Friday, April 29, 2011

Joy In All Things

Someday I will only have to do laundry once a week.

I'll be able to listen all the way through a sermon without a big word question or giving reminders to sit still.

Someday I won't trip on the toys on the stairs.





I won't have to worry about soccer balls in my garden.

I won't have to read stories over and over...Goodnight Moon will be forever engraved in my memory.

Someday I will clean the kitchen floor and it will stay clean for days.





I'll have the time to study more theology and read all those books on my reading list.

Someday I won't have all those dirty fingerprints 3 feet from the ground on the door jams.




There will never be globs of toothpaste in the sink.

I won't have to break up fights, listen to whining and be annoyed by the constant, silly questions.





Most days I love my life. And most days I am content with the cleanliness of my home. Except on those days when I realize I am washing the floor for the third time that day, a fight breaks out between two sisters, another child walks in with a bloody nose and I stub my toe.

Those are days when I think those above thoughts. I have chosen this path. I have given up many things to take on the role of a parent. Instead of pursuing a career and having adult conversations all day, I have chosen to teach my children at home and listen to their endless chatter. Instead of having bathroom floors that are so clean someone can eat off of them, I have a kitchen floor that was washed three hours ago and is now sticky from juice, an opened tea bag and the remnants of some goldfish crackers that were accidentally dumped out.



But someday things will change. The children will be gone; it will be just my Sweetie, myself, and our garden out back. We'll spend all our evenings reading, talking, relaxing and playing ping-pong. Things will be nice and quiet. But then I sit back and think: do I really want things to change that way? Do I really want immaculate floors, or perfectly clean stairs, or a nice quiet house every single day?

The answer, when I think about it, is no. Because Lord willing, at least one of my offspring will begin a family of their own and I will have grandchildren. And Lord willing, those little ones will leave their fingerprints on my door jams and windows. And will accidentally spill their juice or kick the soccer ball into the flower bed. And I do pray that those things will happen often, and not just twice a year on holidays.

When I look around me now, I see that my house is not a complete wreck; there is some order to the chaos that goes on around here. But sometimes it still seems crazy. And I have bad days.

But instead of grumbling about the clean pile of laundry that I just found under the dirty towels, I need, no I want to find the joy in mundane jobs. When I realize, with horror, that the chocolate chip on the living room floor is not a chocolate chip, I want to see joy. I don't mean the kind of joy that makes you jump up and down with excitement, but the kind of joy I have when I am doing something for someone I love.

Real joy. Joy in all things.


And really, is my purpose right now in life to have a totally clean house? The most important lesson I am teaching my kids is not how to properly clean the bathrooms, but how to live for Christ, and to remember His grace through the cross.

That is where our true joy comes from.



I will teach them to care for the things God has blessed us with, but not with obsessiveness. And I am trying to the best of my ability to find real joy; in the messes, dirty windows, and piles of laundry. And to encourage my children to see the joy in doing their chores and schoolwork; and that in all that they do, to do it to God's glory.











*And lest you think from the above post that my kids jump from room to room making messes and I follow after with the cleaning supplies; they do have chore lists, and we have the simple but effective rule that if you made the mess, you get the privilege of cleaning it up. :-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The River

Last Sunday we went to our friends house. After stuffing ourselves with bean dip, cheese, bruschetta, good wine and gourmet pizza, we decided we needed a walk. So we waddled walked down to the river near their house.

I did not have my camera, (still saving up for a new one....) so the daughter of my friend took these photos.

First,a photo of my friend and I. She is a very sweet, encouraging, homeschooling mom whom I am so thankful God brought into our lives.



Here are the kids in the river.




I was reluctant to let them wade, but the day was so pretty and the weather so mild that I thought it was fine.

Here is Nutsy.




She was doing fine, so I took my eyes off of her for a few minutes. My friend's daughter had her camera on her at the perfect moment and caught this:



There she goes.


Another of my friend's daughters (she has 4 of them) came over immediately and rescued poor Nutsy.


Here she is walking home, a bit wet; but pretty much dry by the time we got home.


Another family adventure!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mediterranean Wraps

I have had some interesting conversations with a couple friends recently that make me think about how we eat. Our family chooses to eat foods that are not processed, and certain vegetables that are organic. We have our 1/4 of an almost organic pig in the freezer and the promises of garden tomatoes this summer. But how far do I take it? I would love to buy all organic, farm raised meat but after looking at a price list last week from a farm and seeing the prices ranging from $8.99 to $14.99 per pound, I just can't do it.

