Merry Christmas!

2014 Christmas Card

From our Home to yours we wish you a very Merry Christmas
and Many Blessings for the New Year!

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Here I am nearly 38 weeks pregnant and blissfully enjoying a day of quiet. I am so grateful for those around me who upon recognizing my 3rd trimester, mother of three other (albeit wonderful, but nevertheless busy) children, brink of insanity moment. I am certain me and said children have been rescued from certain disaster.
I won’t bore you with all the drama and details. But apparently I must admit that we all needed a little break.

It never fails, I always seem to forget this little moment during my pregnancies. The moment when being a whale collides with complete sleep deprivation. Though I do think each time it has manifested itself a little differently.

But, sweet rescue! My in-laws have the kids and I am making myself sit in silence. No radio, no TV. Just the quiet hum of the furnace and the clicking of my computer keyboard.
I don’t typically like quiet. Enter my home on an average day and you will usually hear a plethora of sounds. The radio in the kitchen and of course the chorus of little voices that fill every room. I love the busy noise of my home. I wouldn’t trade it for anything most days.

But, as I said, for some reason today I feel that quiet is in order. I need the silence to fill the space in my mind and allow the echo of our sweet yet busy home life melt away. I’ll admit its not coming easy though. Words. My own thoughts race through my head. That is why I am taking a minute to write. Perhaps if I let my own thoughts escape for a few minutes I’ll be able to even further let the quiet envelop me.
I find I keep having to resist the urge to turn on a device that makes noise and yet as soon as I find myself reaching for the radio or the remote or the phone,  something within screams, “STOP, you need this quiet!” And so, for once I’m going to listen to that voice, at least for this early part of the day. I’m actually quite pleased to be able to hear it.

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Getting Festive

12-1-14 006 (768x1024)12-1-14 007 (768x1024)Well this is a first! I don’t think ever (despite my best intentions) have we ever gotten a tree up this early. But this year it felt like the right thing and the right time to do so.
For as long as Kyle and I have been married we have made the trek to Janke Tree Farm with few exceptions. We have always loved the experience. Of course it always feels good support a family we know right in our little community. But, I do have to admit, I always find myself doing a little chuckle as we head to, yes, a Tree Farm.
I’m sure I have mentioned before that growing up out west, we did not have tree farms. It was however, our family tradition to cut a fresh tree every year. Back then this entailed getting a tree-tag and hunting for a  tree on state ground, or perhaps on a friends property. Those are memories I cherish. The experience and the stories that go with them were such a significant part of celebrating the Christmas Season for me growing up.

Even though I am a simple holiday kind of girl, I have a real-tree-we-cut-down-or-no-tree-at-all policy.  For me its not about just getting a tree it is the whole experience of it. I just can’t really get into the grove if I have not heard the frozen grass or cold snow crunch beneath my feet. Felt my muscles work and weave their way through the endless sea of trees. I must touch each and every prospective tree. Are the needles sharp or soft? Smooth or stiff? I must smell their perfume, strong or subtle. Bitter or spicy-sweet. My heart sings with joy at the delighted squeals of my children as each one picks a different tree. Even the reminders to not step on baby trees is part of the task. Hearing the saw scratch back and forth and the sound of the tree falling with a gentle swish is even important.

All of these things, little and seemingly insignificant are some of the best parts of getting our Christmas tree. Even the argument that Kyle and I inevitably have over getting the tree up in our house has become part of the process. Though I will say, there was little to argue about this year. Perhaps after ten years we are figuring it out.

And then of course there is the testing and hanging of lights and ornaments. This year in a new home with new places and spaces to nest our simple decorations.
It is amazing to me that Colton is now tall enough to hang ornaments near the top of our 7ft. tree without help. Alex tackling the middle and Addie the lower sections. This may be the most balanced tree we have had yet.

Finally, stepping back to admire everyone’s work with all house lights off and the tree lights sparkling and blinking. Yes, this is what lends to the magic of the season for me, and I hope for my little ones too.

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Can it really be that he is 8?!
I can hardly believe it. But this is the child who made me a mother for the first time. This is the little baby who I exclaimed, “Holy Cow!” at the first sight of his beautiful face. Eight.

And the one wish of this birthday boy? To eat Oysters of course! Oysters.
Oh, how the thought of trying to tackle such a task overwhelmed me. Where this boy gets his adventurous palet only God himself knows. But, I love it all the same.
But there was still the question, where in our Midwestern state would we be able to procure fresh oysters? And how on earth would I (who does not typically do the whole sea-food thing) figure out a way to prepare them? That is, without them tasting like boogers. Truly my fear.

