Friday, January 31, 2014

Looking Back: Reflections on January

With all the goals I have for this year, and a focus verse to help guide me, I decided that pausing for reflection at the end of each month was important.

My focus verse is Proverbs 31:27:

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness

Here are the areas I wanted to focus on for this verse, and how I've been doing. 
Home Decorating
Haven't done much of anything here.  Still need to work on it.  Want to make hearts with kids for Valentine's Day. 

Some kind of needle work--knitting, crocheting, needle point...
 I watched some videos on crocheting, and had Jayme help me.  (She took a class on it once, and is pretty good now.)  I can do the basic stitches.  But I can't seem to get the hang of counting stitches.  I always insert my hook in the wrong spot and end up with more on the bottom than on top.  I definitely need more practice! 

Organizing Clothes and preparing better for season changes.
Okay.  I went through two of my drawers to organize them.  I threw out some really ratty things, and made a small pile to go to Goodwill.  Now just a bunch more to go! 
Not being idle & exercising more.
I've been exercising!  You can see my reflections on that below.  I'm excited! 

Not eating when bored or for other emotional reasons.  
Doing better on this one.  I've been eating way less, and really focusing on putting better foods into my body.  I even threw out some candy I had left from Christmas.  Do you know how hard that was at first?  But I did it!!!
Ensuring that I eat "spiritual" bread and spend time with the Lord daily
I didn't get my Bible studying done every day in January, but I did it more often than I didn't.  Weekends are hard.  We aren't on our normal schedule.  I need to make sure to do this early in the day on those days since we don't always take quiet time.  
Praying has become a bigger part of my day as well.  When I'm getting frustrated, I stop for a few moments to pray instead of reacting.  I am amazed at how much calmer I feel when I'm finished. 
Other Goals: 

Read at least one book a month

 Those of you who know me know that I used to read all the time.  I have a master's degree in reading even.  Well, teaching reading, but still.  I love reading. 

If I love reading so much, why do I have to make this goal for myself?  I got to the point where I loved reading so much that I was neglecting my responsibilities.  I'd be in the middle of a good book, and didn't want to put it down.  I'd read instead of play with the kids.  I'd read instead of clean.  I'd read instead of...well, just about anything.  I had to get control.  With the Lord's help, I did.  I can now pick up a book, read for a bit, and then put it down and move on.  I know the book will still be there the next time I get to it!

My book for January? 

I thought it was going to be Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal by Joel Salatin.  I checked it out from the library and everything.  I started reading it.  And then...

Bryan and I watched The Hunger Games. I heard about these books when I was teaching.  Some of my students loved them.  After reading the synopsis, I decided it wasn't the type of book I would read.

Until Bryan heard about the movie and watched it one evening.  He told me I had to watch it with him.  And I did.  I actually stayed awake for the whole thing (which means it was really good!)  I usually fall asleep. 

I requested the trilogy at the library, and have picked up the first two.  I read the first one.  Here are my thoughts.

Then, as I read it, I couldn't help but analyze how close we are to a culture to allowing things like this to happen.   Look at how obsessed the nation is with reality TV.  Look at how disconnected the government is from reality.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  If we all think that the government is really doing us a favor, who knows how far we'd allow it to go.  Baby steps is all it takes.  Look how big the government is now compared to twenty years ago. 

After reading the book, I started comparing it to The Giver and 1984.  Interesting themes in all three of them. 

I didn't think I'd say it, but I will be making sure Jayme reads this trilogy in high school.  I think it's important.  And it wasn't nearly as gory as I thought it would be. 

All in all, I really liked this book!  I've already started the second.  And am looking forward to finishing all of them. 

Complete the Couch 2 5 K Training.  

Just did Week 5 Day 3!!!  Well, I attempted the workout.  I was supposed to jog for 20 minutes.  I jogged for 5 up the huge hill.  Then I had to walk for 2 to catch my breath.  Then I jogged for the last 13 without stopping!  I ran for 13 minutes!!! That is amazing!  I couldn't do that at the beginning of the month.  No way! 
  Sew one item for the house and one item for someone (or me) to wear.  

Um...I got my sewing machine out once.  And mended a few items of the kids' that desperately needed them.  Otherwise no progress made. 

Blog at least three times a week.  

Yup.  I express myself so much better through writing than talking.  I'm a big open mouth insert foot person.  Writing allows me to get it all out and then edit.  Before I hit send or publish or anything.  I like that!  Very relaxing.  

Take a picture a day.  

I thought this would be hard.  But it's not really.  I've been doing pretty well.  I like posting them on Saturdays.  I also like learning more about using the iPhone camera. 
Ellie loves this rock, and asked me to take her picture while she was sitting on it.

How are your goals coming along?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Talking Donkey

Monday begins T week in the Tanner house.  I'm really looking forward to this Bible story!  We'll be learning about the talking donkey from Numbers 22. 

I love this story.  It really shows God's complete control over everything in our lives.  He made the donkey talk.  As in actually speak words that Balaam understood.  That is amazing!

We have some neat donkey crafts planned.  And we'll be learning about God's grace.  He could have easily kept the donkey silent and had the angel kill Balaam.  But we serve a gracious God.  And I'm so thankful for that! The timing is perfect, since our January hymn was "Amazing Grace."  I love how it is all tying together! 

In addition to learning about the Talking Donkey, we'll be making a T Tractor. I know that activity will be Jeffrey approved.  We have a book or two about tractors that will make an appearance in our homeschooling days.   

Any other fun T activities you can think of? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My First Girl Haircut

I've been cutting all of the male hair in this house for what seems like forever.  Just using clippers and keeping Bryan, Owen, and Jeffrey all trimmed up.  Simon will get his turn someday too.  As soon as he gets too much hair.

But girl hair.  Nope--that scares me to touch!  I was so scared of messing up.  Until today.  One of the blogs linked up to Raising Arrows this morning caught my eye.  And I clicked over.  And found...

