Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's finally Fall!

"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. Then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil."
--Deuteronomy 11:13-14
After weeks of 85-degree afternoons, we woke up to gray skies and weather that actually felt like autumn.

Yesterday we celebrated my middle son's sixth birthday at the park, and it was so warm the ice cream melted before we got to the cupcakes. We've had plenty of sunny Octobers, but none so consistently warm that I remember.

But today the wind has been blowing, and the front yard is covered with leaves from our mulberry tree. I had the kids come inside to play when the wind picked up and the air began filled with dust. Hopefully it will actually rain soon.

In the meantime, we've been carving our pumpkins, drinking hot chocolate and cider, and eating too many sweets. I made rice krispy treats, and our neighbors made the most adorable cupcakes with peanut butter cup bats on them. Then we traded, of course.

I love being able to spend the day at home when the weather is too nasty to go out. We've had so many busy days lately, lots of running errands and doing fun things, too, but I've been craving a day just to stay home and play. I've been craving this change in the weather after the Indian summer we've had.

I would share pictures of today's fun, but my camera gave out again this week. Fortunately, I was planning to replace it soon anyway, and I found a great deal on eBay. Now I'm just hoping my new digital SLR arrives soon!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin blessings

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

--John 12:24 (NIV)

We attempted to grow pumpkins this summer, and were not very successful. But I learned some things:

1. Do not try to grow 8 pumpkin plants in the same mound just because all the seeds sprouted and you hate to kill a baby plant. Thinning is crucial to healthy growth. (That goes for my list of to-dos, too.)

2. Compost is wonderful, but steer manure is even better for pumpkins. The food should fit the seedling. (Chocolate soymilk for one. Beef jerky for another.)

3. Don't get lazy when it comes to watering. (Or listening.) Pumpkins need more water on hot days, not less, just because you don't feel like getting off the couch.

Fortunately, the local farm we visit each fall had no trouble producing enough pumpkins for what appeared to be our entire city. (Everyone in town seemed to be visiting the same day we were.) The farmer's daughter even gave us an awesome lesson on how pumpkin grow. (Though I thought she made it seem easier than my personal experience.)

Plus, they had some really cool tractors to look at, including this enormous machine:

We even got to follow the Children in the Corn Maze:

After the pumpkin patch, we headed to a nearby park to meet some friends for treats and crafts. The kids made Monster Hands with popcorn and candy corn stuffed into gloves. They decorated (and ate) sugar cookies. They glued cotton ball teeth onto Jack-O-Lanterns. They bobbed for apples. (And hopefully didn't spread too many nasty germs.)

I made vegan pumpkin cookies for the party, and while I probably posted this last year, I'll share it again. Because I'm just nice that way.

Vegan Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup pure pumpkin puree (canned, or roast your fresh pumpkin and scoop out a cup)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour (I use half all purpose, half whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp each: baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon
1/2 tsp each: salt, ginger and nutmeg
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugars and shortening. Add pumpkin and vanilla and mix well. In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Blend flour mixture into pumpkin mixture. Add pecans.

Scoop spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, press down with a fork, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for approx. 12 minutes at 350 degrees.


For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

--Isaiah 61:11 (NIV)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back from the dead

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
--Matthew 11:28-30
Crazy as might seem to some, it is possible to be spiritually burdened by too many good things in one's life -- if that life is not centered in Jesus Christ, resting in God's mercy, upheld by His Love, disciplined by His Word.

I'm coming out of a spiritual funk brought on by too many cookies on my plate, so to speak. I've been doing, planning, rushing, trying too hard, falling exhausted and weepy on the couch -- and failing to put my trust in the Lord.

So, this Sunday I stayed home from church to spend some quality time with Him. Funny that it has to work that way sometimes, but for me, I just needed to be alone for awhile. I needed to go to the desert of my dusty living room, and listen for God's voice.

Of course, I heard it. Oh, how I missed that voice. I don't know how anyone lives without it. I don't think they truly do LIVE. I have never heard anyone who has known the Lord and left Him say how much better their life is now. I know there are people who've never known Him, and say, "I'm just fine, thanks." They don't know what they're missing.

I don't want to live without Him again EVER. He has given me the most blessed life -- but it is nothing when it's not focused on the Lord, I cannot appreciate it or enjoy it when I am not giving Him the glory.
I will praise You, oh Lord, my God, with all of my heart I will glorify you forever!
--Psalm 86:12

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'll stop screaming now.

I'm sorry about the angry rant. I really shouldn't post when I haven't had a snack.

I wanted to bake cookies this afternoon to warm the house up, but I was missing too many ingredients, and the kids weren't up to running to the store. Anyhow, what I planned on posting about today was something much more uplifting...

That's my nearly-6-year-old climbing the rock wall this morning during the class he and his brother are taking with a bunch of other homeschoolers.

And there's my oldest at the top of the boulder, which the kids climb without a rope in between turns on the rope wall. It's so much fun to watch them! They've been doing really well and enjoying it.

