Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tortillas!!!!!

We have been threatening to learn to make our own tortillas for some time and today was finally the day!

Turns out it is really simple and doesn't take a ton of time overall.  We made about 45 tortillas, all about 6 inches in diameter.  They tasted especially good with lunch meat as a wrap!  The Ethiopian born kiddos told me that it tasted like "kika" which is a tradition Ethiopian bread.  I had no idea, but it is blindingly simple. 

We love tortillas and go through a ton.  But of course, the prices are through the roof.  And when you think about the amount that our crew eats, well that makes it a bit of a delicacy.  We figured that we spent $4.60 on the flour (ten pound bag), 1 cup of shortening all total, a bit of salt and warm water.  According to how many tortillas my math whiz of a husband figured we could make from that bag of flour, it puts each tortilla at four cents a tortilla!  Way cheaper than what I buy at the store, much fresher, and I can play around with the recipe!  My budgeting mind is just spinning figuring how much that cuts out of what is taken up by buying tortillas!!!  I figured that I could MAKE about 90 tortillas for what I pay for ten at the store, and maybe even more than that!  Cool!!!!!

And honestly, it was fun!  Hubby and I mixed up the batter together, you let it rest for 20 minutes, and then start dividing it up into little balls, then roll each ball between wax paper (with rolling pin), pop it in the hot cast iron pan (no oil), fifteen seconds on each side twice, and it is done - or watch what it looks like and stop when it looks like you want it to.  I had kids joining in on the fun too.  I figured we would, but it is much easier once I have figured it out myself - can't really teach very well what I don't know - at least it takes longer.  After a while we ended up with assembly line style making of tortillas!  I can see where you could get really good at this and it would be a very simple process to do on a regular basis!

I have to admit though, I took the recipe from another blog and here is the link: Chickens in the Road Tortillas.

Chickens in the Road is a blog that I love, so please check it out.  She is just amazing and her blog is gorgeous!  I am not yet that creative, but am sure having fun with my blog! 

I never thought I would love cooking, but perhaps it is the company I keep when I am cooking - it isn't just preparing a meal, it is doing something for the family, with the family.  I love the chats we have while we work on things, and the things we all learn together.  I think each of the kids in the family regularly spends time cooking with me, and they thank whoever made the meal, and make a point of thanking everyone who helped with it!  Even my boys cook!  We are working to make it a very regular occurrence with each child as I want each one to be very able to cook for themselves by the time the are on their own.  At least to cook somewhat and maybe to even enjoy it!

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Radical Challenge!

I have spent the last month really digesting David Platt's *Radical - Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream*.  This is one that takes some real digesting, because it really calls us to take and honest look at our faith and what we are truly called to.

I really appreciate the practical manner in which he approaches living out our faith, and the examples he gives throughout.  We all want to live out our faith, but it is very easy to lose sight of the goal, very easy to get caught up or distracted by daily life and what our culture calls to value.

I found that my views were challenged, and while I thought I was living out my faith, *Radical* really opened my eyes to how I can do so more, in very practical ways.  I found the book a very good read, understandable language, arranged in a manner that really encouraged me to keep reading and thinking and praying.  This is a book that is well written, and challenges us to be more than we might have conceived of, and exactly why.  I highly recommend this book to someone wanting to live out their faith in a practical way, to truly walk the walk we are called to by Christ.  I will warn you, it will challenge you, get you really thinking and examining our roles in the world, our ways we can contribute.  It will not leave you unchanged if you thoughtfully read it. 

I am going to look up more books by Davit Platt after reading this!  And be re-reading *Radical*!

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Diabetes log books!

Life with type 1 diabetes is a family affair.  It affects everyone, and as the parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, we are always looking to make the kids invested in their health care and also to always remember that they are KIDS!

We have struggled with log books (for recording their blood sugars, food logs, insulin dosages and other notes that are crucial for them to have in order to make good decisions about their cares).  Most log books don't have all the spots for the information we want, or are too large to really be easily portable for kids, and basically are just plain boring.  We have struggled to really find a way to get the kids more positively involved in their cares, as they keep getting older and we need to be teaching them each step of the way, and also, their needs are constantly changing as they grow, and the information in the logbooks is priceless.

