Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pictures for Thanksgiving Week

We have had an amazing week! So many memories were built, and we relished spending time with extended family.

These pictures offer merely a glimpse of our fun, but I wanted to share them with you!

Sunday

We started making a trail mix to snack on during our road trip. Sydney approved of the garlic pretzels we made! 


Monday

A quick craft was needed, and so we made these turkeys. Sydney's turned out cute!


Tuesday

Jeffrey has really been getting good with making things from K'Nex without directions. Here is a pickup truck.


Wednesday

We picked Bryan up from work at 4 and left town. Because we were traveling in the dark, we bought some glow necklaces and bracelets at the Dollar Tree. $3 well spent for all the enjoyment and peace in the car these brought!

I don't remember which child this is, but it's the neckace (down low) and the bracelet unsnapped around the neck as well. 


Thursday

Happy Thanksgiving! We had a lovely day with my Aunt and Uncle in Mt. Vernon. My sisters, brother-in-law, parents and cousins were all able to join us, and it was a full, fun feast. 

My Aunt has a gorgeous backyard, and the kids enjoyed running around in it. Many thanks to my mom for snapping this picture of the kids and I. 


Friday

What a relaxing day! We didn't go shopping, and the only thing on the agenda was watching my little sister in "A Christmas Story: a Musical" up in Lynden that evening. (It was very well done, and if you are in the area, I recommend going to see it next weekend!)

We took time to veg, play with magnet boards, color and visit. Here are Bryan and five of the kids. Simon was too busy enjoying Aunt Gerri's carpeted stairs to pose for a picture! He seriously went up and down them fifty times a day or more! (He slept well!)


Saturday

Wow! The zoo, Sydney's third birthday, a lovely evening with my amazing sister and brother-in-law playing a game and relaxing. It was definitely a full day! 

The only downside? It was absolutely FREEZING in Seattle today. The wind was blowing and that made the snow that had fallen Friday come flying off trees  onto us. Brr!

Thankfully we were able to spend a lot of time in the Zoomazium and warm up. Also thankfully, Mindy and Drew (my older sister and brother-in-law) volunteered to take Jayme to the raptor demonstration so the rest of us didn't have to freeze! (Thanks again guys!)

Here are my middle kids on the elephant statue in the play area. Thanks Bryan for taking the picture. 




Hope you had a wonderful week as well!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Preparing the Homestead Property for Winter

Ah yes--preparing for winter.  The animals have to be taken care of. But, so does the property.   This is an area where I'm not quite as on top of things.  I'm still learning a lot about winterizing.  And so hopefully this post will help me remember next year what I should do in the early fall--before freezing temperatures and snow cover the farm!

1.  Take care of the garden. 


This was a big FAIL for me this year.  I didn't really do anything to prepare the ground for spring planting.  Except open the gate to let the chickens and deer in.  They ate a lot.  But there are still plants on the ground.
I spread some rabbit manure/straw mixture around and the chickens kind of scratched it in.  But I didn't till, completely remove any foliage, or do anything else proactive for next year.

I'm not really a gardener (yet) and don't know what to do.  Can someone help me?  Otherwise, I'll be spending lots of time on Google this winter, trying to figure out what can be done once the ground thaws.

Our garden plot--definitely doesn't look like this anymore! 


2. Wrap up hoses


Yeah--this one got done!  We picked up all of the hoses and drained them, and got them stored.  I have one hose left out that I use daily for watering the cows.  It's hanging in a heated room in the barn.  And will hopefully stay thawed out all winter because a hose is WAY easier than hauling buckets of water.

3.  Put a heater in the barn and pump house. 


We have plumbing that carries water from the barn to the house.  And of course...that pipe is above ground inside the barn.  So it needs to get a space heater turned down on low.  The pump house gets the same treatment, except my parents bought a cool propane heater for down there (the pump supplies both houses...).

Here was another check--done and done!

 4.  Have chimney inspected/cleaned

Our chimney was being cleaned, so it was all taken apart.  

We actually take care of this one each spring, at the end of the burning season so we don't wind up without a stove for a day during the cold, but this one is an important one so I'll include it here.  We had a small chimney fire once, and don't ever want to experience that again.  Take care of your chimney so you can enjoy the heat from your stove in safety! 

5.  Gather firewood

My husband takes care of this one, thankfully!  We do all help load the truck and unload it, but Bryan does the cutting and splitting.  With the long hours he's been putting in at work, a bunch of it still needs split.  But, praise the Lord, the wood is all under the barn roof so he can stay dry while working.  

We also left a standing dead tree or two that can be accessed in winter.  Our emergency fire wood!  Hopefully we don't need it, but if we do, it'll be easy to get to in snow. 

