Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A dry winter on the farm!

I just wanted to check in and comment on life in general.

Whew, we made it through a great Christmas.  There is lots of activity with eight kids to celebrate with, and we were dreaming of our littles being home for next year's celebrations!  It was wonderful to have time with family and friends and kids.  We had a simple Christmas but it was so rich.  We are enjoying time together in this slightly quieter time before real life resumes next week - when all our usual activities resume - voice lessons, music lessons, church, and all the other stuff.  I pretty much decided that we would take a lighter school load this week and I am very glad we did!

Winter on the farm has been slow.  Only an inch of snow before Christmas and it is all gone now.  But at least the days will start getting longer!  We are looking forward to that, as with the reduced light and all, we are getting no eggs at all from our chickens.  We really miss those fresh eggs and look forward to when they resume in the next month or so!  We always have about two months where our free range chickens don't produce, but it is good for them to get a bit of a rest too, at least I think so.

In the spring we should have some baby goats too!  Some of our ladies are quite plump and so we are watching closely.  We did an inexact breeding schedule this year, so it will be a guessing game!  Baby goats are great fun, and we so miss the daily fresh milk!  I just have a hard time buying milk, knowing that it is older than I would like and who knows what the cows have gotten.  When we are in regular production at our house, our milk is drank fresh that day, or at the most from the day before.  And if the goats are making more than we drink up, well, then we make mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese!!!  I MISS IT!!!

I am trying my hand at sourdough bread making though!  I am tempted to try making crackers too, but we shall have to see how much time there is in a day!  We love Amish friendship bread and the kids love to eat it up for breakfast!  We also got a quesadilla maker for a gift this Christmas, so we had better get going making tortillas!!!!  I have so many ideas in my head, but am trying to stick to one at a time!!  That is actually the hardest part!

We are also doing sewing around here.  I have the girls working on some simple projects to slowly build their skills - right now they are working on controlling speed and movement with the sewing machine with paper.  I was thinking a really good first project would be pillow cases.  They dislike skirts, so I doubt I could get them to make any of those, though they would be easy.  The next thing will be pajama pants, I think.  I am tempted to sew dresses for the little girls, but again, my eyes are always bigger than my time, so I am trying to limit myself a bit to just one thing at a time!

And of course, we are busy with the horses and all.  We are working with one of our young ponies to get her used to being handled and haltered and led.  It is less intimidating for my younger girls to start with a smaller horse, though Kiley is handling the big ones with no fear, no surprise there.  Her big guy (JT) is coming along really well.  Still growing and he is over 16 hands now!  But gentle as a puppy, though sometimes with as much energy.

I am looking forward to planning the garden for spring.  That activity usually gets me through the awful long days of winter.  Keeps me looking forward.

I have been speaking with other families who are waiting on their adopted children in Ethiopia - just like we are.  It is a hard spot to be in, we miss them so much, are waiting on all the changes we know they will bring to our lives, and there is nothing we can do but wait.  I am finding that I am a bit more patient this time around.  Maybe.  There is nothing I can do, except work to keep myself sane.  So, we are busy with home activities, remodeling, preparing, organizing and whatever else it takes to keep busy.  I am finding that this helps me the most.  I so want to be reading stories with Azeb and Kahsu, but I now that I will be one day.  Soon, this long winter of wait will be over.  We would love to hear that we need to go soon, but we just don't know.  One day the phone will ring, so in the meantime, I make the best of it.  I know that it is really hard for some, it is for me too, but I also have lots to do, so maybe that helps me.  Please keep our little girls in your prayers.  That God would keep them safe, and prepare their little hearts and minds for all the changes that are going to come for them.  That God would prepare us and help us to use this time to the best.

Happy New Year 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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christ is Born!!!!

I feel like I should say "well, sort of".  Yes, we are celebrating Christmas to commemorate Christ's birth.  I am so grateful overall.  Yes, we DO realize that he was actually born around Passover, which is around Easter time.  I get it.  Honestly, I get it even better than you might think.  Since we aren't totally sure of the actual birth date of several of our children (though we do believe that we are close, and the kids are very happy with what information we have and what dates they (and we) have settled on).  Honestly the celebration really doesn't matter what day it actually occurred.  How many times have we celebrated Christmas several times over the course of time, in order to celebrate with family and friends at convenient times.  It didn't really matter.