But, being kids, they are bored with them.  I don't blame them.  So, somehow it needs to be kid friendly, easy to find, durable and have all the spots for the info we really need - which we feel is more than most log books have.  So, out of frustration we designed our own log books and tried them out.  We talked with Aman and Kiley about how to lay it out, what they wanted to know and what size they wanted the log book to be so it fit into whatever they wanted to carry it in.  It needed to be used many times a day.  We did some revisions and may do one more yet to tweak a small detail we noted.  But, we have used these log books for about two months now and have seen the two kids have much better record keeping, which allows us to have enough information to make the changes that need to be made!  I am very interested to see the doctor in the next two weeks and see if their A1Cs have improved like we are sure they have.  And we have the data to prove it!  I think the pediatric endocrinologist will be thrilled.

Well, we decided to personalize or individualize each one.  So, we looked at other things.  We needed it to be easy to see (bright is great as they often get set down somewhere), more durable cover than just plain paper (gets tossed in backpacks, purses, the table, wherever), and fun for kids.  We found some great cardstock, and that is what you see on these.  Kiley and Aman are THRILLED!!!!  They each picked a color and pattern they wanted and are so happy with it.  Well, we have many, many more patterns for covers, and will be working on those as we need them. 

What we want to do, is to get these out to other families that live with Type 1 diabetes.  Diabetes for kids is tough.  We cannot take that away, but we CAN make it a bit more kid friendly in any way that we can.  This was our effort. 

We are offering these for sale for $3 each, a 30 day log book, shipping to be added, but it will be minimal as I think it can easily be sent first class and we will only charge the actual cost.  If you are interested, please contact me and we will get them out to you!  I will post new patterns as I get them printed and assembled.  We just wanted them to be fun for kids, to encourage them to use them to keep good data and take charge of their health care. 

Please feel free to spread the word and share this post with anyone you feel might be interested!

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Ever had a hard time getting going?

Today I am feeling just a little "slow".  Not like I am ever a great morning person, but we are having another fundraiser today, and quite often I have no luck at all with these kinds of shows.  I for years have refused to do them, just because I get such a low turnout.  But, we are trying it again.  I hope just at least a few people show up.  That would be great.  Maybe that is why I am avoiding getting going, dread.

But, on the other hand, I have a kitty sleeping on me and that is certainly encouraging me to not move too much. We took two of our young cats in to be spayed three days ago, and they are recovering well, nearly back to normal, but one is certainly resting a bit more.  With barn cats, they multiply fast.  And strays come and adopt you.  And leave kittens also.  So, we are taking our kitties in to get fixed two at a time.  As paychecks allow.  So far four of the barn kitties have been fixed this year (girls first), we have four that are already fixed, and the others will get done as soon as we can.  The waiting list for Cats Anonymous is pretty long, and honestly, we can do it for about the same cost with our country vet.  And I really like the whole thing of not asking for help.  Pride, you know.  We have the majority of the cats outside, but a few come in and out, and some were raised in the house as little ones so they are very very social.  We had a fiasco last spring with some babies getting killed by a critter, and all the soft hearts in the house determined to protect any more that were born, so the kids and I brought the mamas and babies inside to protect them.  So, they are all litter trained, and we found homes for the majority of the babies.  But a few remain.  We still hope to find other homes since they are all so sweet and make lovely, attentive housecats.  But we sincerely try to limit how many house cats we have to two.  The rest have a kitty tahj mahal on the front porch and in the barn, so they live quite well for barn cats.  But, if you know anyone who wants a very snuggly cat - we have some lovely ones!  There are a few favorites that will stay - like the stray with the leg that is permanently damaged (so she has basically three functioning legs), and the one that has totally adopted Steve as her owner.  But, if they stay, well, they are awesome mousers, live the high life well fed out here, patrolling the barns, and loved on by everyone.  When we have a bonfire, several of the cats will come and join us and snuggle (and try to scam some treats).  They have a good life.  We just are making sure that there aren't too many!  And living in farming country, there are lots of barn cats, so if the kids really wanted another kitten at some point - there are so many being given away from other barns.  And likely another pregnant stray mama will show up at some time.  And leave babies, and maybe stay, like the last one.  I have decided that my kids are the absolute champions at taming a cat that has never had much human contact.  They slowly earn its trust.  And then slowly over time build a sweet relationship with it.  And then we get it fixed and vaccinated.  Maybe that is another one of our contributions to life here!  Hee, hee.

Well, now just writing has encouraged me to start my real daily activities!

