January 26, 2008

Our Day with the Sheep

Another pioneer activity... a field trip to some sheep! We spent quite a bit of time learning about sheep and their importance to pioneer families. We rowed the book Warm as Wool. This was one of my favorite Five in a Row books so far, I believe. Several months ago when I checked out all of the Five in a Row books to read through, it was one of my favorites.

I have a friend who has done a lot with animals and now works at a vet's office, so she set us up with an up close and personal field trip to see some sheep. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but it turned out one of the most hands on field trips we've had yet! And when we got there, we were surprised to see chickens and pigs as well!

A senior in high school, Thomas, was our host. He got into sheep breeding and showing through 4-H, and it has made him quite a bit of money! (It's paying his way through college & vet school and has provided him a very nice truck!) Who knew?? He has about 50 sheep, 30 chickens, 2 pigs and sheepdogs. I decided this is the way to keep your high school boys out of trouble. He can't possibly have any free time! (He goes to public school, so this is not part of his schooling.) Thomas breeds sheep, sells them for slaughter, shows sheep and pigs, raises chickens, breeds sheepdogs for sale, travels to other farms to shear sheep (he can shear 25 in a day). He says in the summer he works 18 hours a day.

The ewes just hanging out.

This is one seriously bad hair day, but I'm sure she was a lot warmer than any of the rest of us!

One of the rams. One interesting point Thomas made... He said, "If you have good rams, you have good lambs. The ewes don't matter nearly as much." Not to be self-depreciating, but it goes along with the Lord's metaphor quite well. And I think we've all seen very clearly that a Godly, strong, man of integrity will make a huge difference in a child's life.

Two little lambs who certainly deserve a good ram in their life.

The newest baby on the farm with his momma.

Mattie thoroughly enjoying Sampson. She would have stayed there all day!

All the kids getting their hands on the black sheep Thomas had. Thomas also showed us how he sheared the sheep, invited us back to watch him shear in the spring, and let us have some handfuls of wool to bring home!

Mattie loving the pigs. Thomas informed us (not thinking about the 5 year olds in our crew) that these pigs had a short life ahead of them. They were to be killed the following week. Apparently in Tennessee, you have to kill a pig within one week of showing it. Where's Charlotte when we need her?? (Well, she's dead, I know, but how about Joy or Aurania??)

Here's the famous rooster that apparently models for all the kitchen decor.

That seems to be one big rooster!

Our happy girl! Lots of pics of her this time, I know, but she loves animals!! And, hey, she's cute!

And Jacob in his 100% wool sweater. Thankfully it was cold enough to wear it this day; he was insistent!

Jacob's Maple Candy

One of the things we did as we learned about maple sugaring was make maple candy.

We brought 2 cups of pure maple syrup to a boil (on medium).

Let it boil until it reaches 239 degrees. (It took 20 minutes or more.)

When it gets to 239 degrees, immediately take it off the heat and begin briskly stirring it with a wooden spoon. Stir it continually until it reaches the texture of fudge, then pour/push it onto a piece of waxed paper on the counter. Roll it flat, let it cool, and cut it into pieces. It's yummy! Ours ended up crunchier than fudge, but still good. It was the texture of sugar cubes, I guess.


January 24, 2008

We Made Butter!

We've been studying pioneers for the past couple of weeks, and today we made butter with Hannah, Emily, Caleb, and Aunt Candace!! I've never done this before... it was a lot easier than I expected.

Here's what we started with... I actually have a real churn, but we didn't want to make that much, so we just did some on a jar.

We each took turns shaking...

Hey! It's working!

Here it is!

The two that liked the buttermilk (which was not nearly as yucky as I thought it would be).

So, is it yummy?

We used my duck and bunny candy molds and pressed our butter like they did in colonial times (though I don't think they made ducks and bunnies).

So, guess what we had for lunch?

January 23, 2008

She almost cost me some serious cash this time!

Well, anyone who has read this blog or known us for long knows how much Mattie thrives on getting into stuff. I think it's her heartbeat. So, Saturday when we're watching our three nephews, Robert comes into me (I'm in the shower) and says, "Do we have any extra clothes for Jack?" (He's 15 months.) "Um, no, did his diaper leak?" "No! Mattie poured half a gallon of colloidal silver on him!!" I must say, I got quite a chuckle. And my first question was, "Well, did you take a picture??" I guess it was funnier since it wasn't going to be my job to clean it up...