6.  Pick up the outdoor toys/tools

Bikes are now parked under cover, toys have been gathered and stored.  We took the rake and shovel out of the garden and put them back where they belong.  And we found the sleds and got them ready for use once there is enough snow.  

Jeffrey's tools and wood from the backyard were picked up and stored for more building come spring.  We took a quick walk through the yards and picked up and put away everything that was out.  

Anything left out in the yard will be covered in snow this winter, and could be destroyed by the tractor plowing or the truck moving wood closer to the house from the barn. We got this job done as the first snow was falling, but it's now done!   

What else do you do to prepare for property for winter? As I said, I'm still learning, and want to get a good list together! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Choosing Thankfulness: Angelman Syndrome

Yesterday in church, I was reminded of the importance of choosing to be thankful.  Even for challenges in our lives that may seem impossible.

And I was convicted of the bitterness I've had towards Angelman Syndrome--the condition that Owen has. Lately, it seems to really be hard. I want to sleep--Owen wants to snuggle.  I want to read a book with the kids, Owen wants to rip the pages and eat them.  Oh yes, there are challenges to raising a child with Angelman Syndrome.



But, I realized that even with this, I could choose to be thankful.  In fact, I must choose to be thankful.  Otherwise it's just too overwhelming. My attitude becomes too bitter, and that rubs off on everyone in the house.  I have to focus on the positive and not always on the negative.

So in order to help me wrap my head around this discovery a little better, I decided to look for the good, and find reasons to be thankful--even in this challenge.

Here's what I came up with...

1.  Angelman Syndrome (AS) didn't take God by surprise. 


Yes, Owen's condition can be explained by the medical world as a random deletion on the maternal 15th chromosome.

But I know better.

 It wasn't random.  Owen--like all of our other children--was a gift from God to us.  He knew what He was doing.  And I can take comfort in the fact that Owen is meant to have it.  It wasn't a mistake--God doesn't make those.

2.  Owen (including his AS) is a blessing. 


The Bible clearly states that children are a gift from God (Psalm 127).

It doesn't say that all healthy children are a gift.  It doesn't say that all children except those who eat paper are a gift.  Nope...there are no exclusions.

That means that ALL children are a blessing.  Whether or not I see them all that way is my choice. The world struggles greatly with this in our current society.  But Bryan and I have decided to go a different route and embrace children as a blessing.

Thus, since I believe that children are a blessing, that HAS to include Owen too.  Owen is a blessing.  Say it with me now...Owen IS a blessing!

Yes he is.

3.  Owen has taught me about God's kind of love. 

Owen can't do many things for himself.  He is dependent on his family to get him dressed, escort him to the bathroom and help there, give him a bath, get his food, etc.  

By caring for Owen, I can't do it because I expect something in return.  I do it because I love him, and he was a gift for our family. 

Giving to others who can't give back is a true example of the love God has for us.  We can't give anything to God that He doesn't already have.  And yet, in a sinful condition, God choose to love.  He choose to love me.  


4.  Angelman Syndrome has taught me about humility. 

Just when I think I have this mothering thing down, I realize that what I thought was hot chocolate that dripped into Owen's ear when he was drinking is actually blood and that his eardrum has ruptured (once again).  And that he's probably been in pain from it for a few days and that's what been causing his seizures.  

Or we get a call from the physical therapist asking why Owen isn't weight bearing on one side.  And we take him in for an x-ray and realize his leg is broken.  And we have no idea when or where it happened. 

Or we wind up in the hospital for a week.  Three times.  In a year.  

Oh yes--there are many stories like that.  Incidents that make me realize I can't do this alone.  I need God's help and strength.  I need the help of family and friends. 

And I have to accept help (which for some reason is really hard for me).  I don't like to admit that I can't do it all.  But...you know what?  I can't!  

I need to let go of my pride and accept help.  I need the reminders that I can't do it all.  I need to continue learning about humility. 

5.  Our whole family is learning to care less about stuff. 

In our house, if you leave something down in the living room or dining room, you take the chance that Owen will have either eaten or destroyed it by the time you come back to it.  I've had countless books ripped and ruined, many of them during their first week in the home.  DVD inserts, instructions for Legos, boxes, dolls..nothing is really safe.  

But, stuff is not why we are here.  We are here for relationships and to show God's love to others. It's easy to get caught up in getting mad at Owen.  And accusing him of destroying everything.  Been there.  And once I start, the kids follow suit right behind me.  It's amazing how your kids can help you to clearly see your own downfalls!  

The attitude we've had isn't right.  And so we are all working on putting people above things.  And taking responsibility for our own actions.  And learning to put things away.  These are all great lessons that might not have happened were it not for Owen.  

