Friday, April 30, 2010

Something to Seriously Think About

What do the following have in common?

Visit my friend here to find out.  But you may want to take your tissues along.  The truth may hurt, but it doesn't have to stop there.  What are you going to do about it? Pin It

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Enlisting Worms & Other News

If we didn't have chickens to feed our scraps to, do you know what I would do?  Buy a bunch of worms and put them to work.

 Photo courtesy of

I know very well that this isn't a new idea, but it wasn't until we saw our friend's set up about five years ago that *I* became aware of it.  Then, just last week, we watched a movie (or is it a documentary?) about a couple in New York City who decided that for a year they would have no impact on the environment.  Think on that for a second.

(elevator music playing quietly)

In the movie/documentary they obtained worms and started their own worm-powered method of composting.  It's really fascinating.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this article on what a wormery is and how it works.   The process is referred to as vermicomposting.  And, if you're interested in that movie/documentary, it's called No Impact Man and Netflix carries it.

Do any of you use worms in this way?  Do you wish you would or could?  The family in No Impact Man lived in a teeny-tiny city apartment, so there goes that excuse.  If for some unforeseen reason we lose all our chickens, I'm calling in the worms for sure (after I bawl my eyes out, of course).

In other news, more vegetables have made their way out of doors to harden off (read the last installment of  Vegetable Gardening 101 for more information).  We have had to cover plants a couple times because of threat or actual frost, but so far everything is fairing just fine.

There are seeds nestled in the sunflower plot and germinating!  My brother is planting them in intervals of two weeks.  By the time his 5th planting is in, the first planting should be ready for cutting and selling.  Here are a few photos of the planting and the bed's current state.  Oh, how I love to mow around this bed.  I'm totally serious.  I LOVE it.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read here.

 The lovely seeds.

My sister in law using an old wheel hoe that was my grandfather's to prepare the soil (They did use a gas-powered tiller to do the brunt of the work).

Phase one complete (view from our front porch).   Grow babies, grow!

I"m just waiting for someone to drive off the road as they stare at our lawn (or lack there of).  I hope they don't, but it may just be inevitable.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do You Do This? Well, You Should.

I don't mean to sound bossy or anything.  Really, I don't.  If anything, I'm talking to myself here.  That's how I felt when it all of a sudden occurred to me that instead of pulling out my same recipe binder or cookbooks for the recipes we make repeatedly every time, over and over, I could just tape the recipes to the inside of the cupboard right above where I usually work.  Duh.  So really, I'm saying this to myself, "You didn't do this earlier?  Well, what was wrong with you?"

The recipes we make weekly are yogurt, granola, baked oatmeal and pizza dough.  There are a few others taped up there, too- Strawberry Brunch Souffle (strawberries are coming soon!!) and Fruit and Oat Muffins.

Then there are those all important reminder notes like, Kitchen Towel Rules According to Me (above), and what items we have in the pantry already so shouldn't be added to the shopping list (below).  Three bottles of canola oil?  Really? Spices? Why in the world so many extras? Crucial information, people.

Who would have thought that something so simple would make so much sense?  Please tell me you tape things to the inside of your cupboards.

If you don't, maybe it's high time you did. Pin It

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Changing Churches: Our Story

Have you ever done this?  Found yourself changing churches, not because of a move or because the church disbanded, but by choice?  We did this past summer and it's been an interesting and rewarding journey.

While Jamey and I were still in college (and dating seriously) we visited many churches in our area.    Choosing a church was a no pressure, go-where-it-feels-good kind of task at that point in life.  By my junior year (Jamey was in the class below me, four months younger), we had settled in to attending a Mennonite church in town.  This congregation was refreshing.  It was very different than both the Mennonite churches Jamey and I grew up in.  It took us awhile to really feel connected because we didn't commit to more than just attending Sunday morning worship until after we were married.  Once we were settled, we joined a small group, taught Sunday school, went to our own Sunday school class and made dear friends.

But over time and off and on, we began to sense that we were changing.  Our church needs and wants weren't the same as they were when we initially started attending there.  We felt slightly out of place.  No one made us feel out of place- this was a feeling from within.

This brought us to the whole question of 'What should one do if they are not satisfied with their church experience?'  I read once that you should stay, help change the church to be more of what you need.  Wow.  Change a church.  Maybe we should have rallied ourselves and spoken out, but imposing our convictions on an entire congregation?  Not our style.  And not fair to the many who were being fed and ministered to there, those who really felt at home.

By this time, we'd had Sam and Sadie.  Our church family was immensely supportive in our new venture as parents.  For each birth we had at least a dozen meals brought in to us.  Dedicated nursery staff and Sunday school teachers cared for, taught and loved our children.  They made friends.  We had friends.  It was hard to imagine leaving.

About once a year, we hashed out the question, 'Should we visit other churches?'  Part of (both of) us was ready to, but part of us was afraid.  Afraid of uprooting our kids, uprooting us.  Afraid of in some way offending a church family we had grown to love.  Afraid of not finding what we wanted elsewhere.  Afraid of starting all over again- making friends, fitting in, being the 'new attenders'.