Fast forward to yesterday... I ran a batch of rice through my mill to make Mattie some flour and learn that not only did she pour the colloidal silver on Jack, but she poured it through my mill! Yeah, the mill that will be $200+ to replace!!! Thankfully, the Lord has been gracious and spared me (and her!) from a broken mill. It's working beautifully after a thorough cleaning and drying out.

And this weekend, at the top of my honey-do list is cabinet locks. Maybe they'll buy me a week or two until she figures them out.

How do I love thee?

So in talking about how we can love each other like Jesus did, I ask Jacob today,

"What are some things that Daddy does for us just because he loves us?"
"He works so hard for us so we can have a house, food, toys, honey (?), heat and lights."
"What does Mommy do just because she loves you?"
"Um, let's see...I just can't think of anything."

Rolling Eyes

I guess it's time to step it up a notch...

January 20, 2008

10 things about my kids

1. They are the best kids we could have.
2. Jacob is aaaallllll about trains and books! Mattie is all about, well, anything she can get her hands on!
3. Their favorite activity is "whooping" with Daddy. (That's wrestling around here, for anyone who's looking to report us.)
4. They both have food allergies, and not even the same ones!
5. Jacob's brain is moving every second, gaining knowledge about some thing or another.
6. Even in the midst of their sinful hearts, they love each other dearly.
7. They both love to snuggle up on the couch for a good read with Mommy.
8. Crocs have ruined both of them for wearing normal shoes.
9. Mattie is my outgoing one. She already encourages Jacob to try things he's not sure about.
10. They both talk a lot. More than you could probably imagine, actually!

Valerie tagged me, I tag Michelle in NJ and Leslie.

A Special Needs Ministry Update

This might take a little bit to explain...

We have been finding some hurdles to jump in beginning this ministry at church. It is a big church with a lot of red tape, and I believe our administration/pastoral staff is afraid we're going to pull in these special needs kids and take off! So, in some ways beginning this ministry has been an uphill battle.

I am going through Experiencing God with our Women's Ministry Bible Study at church. In the first two units, Henry Blackaby talks a lot about seeking the Lord's hand already at work and joining Him as opposed to keeping the focus on how God wants to use us. Some of this seems to be to be just semantics, but I have been praying differently because of it. I have been asking the Lord for very clear direction as to what He is doing already in our ministry... what are the present needs and how can we meet them? I have prayed for clarity and a unified vision amongst all of us involved so we can move ahead instead of twiddling our thumbs waiting for more kids to come. What can we do well with the special needs kids we have now??

So, I felt like I've been given two very clear answers! We have two main needs right now: 1) a Sunday School class that caters to the needs of the kids with disabilities, but that does not separate them completely from their typical peers. And 2) care provided for the special needs children who cannot sit through the service so their parents can worship. So in praying for those needs...

I felt like the Lord has laid out two solutions:
A program called "Special Care" during one of the services, staffed by rotating workers. This will have a Bible Story, but will be otherwise unstructured. This will enable families to attend whatever they'd like and know that their children will be welcomed and well cared for, even if they have unique and difficult needs.

And a "Special Friends Sunday School Class" during the other service. This would have two meanings... This class will have any special needs children whose parents choose it. (Unfortunately, we have had only two students this fall, one 6 and one 14 years old. It has been a struggle to keep it fun and exciting since it has quite often been only one of them there. So I have been wondering if that's really what the Lord was wanting. Several of us have wondered if we ought to have the kids in age appropriate classes with shadows, but those arrangements have been difficult as well.) Well, here's the exciting part... my vision is to have typical children who are tenderhearted toward the special needs population fill up this class! So they would be being "Special Friends" to their disabled peers! And we will have bodies in the class to keep it fun! The typical kids will have an opportunity to minister to their peers and build relationships they might otherwise miss.

Now for the big hurdle... getting the go ahead from the Children's Minister. Remember the fears I mentioned before?? So early this week I called our Children's Minister to ask him about something else. I was frustrated on Thursday when I still hadn't heard back form him. Now I had two more things to ask him about! So, in my frustration, I knew it would now be Sunday before I'd get him because of his days off... I know better than to interrupt those no matter how impatient I am. Well, I felt convicted on Thursday that this waiting time was an opportunity to pray for our Children's Minister... that he might approve these ideas that I felt like had come from the Lord. So that's the direction I prayed. That the Lord would make this all clear by the response I got when I saw him next.

