Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's lovely to have friends!

Especially sweet blogging friends like Brenda from Coffee Tea Books and Me! Thank you so much Brenda, for passing on the 'I Love Your Blog' award to me! I was feeling rather neglectful of my blog of late - it really is quite low on the list of priorities at this point, but as I do take time to share a bit and pass on yummy recipes, I keep on hoping that I am being an encouragement to others, as so many others have been to me!

I'm to answer the following questions with a one word answer and to pass on the award. Like Brenda, I had to cheat about that one word a few times, after all I didn't want to give the impression that I only had one item of clothing on!

Where is your cell phone? Purse
Where is your significant other? Work
Your hair color? Brunette
Your mother? Joy
Your father? Bill
Your favorite thing? Family
Your dream last night? Stressful
Your dream/goal? Heaven
The room you’re in? Conservatory
Your hobby? Crafting
Your fear? Bridges
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Home
Where were you last night? Bed
What you’re not? Energetic
One of your wish-list items? Health
Where you grew up? Canada, eh?
The last thing you did? Breakfast
What are you wearing? Skirt & Sweater
Your TV? Off
Your pet? Peppermint
Your computer? HP
Your mood? Reflective
Missing someone? Mum
Your car? Odyssey
Something you’re not wearing but that you love to wear? Blouse
Favorite store? Hobby Lobby
Your summer? Short
Love someone? Many!
Your favorite color? Sage
When is the last time you laughed? Today
Last time you cried? Sunday - migraine

I like so many blogs so it is hard to pick just one to pass this award along to! I think this time, I'll pass the award along to Amy at Beautiful Descent. Amy is a very thoughtful blogger who always encourages my heart with her posts - especially when I think about her difficult circumstances. So, here's your award Amy - and feel free to just accept it without doing the questions if you are not up to it right now!

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Simple Autumn Joys - Oven Apple Butter

Today, I thought I'd share with you one of our fall Simple Autumn Joys - making apple butter. I wasn't feeling quite at the top of my game on the day I made it this week, so please excuse the lack of my own pictures of the process. Despite feeling unwell, the Oven Apple Butter turned out perfectly! Yum!

Are you ready to begin? Strap on your apron, put on some comfortable shoes, play some favorite fall tunes, enlist your helpers and let's get ready to make Oven Apple Butter.

This is my Nanny's recipe, and she has made a note on it that it wasn't a family favorite - but we love it! I don't think I ever remember her making it, or it would have been a favorite for sure. She must have stopped making it before I was big enough to enjoy her efforts! I still use my Nanny's extra large enamel roasting pan. How fun is that?

Begin by buttering the inside of the roasting pan - and even the inside of the lid. This will save you so much clean up later - you'll be glad you did!

Next, remove all the racks from you oven except the lowest one. Test fit your roasting pan and make sure it can go in with the lid on. This is pretty important!

Measure 6 cups of sugar and mix in 1 tablespoon of good cinnamon,
1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. cloves. Set this aside.

Take 6 cups of fresh pure apple cider, place it in a heavy bottom pot and simmer it slowly
until it has reduced to 1 cup.
While the cider is simmering, begin to prepare your apples.

I started with a bushel of 'seconds' and didn't quite use the whole bushel. There is more waste on these imperfect apples, but the price was $8, so I'm willing to do a bit more work to save $$$.
We compost all our fruit and veggie scraps, so there really isn't any waste.
Wash all of your apples well.
I used 1/2 Cortland and 1/2 Melrose - but any nice cooking apples will do.

Are you familiar with the Apple Peeler Corer Slicer? It will be your best friend today.
This is where your little helpers will excel! They love to turn the handle and crank out the sweet peeled slices of apples! They also love to taste test those apples!

Just a quick tip - this handy gadget works best when the apples are firm and not bruised - you will get frustrated if you try to peel soft or wizened apples!
It really makes short work of this job! We had the almost bushel peeled in about 20 minutes!
Be mindful that the juicer the apple, the sticker your kitchen will be - juice flies!

