Monday, January 26, 2015

Mid-Placement

I anticipated the initial adjustment period of a foster placement to be difficult.  And it was.  I also expect the end of the placement to be challenging for a whole different set of reasons.  And it will be. But I did not expect the middle of the placement to be as hard as it is some days.  In many ways, things right now are easy.  He seems like just another member of our family. He goes with our flow and knows what to expect of us and us of him.  I'm well used to navigating baby gates, nap time and declining invites out after 7pm. But within the groove are rough patches.  Infants become more aware of their abnormal situation as they become older and deal with their confusion in ways I wasn't quite ready for but knew were possible.  I know the systems involved are not perfect.  I used to be a social worker myself.  But when you're watching a child grow up before your eyes and become deeply attached to you as if you are a mother-equivalent, you can't help but hope reunification comes quickly.  For the child.  For the mother.  And for yourself. (Assuming the birth mother is ready and has proven so, of course.)

******

So the other day I was walking through the house, semi-attempting not to step on the many toys and things-turned-toys strewn across the floor, when I accidentally stepped on a new canister of cocoa. The pressure broke the nifty foil covering and blew off the lid (with significant force) sending a dust storm of cocoa into the mudroom, school room and under the door (and several feet) into the bathroom.  While it made the house smell divine, it inspired Miriam to give me her wise advice once again, "If I were you, I'd move to a new house."

******

While bottles in my fridge, onesies in my laundry and smelly diapers in a bin outside my back door is the norm now, there are moments when it still shocks me.  I'm a foster mom.  I waffle between looking forward to the freedom that will come when I'll return to parenting my own three children, the near panic at the thought of his leaving, and the anticipation of what the next baby will be like (after a considerable break in between).

My emotions swing along from one pondering to another but are never allowed too wide a berth.  I can't let them swing out too far.  I reign them in and tuck them down and pull out the next school binder, clean off the high chair tray and fill another bottle.  I don't feel like I'm suppressing anything as much as I'm keeping it in check.  One day (or week or month), they will be given permission to swing their farthest and I'll most certainly break down.  For now, all I can say is that there is a season for everything and while my mind races forward, I really need to keep it (mostly) centered in the here and now.

******

I no longer wash Sam, Sadie or Miriam's clothes.  This is not a punishment.  It occurred to me recently that they are fully capable of taking care of this themselves.  And since they're home most days all day they have the time to do it.  When Sam or Sadie and Miriam's (Sadie and Miriam share a room) laundry baskets get full they bring it downstairs, wash it, dry it and fold it.  Sadie does Miriam's for her since their clothes are together.  Now I only wash Jamey's clothes, mine and the baby's.  I can't tell you how this minor shift in responsibility has lightened my load.

******

The baby has weekly all day visits with his mother.  We make a point of doing fun things with our older kids on these days.  The visits fall on our homeschool co-op day so we spend the morning there. Then, I take the kids to a local bagel shop for lunch.  In the afternoon I try to find something fun for us to do.

{If you know me, you know that this isn't really me.  I'm a homebody and a bit stingy, believing that children shouldn't need to be entertained all the time.  That said, my kids have been AMAZING through this placement.  It's not all warm and fuzzy but much of the time it is.  They're helpful, loving and incredibly understanding despite the hard feelings that surface now and then.}

So one day we spent the afternoon at a friend's house, another visit day we went to a paint your own pottery studio, one day we went to the movies (there were only two other people in the theater!) and most recently, Jamey took off work early and met us at the bowling alley. We want our kids to see and participate in the service that is foster care but we also want to remind them how much we love them and are so very proud of them.

******

Our foster child has been with us for six months and we are on our fifth foster care worker.  Fifth.  I know turnover is high and therefore experience/stamina is often low (which contributes greatly to the high turnover, I believe).  This is no fun, light-hearted profession. I get that. Thankfully, we haven't needed a lot of hand-holding and an amazing private agency has taken over visits and therapeutic services for the birth mom and her child.  If I did need more assistance from the actual foster care agency, I do feel like I could get it.  Having worked in child mental health in the past, I know who to call and what to say.  No matter how well each worker explains and passes on each case to the next, I do worry about continuity.  It's strange being on the other side of things and having to remember my place.  It's not that they don't want my input but I'm not a professional player on the team anymore. I'm the foster mom and in some ways this is freeing.  My job is to love and nurture the child and do my best to connect with and support the birth mom to increase positive interactions and transitions.

And that's plumb enough.

******

Until I can muster the time and courage to share more of this journey again....

