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Our Budding Artist

Earlier this Spring Kendra painted this beautiful agriculture piece on a large canvas and won first place in the first contest she entered it into. The Washington State Farm Bureau then purchased it from her to frame and showcase in their state office in Lacey.

Last night at the Washington State Farm Bureau’s 96th Annual Conference, it was offered up during the live auction with the proceeds to support the Washington FFA.  Guess how much it sold for?  $800!  Her very first art piece that she’s shared publicly!  We are so proud of her.  Her natural artistic inclination will do her well for years to come.

Our Rainbow

Two and a half years ago I remember seeing Scott laying on a bed hooked to machines keeping him alive.  His arms were covered in sores & scars from needles; his whole body swollen beyond recognition.  His stats were unstable, at best.  We really weren’t sure of the future.  I worked hard to avoid thinking beyond the moment.  Except I couldn’t seem to avoid one thought: I want more babies with this man.  He is the love of my life, and the best example I know for the sweet babes we have.

When God spared Scott’s life by providing sweet miracles & amazing professionals who worked long and hard on sustaining him, I was nervous about actually getting pregnant.  The future was still so very unstable.  Looking back, I suspect I should have reached out for some post traumatic stress help.  I didn’t bring the subject of babies up with Scott, but just days after we got home, he told me he wanted more.  Lots more.  That life is short.  Precious.  And investing in the future in this way was more important than most of the ways we typically invest.  I loved the way he was thinking, and that it aligned with where I was, despite my nervousness.  We’d always said we wanted a hundred.  So let’s!

After several months of trying with no success, I got discouraged.  We’d never had to “try” before.  I worried that perhaps the trauma on his body left us unable to conceive again.  Thankfully, doctors all seemed to think that it shouldn’t be an issue, and were encouraging.  Our close friends were praying for us, all of us hopeful that it be God’s will for us to have more babies.  I researched fertility herbs and tried to get my body on track for a pregnancy.

At last, in November of 2015 we found out we were pregnant, only to end in a miscarriage.  I have sweet memories of loving friends surrounding us in unexpected and loving ways, supporting us through the devastating loss.  I struggled for longer than I expected to, and in more ways than I expected to.  I captured my thoughts and reigned in my chaos, bit by bit, over time.  The grief is still alive and real today, tho’ has changed significantly for a lot of reasons.  Hormones subsided.  Truth prevailed.  Two months and once cycle after our miscarriage, we found ourselves pregnant again.  This time, to stick.

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It’s with great joy I share that earlier in October we welcomed a new little one into our family.  We call him “Aury.”   Continue Reading »

Risking Our Children

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!
Gaither

When I was a young Mom, I struggled a lot.  My mind raced with every scenario that left my baby lifeless, brutally hurt, or forever scarred emotionally.  I soaked up all of the parenting books, battling which might be right, which wrong.  I wanted to do it “right”.  I didn’t want my children hurt.

When they were babies, I’d wake up too frequently to check if they were still breathing as they slumbered in their bed.  As they grew into toddlers, suddenly furniture was my enemy.  Sharp edges.  Glass surfaces.  Plug-ins and electronics.  There is danger everywhere.  My heart raced.  I lost sleep.  Now several of them are pre-teen/teen’s, and dangers are exponentially growing.  The motorcycle.  The rope swings, swimming, video games, and – gasp – soon driving.  Now there’s hormonal changes and pre independence and … oh man… We’re not ready for this!

But there’s a balance to be had here… surely… And yet… It is not our job to be flexible.

It is our job to protect our children.  There are many dangers out there that we need not be ignorant of.  Because of this, we set boundaries for our children that are age- and maturity-appropriate.  For example, we limit the people our kids leave our house for sleepovers with or have alone time with.  We happily welcome friends to co-mingle in a family setting.  We limit their interaction with bad influences of all varieties until they are “of age,” and also take responsibility for their intake of good, be it spiritual, educational, chemical, etc… And will assist in their learning how to make wise decisions as they grow.  Ultimately, we’d rather risk offending someone than risk our child’s safety or well-being.

But something has changed in us as parents.  

We no longer keep those boundaries based on fear or control.  

We do still believe that as parents we are responsible for guiding our children to the best of our ability in most areas, bit by bit letting them “fly the coop,” so to speak.  We want to instill good decision making skills based on a firm foundation.  We do still cling tight to our family being the go-to for them as they do so.  Home is their base, Lord willing.  Yet we still catch ourselves from time to time.  As politics sway, there were added fears for society, the culture, it’s future, and the surroundings of their lives in various times and trials.  Even still I find myself trying to guard them at times.  I am constantly reminding myself that sheltering is not guarding or biblical, but praying is.     Continue Reading »

Farming For Free?!

