Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm Blessed

Well, we just got back from a quick weekend down in the big city.  Knut's aunt offered us her Rainbow playground set if we'd pick it up.  Knut's cousin was being confirmed as well, so we thought it would be a good weekend for a visit.

Sunday morning, I heard from my mom that my grandpa was being taken by ambulance to the stroke hospital as he woke up with very shallow breathing and unable to speak.  It seems that he's had a "mini-stroke" and will hopefully be on the mend.  Knut and I are learning with several elderly grandparents that it takes a while for people in their late 80s to mend.  He had a stroke 2 years ago, which he bounced back from slowly, but not completely. 

It was ironic that we were attending a confirmation that day.  It was my grandpa who did my confirmation of the knowledge of the faith.  When I was of confirmation age, we went to a community church that did not do confirmation, so my mom had me visit my grandparents about every other weekend for one on one study with my grandpa, the retired missionary.  How many middle schoolers get to sit one on one with someone with such rich experience in faith and just talk about God, the Bible, doctrine, and faith?  Not enough, I know that much.

This morning, the blessings I'm counting are:

-my grandpa.  It feels like I'm losing him piece by piece as he seems so much older with each visit.  He may be one of the most influential men in my life, and I'm so blessed to be his granddaughter.  I'm so thankful he is still with us, as I'm so anxious to see both him and Grandma this Christmas.

-a new playground for my kids.  I know it sounds petty next to Grandpa, but it will be put to good use by my kids, and we're lucky to have gotten it.

-time with family over the weekend.  It was nice to get away, be in a city and buy things I don't need at Ikea. (Where I ran into a friend/blog reader!  Hi Kari!)

-harvest is done.  Knut was home very early on Thursday, had all of Friday off, and took the kids and I away for the weekend.  It's so amazingly wonderful to have another adult around.  It's so nice to have adult conversation.  The whole way back from the city we dreamed and made plans for our 10 year anniversary trip next summer.  At this point we're leaning towards Norway.  We'll see.

If you'd like to join in as we battle Monday with remembering how we are blessed, leave a comment on how God has been blessing you, or leave a link to your post on blessings.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Homeschool Friday

I had an epiphany this week about our various curricula.  You may laugh.

We are not made for the curriculum, the curriculum was made for us.

The curriculum is there to help me when I'm lost.  It is not there to decide where to go.

Last year, when we were just starting out on our homeschooling journey, I studied curriculum choices like you wouldn't believe.  I looked at reviews, asked my friends, read books on differing schooling theories.  I weighed costs of different programs both in time and money.  Many days after school, Knut would say "Don't fall behind in the curriculum."  We were both still very attached to the traditional classroom type model of school.  The model where there are desks and teacher's manuals, and scripts, and worksheets, and schedules.  I like all those things, so I'm not discounting them.  I just saw them as "school" and now I see them as tools for school.  They're there if I need them.

It happened Monday morning.  Well, I should back up to the previous Saturday.  Silje got a letter in the mail from the little girl we have contact with in Peru.  She wanted to write back right away, so she took a piece of computer paper, and started at it.

Last year in our grammar program taught Silje how to write a thank you note, and a friendly letter.  It was near the end of the year, and just so barely touched on.  This year in grammar, we've been doing review of last year, and slowly going deeper.  For instance, last year we found out what a noun was.  This year we are deeping that knowledge to proper nouns, common nouns, pronouns, etc.  We haven't gone back to letter writing yet.

However, I reacted a bit when I saw Silje's letter to her friend in progress.  It looked like this (with some of my editing started):

Now, if this were Elias, or even David for that matter, I'd say good job.  One of them barely writes, and the other one scribbles.  This type of letter would blow me away from any of my other students.  However, this is from my 2nd grader.  For my 2nd grader, this is rushed and sloppy.  She had missed almost every single capitalization (you're seeing the 'edited' version).  She misspelled 4 words that she has previously learned.  There was no letter formation or indentation of paragraphs.