Jane


my first forced amaryllis- off topic but glorious

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January Pantry and Freezer Pictures

My friend Mavis challenged her readers to send her photos of their pantries.  For every set of photos she receives, Mavis will donate $20 to a food bank!  I couldn't resist so I grabbed my camera and started snapping.

If you'd like to take a look, you can find my photos and a little write-up about what's in our pantry and freezers these days right here as well as more info. about her challenge.  Then, join in the fun!



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Friday, January 16, 2015

Princess the Pig: Part 4, The Finale

Part 1 (The Intro)
Part 2 (And She Grows)
Part 3 (Off to the Butcher)

About a week later, Jamey came home with Princess. In boxes.

Of the 325 pounds that she ultimately weighed, we brought home 160 pounds of pork.  Taking into consideration the cost of the pig, feed and butcher fees, the cost for her meat averaged out to about $3/pound.  This was worth it to us- we know what she ate and where she grazed.


We surveyed the contents and loaded up the freezers.  We do not take this lightly.  We appreciate the utter extravagance of having freezers full of food to eat.  To be honest, I don't have a lot of experience with many cuts of pig other than bulk sausage and links so this will be quite an adventure. Some of the parts we ordered/received are spare ribs, butt roasts (surprisingly not from the butt but from the shoulder), quarter hams, the fat (labeled "fet" below), heart, tenderloin, sides of bacon, bulk sausage and links (and the kidney, not pictured).


The day after, the two sides of bacon went to a friend's house.  He has a reputation for making great bacon (a favorite of Jamey's).  The sides were given a dry rub and left to cure in his cellar for a week or so.  Then he placed them in his smoker to finish the job.  Below is what came home to us a couple weeks later.  In exchange for his bacon-curing, we shared with him some of his favorite pig parts.  Jamey divided the bacon into one pound slabs (wrapped in freezer paper) for the freezer.  He slices them just before frying them up- although most of the time he gets Sadie to do the frying- she likes bacon almost as much as he does.



Jamey had done some reading on the benefits of animal fat/lard and rendered the fat the day after the boxes came home.  He chopped it up, melted it and then strained it through cheese cloth.  The purest lard is white and odorless- this I've been using in baking.  The other lard is slightly discolored and smells like bacon/sausage.  This is used for other dishes where the flavor will compliment the dish. While some might get excited about bacon-flavored cookies, me not-so-much.  To be honest, I was a little skeptical about this whole lard business.  As with many things, the unknown can be daunting. This article helped a lot and now I'm pretty excited to be using it. About six pints of lard went into the freezer.


Christmas week, we had friends over for dinner and wanted to make one of our hams.  We had come across this recipe for making a "raw" (uncured) ham.  We followed the directions closely except that instead of using maple syrup, we used our honey:-).  The result was delicious.  It was certainly not anything like the cured hams you buy at the store.  This ham had the flavor of pork (think pork chops) but the consistency of tender roast beef- sliced thinly just like roast beef instead of in thicker slabs (like cured ham).  We will definitely be making our other hams this way, too, and may try the maple syrup version next since friends recently gave us a gallon of their family's maple syrup in exchange for a couch we no longer needed.  Sweet deal, indeed.


I'd love to hear your favorite ways of preparing different cuts of pork.  Please speak to me, lovelies!  
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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Princess the Pig: Part 3

Part 1 (The Intro)
Part 2 (And She Grows)

We have a trailer that we use to haul our trash and firewood (among other things).  Jamey reinforced the sides but as Princess continued to grow he wasn't sure it would hold her if she became disagreeable. So.  On the scheduled delivery day, he picked up a friend's trailer (that's used for sheep) on his way home from work, stopped in at our house briefly to change clothes and pick up the rest of the family and the precious kitchen scraps I'd been saving for three whole days.

We drove over to our neighbor's and he was kindly ready and waiting for us, opening the gate as we drove in so we could back the trailer right up to Princess' yard.  I hadn't seen her in a little while and was surprised as to how much she had grown.  Again.  We later found out she was 325 pounds.



Using pallets they made a little pig chute, released her into the outer yard and lured her with the scraps.  Princess then proceeded to calmly and mannerly walk right up and into the trailer.





And down the road we went.  A number of people asked how our kids took the whole situation.  It may make them sound like calloused, insensitive children but they didn't seem to bat an eye.  Sam took pictures out the back window as we drove down the road and the kids enjoyed seeing all the other animals in the pens waiting their turn to be butchered, including another pig Jamey believed to have been between 500-600 lbs.