Yes, it was time to call in for reinforcements.

And by God’s great mercy and provision and blessing we were able to make the birthday boys oyster eating dreams come true. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for our neighbors and friends, Greg and Amber who made this all possible. Who made it so special. None of us will forget it… ever!

The above pictures just cannot do justice to what was presented to my newly eight-year-old son. Oyster Soup, Fried Oysters and Oyster Rockefeller! Amazing cannot even begin to express this meal.
Oh, and there is one picture that I forgot to take: The one of the EMPTY plate. Greg, did you hear that? He cleaned that plate (except for a small taste for Mom and Dad) that boy ate it all and LOVED it!
Again Greg and Amber, thank you for making his birthday so special. And thank you to everyone at the Four Roses Cafe for this memorable night.

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And a special thank you to Super-Manna, for watching the two little ones so we could enjoy this special dinner with Colton. And also for making such a delicious cake to enjoy afterwards.

And my birthday wish on Colton’s day? I pray that God would abundantly bless each and every one of the people who took part in this special celebration. Thank you.

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The Weight of the Day

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A little more than a week ago we got another Jersey calf. This calf was not quite as strong as the first, but still we felt his condition was within our skills to treat and hopefully he would thrive.

The trouble with plans like these is that though we may have the head knowledge of what to do, we must realize that we are not fully in control of whether something lives or dies. The fragility of life is such a crushing realization. Though we know we are not immortal by any means, when death approaches, even in the life of an animal it still is such a crushing blow to the dream cloud we tend to live in day to day.
We all pretend that each day is there for us, good bad or otherwise. That it is our choice of what is to be accomplished. But the reality is that much of what happens in life is not within our grasp.

So, back to the calf. Because he was weaker to begin with, we began treating him as proactively as we knew how. All seemed to be going well. He was perking up and looking as if he would be o.k. We patted ourselves on the back at our skills to make something live. Gaining confidence in our bottle calf experiment.

Even Tuesday morning as I went to the barn everything seemed normal. He was even perkier than usual, busting past me out the stall door and high-tailing it for the door. I laughed at his spunk and rounded him back up. He ate well, and I left the barn confident that all was well.

Not a mere 12 hours later as the kids and I were unloading to head to Colton’s first 4-H meeting, I got the call from Kyle that the calf was really sick.

It had only been 12 hours! The speed of his deterioration astounded me and the gravity of what lay ahead began to settle on me. The kids willing reloaded into the van and we headed to the local farm store to gather supplies.
I was surprised by how quickly they seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. Not really asking questions. And the few that they did ask, before I could answer Colton bravely fielding the answers to their inquiries.

I was struck by the realization that for Alex and Addie this would quite possibly be their first real encounter with unexpected death. I remember well when we had to broach this subject when Colton was so young.  I remember the slow methodical processing of my oldest son as another calf died despite all our efforts to save it.

As the hours stretched into days we had our hopes continually raised and dashed. Finally feeling that we could not let him suffer anymore, we made the hard decision that we would need to end his suffering. I dreaded the thought of explaining our reasoning to the kids. But, mercifully I didn’t have to, for he was gone before we could do anything else.

In the morning as we sat the kids down to tell them. I looked into huge expecting and hoping eyes of our younger children, with all the openness and expectation that the news would be good. I then looked into the eyes of our oldest. I could see he knew the reality before the words even left my mouth.

The explanation of the death always has a hollowness to it that I loathe. No matter how you phrase the words they are as empty as the carcass left behind. I could see that bit of emptiness in Colton’s eyes and my heart broke.

I remember my last words, “We did everything we could.”  I waited for reactions and question’s. Instead my oldest wrapped his arms gently around me and uttered quietly, “I know.” His trust in that we had done whatever we could blessed me. I reflected over the past days. Thinking of how he willingly made sacrifices to help wherever he could in the house or with his sister and brother. Whatever we asked of him he did, so we could make frequent trips to the barn to tend to this calf. It occurred to me that he did everything he could as well. Never a complaint on his lips. Always understanding. Always willing. I am so grateful for him.

