Friday, September 16, 2016

Made by Pade Winner

A big thank you to all who visited my friend Patty's Etsy shop and facebook page.  Doesn't she make cute things?!



The randomly chosen winner who wins their choice of crossbody bag is...

I also FB liked

Congratulations, Purl2562!!  Please email me (thyhand123@gmail.com) with your mailing address and which crossbody bag you'd like and I'll get your information to Patty.

Thanks for entering and have a great weekend!

Blessings,
Jane

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Made by Pade Giveaway!

Hello, friends!  It's been quite a while since I've hosted a giveaway.  I am so excited to host this one for a dear friend who I worked with many years ago.  I'll let her introduce herself and tell you a little bit about her craft.  See below for details on how to enter to win one of her awesome crossbody bags!


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Hi! My name is Patty Reali, and I have an Etsy shop named "Made by Pade." The name comes from a nickname I accrued in college - one of my roommates had a younger sister who was in first grade and wrote her a really cute letter. It read, "Howdy dude Torri (My roommate)! Hows life at the aprtmt (apartment) and how is it with Vike (Vicki - other roommate) and Pade (me!)?" To my college friends, I have been "Pade" ever since. So, when I started my Etsy site, this seemed the perfect name!



I have loved creating things for as long as I can remember. My parents taught me to sew when I was very young, and I spent some time making counted cross-stitch and other hand-stitched items. My crafting went dormant for a while in high school, but in college I took up knitting and also hand-sewed my first quilt! (Still have it - it's a bit of a mess, but has lots of sentimental value.)




In more recent years, I have made clothes for my children, sewn baby carriers (a life-saver! Any of you with young children who have never used a carrier of any kind should look into it), and made purses for myself and as gifts for friends and family. I have also recently taught myself to crochet, which is great fun, since I can do it any time and any place!



On my site, you will find a collection of purses, zipper pouches, hand crocheted shawls and scarves as well as several other hand-crafted items. I hope you enjoy checking them out, and one lucky winner will get to choose his or her favorite crossbody bag! 




How to Enter:

Jane here.  Usually when I host giveaways you are only allowed to enter once.  This time, you can enter twice...

one entry if you you check out her Etsy store here and come back to tell us in the comments which is your favorite item...

and

one entry if you like her facebook page here (and tell us in the comments that you did)

or

you can just choose one of these for one entry:-).

I (Jane) will randomly choose one winner sometime this coming Friday and announce it here.  Make sure to leave your first name or initials so I can identify you as winner.  If you win, you will need to email me so I can pass your contact information and crossbody bag choice to Patty.  Happy entering!

Best of luck to all!
Jane Pin It

Monday, August 29, 2016

And All Was Right with the World

It was 10am on a weekday.  Jamey had the day off and was with Sam at the library checking out books and looking up articles for the upcoming start of Challenge B.  Sadie and Miriam had been begging for harder chores that I'd pay them a little something for since big brother Sam has recently been doing some odd jobs for a neighbor.


Sadie was down below me in the front flower beds- pulling up the remaining roots of bushes that Jamey and Sam had extracted this summer.  Her task was to rid these beds of weeds and roots and level them out so grass could take over.  I am SO not into flower beds these days.


Miriam was inside reorganizing our DVD and game cabinet that had been ravaged over the summer- no small task for a seven-year-old as game pieces and DVDs needed help finding their homes.


Where was I?  The baby and I were snuggled into my new porch hammock/chair*, swinging gently.  The air was still cool, the porch still in the morning shade.  Sunflowers and hydrangeas swayed and bent in the breeze as a flock (no kidding- I've never seen so many) of barn swallows swooped and darted in the yard and field in front of me.  The baby, usually climbing all over me- attempting to eat my face and finger my earrings- was calm and tender as he played with my arm and was mesmerized by the swallows, too.


Out of the blue, a feeling of peace and genuine thankfulness overtook me and brought me to tears.


I haven't been experiencing many of these moments lately and I didn't realize how starved I had become for them.  Fostering this time around has put me in intimate touch with another world- a world of mental health issues, poverty, chaos, and violence.  It's hard to shake off and fully live in my own safe and quiet life.