Slow forward to this morning, I saw him and asked him about these two ideas... and got a resounding YES! for both of them!!! SpazAnd permission to have our next Respite Day so parents can go on Valentine's dates that evening! Now, I am so thankful for that waiting time I had to pray for Dwayne and his response. Even this morning at 5:30 (no, I'm not that spiritually disciplined, I just couldn't sleep.) I was asking for the Lord to give Dwayne support for this next step for which all of us involved have been praying.

And we've had two other hurdles jumped as well... we have been officially named a Disability Ministry at church, which will free us up to do a lot of these things without having to jump through so many hoops! And our first major event is a hoedown/square dance... at a Baptist Church!

So I prayed that the Lord would show me where He was already working... He showed me the present needs and has given me an opportunity to meet them! Much better than me trying something new on my own, even though it was something that was serving His people. It just wasn't how He wanted it done, apparently!

January 13, 2008

Another Beth Moore blessing

If you have a minute, go ahead and read this whole post of Beth Moore's tonight. It'll bless you. She's so real, and her husband isn't particularly fond of Sunday morning church. Huh! Who woulda thunk? And she still has a successful ministry! And she loves her husband inside and out! And she knows it's not her job to get him there. Another "huh!" And she's not embarrassed or feeling less spiritual because of his lack of love for church. Novel ideas, I say.

If you don't have time to read the whole post, be sure to notice this portion,

Then I saw the sweetest moment between a senior adult couple sitting two rows in front of us. It almost put me over the edge. The woman - so gorgeous and so radiant in the Spirit - was familiar to me from Bible study years ago. I'm supposing her husband had battled health problems because he appeared very physically weak, though clearly joyful. Someone told Melissa that they'd been married for sixty years. He sat during praise and worship as she stood beside him, often lifting her delicate right hand before the Lord Jesus from an obvious overflow of love. At one point as the worship leader led us in the stone-melting song "Amazing Love," the praise was so moving that the man, bent with age and confined to the chair by weakness, lifted both his hands. Just seconds later, his beautiful wife, standing closely to his right, slipped her left hand under his elbow to support what was very likely the sweetest, purest act of worship I may have ever seen. I could not keep from crying.

Lord, let that be me in 40 years!

P.S. I'm a part of our women's council at church. I didn't realize it at first, but I've discovered there are a few perks! First, I get my Bible Study materials for free! Well, that was a nice surprise. But then I found out about another... our budget line item called " Leadership Training" or something like that. Okay, that's always nice, a little bit of training, but this year we're going to ...................... Deeper Still in Atlanta!!! I am a happy girl.

January 12, 2008

A Few Gift Reviews

I thought I'd share a few of the creative gifts that have stuck in my brain for one reason or another.

My mom got me a subscription to Cook's Country magazine. Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated are great magazines. They are a magazine about kitchen concepts, but they do stuff and then tell you why it worked. And other things they tried and why or how that didn't work. I love that part! First of all, it makes me remember something. Plus, I just like to know things like that. I've only read one magazine so far and I love it! And anyone who knows me knows I could use some sort of love toward anything involving kitchen life. Yeah, I'm not so fond of all things kitchen.

Mattie's wonderful birth grandparents bought her one of the Melissa and Doug Animal sounds puzzles. Mattie loves animals, and this puzzle makes them all that more fun! Interestingly enough, Robert and I discovered one night that the sounds are not activated by matching the right puzzle piece, but rather by the elimination of light. The puzzle board was on our bedroom floor one night with missing pieces. When I turned the lamp off, the cat meowed! I tried it again, only to hear the cow moo! We left the light off and left it alone, and I awoke at 5:30 the next morning to some animal sound (the rooster crowing maybe?) as Robert turned off the bathroom light.

We got Jacob this cool wooden railway addition. It's called Flexa Track. It is a pack of two 16" track pieces that are compatible with any wooden railway. You can bend them any way and they keep their shape. There are several products similar to these, but this is the only one that can be shaped in a way to bank curves and stuff. The others move side to side or up and down, but not both and in between. And the best part is this isn't a Thomas and Friends product, so it's actually reasonably priced! I will say they created a little more work for me than I intended, but once I get them in the right shape for what he wants, they stay that way until Mattie comes along with a vengeance.

My sister got Mattie these finger puppets from IKEA. There are two sets in one picture, and Mattie has the one that includes the non sea life animals. She loves to take them out and play with them!