Last year, our convictions finally tipped the scales and outweighed our fears.  We shared this with our small group and with their understanding support, began visiting other churches this past summer.  After multiple visits to three churches, we both felt we had found our new church home.  This was a strange time.  We were excited about what we were seeing, hearing and feeling amidst the new congregation, but we were having to say goodbye to the members of our old church.

The kids were a bit confused to say the least.  On more than one occasion, on the way to the "new" church on Sunday morning, they asked when we'd be going back to our "real" church.  We didn't explain that this was now our real church until a couple months in.  We decided not to start them in Sunday school until we were absolutely sure that's where we would be staying.  When we were finally ready to take that step, the kids were thrilled to get back into Sunday school and made a seamless transition.  We are so thankful for that.

I've made really good connections with women at our new church through their Women's Bible Study.  This group is what sealed the deal for me.  Meeting with a group of women, of all ages, studying God's word and being honest, vulnerable and encouraging to one another is something I had been dreaming of.  Funny thing was, I didn't know I was dreaming of it until I experienced it.  Does that make sense? We are slowly getting to know other people through our own Sunday school, church potlucks and boys club for Sam.

What we thought would be a terribly hard, difficult change has proved to be much less painful than we expected.  In part, I think this is because we were truly ready to make the change.  It was time.  There were no more (or at least very few) pangs of indecision left.  Being ready, the support and love we've felt from the pastor and friends at our old church and being welcomed at the new one all have made this change a good one.

Our new church home is not perfect, no church is.  But, it seems to echo our values and beliefs and this is bringing us peace.  Should we have stayed at our other church?  I don't think so.  Do I think people should switch churches willy-nilly?  Absolutely not.  It's been our experience that with prayer and the passage of time, with talking and thinking about what our hearts were telling us, you can be led to leave.  The Spirit might have plans for you elsewhere.

We're excited to see what the Spirit has in store for us and are thankful for the courage it took to act on It's leading.  May you find peace where ever you are or strive to achieve it.  It makes a world of difference. Pin It

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Recipe Medley

If you're like me, you're in constant recipe search mode right now.  We have certain dishes we make over and over and love, but this time of year?  When there are fresh veggies to work with?  All my pent-up need-to-try-new-recipe energy is overflowing after a winter where our choices were limited to what we had in the freezer and pantry.  I'm making a list and will be trying a handful of new dishes over the next weeks.  I'll report back here on the keepers.

In the meantime, I thought I would share with you of our favorite tried and true spring recipes.  Here they are in no particular order...

Spinach (or Chard) Strata I just made this for company last weekend using fresh spinach and it was wonderful.  I had about half the Gruyere it called for, so used a combination of Swiss and Gruyere.

Sauteed Asparagus  This is our favorite way to prepare it.  Simple, delectable asparagus.

Baked Lemon and Asparagus Pasta  I just made this dish the other night as well.  There are several versions of this recipe floating around.  Pioneer Woman has one without asparagus (but you could add it), Deb at Smitten Kitchen has one (she uses asparagus and goat cheese, drool), there is one in Simply In Season, and I created one last spring that uses asparagus and lemon curd (still my favorite).  It doesn't matter which one you try.  Just try one, please?  And, yes, I know that for many of us lemons aren't hanging off the trees around our homes.  Bottled lemon juice also works for these recipes with very good results.  Below is a photo of Deb's version.

Chicken Caesar Salad  When you've significantly had your fill of baby lettuce just barely kissed with dressing (because you've missed it so much), go ahead and make this salad with your (or your farmer's market's) lettuce.  It's so good.  My mouth is literally watering as I think about it.  Okay, that's a little gross.  Sorry.

Lettuce and Egg Salad  And while we're on the subject of salads, if you have laying hens and lettuce, this recipe is a must.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake  This is my Grammie's recipe and it's so wonderful.  Just thinking about it is enough to tempt me to declare today a special occasion and make it.  I don't know why in the world I did not take a more appealing photo of it.  It really is fabulous.  Don't let my poor photography sway you in the wrong direction here.

Rhubarb (or Sour Cherry) Crunch  I made this crunch last weekend for company, too.  It was gobbled up in no time.  In this photo, I used a combination of sour cherries and rhubarb.  This recipe was originally created for rhubarb only, so you do not need the cherries at all of you don't have them.

Well, there you have it.  If you were in need of some spring recipes ideas, whip out your grocery list and hop to it!
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Friday, April 23, 2010

My New Favorite Snack: Spinach and Three Cheese Crepes

Prior to cutting out sugar, if I was hungry in between meals, I would become a scavenger for all things sweet.  Obviously, that has had to change.  Now, instead, I often turn to granola (which contains honey) to satisfy my hunger and sweet tooth.  I may have cut out sugar, but my teeth will be sweet until the day I die.