Layer peeled apples and sugar mixture in your buttered roaster until it is filled almost to overflowing! Squish those apples down!

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Pour the cider syrup over the apples in the roaster and cover the
roaster with your buttered (inside) lid.

The roaster will be very very heavy, so be careful not to hurt your back
as you slip it into the oven.

Just leave the apple butter for about 5 hours or so. Things will begin to smell just wonderful in your kitchen as you dispose of the apple peels and rinse the sticky counter - again!
You'll likely need to wash the floor, but that's fine - you have time.

Give your apple butter a good stir on this time schedule:
5 hours - can you see how much the apples have reduced already?
7 hours - turn down oven to 250 degrees
9 hours - beginning to get dark and rich!
10 hours - you are almost there - it's getting thick!
11 hours - stir with a whisk to smooth any lumps
12 hours - it's dark and rich and lovely!

At the 11 hour, prepare your canning jars - 14 pint sized jars should be enough, but boil up a few jelly jars too - just to have on hand for the last bit, or on purpose for gift giving if you like. Make sure to use all new lids - the rings can be reused if they are rust free and not dented. Use a separate pot to simmer the lids - this softens the rubber.

Do you have some canning tools on hand? They will make this job so much easier!
Fill hot sterilized jars to about 1/2" from top - I love my wide mouth canning funnel for this.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth. Place flat lid rubber side down and screw on the metal ring - just 'finger tight' - no need to force it.
When all of the jars are filled, place them in a deep pot, on a rack so they don't touch the bottom and fill the pot with boiling water to 2 " over the top of the jars. Boiling water process for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit for 10 minutes. Remove jars by lifting the jar straight up and placing gently on a towel lined counter. You'll likely need to repeat this boiling water bath for the remaining jars since you can usually only get 7-8 in a canner or large pot.

Let your jars sit for 12 hours and than check that the lid is on firmly - the top will be slightly indented. You can remove the rings if you like, wipe the jars, label and date - store in a cool dark place.

Enjoy this Simple Autumn Joy!

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Nanny's 12 Hour Oven Apple Butter

6 cups of fresh pure apple cider, reduced to 1 cup

6 -8 cups of sugar - depends on tartness of apples

1 tablespoon of good cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 bushel of apples - a variety is nice!

Cook in roasting pan in slow oven for 12 hours. Can. Makes 12 pints.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

I enjoy participating in Peggy's Simple Woman's Daybook when I am able.
It's a great way to start the week with a positive focus.

For Today
Monday, September 22, 2008
Autumnal Equinox
Happy Fall Y'All!

Outside My Window...
There is a thick fog over the fields and the sun is burning through it very quickly.

I am thinking...
We'll need sweaters this morning, but by afternoon we'll be warm.

From the learning rooms...
Piano lessons for Dreamer, History with the Historain for both children.
Things are going well so far this year - I need to place another curriculum order soon.

I am thankful for...
A brand new week and progress with Mount Ironmore!
It is good to start the week having some hope that you'll find the bottom of the basket!

I am praying for ...
some quiet time this week to take time to listen to the still small voice of God.

From the kitchen...
Apple Butter making today or tomorrow - we have a bushel of apples, so maybe two batches!
The children have requested that we celebrate fall with Pumpkin Cookies, so we'll be making those too today!

I am wearing...
Long khaki skirt, blouse and sweater .... for now!

I am creating...
a few more tassels for my order due on Friday and a large pile of household stuff to give away - we are thinning out the house again and just being ruthless with anything we have not been using recently.

I am going...
Taking Dreamer to piano lessons and later we need to find her some new Sunday shoes - I'm going to look through the ads later - hopefully someone has woman's shoes on a good sale this week.

I am reading...
just my Bible during quiet time this morning
and my Bible Study Book

I am hoping...
to finally get our weekly schedule all worked out this week so that we all know what must be done and when.