A month or so ago I was trying to describe this feeling to a new friend (who also fosters infants).  I told her it felt as if I was sitting on the seat of a dunk tank.  Sitting up on top, I live in my world.  It's a quiet life.  I think of myself as a fairly sheltered Mennonite girl- I garden, can, attend church and homeschool my kids.  I have supportive and loving family, friends and neighbors.  My husband is my best friend and we enjoy our (fairly) quiet life.  


But then---Bam!  A ball hits the target (I take the baby to a family visit, get a call from his social worker or check his birth parents' facebook pages- I highly recommend you not do this) and I'm plunged into this other world.  And it's scary there. ( I try to imagine living there- what if my reality was a birth parent’s reality?  Not knowing when and if I’d bring my child home with me.  Not knowing if I’d make rent or have enough gas to get to work or whether my partner will stick around or if I’ll end up in jail again.)


I'm hauled out, dripping wet, and try to re-engage in my life.  But I'm shivering and shaken up and it takes hours and sometimes days to recover before I'm dunked back under.  This.  This is why these moments of peace and bliss aren't bubbling up for me as often.  I'm pulled down and hauled up.  Dunked under one second and then scrambling to dry off the next.  Attempting to engage both worlds for the sake of this baby.  Trying to get my footing in my world and brace myself for the next entry into the other.


I was starting to worry that fostering was callousing me to the point that I wouldn't be able to see God's handiwork as readily before me as in the past, that I wouldn't as often feel His calming touch and caring presence that reassures me that He loves me and is for me.  I've been too busy trying to suppress a panic attack- which creates stellar knots in your neck and shoulders, by to the way.


That instance of peace- when all was right with my world- was all the sweeter because it was isolated.  It was as if God knew I needed it but wanted it to be special...treasured.  I know there will be more and I look forward to each one with longing.  For an instant, it was just me and God and the dunk tank was nowhere to be seen.


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*Side note: I highly recommend considering purchasing one of these hammock chairs (or something similar). Not only do babies love to gently swing but a chair like this has forced me to sit, enjoy the outdoors and SLOW DOWN.  Our front porch has become the new place to be because of it- mom is relaxed and not distracted.  I can be more present for everyone.  Plus, it's sturdy enough that the girls like to take turns sitting with me in it, too.  Who would have thought a silly chair could do all that?

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Season Shift

I've been meaning to write this post for weeks.  Instead, I've be continuously thinking of and reeling from a tragedy that some dear friends are living through.  Their sweet 4-month old baby boy passed away.  Please remember them in your prayers as they and their little girl grieve this enormous loss.  Thank you.

I'm still here (more or less).

The past couple months have flown by in a blur of baby and kid care, cooking from CSA boxes, trying to stay cool, birth family visits, a week of vacation, lesson planning, and day to day summer life.



In one week, we will start school as best as we can.  I recently read an article encouraging homeschool moms to think of their plans as "guesses".  I needed that.  Life is unpredictable and I am forever learning that I can't hold so tightly to my neatly structured plans.  Naps, appointments and feeding schedules are sure to change.  Lord, help me flex with them.


A summer without a huge garden of produce was, to be honest, so very nice.  Tomatoes came pouring in from our garden last week and I managed a large batch of canned, chopped tomatoes and a batch of tomato soup with one more go at soup planned for this week.  Thankfully, I have enough tomato sauce from last year to carry us over.



Since this was our first experience with a CSA (a full share) I wasn't sure what to expect.  Several people told us they found themselves trying new recipes to use up produce they usually don't buy.  I don't think I tried one new recipe.  Instead we roasted or ate fresh almost every single item.  It was a breeze...and so delicious.  If you don't have the space or time to garden, I highly recommend you look into a CSA.



The little boy with us is 8 months old already.  He is happy and healthy- a real joy.  It appears he will be with us for awhile yet.  Where he goes from here is still uncertain.  We welcome prayers for his sweet life and those who will care for him next.


I've missed writing here.  I've started a million blog posts in my mind these past few months- many about foster care.  The feelings and ideas are so hard to put into words- too complex and fragile all at the same time.  Maybe one day I can put these stories down.  For now, we live them out and do the very best we can with God's grace and strength holding us up.

September, ready or not, here we come!  Blessings to each of you as you make the transition, too.

