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Spoiled Milk/ing

Today we finished our notebook calendar to Scott.  We wrote in a page a day for the time we’re gone, with a couple of guest writers (alright, alright, all Excursioneers).  Tidbits about how much we’ll miss him, where we suspect we’ll be along the trail on a given day, how many days ’til we see him again.  Some love notes.  Some chit chat.  You know, stuff like that.

We posted up the Farm Chore list in a few places for all of the wonderful folks who will be running the place so that we can be away.  We walked through everything with them all this past week, including how to properly use the new milk machine.  Yes, I said it: The new milk machine!

A lovely friend had a crusty, dirty, worn out little machine that she knew little about other than it being a supposed milk machine.  She offered it to us with the warning that it may be worthless and broken.  I did a bit of Googling and YouTubing, and was able to figure out the model of Hoegger Milking System, and how to take the entire thing apart for maintenance and repair.  I spent a few solid hours cleaning it up, hoping that it’d be fruitful in the end.  I got online and ordered $150 in parts that I knew it needed, gambling it would be a good investment.  And then we waited.

It felt like forever.

putting it all back together

Then the package arrived!  We went to work on it again, and got a final thumbs up from our friend who looked it over a bit with me, whose Dad is a machinist – and flipped the switch.  It fired right up and pulsated like a champ at the perfect pressure!  The girls didn’t even flinch when we tried it out on them that evening.  They really have settled into being the loveliest homestead milkers.

Not only was this roughed up little machine a milker, but was the perfect one for us.  It was a model designed for one to two goats (the company sells sheep adapters), but powerful enough to run a small dairy.  And it’s made right here in the U.S.A.  We never would have purchased one new – being content with hand milking (in fact, we can do it as fast as the milk machine if it’s doing one at a time), and knowing good ones like this one were much more than we wanted to pay for the convenience.  But what a gift (and a lot of elbow grease!  I felt like a rockstar fixing it.).  This will be perfect for Scott.  I knew it’d just be way dreamy for him.  But I was afraid it’d be a dud so left it a surprise.  He’s used it a couple of times now, gearing up for being the primary milker here on the farm for most of the time we’re gone – and has said what a breeze it’ll be now compared to the especially harder task morning and evening he was anticipating (and never did complain of!).  This should shave off an hour time off of his day.  And keeps it all the more easy for friends who will cover for him while he’s traveling to/with us, and as we may need a helper now and then in the future.

clickity clack! there she goes!

So here we are, wrapping things up, knowing the farm has been very tidied up for our leave.  All laundry is washed.  Rooms are clean.  RV is packed.  Just like that: It’s time.  Off we go!

We’re thinking about food.  A little unsure what may be confiscated at the Canadian border, we’re trying to not be too attached to what we bring, but also want to be well equipped for miles of wild.  Chris (aka referred to as “Mom Chris” from here out; I’ve been blessed by many Mama’s in my life!) has cooked, shred and frozen 5+ pounds each of beef and pork.  I’m doing chicken and corned beef, maybe some lamb as well.  We’ll take dried beans and rice, herbs and spices, and hope to find veggies and fruits along the way.  I suspect I’ll have a lot to say about food as we travel.  Stay tuned!

All different forest animals on them for easy i.d. – look! a moose!

I’ll tell you something we did invest in: stainless 8-ounce stackable cups and silicone sippy lids!  We were blessed by a particularly ridiculously awesome sale that was irresistible.  Let me back up: With all of the other kids, we started them off on a My First Years plastic sippy lid.  They were interchangeable with Tupperware cups and were perfect.  We preferred the simple construction and ease of cleaning.  But apparently, now they’re “vintage” (insert rolling eyes here).  They’re a fortune on Etsy, and rarity on Ebay.  Realizing it’s time to branch out, yet resisting the modern sippy’s (I hate them), I went online shopping.  I wanted something that’s functional, multi-age-usable, organic’esque, and flexible.  Not just another container to play hair-pulling find-the-lid for.  These silicone lids fit the bill: They can slip onto just about any cup, including restaurant cups, etc… They’re BPA-free.  Frankly, they feel a little bit breast-esque, and I think Aury will love them.  The stainless cups stacked nice and tight, taking little space, and were slightly reminiscent of another childhood favorite: aluminum cups at Grandma’s — also expensive and hard to replicate at home.  And, well, aluminum.  No thanks.