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photo courtesy of Robin

We’ve always been of the mindset that animals cost money.  I mean, let’s be real.  You don’t raise your own animals to be frugal.  It’s a luxury.  You do it because you love it, you seek the lifestyle, or because you’re looking for a particular type of food to be on your plate.  Unless you’re a commercial operation, the cost is real, in most areas of your resources (finances, time, space, etc).

For example, when I calculate our expenses, we aren’t saving a ton of money on our sheep milk*.  I can justify it financially, but if we had to cut our budget, I sure couldn’t justify keeping ’em.  And when I [try not to] judge others, it’s the first thing I think they should let go of when the purse strings need tightened.  But this one family I know is making me change my perspective (and is certainly not following the norm), and reminding me not to judge a book by it’s cover.

Let me preface by saying: Steve & Robin’s number one goal is to supplement their groceries with free food.  So sure, they may not be doing things how we would (or have) as far as grassfed, organic, etc.  But honestly, it’s still leaps and bounds above CAFO mixed meats and picked-prematurely veggies from who knows where doused in who-knows-what.  Even if it doesn’t meet our general philosophies a hundred percent of the time.  It’s surprisingly not far away either.

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photo courtesy of Robin

Here’s what they have on their homestead: sheep (milk, fiber, meat), pigs (meat, pasture-managers, scrap-clean-up-ers), chickens and ducks (eggs, meat, fertilizer), cows (beef, hides & milk) and a couple of horses (training children responsibility and skill).  Rabbits (meat, pelts, leatherwork).  Bees (honey, pollination).  Fruit trees and herbs (dinner plate and animal food).  What they “bring in” to feed their animals:

  • They hay their neighbors field once a year, paying $2.85 per bale; saving neighbors annual mowing costs.  Win-win.
  • They maintain a fodder system ($10/month for entire farm)
  • The food bank they grocery shop with weekly gives them excess for livestock; providing 90% of what is fed to the pigs and chickens
  • They water from a well (expense: minimal electric to run pump)

They do have to invest in minimal supplies from the feed store from time to time, as well as minerals and other odd items here and there.  They usually butcher their own meat, slaughter to wrap.  Butchered lamb skulls hang in their chicken coop where maggots clean them out, then drop to the floor where chickens get their protein.  They then sell the cured skulls to folks with terrariums after proper cleaning.  The property they rent came with fencing and small structures to contain their animals.  They co-op the pigs with other owners – the other owners are responsible for cleaning barns and fields of manure, etc… keeping this portion of workload (and waste) minimal for their own family.  They grow low-maintenance corn, melons & pumpkins (and weeds – ha!), feeding the harvest to the chickens, the stalks and vines to the pigs.

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photo courtesy of Robin

As for the horses, they’re a bit of a splurge.  Or are they?  They don’t provide food for the family, but provide a learning opportunity for the two children.  They teach responsibility and disciplines one would never get elsewhere.  And best of all?  It’s all financially sponsored (feed is included in the family’s farm expenses; minimal and self-sustaining).  Their five year old has sought – and secured – both businesses and private entities to 100% financially support her rodeo and training through selling farm goods and sponsorships.  What could add up to hundreds a month is instead worked for, providing a great opportunity for this young entrepreneur to not only set a budget, seek out investors and sell farm goods, but also to work hard for good results to report back of progress.  And heck, clean stalls and tie knots and lift her share of weight in the process.

Funny story: All but one in their family doesn’t like lamb or rabbit (but the kids’ll eat it if they have to).  They raise both because it’s cheaper than buying any meat from the grocery.  So they’re not going for gourmet.  They’re going for saving money.  Period.  Their monthly food averages $250 for a family of [currently] 5 – soon 6!  Some months it’s closer to $100, when the freezer and pantry are particularly generous.  Insane.

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photo courtesy of Robin

I don’t even want to mention how much we spend on groceries per month, even growing a lot on our own.  We believe this area a high priority, and budget accordingly.  That said, Steve & Robin’s semi-permaculture-esque set up and goals have really inspired me to consider how we can enhance our strategy into providing continued high quality food, utilizing our resources to the best of our ability in a more economical fashion.  A good challenge for sure.

First step: Setting up that dag-gum fodder system that I keep saying I’m going to.  Literally adding 60 seconds a day to chores, decreasing feed costs a hundred fold.  Yep.  I need to just do it.