6.  Owen is beating many medical predictions. 

When we first received the diagnosis, the outlook was pretty grim.  It wasn't certain if Owen would ever walk.  (But he does!) 

No one knew if Owen would be capable of learning. (But he is!) 

He learned to move his body to get around before he could walk.  He has some methods of communication that let us know when he is thirsty and hungry and cold.  

The Lord has allowed Owen to do these things, and He knows what Owen will be able to do in the future.  Even if I can't see past the Pica and the current struggles, nothing is a surprise to the Lord.  He knows the beginning from the end, and I can trust Him.  

Which ties into my final point....

7.  Owen is teaching me to trust God.

I know that God will work all things out for good.  I may not be able to see the good in the midst of the struggle, but I can trust that God will do what His word says.  I know that everything happens for a reason, and that I am growing because of it.  I'm being refined.  And I need it! 

So this week of Thanksgiving, I'm making it a priority to change my attitude about Angelman Syndrome.  I am going to be thankful for it.  Thankful for Owen.  And thankful for the refining challenges that God brings into our lives.  

What challenge can you be thankful for? 


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Picture Round Up

Preparation for our upcoming Thanksgiving trip started this weekend.  The kids had so much fun helping, and are really looking forward to packing the bags starting on Monday.  I must admit...we are all excited about the trip! Expect to see pictures from that next Saturday.

Here are some memories I documented via camera this week.  Enjoy a glimpse into our daily lives...

Monday, November 17

Jeffrey received some money for his birthday, and we ordered an Optimus Prime Rescue Bot Transformer from Toys R' Us.  It was delivered this day, and he was so excited.  Here he is showing off Jet Mode. 
 Tuesday, November 18

The kids love coloring!  As one activity for fun on our upcoming trip, Jayme volunteered to make coloring books for herself, Jeffrey, Ellie and Sydney.  She printed off a variety of coloring pages from the Internet, and then assembled four coloring pages for everyone.  Using duct tape and a blank piece of paper for the covers, she did a good job.  This is her Variety coloring book.  It has some random Thanksgiving pages, a couple of Mario characters, and a few others that I've forgotten.

The books have been tucked safely away, and we'll pull them out during the Thanksgiving weekend to keep everyone entertained!  I also bought some new colored pencils for them (not as messy as markers or crayons in someone else's house!!!)

 Wednesday, November 19

The super cold weather means the fire is burning hot all day long.  This sucks the moisture right out of the air, and several of the kids came down with eczema patches on their back.  We treat with homemade lotion bars, and by adding moisture to the air--via a tea kettle and pot on top of the stove.  Works pretty well!
 Thursday, November 20

First substantial snow of the year.  The kids couldn't wait to be done with school and get out and play. 

 Also on Thursday...a milestone for Jeffrey.  His first tooth came out! 

Cute story...

He wasn't going to pull it out because he said it hurt to bad.  I told him he could leave it and it would eventually come out while he was eating or something, like Owen's did.  Then I casually mentioned that I paid $1 for every tooth that came out.  Within a second, that tooth was in my hand! Money is definitely a motivator for this one!

Saturday, November 22

Magnetic play boards have been created for the trip as well.  I got the idea from here, and then changed it up a bit to meet our needs.  We don't have a color printer, so we created coloring pages from pictures we liked using Photoshop, resized and printed.  Then the kids colored their own pieces.  Jayme drew backgrounds for everyone.

Yesterday we used Modge Podge to get everything ready, and today we cut the pieces out and hot glued magnet buttons on.  Here is Jeffrey with his Rescue Bot set.  Jayme has Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ellie has Daniel Tiger, and Sydney has My Little Pony.  We decided that Owen would just eat them, and Simon was too little. 

These were really simple to make, and I am going to make some more for schooling purposes.  Matching capital and lower case letters, number identification, sight word practice, parts of a plant...there are numerous possibilities!


Do you have any plans for travel next week? 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Preparing the Homestead Animals for Winter

Temperatures here last week were frigid.  With overnight lows in the single digits, and daytime highs never rising above freezing, winter temperatures came quickly!

The freezing weather and the snow that fell this morning helped me to clearly see where we had been prepared and what areas we lacked on when it came to winter prep.  If nothing else, hopefully this series of posts will serve as a checklist to me next winter to help me remember all the little things that need done!

For this first part, I'll focus on the animals we have on the farm.

Cows:

The cows need bedding.  Thankfully they are perfectly content to lay on grass hay and munch away at it.  Straw is my preferred bedding choice, but I haven't found it available yet at a price that isn't crazy.  Grass hay (we were blessed with almost 50 bales for free) is working for now...

Water is also a concern.  The cows now have defrosters in both of their water tanks.  This happened after one already froze, unfortunately.  Next year I need to be more proactive!