Speaking of my Grandma… Several weeks ago my Grandpa had both a stroke and a heart attack, landing himself in a hospital then rehab.  Never having really spent time in the hospital, it sounds like it was quite the experience.  We were all glad to hear he was able to go home almost two weeks ago.  He built his house in the 1950’s with his own bare hands “in the middle of nowhere” (now five-ish blocks from the state university and smack dab in the center of a metropolis), and has raised all four of his daughters there from babe to now grandparents themselves.  Ever since I’ve known them, their house had an open door policy.  Every Sunday they made more food than they’d ever need, inviting any and all to partake.  I believe their influence in my life at an early age impacted a lot of who I am today, for which I’m thankful for.

Each summer when my mom and aunts were youth and still living at home, my Grandpa would load up a van and take the family and a group of students to Alaska, traveling the Alcan Highway, camping and living wild along the way and at their destination.  Being a teacher himself, he was able to spend quite a lot of the summertime exploring and teaching wild-living in a hands-on way.  I’ve heard many stories about these adventures (and many more!).  I know the memories made have been quite lasting on their girls.  It gets me excited knowing that several of our kids are at an age that experiences such as this hold and mold.  As much as I may resist the thought, it is likely one of our last big adventures with the olders.  Their lives are quickly advancing to independent interests and potential careers.  We cherish these times more than ever.  We also are incredibly proud of who they have become, and where they are heading: They have consistently made personal decisions to keep Christ their focus in all of it.  What they do beyond that is in His Hands.  We have no desire to shape that around what we would choose, be it keeping them at home forever (trust me, we’ve threatened it), etc…  I’ll share bits here of a rather convicting writing that our very dear friend Kurt Settles, now a pastor, penned:

Here’s what we don’t want: …we don’t want a son/daughter who is so dependent upon external support and validation that they can’t function independently, know right from wrong, be able to overcome obstacles and challenges, and be a generally useful member of their society.

treating them like they are the center of my world and this universe is a terrible tragedy.

…I am angry at parents who continue to raise generation after generation of immature, dependent, and fragile children.

…Christian parents need to stop worshipping their children and instead bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, raising them to be mature and able to function without the approval of man, seeking only the approval of God.

Though we value our time and understand our rather big responsibility of raising them (and adore them dearly, knowing that tho’ they are some of the most wonderful gifts this side of heaven), we realize that we serve a God who has a big picture.  We are simply a speck in it.  He has bigger plans than we ever could wish for our children (and ourselves!).  So as long as they follow Him, they will always be in the best place they could be.

Whoa, my entry about food sure took a different turn than planned!  I guess I just want to say that no matter how important all of these travel (life!) preparations are, and how well we try to execute them and retain their value, the every-moment-goal doesn’t change.  We intentionally sojourn as God followers with eternal-mindedness our goal for how we choose to use our today.  Our today is not a passing moment in anticipation of heavenly treasures but is an opportunity to intentionally share the gift we have been given to reflect Him instead of … well… anything else!

…magnificent though creation (everything we participate in) is, it is only a reflection of God’s glory.  It exists to reflect the ultimate declaration of glory, God Himself.  If we are blown away by the beauty of creation, how much more beautiful and awesome is God! – Andrew Scott

As the days tick by, we’re busting the moves on our To Do list.  We’ve been doing great so far!  A lot of the list items have been tasks in and around the house, preparing it for our leave.  Making sure fences are in ship shape and zapping at the highest potential, garden beds covered for later, barn cleaned out and organized.  This will make the work much lighter for those at home managing the homestead.

Now we move our attention to the travelers themselves.  We’re doing haircuts (what shaggy animals the boys would be when we return if we didn’t), bentonite clay masking, plucking eyebrows and waxing mustaches (did I just say that out loud… who does that?!), and giving each other pedicures.  We never spoil ourselves quite so much, but since we’ll be grubbing it for so long, we figure we may as well start as soft and done up as possible.