Well, the other night for dinner, I tried a recipe that I had read about on a friend's blog.  I made a simple filling of sauteed onions, garlic and fresh spinach in the morning.  Then, about an hour before dinner time, I started making crepes (or Russian pancakes as my friend referred to them).  The crepes are a bit time consuming, but not complicated at all.  You place all the ingredients in your blender and whirl them up.  Pour a measured amount of batter into your skillet (my cast iron one worked great) to cook them up.  As they come off the skillet, place a bit of spinach mixture and pinches of three cheeses (yes, I said three!!) on top.  Then, roll them up and bake them.

They were very yummy hot for dinner, but do you know what I discovered the day after?  They are even better cold or at room temperature!  I'm talking incredibly delicious!  How delicious?  I am writing this post the day after I made them.  Dare I tell you how many I have eaten for lunch and snacks throughout the day (and it's only 3pm)?  Six.  Six!! They are sooooo good.

Yours will have more filling- this one was skimpy.

I made a double batch because I trust my friend.  We ate a bunch last night and I ate the six (unbaked) leftovers today.  I froze a pan of them for someone we know who is soon having a baby.  It's taking everything in me not to thaw and eat the remaining crepes.

So, go on and make these, but don't bother baking them if you don't feel like it.  Just stick them in your fridge and snack on them throughout the day.  They would be perfect for a healthy lunch sent with family members to work or school.

Spinach and Three Cheese Crepes (adapted slightly from Jennifer Jo)
I would highly recommend making the filling earlier in the day or the night before.  It won't take long, but it will make things simpler just before dinner.  One recipe of crepe batter made about 12 crepes for me.  Double the batch of crepes if you want less filling in each crepe or if you want extras to fill in dessert fashion.

one-gallon heaping bowl full of fresh spinach, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized peices
olive oil
1 cup onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

6 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
cooking spray (I use canola)

1 1/2 cups parmesan
1 1/2 cups feta
1 1/2 cups mozzarella, shredded

To make the filling, saute onion and garlic in oil until soft.  Add salt and pepper.  Add spinach and saute until spinach has wilted but still holds it's bright green color.  Set aside (and let cool and refrigerate if you're making the filling ahead of time).

To make the crepes, place all the ingredients in your blender and blend them well.  Heat a flat bottomed skillet (cast iron works well) to medium high heat and spray with cooking spray.  (I ended up cooking most of the crepes at just over medium heat.)  Measure 1/3 of crepe batter and pour it into the center of the hot pan, letting it spread into a thin circle (or oval or whatever shapes it becomes).  When bubbles form all over the batter and it no longer looks wet, flip it, cooking it only briefly on the second side (not nearly as long as the first) until the second side is done (no longer looks wet).  Spray your pan again and continue until all the batter is used.

While you are waiting for each crepe to cook, you can assemble the cooked ones.  Lay a cooked crepe flat on a plate and top with 3-4 tbsp. spinach filling and 2 tbsp. each of the three cheeses.  You can lay the filling and cheeses down the center or spread them over the crepe.  Next, roll the crepe up and lay them side by side (seam down) in a baking pan coated with cooking spray (if you are going to bake them).  To bake, place a full pan of stuffed crepes into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes and serve.

Or, forgo the baking and pop one immediately into your mouth.  Well, in several bites, that is.  Enjoy! Pin It

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chicken Drama

Here's the situation.  We have 30 chickens.  Two of them are roosters.  Their names are Marv and Merv (I had an Uncle Marv, Jamey has an Uncle Merv).  Chicken Marv is Chicken Merv's father.  Merv is a third of the product of a small clutch of eggs that one of our hens hatched out last summer (try diagramming that sentence).  Marv and Merv, despite their relations, do not get along.

Marv in full crow.

Marv was here first and is therefore head rooster.  He considers all the hens his.  If Merv comes too close to Marv or one of the hens when Marv is close by, Marv chases him off.  Merv should be scared.  Marv has killed a rival rooster in the past.  But Merv is younger, faster and, well, trimmer.  So far Merv has always been able to get away.  Granted, sometimes it means Merv has to fly over fences into part of the yard that is off limits to chickens or into our neighbor's backyard.  Sometimes he goes back over on his own when the coast is clear.  Sometimes he needs some encouragement.

 Loner Merv in the run between the chicken house and chicken yard.

If it were up to Jamey and I, Merv may have already been harvested for the freezer.    Our chickens are not pets to us, despite the fact that some of them are named.  Several of the hens were named when they hatched chicks, but we would have no idea who is who if it weren't for their colored leg bands that we use so we know which hens tend toward broody.  But, Sam really likes Merv.  We aren't sure why other than because he (Sam) thinks Merv is pretty.  If Merv knew this, he may volunteer to be put down, who knows.  So, for the past while, we've had two roosters to guard and fight over our flock of 28 laying hens.