The electric defroster makes watering so much nicer!




Rabbits:

Just a little extra bedding helps to ensure these little ones stay warm.  I also have switched all of them to crock type waterers instead of bottles (the nipple froze too easily before) and now just use hot water to defrost them twice a day.

Since we are expecting babies in December, all of the rabbits are staying in their nice warm hutches.  Harder to clean, but definitely warm!

Chickens:

I'm back to buying layer rations after a summer of complete free-ranging.  The birds seem to appreciate not having to hunt around as much for food, though they still hang out most of the day in the barn.  A molt is keeping my egg count at almost zero right now--but thankfully my younger flock should start laying next month.  Right about the time the other ones are over their molt!

Turkeys:

These guys are still small, but are getting butchered on Saturday.  It'll be my first experience ever butchering without the use of the county poultry processing unit and plucker.  That means I'll have to pluck by hand. Or maybe we'll trying waxing or skinning....not quite sure yet! I'll be sure to let you know how this goes!

And that wraps up the animal winter prep!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Real Food on a Budget: Five Things I've Learned

I don't know why everyone seems to think that real food costs more.  Seems to me when you do the math, potatoes are a whole lot cheaper per pound than potato chips or even frozen french fries!  And real potatoes have endless possibilities: potato soup, mashed potatoes, hash browns, baked potatoes, french fries, etc, etc.

But with grocery costs rising, getting the biggest bang for our buck is more important than ever now!  Here are five things I've learned about feeding a larger than normal family on a budget.

1.  Ditch the breakfast cereal!

When Jayme was little, she and I enjoyed a bowl of cold cereal EVERY morning.  For years that is all we ate for breakfast, unless it was a special occasion or something.  With eight of us now eating, we'd go through a box of cereal every morning.  And the ingredients in most of the cereal we enjoyed weren't too appetizing when I started reading labels.

What to do instead?

Cook breakfast. From scratch, not a mix.  Pancakes, waffles and bagels can all be made ahead and frozen for busy mornings.  Oatmeal and scrambled eggs are really quick to cook up, and some dishes, like Dutch Baby pancakes are super easy to put together and then they bake in the oven with no attention needed while I attend to other things.

Yogurt and granola or smoothies are also quick and easy to pack on the go.  Same with muffins.  You get the idea--make some things from scratch and see what your family enjoys.  Go from one success to the next until you have ditched the cereal completely (or save it for special occasions!)


Dutch Pancakes--an easy breakfast option!



2. Buy in bulk when you can, but pay attention to unit price

It amazes me how often the smaller bag of frozen vegetables will actually be cheaper per ounce than the large ones.  Pay attention to that number when you are shopping, and use it to guide you to get the best buy.  Bulk is not always cheaper.  

But, bulk flour, popcorn, sugar, etc. are almost always WAY cheaper. That money saved adds up! 

3.  Make snacks

Pudding, popcorn, cookies, muffins, and other snacks are easily made at home.  They often use more wholesome ingredients when cooked from scratch (I know I don't keep crazy chemicals in my kitchen to add flavor to my food!).  They are also cheaper than buying pre-made snack-sized portions.  

You can pop a big batch of popcorn and package little bags of it yourself to send in lunches instead of chips. 

A big kettle full of pudding can be divided into individual containers and topped with fresh berries.  

Crackers are even easy to make.  Think about all the things your family snacks on, and try to pick one at a time to make instead of purchase.  Then keep going.  We've eliminated almost all snacky foods from our grocery budget by doing this one at a time. Now we just buy more of the ingredients for those snacks, and the savings have been incredible! 

 4. Grow/Produce what you can

We had a garden this year.  It was WAY more productive than any garden I've ever had before, but I learned I still have a lot to learn about growing food.  But, we harvested some lovely cabbage, carrots and celery! Our apple tree was very productive, and we got some plums as well.  Those are my favorites--they don't need weeded or watered once they are established, and they still produce lots of food!  We're hoping to put in four more fruit trees and start grapes this next year.


Meat and milk are other items we have the space and desire to produce on the farm.  I understand that not everyone can do this!  But, grow what you can and put up extra for later.

5. Be creative with substitutions!

We butchered a cow last year.  We won't have another one ready to butcher until next fall.  That means our beef supply is really dwindling.  Instead of purchasing another beef, or just buying some from the store, we've decided to be content with the meat we do have.  We were blessed with a deer, so between the venison, pork, chicken and eventually rabbit, we don't NEED beef.  We may want it, but we certainly don't NEED it.  So we're cooking a variety of meat this year.  We still have some beef that will be saved for special occasions, but it won't be our staple meat this winter like it was last year.