This is a reality of life.  If we eat meat, its good (we believe) for children to understand where that meat comes from as well as the importance of raising animals in humane, clean and natural ways to ensure their health and therefore ours.

behind the butcher's

I hate to drag this out but in the next post I'll show you what we got in return and what we're doing with some of it thus far.  Here's a little preview....


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Monday, January 5, 2015

Honey Bee Update

Happy New Year to you all!

It feels like forever since I posted about our bees.  The last time was back in August and before that it was May.  Having a little person in the house again meant that while Jamey was making regular summer visits and adjustments to the hives, I wasn't able to be out there to photograph and document what he was doing.

If you remember back to our first year with bees, we had three top bar hives heading into winter and two of them survived to spring. Despite losing what seemed like many, many bees to swarming (our fault) in the spring, the colonies rallied.  We were able to divide them and even harvest some honey. We headed into this past fall with five colonies.  Three in top bar hives, one in a homemade Langstroth and one in a nuc (mini-hive). We fed them some sugar syrup, tied down the roofs to keep them from blowing off and provided a wind barrier.  We felt like we were much more hands off this year as compared to our first year- partly out of necessity and partly because the bees know better then we do in regards to what needs to be done.


We had a couple very warm days just after Christmas and I was thrilled to hear an occasional buzz outside from a honey bee flying about.  A walk out to the bee yard showed activity at all five colonies.  This doesn't mean they'll all make it.  It's very possible that one or more colonies have died out and the other bees found the stores they couldn't get to.  But let's hope that all is well and that they enjoy a little early spring flying and cleaning (cleansing flights- to poop- and clearing out the dead) before needing to hunker down again.



I hope that this spring I'll be able to join Jamey in the bee yard more often.  I miss the smell and the awe-inspiring creation of these little creatures and their homes.  I'm also thrilled to be teaching a Honey Bee class to our older homeschool co-op class starting this week.  I hope to post about how it goes and the resources I've found to use once I try them out.

In the meantime, if you're considering beekeeping, now's the time to read, read, read and research, research, research.  A couple of our favorite books are... Top-Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder (he even answers my emails when I have questions), Beekeeping for Dummies and Beekeeper's Handbook. It may be too late in some areas, but you should also place orders for colonies- checking local resources first because local colonies have a better chance of doing well where you live. Makes sense, right?

And if you're not ready to jump on the beekeeping wagon (a precarious thought) you can just follow along here with us:-).

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year Goals

It seems like everyone is setting goals for the New Year.  They sound less threatening than resolutions but still invoke pangs of pressure and guilt before I've even picked up my pen.

I'm a planner at heart.  But setting myself up with a plan at this stage in my life just seems cruel and unusual punishment.  Instead, I'm trying to rest in God's arms, trust that His timing is best and even when it doesn't seem to be best, know that He will grant me the peace and energy to handle whatever it is that has come crashing (or sweetly crawling) through my door.

So my goals for this year look a bit different.

1) I want to take each day as it comes, commit it to God, and try to strike a good balance of praise, rest, work, and loving others.

2) I want to take better care of myself, physically, so that I have more energy and stamina to succeed at #1 above (going to bed earlier, walking a couple days a week, etc.).

3) If, on any given day, I fail at #1 and/or #2 above, I hope to grant myself the grace to try again the next day (without guilt and brow-beating) and extend that same grace to those around me when they mess up.  Because, Lord knows, we all mess up.

There you have it.  Those are my goals for 2015.  They are plenty for the year that lies ahead.

Love and Peace,
Jane

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Pig: Part 2

You can find Part 1 here (in which we introduce you to our pig).

Well she enjoyed Swine Summer Camp as far as we could tell.  She and her two cabin mates would occasionally break out of their pig yard and frolic (a.k.a. chase) the sheep around, requiring occasional fence reinforcing.  We didn't realize pigs were such good climbers and they're always looking for the feed that looks yummier on the other side of the fence.

Miriam named her Charlotte (although we think she meant Wilbur but got confused).  Since Charlotte didn't live with us, there were no real fears to us becoming attached.  Our neighbors fed her along with their pigs so except for the help mending fences and the occasional walk over to visit, we didn't see her much.

But boy, she grew.  And grew.  And grew.


By mid-fall our neighbors were ready to butcher their two pigs (the runt didn't make it).  Ours was still on the small side at the time- partly because she was female and partly because we heard the boys often helped themselves first to meals.  We decided to wait and let her eat and grow a little more.