One of the things we did a couple of years ago when my husband was laid off and we were seeing how low we could get the bills was to eat a lot of vegetarian meals. Think of it, the bulk of your grocery bill is meat and cheese. And vegetarian meals can be quite yummy. One of my favorite Indian restaurants has a southern Indian influence, where they are all vegetarians, so there is no meat on the menu. Curries, samosas, chutneys, dosa bread... it makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

So with this in mind I wanted to share one of our family's favorite vegetarian meals with you. This recipe I found in Cooking Light quite a while ago.

First the rice: I make long grain rice (or jasmine if I have it on hand) in the rice cooker, with a couple teaspoons of dried basil.




Then the veggies: Cut up green and yellow squash, red onion and bell pepper. Be sure to make them small enough since these will be going into a wrap. Toss them with some olive oil  and broil.
 


When they come out, I sometimes give them a little toss with some balsamic vinegar.




While the vegetables and rice are cooking I make the salsa. Chopped tomatoes, cilantro, diced red onion, garlic, salt and lime juice.



Finally I crumble some feta cheese in a bowl too.



To assemble the wraps, I warm a large tortilla on our gas stove. Then rice goes on, followed by the veggies, then a couple spoonfuls of the salsa and finally a sprinkling of feta.



Wrap up like a burrito and there you go. With this I might make a simple pasta salad, or for a treat have some oven baked potato chips from Trader Joe's.


Enjoy!

Mediterranean Wraps

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped tomato
3 T diced red onion
3 T chopped cilantro leaves
1 T lime juice
1/8 t. salt
1 garlic clove minced
3 c. hot cooked jasmine or long grain rice
2 t. dried basil
1 c. chopped bell pepper
1 c. diced zucchini
1 c. diced yellow squash
1/4 c. chopped red onion
2 t. olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
6 large flour tortillas
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

Combine first 6 ingredients in bowl and set aside.

Combine rice and basil, set aside.

Arrange bell pepper, both squashes and 1/4 c. red onion on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Broil for 12 minutes of until browned, stirring halfway through. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.

Warm tortillas; spoon 1/2 c. rice, down center. Top each 1/2 roasted vegetables, 3 T tomato mixture and 2 T feta cheese; roll up.

Other vegetarian recipes I love:

Karra's Tostadas with Jalapeno-Lime Sauce with Refried Beans

Quesadilla Pie

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: I have kept a journal since my husband and I were married. It is not a bare your heart type of journal; my kids love reading it and remembering what we did. And we do refer to it when we are trying to remember what we did during our Christmas vacation in 2003. But I am starting to get further and further behind with it. And maybe this blog is the reason why. I write stuff on here, then think of it as recorded in our family history. And it is a handwritten journal, which is more time consuming than I would like. So I am thinking of starting a journal as a word document...I sure type faster than I write. (Not that I am a fast typer; my Sweetie takes that award.) What do you all think? How do you record your family history?

What I'm reading: I am about a quarter of the way through Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp. Some good quotes so far: "[Children] are given not to bring us glory, but Him." and, "These years are hard for us because they expose the wrong thoughts and desires of our own hearts." This is a great book to read if you have or are going to have adolescents in your home.

What I'm listening to: Well, I am listening to what sounds are in our home every weekday morning between 7:30 and 8am. And that would be Bookworm practicing the piano downstairs and Mr. Lego strumming the guitar upstairs. Maybe I should tweak this question and answer what it is I am thinking I will hear sometime today, like the rain drops on the drain outside (it's raining right now), or that I'm planning to stick in a Fernando Ortega CD to listen to this afternoon.

What we're learning: This week Dasher is doing narrations and copywork from The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks by Nancy McArthur and the older children are learning about noun modifiers and adverb clauses in their Writing Skills book. In history we are learning about Dante, the Aztecs, and the Hundred Years' War.

What I'm watching: The price of gas going up and up. This is when I am really thankful that I don't have to drive the kids to and from school every day and we live where I can do all my shopping in one town.

What's cooking: Last Thanksgiving I bought two turkeys and so there is one defrosting in my fridge right now. I think we'll have it Wednesday, with dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and a salad. Then Turkey Soup of course on Thursday!

