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Friday, February 24, 2017

Enjoying the Everyday

The morning sun glistened in rainbows around my house this morning.
{We keep a prism in the window and often have a couple rainbows, but they seemed to be scattered further and wider than usual. }

It was a morning sun that made me throw all the curtains open and bathe the house in fresh, almost-spring rays.

I relish days like today. An unusually warm February day, full to the brim of things worth noticing for their beauty.

The children painted today. I kind of hate the prep & clean up of painting because that usually takes much longer than the children actually paint. But today I let them. Elijah sat in his high chair with his blue paint smeared across his belly (I figured shirtless was the easiest method for him).  His bellybutton is still blue-tinged. And I just love it. He smiled happily all the while. The girls made delightful little pictures that are becoming more intentional and less blotches of muddied colors.

A few cheerful phone calls. A trip to the library. Playing Little House on the Prairie at the park (but we play it most everyday at home too). I'm always "Miss Beagle" and Ma, per Hattie. Adele is either John or SonnyBoy and Elijah is Baby Charles. Baby Charles has had the measles several times recently.

 I enjoy their creative play. I relish this time, this stage of life, where PLAY ranks much higher than academics.

Adele dreams of going on a Grandpa-Date to the hardwork (hardware) store to buy a hammer for her birthday. After which, Emery is supposed to promptly begin building the children a playset for the back yard.

And Elijah - he's a car man. Cars, trucks, tractors are all an important and well-loved part of his life. My boy sleeps with a matchbox car in each hand most nights. He's inherited this love from his father and grandfather. He drives his cars slowly and methodically. There are no wrecks and little speeding at this stage of the game, but their HIS cars and he enjoys them so.

We've done chores too, of course. For this is a normal day. Laundry and dishes and sweeping most of the house have been on the agenda. But finding the smiles, the moments when your heart wants to burst with love, the rays of sunshine and rainbows...they make the mundane magical.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

This book thing

A few months ago I stumbled upon this thing called Blogging for Books, and I was intrigued. You simply choose a book from their list that you're interested in and then they send it to you (for free), and you read it and then post a review to your blog. Mostly, I think it's pretty cool to get newly published books FREE. I enjoy reading, but often feel WAY behind the times of what's current in the book world; I think that has something to do with with motherhood-gig.
Anyway, writing a quick review in return for free books sounded like a winner to me.

Our most recent selection:

I decided to let Hattie pick this time. It also happened that this was the first children's book that had been in the list since I began. This musical edition was a two-disc set. One disc had the story and the other the thoroughly Broadway-sounding musical numbers.
Honestly, I was disappointed. Having a daughter in first grade, I thought perhaps this would be funny and relate-able, and that we could use this audio book for road trips in the future. This was not to be the case.
Some of the word choices (dumb, stupid, etc) fall into the inappropriate category for my children, and the attitudes portrayed were also not ones I wish to cultivate in my family. The story felt very much written by an adult, but dumbed down to sound like a 6 year old. For example, "quick" was used many times, when "quickly" would have been correct. I don't appreciate books reinforcing poor grammar, and I wouldn't want my children listening to this more than once. 
As for the music, it was fine. Very theatrical. But I found the songs told much more of Junie's story than the other disc, which was supposed to be the full story. This was baffling.

In a nutshell: Junie enters first grade, struggles to find a friend, gets glasses. The end. 
{And the musical numbers include some kickball scenarios.}  

I don't intend to listen again, nor do I intend to look further into the Junie B. Jones series. 


*I was provided a free copy of this audio book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my completely honest review.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Recovery

It's 6:13pm. Usually, we'd be en route to church. But we haven't seen Usual in several weeks - and we haven't made it to Wednesday services in several weeks either.

One of my children has a nose running like a faucet (again), and we're trying to refrain from sharing...except as we all know this runny nose has the serious potential to trickle through our family one by one requiring a full three weeks to recover from; our last go-round (week before last) only two fell to the enemy germs. I don't have such high hopes now, only grim expectations of being thoroughly snot-covered for many days ahead.

I think we're also suffering from post-Christmas depravity. Regular {non-indulgent} life kind of stinks after a few days of nostalgia. Perhaps I'm suffering the most. Perhaps I'm wishing my cup of holiday cheer were overflowing. Perhaps I'm just tired.

Um, that's where the rubber hits the road. I'm tired...my nerves are frayed. Mama wants some silent treatment from the children.

It's a painful irony that when I feel the need for a few moments of quiet and go somewhere and close the door or ask for silence, the children howl all the louder because "We Don't Like Being Quiet!!!!!"

