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Through meeting and marrying my husband, I realized that my plans to be a vet had been replaced by a desire to be a good wife.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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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, almost 100 sq. ft. camping quarters.
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.
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?! ;)
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!
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!
The original engine's frontal view.
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.
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!
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.
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 cu. ft. freezer partially filled
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.
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!