*actually, I have no idea where to buy sheep milk.  But other raw milk of this caliper is $20/gallon minimum.  In reality, we probably are saving money on dairy/meat from our lamb, but not a ton – we certainly aren’t eating cheap by growing it ourselves.  Tho’ I could argue in favor because they help maintain our land, add fertilizer, share wool, and offer a wide variety of meats & dairy products that would add up significantly otherwise… Yeah, but still.  Not cheap.

The Roy Family

Once upon a time I had this friend.  She had hemorrhoids.  Yeah.  She’s gross.

Okay, okay, let’s get real, folks.  The majority of American’s suffer (usually in silence – and with OTC temporary-relief products) from internal and/or external hemorrhoids.  We live in a society that lives on their hineys, eats garbage, and frankly, doesn’t take care of themselves as well as they should.  Those slobs aside, some of us are living the life of health & finesse *cough, cough*.  But still have hemorrhoids.  So let’s just delve into the ridiculously embarrassing world of talking about it.  Let’s put aside our prude (err, pride) and deal with things that need to be dealt with.  Unlike I did for years.

So actually, I really did have a friend that had really bad hemorrhoids.  So bad that she found a doctor who would be willing to take care of them all in one fell swoop.  I was excited at the potential of her leaving the struggles behind, but also nervous for her, as my great-aunt had gone through the surgery and after months of recovery, swore she would never do it again if she would have known how brutal it would be.  That it was the worst experience of her life.  Well, it ended up the same for this friend of mine.  She ended up in the ER numerous times over the several weeks following the procedure.  It was horrifically painful to the point of unbearable.  She maxed out what doc would give her in narcotics, and still could not function as a Mama and person in her daily life from the pain for – literally – months.  No thanks!

So naturally, I never felt inclined to talk about them, much less do anything about it.

Until recently. Continue Reading »

Baby Blessings

This pregnancy has been so different than others.  It just continues to remind me why I laugh – and find it hard to believe when other Mom’s say things about how they do pregnancy/birth, as if it’s the same every time.  Well, not for this gal!  Two of our babies were born “on time,” two were born over two weeks late (according to LMP).  I’ve gained anywhere between 11 to 23 pounds per pregnancy; not gender or starting-size specific.  This time I started a little heavier than with the first two, tho’ trimmed down and now feel like my belly is cuter and more “basketbally” (smaller, rounder) than other pregnancies.  This is the first time I haven’t had a lot of discomfort with numbness in my front rib area, no dark belly button line, not a lot of ‘peach fuzz’ or extra hair everywhere, or wobbling (yet) because of particularly loose hips.  I have all kinds of theories* as to why, but who really knows.  Trust me, the whack hormones have been abundant.  This pregnancy has flown by.  I want it to be over (to meet the little one!), but I want it to last (I love being pregnant).  We’ve been very simple in our preparations – there’s been no urge to buy a bunch of stuff.

With every pregnancy I’ve taken a different angle on what we “need” vs. what we have.  This time, just like last, we’re taking it easy on buying things.  In fact, we have very little.  I only recently went through our bins in the basement to inventory where we are on clothing.  And I wasn’t even disheartened to learn that we literally have three pieces of brand-new-person clothing.  We still haven’t bought any to add.  Here’s the thing, though: we are blessed with a village.  A Mama who dresses her now 4 month old in adorable gear is hand-me-downing a full wardrobe.  If we find any gaps, we can fill them in later.  We have a carseat, cloth diapers, a Mai Tai wrap and a co-sleeper, 2 binky’s if we go that route, and a box of nursing pads.  We have what we need.  Just like last time we were jonesing for [a very few] extra’s that we are accumulating, I’ll share what’s on the “wish list” this time if it’s helpful for your own baby planning:

Homemade things  We did find a brand new package of long sleeved white onesies that we’re having fun painting and sewing on for custom gear for this little one.  You’ll remember Flynn’s handprint turkey… This time we’re doing more rainbow gear, since this is our second rainbow baby that God has so generously blessed us with.  I see a few fun things surfacing as what will soon turn to overcast weather inspires indoor creativity.  Today’s task: sew a mattress pad for the co-sleeper.  And perhaps some cute co-sleeper sheets and moby wrap with the fabric we picked up at a yard sale last weekend.