It's the same with butter.  Butter prices are super high right now, but palm shortening, olive oil and coconut oil are remaining fairly steady (at least for now!) That means we're making cookies with coconut oil, cooking popcorn in olive oil and topping with coconut oil with just a wee bit of butter, and using palm shortening for banana bread and the likes.  We're saving the butter for when it counts, like for smearing on bread.  That way we still are using healthy fats, but not spending as much. Google has been great for finding substitution ideas!

Samurai and Ninja are yearlings this fall, and will be ready to butcher NEXT year.


Be thankful for the food you have, and don't let it go to waste!  Come up with a plan for cooking and use up leftovers.

What tips do you have to share?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pictures: Saturday, November 15 Edition

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only a couple weeks away?  The kids are sure looking forward to driving across the state and seeing their Great Aunt and Uncle, along with a couple of their Aunts.  It should be a great time!

This week was spent doing some winter prep, snuggling in front of the fire, and enjoyable school projects.  Let me share a few of our memories with you.

Sunday, November 9

We are absolutely loving the breakfast casserole from Heavenly Homemakers.  We make a version of it almost every Sunday.  It's so quick to throw together, and while it bakes, I can take care of a couple of items on my long Sunday morning to-do list.  This week, we had ham and bacon from our pigs stirred into the simple egg mixture.  A few left over baked potatoes were grated to add some body, and the whole thing was topped with cheese.  It was delicious!

 Monday, November 10

A great sensory activity for the kids!  We gathered together as many plastic animals as we could, and gave them each a paint job (we used acrylic because that's what we had on hand...I'm guessing Tempera would be better for the future!).  After the new designs were shown off, each animal was plopped into a tub of warm soapy water in the middle of the table and washed off.  Plenty of towels were on hand to dry everything (and everyone!)  Owen really enjoyed the washing station, though he did get a hand in the paint once or twice.  He doesn't use tools such as paintbrushes effectively yet, but we keep introducing them.  If you need a way to keep a wide age span of kids busy for a while, I highly recommend this activity!

In this pic, Jayme is painting one of her horses.  She turned it into a Pinto. I think.  I'm not too good with horse patterns!
 Tuesday, November 11

Look!  My apple cider vinegar is growing it's own mother!  I'm so excited.  I've never made this before, but it was super simple.  I used this recipe and it's been sitting now for about a month.  Haven't been brave enough to taste it yet, but I know the mother is a good sign that the right kind of bacteria is reproducing!

 Wednesday, November 12

This was our big shopping day.  An exhausting one!  But Ellie helped me try a new recipe for hot chocolate mix after we got home.  Last winter we just used Maggie's milk and made a huge batch almost daily since the cows were super fresh.  Not so much this winter, now that they are dry.  But we LOVE hot cocoa around here.  Trying to find a recipe that doesn't have a nasty texture that doesn't require a food processor (we don't have one).  My blender didn't seem up to snuff to mix it all together, unfortunately.  If you have any recommendations, please leave a comment and let me know!
 Thursday, November 13

Spoons?  Who needs a stinking spoon?  Not Simon.  (Though he cries if we forget to give him a utensil at meal time.)  He dove into his oatmeal this morning, and ate it all up.  He even finished Sydney's bowl for her.  Big eater this one!
 Friday, November 14

What happens if you leave a plate of homemade peanut butter cups on the low counter where little hands can reach?  And you aren't in the kitchen supervising?  This...the two youngest enjoying them all.  I'm learning to snap a picture of situations like this.  I hear that someday I'll look back and laugh! :) They sure did look cute all covered in chocolate.


 Saturday, November 15

Wood moving day.  It's been cold lately (single digits!) and we've gone through a ton of wood.  Bryan took care of that today by splitting some more and loading the truck.  The kids worked  hard to unload the truck onto the big front porch.  By keeping a couple of weeks worth on the porch, we save a lot of effort in bringing it in each day.  I love working together with my family!
Is it super cold where  you are too?  Stay warm if it is.  If not, send me warm thoughts! Have a great week!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Red Cabbage pH Strips

We completed a fun experiment earlier this week in science.  Using juice from red cabbage and coffee filters, we created pH testing strips.




The kids enjoyed wearing the gloves so they could work with chemicals to test.



We gathered pickle juice, BBQ cleaner, window cleaner, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, vanilla, sesame oil, ketchup and mustard. (Everyone got to pick at least one item to test--they came up with some interesting choices!)

 We put just a small amount of each test liquid into a small disposable cup.



Everyone took turns picking up a strip and dipping it in a liquid of their choice.  It was neat watching the strips turn colors to indicate acid or base.


After everything was cleaned up, we had a great discussion about pH and ways it's really useful in real life situations (like for testing quality in Uncle Danny and Aunt Joanne's swimming pool!) We also watched a quick video about pH on YouTube (Owen LOVES when we integrate videos.  He really engages in them!)