To complicate things further, a couple months ago, Jamey found a hen dead in the chicken yard.  No sign of blood or being pecked to death.  No sign of disease either (we've never had trouble with disease at all).  So, one unexplained hen death.  It comes with the territory.

The chicken yard.   
Our asparagus bed is all the way to the right.  It's mulched with wood chips and the asparagus crowns are covered with wire- the chickens love scratching around in there.  To the far left you can almost make out the edge of our main garden.  This is also the orchard which contains a mature pear, a mature sour cherry (the tree that is flowering), four young peach trees and eight young apples.

But, just this past weekend, there was another hen death.  This time, the poor girl was sitting up in a hen box, neck stretched out and over into the box next to her.  Again, no sign of blood or pecking or disease.  This second death smells of murder to me.  Whether it was homicide (hen on hen) or manslaughter (I guess I should say chickenslaughter) where the over zealous and often competing roosters showed a willful disregard for life, I don't know.

What I do know is I don't like it.  My hens are dying one by one.  I would really appreciate some advice here.  If you have some chicken/rooster experience and wouldn't mind taking a minute to offer a possibility as to what is going on, I'd sure appreciate it.  Could it be these roosters are doing this?  If so, their days may be numbered.  Pretty or not. Pin It

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Didn't Know It Was Possible

It's asparagus season and the internet food world is all a-buzz with asparagus recipes.  We love eating plain, sauteed asparagus so much, I am hesitant to try these new versions.  What if I don't like it?  I'll pretty much grieve for those wasted spears- I will.  It doesn't help that Jamey is perfectly content with the plain jane way we make it.  But, kind of like with my cheese snobbery, I am trying to push past my insecurities and give some new things a try.

I have a friend, a real-life friend, Jennifer Jo.  She's a wonderful person.  One of the (many) things that make her wonderful is her ability to scour cookbooks, online foodie blogs, relatives, friends, the whole world (actually, I think) to find recipes.  Once she finds them, she wrestles with them.  Literally, I believe.  She makes them, tweaks them, files them away, pulls them back out, tweaks them and wrestles with them some more.  Why is this so wonderful?  Because it means I don't have to!  All I have to do is pay her a visit, see what she's cooking (or, more often, baking) and come away with a recipe I know is tried and true.

This is a really round-about way to tell you what I didn't know was possible.  Sorry.  What I didn't know was possible (and learned is indeed possible, from Jennifer Jo) is that asparagus can be eaten raw.  Okay, I know your Great Uncle Linus or mother-in-law or someone else you know probably munches on the raw variety now and again (Jamey does as he's bringing it in), but I mean actually make a recipe, a dish, that calls for raw asparagus.  Well, I'll be.  It's possible and it's good.

I followed Jennifer Jo's  Asparagus Walnut Salad recipe to the letter.  What came together was gorgeous.  You should consider making this just to look at it.  I let it marinate a few hours and tasted it.  It was good.  I didn't fall over or anything, but with each additional bite I became smitten.  Part of what I loved about it (aside from the fresh parmesan cheese, oh my) was that I was eating raw asparagus.  Raw!

In addition to tasting like asparagus, both Jamey and I detected something familiar in the way the raw vegetable tasted.  I finally realized that they taste like fresh, raw peas (to me, yum!) and everything clicked into place for Jamey after I looked up some information about asparagus and read it to him.  Asparagus is part of the day lily family and Jamey has eaten, of all things, day lilies in the past.  That's what the raw asparagus reminded him of.  Go figure, but it makes sense.

So, gone on and tell me that I am the last person on earth to find out you can eat raw asparagus.  You won't offend or even surprise me.  I'm just glad I learned when I did.  If you have some favorite asparagus recipes to share, please do so (either link to your blog or leave the recipe in the comments).

I'm on a roll folks. Stay tuned for more in-season recipes. Pin It

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Please Do Me This Favor

Overwhelmed.  I get so overwhelmed by the needs of this world.  Thinking about all the hurting, hungry people, both children and adults, just makes my heart ache to the point of bursting.

What soothes my heart, my heart that is currently stationed just outside of cushy suburban U. S. of A., is reading about people like Katie.  I've had a little link to her site on the right hand of this blog for awhile now.  She inspires me.  She energizes me.  She makes me want to do more, pray more, feel more.

Please do me this favor.  Please click here and read her latest post. If you feel as inclined as I did, please click on the link at the bottom of her post as well.  Katie tells her extraordinary story of how she found herself in Uganda here.  For many of us, Katie's type of service seems unimaginable to you and I where we are today.  For now, let's pray for the people of Uganda and support Katie.

Thanks, friends. Pin It

What We're Doing With Too Much Lawn

Well, the contest yesterday ended much sooner than I expected.  Mavis guessed "sunflower garden" yesterday afternoon, hitting the nail pretty much on the head.  Therefore, she is the winner of a one-year subscription to Mother Earth Magazine.  Congratulations, Mavis!!! (Please email me your address, so I can get Mother Earth News to you.)  For the rest of you who guessed, I wish I could buy you all subscriptions.  Instead, I'll give you some sound advice...I know it's only April, but find paper and pen and at the top write "My Christmas/Birthday List" and add Mother Earth News underneath.  You'll be glad you did.