I am slowly going through everything we own, everything that is hiding in the basement, a box at a time.  Yesterday I had on a marathon of the show "Hoarders" (talk about motivation to anyone to get rid of stuff!) and the kids would bring me up a box/container at a time and I would go through it.  Things were divided into throw away, donate, keep.  If it was a keep, it had to have a place to go and a purpose!  I got through six boxes, and of that, only two boxes of things were kept - mostly summer clothes for the kids and a few sentimental things, five garbage bags of things went out - I have a habit of keeping things until I can decide about them - got a lot of deciding things done yesterday, and three bags of donations went out to the van.  The deal is that nothing can be left laying around.  I do one box all the way, clean up after it, and then call for another one.  I was so very proud of myself.  Even with my love of books, some of them are going for donations!  It was amazing to see how much I got done, and how quickly I could return my house to order after the sorting process.  I don't think I can do that every day, but if I even did that every couple days, in no time at all, the entire basement would be sorted through and decluttered!  Wow.

So, thanks for the encouragement of letting me talk to you!  Could you please leave me a note if you follow my blog at all?  I don't mind writing just to myself, as it is so therapeutic and sorts out my mind on issues, but it is also really encouraging to think that maybe it helps someone else.  I haven't figured out how to put a counter on my blog, but I would like to know if people look at it.  I hope it is helpful for someone, at the very least lets you know that life is honest, and real, and funny, and sometimes messy.  But it is great!  God loves us all!

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, March 11, 2011

Be Spontaneous! Fun adoption fundraiser tomorrow!!!!

Hi all!
I am lousy about keeping in touch, and life has been just crazy - wonderful but crazy!
To make a long story short, we are in process to adopt two little girls from Ethiopia (as you know if you are following my blog, but if you are getting caught up, here it is!).  A is somewhere around three and has Down Syndrome, and her little sister K is somewhere around a year old.  God has been very clear about this, sending us in yet again a direction we did not think we were going in.  But, his ways are perfect and we are very happy.  We are hoping for a court date yet this year, hopefully yet this summer so we can bring them home as soon as possible.
A friend of mine is having a jewelry party to fundraise for us - Premier Designs Jewelry - this Saturday at 3PM at her house 1417 Spence Street in Green Bay.    I have catalogs and we want to close the show out by next Wednesday. 
Please consider coming!  I love fundraisers where YOU get something too!
Christy
"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Surviving a Mommy sick day...

Sick days happen to everyone.  When you a homeschooling mom of a crew, you still get sick.  And you have to take care of your kids.  But there are very good ways to handle it.

Today I woke with a light headache, did my relaxation exercises and felt much better.  Got going on the day, admiring our huge heavy snowfall today.  The vet called - he was ready for the two kitties we were taking to him to get fixed (no more inundation with kittens).  The girls wanted to ride with me, so off we went.  Felt fine, got the kitties there, made arrangements for picking them up tomorrow (spayed and all), and ran to the post office to send off more adoption paperwork, as well as get more stamps since the kids have decided that letter writing is a great hobby (this mom has no complaints, by the way).

By the time we got back in the van, the headache returned.  With a vengeance.  Thankfully, we were two miles from home so I knew I could get to medication and rest very quickly.  Ugh.  Walked in, got the kids settled, explained the situation - mommy's head seems to think it wants to explode and I need to get myself better.  Set them up for lunch (very grateful that we keep a ready supply of easy to assemble lunches - and that we had sloppy joe leftovers from last night!), gave them a few things to do, and a school video assignment while I would be laying down.  Thankfully, the kids are all very kind hearted and they kept asking me if they could get me anything - over and over.  I finally pretended to be sound asleep even though I really wasn't.  Kindness is great, but mommy needed to concentrate!  Hee, hee.  They then tiptoed in and out checking on me, eventually tapering off to sending someone in to check on me every 15 minutes to see if they could get me anything!

Anyway, I have had this kind of thing happen at various times, it has basically been lifelong - at least since I was seven.  Weather sometimes plays a role too.  I have many times dealt this while raising children.  The job as a mommy doesn't have sick days - unless it is truly horrible and I have to call my husband home from work - that hasn't happened in years.  Only once.  But, it is a reality.  And I am not the only mom who deals with something like this.  Whether it is a headache or an illness, it happens.

So, how do we as moms handle this so our kids are well cared for while we are not well?

Honestly, with some forethought and common sense.

No matter what, we will get ill at some point, and at some point will be the only parent home while we manage.

So, here we go.