This is when Charlotte became Princess.  Jamey renamed her and the name stuck.  He and Sam took turns watering and feeding her.  Our kitchen scraps were re-routed from the chicken yard to being bowl-fed to Princess.  Jamey had some concerns as to how we were going to get Princess into the trailer once it was time to take her to the butcher.  He wanted her to become tame enough to be led up and in (our neighbors had less than stellar luck getting one of their pigs loaded up).  Hence the name Princess- she was getting lots of attention.


How did the load-up and trip to the butcher go?  Jamey was practically losing sleep over it.  He would have one hour between getting home from work and when the butcher closed to get her there. I made sure I was available that afternoon, camera in hand.  Stay tuned for Princess the Pig: Part 3 (Off to the Butcher).

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Undone

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I have nothing to pack.


For the first time in forever, I will not be at my childhood home Christmas Day.  I will not pack up gifts, clothes, snow pants, sleeping bags and toiletries.  We will not have to rush through our little family's pre-Christmas celebration.  I will sleep in our bed.  I will watch the fire in our stove.

It will be decidedly quiet compared to all the normal festivities of extended family celebrations.  Part of me will miss it terribly.  The other part of me needs the relative quiet.  I need the good night's sleep.  I need to gather just us (in all our messy glory) around our table.  I need to help us focus on the last of our Advent devotional reads (which we never seem to get to).  We need the stability and predictability of being at home.

This past year has been one of many changes and much emotional stretching for all of us. It only seems right that we slow up, hunker down and rest as we usher in God's miraculous gift to us.  He's been giving us gifts all year long that have felt down right extravagant.  To focus on the Gift of Christ almost makes me come undone.  And I want to be home if I am to come undone.  It's just what I need because I know that the grace, peace and love that will put me back together makes me stronger than I was before.  And I need all the Holy Strength I can get.

Whether you're traveling or staying home this Christmas, my prayer for you is that you will allow yourself to come apart a bit.  Contrary to what the world tells us, this week is not about gifts or food or even family.  It's about ushering in the most amazing event of all time.  Be present for it.  Allow it to break and strengthen you and draw you ever closer to the Holy Gift Himself.

Grace, Peace and Love,
Jane


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Monday, December 15, 2014

Stuff. Grrrr....

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a mommy.  I envisioned cradling tiny babies, putting them down for naps, feeding them in a high chair, changing diapers, and even nursing them (I had four younger siblings who ate that way- not all at once, of course).

But never did I imagine all the time I would spend managing STUFF.  It is (as of right now) my very least favorite part of managing a household.  I don't mind cleaning very much (when I have the time to get it done) and I don't mind doing laundry.  I wax and wane excitement regarding cooking these days and don't really mind paying the bills.  What I DO mind is all the time, brain space and energy that goes into dealing with stuff.

Now granted, I am thankful for the stuff.  I am not complaining about the *actual* stuff.  The stuff we have is stuff we need and are blessed to have in our possession.

BUT.

When you live in an old farmhouse with very few closets, managing stuff is hard.

When your attic's access is just wide enough for your husband's hips to fit through (forget about bins, Christmas trees, etc.), managing stuff is hard.


When you are over-the-moon fortunate to get beautiful hand-me-downs to clothe your children but have to pile bins of clothes in your bedroom, managing stuff is hard.

When you homeschool and need to save each year's books for the children who will grow into them so you don't have to sell and repurchase books every year, managing stuff is hard.


When your children's ages range from one to just shy of twelve, some toys and books will naturally accumulate for said ages (and in between) making it hard to manage all the stuff.

When you delight in organization, tidy rooms and open spaces, managing an overabundance of stuff is hard.

When your "attic" is an old, detached-from-the-house smokehouse that is mostly sound but not sound enough to trust storing said clothes and books, managing stuff is hard.

When the only exercise you get some days is rearranging and lugging around bins and boxes, managing stuff is hard (even though the exercise is good).

I don't wish this stuff away. I am doing my best to keep us organized.  Yes, an addition would be nice as we seem to be bursting at the seams but it's not in the cards right now.

So I live with the stuff.  I walk past and around the stuff.  I sneer at the stuff and try to will it invisible.  I resent how it makes our spaces look cluttered and hope no one thinks me a budding hoarder.  I am constantly trying to think up ways to house it more discretely but the cold, hard truth is that as long as I have a family and means to clothe, entertain, and school them, I will have stuff.

So, STUFF, BRING IT ON!  I'm armed with bins and I'm not afraid to use them.  Like it or not, I will kick your butt into organized submission.

The end.


Merry Christmas!!

Love,
Jane Pin It

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Favorite Christmas Treats

Originally posted November 20, 2013.