I am hearing...
all the soothing early morning sounds and our grandfather clock chiming 7am

Around the house...
bathrooms need attention and the whole house needs to be vacuumed - soon!

One of my favorite things...
looking at my well stocked pantry and knowing that we are well prepared for winter

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
  • tackling Mount Ironmore - I shall overcome!
  • I really need a cut and color!
  • appointment for The Storyteller with his speech therapist
  • catching up on paperwork and mail
  • cleaning -bathrooms and vacuum
  • putting out some fall decorations to celebrate the season
  • some sewing - Dreamer has a birthday coming!
  • apple butter making
  • hopefully my new oven will be installed

Here is a picture thought I am sharing...

This is our Historian - when we were at Mackinaw, we climbed a tall tower overlooking the Straits of Mackinaw. I took this picture from the top! My favorite view of all is my Historian.

Thank you for reading my daybook!

Be sure to visit Peggy to read more Daybooks!
There are many others participating in The Simple Woman's Daybook
and it is so much fun to read their thoughts!

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Rhythm of Fall?

The rhythm of fall is usually a very good thing, but so far, we are not quite into our pleasant routine! We are working on it though, and ironing out some of the bugs to make for less last minute panic and more joy! The problem is that just when I think I've got our week together, there is a change of plans or routine that requires yet another adjustment. Since I am not great at mid course corrections, this causes a bit of stress, but we will work it out soon, I'm sure! In the meantime, I am just plain old tired out! Since my brain has been going to bed long before my body, I figured blogging would just be an exercise in futility!

I hope that I don't sound like I am complaining! Our plates are simply full of too many good things in this season that require some logistical juggling, and prioritizing to make it all work smoothly. We are not willing to give up certain things that make our home and family healthy and happy - like family dinners at the table 5 nights out of 7 and of course, homemade pizza and video night! We are loving soccer, but I'll be glad to have our Saturday's back - often by the time we get home I have very little energy left for home chores!

I've also been doing some fall nesting - as in thinning out! Again! I can't get over how much stuff we have that we never ever use! Where did it all come from? I know I didn't bring it in to our home .... or did I? We are planning to donate everything household related to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store since they are building two new homes in our area and can use the help.

I did sneak a wee bit of tasselling (for an order) and thrift shopping into the week. Hopefully I'll have time to do something fun with my finds and transform them from 'hohum' to 'wow' soon! I'll post my tassels on my other blog BeTasseled, so if you'd like to pop over and peek there, you are more then welcome!

Tomorrow is the first day of fall - officially! Yeah! Bring on the delights of fall! We started our fall joys with a trip to the apple orchard yesterday after soccer. We have a bushel of the finest tasting apples filling our kitchen with such an amazing fragrance of fruit. We bought 3 gallons of cider - fresh pressed from some of the apples that fell a bit early due to the fierce winds of Ike last weekend. One gallon is gone already! I made Apple Cider Slush for a treat and the kids were delighted! I feel better giving them that here at home then buying it at the farm market for $3 each!

Apple Cider Slush

If you have a manual or electric ice cream maker like this one, it's quite simple to make! Just pour some ice cold fresh apple cider in the frozen drum, put in the blade and cover with the lid and turn it on. It took about 10 minutes to make wonderful slush, which we serve in frozen mugs with straws and spoons! Don't eat too fast - or - brain freeze! Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Old Fashioned Tomato Soup

What do you do when you've got too many tomatoes? Why, make soup of course! I had about 6 quarts of frozen tomatoes that started to thaw when the power was out, so I made a double batch of tomato soup yesterday. It does not freeze well because it is a creamy soup and will separate, so we will be eating it for a while, and we have already given 3 quarts away.