17″ of hair donated to others who need

I’d been threatening a dramatic hair cut for a while.  Several years ago I went shorter and it was fabulous for a season, and I was itching for something easy like it again.  They say you shouldn’t make big decisions when you’re pregnant (think: extreme hormones), so I held off.  After Aury was born, I started having hope that my post-birth hair loss wouldn’t happen this time.  Ha!  Right at 3 months postpartum, just when I thought I was in the clear, it started falling out more than I imagined it would (but no more than it has in the past… I just forget!).  I waited still.  At first, I had noticed I started wearing my hair up in a not-so-cute messy bun during most days.  Then I started to at night in hopes of shedding less.  At that point, I realized it was time to make a move, so I gave in.  Scott gave me the thumbs up, and I wanted to actually have some left to donate, so chopped off 17 inches.  It’s been so dreamy!  I’ll get one last trim before the trip, then let it grow again.  I really do love long hair, but am so enjoying it this way for now.  Especially for a road trip and camping!

We’ve started a list of what we’d like to take for ourselves, limiting it to just a few clothing items that are both durable and versatile, non-wrinkly and thin for easy hand washing.  We should have quite the variety of temperatures, and diverse engagements, so we’ll be creative and put to practice living simply with less.  In some ways, this thrills me tremendously.  In others, I worry we’ll forget something important.   But really, we won’t be roughing it by any stretch, even if we forget something semi-important.

We have several e-books (to conserve space — I’m otherwise not a fan of electronic book reading), and a few motivational and devotionals that we’ll read quietly and aloud, as time permits.  I’ve put together a list of music for Aury to enjoy while napping if he needs a distraction, and some for adult entertainment.  The kids have gathered a few games for their electronics, tho’ I imagine we’ll limit those pretty heavily.  We don’t really do a lot of that, and don’t want to start on such an awesome, family-filled, outdoor-rich adventure!  Here are some Continue Reading »

ALaskaBird

wish I knew who to give credit to – hilarious!

This whole “the mosquito is Alaska’s state bird” is getting me a little freaked out.  I mean, I don’t like mosquito’s (who does?!).  I’m not really scared of getting some freaky disease – the itchy welt is enough to scare me.  And we have a wee babe!  How much would it stink to see sad little white bumps on his tiny little chubby body?  No thanks!  But what are the alternatives?  Chemical-laden sprays?  Did you know your skin is the largest organ of your body and since it’s porous, absorbs most of what you put on it?  I don’t want that stuff on me, or in me – or contaminating my littles!

So here’s what I did: I made some bug repellent.  I really hope it’ll work, and isn’t just a “feel good” alternative.  But the things I know about the essential oils I used (and if you know me, I’m not into the essential oil rage – more below) are pretty solid.  So I headed to my oil cupboard, where I keep all of my soap and body product makin’ goods.  Here’s what I mixed together and put into a 4 ounce dark glass spray bottle, to be shaken before each use and stored in a cool dark place:

  • witch hazel, filled to half of the bottle
  • quality water, filled to half of the bottle
  • 20 drops of clove
  • 20 drops orange or lemon
  • 10 cinnamon
  • 10 eucalyptus or peppermint
  • 5 rosemary
  • 5 tea tree
  • 1 teaspoon of glycerin, if you choose (I didn’t bother)

I won’t lie, I didn’t count out drops.  In fact, I suspect I was a little exuberant and over-did it, using closer to double what I called for in this recipe.  I love that this is something perfectly safe to use on my wee one (keeping out of the face, of course).  If nothing else, we’re going to smell amazing – leaving that travelers funk to the birds!

Here in the Pacific Northwest we’ve had a pretty wet, lengthy Spring.  That means a lot of damp places, and I suspect a lot of summertime mosquitoes here as well.  The rumor mill (weather man) says that this coming week will bring sunshine and warm temperatures.  I’m not sure I believe him, but I suspect we’ll be hearing that incessant, annoying, awful buzz sooner than later.  We’ve little time to put this spray to the test, but we may have a good opportunity to try!

Now folks, here’s where I want to share my concerns about the essential oil fad (pyramids) that y’all probably have at least one friend pressuring you to join… Continue Reading »

Friends of ours warned us to apply for passports early.  Since we made the decision late in the game to get passports, despite several (valid) sources saying we don’t need them, the clock was ticking, and I was feeling the pressure.  Looking online only confused me.  So I decided to write it down, in the event that I need to start this process over.  Or in the event that it’s helpful to you.

Randon tidbit: A passport book gives us access to international travel by air.  Had I stuck with my Enhanced Driver’s License, I would have been limited to crossing borders by land only.  So this gives us a little more flexibility for emergencies, and prepares us better for future travels.