Love,
Jane

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The End of May

I cannot believe it is almost June.  The spring melted quickly away in all the rain.  We were sequestered inside because of it.  While it made me feel a bit batty at the times, what else was I going to do with three kids and an infant anyway?  I am not brave and outgoing when I have a baby.  I hunker down.


This past week Jamey had a day off so he took baby duty so I could give our kids their achievement tests.  While I sat with them during test time I was able to order their books for next year and get my paperwork together to submit to the local school superintendent. Except for a little bit of work I'd like each of the kids to do this summer, we are calling school done for the year.


We've had enough hot, muggy days to make it feel as if summer is here.  The sun shines and the lack of rain is glorious.  The baby is taking real, two- and three-hour naps in the afternoon which is freeing me up to work on weeding the garden and flower beds.  It feels so good to be doing normal things like weeding.  And weeding adds a whole new purpose when you get to feed them to your pigs.


Last year, the girls and I picked blueberries at a local, organic blueberry farm.  We had gone early and were the only ones there for awhile.  I was able to pick side by side with the owner and she graciously answered some of my pressing blueberry-growing questions.  In the past, we have netted our bushes to keep the birds away but at their farm, they had wire strung over the rows with sections of reflective tape tied to the wires which moved in the wind and made a lovely rustling sound.  I decided to order some and try it this year.  I also put some of it on stakes in our strawberry patch.  So far, it seems to be working with the strawberries but the blueberries aren't ripe enough yet to know.  When I went out to snap a picture for you I found this...


Is she turning her head away because she's blinded by the tape or is she calling her friends to tell them that there's no net this year?  In the picture the tape looks white, but it is a very shiny, prism-y, silver.



Our first CSA box comes this week!  While we're not planting much this year for preserving, we are planting a few things to eat fresh.  And then there's all that garden space that you can't just leave bare otherwise the weeds will take over and drop seeds for next year's garden. We are using landscaping plastic to help keep weeds down in the sections we aren't using.  



We're actually amazed our garden looks as good as it does.  It's strange how when you're overwhelmed it seems impossible to imagine having time again for anything.  But it comes.  

Just like the sun.


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Bacon, Part 2

Last year, a friend of ours turned the side meat from Princess into bacon for us.  This year, after finding a good deal on a grill/smoker, we were able to make our own.

First, about the grill/smoker.  We've never actually owned a grill before.  We've always just used our fire pit with a grill grate on top.  Now that we seem to be routinely having pigs butchered, Jamey started looking into purchasing one that could also smoke meat.  The Big Green Egg is a popular brand but they are also quite expensive. We were lucky to find a similar style ceramic grill (by Vision Grills, similar to this one) at a discount store in our area.  It has several small nicks in the ceramic that makes it imperfect but does not effect how it functions. 



Our friend generously shared his bacon rub recipe with us.


The sides were thawed and the dry rub applied to the meat.  It is very important that the rub to meat ratio is correct in order for the bacon to turn out well.



Next, Jamey placed the bacon on wooden slats in a fridge (we have a small, spare fridge we were given by friends that we plug in when needed) for two weeks.


It was then smoked on our grill/smoker at a dome temperature of 250 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat was 150 degrees.  This took about 3-4 hours for our sides. We used hickory as our smoking wood.





Are you drooling yet?

Once cooled, Jamey sliced the bacon and packaged it for the freezer.

We hope to try other pork cuts in our new grill/smoker.  Any recommendations?
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bacon, Part 1

Possibly their last group picture (this is the most sentimental I'm going to get).


It was February and it was time. Two pigs needed butchering- the large male (Spock) and a female who we were raising for a neighbor.  It had been so easy to lure Princess onto the trailer at butchering time last year.  We were hoping for similar luck this time.

Jamey had asked a friend to come assist.  And, bless his heart, he came.  Sam was in charge of picture-taking and videoing since I was inside with the baby.  At one point, Sam came in and I asked, "They have them loaded already?" to which Sam replied, "Um, no.  Can't you hear them squealing?"  I opened a window and yes, indeed, I could hear squealing and quite a ruckus going on in the barn.

Tactic #1 was to drive the trailer into the pig yard and lure them onto it with kitchen scraps and feed.  This did not work.




Tactic #2 was to get them into the barn and funnel them down this hallway and toward the open door you see below.  The trailer had been backed up flush to the open door, so when the pigs stepped out the door, they'd step onto the trailer.  Seems like it should work, right?


