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Friday, December 28, 2012

My Favorite Blog Posts from 2012

Everyday,  my email box fills with several blogs I read and glean knowledge and inspiration from.

Today, I want to share some of them with you. I'll break them down by category.

Light a few candles, brew some tea or coffee, curl up on your sofa with a blanket and your laptop and be inspired!

51 Things You Can Do That Will Bless Your Kids - Finding Joy
5 Ways to be More Present Today - Finding Joy
Kids and Electronics - What Age and How Much is Too Much? - Smockity Frocks
I Gave Myself Away Because of a Dare Wanting to be Loved - Mom's Mustard Seeds
7 Ways to Invest in Your Kids - Finding Joy
Ten Commandments of Courtesy for Kids (and Adults) - Smockity Frocks
Keeping Kids Safe on the Homestead - New Life on a Homestead
Preparing Our Children For Marriage - Renewing Housewives
A Tearful, Joyful, Hopeful Letter to My Teenage Self - Inspired to Action
20 (more) Motherhood Tips - Finding Joy
Hope Chests 101 - A Practical Check List - Raising Homemakers
22 Activities for the Country Toddler and Preschooler  - The Prairie Homestead
How to Instill a Strong Work Ethic in Children from a Young Age  - Keeper of the Home
How Do Large Family Moms Manage Everything?  - Smockity Frocks

Save Money by Purchasing White Linens and Towels - Being Frugal
Fun Fund: Saving Money for Entertainment and Travel - Being Frugal
How We Afford to Mini-Farm on One Income (Part 1)  - The Prairie Homestead
How We Afford to Mini-Farm on One Income (Part 2) - The Prairie Homestead
10 Ways to Live More Sustainably - DIY Natural
Analyzing the Family Budget - Homestead Revival
On Producing Rather Than Saving - Nourishing Days
50 Ways to Make Money  - Bible Money Matters

Make Your Own Cough Syrup - Raising Arrows
10+ Natural Cold Remedies - Keeper of the Home
Natural Remedies for Cold & Flu Season - Little Natural Cottage
Allergy Relief for Ragweed Season (or any Allergy Season) - Sprittibee
How I Healed My Son's Skin Infection (Without Antibiotics) - Keeper of the Home
How to Treat Bug Bites Naturally - Keeper of the Home

Will I Ever Change? - Sarah Mae
The Rushing Mom Embraces Today - Finding Joy
Why It Is OK to Take a Mom Break - Finding Joy

Your Lips But Better - The Small Things Blog
Tips for an Easy Fall Wardrobe  - Simple Design

country living
Our Journey to Agrarianism - Nourishing Days
Homesteading Wherever You Are - New Life on a Homestead
Pioneer Homes - Little Homestead on a Hill
Roundup of Homesteading How-To's  - Smockity Frocks
Is It Easier? - Simply Living For Him
The Garden Plan - Homestead Revival

Household Cleaning with Vinegar - Holy Spirit-Led Homeschooling
My (Simple, Natural, Frugal) Cleaning Cabinet - The Prairie Homestead
Quick Homemaking Tips - Raising Homemakers
Clothesline Options - Homestead Revival

Just Add Water - Lemonade Makin' Mama
Extending the Family Table - Plan To Eat
Real Food Substitutions - Keeper of the Home
10 Things You Should Make Homemade - Gricefully Homeschooling
Managing Your Kitchen - Raising Arrows
Scenes from the Kitchen - Nourishing Days
Preserving Food - Raising Olives
Stocking Your Freezer - Gricefully Homeschooling
A Plan for Stretching the Meat Budget - Plan to Eat
4 Cheap Healthy Meal Plans for Families - Christian PF (Personal Finance)
Reducing Food Waste at Home...and a Meal Plan - Blissfully Content
Ultimate List of Easy Slow Cooker Recipes - Hodgepodge
Buying Meat in Bulk - Homestead Revival

Friday, December 21, 2012

26 Acts for Newtown Victims

My heart is still heavy for the tragic events that took place a week ago today.

I have two boys the ages of those children who were killed last week.

I can only imagine how scared they would have been in those circumstances.

My heart is also grieved over the troubled young man who committed these acts - a boy who obviously needed more help than he received in life. This article gripped me: I Am Adam Lanza's Mother.

This Sunday, we will be challenging our church family to join in the worldwide 26 Acts Movement. If you haven't heard about it, you can learn more by visiting Twitter's #26acts page or Facebook's 26 Acts of Kindness page.