To submit for my own Passport, I would need a filled out, printed Application, an original Birth Certificate, Driver’s License, and a photo*.  The photo had to meet certain specifications.  Despite there being lots of excellent options (phone app’s, Walgreens, Costco, etc) that knows all of the rules, we chose to have the US Postal Service do it.  I’ll share more about this in a paragraph or two…

Now, to submit the kids’ applications, it took a bit more paperwork.  Because they are all minors, and because Scott’s schedule really didn’t allow both of us (parents) to be there in person to apply, I had to have a signed and notarized copy for each application of Scott’s Statement of Consent (link below) agreeing to this, as well as a copy of the front and back of his driver’s license.  We had our local bank do the notarizing, as they offered it free to members (Cha-ching!  Saved ten bucks a pop!).  Thankfully, they offered services well into the evening, when we spent the good portion of an hour stamping, signing, and right-hand oathing.

We chose to apply only for the standard (no extra pages) Passport book.  We opted out of a card.  Here’s the order we did all of this in:

  1. Filled out a DS-11 Application online here for all 5 kids and myself.  Saved and printed them.  Actually, my sweet neighbors did since my printer is on the fritz right now
  2. Gathered birth certificates, my drivers’s license, and copies of Scott’s (both sides multiplied by all 5 kids), along with his signed and notarized DS-3053 Statement of Consent for each of the kids app’s – they do not need your social security card
  3. Went to our local passport Acceptance Facility – for us, that was the Post Office in La Center

We got there promptly at 11am, as the gal had recommended on the phone.  We were about 3 from the front when the gal asked how many passports we were applying for.  When she heard six, she laughed and said she’d be skipping us, because she is taking lunch in 15 minutes and can’t finish us in that amount of time.  We took a spot along the wall.  By now, the Post Office had quite the line, and apparently, all were there for passports.  I hadn’t thought it through well, but it was Spring Break, and everyone was preparing for summertime.  In fact, by the time we left, there were at least 30 people in line behind us to apply.  Now if you don’t know our area, I’ll tell you, La Center is a pretty wee bitty town.  A crowd like that isn’t seen often in one place. (Unless you’re visiting the new casino – it’s a madhouse.)

At least a half dozen people went ahead of us before the new employee clocked in and took us to the front.  I may have given my kids a lesson on how unfortunate it is that they were discriminating against a “big” family, when in fact, they served that many people anyway, just one at a time.  Then I let it go.  Or did I? … since I’m sharing this rant here… 😮

When we got to the front, we had to process each passport application one at a time.  I had prepared at home by bundling them by person (application, birth certificate, copies, etc).  But before we could start, she took us across the hall to take photos.  She didn’t give us any warning.  Snap! “Next!” Snap! “Next!” “No teeth!” Snap! My sweet kids were so uncomfortable.  But they were champs about it.  And we giggled plenty.

Back at the front counter, the employee swiftly worked through our paperwork.  Each Application had to be notarized: more oath-giving, more right hands on our hearts.  When all was said and done, I had to write 7 checks: One for each application, and then one to the Post Office for their part in it all.  The kids’ Passports were $80 each to the state, plus a $25 service fee and $15 for the photo to the USPS.  Mine was $110 to the state, plus the $25 service fee and $15 for the photo to the USPS.  Mine will be valid for 10 years, the kids’ for 5 years (16 years and up qualify for the 10 year expiry).  I suspect Aury may look a touch different before his expires.  I also suspect he has the cutest passport there ever was.

he got to smile.

Even with Passports – or had we only used Birth Certificates – when crossing the border, we will have Continue Reading »

There are a number of options to document our travels, and where I can’t for the life of me figure out how to best do it, I also don’t want to miss important parts during the wait.  So I’ll start here and migrate if we change platforms along the way.

Nearly three years ago my husband almost died.  In the midst of the crisis, my biological Dad, Mark, flew out to us and planted himself deeply into my children’s lives.  Already known as Papa and friend, he took on the role of caretaker and home-life anchor.  He and Grandma Chris really sacrificed a lot, without blinking, and covered our family in love.

That summer, we took it real easy.  Once Scott was able to walk, we would walk down to the river and fish almost every day.  We canoed on the lake.   They stayed with us, traveling back and forth from their home a couple of times for other obligations, until early Fall.  It was pretty dreamy, really, the whole experience.  I think we all changed a bit that summer.  After that, we all started seeing each other even more.