I told her that we were not going to send this letter.  When she asked why, I probably gave too many reasons.  I ended up apologizing to her for coming down so hard, but she seemed fine.  She knew fully well that it was not her best work, nor did she claim it was.

The way I see it, if the kids do half-hearted work and I praise them for that, they will continue to give me half-hearted work.   The trick to this system is to never miss praising a good job, and never praise them for a bad/sloppy/bad attitude.

In this case, I know it was harsh.  Too harsh.  Normally I try to limit my critiques to 2-3 things and add some praise.  I gave a ton of critiques and the only thing I could find to praise her for was that she was so eager to write the letter.  I told her that of course this letter wasn't right because we haven't been working on letter writing or punctuation for months and I haven't exactly been on top of handwriting.  I told her that this letter reflected more on me the teacher, than her.  I told her I would do better teaching her, so that she can write letters without a worry.  She forgave me, and we planned to re-write the letter on Monday for school.

That's when I pushed aside the grammar curriculum, and handwriting curriculum.  Not to get behind, but because we simply did not need that tool that day.  She didn't want to use the handwriting paper, but was a little afraid to use regular lined paper without the dotted line handicap.  I told her I knew she was ready, and she would do great.

I had my knitting in hand and sat right next to her as she meticulously did each letter.  She started the date too far over to the right, so the date didn't fit on one line.  So we had to start over.  My strong girl didn't even flinch and was just happy we were getting to writing the letter.

Here's her hand when I sat next to her.  She already knew how to do it, but I just parked myself there to answer any questions she had along the way since it had been awhile.  I just said "just do your work carefully like you've learned, and I'll be here if you have any questions."

It's amazing how much the handwriting improved when the only change was a discussion on writing carefully, (along with a few "I know you are capable than better than this") and a bit of personal attention.

That is how my 7 year old is doing.  My 6 year old, is a whole 'nother story.  I have it all typed out, but I'll spare you the "I feel like I'm flying blind as I'm parenting this child" inner musings.  He's doing great at home.  He's continuing to read very well, although his readers are taunting me.

He's been reading about hens and eggs and nests all week.  It's like the reader is laughing at me.

I felt bad I didn't put the linky up last week with no notice.  Feel free to link up if you like!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dreaming in the Kitchen

Down the road, we're going to redo our kitchen.  My mother in law says I can blame Knut for the cupboards.  When he was a little kid he climbed all over the doors and made them a bit askew.  It's a fairly nice looking kitchen, and I enjoy cooking in it.  I remember my mother in law picked out the wallpaper when Knut and I were dating.  I liked it back then, and I still like it.  I love the ceiling.  It's just one of those details that you don't find in new houses.

Knut's parents salvaged the light fixtures from a one room schoolhouse that was closing at the time.  When Knut's little brother, Lars, was still little, he was being tossed in the air by some adult and broke the globes of one of these antiques with his famously hard head.  Knut's mom shopped for years in antique shops for a matching light fixture and eventually found one.  When they moved into their new house, I think these light fixtures might have been one of the hardest things for her to leave behind.

The ceiling and the light fixtures, and perhaps the wainscoting might be the only thing we keep in the kitchen when we redo it.  The floor is white, which isn't the most practical choice for a farm house (or a house with a black, shedding dog for that matter...) but it looks nice next to the dark cabinets.  It doesn't matter, though because the floor is slanted, and will need to be completely ripped up and leveled out.  The cupboards are also slanted, and several shelves are either weak, cracked, or actually broken.  Storing goods in my kitchen is more determined on which shelves will hold the item, more than where I'd look for it first.