A great tutorial on cutting girl hair.  My little Ellie has the length recommened on the tutorial, so I asked her if she wanted a haircut.  Split ends abound on her little head, and it was definitely time for a change.

Ellie said yes.  She was so excited.  I sat her on the chair in the bathroom and wrapped a towel around her. 

Spritzing provided the damp hair that was needed.  I brushed it out and put it into pigtails by the ears. 

Now for the hard part...cutting.  The tutorial instructed to cut straight across at the bottom of each pigtail.  Straight lines and I don't exactly see eye to eye.  I have a really hard time just guesstimating straightness.  But I gave it a try.  Snip, snip.

Both pigtails appeared even, so I let them loose.  Ellie approves of her haircut.  And I approve of saving about $12!

One of the reasons I love blog link parties--you never know what you'll find, but you usually find something useful! I'm so thankful for this.  What a blessing to have so many resources just a click away.

My little girly girl loved the spa like treatment.  And on a Wednesday--her day! How perfect. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jayme's Birthday!

Wow!  Twelve years ago today...I became a mom!  Just a few days past my eighteenth birthday, that was a definite life changing experience.  It's amazing how much the Lord has worked in our lives over the past twelve years.   I've changed so much as a mom.  I've grown into a better person.  And I'm so thankful for the lovely young lady who ignited my journey into motherhood.

I look forward to seeing her follow the Lord's leading in her life.  She's really starting to develop interests and we're seeing glimpses of different talents.  Some--like computer programming--are ones I had no idea were there! Others, like her artistic abilities, are ones that we've watched develop over several years.  It'll be great to see what new skills and abilities and interests develop this year.

Jayme has reached an age where she's so helpful.  And so enjoyable to be around.  She asks great questions about things we read.  She loves to dive into topics of interest and learn more.

 She is such a blessing! I love that she's not embarrassed to play with her siblings.  That she still gives me hugs and holds hands with me when we walk through a store. That she shares her thoughts and dreams with me.  She is nothing like I was when I was her age.  And I'm so thankful!

I'm so thankful for the time that we spend together.  Homeschooling has been one of the best decisions we've ever made! 

Here's to another year of learning more about my oldest.  To help guide her journey towards adulthood. To pray for her.  Another year together. 

And yet, I have to remember that our years together are fleeting. We are not raising kids in this house.  Nope, Our eyes are set on something better here at Grouse Creek.

 Bryan and I are raising adults.  Adults who will serve the Lord in their own homes and communities someday.  May the Lord grant us the wisdom we need to guide and direct all of our kids into adulthood. 

And today, I had to stop to ponder the fact that adulthood is not that far away for my sweet Jayme.  So many things left to teach her.  So many lessons to learn.  And yet...I need to remember even more to stop and snuggle.  To enjoy her company.  To smile more.  To really enjoy all of my kids. 

I love you Jayme!  Happy Birthday!!!

Trying out the bow and arrow Bryan made her for her birthday!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pic Round Up Week 4

Ah the joys of having the Internet in rural America.  We utilize Satellite internet, and have a limited amount of data each month.  Since we bought two new computers during this Internet cycle, after all the updates they needed, our data was running low.  Yesterday it was at zero. 

Thankfully this company doesn't charge extra for going over.  You just get limited to slower than dial up speed.  Which means uploading seven pictures just wasn't going to happen. 

Today is the 26th.  Our Internet reset at midnight. Yeah! Now I can get these pictures up!

Sunday, January 19

Owen got a hold of Jayme's glasses.  Owen won.  New glasses ordered and should arrive next week!  Thankful for backup pair.

Monday, January 20

Trying to get better at taking pictures of food.  Strawberry-banana oatmeal. Yummy way to start the day!

Tuesday, January 21

Jeffrey was so excited after reading a few words!  His skills are really improving.

 Wednesday, January 22

Sydney's hair is finally long enough for piggy tails!!! 
Thursday, January 23

Trekked out to the junk pile to photograph old tires.  There were plenty to choose from!  I like the snow on this pair.

Friday, January 24

We made a hay fort out in the barn.  Sydney, Jeffrey and Ellie really enjoyed playing in it.
Saturday, January 25

Sydney decided to try Cinder's kennel out for size. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Uses for Old Tires

One interesting thing about living at Grouse Creek is its junk pile.  My Grandpa never liked to throw anything away.  He had the, "I might need it someday" attitude that many people who survived the Great Depression shared.

And so our property has a nice area of...junk!  Old fridges, old cars, an old bathtub, oodles and oodles of miscellaneous screws, nuts and bolts, and more are nestled in a wooded area or stored in an old storage building. Though I'm very thankful it's not visible from the house, this junk pile has come in handy on more than one occasion.  We were able to grab some chicken feeders that just needed some hammering to straighten up;  and some random odds and ends that were the perfect fit for various low cost building projects.

When the kids and I were bored one day and in need of adventure a few years back, we decided to venture to the junk pile and count the tires.  We reached 100 in just a couple minutes and kept going.  The final number has since been forgotten, but it was in the range of 150.  That's a lot of tires!

I've been pondering on those tires lately, and really wanting to put them to use.  The rubber is in decent condition, and I knew there had to be a way to reuse them.  After turning to Google, I was rewarded with some great possibilities.  As soon as the ground thaws enough for me to pull them out, I have a couple of projects in mind.

I'm hoping the kids and I can work together on some of these ideas.  It'll be a great way to teach some new skills!


I don't want to grow any edible food in tires, just because of the chemical leach concern.  I've read both sides of the argument, and decided that since I have plenty of other ground to grow in, I don't need to use the tires.  But...they look really cute as planters.  So I think I'll give flowers a try for the first time ever.