Old Fashioned Tomato Soup

4 tablespoons butter

1 small cooking onion, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups good chicken stock

3 quarts of chopped tomatoes, fresh, canned or frozen

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

fresh ground pepper

1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. oregano

2 cups of light cream or half and half, heated

Melt butter in large stock pot and saute onions and garlic just until translucent - do not brown. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, sugar, baking soda and seasonings. Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. My double batch took much longer because the tomatoes were still partly frozen but eventually, I had a nice thick tomato mixture. Puree until smooth using a hand held blender or in small batches in a traditional blender or food processor. Return to pot and slowly add heated cream, blending well. Heat through but do not allow to boil after cream is added as curdling may occur. Taste for seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 3 quarts.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, naturally!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Windstorm Report

Our losses are so small, especially when compared to what those who live in the Gulf regions have suffered these past weeks. We did have a huge windstorm rip through Ohio yesterday afternoon, courtesy of Ike. We were at a church family lunch potluck yesterday and the winds were really picking up by the time we headed home. Huge branches were on the road and smaller ones were falling all around us as we drove slowly home. The air was filled with dried yellow field corn husks. Our power was out for about 15 hours, but it wasn't too much trouble for us - we just lit some candles, read, played games and went to bed early. When we awakened we were still without power, but about noon it came back on, so we are very very thankful.

Areas to the south of us were much harder hit and there are many in central Ohio that may be without power for up to a week. Our freezers did a great job keeping everything well frozen. The fridge freezer items began to thaw out a bit so I am making tomato soup. We lost our ice cream and Popsicles, but not much else. I had a double batch of homemade freezer waffles in the freezer for quick breakfasts on soccer mornings and co-op days, and they were totally thawed. Next anticipated storm, we will move things to the bigger freezer for sure!

I made banana bread with the thawed bananas and the old fashioned tomato soup is simmering away. I'll give you the recipe tomorrow! Today we are working on school work- included storm reports for current events and science. We were out picking up branches before breakfast, which was sausage and scrambled eggs made in a cast iron fry pan on the grill by our wonderful Historian! He even grilled some bread for toast. You're the best honey! When the soup is done, I'll be taking some over to Mr. Neighbor. I have some fruit that is thawed too - perhaps a little cobbler is in order! We'll be eating hot dogs since they are thawed - they are all natural and the kids love them for a treat. I guess this is a treat day!

We are so thankful for a well stocked house and the ability to make do - with a spirit of adventure, for the most part. I was pretty grumpy and not feeling my best, but everyone else was cheerfully doing what needed to be done! We are praising the Lord for safety and peace in the midst of the storm.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

goodbye sea shells .... hello pumpkins

Fall is truly my very favorite time of year - for all the same reasons it seems to be popular with so many others! Just having a change in season is such a blessing, and when it comes with bright blue skies, orange, red and yellow leaves and the wonderful scent of a wood fire - well, I'd say it's pretty close to perfect.

I enjoy the cooler nights for sleeping and the warm days - peeling off my cozy sweater mid morning to enjoy the warm sunshine. I love the beginning of the new home school year - so many plans and so much to learn together - it's exciting. I like getting back into routine and tweaking our schedule until it works into a pleasant rhythm. I'm happy to put the garden to bed and leave the weeding for the spring. Planting bulbs gives me enormous hope for beauty next year, and the smell of burning leaves simply makes me giddy.

Long walks through crisp leaves, huge displays of humble mums putting on a show, and pumpkins - ripe with possibilities! Pies, cakes, bars and breads. Cookies and tarts too! All served with steaming cups of sweetly spiced cider or marshmallow strewn hot chocolate to ward off 'the chill'.

Our hearts fill with joy each fall as we celebrate the birth of our darling Dreamer and give thanks for her young life, and soon after, our wedding anniversary and Canadian Thanksgiving - which often fall at the same time. American Thanksgiving gives us another reason to count our blessings, focus on this great land's spiritual heritage and enjoy the bounty of the harvest.

All in all, there is very little to dislike about fall. Even the rains are gratefully welcomed, instantly cleansing and so refreshing. In my mind, the one and only blight of the season comes on the 31st of October, but you've heard my voice on that issue before. We can hold two opinions and still be friends, I'm sure. That's why they call us the grown ups, right? Now, if I had to rake all the leaves from the 20+ trees on our almost acre of yard, there might just be two blights, but thankfully we have hired help - two willing children!