Just because we're waiting until the week before Christmas to bake, doesn't mean you are.  You all are much more disciplined about not sneaking them from the freezer or gobbling up half a dozen while they're still warm, right?  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Of course.

In the event you're already baking or will be baking soon, I wanted to offer up our favorites.  If you've been around here for awhile, you'll see that our list hasn't changed much.  That's because these are the cream of the crop, in my opinion, and improving on the list would be tough.  That said, I'd love to hear what your favorite Christmas cookie is.  Would you tell me?  Please, please, please?

Almost all of these recipes below can also be found here.

First off- Lemon Bars. Oh, how I love them.  My infatuation began in our college cafeteria where I ate them for the first time.  Imagine how I now enjoy these in contrast with the albeit tasty cafeteria version (they actually baked them there, I believe).


Next, we have my mother-in-law's Caramel Popcorn.  Hers is the best I've ever had- well-coated, not grainy, just melt-in-your-mouth heavenly.


These Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies are my favorite cookie in the world and I'm not exaggerating.  I could eat them every day at every meal.  Boldly spiced and chocolaty, they are divine.


Ahhhh.  These are my mother's Chocolate Mint Brownies.  You can add green food coloring to the mint layer to make them more festive, but I like leaving them pure white so your unsuspecting company is wowed by the flavor punch.


Such a classic- Peanut Blossoms.  These were my favorite growing up.  I'd always eat the peanut butter cookie around the kiss, saving the chocolate for my last bite.  Hmm.  Come to think of it, that's exactly what I still do:-).


This Gingerbread Cookie recipe came from my mom.  She use to pipe white icing on her gingerbread men, giving them faces and little pants, shirts and shoes.  Several years ago, I decided to decorate them by dipping them in melted chocolate and then let the kids decorate with sprinkles.  As you may have noticed above, I love the chocolate-gingerbread combination, so these are my second favorite cookie.  And I can still give the illusion of little pants, shoes and hats.


Do you know about Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies?  Well, I am happy to introduce you.  The bark can totally stand alone as a treat (or sweet gift wrapped in a cellophane bag), but add them to chocolate cookies?  Be still my beating heart.


In the back of Beth Morre's Bible study book on Esther comes this recipe for Haman's Ears.  Soft, sweet cookie is wrapped around your choice of filling- we use apple butter and different flavors of jam.  Not only are they delicious, but they remind our family of the way God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.


Lastly, Homemade Marshmallows.  If you've never tried these, you really must.  They are surprising easy to make and taste so much better than the store bought variety.  And!  Your kids will love dropping one big giant marshmallow into their hot chocolate instead of those of itty-bitty ones.


Happy baking, loves!
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Monday, December 8, 2014

Investing in Us

It had been quite awhile since Jamey and I had gone out by ourselves- even for just a couple hours. Having a foster child changed my feelings about going out and our ability to get away.  First of all, I've been surprised at how (insanely?) protective I am of this little person.  It was fierce from the very beginning.  While I'm very protective of my own children, of course, I found myself feeling it at a different level with him. Even if it was a governmental agency and a stranger forced into the situation- others were entrusting us with another's child.  Talk about feeling like a mama bear.

Of course I was concerned for his physical safety.  I didn't trust to leave him with anyone but Jamey for the first little while. And I even reminded Jamey (repeatedly-you can ask him) that we needed to be even more deliberate about proper supervision to ensure his complete safety.  I know stumbles and scrapes happen, but I was paranoid worried about trip-to-the-ER accidents.  At the same time, I was just as protective of his little spirit- I didn't want him passed around.  He'd had enough change in his little life.  I wanted him to know that I would be there for him- I was not going away.

At least not for awhile.

But life goes on and from time to time there have been occasions when I've needed someone else to watch him.  Two or three times we've need a babysitter so Jamey and I could complete our yearly foster care training hours.  We tried to tell each other that these were dates.  While there were no children to tend to, we were only able to talk in the car to and from the agency.  It was better than nothing but wasn't what we needed.

And then there's the whole issue of who can watch him.  When a child is in foster care, you can't just call your regular teenage babysitter.  Ours are extremely responsible but we understand completely why there are rules in place.  Not only does the sitter need to be an adult but they need to fill out paperwork, have it notarized and undergo a background check which can take six weeks for approval. I was quick to get that ball rolling when he first arrived but six weeks is still quite awhile.

Thankfully, one of our friends is already a foster mom so they approved her quickly.  I also asked my sister and a close friend/neighbor to round out my approved babysitter posse.  The rules for using your approved sitters are different, too.  We're only to use them for a couple hours at a time- for doctor's appointments, dinner out, etc.  If we need longer care, we call the agency and they ask another foster family to provide respite.