I plan to follow this tutorial, and paint them in vibrant colors.  We need some beauty in our yard!  Any recommendations for easy flowers to grow?  I don't exactly have a green thumb, but I'd love to give it a try! I think annuals will be the way to go...

Play Equipment

Memories of jumping over tires that'd been half planted in the ground fill my thoughts of elementary school recess.  I also remember some tire swings.  I know that tires can be very useful in play.  Here are some of my favorite ideas.  I'm hoping to give one or two a try.

This article has some great details about building all kinds of play equipment.  I really like the sound of the tire log.  You basically attach a bunch of tires, and someone can climb inside and get rolled around.  I'm thinking this might be a great way to meet some of Owen's sensory needs! 

On this site, you can see pictures of an entire playground filled with tires.  I love the jungle gym type structure, and really think our backyard needs one.  Well, once we relocate our chicken flock...

Finally, I will attempt to make a couple of these rockers.  We have most of the materials on hand, so I'm excited! I'm hoping to make three of them, though since I'll have to cut two tires, I might just make four.  I'll have to check the scrap lumber pile and see how much wood there is!

 Other Ideas

A bike rack...

An ottoman...thinking of using some of the new spools of natural colored bailing twine we have...

I really want to try making some seating for around the fire pit Bryan installed last year.  I've seen some great pictures online, but no tutorials.  Any ideas?

What would you do with a bunch of tires?

Linked up to: Raising Arrows

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Getting It All Done: Cooking Real Food Basics

Many people seem to think that cooking real food takes too long.  That they'd be slaves to the kitchen if they tried to feed their family unprocessed food.  I'm here to tell you that it isn't true.  I love preparing real food for my family.  And I don't have enough time to spend it all in the kitchen.

Here's my take on real food.  How we get it all the kitchen.

What Real Food Is To Me

Real food has many definitions.  Instead of hashing them all out, I'll simply share mine.  Food that will nourish my family and does not contain unpronounceable ingredients.  If I can't make it in my kitchen--it's probably science and not food. That means it belongs in a lab and not my house or stomach.

And while many people will argue about all the ins and outs of each ingredient, I don't sweat it too much at this time.  I use unbleached white flour and white whole wheat in almost all of my baked goods--a 50/50 combination.  Yes.  Whole wheat would probably be better for us.  But...if my family doesn't like the texture/taste of what I make--it doesn't matter how healthy it is. 

I use unrefined sugar.  I would love to use only honey or maple syrup, but they cost a whole lot more.  I simply don't have it in the budget. 

I DO NOT make it a habit to buy organic.  Organic is pretty expensive.  In looking at the licensing process for trying to get Grouse Creek chickens licensed as organic, we realized it was completely pathetic.  Organic doesn't mean what most people assume it means.  Organic chickens can be raised in a factory setting and never see the light of day--they just need to eat organic food.  You are paying for all the stupid paperwork that companies have to do to be classified organic.  Not necessarily for a superior product...( a different post for a different day...)

I figure even if I'm still using unbleached flour and unrefined sugar, anything I make from scratch is still WAY better than anything you can buy in the store.  Someday, as our tastes develop more away from the Standard American Diet, and we have more finances to devout to food, I'll probably add more changes.  For now...this works!

Homemade When Possible--And Double Up!

If it comes in a can, I generally try not to buy it.  Except for tomatoes.  And tomato products (diced, sauce, paste, etc.)  I used to rely on Cream of Something soups for the majority of my meals.  But as I started learning more about the benefits of real food, I started looking for a way to replace those cans.

I now rely on this recipe.  I have it memorized.  It's super simple!  On Saturday, I made a quadruple batch (which with the size of our family would be doubling for most people...)  I threw what I needed on top of leftover chicken, peas and some other veggies from the fridge.  A loaf of bread, mushrooms, carrots, celery and butter became the basis of a homemade stuffing.  Stuffing went on top of the casserole.  Then dinner was ready to bake when it was time.  And I put the rest of the soup mix into a container in the fridge.  It's ready for a quick meal early next week.

When I'm making one batch of something, I almost always try to make two.  I like to cook with the future in mind.  Peeling carrots?  Peel a few extra and stick in the fridge.  I'll use them! I try to always do extra celery, carrots and onions, as it seems I use that base a lot. 

Bread--though I still haven't found a loaf bread recipe that is easy to make, slices well and holds up for sandwiches, I haven't bought a loaf of bread in three years.  I've experimented with different recipes, and mainly use a French bread recipe from this website.  We slice it, toast it, slather it with butter, and use it in the place of sandwich bread.

Sometimes I'll make oatmeal bread.  We really like that, though I haven't figured out why it crumbles so bad when sliced.  If anyone has any solutions for that, I'd appreciate it!

Bagels, English muffins, biscuits, soft pretzels--they are all favorites in this house.  I try to make a large enough batch that I can put enough away in the freezer for the next time. That helps me to save time.  It doesn't take a whole lot longer to do two batches when I'm already working on one.  But, it allows me to not get all the ingredients out and have to wash dishes the next time around.

When I'm making bread, I always make at least two loaves.  We don't go through it very quickly, so I'll freeze one.  Then on Saturday night when I'm making a French Toast casserole for Sunday breakfast, I can just grab a loaf out and slice.  Having food in the freezer helps so much!

If I'm not sure how to make something, I turn to Google.  I almost always come up with a recipe.  That's how I discovered our Homemade Nesquick. Sometimes it takes some trial and error.  Mac and Cheese was a hard one for us.  We all loved the store bought.  I kept trying different recipes until I came up with a winner.  Don't be afraid to fail!

I started slowly.  We used the most cream soups, so I found that recipe first.  After a while, it became second nature, and I started seeing what else I could make.  I love buying real ingredients at the store instead of prepared food.  It feeds us better, and is cheaper per pound/ounce that way.  I'd encourage you to pick one item to try your hand at making.  If you can't find a recipe for it--perhaps you shouldn't be eating it.  Remember the rules of the high school science lab--don't eat the chemicals!