So, why isn't my home sparkling with cleanliness and resplendent with fall's bounty in keeping with my love for autumn? I could say I've been too busy, or tired out by the post vacation 'jump in to school routine' and that would be partly true, but the truth of the matter is that I have been thoughtfully struggling - a woman divided between two courses of action.

I keep thinking about that Scripture verse in James.

James 1:8

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

I surely don't want to be double minded, but I have had a small dilemma to prayerfully work my way through. On one hand, I am so incredibly inspired by those wonderful, talented women who are bedecking their homes in celebration of all things fall-ish and then sharing their autumn inspirations on their blogs. On the other hand, I greatly admire my friend who doesn't decorate for fall at all in her lovely home, but saves her resources to tastefully decorate in a Christ centered celebration of The Savior - during the Christmas season.

In my humble opinion, Christmas is a season we need to be heart ready for every single day of our lives, because while Christ's first coming was well prophesied and anticipated, it was certainly not on man's timetable - and while we may differ in our eschatology (and still love one another), the Word of God clearly says that His second coming will catch many off guard as well. So, we need to be ready - everyday!

Did I get off track there? As usual! Well, I thought for a bit that perhaps I just need to cleanse my home decorating 'pallet'. I mean - I've just recently reluctantly put away the pretty sea shells, soft green mossy things and summer berries and now our home looks a bit bare and sparse. I'm thinking it's not a bad thing. Easier to dust - for sure! Still, I should get busy, right? But, I don't want to decorate because I feel like I must, or to keep up with the Jones' - in this case other blogging friends. I want to bless our home with reminders of the splendor of God's breathtaking creation just for the sheer joy of it - and that somehow doesn't include feeling pressured or harried.

My solution to this dilemma came when I concluded that this is just another baby step in the ongoing process of learning to clarify my priorities and balance my resources. It's like the common preacher's illustration about the rocks in the jar. If you put the pebbles and sand in first, there's just no way to fit in the big rocks. They have to go in the jar first, followed by the pebbles and lastly the sand. The rocks are compared to the important things of life, the pebbles are of less import, the sand is all of the extras and the jar represents our lives.

Right now, in this season, decorating for fall simply amounts to sand in my jar.

The 'big rocks' that have to go in my life jar first are faith - starting with my own relationship with God, my Father. Have I mentioned how much I love the ladies Bible Study I am involved with during the school year? I'm so excited to be back at it because I am privileged to be with a group of ladies who love the Lord and His Word each week. Family comes next and the first priority there is to continue building on the solid, Christ-centered foundation of our marriage. Or it should be - we're working on that! It's hard to carve out time for ourselves. Parenting intentionally is naturally next in my family category and a huge part of that is homeschooling. Homekeeping falls in the category of family care as well, as I am everyday reminded that my attitude sets the atmosphere in our home. Since I am currently just keeping my head above water in this area, I know our home is not as peaceful and harmonious as I long it to be. I have work to do in that area, for sure. Other 'rocks' include our ministry commitments and personal relationships. Friendships are valued and require nurturing as well.

Some of my personal 'pebbles' include my passion for creativity. I am not well balanced and contented when I am not employing my creativity. My health concerns are also taking up some of my time and energy. Exercising hospitality has been a bigger part of our lives in the past, but in this current season it has become a pebble sized priority - my goal for this school year is to have one weekend a month where we have a family or two for a meal. We'll see how it goes.

I think making our home warm, inviting and comfortable and keeping it clean are very important, but they sometimes have taken too high a priority in my thoughts, and taken their toll on my time and energy. It's an area I am trying to find balance in. When I am able to go beyond the basics and make something lovely for our home, that's just a bonus. What used to be a pebble in other seasons of my life is now becoming sand - I'll fit it in when and if I have time and desire.