So as you can tell, I'm anxious for a new kitchen, but in all serious reality it is still years away.  We're not talking about just a fresh coat of paint.  It will be gutted and rebuilt.  While money is a big delaying factor, so is Knut and I agreeing on what should be done.  He wants dark wood cabinets, a dark wood floor, and dark marble countertops.  I love dark woods.  Love.  However, I've always dreamed of a kitchen with light creamy cabinets.  However, with any of the men in Knut's family (including Knut), the word "paint" never goes in the same sentence as the word "wood."  You might as well be swearing.

I've been paging through decorating magazines and pintrest looking for a kitchen that would inspire us both as we continue to dream.  I really like this idea:

Knut hasn't completely given in, but I suggested that we go with the darker wood floors, which we both love, and go with a darker wood island, and keep the rest of the cupboards light.  Knut would like vise versa where the island is light and cupboards are dark.  My rational is the island will get scuffed and handprints much more than the cupboards, so logically it should be the darker.  We still have some years to hash it out.

This was another inspiration room.  Although the beams are lovely, we don't plan on changing our ceiling, and Knut pointed out right away that there's a lot of wasted space in this kitchen.  Still, it's got the light cupboards and dark islands, and that's the compromise I'm attempting to make with Knut.  He loved the feel of this room, and that made me feel that maybe someday I'll be successful in my attempt to sway.

You know what will also be exciting?  A dishwasher...and I don't mean my 7 year old.  All of the appliances besides the oven are over 2 decades old, so they'll all be replaced then as well, if they aren't sooner.  I want a bigger fridge, and I'm so scared ours will break because a bigger fridge won't fit our current layout.  Well, we'd have to make it fit, I guess.  Bring out the saw and tear down some cupboards.  

Speaking of appliances, the bread that I've been making in the oven seems to get at least one semi-doughy piece in the middle.  I resisted at first getting an independent oven thermometer like the book suggests before baking bread.  Since I saw at Target that they weren't too expensive, I picked one up and used it for the first time yesterday when I made some rye bread.  

So, I thought my oven hasn't been heating up as much as it should, so when the recipe said the oven needed to be at 450, I put it at 475.  Then I let it preheat with the thermometer inside.  Turns out, when my oven is set to 475, it's actually only 340 degrees in there.  So I maxed out the oven that tops off at 550 degrees.  That raised the temperature inside to 427 degrees.  So I baked the bread at that temperature and it turned out even better than before.

And it explains why my food seems to take so long to get done, and I'm constantly adding 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there to recipes.  We heard that it's oftentimes just the burners that need replacing, and I think Knut is going to look into that.  Hang on you electronics!  We need just a few more years from you!  Just a few more years!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yarn Along

Huge strides have been made this week in the medium size of the buttercup soaker/wool wrap for Solveig.  After I get the ribbing on the edges and buttons on, we'll see if this pattern is any sort of decent fit.  I love the linen stitch.  It's so thin and dense, and the wrong side looks as cool as the right side.

I'm sharing Strawberry Girl again, as it's been the most interesting read I've done in awhile.  It's bringing out my Southern drawl and is exposing Silje to some serious situations.  Through this story she is seeing how alcoholism effects a whole family, what poverty looks like, and the "fruits" of hard work.  I'm still a bit thrown by this book for kids that handles these huge themes with such simplicity.  I can see why it's on so many book lists.  I think from the cover I was expecting something more along the lines of Strawberry Shortcake syrupy sweetness, and this is so far from that.  Not only that, but I think a boy would easily enjoy it as much as a girl. 

If you'd like to see more knitting and reading inspiration, follow the link to Ginny's to see the party.

Harvest and Chickens

Well, it's looking as though harvest will be done this week.  Knut says they're working on the last field today.  It will be good to have him home every once in awhile now.  I'll have to say goodbye to my Jane Austen movies until next spring and say hello to some actual face to face conversation with an adult on a daily basis.

That doesn't mean at all that Knut is done for the year.  That just means that soon he might be home to tuck the kids in to bed at night.  He might even make it for supper. 