However, it isn't always possible to always make everything from scratch.  That's why I am sure to check the labels at the store.  I could make my own pasta, but I don't have the equipment needed.  I buy 100% whole grain variety.  

Give yourself grace as you make changes.  Some days, you might need to buy tortillas.  Other weeks, you can make them. 


When I'm in the kitchen, I try to make the most of my time.  I might have a batch of bone broth going in the crockpot while I have yogurt incubating.  Then I'll mix up a batch of bread and set it to rise--taking some of the residual heat from the yogurt process.  Since the oven has to be on for the bread, I'll have the kids help mix up some cookie dough.  We'll bake some of those while the bread rises, and freeze the rest as balls in a container.

Most of the time, the food I make is slow food.  That means that once I start it, I can walk away.  It doesn't take that much active time to turn raw milk into buttermilk for instance. Or to get yogurt started.  Bone broth is super simple--add bones to the crock pot.  Add water.  Add any veggie scraps and salt.  Start crock pot.  Walk away.    

If I'm turning the oven on to cook dinner, I try to think of another way to use it.  Perhaps I'll throw some potatoes in to bake to have on hand for hash browns.   Or I'll batch cook a couple pounds of hamburger to keep in the freezer.

My Meal Plan

Shh...don't tell anyone, but I really don't meal plan anymore.  I used to work so hard on elaborate meal plans.  I had our meals and snacks planned out.  And I spent a whole lot more money.  Because I'd want to try all of these amazing new recipes that needed special ingredients.  And those ingredien added up.  And then life would get busy and I wouldn't make my super cool new meal after buying those ingredients....ugh--it was frustrating!

So now I keep it simple.  We (almost always) eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day of the week.  Thus I have seven breakfasts and seven lunches.  We have the same snacks each day (two small snacks a day).  I have a theme for each night's dinner.

While I still have to make some decisions--what kind of pasta should I cook on Monday?  What kind of fruit should go in the oatmeal this morning?  But, I don't have nearly as much work to do on a daily basis.  It keeps shopping simple to.  I can tell you exactly how many pounds of pasta we'll need for the month.  I buy a variety so I can whip up some different meals.  But I know what to buy.  (Then I try to buy an extra to stock the pantry with.)

If shrimp is on sale, I can do a great seafood feast on Thursday.  If it's not, I don't stress and I do something with canned tuna instead.  My meals are flexible, and I'm able to change directions while shopping to take advantage of sales.  Since we try to only shop once a month, this is important.  I don't have the luxury of hitting all of the sales, so I have to make do.  

For more information on my current meal plan, see this post.  We plan on redoing the menu in August.

I'd encourage you to try this.  If the same breakfast every Monday would be too much, try a two-week rotating plan.  

Utilize Your Workforce

I love having the kids in the kitchen with me!  It sure beats having them off making a mess by themselves somewhere, or watching yet another movie.  If you have kids, put them to work.

My three year old can cut vegetables that have been peeled.  She can accurately measure dry ingredients for me.  My two year old is a great stirrer and gopher (go getter...).  My five year old can peel vegetables, cook pancakes on the griddle, and use sharp knives appropriately.  My oldest can cook complete meals from scratch from start to finish.  Even my seven year old with special needs is put to work--he loves trying to wash dishes! 

Start the lessons when they are young and interested.  You might just be amazed at what they can do!  Yes, you will have to provide active supervision. You will have to instruct.  But it'll pay off really quickly!

Do What You Can

I have cows.  And raw milk access.  It makes sense that much of my real food experience has revolved around milk.  I make cottage cheese.  I make cream cheese.  I make yogurt.  Etc. etc.  I probably wouldn't have done that much experimenting if I didn't have extra milk.

I don't grow a garden (yet).  So I have to buy my veggies.  Fresh ones add up quickly, so I don't buy as many of those as I probably should.  I rely heavily on frozen ones.  Someday, I hope this changes.  I'd love to produce more of what we eat.  We definitely have the land for it. 

If you garden, focus on adding a variety of fresh veggies to your diet.  Grind your own wheat?  Create awesome pancake mixes or homemade bisquick to keep on hand.  Everyone can do something to make more real food!

Where I'm Going From Here

My real food journey is not completed.  I still need to learn to produce more food.  I want to grow a garden and try my hand at canning tomatoes.  I want to use more of the wheat we grew in my baking. And that means I'll have to plant more wheat...

 There is always something to do and learn.  I'm going to take it one step at a time, and keep it from getting overwhelming.  I don't dwell on what I don't do.  I stay focused on what I'm doing.  And that's how we do real food around here. 

I know we still have a ways to go.  But I'm so happy to be on this journey!  How about you?  How does real food look in your kitchen? Any good recipes for me to try?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal

First a confession.

I hated oatmeal as a kid.  I think my mom tried to make me eat it a time or two.  Yuck!  All hot cereal pretty much made me gag.  Except chocolate flavored Cream of Wheat.  I think I enjoyed a bowl of that once in a while.

But, in my childish opinion, cold cereal was WAY better! And it wasn't limited to breakfast.  Come home from school hungry?  Bowl of cereal!  No time for dinner?  Cold cereal!  My go to meal of choice for many of my teenage years.   

Somewhere along the road I call motherhood, I realized that cold cereal was not very nourishing.  After reading Nourishing Traditions about two years ago, I decided to never again purchase it.  And I haven't. 

Breakfasts now look a little different in our house.  They don't come in a colorful box or include a secret code ring or anything.  But...they do nourish my children and keep them full for a while. 

I'll be sharing some of our favorite breakfast recipes.  Starting with oatmeal.  The hot cereal I despised as a kid.  I've found ways to prepare it that are absolutely delicious!  Jeffrey absolutely loves it, and selected it for breakfast on his day of the week--Monday.