BUT BUT BUT
We did have a lovely little Christmas. I had the pleasure of taking the girls out individually so they could shop for their siblings, and it was delight to watch their little minds work and steer them a little towards a great gift. They really did well in their gift-giving. We made a few batches of cookies. We enjoyed the mess of paper and tissue in the floor as the children explored the gifts. And I especially reveled in watching them play all afternoon Christmas day with the wonder of new toys. I am not a toy buyer largely, so while Christmas is, of course, a special day, new toys make it even more so.
Emery's parents came to spend a couple of days with us, and it's so nice to watch the children forming real relationships with our out-of-town family. The girls and Grandma undertook a sewing project which resulted in stuffed foxes that are thoroughly cute. Hattie named hers Melissa. Adele thought John Wayne to be the best name for hers. I can't stop laughing over her name choice. This same child named a stuffed dog T.J. Maxx - and I thought that was brilliant too.




And, for the curious among you, I'm improving. This miscarriage has taken quite a toll on me physically, and I'm slowly regaining strength and energy. I am getting better, though a heart takes much longer to heal.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The hurt that runs deep


*This post may not be for the faint of heart*



My newsfeed on Facebook today showed me a memory from 7 years ago.
 "thanking the LORD for His sovereignty in all things, even in those where the hurt runs deeper than you can tell."


Seven years ago I was in the throes of our first miscarriage. I was heart broken.
Four months later, another aching loss. This one left me in such poor shape physically, it was months before I felt normal again.

These experiences were life changing. They were my first real taste of grief. And through them, I've been given this opportunity to minister to other women experiencing loss. Because "Weep with those who weep,"- yes, I can do that.

The thing is, here I am again, surrendering another baby to eternity.

Y'all, if you've not walked this road, let me just tell you - it's awful.
It's awful to have labor pains knowing you won't get to hold your baby at the end of it.
It's awful to have to tell every body you lost the baby. And, frankly, sometimes it's awful to be on the receiving end of sympathy (this was hardest with my first when I really struggled with how to respond. "Yeah, I'm sorry too" doesn't have a nice edge to it.)
It's awful to see your protruding tummy and know there's no life there now. For me, it was awful to see my stretch marks - badges of courage from my full term pregnancies - and they mocked me that I couldn't carry this baby to term. {Of course, in reality, there's nothing about a miscarriage that's the mother's fault, but head knowledge doesn't change the feelings necessarily}
And it's awful to have days when you start to feel normal and find yourself smiling, and then you guilt-trip your heart for moving on - how can you possibly just "move on" when your child is gone?

This process is different for me now. I didn't have any children during those early losses and I had plenty of time to mentally and emotionally go through everything. But now I can't. I've got to keep taking care of my people. I can't indulge in as many tears as I want, when I want. But I can cling to the "Rock that is Higher than I" {You can find the lyrics to that old hymn here, if you're not familiar with it}.
I can keep pressing forward through His daily sufficient grace.






Monday, December 12, 2016

A little extra happy....

Y'all, can I just brag on my husband for a hot minute?
'Cause I'm gonna.

This evening, Emery put up Christmas lights outside for me.

!!!!!!

This makes me inordinately happy.

It's rather inexplicable.

He's put them up probably 4 of the last 5 years, and every time these crazy little lights just make me smile. What more, he knew we needed a little extra happy in our lives right, and that thoughtfulness makes me want to smile+cry.



----
As a knowledgeable youth, I was certain that WHITE LIGHTS were the only way to go. There was no question in my mind that I could appreciate colored lights, for I found them all garish. But Lo and Behold, things change. Somehow, I have colored lights wrapped around my house. And we have a little tree with colored lights (because the children picked). I love them. I can't imagine going back to white.
Perhaps it's mostly about what you're used to, but I for one, am devoted to our colored lights. So there. I'm glad I'm not a knowledgeable youth any more.




Saturday, December 10, 2016

No Fear

The book on my nightstand right is this one --->

No Fear, from Tony Perkins is a challenging and inspiring collection of stories from young Christians today who are taking a stand for their faith and Fighting against the those that would seek to silence them.

Growing up in the "Bible Belt," Christianity is a social norm. In other parts of the country this is clearly not the case, but regardless of the region Christianity is under attack. These bold young people are following the Spirit's leading: in saying a prayer when told to keep faith out of the picture, in embracing purity when the world mocks it, in doing what's right even when it's ever so hard.

These stories are encouraging, especially when the "Millennial" generation and those even younger are portrayed in such a bad light. There are still courageous Christians rising up.

Tony Perkins pairs each modern hero with a Biblical hero facing a similar situation, ringing true the relevance of the Bible to our current situations.