So, if you are expecting to see some fabulous fall ideas here, well, you're going to be disappointed ... for now! I hope we'll get to unearthing the bins of fall decorations from the attic this weekend, but well see. In the meantime, I'm burning my pumpkin spice candle and sifting through everyone's great fall project pictures, and taking notes. By and by, I'm sure I'll take some of those great ideas and make them my own - within the scope of my resources and in tune with my personal set of priorities for this wonderful season of our lives.

It feels so good to have that all thought out and prayed through now. If I get all in a panic about this again, will you remind me? I'd appreciate it!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A bushel of tomatoes, peaches and broken glass ...

... or the random ramblings of a very tired momma! You pick!

I started the morning in prayer and with many great plans for a productive 'at home' kind of day. Now I'm off to bed at 8:30 pm and I only got three things checked off my list. There were 13!

I started by blanching and freezing a half bushel of peaches - easy peasy as our children say. We are already looking forward to eating them partly thawed with vanilla ice cream mid winter. So good! I'll be doing many more of those for sure, if I can get more nice peaches like these were.

Then I assembled the ingredients for Nanny's Chili Sauce. I am the keeper of the family recipe for chili sauce. It is a deep red tomato based condiment served with roasts, meatpies, meatloaf and just off the spoon if you are like my mum! So 12 cups of chopped onions, 8 cups of celery, 12 quarts of blanched tomatoes, 10 cups of vinegar , sugar, various peppers and secret spices tied in a cloth bag and so on. I had it in three pots since my stock pot isn't large enough. By 4 o'clock it all fit in the big pot - quite a reduction! It's one of those simmer all day, stir often and watch for it to stick kind of things, so, I was pretty much tied to the kitchen all day.

We did do some really productive school work - some catching up in reading and math, and our core subjects. Just the basics, thank you very much. I had to stir! Lunch break involved fresh air and outdoor play time - which unfortunately included the sandbox. It rained last night. It hasn't rained in weeks, so I forgot to tell them to stay clear of it, since it would be soggy. I realized my mistake when the son of the mudpeople Storyteller came in for lunch.

Since they were entering the 1/2 of the house that was pretty much in hand after yesterday's cleaning, this meant it only one thing. A change of clothes.

Problem - the ironing from vacation time is not done up. Did you know I was going to say that? Of course you did! In case you are wondering why we iron everything, it's because 99% of our clothes are natural fibers and we hang to dry. I am allergic to polyester and only use the dryer in cases of great need. Thus my nemesis Mount Ironmore grows and mocks me. My friend Michele used to come most weeks and tackle the mountain, but she moved far far away! Miss you Michele - and not just because of your mountain taming abilities!

Back to my tale of woe. I sent the Dreamer to forage on Mount Ironmore for a pair of shorts for the now clean son of the mudpeople Storyteller. Sadly, she ignored my instructions, her delivery got a little carried away and somehow involved a swinging belt and ended in a resounding crash!

The Storyteller has a vintage airplane room - and this was his light fixture:

It's actually the second one. We bought the first one on a great sale at Lowes almost 4 years ago and he loved it. A swinging belt took it out once before, but although it was discontinued, we were able to buy a floor model that was in decent shape for $50 and piece the old with new to reconstruct the fixture. I don't think we're going to be so blessed this time.

The glass really shattered this time and it was a huge huge mess to tidy up. I got two shards in my foot - I'm not sure how. I was planning to vacuum the second half of the house today, but his room got the full treatment.

Thus the rest of the list was ignored.

If you are wondering about Nanny's Chili Sauce - 17 pints will have to be enough for this year! It almost burned - just a wee sticky patch, but nothing to wreck the batch, thankfully!!! The whole house will smell like chili sauce for at least three days which really rocks my tummy, since I don't eat the stuff! The children think it smells terrible and flee the house like rats from a stinking sinking ship whenever they can while I am making it!

I've decided if we do find a bi-plane lamp to replace it we are definitely confiscating ALL belts!

What a day! Off to bed! Tomorrow is a new day, fresh, with no mistakes.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

I almost missed this today, but since I missed last week, I didn't want to miss again this week!
Better late then never, right?