I am going to go out on a limb here, and I hope I am not scripturally widely off base here (but I will claim, that as being the mom to ten kids, running a small farm, homeschooling and all - well, I haven't researched it as well as I could have, as I am sure many academicians have - but, honestly, I don't think that He cares what day we pick to celebrate His birth.  Honestly, since we are more than two thousand years since His birth, I think He might forgive us for getting a bit mixed up about the actual day.  But I really don't see Christ caring.  I don't think He cares what day we tell Him we love Him.  I don't think He cares what day we do kindnesses in His name.  I think every day we should do kindnesses in His name!  As long as we are spending time trying to remember that He came, when He didn't have to, that He left His wonderful heaven, to live out our life here - dirty, painful, uncomfortable, and just plain messy.  I think of all the day in and day out things that we live through with human bodies, with an imperfect earth and with imperfect people - well, Christ came and lived it out just as we do.  He didn't have to.  Not to mention the Cross.  Just the daily things.  He didn't have to live it out.  I bet He got bellyaches, headaches, and all those human things.  He never had to do that.  And THEN He went to the Cross!

Anyway.  Tonight is Christmas Eve, as well as Aman's 16th birthday, and according to the paperwork I have, Azeb's 3rd birthday (while she is still far away in Ethiopia - I have been told not to dwell on that as I SO desperately want my littles home but am sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning patience, or at least complaining about it!).  Tonight we will set our simple Christmas presents under the tree, once the kids go to bed.  Nothing fancy, except one huge surprise that we were blessed with.  Before the kids are sent to bed, we will read the Christmas story from the book of Luke.  We will remind each other of what is important in life.  We will be thankful for our Lord and Savior, and our God who blessed us with His Son.  I don't know that I would have that strength - I am a bit of a "mama bear" as my husband says. 

God is good.  He has provided for all our needs.  We would always in our greed want more abundance - doesn't everyone, but we are learning thankfulness for a simple life.  I am so grateful for each and every one of my kids, for my devoted husband.  No woman is more blessed than I at this point.  I know gratitude and contentment (and I will be MUCH more content when Azeb and Kahsu are home!).  It is a long, hard lesson some days, but I imagine that Christ had to really wonder about all that He had left - imagine a soggy diaper!!!  Yuck!  That is WAY a human thing.

Anyway, God bless you all, be thankful for what you are blessed with, and remember that it isn't about "stuff".  It is about Christ, and family and love.  You know that I am preaching to myself too.  It would be great fun to shower my kids with all their desires, but that wouldn't be good for them, would it.  And so God is with us.  He blesses us in the RIGHT way.  WE cannot see that, but He does.  Merry Christmas everyone!  God bless you 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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A very merry Christmas!

This will be a short post, as our eldest son just called to let us know that he is done working, and dearest hubby would really rather not set himself in his car again - he puts many hours in that car, and I certainly cannot blame him.

We are reminded very concretely this season that we are here to celebrate the season, and not with stuff.  In some ways, there won't be a lot of "stuff" under the tree, but honestly, there is very little we can think of that we would like.  We have a big surprise for the kids, and lots of little ones.  We are so blessed - the kids are healthy, and we are making huge memories that will hopefully last them a lifetime.  Our home smells lovely with cloves and oranges, yummy baking, and pine branches.  We will spend Christmas day with a table full of food and extended family here.  What joy.  I am looking forward to Christmas Eve reading from the Bible with the kids, candles going, gingerbread baking, and everyone together.  What more can we ask for?  Except that hopefully by next Christmas we will have all ten of our children home!

Please remember the widow, the orphan, the fatherless and those in need this season.  That is what Christmas is about.  I am so grateful that our children are no longer orphans.  They have parents, food in their bellies, a warm bed, a rich life, and lots of love.  And a hope and a future and knowledge of their Savior.  Life is good.

In the New Year we will be meeting with folks who can help us file the appropriate paperwork for Stepping Stones Adoption Ministry, and we are praying for God to direct it to those who need anything we can offer.  I am so glad He has led us to people who know how these things work - we had no idea!  God is good!

"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, December 17, 2011

Christmas Day services or no Christmas Day services?

Agghhhh!  I got caught in a facebook debate today regarding Christmas Day and whether churches should have services because it is a Sunday.  Sigh.