Experiments and discussions are one of my favorite activities in homeschooling!  I love learning with my kids.
Have you ever made cabbage pH indicator strips?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rabbit Life and Loss

A piece of rabbit fur blew out of Mama's cage on Tuesday, and I was really concerned.  Until I realized that she had been really busy pulling her fur and creating a lovely nest.  (Of course, it wasn't in the nest box I put in there, but it was a nest!)

I had really thought she would have had her babies already (she was bred on October 10, and 31 days later would have been Monday the 10th.  But, having never experienced bunny gestation before, I just assumed she was late. Having had two pregnancies last 42 weeks myself, I understand late babies!

A couple of handfuls of grass hay and barley hay were added to her cage so she could plump up her nest even more.  It was amazing watching her grab mouthfuls of it, and go wandering into the back section of her cage.  She went back and forth, back and forth, feathering her nest so to speak.



After watching for a while, I left her alone, expecting that we'd have baby bunnies later that day.

I went out to check on her frequently, and that evening noticed something strange.  In one corner of her cage (not in the nest she had carefully constructed) she had given birth to a tiny baby.  Next to the nest, she had given birth to a huge baby, with different coloring than the other. She also later gave birth to a second, smaller baby with the same dark coloring as the first.

All three babies were dead.  And I was in shock--I really wanted to figure out what in the world happened. My first thought was that they simply froze (it was freezing outside!).  But, all babies were under hay and one was under fur.  So after some further thinking, I decided to investigate further.

So I started researching online.  And learning.  Apparently rabbits can retain fetuses from a previous pregnancy.  I believe this is what happened.  It explains why one was so large, and had the markings of a full American Chinchilla (I had bred Mama to Raf--a dwarf/Rex cross.)  Mama's previous delivery (with her old owner) was to an American Chinchilla.

I believe that she retained a fetus from that delivery.  And it's been inside her ever since.  That caused the delay in birth, which in turn led to the still born other baby.  It also explains the small litter.

Of course, I'll never really know if that's exactly what happened or not, but it's the best guess I could make based on my knowledge.  I am going to wait a while, and then breed her again.  She seems like she'd be such a good mama bunny--she made a great nest!

Life, and loss.  It's part of life on the farm, unfortunately.   I'm hoping that the next two litters we are expecting in early December will have a happier outcome.  And that I'll have pictures of cute baby bunnies to share with you all instead of just an empty nest.

Until then, I'm going to continue reading more about rabbits and increasing my knowledge.  Perhaps I'll be able to help prevent this in the future!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Laundry & a Large Family

You know what's a fact about large families?  With more people wearing clothes each day, the laundry pile is never bare.  As soon as I think I'm all caught up, it's time for eight people to change into jammies and woolie-oop, the washer is full again.

It's a never ending battle I'm telling you! 

But through the years, I've learned some tips and tricks for keeping the laundry monster at bay.  Here are some of them:

*Doing a load of laundry means washing, drying AND putting it away...

I really struggled with that last part for years.  We'd have a large pile of clean clothes (unfolded) that we'd be digging through to find the shirt we wanted.  Our drawers would be nearly empty.  And when I got the urge to put laundry away, it took at least an hour. 

There was a better way.  It involves enlisting in the kids' help in putting away laundry.  It now gets folded immediately after coming out of the dryer, and hangs out in baskets until afternoon chore time. 

This allows all of the laundry for the day to be put away at the same time (avoiding lots of trips upstairs and waking up a sleeping baby or disturbing school time), but keeps the clothes from getting food all over them or something while waiting to be put away. 

During chore time, I put away Simon and Owen's laundry, along with Bryan's and mine, and any towels.  Ellie puts away hers, Jeffrey tackles his and Jayme does hers and Sydney's. 

Having help is wonderful!

*Washers and dryers don't stand up well to abuse....

Our washer has broken several times, especially in this past year.  Thankfully Bryan has gotten really adept at trouble shooting and fixing it! 

But, it helped me to remember that just because I CAN shove so many clothes in the washer doesn't mean I should. 

I also need to give the dryer a break.  It usually runs longer than the washer each cycle, so by spreading loads out a bit, I can give each machine a little break between cycles. 

*Hanging clothes up on a clothesline makes them smell so good! 

I really enjoyed using the line more this summer and early fall, and look forward to using it again next year.  There's nothing like crawling into sheets at night that smell like sunshine! It also kept the dryer from being used, and heating the house.  Money saved on electricity was also nice!

*Limiting the number of clothes used is important

Little kids (especially my little girls) love to change clothes.  Dress up, just trying something new, etc.  All of that can lead to a huge pile of laundry.  We keep clothes changes to a minimum, and try to only wash things when they are dirty. 