There are two really large lawn yards on either side of our house and some lawn in front of it.  Behind our house (the back 2/3 of our property) there is also lawn, but most of it is outbuildings, gardens and a small orchard.  Ever since we moved here five-some years ago, we have bemoaned the amount of lawn we have flanking our house.  Lawn is such a poor use of land.  We can't (well, don't) eat the grass.  The kids are too small to play in those front lawn areas because a busy road is nearby.  It takes gas (via mowing) to keep it under control and neat looking.  Then, there is the waste of time spent mowing all of it.

We've toyed with several ideas over the years as to what to do with the lawn/land.  Some of our ideas have been; blueberry bushes (lots of them), wildflower gardens, wheat patches (to feed us and our chickens), more red raspberry bushes and a field of asparagus (yes, we love it that much).  We love all those ideas, but with Jamey keeping busy with pharmacy school, adding a baby to the mix last summer, homeschooling and general maintenance and care of three children, a marriage, a home, garden and chickens, we decided to wait a bit, bite the bullet and mow it for now.

That's where my brother comes in.  He lives nearby and started talking about his interest in growing sunflowers to sell around town.  We cleared our throats and raised our hands and, as quick as we could muster, offered any and all of our lawn yard for the cause.  My brother is more than welcome to use the lawn yard (and the one on the other side of the house if he likes) for as long as he wants.  When he's done with it, we will have a 40 x 70 foot bed ready to support wheat or red raspberries or asparagus.

Do you know what I'm going to see out my kitchen window in a month or so?  A little field of sunflowers.  And, the best part?  Jamey and I don't have to lift a finger.  And I now have less to mow (less gas to buy, less pollution to send into the air).  Now do you understand why I'm so excited?

Now, for those of you who are local, some of these sunflowers will be for sale at the end of our driveway.  I'll keep you posted as to when they will be ready and I'll be showing many pictures of the progress of my brother's sunflower beds.  Thanks so much for helping make my sharing of our plans so much more exciting  by participating in my little contest.  You're all so fun:-).

If you'd like to learn more about decreasing your lawn, google "lawn alternatives" and read this entertaining article on losing your lawn. Pin It

Monday, April 19, 2010

Just Silly About Them: A Contest

 Hold your guesses!  Someone has guessed correctly.  Tomorrow I will reveal who and tell you what we are doing with our yard.  Very nice guessing by all, by the way:-).

A friend asked for it, so here it is.  Our blog is on Facebook.  Search for 'Thy Hand Hath Provided' and become a fan if you'd like (there is also a little link in the sidebar).  I'll be announcing giveaways ahead of time there and posting pictures and other tidbits that aren't included here.  Thanks, Tim, for getting my rear in gear.

I'm silly about quizzes, contests and giveaways (can you tell?) probably because I think they're fun.  Years ago I used to enter online sweepstakes.  Yep, I did.  Now that cat's out of the bag.  I actually won stuff- good stuff.  But, do you know what I've realized I like more than winning stuff?  Helping other people win stuff!  No joke. There is a rush involved.  And helping artisans get their crafts out for more folks to see is a huge portion of that rush.  So, stay tuned for more giveaways.  I hope to squeeze a few more in before the garden starts hopping.  If you're a reader who has an Etsy store and would like to do a giveaway here sometime, just let me know ( and I'll add you to the list.

To the point!

Last week I showed you a picture of our side yard and told you that something was going to happen there over the next few weeks.  Some of you started guessing.  Well, I decided to turn this into a contest. 

The previous guesses of pool, greenhouse, addition, herb garden, sun porch, patio, duck pond, and wheat patch were all excellent guesses (I would love to have them all- you know me pretty well), but they were all WRONG! 

Here are the rules:

1) The FIRST person who guesses correctly wins a year's subscription to Mother Earth News magazine (in the spirit of the season)!

2) You each have TWO guesses (guesses before today do not count) and the guesses must be left in the comments section of THIS post.  As always, if you comment anonymously, leave an initial or two for me to identify you.

3) Your guess needs to be specific.  

4) I will add additional photos as clues (in addition to the ones below) until someone guesses correctly.  Additional clues will be posted here, but I will announce and provide a link to this post when I add a new clue.

5)  If you know me personally and I've told you what we are doing, you are NOT eligible to play.  I apologize for me and my big mouth.

6) If you kind-of know me personally and you've heard through the grapevine as to what we are doing, you are NOT eligible to play.

7)  If you know me personally and we see each other or talk to each other and you want to play, tell me you are playing, otherwise I may tell you. 

8) If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.  But seriously.  With all of these rules, I'm guessing no one will have any questions.

Here is the before photograph (Clue #1)...

Here is what our yard looks like now (Clue #2)...

Let the guessing begin!