We will be inserting one sheet of instructions along with one sheet of stickers in each bulletin we hand out at all three services this Sunday.

To join the challenge with our church family, and others around this nation and the world, you can read my instructions here.

If you'd like to print out the stickers I created with a picture of each of the 26 victims, please follow these instructions:
1. Click on this link: It will not appear correctly in the Google screen.
2. In the top left-hand corner, click the DOWN ARROW which allows you to "download the current version."
3. Open the document with Microsoft Word.
4. Print the document in Microsoft Word on Avery label template 5160.

Will you turn your grief into action? Performing 26 acts of kindness gives us the power to create change in the midst of an evil situation.

On a lighter note...
Baby Rabbits
The baby rabbits will be two weeks old tomorrow. They just opened their eyes yesterday. With fur, they are much cuter than they were a week ago.
These are all five babies on day one. They look like mice.

My 9yo son will be selling these babies January 26. They will range in price from $30 to $50. We can't yet tell how many are does and how many are bucks.

One Rooster Down
We discovered this week that we have two roosters - which is not good. One in particular was getting somewhat aggressive. We decided to process him for the good of the flock.

Our friend Joe came to help with the deed, as this was our first time.

I'll spare you the gory pictures and skip right to the removing of feathers after his dip in boiling water.

Joe was a pro! Does that look great or what? Now he's aging in my fridge for a few days before we roast him.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How Our Family Is Focusing Outward This Christmas

I have been so compelled to focus our family on giving instead of getting this Christmas. My Pastor-Husband and I really want Jesus to get the attention in our family. We've been asking our kids, "What would Jesus want for His birthday?"

We've started this TOTALLY AWESOME Journey of Wonder Advent Calendar, and are seeing the wonderful fruit of it in our children's lives. It only takes maybe 10 minutes each day, and we perform the object lesson included. Sometimes, our conversations go longer just because the kids have questions or want to talk more about a certain topic. I'm enjoying it so much!

In addition to the Advent calendar, we've decided, as a family, to really reach out to others. We've been using ideas from The Grateful Christmas Project, and we're having so much fun. My children have given thank you cards with chocolate bars to the postman, trash collector, taco truck server (no joke), policemen, firemen, ambulance worker, and there's more still to deliver. They feel really good about themselves when they hand a card to someone they appreciate.

We're still adding items to our Gifts We Already Have list on the back of our front door. We do a great job of making Christmas wish lists, but this list is a "count your blessings" activity. We've enjoyed watching our children focus on what God has already blessed them with.

A few other wonderful resources full of ideas for reaching out this holiday season:
Enjoy teaching your children to serve and bless others this Christmas, and watch them grow in new ways you've never seen before. Everyone knows, when you bless someone else, you're truly the one who gets blessed!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Crazy Day

My pastor-husband, who makes the majority of things happen at our church, was feeling very overwhelmed and behind going into this Christmas season. He asked me, well kind of begged me, to take today (Friday) off from my home duties and come work alongside him on church activities so he could get caught up.

Our church will be blessing eight families in need this year. Giving to those less fortunate is the greatest birthday gift we can give to Jesus!
Thank God for my mother-in-law, who willingly watched over my kiddos so I could be released to go serve my husband for a day. Let's just say he's in a much better mood this evening after all we were able to accomplish together.

Don't you just wish you could have two of you some days? I sure do.

Here in the valley of Northern California, and especially out in the country on our five acres, we're completely flooded! We have lakes in our backyard - a few of them - that never existed before. This is no joke - during a break in the storms today, my boys actually went swimming in those newly-formed lakes. Coco, our lab mix puppy, was in hog heaven! She was running full speed through those lakes, splashing and playing so happily.

Our chickens are standing in water. Apparently, their coop is a low place in the ground.

And our pigs were wallowing in a foot of mud. We moved the goats to another pen and let the pigs out into the large goat pen so they could dry off a bit.

Only ones who stayed dry were the rabbits because their cages are suspended off the ground and surrounded by tarps. They also have wooden hiding boxes in their cages for them to take cover when they need to.
 One of my son's rabbits, Brownie, if truly pregnant, is due next week. We will bring her up under the back patio this weekend so we can put a grow light on the babies to keep them warm. I don't have electricity out at the rabbit habitat.

A few weeks ago, my daughter finally found her Holland Lop doe so she could begin breeding her rabbits. Her doe, however, is a baby, and has to get a bit older before she can have any babies. But she's darling, isn't she?