What I'm buying: I can't think of anything I need to go out and buy this week, except for our weekly grocery trip on Friday.

What I'm thankful for: A husband who likes to fix things. We have saved so much money over the years because, instead of doing the easy thing and calling a repair man, he does research and sees if he can fix it himself. And most of the time he can. With the help of Mr. Lego!

What I'm creating: I can't think of anything I am creating this week. Some weeks I need to focus on the ordinary: the homeschooling, cleaning and cooking.

What I'm praying: For our missionaries serving in foreign countries. It is easy to forget those who are sacrificing so much so that the gospel can be spread.

What I'm planning: Fair is starting to be on my mind more. We are going to start fattening up our baby rabbit for the market competition, the older ones need to start practicing showmanship, and also brushing up on their rabbit knowledge for rabbit bowl.

What we did this last weekend: We went to a few garage sales on Saturday morning; I found kids clothes for 50 cents each, a covered picnic basket for $2 and a chalkboard easel for $4. Yesterday we heard an encouraging sermon at church, then went to our friends house for an afternoon of fellowship, munchies, wine, gourmet pizza and a lovely walk to the creek.

What I'm looking forward to: This is a more quiet week; our co-op is taking a break and we only have our 4-H rabbit meeting to go to.

A picture to share:



~I bought a bunch of daffodils last week and when they opened, one had an orange center!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our Garden 2011

We planted our garden a couple weeks ago...I had my monthly shopping last week and we have been implementing a new daily schedule so I haven't had time to write the garden post yet. But there is a quiet moment right now during lunch, and I see a couple quiet moments in my afternoon so I'll sit down and write this.

The week we planted I didn't have a camera, but the following week my dear friend let me borrow theirs so I went out and got a few shots:



This is my herb/perennial box. I have lavender and rosemary that came back from last year, and I planted strawberries, oregano, parsley and then basil, onions and lettuce from seed. You can see my comfrey plant to the right; this is a great herb that has many uses. It is especially good for broken bones and injuries and is sometimes called the 'bone knitter'. It comes back every year, so if you live near me and you ever need some, you know who to ask.





This is the vegetable box; or better named this year, the tomato box. We had 6 tomato plants last year and I still had to buy tomatoes from a nearby farm to do my Freezer Tomato Sauce. So I am seeing if 9 will be enough....the three on the left are heirlooms; Persimmon, Brandymaster VF and Red Pear, and the rest are hybrids. The space on the right might be for more lettuce or onions....we are planting seeds every two weeks so we can have a continuous harvest.






This is the deck. (You can see my artificial plants drying in the sun from my spring cleaning week.) In the Earth Box to the right are two zucchini plants, then in the two other square containers on the deck are two Japanese cucumbers. I made the mistake of planting mint in the herb box last year....that stuff is like crab grass. I still periodically go out and pull it up because it is such a nuisance but I didn't want to completely lose all the mint so we put some of it in the pot next to the long planter box. In the long planter box are the girls' flowers; they chose marigolds and alyssum this year. The pot on the bench has Mr. Lego's habanero peppers growing. And that is our garden! (That other shorter planter box in front is strawberries that I was babysitting for a friend.)

I am getting ready for baby greens, crisp cucumbers and those garden tomatoes that are so delicious!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: Hmm, just thinking about my day, how much I really don't want to go exercise this morning, about teaching science next year, and that I need to get my crockpot out and ready for dinner tonight.

What I'm reading: I am going to start reading Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp. I just found it pushed back on my 'borrowed books' shelf, and remembered that a dear friend let me borrow it a couple months ago.

What I'm listening to: Frying sounds in the kitchen. Mr. Lego was eating 4 pieces of toast in the morning last week and then hungry for a snack at 10am. I realized that he needed more protein at breakfast time so I got some turkey sausage for him to have every now and then with some scrambled eggs.

What we're learning: In history we are learning about the Mongols, Marco Polo and William Wallace. We are also moving onto question #41 and 42 in the Shorter Catechism; I am really enjoying memorizing these along with the children.

What I'm watching: Rain puddles again in the street. We did not have a very big storm, but enough to get things wet out there.

What's cooking: Tonight I am experimenting with this book and making Shepherd's Pie. I use my crockpot mainly for stews and meat dishes and don't usually make casserole type things in it, so I am curious to see how this comes out.