The next year, Papa & Grandma brought their houseboat.  We spent all summer on the water; some short trips, some several days.  We started talking about what we’d do “next summer,” and tho’ I thought he may be joking, Papa really held to going to Alaska on a ferry.  When they were here last November to meet our new baby Aury, we talked details.  The ferry proved to be the starting point, ultimately leading us to choose to drive the majority of the trip.  But what would we drive?  The Suburban? With a camp trailer?  The skoolie seemed a fun option, but we knew we wouldn’t have the resources to prepare it in time…

Summertime traveling had slowed down (stopped, really) when we talked, so we thought it may behoove us to purchase an RV rather than rent one.  Buying one for $8k then reselling upon our return – even for half – would be cheaper than renting one for the duration of our time away.  So we started looking around.  We found that for “just” a little more, we could upgrade significantly.  And “just” a little more than that, even better!  Before we knew it, we landed the perfect one for our journey, albeit a little out of our original budget, Papa decided to make the purchase long term for them instead of a short term, turn-around investment.  He called me Christmas Eve at noon and said he’d looked at four RV’s already that morning, and had to choose between two.  An hour later, the deal was sealed.  Merry Christmas all around! Continue Reading »

Spirit lead me where my faith is without borders

These lyrics have been haunting me.  I can’t seem to shake them.  We sing these great songs and feel these deep feelings, then we listen to the words.  From the song Oceans by Hillsong United, these lyrics are a pretty intense request of God.  Without borders?  Yikes.  That doesn’t stay within my comfort zone.  Or within my lifestyle desires.  Or within my perceived capacity to life.  But I want it.  I want to want it even more.

The kids and I were discussing this song the other day, talking about true faith, and about how it’s not just a fuzzy feeling on Sunday morning.  It’s not just a “praise God” or “amen.”  It’s about whole-heartedly offering God everything you are.  Everything.  Not a lot of us have this kind of faith.  Heck, my guess is no one does.  Because really, if we even have the “minuscule” faith of a mustard seed, we could move mountains.

The kids came up with a fun challenge: Whoever comes up with another song that means the same thing as that line, they win a donut (we all knew that everyone was going to get a donut anyway, but still, the incentive felt enticing…).  Colby came in first with the hymn “I Surrender All.”  The second was the hymn “Take My Life.”  I thought it interested that both came up with hymns.  It made me grateful for a church that appreciates and sings them.  They are so rich in theology and truth.

When you sing these hymns, do you mean the words you say?

Once upon a time a few years ago, I had the honor of being a table host at a ladies conference.  It was not long after Scott had spent some time in the hospital with his life on the line.  I remember sitting there next to a woman who still had fresh bruises on her arm from having been raped days before.  Yet she was here.  Sitting at my table.  And even more humbling, she was encouraging me by sharing what a testimony it was for her to watch (from afar) Scott’s Saga, exhorting me to hold fast to and live whole-heartedly for Christ.  I think about those moments a lot.  Even more so the last couple of days.

Three days ago her son committed suicide.  It was unexpected and tragic, as I suspect most suicides are.  He was young.  He was handsome and smart.  He had a whole life ahead of him.  And now here she is again, in the trenches of darkness, struggling to find reality amidst the mind-numbing grief.  Here they are again, their marriage being tugged at in new, unbelievably painful ways.  Thankfully she had the mind to ask for help before she drowned.  She will miss her son’s service in doing so, but as she said: “I wish so bad he would have done this.”

She gets to experience faith without borders.  She didn’t ask for it.  She probably doesn’t think she can do this.  She probably can’t.  Instead we all pray fervently on her behalf, for all involved.  We get to practice Galatians 6:2 and carry her load to the Cross when her words and mind may not be available to.  We get to pray for her marriage.  For her family, little and big.  Her load is not light, and can’t be carried alone.

Do not be afraid – I am with you!
Do not dismay – I am your God,
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will protect you and save you.
I will hold you.
Isaiah 41:10

This type of faith is not for the faint of heart.

If you’re feeling hopeless, and do not see the light, please reach out.  Know that you are not alone.  And know that we all may not know how to help you.  We will fail you.  But don’t give up.  Surrender instead.  Surrender to Christ.  He will give you life.  He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) and will not fail you.

The Lord is all I have, and so in Him I put my hope. (Lamentations 3:24)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255