter, and raw milk!

I love life, I love being responsible for creating food for our family from scratch (and knowing where most of that food is coming from), and I love homeschooling! Just thinking about the real-life education my son received yesterday thrills me to no end!
God has truly blessed us, and I am looking forward very much to what He has in store for us yet!