Okay, Christmas Day happens to fall on a Sunday.  Yep, I get it.  I love our church, I firmly believe that attending a service with other believers is very important.  We volunteer many hours at our church and have for MANY years.  We continue to do so.  I will be withdrawing from teaching the three year olds when our little girls get home, more because they will need every second of my attention as we transition and I just cannot take any time off of that.  I LOVE teaching the three year olds!!!  They are so delightful, so joyful, so interesting, so lovely.  I will return to teaching them someday, when our littles don't need me as much.  Steve sings in church, weekly and will continue to do so until infinity, or his voice gives way.  Our boys serve in video ministry.  Alex serves in Latino worship band with his guitar.  The girls volunteer in the preschool.  We help out for special events, try to do whatever is needed.  No one expects or has ever asked for a thank you.  We get up at about 5AM on Sundays to get chores done on the farm before we get to church for 7:15 to 8AM (if we take two cars some of us can come later).  Then we are there until nearly 1PM.  And we love it.  We really do.  We tend to relax Sunday afternoons after a busy morning!

But, with Christmas falling on a Sunday, it was looking to be a challenge.  Can you imagine?  Christmas morning can wait, it surely can, but wow, it is a lot to ask of kids.  Adults, we can live with it.  Kids, agony, but they would and would be fine.  But when our Pastor announced that we would NOT be having a Christmas morning service, I have to admit that I was nearly grateful to tears.  Just the thought of getting up Christmas morning, throwing a pan of cinnamon rolls into the oven for my kids' hungry tummies, opening presents with their excited faces, in our pajamas, just sounded so wonderful.  Being able to sip coffee while watching them enjoy the things we so carefully thought out for them, not having to rush, or worry about getting fancied up, wow, it was beyond belief!!! 

See, for many years, especially with Steve singing, we have always been at church hours early, through all the services, helping in whatever way we can - we were there anyway at the very least.    We spent every Christmas, every Christmas Eve, every Sunday, every Easter, all of it, at church.  Sometimes that was hard, with kids and all.  The year Pastor Mark came on board and announced that for Christmas Eve he and his sons would be putting on the Christmas Eve service, it was the gift they were giving their musicians and singers and helpers.  We were shocked.  We had never, ever been able to be at home, with our own traditions or extended families.  Never in our married lives.  In our children's lives.  What a profound gift he gave us that year.  I literally sat in the pew and cried as it sunk in what that meant.  As much as we would have love to have attended, it was beyond amazing to celebrate it at home, with our kids, at our leisure.  It was so very special. 

So, this year, our wonderful church - Celebration Church in Green Bay - will NOT have a Christmas Day service.  It WILL have FABULOUS Christmas Eve services.  We all can pick up a DVD that they have available of a Christmas message and worship so we can do church at home, with our families. We WILL be doing that, and thankfully!

If you want to go to church, there are some who will be having services.  Please go!  Or attend Christmas Eve services instead.  We will celebrate our Lord's birth at our home.  I will listen to my kids' laughter, see their surprises, enjoy coffee with my husband and make a yummy breakfast for my kids.  Christ is all about families.  We live out our faith every single day, not just one day.  I hope that isn't taken as being selfish, but I am so happy that we can celebrate at home.  I think some folks are missing all that it takes to bring a great church service about.  I think they should volunteer also!  Come join in, serve others!  Our church literally takes at least 50 people there at 7AM to bring it all about.  That's a lot of families!  So, they were given the gift of the holiday at home, as a family from start to finish.  Personally, I don't think Christ begrudges me that joy!

So, Merry Christmas, no matter how you choose to spend it. However you do, it is all about the same thing!  Christ's miraculous birth and all that entails!  Thank you Jesus!!!!

"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

Christmas, adoption, concerts, and a skunk!

Hi all!
I have been terribly lax in keeping updated on the blog and am going to try to be better.  I never know if anyone reads it but my hubby, but it isn't really just about other people reading it, but it is a way for me to put our life in words, and keep in touch with anyone who wants to talk to us!  So, I hope this post sort of gets anyone caught up, and makes sense, because it has been busy as always!

Let's see, where to start?

I have been living in mental boxes in my mind, just to keep track of everything.  It was "play box", then "benefit box", and now we are in "Christmas box".