That said, we do dress up a lot, and keep our dress up clothes separate so they don't need washed each time!

*Clothes with evidence of farm chores get put in a special place, and washed ASAP!

A fall in chicken poop, clothes that stink like cow poo or socks that discovered a hole in a rubber boot....yeah--those are gross!  Life on a farm can be stinky sometimes.  It's important to not let that smell permeate ALL of the dirty laundry.  We try to keep the washer open during chore time for throwing those stinky things in.  At the very least, we keep an empty basket. 

What tips and tricks have you picked up over the years for tackling laundry.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

End of Week Pics

 Just a few pictures showing highlights of our week...

Sunday

(I actually managed to remember to take a picture on Sunday this week--the first for a while!!!)

Here's how you can find Owen most mornings--curled up in his jammies in front of the fire. He loves to just lay here and soak up the heat. 

Monday

We decorated sugar cookies for Ellie's game. Simon sure enjoyed digging in! 


Tuesday

Simon is fascinated with toy cars. He apparently thought this one would run faster with a little slobber power!


Wednesday

Jeffrey's birthday! Here is the cake Jayme decorated for him. 


Thursday

No picture

Friday

I built a door for a rabbit hutch we were blessed with. I've never done a project like this solo before (usually Bryan tackles them for me), but it was fun! Sydney and Jeffrey helped me. 

We got Raf (our smaller buck) moved today and all of our rabbits are now in their own space--and will be protected from the snow and wind this winter.


Saturday

Ellie asked if I could take her picture. She's in jammies and all ready to be tucked into bed. 

I'm ready for bed too! I hope you all had a great week!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

5 Tips for Surviving Pregnancy Exhaustion

I don't know if it's because I'm about 27 weeks pregnant, or because I'm up each night for a couple of hours with my sleepless son Owen (or most likely a combination of both!) but I've really been exhausted lately. Of course with six kids in the house and farm chores, laying in bed all day isn't a viable option. What's a busy mom to do? 

Here are five ways I've been managing:

1. Maximize rest during the day.

We have a two hour quiet time each day. While I normally use this time to do some catchup and prep on housework and meals, or maybe write a blog post or two, I've been more purposeful with resting for at least half of this time. I can't always fall asleep, but I can sit on the couch and at least put my feet up if sleep eludes me. 

I've also moved parts of school to the couch where I can rest a little better while teaching. 

It's not ideal, but it works! The kids love gathering around and snuggling while we read and sing together, and I get to be still for a while. 

2. Buying convenience foods

I've been making my own pasta for several months now, and just love it! But when I go grocery shopping next week, dried whole wheat pasta has once again returned to my shopping list. 

Yes, I love the taste of homemade. But by having a box of pasta on hand, I make it much easier for the kids to help cook dinner. 

And those fifteen minutes saved by not making it fresh can be huge on a day when I got little sleep and my brain is feeling foggy.

Tortillas are another convenience food I'll be buying. Yes they are easy to make, but this is not the time in my life to make every little thing. 


3. Minimize farm chores

The cows are now dried up, thanks to the doses of Tomorrow my mom gave them this morning. My parents will be out of town this weekend, so mom came over this morning instead of on Sunday. 

Not milking will save about 20 minutes every morning. I'm looking forward to not milking tomorrow! I enjoy it, but after milking for over a year, a break will be nice. 

I've also worked out some efficient ways to quickly get feeding and watering taken care of for all the animals, so chores are only taking 10 minutes twice a day when I'm solo, and even less when the kids help. 

 Being efficient and drying up the cows will save me a lot of effort.



4. Staying home 

We are being homebodies around here. Well, I guess we are all the time, but now I'm more so. It can be a challenge getting everyone ready to go and loaded up.  Not to mention keeping track of everyone and lifting Owen into and out of the car and his wheelchair. Leaving the house requires a lot of effort. 



So we are practicing contentment at home. With what we have. And I'm learning to really love shopping online. Toilet paper and diapers delivered to my door? Yes please! 

We are combining appointments and leaving less. I'm really enjoying just seeing all the days on the calendar with no where to go--it leaves room for creative play here on the farm. And it saves gas money--another bonus! 

5. Lowering expectations of myself

This is the hardest one for me. I feel like I need to continue to get it all done. But the Lord has pointed out that those feelings are just my pride. Busted! 

Carrying this new little one and spending time with the family are way more important at this stage in my life than mopping the floors. And scrubbing cupboards. 

So I'm leaning on the Lord and learning that I can't do it all. And that's ok. We do what we can each day, and ensure that essentials get done (kitchen and bathroom cleaning for instance), and then  I don't stress. Well, rather I'm learning not to stress! And I'm enjoying more snuggles and books with kids than ever before. 