The basic recipe is always the same.  On Sunday, Jeffrey helps me measure out three cups of old-fashioned oats into a pot.  We then add three cups of hot water, about 1/3 of a cup of lemon juice (just bottled) and a 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour.  A quick stir and plopping the lid on finishes our prep work.

On Monday morning, I start heating three cups of milk in a large pot.  (I usually use that morning's milk so it heats more quickly!)  Once it gets steaming, I dump in the contents of yesterday's pot.  Then I stir and cook for about five minutes.  Our toppings get added at that time.

Usually it's just frozen fruit.  Adding it during the last minute or so of cooking helps to defrost the fruit and keep the oatmeal from being boiling hot for the kids.  A little honey or brown sugar adds a bit of sweetness.

Yum!  It's way better than the oatmeal I remember gagging down as a kid.  And it doesn't have any unpronounceable ingredients!

Strawberry-Banana Oatmeal

This week, we added a new twist.  Jeffrey wanted banana oatmeal.  He helped me slice them up, and then I sauteed them in 1/4 cup of butter.  Instead of adding brown sugar to the oatmeal, I stirred in a bit into the bananas.  Caramel bananas! Yum.

Then we added a spoonful of strawberry jam to each bowl.  Everyone gave it a good stir, and we had a delicious breakfast.

It was a tad sweet--next time I won't use both the brown sugar and the jam.  Just one or the other would have been perfect!  But, it was a great combination.

And the kids didn't complain about it being too sweet! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pic Round Up Week 3

It's been a busy few days!  We've been busy adjusting to our newest addition--Cinders the adorable puppy!  Many of my photos this week feature him for your viewing pleasure. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

An old teapot we found in the basement.  It's currently sitting on our porch.  I need to get it cleaned up, and then it'll be sitting full of water on our wood-stove to add moisture to the air. 

 Monday, January 13, 2014

A full milk pot!  The cows have adjusted well to once a day milking.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A trip to Mobius Science Center while we were in town buying what we needed for puppy.  Jeffrey and Ellie are getting help with the air rocket cars from a volunteer.  Owen is patiently, eagerly awaiting the water tables.  He loves those! 

 Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Today was the day!  We loaded up the car after morning chores, and drove down to Valley to pick up our pooch! Here is Jayme meeting Cinders for the first time.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cinders photographed from above.  He was getting introduced to the walk to the sheep pen. It tired him out!  Puppies sure do sleep a lot!

 Friday, January 17, 2014

Cinders again!  Exploring the hay/straw/compost floor of the large hay barn.  He even rubbed noses with Epi.  He likes the barn.  And chasing Jeffrey in the barn.  Look at Cinders' cute little puppy face. He's adorable. 
 Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ellie enjoying her chocolate muffin down to the last crumb.  She likes to put her finger food in "tainers."  She stuck her tongue back in her mouth before I could capture it, unfortunately. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Finally Ready for Another Puppy

In February of 2012, an adorable puppy joined our family for the first time ever.  We named her Kaya.  She was a mutt: Lab, Pyrenees, Australian Shepherd and Blue Heeler and who knows what else.
Our cute girl Kaya
We were so excited, and went out and got all of her needed supplies and went to pick her up.  The kids loved her so much!  She was a very energetic dog, and she loved playing fetch and going on long walks.

Kaya was permitted outside on occasion without being on a leash. Usually it was when we were right next to her, and we'd explore the farm together.  She loved herding the cows, and was really getting good at bringing Epie into the barn for milking.  We had big visions of a working farm dog for her--using the traits of her mixed breeding.  

Unfortunately, we weren't always with her on her expeditions like we probably should have been (at least until she was better trained...). One evening, as we were in the house preparing for mid-week church, we had Kaya outside.  She wanted to explore the sheep, and as she came running back home from my parents, she ran out into the road in front of a car. 

We'd only enjoyed her company for a few months, as it was Halloween of 2012.   I learned so much about owning a dog from Kaya, and I'm very thankful for all that she taught us, as hard as it was to lose her.  We learned the importance of training and keeping better tabs on a dog to prevent an accident like this from occurring. 

After Kaya's death, we talked about getting another pup, but decided against it.  The majority of the kids were too young to be much help, and Owen's health left us too busy to give a four-legged friend the attention and training that was necessary.

But now....we are in a different season in our life.  Owen's health has been stable.  He hasn't needed his emergency seizure medicine in over a year.  He's started walking--a testament to better health!  While he still has severe Pica, he seems to be tolerating that fairly well. 

The kids are all older.  Jayme will be 12 in a couple weeks.  Jeffrey is 5 and has become such a great worker.  He loves animals and the farm.  Ellie is almost 4.  She has really become more mature in the last year and a half.  With half of the kids being able to help, the time felt right.

My parents told me about a puppy batch that a friend of theirs advertised on Facebook.  Bryan and I talked about it, and thought it would be a good birthday present for me.  I called.  The puppies were all claimed. 

I was bummed, but decided that it just wasn't the right time.  We prayed that the Lord would show us when it'd be right to get another puppy to join the family.  And the next day...we got a call that one of the puppies was available.  The previous person wasn't able to take the only male.  And the best part?  He was the puppy I really liked from the pictures.  God is so good!

We went this morning and picked up our puppy.  He is 1/2 lab, 1/4 Pyrenees, and 1/4 Heeler.  Almost the same combination as Kaya.  He is super cute! 

A name was needed for our little pup.  We talked about lots of them.  Stryker.  Rascal.  Bandit.  But none of them seemed right once we got him home. 

Jeffrey, Ellie and I took him out for a potty break earlier today.  Jeffrey said something about Thunder.  Or at least that's what I thought he said.  Until Ellie said, "Yeah--Cinders and Ashes!" a line from a Thomas Train movie. 