Before even reading this book, I felt "Aha, here is a good graduation gift for the teens in my life." And indeed, I do plan to give it away. When I graduated high school, my brother gifted me with a book entitled, Don't Waste Your Life. I feel like the themes between that one and this resonate well together. Be bold young people. Do hard things. Jesus is worth it.

One thing that has been on my mind with this young kids facing huge obstacles, well, I don't feel like No Fear is really a thing. I think it's doing what's right in face of the fears that weight heavy on your heart that's the crux of the matter.

But what if your moments of following God's leadings aren't major issues such as those brought forth in this book. What if your Fear moments come in the everyday trials. What if your Fear is to Obey God when he's leading you to befriend the person to whom no one speaks. What if your Fear is to step outside your comfort zone and speak authentically with those around you - to cut the small talk and get to the real heart issues.
Even these examples can feel terrifying, but you Go and Do. Because "God hath not given us a spirit of FEAR, but of Power and Love and of a Sound Mind"

{I was provided a free copy of this book to review from Blogging for Books. All opinions are my own.}

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Life Lately...

I know I've been a negligent blogger lately. My apologies, though I don't have any expectation that my posts will come more frequently. Y'all, life's busy - even right now when one of our vehicles has been in the shop for two and half weeks, leaving the children and I grounded - some days homeschooling and answering a quarter of a jillion questions and sort of feeding people and taking care of the home, it's all I can do. I'm not apologizing for that. THAT's my job.
This right here, this is a privilege - one that I've had neither the time or energy to do anything about. Oh well.
Wanna know what we've been up to in the last few months? 

The short answer is not much.

We've had our share of sickness (as you may recall I had shingles which gave all the children chicken pox). The girls had chicken pox during the week we were supposed to take vacation - that was a big bummer, we'd been stoked for months to get to go to the beach. The shingles reared it's head again for me - not in the actual blistery rash, but in horrible postural headaches/migraines (this means I was pretty much okay if laying down, but after 15 minutes upright this pressure at the base of my skull was killing me). The neurologist thought the virus had inflamed my nerve-beds and thankfully a round of steroids took care of the pain. And for one more dose of strange sickness, Hattie had a back ache/stomach ache for about a week - which turned out to be a UTI, but it didn't present any symptoms that would have made me think, "Oh this might be a UTI."

Thankfully, we've had several weeks of wellness. What a delight!

We began meeting with our Jr Co-Op this fall. It's a once a month group studying U.S. Geography and the body systems with the elementary school kids, and trying to keep sane with the three and under group...we've got about a dozen littles!
We also participated in a Christmas Around the World dinner last week. Honestly, I was so exhausted, I really wanted to chicken out and not even go, but somehow we pulled some food and research together and presented about a Norwegian Christmas. We also learned about Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Russia, China, and France. It was a fun night and opportunity to try lots of foreign foods.

In November, we got to make a quick trip to Kentucky. We weren't able to be there for Thanksgiving, but it was nice to get to see our family there. It'd had been about a year since we'd seen everyone, and high time!

And now, Christmas season is upon us. It's so nice and cozy to have our little tree and Christmas lights up and about us, to have various gatherings to attend, to have gifts bought and wrapped (and Hidden from the children!) One of our traditions is make hot chocolate when it snows -- uh, it doesn't snow here. I may need to amend this tradition, but it's not to say we can't have hot cocoa on other days, but Swiss Miss isn't exactly dairy free - and it takes more effort to make a pot full on the stove for everyone. Anyway, I'm cold and wish I had some hot chocolate now. Lol.

I'm also hungry. Which signals the end of this blog post!


Be on the look out for a new book review in the next week or so. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Of: Mommy Wars, Book Review, Revised GF baking

We've all heard the term "Mommy Wars"...you know the drill are you a breastfeed-er or formula feed-er? working mom or stay-at-home mom? vaccinations or non-vaccinations? homeschool or public school or private school?

It goes on and on and on.

We make choices for our families; choices that we believe are best for us and our kids, but somehow these private decisions get thrown into the public arena and available for criticism. This is baffling. And more so because sometimes we left our decisions define us. I understand that it's easier sometimes to label our parenting styles and use those to find like-minded friends, but what should it matter to a friendship if you make your own toothpaste and another mama doesn't? I mean, really.


So enter my newest read, Nourishing Meals. This is a well-written cook book with the best of intentions of educating families of how to eat more home-cooked, nourishing meals. That sounds great, doesn't it? The trouble is that as I was reading these healthy recipes, I felt this pressure mounting...pressure to do more, be more, do better - especially in the area of feeding my family {which isn't to say that we eat out all the time or are necessarily unhealthy, but we aren't doing all that they recommend - which I'll tell you about in a bit}. You know what? Sometimes the best I can manage is frozen chicken nuggets, especially in seasons where other areas of life are chaotic and I don't have the time or mental energy to plan from-scratch meals.