The younger two sat for a moment letting the news settle in. They sighed heavily at the thought of their little friend being gone. But, then after a mere moments pause were ready to tackle life again. I can see they know, but the gravity of death and what it means they are not ready to shoulder. I am thankful for that. I am thankful that we have the opportunity to try these things. To let them experience life and death, joy and sacrifice with the safety of our little home. I’m so thankful that we have the opportunity to try these experiments with raising animals, even when things don’t turn out the way we hope.

And we will try again… in time. For now we need to turn our attention to other impending arrivals. With a new sister due to arrive in a few short weeks this transition will become our focus. Buster our other calf will have to be content alone for a while longer. I think he will be fine with that. And we are thankful that he is thriving and full of life.

Not really what I wanted to be posting on Thanksgiving. But, this experience reminds me that we can still find gratitude, even in circumstances we would not expect it to be. That too is something to be grateful for.

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Snow Day

11-21-14 002 (1024x881)11-21-14 010 (1024x768)11-21-14 013 (1024x758)Tuesday we got our first official “Snow day.” I know the question begs, why bother to take a snow day if we home school? The answer is simple, because we can!
Of course, I do believe (and it has been my experience) that these extra snowy days lend well to winter learning. Days when the weather is frightful and extra cold, even the hardiest souls among us do not seek to escape the tasks before them. Yes, on these extra wintry days even the more mundane subjects such as Math and Language Arts are much more appealing.  But, there is something undeniably exciting about that first big snowy day. Even as the wind howled and the driveway disappeared we could not resist the pull to notice and acknowledge that the winter season is here. Though for weeks it has whispered its coming, and as gently as a season can has eased its way here. That day there was no denying its presence. And so we are left with a choice: What attitude shall we have to something we cannot change?
My simple thought on the matter is that there will be plenty of time to bemoan the season. Though quite honestly there is much I love about winter. There will be those inevitable moments when life and weather will frustrate even the most winter loving person.
Yet, for a day, this first snowy day, it sounded far better to celebrate the change in weather.

Simple pleasures reign in times like these. French toast for my loves with sprinkles, surly a treat that is rare. The whole day spent in pajama’s, even mama. Lots of coloring and lots  of mama saying, “Yes!” Ad in a touch of work (sorry no pictures of this,) noses deep into tasks that we have wanted to to do, but for whatever reason had not the time to accomplish. Special treats were made and promptly eaten before we could even get frosting on them.

Yes, these simple things are so special on a days like that. I think they are needed as well. For the day will come when we will wake to yet another snowy day. And we will push on with tasks and school regardless of whether the rest of the world does the same. They will announce Snow Days and event cancellations and children all over the county will rejoice, but we will press on, business as usual. But, not on that first snowy day. That is a day to celebrate!

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So Here is Winter

11-18-14 002 (768x1024) 11-18-14 004 (1024x768) The sun hadn’t even risen and yet I knew what was like out there. I knew partly because I could hear it, in all its fearsome winter glory and partly because I had already made the trek to the barn and back this morning. Yes, there is no doubt that winter is upon us.

And so it has come. A few weeks earlier than usual (I think in a typical year we get our first dusting around/after Thanksgiving) but also quite mercifully it has come a few weeks later than last year. There is always something to be grateful for. I am also thankful that this winter we will have the privilege of enduring… er, enjoying the full winter season in our little house. If you remember, we purchased this place at the end of January and didn’t move in until March. And while last spring left us plenty of winter to get the feel of how the season might go. I still think there is a particular excitement about living a new season in a new place. Of course, I am aware that it will not likely be all ‘Snowman and hot chocolate.’ But, today as I did my chores and made a few new discoveries about how blowing snow affects our barn, and our drive way… I do believe we still have a drive way…somewhere? I also feel that little prick of excitement and fear that is so commonly rolled into grown up life.

Along with the blowing snow, the questions billow through my mind, “When will the barn water freeze?” I don’t know, but I would guess it will at some point. “When will we loose power for days?” I’m not certain, but if the weather keeps up as it is, there is that distinct possibility. “Are we prepared enough? What will we do?” No, not likely, but we’ll get by, somehow. 
And then there is that nagging thought at the back of my mind, and though I try, and try I can’t seem to push it away, “Should I order that emergency home-birth kit?” After all, today I can’t see the driveway and I know a plow has not touched our road nor is likely to for the better part of the day. And, I think, “I only have five’ish more weeks of this pregnancy left! If this is November what on earth will it be like in December?!” :)

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View of our front yard road and driveway



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