I am enjoying participating in Peggy's Simple Woman's Daybook.
It's a great way to start the week with a positive focus.

For Today
Monday, September 8, 2008
fall is in the air ...

Outside My Window...
it's dark now, night is upon us
it's cool and perfect for sleeping

I am thinking...
it's been a long day!
Is it time for bed yet?

From the learning rooms...
plunging in feet first - our first full week of school is underway.
Math review and reading practice are high on the list of must do's!

I am thankful for...
home sweet home and my own bed after 4 nights in a hotel

I am praying for ...
inspiration - I need to re-configure our home school set up
present set up just is not working for me!

From the kitchen...
a bushel of tomatoes and 1/2 bushel of peaches need my attention

I am wearing...
jammies ... it's time for bed, remember?

I am creating...
tomorrow's to do list

I am going...
to sleep well

I am reading...
just my Bible during quiet time this morning
and school work with the children
I need to read my vacation mail pile soon!

I am hoping...
to wake up early

I am hearing...
all the soothing night sounds and our grandfather clock

Around the house...
1/2 clean 1/2 disaster

One of my favorite things...
listening to the quiet breathing of our two sleeping children, snug in their beds

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
  • tackling Mount Ironmore - again
  • catching up on paperwork and mail
  • cleaning the disaster 1/2 of the house
  • some sewing
  • cleaning the fridge
  • canning the tomatoes and freezing the peaches

Here is a picture thought I am sharing...

Our happy travelers!

Thank you for reading my daybook!

Be sure to visit Peggy to read more Daybooks!
There are many others participating in The Simple Woman's Daybook
and it is so much fun to read their thoughts!

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

So this is what it feels like ...

On Thursday this week I learned something very wonderful about God's special provision in my life. God provides for us faithfully in so many ways, but in this case, I'm referring to an intangible - a deep longing - something that has been a part of me ever since I can remember.

When I was a little girl, I loved children. That might sound funny, but it's true. The story is told of the day my Mum hosted an afternoon baby shower. I was just 5, not yet in school and quite happy that the invited ladies brought their pre-schoolers and wee babies to the event. I was elected to keep them entertained while the ladies had their refreshments and the honored mother-to-be opened her gifts. After a while the women began to wonder why they were not being interrupted by chaos from the next room. One mother chose to check on the unnaturally quiet children, and there I was, in the midst of them all, playing games, telling stories, singing songs and keeping them all quite happy. The quiet lasted for hours which was apparently quite remarkable given my age and number of little ones in my charge.

The funny thing is, I think that I actually remember that day.

It was just the beginning of my realization that I really loved children. I longed to grow up and be a Mommy with many many young children. A houseful would be perfect, in fact! In case I never married and had my own, I prayerfully chose education as my course of study, knowing that at least I would be permitted to teach the children I loved by day, and send them all home to their parents care at night. I could make do with borrowed children, if I had to.

By God's divine design, I joyously married my dear Historian and moved far from home. I became the 'Pastor's Wife' and enjoyed fulfilling that role. I continued to be involved in children's ministries, borrowing other peoples children to care for each week in Sunday School and having to give them back each time. Together, my young Historian and I dreamed about the family God would bless us with. Sooner rather than later was our plan.

Do things ever go quite as we plan? I remember the day we were told that parenthood was pretty unlikely for us. We had undergone a series of tests and the results were pretty conclusive. It was going to take a miracle for us to conceive, or a series of costly procedures which may or may not produce the longed for children.

We made some choices, we prayerfully drew our ethical lines - we knew that once we started the road of infertility treatments our vision might become blurred by the desperation waiting parents feel when things don't go well with Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C. We decided where we would stop before we began, just so we'd be clear. We paid our ticket and rode the roller coaster of failed infertility treatments, and got off just before we lost all hope. We investigated adoption, began that long prayerful wait and we grew in our understanding of God's perfect timing and provision. Through it all we just could not seem to avoid listening to so many who had such well meaning but generally hurtful, and not often helpful, tidbits of advice.