The air is magical when I go out at night to close in the chickens.  I normally go out at sunset and the sky is full of colors, what is left on the trees is full of colors.  The black soil and the black sillouette of the trees whispers of the season next on our roster.  Winter is void of the rainbow except for the occasional sun dog on the very harsh days.  It's like living in a vintage photograph with an occasional blue sky painted on the film.

I remember seeing my first sun dog.  I was trying to figure out why there was a rainbow next to the sun when I was driving into town one morning.  Maybe God knew that it wasn't just in times of flood that people need reminders that it won't last forever.

I don't mean to be grumbling about the upcoming season.  Winter is by far the favored season in this household.  David and Knut get the most giddy about it.  Silje and I are both excited to read a book next to the fire which is constantly going in the wintertime.  We've only gotten a taste of the fireplace going in the mornings lately, but soon adding wood to the fire will once again be my favorite chore of the day.  Even knitting obsessed, homeschooling, stay at home mom can be a bit of a pyro at heart.

The chickens have officially been placed under house arrest until they make bail.  I check on them twice a day to make sure their food and water supply are adequate.  There's 17 chickens in there and one of them better lay an egg. 

From everything I read, the longer it takes for them to lay an egg, the healthier they are, and they will have more productive egg producing years.  At this point it doesn't feel like I'm pushing a teenager to have a baby as much as it feels like I'm trying to convince a 30 year old to go on a date.  Knut is certain they've been laying in the woods in spite of the fact that I've been keeping them cooped up until noon every day.  Well, we've taken away their afternoon time now.

4-6 months.  They're supposed to start laying between 4-6 months.  They hatched right around May 1st, so November 1st will be 6 months.  I know they're not overdue, but I thought that at least a few of them would start laying by now.  If I were them, I'd start laying before Knut is home after the harvest.  He may want to get food from them one way or the other. 

We never dreamed that harvest would be done and we still wouldn't have eggs yet.  Of course, the guys always aim to get harvest done by Thanksgiving.  This is crazy early to be done.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm Blessed

I'm sorry I didn't put a little linky gadget up last Friday.  I've been on the fence about making that a "thing" just because sometimes I don't always want to write about that, and sometimes I don't need to write about that.  Anyway, that discussion is for another time.

Today I am writing about how God has blessed me, in my continued quest to praise Him for His active involvement in my life.  I'm trying to step back from praising God when I feel like it, and starting to praise Him because that's what He deserves.  Because it's an honor.

I praise Him for the little things, not so I get the little things.  I'm one who believes that God cares about the little things.  I think He cares about bills, about truth, about jobs, about children.  The God who designed the inner workings of a cell cares about the little things.

I think God delights in blessing us.  I think God knows when we need him more than any material blessings He could bestow.  That does not mean that he doesn't care about the material.  That just means that if we are chasing the material, we are missing the treasure.

Here's my list for the week:

-I'm blessed with flannel sheets.  I love flannel sheet weather.

-I'm blessed with a very smiley baby.

-I'm blessed that I'm continuing to see my kids grow in maturity, and the amazing conversations we are having.

-I'm blessed with this beautiful setting.

-I'm blessed with a husband who teaches me so much about love.  I love him so much it scares me sometimes.  I think that love like this is too great.  It's too deep.  Surely one of us will die, or something tragic will happen to separate us because this love still overwhelms me.  Then God whispers to me, that He gave me Knut to teach me about His love.  God's love is the deepest, the widest, the strongest.

I don't have it all together, and nothing that I have listed is something I deserve because I'm just that great.  If you knew the sins I struggle with, the cowardice I sometimes show, the pride that comes out other times.  If you knew my temper, knew what a slob I can be, not to mention scatterbrained, you would know that these blessings were not from my works, but something God gave to me as a gift.