Think ahead.  Right now, we have older children and they are wonderfully self sufficient.  It certainly does change how our day goes, and changes what we had planned.  I personally love having things set up for meals, something that I know they can assemble without too much fuss.  Then even though I am not the one getting lunch ready, I know that their bellies are full, they are well fed, basic needs are met.  I also try to have some simple activities ready for them that I can pull out, that they can do themselves.  Honestly, they can read, watch something educational (or even just acceptable), play ping pong, practice music - quietly if the headache is so bad that I am sensitive to sound - which is also rare.  Art projects are good, writing letters, reading ahead on lessons, and general creative play.  We will end up making up schoolwork later - either evening or over the weekend if "mommy teacher" cannot instruct due to illness.  On the other hand, it is also a great time for educational games - math games, phonics games, etc.  The older kids are wonderful for helping to correct the younger and it reinforces the older kids' learning too!

But, soon we hope to have little ones in the house.

We did seriously think about how we would handle this - as every family must, because it WILL happen.  I will do the same things I did when the other kids were little.  I will manage.

Ideas on the practicality, from experience:
Put in a Disney movie that is a favorite or a new one, and cuddle down on the couch with little ones to enjoy together.  Gets in the laying down time as well as time for medication to help.

Easy snacks - Cheerios, crackers, raisins, other easy snacks to put in bowls along with sippy cups, so little ones' bellies are full while mom might not be able to stand over the stove.  Honestly, they won't care, it will be a fun change, and it is only temporary.

Hold it together until naptime (and hope it is soon) and then lay down with the littles.  That is prime time for mom getting better.  Read books together on a large bed complete with blankies or other snugglies.  Or bring coloring books and crayons to the floor or the large bed where you can lay down and do it together.

Pick simple activities that you can sort of limp along with while you get better.  You aren't likely to be able to go out for a snowball fight while you feel horrible.  But, there are lots of things you can do, even though you are under the weather.  I honestly remember the littles tucking a blanket around me on the floor once while they played house with baby dolls when they were around two and three.  I had put the gate across the living room door, so they were in with me, I laid down, complete with their dollies, their dollie clothes and accessories.  They were thrilled to use me as a doll, stroking my head, baby talking, and generally including me in their play.  I will never forget my littlest grabbing one of her favorite storybooks and sitting down next to me, to "read Mommy a story" while I rested.  It was so very sweet.

And honestly, everyone pitches in when stuff in life happens.  We tend to view living life as a team sport - and it is!  We all work together to get things done.  I have seen the kids thrilled to sit and play with littles when they get the chance, and I don't imagine it will be any different when their little sisters get home.  Can you imagine the reaction of a child being asked to forgo schoolwork for a short while to play with a toddler?  LOL!  I vividly remember Alex playing xbox with our one year old foster daughter - he gave her an unconnected controller, she sat in his lap and they both "played".  They had an absolute blast!

So, anyway, as moms, we need to think ahead to sick days.  They will happen.  The bottom line is that everyone must be safe and cared for.  It may mean you need to call in help, but most likely it means that you need to modify your day and what you had planned.  It also will mean that you won't be able to take care of yourself like you might wish.  You might want to pull the covers over your head for two days - that is unlikely to be possible without some serious assistance (neighbor, friend, grandparent, etc).  While that might not be really what can happen, it is very possible to take care of yourself and get better while you care for your kids. Honestly, I was thrilled to see my kids' attentiveness (though it was a bit much) while I was under the weather for a couple hours.  To me it meant not only that they cared about me and my well-being, but also that I had modeled caring and nurturing to them when they weren't feeling well, so they had a pattern to follow.  A very good skill for anyone to have.

So, think ahead to sick times and what you might do to survive it.  With forethought, it is very possible to nurture yourself and your kids at the same time.  After all, they need you well!
Christy

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lessons in Patience, via a van and hay!

It may be March first, but here in the Frozen Tundra, it is still winter.

We are grateful that it in the 20's and might get to the low 30's today.

However, the reality of living on a hobby farm is that the animals really don't care what the weather is, or that the wind is blowing snow into drifts all over.  And they really like to eat.

Well, today was the day that we run to get large square bales of hay from a place about five miles down the road.  Actually, our easiest hay retrieval.  We hook up the hay wagon (thank you Grandpa John and Great-Grandpa for reconstructing it!) to our big fifteen passenger van and cruise down the road to our supplier (sounds sinister doesn't it??). 