Hold your guesses!  Someone has guessed correctly.  Tomorrow I will reveal who and tell you what we are doing with our yard.  Very nice guessing by all, by the way:-). 

Mother Earth News has nothing to do with this contest.  The subscription will be paid for out of a special blog-related fund.  My children will not go hungry this month because of this prize (in case you were worried).
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Friday, April 16, 2010

A Lesson to Learn...From Our Mistake

Yesterday, Sarah over at Clover Lane, posted about a close call she had with her son.  Good parents make mistakes.  Mistakes that can endanger their kids' lives.  I think we need to share with each other our close calls.  Not so others can point fingers and show us where we went wrong.  We KNOW where we went wrong and it makes us shudder and loathe (hopefully only temporarily) ourselves because of it.  Sarah was brave enough to share her story, so I will share mine.

It was a cool day last summer.  Miriam was a newborn.  Jamey had the summer off from school and decided to stay home with us instead of taking a job.  Sam (6 1/2) and Sadie (3 1/2) were outside playing.  I was keeping watch from the kitchen and laundry windows as I started some wash and did some dishes.  The play set is just out of sight from these windows, but is fenced-in from behind.  The kids had been playing there.  I had seen them.  I knew that for them to leave this area, they would have to walk across the yard into my direct view from the windows where I was keeping watch.

I decided to get a visual on the kids, but there was no doubt in my mind that they were both under the playset in the sandbox where I saw them last.  I walked outside and only saw Sam in the sand box.  I asked him where Sadie was and he didn't know.  I started calling for her and there was no answer.  I sent Sam to check their fort and as he sauntered in it's direction, I yelled at him to run.  I checked in Jamey's shop, in the chicken house and kept calling.  No Sadie.  I ran inside and yelled upstairs to Jamey (who was laying Miriam down for a nap) that I couldn't find Sadie.  He came outside and ran through the barns and around the perimeter of our 1.5 acres.  No Sadie.

I ran over to our closet neighbors.  I banged on their back door only to startle our sweet neighbor lady who was sitting close by.  I asked if she had seen Sadie.  She had not.  Her husband came into the room and I could hear him asking what was going on as I turned and left to go to the next neighbor's house.  After I left, those neighbors came out and started looking, the husband, going down to the road, walking along it, looking.  No Sadie.

The next neighbor was home as well and I asked her if she had seen Sadie.  She hadn't and as I turned back to my house, she checked her pool which I could not do.  No Sadie.

Our kids do not run off.  Never before had Sadie gone where she shouldn't have been.  I could not imagine her walking off our property and just wandering somewhere.  This left only one possibility in my mind.

Someone had walked onto our property and taken her.

This made me sick.  I kept thinking about how everyone thinks these things won't happen to them, but of course they can.  I thought it was happening to us.  I wondered where my Sadie girl was, if she was really with someone else just then- a stranger....

At this point I was headed back over to our house.  I saw Jamey emerge from the barns where he had been re-checking.  His arms were up in the air to show he didn't find her.  Then I saw our van sitting in the driveway.  Sam was near it as I was still coming from the neighbor's yard.  I yelled at him to check the van.  He tried to open a door, but it was locked.  It was locked.  This meant she was in the van.

Jamey ran in and got the keys, unlocked the van and opened the side door.  It was hot in the van even though it was a cooler than normal day.  Sadie had gotten into the unlocked van, crawled into her seat, and buckled herself in (which she had just recently learned how to do).  She didn't learn how to un-buckle herself, though.  If she had wanted to get out of her seat, she wouldn't have been able to.  The windows were closed, so we may not have heard her.

She was sitting there, looking at a book.  She was sweaty and sleepy.  The heat had already started to take it's toll on her in the matter of minutes that she was in there.  Jamey got the sluggish Sadie out of the van and took her inside for a drink.  I collapsed into the arms of my neighbor ladies, finally allowing the tears to come.

I had heard of stories about parents who left their kids and babies in their car while they ran into the store, causing their child to die from heat exhaustion.  I would NEVER do that.  But, what did I do?  I left the van doors unlocked on a summer day and allowed my child to climb in causing her to show the early signs of heat exhaustion.  I know what we did wasn't intentional, but we often give our children consequences for hurting someone because they weren't being careful enough (even if it wasn't intentional).  We have to be careful for the sake of each other.

Once we were all inside, we told Sadie that we weren't angry with her, but that she may not play in the van because it can make her very hot and very sick.  She sensed our emotion and was comforting us, giving us hugs and kisses as we sat on the bench in the kitchen, Jamey and I trying to collect ourselves with her between us.

For the rest of the summer, the van was kept locked.  If you don't keep your outside vehicles locked, please do.

I believe Sadie is old enough to know better this summer, but that won't stop us from keeping things locked up.  It's a small inconvenience compared to what could happen.  And we all need to be reminded that even us, even good, involved and alert parents can make mistakes.  Scary mistakes.  The kind that make you run through all the "what ifs" in your mind.  I let myself go there last summer, but I can't today.