Play was great - see last post.  Benefit concert was last night - it was amazing!  Such great music!  Tons of fun silent auction items, great people, all of it was wonderful.  We were overwhelmed.  I was so glad we were able to share a little about our journey and our plans to help others move forward in adoption.  Stepping Stones Adoption Ministry is going to launch in 2012!!!!!  I will keep you posted as things come together.  Our hope is to be able to be a place where not only can we assist in the financial needs, but also support along the journey, post adoption, linking parents and families.  We have said all along that this cannot stop with our family.  We have a lot to learn, but have great mentors, so, we will pray for God's wisdom and guidance as we see how this grows!

Now to the Christmas box - final shopping this week, preparations for Christmas dinner at our house.  Christmas will be fairly simple in many ways, so much going on.  But we are most of all looking forward to spending time together with family and celebrating the reason for the season.  The tree is up and decorated, wrapping is commencing, and some surprises are planned.  Hooray!!!

One thing we are really working on is decluttering and paring down.  Whenever we have been to Ethiopia, we really realize how over the top we all live here.  We think we live pretty simply at our home, but we really feel that it is just too much, and so much can be better used.  So, we are clearing out whatever isn't used frequently and looking for what we can share and bless others with.  Quite often, we realize that we really need to depend on God for the future, not to try to stockpile for the future - whether it be clothing or collectibles or whatever.  We have been so blessed and have learned so many ways to frugally provide for needs, that to save up things isn't necessary.  Much better that things be used TODAY by people who need them TODAY!  The hardest part for me is my books.  I likely really, really don't need so many books.  But I love them and have so much that I want to read!  However the mountains on my dresser probably are a bit of overkill.  Hee, hee!

We are so blessed to have the privilege of watching our children grow and develop, and become the people God has called them to be.  They all have such interesting passions and interests and thoughts.  It is such an adventure seeing what God calls them to!  I would never have traveled some of these roads if it wasn't where God had called them.  What an adventure.

Oh, yeah, and the skunk.   I almost forgot that I promised to tell you about that.

Well, here is the funny farm story of the posting.  There always seems to be one, doesn't there?

Well, we have four dogs - yep, four.  Again, hadn't really planned on four, but they are a delight, most of the time.  Abby - our elderly white German shepherd, Ranger - our four year old black lab mix - finally calming down and not quite as hyper as he used to be, Boomer - Kiley's schnauzer/poodle mix - our first small dog ever and we can't figure out if he is a cat or a dog, and the newest addition, DeeDee - Faith's four month old English Cocker Spaniel/"something that looked like an australian shepherd mix - she is hysterical and adorable and just a pip.  Well, four dogs.

Our routine is that we let the dogs out together one last time just before bed.  Open the door, four dogs run out, run around for a couple minutes and do their business and come running back in when we open the door and call them in.  They everyone heads to bed.  Simple.  Practical.

Well, Tuesday night.  Steve is on his way home from practice for the benefit and picking up Alex from work.  It is nearly ten.  I am getting everyone ready for bed, and one of the boys shoos the dogs out for their final run.  Kids are picking up, I go to the porch door and call the dogs in.  They come running madly, as always, run right by me on the porch, as always, and right into the dining room - we always leave the door open and they rush right in and scatter to their respective resting places.  They come in, rush by me, into the dining room and living room and screaming erupts!  Then the smell hits me.  Oh, my goodness, skunk!!!!!  Screaming commences and all of us are yelling to get the dogs out of the HOUSE!!!!!!  Of course, the dogs are just their usual selves, wanting to greet us and do their usual routine.

Finally, all four are back outside.  The inside of the house reeks like skunk.  Really, really.  Ten o'clock at night.  Cold outside.  Dogs nailed by skunk.  Ugh.

What do you do now?  Ugh.  Tomato juice right?  Yep, in the pantry.  Is there enough for all four dogs?  I doubt it.  Hmm, they can't stay outside all night.  It is too cold.  Our dogs never stay outside at night.  Drat.  Vinegar is a great stench reducer, right?  So, we grab a large stock pot, put in tomato juice and vinegar and take it outside.  Corral a dog, hold it still, wash it in the mixture, then rinse with buckets of warm water the kids are hauling from the house.  One dog at a time, every towel in the house.  Get one descented and rinsed and somewhat toweled off and allow it back in the house.  Then move on to the next dog.  Started with big dogs, moved down the line to small dogs.  It is COLD outside!  We are finishing the last dog when Steve and Alex pull in.  According to them, they got a quarter mile away and began to smell the skunk smell.  It was very strong down near the end of the driveway (here envision them hoping that this means that a skunk was hit my a car near our property).  When they pull in, they see kids in the yard, holding a dog in all the chaos.  And it rapidly sinks in what all these things mean!  Yikes!