We laughed and cried. Prayed. Waited. Prayed. Hoped. Prayed. Waited.

Rinse and repeat daily for months without end, which rapidly turn to years.

Someone thoughtfully suggested that maybe God never intended us to parent. We chose to forgive their hurtful manner and look for the nugget of truth in their words. We prayed, knowing that our God is not one to toy with His beloved children. We asked Him to remove our desire for children if He didn't intend to grant our heart's deepest longing, aside from knowing Him more.

He never removed my hearts desire. Until Thursday - as in, just this past Thursday.

We've been married almost 17 years, and for the first time ever I can truthfully say, I don't want any more children. I cannot believe I just typed that. It's still so new to me. I am completely content with the blessings God has chosen for us and don't long to add to the the gift He has already given. I've often said we would be a 'quiver full family' - but we were just equipped with a really small quiver.

We are blessed to be the parents of two - our real life and in full color reminders of God's perfect gifts.

You can read about the sorrows that came along our path to parenthood here - the heartache of our 'interrupted adoption placement'. Our boy, who was never really ours turned 11 in March. We pray for him and think of him, and commit him to God's care.

Our joyful, beautiful, completed adoption brought us our sweet, just about 11 year old Dreamer. What a blessing she is! Miscarriage broke our hearts but gave us hope. Remember that miracle our doctors mentioned we would need? We lovingly refer to him as our Storyteller and he is 8 years old.

Just a few months ago, I could still feel the deep longing for more. Even with homeschooling two challenging, often non-compliant, very active children. Even with my rapidly advancing years and liver disease. Even when I knew in my heart of hearts that my body is just too old, too tired and labeled with an 'incurable' that disqualifies us from adopting again. Even when I knew my husband has quite enough to take care of and is wonderfully happy with our two joys - and has been completely content for some time, in fact. Even then.

I recently prayed again for God to remove the longing for more and help me to be completely content.

God is so good.

On Thursday we started our homeschool co-op and I was a very delighted 'baby rocker' in the nursery and toddler room. What a joy to be surrounded with three nursing moms and their dear dear babies. I was so honored to be entrusted to care for their 'fresh from heaven' blessings even for just a brief time.

When I handed them back over to their mothers, I knew a sweet peace that I have really had to think about to understand. For the first time ever in my adult life, I didn't hurt a little bit deep down inside when I held those sweet babies. Even with our own babies, my joy was so very great, but there was a tiny bit of bittersweet - an ever so subtle shade of discontent ... more, please, more Lord. Knowing it was so very very unlikely, but still longing, deep deep down.

No more.

So this is what it feels like when God shows His provision in even the deepest buried longings of my heart. A wonderful peaceful contentment that's just too lovely to describe. I love what the Psalmist penned in Psalm 34 ~

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

and longings

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just so you wont worry ...

I thought I'd better let you know why I have been MIA on my blog.

Knitting on the shores of Lake Huron ... watching the children jump in the waves.

Walking the Mackinaw Bridge ... our 11 year tradition.
Snacks about halfway to keep us going!
Water and fishy crackers really hit the spot at mile #3!

Just barely making it to the finish line ... but making it!
Thank you, Lord!

Spending some time in the canopy of the forest .... really!
I don't like heights and I am very afraid of bridges, but God gives victory over our fears!
Adventures like this can't be done in skirts - thank goodness for capris!
Can you see that Poppa and Grammy surprised us by joining us in Mackinaw?
What a blessing to have them come and share in our fun!

Zip line fun ... from the top of the trees to the forest floor .... safely!
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

A little living history ... hands on is always the best for a boy like our Storyteller!

I just can't get enough of this view ... it means so much to our family.

Our annual Labor Day pilgrimage to Mackinaw City MI is over
and we are home sweet home.
We have many sweet memories and just a little bit of fudge to enjoy for the days to come.
Life is such a blessing.

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