I know these posts maybe get preachy, and that's not my mission.  I don't think anyone ever intends to sound preachy.  Maybe they make someone feel sad, although no one has ever said that, I can't tell you how much I worry about that.  I have people I complain with, don't we all?  That's not for right now, though.  Right now is Monday morning, and time to wake up to some praising (instead of the grumbling I can too easily do this special, exhausting day of the week).

How have you been blessed?  Instructions on how to link up are on the button on the right.  As always, I love to read those comments most especially today too!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Homeschool Friday

Silje has been reading a lot this week.  There have been a lot of "Can I read just one more chapter?" asked to me when I've been swamped and I nod and send her off to read one more chapter.  I don't know why I feel guilty about that, but I do.  As I review the week I'm trying to figure out if Silje did "enough" because I have this guilty feeling.

In my review I see that she did plenty of school work.  My guilt lies in that she did not do as much with me as I like her to.  She's an excellent independent worker, and I never want to give her the short end of my stick because she's smart enough to make up for it.  O, why do motherhood and guilt always seem to go together?

She's whipping through Chinese.  I make her do 2 of the "lessons" on the computer, but she is allowed to do them as many times as needed to pass.  Last year it would take her 3-4 tries (a few days) to pass a lesson.  This year she doesn't just do 2 lessons a day, she passes 2 lessons a day.

We've been on top of reading, math, Latin, Bible, and history.  I've not been on top of grammar, science, arts and crafts, and handwriting.  Wow.  Seeing that written out doesn't seem so bad.  She's reading Understood Betsy which was a read aloud last year that we didn't get to, and I saved for an independent reader for her this year.  It's a tough book for her, but she's determined.  I've been checking her comprehension and she's been getting it.

David really likes Stink: Solar System Superhero, the book I got at the library to help get him into reading.  The book is full of fart jokes and general silliness.  I hate it.  He loves it, and actually asks me to read it to him every day.  There's no more fight over read-aloud time.

There must be a better compromise. 

I'm going to finish it.  There's actually some decent knowledge in there about the debate on whether or not Pluto can be considered a planet.  I'm sure that I can slowly move him to books of higher quality, but for now, we're getting a reading rhythm established.

I saw another victory for David this week.  We went to homeschool group on Tuesday and David is in the same group as Silje this year.  The kids got to sit in a sanctuary and listen to Bach be played live on an organ, and studied the life of Bach as well.  I was in the nursery with Solveig and it was my first time not walking David through homeschool group as he tends to reject getting involved in sitting type activities.

I asked him if he wanted to go to do the music lesson with Silje or come to the nursery with me, and he picked the music lesson.  Victory.  Not only that, but I peeked in on him several times and he was sitting with other boys and was raising his hand and was involved. Well, he wasn't always sitting with the other boys.  He moved around a lot, which is typical for him.  Sometimes he got up and walked around and then sat down in a different spot alone if he was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Fortunately that type of behavior is very okay in this setting.  By the end of the homeschool group time, he was actively engaged in Bach Jeopardy.

It's not that David's antisocial.  It's that he wants to do what he wants to do and doesn't want to follow the crowd or speak in a group setting.  To see him sit with boys he didn't know well, raise his hand and say a few words in front of the group, and go along with the lesson when he'd rather be in the gym was a really neat thing for me to see.  It is so neat to see his growing maturity in action.

Not only that, but before homeschool group, we were invited out to a restaurant with some cousins of my mom's (3 guys) who were driving through town on their way back from my Great-Aunt's funeral.   David sat next to one of them, ordered from the menu and spoke to the waitress himself, and held a conversation with these men without issue, whining, or hiding behind me.  When he finished his food first, he did not pester me to get up and leave because he wanted to go.  He and Silje sat and chatted with us 4 adults.  (Solveig was with us too.  Elias was taking a nap at Grandma's.  Thanks Linda!)