“Sweet Relief” – This is not actually new to this pregnancy, but a good one to share.  It’s a mix of herbs that I give to new Mama’s and use for postpartum healing.  It includes calendula, comfrey leaf, plantain leaf, rosemary leaf, yarrow leaf & flower, myrrh gum powder, self heal, st. johns wort, gota kola, and marshmallow root.  Infuse it into water: 1/4 cup herbs to a quart of boiling water.  Cover.  Sit overnight.  Strain.  Keep in fridge for three days before making new, or when needed.  Soak a thick feminine pad about halfway with some (or flannel or ?), and wear it on top of a winged feminine pad (or big one) while nursing or sitting or any other time — 15 minute bouts every couple of hours is soothing, cleanser and healing.  It will soothe and aid in healing inflamed or torn tissue, and relieve hemorrhoids that may have found a new place in your life.  A must-have for postpartum recovery.  If you need would like some, check out my Etsy shop or pop me a request.  Or find a recipe online and blend your own!

Bengkung belly wrap – Realizing the benefits of treating Mama’s body well pre-pregnancy, early in pregnancy (stability and support), and for postpartum healing with age-old belly binding, I can’t believe I haven’t used one of these before.  And I think they’re beautiful.  Thanks Etsy seller!

Affirmation during labor – I’ve put together a song list for delivery.  Our first two babes were born to Enya.  The second two I don’t remember being specific with music.  This one has an entire playlist of it’s own.  I used india permanent ink, a stick, and water colors to make a few one-liners to focus on during labor (“birth is normal.” “God answered our prayers.” “do not fear.”).  I also took a wonderful book of handmade scripture that the ladies of our church had made for me during Scott’s hospital stay and have strung them as verses for this as well.  They are so very applicable.  And the fact that women worked together to make them for me then, only to re-focus on now – during a time of blessing after that trial – is profoundly beautiful to me.

Henna or belly preserving – I don’t have plans of belly painting this time like we did with Flynn, but have been jonesing for henna.  We were going to do it ourselves, but have had little luck with the right mixture.  So, tho’ I’ve argued against it profusely (where do you store such a silly thing?!), I just got what we need for a belly cast instead.  They’re fun.  They’re beautiful.  And they’re entertaining.  Whatever.

capturing these moments.

capturing these moments.

That’s really it.  And I have to laugh a bit.  I look over the list and think: what a hippy.  But it is what it is.  And I love it.

As far as nesting goes, I’m in a purging mode again.  And the itch to make a little corner of cuteness exists.  I’m really loving the hanging bassinets, and may make a little cove for this babe to call their own.

*I think pertussis really strengthened my core unlike before, even tho’ I was doing ballet all 9 months of Adyn’s pregnancy.  Weirdness, but I can still flex my abs, which are usually loooong gone by now.  It (pertussis) made eating a real challenge, so I was careful to make sure that the little I did put in packed a punch.  Or because we were so sick, being 9 months pregnant is a breeze… I also think that perhaps this baby will hang tight a little longer, so some of these “ailments” are yet to come… But we’ll see!  Braxton Hick’s contractions have gotten stronger and oftener since last week, so my body’s definitely getting ready!

Energy Packing

Such a beautiful rainy day today!  The family’s all together again.  Scott has been working extra long hours for an extra long time, and spent the last weekend away in Nebraska with family and for Aunt Joyce’s funeral.  No airline would let me travel this close to Delivery Day, despite my trying to convince them I’d be juuuust fine birthing in the plane (I kid, I kid).  He had a wonderful, bonding time, but we sure missed him!  We have sweet loves for friends who kept us busy (distracted) at home and helped us with projects while Scott was gone.  But today: it’s all of us again.  Love.

We slept in ridiculously late.  Adyn made comfort foods for brunch.  The boys are all baking cookies and playing card games.  Kendra and I finished up the “birth kit,” and are just now focusing on a snack list for the big day:  Cheese.  Meats.  Nuts.  Fruits.  Nutrient-dense beverages.

This led to a tangent of “energy balls.”  We’ve never made them until today, but they seem a perfect addition to a laboring Mama (and crowd!):

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/2 peanut butter
  • 1/2 ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all together.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll into 1″ balls.  Store in air-tight container in fridge.

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yum.

I left the recipe pretty loose so you could play with the ingredients a little.  I used dark chocolate and raw honey.  We also used an all natural Sesame Cranberry Peanut Butter that was gifted us from Wild Friends.  I’d totally recommended – yummo!

Oh my heavens… Perusing recipes for energy balls online… There are so many flavors and scrumptious sounding options of tasty blends!  We’ve decided to make several other kinds with the excuse that the boys could use them while they’re out and about every day.  Next up will have pumpkin seeds and dried blueberries, I’m certain.  Might play with herbs and spices, too.

Yeah… there’s a strong possibility this batch will not last ’til the big day after all.