Now we're off to have dinner with friends. It's so nice not to have to worry making dinner once a week. And we'll take some Newman's Own cookies instead of homebaked. Just this once.

Suzy Orman makes me want to scream.

Not to get opinionated or anything. (After that, this is my blog.)

But did you happen do watch the first segment of Oprah today? This is not my regular habit, but sometimes I look to see who's on. Anyhow, today Suzy Orman told a woman expecting her second baby that she wouldn't be able to afford to stay home with her two kids.

Despite the fact that her husband would still make over $6500/month after taxes, despite the fact that she wouldn't have to pay for expensive childcare, which costs almost as much as her own salary, despite the fact that they have over $100K in a 401K, a $6000 cushion in savings, and $800 left in the revised, one-income budget each month, Suzy determined that this mother hadn't factored in the cost of diapers or formula, and therefore should keep working.

HELLLOOO??!!! ARRGGGHHH!!!! For HEAVEN'S SAKES, Suzy!! This, after saying that we all need to remember WHO we are instead of WHAT we have. I'm sorry, but do you think that newborn baby or her 2-year-old really care whether their parents have $6000 or $12,000 in savings? Does Suzy have so little confidence in this family's common sense that they couldn't reduce their $6000/month expenses in order to spend more time with their babies?? And why the HELL are they asking Suzy Ormond what's best for their family in the first place?!

I'm not even going to go into the statement that they need to budget for formula if she's a stay-at-home mom. I'm sure you can guess how I feel about THAT.

It's pretty clear to me now what Suzy would think of our finances. I would've gotten one huge smackdown if she'd had anything to say about me quitting my job seven years ago -- back when Scott was making less than $2500/month -- and we had NO savings.

He's still not making anywhere near $6000/month, and we're doing beautifully, thank you very much. No, actually, the thanks goes to God's grace, a supportive family, and yes, the fact that I breastfed all three babies and never once had to include formula in the budget.

Cloth diapering didn't hurt, either.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On the bright side

To answer my own question...

Attack Ye Old Crayoned Castle with a giant dragon:

Turn all your stuffed animals into superheroes, complete with capes made from Daddy's old ties. And underpants, of course.

Pull your favorite animal books off the shelf to look through.

Teach Daddy a new card game with the Star Wars cards.

Teach Daddy how to play LIFE: Pirates of the Caribbean edition.

I am so grateful that my boys get along really well, even after days of Not Much Going On, and that they are able to create their own fun, even when Mommy isn't much help. Even when the baby is cranky, the older two are patient with him and try not to take it personally. They are such good examples for me. :)

One of those weeks

Well, I missed posting yesterday. Afraid I'm not very good at keeping promises at the moment. It's been one of those weeks. My 2yo still isn't feeling well, so he's clingy all day and nursing all night. Not much sleep happening.

I spent last night attending a mandatory child abuse prevention seminar at church. Freaky stuff if I let myself think about it too much, which I couldn't. Not exactly the most uplifting meeting.

Plus we had three more dentist appointments this week for the three oldest boys (including Daddy). They each had fillings, and it went smoothly, but it sucked a lot of time and energy from the week. Our one fun thing planned, another Hogwarts day, was cancelled because of Littlest's cold. Scott took today off because he's fighting off the cold now, and was worn out after being in the dentist's chair all evening. So, it feels like a weekend, except we didn't have any plans.

It's such a beautiful, cool, breezy day today that I really just wanted to spend it outside. We were out for a little while this morning, after a lot of whining and dragging of feet. The boys actually got me up on the trampoline, which was probably good for, but reminded me how out of shape I've gotten in the last two years. I think I was in better shape when I was pregnant!

I've been waiting to get my seedlings in the ground because the temperature keeps going back up to the 90s. I thought today would be a good day to it, but it's more work than anyone around here has the patience for.

I have the hardest time adjusting my expectations and finding ways to have fun when I'm really low energy.

What do you do to keep spirits up when half the family's not feeling well?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The 7-Hour Fast

Yes, I was serious. No, it wasn't that interesting.

Last week I spent three hours lying in the dentist's chair. (This was after playing musical bookcases for three days.) Nearly all of my old, nasty mercury-based fillings needed to be replaced in order to avoid root canals.

I didn't know how long the process was going to take, so I took along a book I'd just bought, "The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical," by Shane Claiborne. It was such a good read, that I honestly had no idea how long I was in there until I left the office and checked my phone. I'll have to share more about the book when I finish it. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced it among my recently re-organized bookcases...

When I left the dentist, I stopped at a nearby grocery store to pick up a few things for lunch. Walking through a public space with your face only half-working is an interesting experience. I'm the type who usually walks around with a big dumb grin on her face. I'm generally a happy person. It was strange not to be able to smile fully, and to wonder what people were thinking. They were friendly anyway.