What strategies have you used to survive exhaustion? 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Look Who Is 6!

Happy Birthday Jeffrey!  

Jeffrey showing off the helicopter he constructed from K'Nex.
My little boy is growing up!  Today he turns 6--a whole hand AND an additional finger.  Time certainly flies. It seems like only yesterday Bryan and I were thinking he was going to be born in the car on the way to the hospital, and now he's gone and grown into a young lad.  And a nice one at that.   
Many years ago, I read in a book somewhere that the goal of the Amish is to have their children self-sufficient (for the most part) by 7.  Bryan and I have kept this in mind as we train our children, and we're pleased to report that Jeffrey is definitely on track!  It amazes me how many parents have little or no expectations for their children.  Kids definitely rise or fall to meet parental expectations.

Anyways, back to Jeffrey...

He's a huge help around the house, and can tackle many chores by himself.  He loves giving me a hand, and often takes heavy loads from his sisters or myself.  This year--he asked if he could learn to clean the toilet for his daily bathroom chore.  Um...yes!  What five year old boy asks to clean the toilet?  He's definitely special!

In addition to being a great helper, Jeffrey is learning his way around the kitchen.  (We want to be sure both our boys and our girls can cook!) He makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the family on his day for lunch.  He cooks pancakes and makes cookies.

One of my favorite character traits about Jeffrey is that when it's time to work, he works hard, but he also plays hard. When he puts his mind to something, he gets it done.

He adores construction toys and builds with Legos, K'Nex or Lincoln Logs almost every day during our two hour quiet time.  He has a mathematical brain that I don't quite understand--spatial sense is definitely one of his strong areas!

I look forward to seeing him continue to learn, grow and change in the next year.  Learning to read independently is a major goal we have set.  Whatever happens in the coming year, I am thankful for this little boy the Lord gave us!


Monday, November 3, 2014

The Final Countdown to Drying Up the Cows

Wowsers--I've been milking for 13 months straight; ever since late September 2013.  It's time for the cows and I to both have a much needed break. 

The plan now is to dry up the cows this coming Sunday.  How do I know they're ready to dry up?

*Their milk production has dropped.  I'm now getting just over 1/2 a gallon a day (from both cows together).
*The grass has dried up completely, which means the cows are now eating hay exclusively.  They aren't taking in as many calories.
*If my breeding plan went according to schedule, they are going to have babies in 4 months (mid March-early April).  That means they need time to rest.  Normally you only dry up cows three months before calving, but since they've been milking for so long, I thought an extended break would be beneficial.

So...there are only a few days left in my 2013-2014 milking cycle.  It's kind of a bittersweet feeling. I'll really miss the milk.  

But...I am definitely looking forward to sleeping in a bit longer each morning, and getting a little extra rest before our new baby joins us!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pics for Saturday

Happy November everyone!  We've got two birthdays, a Thanksgiving trip to the other side of the coast, and a zoo visit all on the docket in the next 29 days.  Wow--it'll certainly be a fun filled month!

Here's a glimpse into how we wrapped up October:

Sunday

A potluck at church took my mind off of picture taking today.  What a blessed time of fellowship!

Monday

Ellie wanted to play outside in the leaves for her game.  It was so much fun! We built a "house" complete with a nice bed and a couch.  Jeffrey and Jayme are trying out the bed.  Cozy!



Tuesday

Ellie and Sydney helped me cook dinner tonight.  They are turning into good helpers! My picture turned out blurry though--I think I was trying to do too much all at once!



Wednesday

We spent time outside again today.  Simon loved the leaves, and is finally figuring out walking on uneven ground.  He even tried to run a bit! Like the handle-less little rake he was playing with?



Thursday

I"m trying to get more exercise into our days, especially before winter hits.  We took a walk down to the creek for some outside active play.  In the meantime, I caught this shot.  Jeffrey and Jayme worked hard this past summer on getting a rock bridge in the creek.  We'll see if it holds up this winter...




Friday

Simon and his Apple Juice Jello.  He approved, but found it hard to eat.  (He's becoming very independent in eating and doesn't like help much...)



Saturday

Jeffrey loves helping in the kitchen.  He asked to make cookies for our afternoon snack tonight.  I supervised him and did some of the measuring for him.  He stirred everything together and made the balls on the cookie sheets.  Here he is showing off his newest kitchen skill--taking cookies off the sheets with a spatula.  What fun to cook together!

 You can see more apples in the background.  We're slowly turning them all into applesauce, apple juice, dried apples and apple rolls.  I'll probably try to get an apple pie made this week.  We're down to just one tub left!!!


What were you up to this week?