Can we all just agree to do our best, the best we can manage to take care of our families? Let's don't have mommy wars about anything, especially not about whether our oats are soaked. Please and thank you.

So this book advocates for food based on organic real-food choices; bone broth cooked for days, almost all grains soaked and/or sprouted; fermented vegetables and beverages, and all gluten free. It's very similar to Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions in approach, except I haven't seen any reference to Weston A. Price and the authors are quite as aggressive as Sally Fallon {who is constantly challenging the "Politically Correct Diet Dictocrats"}. They also don't harp on eating as much organ meat - for which I am truly thankful.

The other aspect of this cook book is that in order to follow these recipes, I would have to invest in a variety of new ingredients. I've spent the last five years baking gluten free using brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch with xanthan gum, but the authors recommend avoiding refined starches (potato starch) and xanthan gum; they prefer raw buckwheat (which is gluten free, though it doesn't sound like it), teff, arrowroot starch, and several others. It just so happens that I'm out of several of my usual baking items, but I'm not sure our budget can handle gathering them all in at once. I'm also not sure that I would like these new tastes. I certainly have never tried teff or buckwheat. But I'm open to change and am considering buying the ingredients needed to try some of the recipes offered.
It's hard to change what you've been doing for years. I understand the ratios I'm using with my current flours, I understand how they behave. I've made a few small changes - using almond flour and coconut flour now and then, but to abandon my old ways altogether, well I'll really have to be brave and step out of my comfort zone.
And I know that's a good thing, however hard.





I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.












Friday, October 7, 2016

Love Unending


Book Love.

I've been hankering to pick up reading again...I mean it's not like I'm not reading everyday, but I'm wanting to read things written for adults rather than the ever-loved Curious George or whatever other children's title might come into my hands. And I've forgotten how much I enjoy reading, in fact, I'm a voracious reader, which is perhaps why I don't read as much anymore because y'all, if I'm in - I'm all in.

Love Unending by Becky Thompson was my latest read, and it oh so good! Becky and I are in the same stage of life - the motherhood in the trenches phase - and she offers poignant reminders of how to nourish your marriage when you're already feeling stretched thin by the day-to-day demands of life.
The book is set up to be read as a 21 day devotional/journal, but I confess, I read through it in a couple of days. I'm sure going slower would help each challenge sink in and take root, but remember if I'm in, I'm all in. :)
I've come away refreshed and encouraged to make my marriage my top priority, and to live that out before my children.


I received a pre-release copy of Love Unending for review from Blogging For Books. You can pre-order your copy here. It will be released January 3, 2017

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sycamore Bakes: Mixed Berry Crisp

 We made something scrumptious tonight. So good, in fact, that Emery asked for this to be served on a semi-regular basis. :) Call it a cobbler. Call it a crisp. Call it Yum!
I found this recipe on pintrest. You can find the original (with pictures) HERE.

Now, fruit cobblers/fruit pies have never been my true-blue love language. With the exception of apple pies or crisps, I haven't made hardly any during the seven years we've been married.  (I can think of one blue berry pie occasion, five plus years ago.) But y'all, this was great.  I did slightly alter the recipe because of what I had on hand, you'll find my changes in bold type.
Also, this recipe calls for beet sugar. I have never used or tried beet sugar, and to be honest, I think beets taste like dirt. I'm not sure if the sugar tastes that way or not. I lean towards a combination of palm sugar and stevia - but having none of that on hand either just used raw sugar. 


Fruit Crisp
Author: 
Cook time: 
Yields: 12 servings
Ingredients
For the topping:
  • 1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour - I used 2/3 cup rice flour and 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated beet sugar - 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
  • 1 cup coconut oil (solid state) - My coconut oil was sort of melted at room temp.
For the crisp:
  • 8 cups fresh or frozen fruit (not thawed) - I had a bag of frozen strawberries and a bag of frozen blueberries. That was around 3 cups.  I think more berries would be all the merrier, but it was fine with that much
  • 2 tablespoons granulated beet sugar - reg. sugar again
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
  2. In large bowl, stir flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar and oats. Use pastry cutter or two forks to cut in coconut oil until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. - Just stirred it all up
  3. In separate large bowl, stir fruit, sugar and cinnamon. Spread evenly into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with crisp topping. - Mixed the fruit, cinnamon and sugar right in the baking dish. I'm all for saving dishes.
  4. Bake 90 minutes until crisp topping is golden and fruit is bubbling. Cool slightly before serving.