What I'm buying: Last week I was excited to find a gallon-size glass jar at a thrift store for $1.99. So now I have all my water kefir in one container and am finding it is much easier to deal with.

What I'm thankful for: That God's mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness is beyond my understanding.

What I'm creating: Over the weekend I planted the cucumbers; all I need to do now is get a little bit more dirt to finish the herb garden.

What I'm praying: That my prayers would not be like flat rocks, skipping on the surface of the water; but would be large stones, that are deep and meaningful praises and pleas to my Heavenly Father.

What I'm planning: One of the things I need to do this week is register all of us for the county fair. We have all our rabbits of course, but Bookworm is entering a crocheted afghan and I am thinking to enter a couple photographs. (I just didn't have time to plan out my cake idea so that might wait until next year.)

What we did this last weekend: My Spring Cleaning got me into the mood to organize, so we spent the bulk of Saturday going through the kids rooms, organizing the laundry area and school room. Then we went to church on Sunday and afterwards headed to the park with two other families for our Supper For Six. It was a really nice day; we grilled chicken and veggies, played bocce ball and talked.

What I'm looking forward to: This week is a normal school week; our co-op has a field trip to a nearby iris farm on Wednesday which we are all looking forward to.

A picture to share:

~Signs of spring. Our family in front of the magnolia tree at our church.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Cleaning 2011 - Washing Machine

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So today I cleaned the washing machine. On Anna's blog she said that this was an easy one, but this one was harder than it sounded.

As you can see....



...it has been years since this was cleaned.

I let it soak with vinegar and water, scrubbed like crazy for about 20 minutes to get that icky stuff off, then ran it through a cycle with some bleach.


All clean!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Cleaning - Switching It Up



The weather is definitely getting warmer. So we totally needed to do the semi-annual switching of seasonal clothes. My Sweetie and I have a walk in closet so we can keep both our warmer and cooler clothes out all year round, but the storage in our children's rooms are just ordinary closets and dressers, so I need to change out with the seasons. And it is a good thing too, or else I would have crazy kids running around with short sleeve shirts on when it is 40 degrees out.

So today I tackled the biggest of the switch-a-roo rooms: the girls clothes. First I put all their clothes, both summer and winter, out in piles. My girls wear mostly skirts and dresses so the bulk of their clothes is in the closet. 


Here is what the empty closet looked like.



 We went through it all and decided if it was too small and should be handed down to the next sister, was torn or stained and needed to be tossed, or was too small for anyone and could be given away.  



(Photo courtesy of Mr. Lego, obviously.)

Then I separated the winter from the summer attire, and then the summery clothes went back into the closet....




And I was left with these piles to put into storage or to bag up to bless someone with.



Mission accomplished!

Spring Cleaning 2011 - Computer Area

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Next on the list....the computer area. 
Here is before....



 

.....and this is after.





I did clean the screen and keyboard too.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Cleaning 2011 - Artificial Plants

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Another thing checked off the list: cleaning my artificial plants.


Here is before:




Oh my.....look at that dust.




And here is after.



All I did was spray them down with water; using a soft cloth on the inside leaves, then left it to dry in the sun.

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I have a few things I need to get done today. I want to work on my Spring Cleaning project, I have full laundry baskets in all the bedrooms and some garden work to do outside. I also have photographs to edit from our church ball a couple weeks ago; I have kept putting this off because they are from the night when my camera broke and it will be bittersweet to look at them.

What I'm reading: I am almost finished with Stepping Heavenward. Every time I read this book I take away something different; there is a lot if wisdom in its pages, especially for mothers and wives. I highly recommend it.

What I'm listening to: Bookworm practicing her piano downstairs and Mr. Lego trying very hard to get chords out on the guitar upstairs. I feel like I am in the middle.

What we're learning: In history we are learning about Fredrick II, Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon. The two older children are doing classification paragraphs in writing and also learning about the end of the rancheros in California history.

What I'm watching: On Saturday night my Sweetie and I watched Mrs. Miniver. This movie came out in 1942 and was about a family in war torn England. Watching it really made me think how thankful I am to not have lived through a war like that, and to remember what in my life is really important. My favorite scene was when their minister read Psalm 91 in their bombed out church.....very fitting.

What's cooking: Tomorrow night I am making Split Pea Soup and will be using Chalupa or Carnitas ham hocks and ham.

What I'm buying: Big shopping happens later for us this week so I need to get hopping on the menu planning.