Cinders.  The pup has a white body with dark spots.  And his face is dark.  He has little brown spots on his paws and face.  Cinders.  It fit.  We called it a few times.  We called Bryan to see what he thought.  After a brief discussion about Cinder vs. Cinders, we finalized it.  Cinders is our new farm dog.  Welcome home!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jayme's Animated GIF

I love the things Jayme is learning in computer!  It's a subject I really didn't think she'd show so much interest in, and boy did she prove me wrong.  She's really enjoyed creating Scratch programming projects, and is now tackling HTML.

As part of her assignment today, she had to find a GIF animation maker program (with my help) and then create an animation.  She learned quickly, and whipped out several animations quickly.  We wanted to work together on a project, and I asked her to make a GIF of me milking. 

Jayme started up while I was cooking dinner.  She had it all planned out and 90% of the drawing completed.  I helped with some touch up color work.  (One of those "working together" projects where I felt completely worthless!)

Here it is...

Pretty good for her first day!  I'm looking forward to seeing more animations in the near future!  I love how homeschooling can focus in on individual interest areas and talents.  She never would have discovered computer programming or animation creation in the traditional 6th grade at our local school. 

We have Adobe Creative Suite, and I'm thinking there might be a GIF creator in there somewhere...I'll have to investigate that in the near future. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Week 2 Pic Round Up 2014

Another Saturday....another week's worth of pictures. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Read about using natural light when taking iPhone pics.  Owen was checking the chickens on the porch out.  I'm thinking the angle of the natural light is important too, since you can see the really bright spot in the corner....More practice another day. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sydney pushing Jeffrey in the therapy swing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jayme snuggling Simon.  Precious!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

We got some snow, and Jeffrey wanted to surprise Daddy by having the front steps shoveled off before he got home from work.  I used a shooting down on subject technique.  My hard working boy!

 Thursday, January 9, 2014

A couple of my parents' banty chickens decided to move into our chicken coop.  They are sure tiny birds compared to my heavy breeds...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Field trip to the library! Jayme, Ellie, Sydney and Jeffrey are showing off their finds. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Both Samurai and Ninja are 3 months old.  They're eating hay so well and drinking plenty of water.  Time to start weaning their morning bottle feed.  I was playing with settings on the standard picture program for Windows 8.  This is black and white...Need to figure out how to not make the animal eyes glow spookily...

Next Saturday I'll bring you another round of photos. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

My (Latest) Big Mommy Mistake

As I was feeding Owen yesterday, the Lord opened my eyes to an important realization.

Ready for it?

Here goes....some honesty from this mama....

Owen was never going to learn to feed himself because I never give him the opportunity.


Talk about a reality check.  I had made another big Mommy mistake!  And after apologizing to Owen, I've been working on fixing my mistake.

Before we jump into my future plans, let me take a step backwards.  Owen used to be really good at finger feeding.  He was even working on using a spoon.  His OT was a great help in this area!

And then, the battle with seizures began. When we started the keto diet, we were told by the dietician not to do much work on self-feeding because every bite was essential.  Owen was not a particularly neat eater.  So when his meal is being weighed in grams (and not very many of them), he had to eat everything.  We went back to feeding him.

2012 was a really hard year for Owen.  We thought we were losing him.  And it's hard to encourage self-feeding when you think you are experiencing your last days together.  There were just so many other urgent items to attend to.

But now, the Lord saw us through 2013 without any major health problems for Owen.  No hospital stays, or even ER visits!  We are out of the woods so to speak.  But I've been holding Owen back.  I've been babying him.  And he is 7 years old. 

The Lord reminded me of that fact yesterday.  And I realized that it's time to start encouraging independence again and begin preparing for Owen's future.  A future where he might outlive his parents and need to have as many skills as possible.  

It's time to start dreaming for Owen and having high expectations again.  We've been down in the valley for too long.  It's time to climb some mountains!

So there you have it.  My big mommy mistake.

Here's my plan.  If you have other ideas, I'd love to hear them.  I know that Owen is capable of SO much more than I currently expect.

1.  Lunch will be self-feed practice only.
     *I will use large pieces (not choking size--but 7 year old size instead of little baby) of flavorful, enjoyable food.
    * I will provide a variety of textures and tastes to encourage eating.
    * I will make utensils available, but I will not fight him about using them.
     * I will not stress about the mess.  I don't stress about the mess when babies are learning to feed themselves.  I don't not give them the opportunity because they may be messy.  Owen deserves the same.
Owen's lunch for today.  We went to the library and were late for lunch, so we just had sandwiches.  Instead of making Owen a sandwich, I cut up the components and gave him a fun plate.  Sydney and Ellie decided they wanted this style too.

2.  Breakfast and Dinner will be a combination of self-feed and being fed.  Overtime, we'll transition to more self-feed and wean out me feeding him.  Until then, this will ensure that he's actually getting calories in his mouth.

3.  For now...I will feed Owen the little bit of food I use with his morning and evening meds.  I call it medicine instead of food anyways (we usually use applesauce or yogurt with the meds on top).  I don't let my other kids get their meds themselves, so this will be okay.

Owen exploring his banana yesterday for afternoon snack.  More of it got to his mouth than I thought would.  Yes.  It was a mess.  But without the mess, he won't master self-feeding.

4.  I will offer more calorie intensive drinks for Owen.  He is completely independent with a Tummy Tickler (highly recommend those!) and will be able to drink as needed.  Eggnog is something he used to love.  Chocolate milk is another favorite.  His weight has been decreasing a bit lately, so this will hopefully help.  Walking burns some calories!!!

5.  I will raise my expectations for Owen in other areas.   I will expect him to participate in our family life instead of just being a spectator.  I have come up with two concrete examples, and have other thoughts bubbling in my mind. 
     *He will help wipe the table for table chore time.
     *He will sit at the table or on the couch with us during Bible time instead of playing.