So, he's been with us now for almost six months.  A few weeks ago Jamey called one of our dear, approved sitters and we went out on a date.  We dressed up, had meaningful (uninterrupted) conversation, repeatedly had to convince ourselves that it was okay that we chose such an expensive place since we never go out, and lingered over the most delicious meal.

I didn't realize how much I needed that. More than just about anything, keeping connected with your spouse during these years of child-rearing is so very important.  It seems silly but when so much of my focus is on children, I need to be reminded that I am in a relationship with a man and that relationship really is at the core of my earthly life and all my other relationships.  I needed to be reminded that Jamey chose me.  And still chooses me every day.  I needed to be reminded that when these children are grown and gone, we'll still have each other.  We need to invest in us.

So while it may be a little while until we venture out alone again, our recent date will carry me a ways.  This life, as challenging and tiring as it may be is worth the craziness, the diapers and occasional tears over school work because the people in my house deserve the best I can give them. Most of the time that means being here for their many needs but sometimes it means grounding myself by getting away with my partner in this amazing life.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Needed This Today...

...and maybe you do, too.

"THERE IS NO FLAW IN YOU. - Song of Solomon 4:7

Having pronounced His Church positively full of beauty, our Lord confirms His praise by a precious negative: "There is no flaw in you."  As if the thought occurred to the Bridegroom that the complaining world would insinuate that He had only highlighted her good parts and had purposely not mentioned those features that were deformed or defiled, in summary He declares her universally and entirely beautiful and utterly devoid of flaws.  A spot can be easily removed and is the very least thing that can disfigure beauty, but even from this little blemish the believer is delivered in his Lord's sight.  If he had said there is no hideous scar, no horrible deformity, no deadly ulcer, we might even then have marveled; but when He testifies that she is free from the slightest flaw, all these other forms of defilement are included, and the depth of wonder is increased.  If He had simply promised to remove all flaws later on, we would still have eternal reason for joy; but when He speaks of it as already done, it fills us with a deep sense of satisfaction and delight.  My soul, here is spiritual food for you; digest it properly, and be satisfied with the royal provision.

Christ Jesus has no quarrel with His spouse.  She often wanders from Him and grieves His Holy Spirit, but He does not allow her faults to affect His love.  He sometimes rebukes, but it is always in a tender manner, with the kindest of intentions; It is "my love" even then.  There is no remembrance of our follies.  He does not cherish ill thoughts of us, but He pardons and loves equally after the offense as before it.  If Jesus were as mindful of injuries as we are, how could He commune with us?  Too often a believer will put himself out of humor with the Lord for some slight turn in providence, but our precious Husband knows our silly hearts too well to take any offense at our ill manners."

~ December 3, Morning Prayer from Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon
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Monday, December 1, 2014

In the School Room

In the past month or so a friend of mine has been posting photographs and breaking them down.  I thought I'd apply the same idea to a picture I took a couple weeks ago. I love it because it truly is a snap shot into what our life is like at this moment in time.


~ Despite the occasional lament during actual school, as soon as they're given free time, they play school.  Sam is taking turns teaching Miriam (in her creative learning stance) and Sadie.
~ laundry in the basket on the couch waiting to be folded
~ Handwriting pages, maps, Bible memory verses, school calendar, spelling rule reminders and framed art from this summer's painting fun (we used this book) adorn the walls.
~ Strewn board books, an Indestructible, colander, Hess car, soccer ball, and peek-a-boo blocks show what baby was playing with.
~ School table covered in school books waiting to be put away on the shelves to the right.
~ Open toy cabinets (the doors came off years ago) and two locked craft/toy rotation cabinets sit under the school shelves.  I *so* advocate locking a cabinet or two.
~ Basket on school shelf holds diapers, changing pad, wipes and diaper cream because who wants to traipse upstairs every time there's a dirty diaper?
~ ABC cards from My Father's World because we have a kindergartener in the house
~ pillow on the floor because that's where pillows belong, right?
~ CD player on the table for listening to Bible memory verse and Geography songs
~ Sadie holding the baby like I often do during school

This is so characteristic of life right now- a semi-organized whirlwind of togetherness- children, school and never-ending laundry.  
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;

I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name 
for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
    for you have exalted your name and your word
    above everything.
On the day I called, you answered me,
    you increased my strength of soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,

    for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for 
great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;
    but the haughty he perceives from far away.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

    you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;
you stretch out your hand,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalm 138:1-8, NRSV
(italics mine)