Well, they are so nice!  We drive up, hand them the cash and they load up our wagon with four large bales of hay.  Each large square weighs 600-900 pounds, and there are four of them.  Well, then we haul the trailer out their gorgeous winding driveway over a couple little hills.  And home to feed our animals.  Sounds easy, right?  Usually it is!

But today, it is really windy.  So the snow is blowing all over.  It is sunshiney (is that a word?), but windy.  So, the normally picturesque driveway is still picturesque, but with drifts.  I was a bit concerned as I drove in, but we made it easily.  Got loaded up, admired the animals there, and went to drive out.

No problem for the first half of the driveway.  Then we got to the one slightly larger rise.

The van slowed to a halt as we were working our way up, hauling a huge amount of hay.  Uh, oh.

We backed up to get a running start at it, but the trailer is really wiggly.  Not too bad though.

And then we weren't moving anymore. 

We are out of sight of the house and barns.  So my embarrassment isn't visible, but neither is my predicament.  Sigh.  Moment of thought.  Do I try to get myself out or admit defeat and walk back and ask him to drag me out with his tractor?

Pride won out.  I would work on it.  How do you rock a 6000 pound van pulling a trailer loaded with at least 2400 pounds of hay???

The answer is, very, very slowly.

We could see a clear part of the driveway about 75 feet ahead of us.  Shouldn't be too bad, right?

Well, let's say that God is teaching me patience and perseverance. 

I had one kid up front just telling me if we were still making forward progress or not.  Literally rocking the van with pulses of the gas and then a short rest for the rock back.  Trying to not polish the snow under us to ice.  We literally were making progress an inch at a time. 

For 75 feet......

It was depressing when we would stop making progress and have to back up to a clearer spot and take a short run at it to get onto some new ground.  It was a lot of back and forth, huge progress, huge losses, and then slow, patient progress. 

I could literally see a tree outside the window passing us one inch at a time for a while there.  And we aren't talking slow going, we are talking rock forward an inch. Release the gas, let the van settle back and then rock forward again to plow through a little more snow, pulling this huge weight. 

I could so relate to my van at that moment.

But, as long as we kept our calm, worked at it slowly and steadily, we could see that we were making progress.  I have no idea how long it took, but eventually, we reached that clearer space and were able to take a good steady run at the next snowdrifted little hill.

And we made it out.  We had done it.

I was thinking that sometimes life is like that.  Sometimes you just have to keep an eye on the landmarks that show you where you have come from, the progress you are making, and know that even though it looks like small progress (maybe in what it seems like should be easy under other circumstances), it all adds up.  Every little bit.  Before you know it (and it may seem agonizing in the interim), you will have made serious progress, and maybe even gotten to your goal!  Small progress is still progress.

I had a friend ask me about what we needed for our adoption - and she had a detailed request. 

To look at the big thing - we think all total we need between $25000 and $28000 for the adoption of the girls.  Wow.  That looks like a lot.  It is a lot.

However, from that we have paid $550 to the homestudy agency to get started, $4500 that we have paid out of our tax return for the agency fees, $150 for education expenses, 3 times FedEx charges of $50 each time, and a $300 application fee to the adoption agency.  That is a chunk out of what we owe.

What we need (likely not totally complete):
Agency fees: $9000
Homestudy remaining fees, including post adoption work: $1000 due this week, $1800 due ASAP (before the homestudy is released) and $750 for more educational fees.
Immigration (for fingerprinting and application for children):  $900 (approximate)
Airfare: $1200-2500 for each adult round trip (times two) and about $1000 per child (we think)
In country fees: $3000 that we take with us.
Certificates: $100
Mailing expenses: $200

I think that covers it.  Again, this is somewhat rough, but really close. 

I didn't ever really want to share it in total as it seemed too detailed, but my friend really wanted it because she thought it was helpful to see how things went and to know that even small things make a difference.  It all adds up.  In a huge way.

So, like my van, each bit adds up to make huge, huge progress.  I look at how far we have come and am thrilled.  I can see those landmarks passing.  I know that if we keep at it, slow and steady, doing everything we can, that we will also get there.  It is a heavy load we are carrying, but like my van, with slow, steady work, we can get there.  I have living proof of it in my house.  That carries me on this journey, even when I might get discouraged.  There is no reason for discouragement.  We serve the God who loves these little girls more than we can imagine.  Certainly he will bring to completion the good work he has begun in us.

Happy March First everyone!!!


"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11