6.  I will continue working with Owen on potty training.  I began when he was 14 months old.  He was pretty good at holding it until I remembered to take him (remember he can't talk...).  Then I kind of missed the boat on this one with all the medical issues.

He's been holding it more and more.  My big cue that he is ready to stop being in diapers.  I think it'll go quick.  I'll probably still use the diapers at night (at least for a while) until he is consistently staying dry.

I think he'll be in underwear during the day within a month.  He's motivated right now.  We're going to pick out some big boy underwear next Friday when we go to town.  I have no idea what sort of design he'll pick.  Will definitely be a new experience!

*I know that accidents will happen.  When they happen with the other kids, I don't put them back in diapers.  I clean it up and we talk about using the potty and we move on.  Again--Owen deserves the same.  He actually deserves more since he can't tell me he has to go potty and we have the bathroom gated off so he can't just go himself.  He depends on me to take him in there...

My boy is growing up.  He'll be 8 in a few months.  He's not a baby anymore.  And it's time for this mom to allow him some freedom and to encourage independence. 

Spread your wings Owen.  Show me what you can do!

Linked up to: Raising Arrows

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A 15 Step Farm Workout

I woke up the other morning wondering why in the world my arms were hurting so much.  Then I realized that in addition to beginning the Couch 2 5 K program with my sister, I was also completing a 15 step farm workout.  Snow and ice has made everything more of a challenge!

I'll walk you through the workout.  It's guaranteed to find arm muscles you had forgotten about, increase your flexibility and  provide an abundance of beautiful milk for the family.

Step 1:

Get up early.  It'll still be dark outside. Getting going is the hardest part of any workout plan...Get bundled up in extra layers. Baby, it's cold out there!

Step 2:

Make your way cautiously to the barn.  Avoid stepping on the cat's tail.  Don't trip over the sled that the kids left out.  Oops--remember that it's a solid sheet of ice under that beautiful new snow.  Step lightly.  When you start to slip, use windmill arms to keep upright. 

Step 3:

Haul 10 gallons of water to the cows from the hydrant in the yard. I'd recommend not using windmill arms when falling in this instance. Unless you want to get soaked.  Ask me how I know! :)

Step 4:

Pick up 2X4 and beat through ice that has managed to form on top of calf water holder.  A thick layer of ice needs lots of beating.  Keep going until you see water.  This is what made my arms sore...I found some new muscles!

Step 5:

Open gate and get first cow into milk parlor.  Milk by hand.  A real forearm workout!

Step 6:

Put first cow away and use lead rope to convince the other cow that she really wants to go into the milk parlor and get milked.  Wrestle with her a little bit.  Be thankful there are no horns!

Step 7:

Milk second cow who has reluctantly joined you in the milk parlor.  After wrapping the rope around your leg and almost taking you out....

Step 8:

Make sure all gates are shut and cows are put back. 

Step 9:

Haul hay to the cows and calves.  Feed calves bottles.  Drop a bottle in the pen and climb in.  Avoid getting head butted by the cow who thinks you still have milk for it.  Work on agility now let's go, let's go!  Climbing back out is the hardest part. 

Step 10:

Clean milk parlor.  Hoses are frozen!  Fill the 5 gallon buckets again and dump water.  Scrub with a barn broom.

Step 11:

Maneuver way back to house through ice and snow and sleds and cats with pail full of milk.  Don't spill!

Step 12:

Strain milk and get it in fridge.

Step 13:

Go back out and let chickens out.  You have to cut a new path through the fresh snow to get there. High knees anyone?

Step 14:

Grab an armfull of firewood and go inside.  Debundle.  Drink some water or some fresh milk.  Warm up.

Step 15:

Repeat in 12 hours.  Except for the milking thing.  And letting the chickens out.  This time you have to chase them back in. And gather eggs.  That's a fun part! Oh--don't forget to haul hay to the sheep and check that everyone has enough straw for bedding. 

Care to join me in the morning?

Though on a serious note...I'm learning the importance of moving throughout the day.  This type of natural exercise is on that is more likely to be stuck with.  I can easily get up one morning and say that I don't feel like running.  I really can't get up and declare that I don't feel like milking.  This daily movement has been great in helping me take off some of my baby weight!  I'm looking forward to shedding more of it. 

I'd encourage you to look for ways to increase your movements naturally.  Perhaps you can scrub a floor, shovel some snow, or just run around with the kids more.  All movement helps.  Even if it makes you sore the next day!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Buttermilk Bliss: Buttermilk Biscuits

Can I just repeat myself for a second?  I LOVE buttermilk! It's super easy to make and really adds a nice dimension of flavor to everything I've been trying it in.

Buttermilk biscuits are my newest discovery.  I've never really been able to make good biscuits.  After many recipe fails, I finally stuck with cream biscuits.  Because they were easy to make.  But, they just didn't scream BISCUIT to me like I thought they should.

So I kept searching.  And I found this.  A recipe for buttermilk biscuits.   

I tweaked it a bit.  Subbed half white whole-wheat flour.  Decreased the salt to 1/4 tsp. and used salted butter.

They were delicious!  And fluffy.  I like fluffy biscuits.

To make the whole mixing butter step in easier, I grated the cold butter.  I just set the large hole grater on top of my bowl and grate away.  The little uniform chunks fall neatly into the bowl and a quick mix with the spoon keeps me from having to break out the pastry blender. I don't like that thing!

Since I'm still trying to get used to this blogging thing, I forgot to take a picture.  Silly me.  So sorry. Will fix that next time I bake them.  Until then...just imagine a beautiful fluffy biscuit with butter on top.  And raspberry jam!  Yum!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Owen's Therapy Swing

I mentioned in Saturday's post that Bryan was putting an eye screw in our ceiling.  He successfully completed this task, and we now have an eye screw and a swivel clip hanging down in the living room.  When it's time to play, we push the coffee table and piano bench out of the way, climb on a chair to attach the swing, and then the fun begins.