The pigs did not like this tactic either.  Jamey and our friend tried using boards to herd them out the door (by making the space smaller) but they simply pushed pass the boards.  They tried the bucket method.  A pig who has a bucket placed over their head will back up to get their head out.  The idea is that you can back them up in the direction you want them to go.  This eventually worked but it took a long time.  They'd get one on the trailer and as they tried to back the other one into it, the one on the trailer would push past and into the barn once again.  We used up all our kitchen scraps and feed.  They were not having it.  Finally, they decided to transport one at a time.

At one point, 420-pound Spock shot under Jamey's legs heaving him up into the air.  It was sort-of a miracle that neither of them got hurt.  Oh, except for a sore foot.  Spock stepped on Jamey's foot.  "Take that", he thought.

During all of this, Turk was a mess.  He had to be put on a leash. He didn't like that these pigs were wrestling with and squealing at his owner.  Eventually, he had to be brought inside with me but he just cried and barked at the door.  He spent some time in his crate that evening until he could finally calm down and relished cuddling with Jamey on the couch after it was all over.


It wasn't in the initial plans but we ended up buying a grill/smoker so we could learn to process some of the meat ourselves.  Stay tuned for Bacon, Part 2, and be glad you don't have to heard pigs on a trailer today.  Unless you do.  In that case...good luck. Pin It

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Loneliness in Foster Parenting

I wrote this a couple weeks ago during a particularly difficult spell.  I've hesitated to post it since these feelings are not as intense currently (although they wax and wane).  I offer it up anyway.

I have a little time to write.

I should write about the swarms of bees Jamey caught and the two pigs that did NOT want to go the butcher but did and then about the bacon Jamey smoked himself on his new (and first ever) grill/smoker.  I likely will write those posts sometime soon but instead I find myself needing to write about the loneliness that can come from being a foster parent.

We have GREAT friends and family and an AMAZING support system that includes a WONDERFUL church family and supportive neighbors.  I don't want any of them who might read this to feel the least bit like they're not doing an amazing job of being there for us.  YOU are and I can't imagine how much harder this would be without them.

That said, it's hard to explain how these last few months have really been.  When folks ask how he's doing, we can talk about how he's sleeping. We can talk about what a good baby he is, how he's laughing, loves his doorway jumper, and is starting to roll over.  We can talk about how much he's taking by bottle and the goals for getting him off the tube...but there's so much left unsaid- right under the surface.  And if I opened those gates of thoughts and feelings I wouldn't be able to stop them and I'd likely end up in a pool of tears on the floor.

Okay, that might be a bit dramatic.  I don't feel like that all the time.

But there are times that I do.

There are times that I know I'm the only one out of all our friends who is still changing diapers. Somehow, this sets us apart and seems to undo some of the other things we have in common.  I wonder if many people know what to do with us.  What else to ask us about.  Whether they can invite us over. Whether they can come over to our house.  I feel like we're weird in an accepted but awkward sort-of-way.  Just to be clear- we are actually weird (who isn't?) but this has added a new dimension to our weirdness.

Sometimes I feel like I've gone backwards in the child-rearing progression.  Many others are plowing ahead- beginning to look at what their lives might be like one day when kids move on and out.  And I'm looking at bottles that need washing and birth parents who have so far to go before they're ready to take this precious boy home with them.

This large part of my current world is, in many ways, off limits to others.  It needs to be to preserve confidentiality and the respect due birth parents going through a very difficult time.  This world is full of family visits, home visits, home-health visits, speech therapist visits, pediatrician appointments, specialist appointments and follow-ups...all of which I can't discuss or process in detail- except with the professionals and Jamey.  Oh, how I thank God for Jamey.

{This precious boy just nodded off to sleep by bouncing himself gently in his jumper.  I cannot convey the sweetness that is his little face.}

I hear others plan island vacations, talk about the sports and other activities their kids are involved in, lament about possible presidential candidates, or about redecorating their home (ALL fun and worthy topics of conversation!) and yet they leave me feeling alien because I have no room in my head or heart to really dwell on such things.  But I want to hear about them!  Because I do care about my friends and family and what is going on in their lives.  I seem to be wearing some sort of tinted lenses on my heart- everything is slightly colored by how this foster placement impacts us.