What I'm thankful for: The lovely weather we have been having. I am so ready for warmer days and last week we hit 70 a couple days. We planted our garden last week and went for a nice walk last night. Thank you Lord, for spring!

What I'm creating: I am thinking to enter a cake in our county fair. But for my idea to work I need an oven proof bowl with a perfectly round bottom. I will try a couple thrift stores this week and then experiment, to the joy of my family.

What I'm praying: That I would this week, draw each of my children aside for special conversations. Sometimes I feel like I am rushing through the day, checking things off my list, and I am not taking the time to work on their hearts and our relationships.

What I'm planning: I am starting to look into different subjects and making school decisions for next year...ideas are rolling around in my brain and I am trying to decide what things would be best.

What we did this last weekend: We had a busy Saturday doing jobs around the house. Then Sunday we went to church and Sunday school. Afterward we came home with just our family and had a yummy dinner of Gyoza and California Rolls.

What I'm looking forward to: We have a field trip for our last Citizenship Project with 4-H on Tuesday, co-op is Wednesday and then a quiet weekend. (I think....)

A picture to share:

~Nutsy with our cute little baby rabbit.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Cleaning 2011 - The Fridge




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This is a short and sweet post....I have cleaned the fridge!



Before....


 

....and after.




 Before.....





.....after!



For more Spring Cleaning ideas head over to Anna's. 

*A dear friend let me borrow their point and shoot camera for a while. Thank you!!

Chalupa and Carnitas

*I had this blog post in my mind for a while.....so all these pictures were taken with my beloved camera.


Our family is trying to eat better. We try not to eat anything processed, we don't eat much refined sugar and we really try to eat lots of vegetables and fruits. I also try to get certain things organic (the top 12 veggies are here). So when my friend asked if I would like to join in on raising a couple of meat pigs, I jumped at the opportunity. She was getting two of them and so I went in on a 1/4 of a pig.

Last November I went out to visit them; one we named Chalupa (after my favorite pork dish), and then other one went unnamed. I secretly named it Carnitas; I didn't want to get too attached to the little buggers and I love Pork Carnitas.





I'll bet this is Carnitas.


My friend has the advantage of having land the piggies could graze on; specifically acorns, and they also had lots of fresh milk from her milk cow. We did all go in to buy them feed; and this was where it got interesting. We were going for organic pork. But the problem is this: the food you buy at any feed store is definitely non-organic when you look at the ingredients. For us to feed them truly organic feed would have raised the costs significantly. So we decided to have them graze as much as possible and supplement with normal piggy feed.

I didn't make it out to her ranch for anymore piggy pictures, but in February she fenced them in and started monitoring their feed. They were butchered in early March, each weighing 250 pounds! A week later I went to pick up my meat.



I got about 30 pounds of meat; most of the cuts we got that week, but we did get some ham and bacon a few weeks later after curing. This included spareribs, Italian and Country Style sausage, pork chops, steaks and roasts.

The first dish we made that weekend was our Sunday breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Country Style Homegrown Sausage.




I had been warned that the meat would be different than store bought pork; it would actually be much leaner. So when I was browning the sausage for our breakfast, It was nice to find there wasn't really any liquid fat in the pan. No more spooning out that disgusting fat! Even though it was lean pork, the pieces of sausage were still very moist and had the normal pork flavor.


Now the cost: I spent a bit over $120 for my part in these little pork babies. That equals out to be about $4 (average) a pound for almost organic, homegrown, great tasting pork. Is it worth it? I don't know. I love knowing exactly where the roast we are having for dinner came from. And so far, I love the taste. (Can't wait to try that lean bacon!) But financially, I am leaning towards the side that this is not worth it. We are not made of gold, and when you budget finances you have to prioritize. Like saving up for a vacation instead of eating out. Or instead of having a Starbucks, putting that change into the new camera fund. :-) And so far, I choose to buy organic celery and lettuce at the store, but not organic meat. I know that almost all the celery that is non-organic is pretty bad for you, but I also know that when there is a good sale I can get pork for $1.50 a pound. I have to make these choices. I really wish it was cheaper to buy organic or homegrown meat, but at this point in history it feels like it can cost and arm and a leg.

I am really glad we did this; it was fun to get Piggy Updates from my friend and see the entire process from animal to table. Someday, I hope to be able to make the decision to do it again. Maybe a bovine called Hamburger?