My kiddos all worked their tails off to finish the rest of this year's schooling and start Christmas break early. We're done, folks! Hooray!

I'm feeling good these days. Over Thanksgiving break, I felt like the paddles were applied to my heart - I was given a good shock of new energy and determination. I just got tired of being tired, decided to take my focus off of my inadequacies and put my focus on my God, whose grace is sufficient for me. I decided to fight in warfare prayer against the devil who tries to keep me down. My strength is returning as I draw nearer to God.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pruning is Painful

To be honest with you, I hesitated to write this week. I couldn't think of what to write about. I'm such a work in progress right now. It's easier to write about lessons learned after you have learned them. I'm in the middle of some lessons right now, and I feel very inadequate to write about them just yet.

For several months now, I've been in a pruning season with God. It's been an ugly process. I'm not a huge fan of it, myself. I believe strongly that God has some new things in store for my future. I'm totally unsure what they are. But whatever they are, He decided some things needed to be worked on in my life before He reveals them to me or before I walk into them.

In the meantime, I'm in this painful pruning process. I feel like Jacob wrestling with God, and I'm pretty sure I'll come out of this season with a new identity.

This week, I decided a few things:
  1. To stop dwelling on what an awful person I am while being pruned, and instead focus on how great God is - slow to get angry and abounding in love.
  2. If I ever want to get out of this season and begin bearing more fruit or even much fruit, I am going to have to start battling in prayer. The enemy would love to keep me bound up in this paralyzed position as long as possible, wallowing in self pity and discontent. Only as I begin to bind Satan in Jesus' name will I see the fruit of all this.
  3. It is entirely possible that my latter days will be greater than the past. I had a hard time accepting that. What could possibly be better than birthing and raising five beautiful children? Being a pastor's wife? Planting a thriving church? I don't really know. But, in the words of my dear friend and mentor, Sherri Sumstine, "That was His best for then. This will be your best for NOW." God, I want your new best for me, and to get that, I must release the idea that there will never be anything better than what I've already had.
Sorry if this sounds like a bunch of gibberish. Everything's very scattered in my head. I feel inadequate to talk to you about parenting or marriage or homeschooling or homemaking at this point. I am not on my A-game in any of those areas. I can't wait to be on the other side of this time so I can go to bed each night feeling good about how I did in those areas of my life. But for now, I'm navigating one day at a time, doing all I can to keep tuned in to Jesus so I can hear everything He's wanting to say to me right now.

Thank God for grace - from my children, from my husband, even from my dogs, and mostly, from God Himself. God rocks!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving on the Farm

they are here!


These are "the boys," all brothers. They're a Hampshire/Duroc cross, which will make for very tasty meat! They're 11 weeks and came to us at about 55 pounds each. They will each grow to approximately 230-250 pounds, which is market weight, by age 6-8 months. They are STRONG! Within an hour of arriving, they had tilled up their entire pen by rooting with their snouts. It was fascinating to watch! They ate all the slop we had saved for them from the night before within 15 minutes. I was thinking, "Geesh! We don't have THAT much leftovers!" We have a pig grain to feed when we don't have enough scraps to give them. And they sure do enjoy our pumpkins from October. They are eating machines! I've never seen anything like it. They almost hurt each other to get to the hanging feeder. We're already gearing up to build something bigger so they have more room to get at their feed. We've also discussed switching their housing with the goats when the pigs get much larger, as I think they're going to need the extra space, after seeing their parents. They're so fun!

guys & girls, God's way
This past Wednesday, I shared at our youth group's home group called "Kickbacks." I was blessed with a living room full of young people with whom I shared some of God's topsy-turvy truths about the broke-down American system of dating. I prepared this PowerPoint to aid the kids in taking notes, and I'm happy to share it with you. Unfortunately, you don't get all my verbal comments and teaching to go along with it, but it will give you the basics of what I shared.

our thanksgiving plans
 I really can't wait! To be honest, I'm a bit tired and worn out and need a break. The children have been working furiously on school to get as much of their end-of-the-year work done, so they can start Christmas break early. They didn't get it done before Thanksgiving, so we'll have to return from next week's break and do some more, but they have made some tremendous headway.

My side of the family decided to all meet at my parents' home this Thanksgiving. My parents live in Medford, about 5 hours north of us. My brother, his wife, and three children live in the Portland area, about 4 hours north of my parents. So we're meeting in the middle. My children rarely get to play with their cousins, so this is a treat! They always seem to pick up right where they left off. My parents, Dad especially, love having everyone under the same roof (for a short time).