I can't imagine this past year without Sadie.

Lesson learned.  Please learn it from me instead of on your own and spread the word.  Thank God for close calls- they are so much better than tragedies. Pin It

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How We Parent Using Habits

When it comes to parenting, we tend toward the old-fashioned.  We have high expectations of our kids.  We expect them to be kind, respectful, honest, obedient and generous.  At the same time, we expect them to act like children.  If they didn't, we'd be worried.  What has been challenging for us is to set those high (yet reasonable) expectations for our children without causing them to feel like failures when they mess up.  Because they will (and do) mess up.  A lot.

When I think about parenting, I think about how I'm parented by God.  He has expectations of me.  I need to do my best to live up to them.  I know I'm going to screw up.  I know He's going to forgive me.  Completely.  I can either feel like a failure when I mess up, or I can acknowledge that me screwing up is sin (defined most often in the Bible as independence- going our own way versus God's way) and try to change that behavior and distance myself from that sin.  When I put a name to my screw-uppy-ness (sin), it makes me feel less like a failure and I'm more apt to pick myself up and try to live up to those expectations afresh.

Back to parenting our kids.  As a way of helping them put a little distance between their behaviors and themselves, so they don't feel failure so acutely, we talk a lot about habits.

Back a few months ago, Sam, who in general is a very sweet, smart and delightful boy, began lying.  A lot.   He would lie about if he finished a chore.  He would lie about whether he hit Sadie.  He would lie about whether he was the one who made the mess.  He would lie to get Sadie in trouble (I have no tolerance for this kind of lie).  It is not uncommon for kids to go through phases like this, but for Sam, it became a knee-jerk reaction.  We'd ask him a question and he'd lie without pausing to think.

Here's how our conversation went..."Sam, I've been noticing that you've developed a habit of lying.  A habit is something we do without really thinking about what we're doing.  We just do it automatically.  I think that when we ask you a question, you lie without thinking about what your answer will be and we'd like to help you break or stop this habit.  Would you like me to help you break this habit?  From now on, when I think you are lying, I'm going to remind you that lying is a bad habit and ask you to tell the truth.  Soon, telling the truth will become your new, good habit.  You can help by being honest and trying hard to stop the bad habit of lying."

Sam was agreeable and over the course of the next few weeks, we broke his lying habit.  At first, he continued to lie.  When I suspected a lie, I'd remind him gently (this is key!) that I want to help him break the habit.  He would more often than not fess up.  He would still receive a consequence if he had really done something wrong (that he was lying to get out of), but I would praise him for telling the truth.  Before long, telling the truth (even when it meant he'd get in trouble) became the norm.  By putting the focus on the habit and not on Sam himself, I think it was easier for him to bounce back each time and try again.  He formed a new habit.  Now, we're not talking about avoiding responsibility here.  Sam knows he's responsible for his habits.  As we are of our own habits.  Kind of scary, no?

This is just one example, but this technique can be used for many different bad habits.  Often, if Sam and Sadie are both working on habits that need changing, I'll add in one for myself, like not raising my voice.  I ask them to help remind me and we all work on changing our habits together.

Charlotte Mason was a big proponent of focusing on habits.  Two of my favorite quotes of hers are...

Thoughts produce action.
Actions produce habits.
Habits produce character.


The habits of the child are, as it were, so many little hammers beating out by slow degrees the character of a man.

Simply Charlotte Mason, an excellent website (based on the teachings of Charlotte Mason), has put out a book called, Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook.  You can read about this book here.  I own the book and do refer to it now and again for guidance, but you do not need a book to work with your children on their habits. 

Update 4/22/10:  Another reference tool is this FREE downloadable e-book called Smooth and Easy Days by Sonya Shafer.  You can read about it and download it here.

Using the example above, you can jump right in today.  I'm not promising it will work for all parenting dilemmas, but we find it an easy, gentle way to begin.  When it comes to parenting, we need all the little helps we can get.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taking Care of Business

Today we are taking care of business.

First of all, I just have to show you this.  I try to be humble, I do.  But you know what?  The first green vegetable makes me a little proud and a little giddy.

Secondly, go check out the answers to the Annual Name That Sprout Quiz.  Thanks to all who played.  You're such good sports.  Mr. H had the most answers correct (10 out of 12!).  Congratulations, Mr. H!!  If you haven't yet, you must visit his blog.  Prepare to be utterly impressed.  I must give an honorable mention to Stephanie.  She may have only guessed one sprout but, with that guess, she was the only one who guessed correctly that #12 is stevia.  We learned a bit late that stevia is difficult to start from seed, so we'll be buying some stevia plants this year.  Stephanie obviously knew this (or she's just a really good guesser)- either way, way to go:-)!

The third thing I want to mention today is that we added a new installment to our Vegetable Gardening 101 Page.  It's time to move some of our plants outside and our tutorial provides you with the information you need to take this next step (scroll all the way down the VG 101 page to the bottom).  Don't be frightened by our cold frame below- you do NOT need one of these.