Well, of course the Canon Digital Rebel Xti has gotten many rave reviews already around here! Two things I love most about it... first: it takes pictures so fast!! The auto focus is almost instantaneous, a much needed feature with Mattie! And second: the zoom factor. This is attributed to the lens I have, but I love it! I have the Canon EFS 17-85mm zoom lens with image stabilization. (If only it would stabilize the people in the image I'm trying to shoot! That would be some marketable technology, or narcotic I suppose.)

Jacob loves mazes, so I got him these maze books. He loved them! They were pictures he enjoyed, but he had each book completed in an hour. He's definitely ready for the next level.

Another gift from Mattie's birth family, The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett. It is a variation of Goldilocks and the Three Bears set in the Yukon, and the characters are an Inuit girl and three polar bears. A great book! Well, I don't know any of Jan Brett's books that aren't great, but I suppose that's beside the point.

We got Mattie this Sparkle Princess book. It's by Picture Me Press. They have a whole line of books (for boys and girls) where you put your child's picture in the back page and it personalizes the whole book! She loves reading about herself as the princess. (I found her book half price on another website.)

And on a negative note, remember the marble track I said we were getting? We hate it! it falls apart regularly. Jacob has yet to build a run that has stayed together for more then 10 minutes. It has caused much frustration around this house and several others, I hear. So, before we'd had it a week, Macy and I ordered the original MarbleWorks from Discovery Toys. It should be here before noon today!!

January 11, 2008

Some brainiac fun

Our music director had this first puzzle on our chairs this week when we went into choir this week. I found another one also and I thought I'd pass them on for those of you who like these kinds of things.

Can you find sixteen (16) books of the Bible in this paragraph?

I once made a remark about the hidden books of the Bible (merely by a fluke). It kept people looking so hard for the facts and for others it was a revelation. Some were in a jam, especially since the name of the books were not capitalized, but the truth finally struck home to numbers of readers. To others it was a real job. We want it to be a most fascinating few moments for you. Yes, there will be some really easy ones to spot. Others may require judges to help them. I will quickly admit it usually takes a minister to find one of them, and there will be loud lamentations when it is found. A little lady says she brews a cup of tea so she can concentrate better. See how well you can compete. Relax now. There really are sixteen names of books in this story.

Give up?

Here's the solution to this books of the Bible puzzle [ click here ]

Bigger challenge

Can you find thirty (30) books of the Bible in this paragraph? Actually, there are 31 if you can find the variant of one Old Testament prophet's name.

There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you find them? This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket, on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much, he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That's a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or a scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new record. The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, "The books are all right here in plain view hidden from sight." Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also, keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus; there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph waiting to be found. God Bless.

Give up?

Here's the solution [ click here ]

January 06, 2008

The Lord's Faithfulness to Me...Today

This is an encouraging e-mail I rec'd today from a friend of mine with whom I went to college. One of my best friends through school, actually, and someone I met the very first day I moved into the dorm. She suffered majorly from chronic depression and lived in and out of sin the entire time I knew her (not that I was claiming to be perfect), yet claiming to be a Christian. At the point which ended up being the end of our friendship, I felt very strongly that I needed to challenge her to walk a different path and change her life drastically. She was living as an apostate, though I didn't use that word. I was physically sick the three days preceding this confrontation... I knew it was about her eternity and it could quite possibly not go over well at all. Anyway, it did not go well that day. Honestly, I don't remember many details after that, but I do remember that it was just not good.

We had many, many great times in college... we laughed a lot and went through a lot together. As hard as it was to see her struggle and to confront her, I really missed her as a friend. Anyway, I have prayed for her, "googled" her name, dreamt about her, felt certain I've seen her in a crowd somewhere, all the while begging the Lord to rescue her from herself. And I've missed her.

Here's the e-mail I got today... 10 years later! Thought it might encourage you guys. I have been so excited all afternoon. I just wish she was here so I could hug her and have her see my tears of joy for her! Ten years later, the Lord shows me the answer to my prayers for her...

One P.S. here... several people have made comments about seeing the Lord's fruit from what I did ten+ years ago. That is not at all my point here... my point is how excited/relieved I was to hear that my friend is doing well... she has found peace and is resting in the Lord. It had not even occurred to me that I needed an apology. I just wanted to know that she was well.

Sent: Sunday, January 06, 2008 4:07 PM
Subject: An apology from an old friend

Hi Melissa. It's ______________, well ___________ now. Please forgive this intrusion. I found Sharon [my college roommate with whom I attend church now] and she gave me your email. I hope that you are not upset by this. I have been looking for you to apologize for my behavior. I treated your horribly when we were friends and after 11 years of running, God has told me that I can't hide and I need to ask you to forgive me. I was confused about what the world said I was and what God said I was. I looked to others for who I was because it was what I had always done. I guess that is why I was so confused; I heard so many different answers to my question-Who am I? You took a lot of my confusion and tried to help me sort it all out. You tried to point me in the right direction. For that I am now thankful. Your guidance has helped me to become who I am today; not who I was.