So when we made that decision, I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if I could fly up early and spend time with my mom in the kitchen making preparations, as well as getting some alone time and rest?" My husband totally supported the idea. My parents were gracious enough to donate some airline miles that will allow me and my 7yo son to fly to their home for $10. Woohoo! So Luke and I will be leaving Sunday evening. My hubby and the rest of the kids will drive up to meet us on Wednesday. We'll all come home on Friday. Today is packing day. I am really looking forward to this!

Happy Thanksgiving to You All!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Thoughts on Christmas Gift Giving

My husband and I use a holiday savings account to save all year long for Christmas. We still don't have a huge Christmas budget, and the family keeps growing every year (with new cousins and everyone).

We firmly believe that Christmas should be about Jesus, not getting presents. We tell our children this is Jesus's birthday, and ask what they think He would want for His birthday. They come up with many ideas of volunteerism and serving those less fortunate. We drill this concept into our children's hearts, even though everywhere we go, the opposite message is in their faces.

For the past several years, we've done the "three gifts per child" thing, because Jesus got three gifts for His birthday. I liked the concept, but found it hard to keep it balanced and fair. One child's gift could be a color book and crayons, while another child could get an iPod. It wasn't always easy to keep things even amongst all five of them.

This year, I came across this blog article, where a reader wrote a revised version of the "three gifts" idea:
Every Christmas our five children receive three gifts: one “gold” gift, the big item they are longing for; one “myrrh” gift, which is for their body, such as clothing; and one “frankincense” gift, for their spiritual growth.It keeps spending down but also focuses on our celebration of Christmas and the gifts given to the Christ child. We send a portion of the money we’ve saved to charity.”

My husband and I both liked this new idea, and will be giving it a shot this year. I've already purchased everyone's gold gift, and all the boys' frankincense gift, so I'm half done.

As for everyone else on our list, we love to give books to children (i.e., cousins), we're opting for homemade goodies from the kitchen for many of the others on our list (ya know, the people who don't need anything), and then we're really going to focus on giving - to the homeless, the elderly, our neighbors, those who bless our lives all year long (teachers, my wonderful chiropractor who provides me service for free, our church leaders), and whomever else God lays on our hearts. This is what, we believe, Jesus would truly want for His birthday.

God, break our hearts for the things that break Your heart this Christmas. Let our family bless You by reaching out to those You'd have us to touch this year.

Friday, October 26, 2012

New Family Members...And Another Family Member Will Be Getting Older

My oldest, Hannah, will be turning 13 in six days. Because of some conflicting church events, we're celebrating with a few friends today (like now). So I'll be short with today's post, because guests are arriving.

Heritage Farm (as we've named our new place) continues to grow. We love it!

We found a Barn Moving Sale on Craigslist - a lady was getting rid of EVERYTHING. We drove to her home yesterday, an hour away, and found these beautiful ladies:
This is Serenity, a Cashmere-Nubian doe.

This is Snickers, a dwarf Nubian doe who is PREGNANT!
We also found my three youngest sons their very own pets:
I know, they're hard to see in this box. I'll put up better pictures next time. These were some rescue rabbits, all about 8 wks. Two are does, and one is a buck.

Our new goat gals love their new place, and warmed up to us VERY quickly! They are so happy!

Here, Serenity and Snickers are meeting our dogs, the beagle Nemo and the lab/collie mix, Coco

We're in absolute Heaven with these girls! They already "b-a-a-a-a" at us every time we walk away. They just love people!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rabbits and Pigs

I promised some pictures of my kids' new rabbits. The two oldest children want to start their own rabbitries.

Hannah is doing Holland Lop rabbits, and found this adorable buck, Pierre (because of the mustache). He's so handsome!

Problem is, she showed up to pick up Pierre, and he had a buddy that she found to be too cute to leave behind. So she took him home, too. She named him Skittles.

How exactly do you start a rabbitry with two bucks? I'm not sure. She still hasn't found a doe.

My son, Joshua, is specializing in Mini Rexes, which our family has raised before. They are known for their velvety fur. He was smart, and got his buck and doe on the same day, because he wanted to waste no time having babies.

He chose Oreo, a broken black, for his buck.
Oreo prefers to stay hiding in his hiding box.

He picked this beautiful doe, whom he named Brownie, for his doe. He bred them together two days after getting them home. He doesn't mess around!

Our piglets don't arrive until November 10th, but we've cleared their pen and will soon begin building their lean-to. I picked up their feeder and waterer yesterday. Can't wait!