And all this leaves me feeling lonely even at home with my great kids, even surrounded by my congregation, even at the park with other homeschool families, or even sitting in our living room with good friends. Don't get me wrong- foster parents don't have dibs on loneliness.  If you're struggling with depression, health issues, marriage issues, children struggling with emotional issues, or just the demands of the everyday...you KNOW, likely even better than I, of this loneliness.

I just didn't expect to experience it in foster parenting.

I'm not complaining.  We chose this and we'll likely choose it again.  I just wondered if folks knew about this other challenge that foster parents sometimes face.  And while encouragement is always welcome, if we're praised over-zealously that, too, can make me feel set apart. And we shouldn't be.  We're right here with everyone else just trying to do the best we can.

There are a few things that help.  One, in the midst of loneliness, I know that in reality I am not alone (turn your volume up).  Two, I know that my loneliness ensures that the little baby in our home will not experience loneliness for the however many days he's with us.  Three, occasionally I talk with someone who discloses in whispers that they are considering foster care...and, oh, how my heart soars when I hear this.  Because despite all the challenges, it's worth it all.  And if they choose this path, I look forward to walking beside them- knowing what it feels like and ready to accept their pools of tears and mess when or if they open up.

Time and time again, God answers our loneliness through song, His Word, notes of encouragement, etc...all timed perfectly- lifting us, strengthening us and sustaining us.  If you feel so moved, take time today to write a note or place a phone call to someone you think might be feeling alone.

And if you're a fellow foster parent, I'm right here with you.  We are not alone. Pin It

Monday, May 9, 2016

Catching Spring Swarms (With Lots of Pictures)

I'll say it again- we are in no way experts at this.  Read to be entertained and to learn about bees, NOT to learn how to be the best beekeeper :-).

Last week, while Jamey was outside, he spotted it hovering in the air over our yard not far away- a swarm of honeybees.  It didn't matter if they came from one of our hives or not.  We wanted those bees so he leaped (quite literally) into action.

He grabbed a top bar nuc (short for nucleus, a small hive) and tried to set it up in a nearby tree but couldn't get it situated securely.  He wanted to lure the recently departed colony into it so we could keep our runaway bees.  The nuc's colony had died this past winter, but it was still full of comb left behind (the honey left behind had been licked clean by our other bees).  Wanting to quickly find a safe spot for the nuc, he set it on top of the end of our chicken coop.  Within seconds, there were scout bees checking it out- no doubt attracted to the comb inside.  Soon, the swarm which was drifting the opposite direction, started drifting toward the nuc perched on the chicken coop roof.





 




Within thirty minutes or so, almost the entire swarm had tucked themselves into their new home.  Had Jamey not been outside at the time, all those bees would have been lost (to us).  The next evening, he moved the nuc into our bee yard along side our other hives.

Just a reminder- if you see a swarm of honeybees, don't panic.  Just stand by and marvel at it.  They will not bother you unless you actively provoke them.  They are too concerned with finding a new home.

But then!  The very next day, Sadie spotted another swarm- hanging on a branch of one of our peach trees.  Jamey was at work so that swarm got away.  I do not catch swarms.  I take pictures of them.


A couple weeks later, yet another swarm was spotted in a peach tree and Jamey knocked this one into a bucket and placed it in one of our empty hives with some bars of brood and food.  No sooner did he have that one tucked away and he spotted another swarm (this one was large) up in a tree at the edge of the woods and couldn't let it get away.  I'll tell you what happened in pictures...








I didn't get a shot of him pushing the bucket up and knocking it against the branch hard, causing the swarm to fall into the bucket but that's what happened next.










Bee Math: 

6 colonies going into the winter of 2015 - 2 died over the winter + 3 swarms caught in the spring =  7 colonies going into the summer of 2016 (for now)

Below you can see trimmings from overdue hive inspections.  This bowl was placed on our front porch.  Once the bees went home that evening, we took the comb inside to strain giving us a mini-harvest of almost a gallon of honey.


sticky bees that fell from the bowl, cleaning themselves

If hives are properly managed, this many swarms shouldn't occur.  We've had a busy spring and hadn't divided the colonies as we saw there was need to, so the colonies raised new queens and divided themselves.  This is obviously not ideal because you lose the bees that leave.  Sometimes, though, you're able to get a few back.
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