We lit every candle in the house and it actually did help significantly with the smell.  Wow.  What a nightmare!  LOL!  At least we all decided to laugh through it all.  It was humorous if you looked at it in the right way.  Especially now, rather than then.

Sadly, there is no demise of a skunk to report.  Likely they scared it off that day, and we are pretty sure that Ranger was the one that got directly nailed as he stunk the worst and needed two washings.  Abby must have been next to him, because it was just worst on one side of her, and the little dogs only ran through the mist or something as they didn't smell as badly as the others!  I am hoping that they scared it off so it won't come back.  We shall have to see.  I am going to make sure we have a huge amount of a recipe to get rid of skunk smell.  It is likely that this will occur again.  Sigh.  We will have to make an adventure of it, won't we???  LOL!

Merry Christmas to anyone who reads this.  Love your family, enjoy your time together.  This season is not about stuff, it is about Christ's birth, family time and celebrating all that we are blessed with.  Be a secret Santa to someone!  I was reading about the layaway payoffs that have been in the news - what fun to do that!  Take the moment to reach out and bless someone, even a little.  It makes a huge difference!  Be Christ's hands!!!!!  Merry Christmas!!!


"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

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Talk about being out of my comfort zone!!!

And now for something totally different - wasn't that what the Monty Python show used to start with?  Wow, am I aging myself by stating that?  Anyway, for something totally different.

If you have read my blog for any amount of time, generally it is about kids, homesteading, adoption, and faith.  Well, I am working outside my comfort zone so I thought I would try to share that!

I am in a play.  It isn't the first time, actually, it is the third, but the other two times, it was the same play (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) that is done each year by Evergreen Productions in Green Bay, WI.  And both times several of my kids have been in it, so you know I was added in because of them.  Well, I tried out for Fruitcakes along with one of my children.  That is the adult stage for Evergreen Productions' Christmas show - they do one each year - one for the adult stage and one for the children's stage.

I got a part.  Just me.  No one else in the family.

Which means that I didn't get a part because someone else did!  Wow.  Mind blowing.  SO not what I usually do!  I tried out on a whim.  I have NEVER been on stage before the last couple years - and my part was really small in Best.  That was just fine with me.  This time, my part is more extensive and certainly more flamboyant!  Wow.

After I got over my shock, our life took off - I had play rehearsal, Solly and Tsion had play rehearsal for Best, and then, well, we took a trip to Ethiopia.  Yeah, nothing really going on, right?

Honestly, Steve and the kids are the ones with the theater interests and drive, not me.  But it does look like fun.

Tonight was our second show.  It was amazing.  Both nights we had great audiences (that means audiences that get into the show, and laugh and clap so you know they like it), and both nights we got standing ovations!!!!!  I am so proud that I only forgot one line in two performances, and covered for the one I did forget!  Tonight, I didn't forget a thing!  And it was fun!  I have to admit, I did become more expressive as the audience seemed to respond.

Anyway, this is so not me.  So not what I usually do, but wow, is it fun!!!  Three days ago I was convinced I would never do theater again, I would go back to being the theater mom, shuttling my kids back and forth and helping backstage.  Tonight I see why people put all that work and effort into it.  It is worth it.  Way fun!  I don't even really know how to explain it, but as great fun!

So, for the next week, I am "Betty Jane", and much more interesting than I usually am.

The only down side, is that I come home so wired after our shows, that I am still awake at 12:30 AM.  The upside is that I will then be writing!  LOL!

This is a good way to pass the time while we wait on our little girls.  I was so worried that I would miss them so terribly after coming back that I would temporarily be a basket case, but Fruitcakes has kept me very busy!  I am still knitting things for our benefit during the show though!  December 16th is going to be a great concert!!!!!

Anyway, I am going to try to settle down as we get up early for church!  This all takes a lot of energy!

"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