The swing is red and purple, and looks absolutely inviting when it's hanging down in the middle of the living room.  It's made of Lycra and feels so snug.  Owen's OT from the Elks arranged for the Elks to purchase this for us, which was a huge blessing. 

I love that most of the kids can climb in it independently.  Owen can't yet.  We are working on it.  I'm trying to make sure I'm consistently putting him in the same way, so he can learn some muscle memory and help more.  The therapist suggested having him lean through the swing onto a chair or do a sit transfer.  I may give those methods a try in the next couple of days.

For now, even though it is a challenge to lift him in, the benefits are amazing!  He absolutely loves the movement and the tightness of the fabric.  He stayed in it for almost an hour yesterday in one sitting.  When he finally came out, he was definitely more relaxed and his body was way more quiet than normal.

We're going to try some iPad work and some school activities in the swing.  I think it'll help his attention and focus.  We'll see.

Bonus?  It's great free time play for everyone.  All of the kids are under the weight limit, so they take turns pushing and swinging.  For indoor winter play, I'm learning that the swing can't be beat! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Laptop!

Exciting news! And a huge, unexpected blessing.  This is my first blog post on my new laptop!

With some extra money we received for Christmas, Bryan and I were able to purchase a new laptop and a new tower for our desktop. We knew we needed to upgrade computers soon, but didn't expect to be able to until late spring.  But, God is so good! We were able to make the purchases this weekend.    

Our old computers were purchased around 2006, so they have lasted a long time.  The laptop that Jayme and I used was missing a letter on the keyboard (k).  It also was running really slowly.  And getting bogged down if I tried to do photo editing in Photoshop. works great for what Jayme needs.  She'll continue to use it as long as possible.  When she starts high school in two years (wow...time goes so quickly--that seems so soon) we'll purchase a laptop of her very own.

The Pick

After analyzing my needs, we decided to go with a low-end laptop.  I don't need tons and tons of features and amazing specs.  I need a computer for planning lesson plans.  For searching online.  For blogging.  And reading blogs!

I'm not a gamer. I want to run Photoshop, but I won't be spending a ton of time in that program. So...after reading reviews and checking out laptops at several stores on Saturday, we picked one.

An HP 2000-2d22dx.  I like it.  It came with a mouse and a carrying sleeve.  I don't like using touch pads.  That means the mouse is important!

Windows 8 is installed.  I'm not used to it yet.  I'll leave it at that for now.  I think I preferred 7.  But...time will tell.  Change can be hard.

Now to get files transferred and programs installed.  Thankfully we have a home network setup.  That makes the transferring piece much easier! 

Just wanted to share my good news! I'm so excited about this blessing!  Have a lovely Monday!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Week 1 Pic Round Up 2014

In an earlier post, I mentioned one of my goals for this new year was to take at least one good picture a day.  I'm trying to get better at capturing memories. 

Each Saturday, I'm planning on sharing the pictures from the week.  Here we go with the first round up.

Wednesday January 1, 2014

Bryan, Jayme and I played Clue.  I'd recently read an article on taking decent macro shots with the iPhone 4s, so decided to give it a try.  Mrs. Peacock in the Ballroom with the Candlestick. 

 Thursday, January 2, 2014

A sad day.  Grandma Pease died yesterday evening, and today I went in with my Dad to clean out her room in the nursing home.  She had been there just shy of 9 years, and had many things to go through.  She also left a ton in the basement of the house where we are living, so I need to go through that eventually too.

Simon went with us so he could nurse, and the other kids stayed with Bryan.  I'm so thankful he had the time off!

On a photography note, I'm learning about catch lights in the eyes and how to get them.  Simon was a cute model to practice on. 

 Friday, January 3, 2014

We were blessed with a wooden nightstand and dresser from Grandma.  After evaluating space, we decided to use them to reorganize all of our school supplies.  Bonus:  yardsticks can go down the handles on the dresser and hold it shut.  Owen and Sydney can't open it when they are in the room!  A bit more work is needed, but I like the new arrangement. 
 Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bryan is installing a ceiling hook in the living room to hold Owen's therapy swing.  He brought the ladder in. Sydney loves ladders, so she had to give it a try.  Such a cute helper for Daddy!

Watch for a post next week on the swing.

Four days.  Four pictures.  Off to a good start!  More next Saturday. 

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Focus Verse for 2014

After much prayer and thought, I have selected my focus verse for 2014.

Proverbs 31:27

"She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness."  

Ways this verse will help me focus my efforts in 2014

By looking well to the ways of my household, I can begin focusing anew on learning those homemaking skills that were routinely passed on just a few generations ago, but that are not any more.  Specifically, I want to work on: 

Home Decorating
Some kind of needle work--knitting, crocheting, needle point...
Organizing Clothes and preparing better for season changes (for instance...the shorts that are filling up Owen's drawer for pants should be neatly folded and tubbed and stored in the's winter!  But they are not...they're taking up precious room in his small drawers and making putting away laundry difficult...)

I want to be a better homemaker.  I need to learn.  I need to make it a priority.

The second part of the verse, I have three goals out of: 

Not being idle--ie: finding productive ways to fill extra time when possible.  Not as much "vegging." I take this to also mean exercising my body, so I'll be moving more
Not eating when bored or for other emotional reasons.  
Ensuring that I eat "spiritual" bread and spend time with the Lord daily

That's the big picture of some goals I have for this year.  I've never before chosen a focus verse, so I'm looking forward to this.  I also need to memorize the verse.

What a blessing that we are able to go to the Bible to hear from God changes we can make in our lives.  And that He is faithful to help us make those changes.  I'm so thankful for this truth! 

Do you have any plans for change this year?

Linked up to: Raising Arrows