In October of '96, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, which over the years escalated to major depression and then Bi-Polar. I accepted these labels because it gave me an excuse for my behavior and allowed me to blame others for my mistakes. Last year, I started a class at our church called Celebrate Recovery to help me deal with my anger. It is like AA but with a Christian base. It is written by John Baker out of Saddleback Church in Colorado. One of the ladies in my class said to us one day that co-dependency is partly defined as trying to blame others for the mistakes that you make so that you do not have to face blame or deal with the consequences. God really spoke to me and I realized I had hurt so many people along the way. I used my anger to cover up my dependency on others to define me. I have since shrugged off the Bi-Polar label, it was my crutch, even though I will admit there is probably a chemical imbalance in my brain. I need to offer apologies and forgiveness where is is due. Some people that I hurt, I cannot contact because it would be more painful for me and my family than just dealing with it and praying for them and for reconciliation in Heaven. And likewise, probably not good for them either. There has been a lot of water under the bridge. With you, God kept nudging me to reach out and make the effort. You and Sharon offered forgiveness when I needed it and I threw it back at you. You tried to help me and I got so angry for being told I was wrong. I'm sorry.

Thank you for what you did for me when we were in school. I want you to know that I do not expect anything from you; you can delete this and go on with life, but I had to be obedient. I hope this does not cause any friction or problems in your home. Best wishes, _____________

And since someone asked, I definitely wrote back! Here's the bulk of it:

First of all, I wish you were here in person so I could just give you a big ole hug! You are no intrusion! I have thought about you many times over the years and prayed that the Lord had rescued you. I have been in public places where I was certain it was you in the crowd somewhere, I've had dreams about you, I've googled "__________" more than once hoping I'd find out you were okay. I am so thankful that the Lord has rescued you!

Honestly, I have had to think about the details of that last semester together to remember hurtful things you did, and I don't recall them even as hurtful. I think the Lord has just cleanerd my memory, I guess. I know you were struggling majorly with depression. It was hard for me to watch you struggle with that so badly. Knowing little about depression, I did know enough to know that the Lord was your (is our) only hope. I prayed and prayed that day before I came to your room to challenge you to turn around. I was physically sick over it. But I knew it was worth your eternity. I just wanted you to have HOPE! I do apologize if I handled it wrongly, more abrasively than I should. (I have prayed for gentleness and graciousness in my old age!) I honestly can't remember specifics now, but I'm sure I was more abrasive than need be, though the root of my challenge was only because I cared for you so much.

I will say that when I have thought of you so many times, hurt has been the last thing on my mind. I remember fondly many good times we had. You were one of my very best friends through my college years, and that is what I remember. Maybe I'm crazy, but I remember a lot of fun and comfortable times we had together. I knew all along you were struggling deeply with depression and bi-polar (though I didn't really know what it was), but I remember many good times.

I am so thankful that the Lord is faithful to finish what he starts in us! We have Celebrate Recovery at our church and it is helping many people. I'm so thankful for your the Lord has used it in your life.

January 04, 2008

Updated pics of all the Kids

I know some of you like to see pictures of all the kids in the family, and this seemed like the easiest way to do that. I actually have current pictures of everyone that I used for a craft for both sets of grandparents.

Our two cuties

My side of the family

Doug and Jeni's kids

Dan and Marcy's kids


Robert's side of the family

David and Candace's kids

Jason and Catherine's older three

Catherine's youngest girl

Peter and Valerie's kids

Macy's kids

Jacob's "googling"

So Robert and Jacob have been playing some new online computer games lately. Like arcade games. So today Jacob goes to play by himself for a bit while Robert is at work. After a couple of minutes he says, "Mom, I can't find "Raft Wars." Well, being the busy helpmeet that I am, I know nothing about time wasters like these. So I said, "I don't know. Let me call Daddy and check." I walk into the kitchen and get the phone. Just as Robert answers, I notice Jacob at the computer going to the google.com toolbar, typing "raftwars" in the correct bar, clicking on "search" and then on the option that seems right. Whaddya know? There it is! He says, "Nevermind, Mom. I got it." So, I guess my little brainiac's a little more aware than I thought!