And, lastly, I want to show you a little something.  Below is a picture of one of our side yards.  Something is going to happen here over the next few weeks.  Want to guess what it will be?  All I'll tell you now is that I am super excited about it.  Super.  Excited.  You'll never guess.  Unless you know.  Then please don't guess.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sugar Letdown

When I anticipate a new experience that I'm pretty sure will be unpleasant, I build it up as horrible in my mind.  I imagine worst case scenarios to protect myself from whatever is coming.  I don't do this deliberately, although it seems to serve me well- a defense mechanism of sorts.  Child birth, public speaking, giving up processed sugar for 48 days are only a few of the occasions I seem to use this tactic for.

I thought giving up sugar would be excruciating.  I imagined constant cravings, drop-down drag-out fights between the little (c'mon, we all have them) voices in my head and the real possibility that I would cave and fail.  It wasn't that bad.  At all.  I had cravings, but they didn't become intense until the end because I was building things up in my mind in the opposite direction for a change.  I was expecting this cathartic experience the first time I popped a piece of chocolate in my mouth and I couldn't wait.

The one thing that was as hard as I imagined was not participating in the social aspect of eating desserts and sweets.  It wasn't the sweet that I wanted as much as I wanted to join in.  To hum and fuss over the sugary desserts and treats with everyone else.  But no, I sat there awkwardly, trying to smile and tell everyone it was okay as they apologized eating in front of me.  I got used to that as time went on, but it hasn't become easy yet.

That is why I was happy to participate in dessert again on Easter Sunday.  The actual sweets?  They were delicious- no doubt about it.  But the experience of eating sweets again did not live up to my expectations and confirmed what I learned during Lent.  I don't need sweets.  I can live without them.  I was just as surprised as you are.

I tried a little experiment.  I wondered if I allowed myself the freedom to eat the leftover sweets in the house if I would have an increase in control over myself, considering I had just spent 48 days in control.  How did it go?  I'm just going to come out and say it.  I suck (pardon my language, please) at displaying control when it comes to sweets if I leave things open-ended for myself.  I don't know why that is, but I have embarrassed myself with my behavior (once again) and it just solidified what I expected. 

I can't do sugar on a regular basis.

So, I'm going back on the sugar-free wagon (as of yesterday). I will be allowing myself natural sugars (mainlt honey) and a day here and a day there of processed treats- on birthdays (not just anyone's birthday, mind you), Thanksgiving, a few days right over Christmas, if I ever get back to one of those fondue restaurants and the few times we make homemade ice cream over the summer.

I don't want to be fanatical.  I want to follow a plan I can sustain.  I want to be good to my body.  I want the intelligent parts of my brain to make the decisions from now on instead of the areas that seem to have one thing in mind always- sweets.

I'm still collecting natural sugar recipes (Thank you, Aunt Anna- I did get yours!) and will be sharing the winners over the next few months as I try them out.  I'm almost through Sugar Blues by William Duffy and will share my thoughts on that doozy-of-a-book as well.

So that's where I am.  Where are you?  Pin It

Monday, April 12, 2010

Annual Name That Sprout Post

It's so nice to look outside and see green.  Oh, and the eating green?  That is just delightful.  So far, we've been relishing every asparagus spear we cut.  Asparagus is my very favorite vegetable.  So far, we are eating it in it's (almost) purest form- just a little butter and salt, sauted until bright green and tender.

I'm dropping my weekly menu list in the right hand margin because from here on out, what we have for dinner is dictated by what the garden decides we have for dinner.  We were away for the long weekend and therefore, dinner tonight will consist of a very large (crustless) quiche (there were 67 eggs waiting for us) with asparagus and feta and a lettuce salad with green onions.  I'm looking forward to this meal immensely, but I'm not looking forward to making it knowing that before I get there, I have baked oatmeal, granola, yogurt and more baby food to make.  Coming home to an empty fridge can be brutal.

To celebrate all the green, I've taken some photos of some of the green things coming up around here, inside and out.  I've numbered them and, if you're game, you can do your best at naming each sprout.  I have every confidence in you.  For some of you, this will be easy.  For others, you may learn a thing or two.  I only ask that you do your best to refrain from peeking back at last year's Name That Sprout post. The winner(s) won't actually win anything.   Everyone is a winner today.

Okay.  Ready?  Set.  Guess!

Congratulations, Mr. H, for 10 out of 12 correct answers!

 1. (Red) Raspberries

2.  Pear

3.  Peach

4.  Peas

5.  Tomatoes (Basil in background)

6. Tomatoes

7.  Lettuce

8.  Leeks

9.  Tomatoes 
(I know I was being tricky- I just think everyone needs to know what tomatoes look like:-))

10.  Garlic

11.  Strawberries

12.  Stevia! 
(We're going to have to buy some plants)

I know.  This last one is pretty tough.  You're smart.  Go on, take a guess.
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