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends.  
I am give thanks for you.
Love,
Jane

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Friday, November 14, 2014

The Three-Month Progression

In my mind, the month of September signifies school in full swing.  Then comes the three month progression that builds slowly and peaks at the end of December. October is relatively calm. The garden is mostly done.  Other than apples (early October for us), everything has been put up. The days are still mild. Pressures are low. We start getting cozy with fires and shorter days.


roasting and pureeing butternut squash

Then comes November.  My thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The calendar starts filling up with special activities and gatherings.  Since garden work has been abandoned (there's always work that can be done if we want to), we turn our attention to other projects.

the sad, sad state of our garden

Jamey and Sam are renovating the kids' playhouse (an old hog shed)- complete with an actual floor (versus dirt) and electricity.

We look forward to Thanksgiving time with family.  I start a mental list of all the special things I hope to do in December.  We're desperately needing a break from school but we push forward.  We'll take a week off for Thanksgiving.


The faces of our barns are repaired and protected.  As you can see above, the sides of the larger barn and the roofs are in need of paint/repair (a good summer project).

This progression toward Christmas is a mixed bag for me.  In my mind it's like a long climb up a steep mountain.  It makes me tired but at the same time it's invigorating.  I get the occasional blister (a little stress) or major leg cramp (a mini breakdown) but regular breaks and forcing myself to slow down and enjoy the view as I go helps.  Approaching the peak, I get giddy and forge ahead despite my exhaustion.  My eyes are on the prize.  At the top, I am in awe.  The vista is more than I could have imagined and way more than I deserve. Pin It

Monday, November 10, 2014

Free Cookbook Deal for Christmas Giving

It's that time of year again!  We're keeping our eyes peeled for gifts for the special people in our lives OR we're trying to think of things to add to our own Christmas list for loved ones who want ideas from us.  Well, I hope that I can help.  Not only that, I want to give some gifts away!  So....

From now until December 15th, every 5th purchase of one of my cookbooks will be free.  In other words, if you order a cookbook and it happens to fall on a multiple of 5, you will be charged for the cookbook and shipping but! within the next day, I will reimburse you the cost of the cookbook (you will still pay shipping and tax, if it applies)


The cookbook is spiral bound with a clear plastic cover.  Go here and scroll down the page to read more details as well as reviews.

If you happen to order two cookbooks and one of them falls on a multiple of 5, you will get one of the two for free.  If you order five cookbooks, you'll be guaranteed to get one free, etc. This applies to the coil-bound cookbook version only (not the e-version).

Also, just so you know, I am going to start the free giving at a random number between 1 and 5 which means that the first, second, third or fourth order that comes in will be the first free one.  I will go with every 5th from there. Click here to order yours.

Blessings, friends. I hope you have a wonderful week!
Jane Pin It

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Need New Shoes? Make 'em.

At first it didn't occur to me to post about this but after mentioning them to some friends, they insisted I do so.


I think I mentioned before that Jamey is a runner.  He hasn't raced in a few years but still feels best when he runs regularly.  He's a long distance runner- preferring ultra-marathons over shorter distances that focus on speed.  This is why he recently picked up the book Born to Run.  The book highlights the Tarahumara, an indigineous Mexican tribe who have become well known for their physical endurance- specifically in long distance running.  In recent years the book has inspired interest in running barefoot or with minimal footwear.  The idea is that modern running shoes coddle our feet and cause a running form that makes us more prone to injuries. The book inspired him to try a different type of minimalist running shoe called 'huaraches.'  He was particularly interested in trying them because he could make them himself.  And, you know, we like to save money.


Not only has he made himself a pair (and has been running and doing yard work in them) but he also made pairs for all three of our kids.  On warmer days, the kids prefer to slip these on (they don't need tying each time) to go out and play. Jamey is impressed with how comfortable they are and how well they stay on his feet.  I have fussy feet that crave all kinds of support so I haven't accepted his offer to make a pair for me.  He thinks my fussy (and wimpy) feet would benefit from these and while I think he's probably right (please don't tell him I said so) I'm not sure I'm ready.  I mean, they're tire walls for heaven's sake.


I think all this is very amusing especially when a friend pointed out that they sell something very much like them online for quite a bit more than what Jamey paid to make his (which is nothing except for a few dollars worth of bungee-cord for the kids version and paracord for his - the old tire was free).