I picked up an iced soy latte while I was there. As kids, my mom used to get us milkshakes after we had teeth filled. Drinking out of a straw was lot more challenging than I remembered. It took me all afternoon to finish my iced latte.

Back at home, I lay on the sofa, watching cartoons with whichever boy was interested, and waiting for my face to feel normal enough to eat some lunch. Even mac and cheese was difficult. And my new teeth felt strange, like there was something stuck between them -- except there wasn't. Just the filling.

I don't usually do well without food for very long. My blood sugar drops and I get cranky. Which is why lying around was a good idea. If I didn't use too much energy, my blood sugar wouldn't change too drastically. If only I could follow that routine every time!

My face was numb for almost seven hours. By dinnertime I was starving, and I did get a little cranky. But overall, it wasn't too bad.

Good thing, because I get to go back and do it all again for the other side! Yay, bad teeth genes and lazy flossing!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Online Book Party and Home Tour!

Welcome! Come in and have a look around! I've been working really hard lately to get this place in order...

For the last several months, I've been slowly tackling the clutter in my house (with my mom's help). We did the linen closet, the pantry, the master bedroom closet, and the boys' room (though it's still not quite done). But the disorganized bookshelves all over the house were still bugging me.

Then I found my motivation -- I signed up to host an Usborne Books party! Figuring I better know what books I have -- and have a place for them -- before I go ordering a bunch more, I came up with a plan.

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I started pulling books off the shelves in the living room. The coffee table was already stacked with books that didn't fit on them. I needed a larger unit for the children's books.

Time to play Musical Bookcases! We moved a medium sized bookcase from the living room to the dining room because the tiny shelves holding our homeschooling materials were packed full...

The bookcase from the living room works much better. (That's a Halloween gingerbread house on top of the shelf, in case you're wondering.)

I swapped the play stove in the kitchen with a small red bookcase housing toddler books in the living room. Isn't this a pretty vignette? (Yes, those are the boys' Potions cauldrons.)

Then I moved this large bookcase that wasn't fulfilling its potential from my bedroom to the living room...



The biggest change, though, was finally putting up artwork on the walls in the living room. My mom and sister framed family photographs for me as a Christmas gift two years ago, but the room still wasn't quite finished. My mother had these paintings, several by my aunt, sitting in a closet from when we had to move my grandmother out of her apartment. I love that it looks so much like her home used to...

My mom also hung my aunt's stitcheries of a vegetable basket and the 23rd Psalm in my dining room... they are so me!!

I was so happy to have this all done before my party last Saturday! I just wish you could have been there, too! Won't you take a minute to look at some books with me now? Sit a while and sip some tea! Or would you rather have coffee?

Thanks for coming! The book show closes at noon on Friday, so order soon if you see something you like!

Checklist for the New Unschooler

Well, I've got a sick, fussy toddler on my lap this morning, so this might be it for posting today.

I wanted to share this great article from Life Without School with anybody who's here because they're curious about or new to unschooling... Checklist for the New Unschooler. Becky gives 10 principles that are really the "How-To"s of making the most of unschooling -- eg. "Slow down and relax," "Make time for the things you enjoy," and "Choose the relationship over your need to be right."

Monday, October 06, 2008

That's just horse manure.

Every church has its quirks. The formerly-known-as-Episcopal parish we've attended for the last six years is no exception.

For instance, each fall we honor St. Francis of Assisi by holding an Animal Blessing service in the courtyard of the church. Pet owners bring their many dogs, the bravest of cats, the occasional reptile, and, yes, even horses to the afternoon service to have the priest say prayers and sprinkle holy water over the beloved animals.

Used to be, members of the parish would host a barbecue after the service. A barbecue of cooked animal flesh. Until our best friends gave up animal products completely a few years ago, and our small group decided to take over the barbecue and convert it. Save its soul, so to speak.

The Animal Blessing Barbecue went vegan.

We barbecue vegan brats and hot dogs, make German potato salad, and make sure the condiments are animal-friendly, too. Donations for the dinner go to the local animal shelter and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It's pretty cool.

Unless, of course, half the people go home without eating because they don't think they like vegetarian food.

You know what I think of that? You guessed it. It smells a little like the natural incense the horse above left on the sidewalk for the ceremony.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Something to celebrate!

Wow, I just noticed that my last post was my 400th!! Now, that's a milestone!

Though it doesn't explain where I disappeared to for the last two weeks... Sorry about that. We've been having too much fun around here, I guess!

Anyhow, how about to celebrate I actually POST this week? Say, like, every day? Otherwise, I could just write one really long, random post about everything we've been doing.


COMING SOON! to A Homegrown Life... The 7-Hour Fast -- just ask your dentist! Fun Fall Field trips. Before and after: Living room makeover photos! Anglican Life: Incense or Horse manure? PLUS! How to kill your sweet pea seedlings in 12 hours flat. And... Homemade playdough: How much is too much for your toddler's tummy?
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