So, friends, there you have it!  Are they all you imagined? ;-) Pin It

Monday, November 3, 2014

{Non-Technology} Gift Ideas

The past few years I've moved most of my Christmas preparations (gifts, cards, etc.) to before Thanksgiving.  When I'm successful, it lets me truly focus on Advent during Advent- a crazy concept indeed! It allows time for more meaningful Christmas preparations- those of the heart and mind. December is still full of neighborhood gatherings, special church programs and concerts but in between there is peace (depending on your household- the concept is relative:-)).

This is why I'm thinking about gift-giving already.  And I thought you might appreciate some gift ideas that have proved to be wonderful finds for our family- and none of them require batteries or wifi.  Some I've mentioned before and some are new treasures.  Click on the pictures to find further descriptions and additional information (like reviews) but feel free to check other stores and websites to find yourself the best deal.  And don't forget to use your Swagbucks or Ebates earnings to make them even more affordable.

Storytime Toys- These are really sweet little playsets. We have the Goldilocks one below as well as the Three Little Pigs set.  They come in very sturdy carrying cases (with a handle) where the sets can be stored in between playing marathons.  This is one of the things I like best about them- they can be taken apart and stored compactly.  I rotate toys often and these sets make that easy to do.

 

Peek-a-boo Blocks- I have fallen in love with these blocks.  We didn't have them when our kids were little but I purchased a used set on ebay for our foster child.  The photo below doesn't quite do them justice.  Each block "does" something when you shake it, turn a little dial, etc.  For example, the chick in the egg below makes a peeping sound when you press the one end of the block.  Our big kids (and I) enjoy playing with them, too.  They are on the expensive side, so find a set that suits your fancy and then keep an eye out at yard sales and sites like ebay.

 

Dutch Blitz- This is a fast-paced group card game that is so much fun.  Young kids can start learning early as all they need to do is match colors and count to ten.  The skill comes in with how fast you can place your cards down while everyone else is vying for some of the same spots.  We play this game a lot at our house- often with neighbor kids.

 

Playmobil- Ah, playmobil. Every year we continue to add new sets to our collection.  Often our kids use their saved up allowance money to buy the sets themselves.  These are toys worth saving for the next generation (and the next!).  I love the imaginary play that the sets inspire.  While legos tend to appeal to boys, in our house, our girls gravitate to playmobil.

 

Alphabet Blocks- This was another semi-recent purchase at our house.  In the photo below you can see the different colors in the box which are not shown in the pyramid.  They are beautiful. The cost reflects the "investment" mentality in these blocks.  This is another toy that will be enjoyed for generations.  Each block has a letters, numbers and a picture of an animal on it and the box is a sturdy place to store them when they're not in use (or in our case, a giant plastic pretzel container:-)).

 

Radio shows like Adventures in Odyssey (young and older kids), Ranger Bill (older kids), Little Orley (young kids) and The Sugar Creek Gang (older kids) are great for car trips (in place of DVD players or hand held devices) and for listening to as they wind down before bed.

Colonial Williamsburg Dolls- Our girls share three of these dolls which can also be found here. These dolls are sweet, well made and very reasonably priced.  Their layers of period-accurate clothes can be removed for re-dressing.

 

Heart to Heart Dolls- These are an exceptional alternative to American Girl Dolls.  They are extremely well made and represent the beauty of many nations- including Ethiopia, Mexico and Afghanistan.  And the price isn't nearly as extreme.  Browse around because some of these dolls are significantly cheaper than others.

 

I Never Forget a Face game- This is a darling memory game where faces are matched.  On the back of the box, it tells you where each child is from.  The tiles are sturdy- our game has been well loved for many years and is still holding up beautifully.
 
Sewing Kits- Sadie takes sewing lessons and her little sister, Miriam, wishes she could, too.  While we wait for her to get a little older, I've been picking up these sweet little sewing kit projects. Everything you need is included (except scissors).  With sewing holes punched in the felt, it makes these projects perfect for beginners and tiny hands. I've taken these kits along places where we needed to wait- it's a perfect quiet activity to make the time pass quickly!

 

If you're looking for book ideas, do not fear!  I will tell you a little secret.  Use the Sonlight website! I know both homeschoolers that don't use the Sonlight curriculum and folks that don't homeschool at all who use their website for excellent book ideas.  What's best is that you can browse by grade. You can then shop directly from their site or find the book elsewhere.  Here's how- follow this link, hover over "By Grade" at the top and choose the grade. Under the picture of all the books, click on the picture of the globe, then scroll down the page to see all the books.  Sonlight uses real literature so mostly what you'll see there are excellent novels (and a few textbooks).  Click on the ones that interest you for more details.

What are some of your family's favorite (non-technology) gift ideas? Pin It
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