Talking to adults is not usually an issue for Silje, but it is for David, and I was so much fun to sit and enjoy a time at the restaurant together.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


This morning Knut took Elias to go riding with him and Grandpa out in the field.  He should have fun in the tractor and combine.  It has been a peaceful morning minus our almost 3 year old.  I hate to say it, but it's been so quiet.

I've been keeping the chickens "cooped up" until noon every day to see if they've been laying elsewhere in the morning.  Still no eggs.  If there still aren't eggs by the end of the month, I'm keeping them cooped up with food and water until I see eggs.  I've threatened them with this several times but they think I'm bluffing I think.  I'm not bluffing.  I can take away their yard.  I'll do it too.  They're supposed to start laying between 4-6 months.  They will be 6 months at the end of this month, so I have certain expectations here backed up with months worth of feed costs that I was thinking I'd recuperate at some point.

I know...I just need to be patient.

Knut said that corn harvest may be done before Halloween this year.  I don't remember it ever being done that early.  Normally the weather stops them for a few days.  I think he's glad he'll have plenty of time to finish putting wood up for the winter.  We've started burning wood 2 days ago now, and we have plenty for about a month or so.  I'm not running the fireplace all day yet, but it's become (once again) the favorite room in the house to do schoolwork in.

The upside to harvest is that I get lots of time in the evening to do whatever I darn well please.  I finally got Photoshop and I've been playing around with picture editing.  I haven't figured out how to round the edges of my pictures on there yet, so you'll have to put up with pointy corners on the blog until then.  I really need to redo my header one of these nights.  I have no clue why it's been blurry.

I can watch as many Jane Austen movies in a row as I like without any male influence rolling his eyes, and that's precisely what I've been doing.  Knitting and watching movies.

My knitting has been suffering from a bit of ADD.  I'm trying to get the Dirk sweater written up by the end of this month to send off to Knit Picks for distribution.  Now that it's a "have to" I've stalled a bit, but I have no doubt I'll get it done in time.  I've finished the 2 custom cowl orders I've had.  My aunt wanted 2 of them, and I made them a bit longer than the original pattern as requested.  I do mean to get some of these in my store.  I bought some super soft yarn to do just that.  I blame the KADD (Knitting Attention Deficit Disorder).  Now that these are done, I should be able to add another cowl into my knitting rotation.

The original pattern can be found here.  These cowls were made with 5 pattern repeats instead of 4, which made me dip into a second skein of yarn, but it was sooo worth it.  They're just lovely.

In addition to finishing the pattern stuff for the Dirk, finishing the Clara Cowl orders, and playing around with the Miss Serina design, I've finished a new pattern prototype.  It just needs some snaps and possibly a little embroidery on the back.
I ordered some gray snaps to use on it, and I'm thinking of embroidering a little gray baby elephant on the butt.  This sample is made in size small because I've learned I like to make prototypes in small sizes because I tend to redo parts quite often, and it's just faster.  One of my sister in laws was commenting how she's trying to find a nighttime cloth sleep solution for her twin boys as they are wet in the morning no matter what she has tried.

After our conversation, my mind was whirling over a densely woven cover that would be good enough for heavy wetters, but cute enough to wear whenever.  So this design was born.  It's named the "Buttercup" and was named by Silje "because it's for the butt."  She cracks me up sometimes.

So I cast on a size M for Solveig so that I can try it out on her before I make 2 larges for my nephews and hopefully find a solution to the nighttime diapering conundrum.  I plan to sell the pattern, and offer it for anyone who wants to sell them in their etsy or hyenacart stores, as I don't see myself being able to make a lot of these.  I'm having so much fun designing now.  I'll probably have them in my store on occasion, and always have custom orders open. 

The one I'm making for Solveig I'm going to use buttons instead of snaps just so that I have pictures for the pattern of what that option would look like.  I'm using some of my pretty pink wool that I bought for my store, but people seem to prefer the gender neutral colors, I guess.

I'm not sure what to do with the prototype one, as it has a few technical knitting errors in it, and so I'm not so keen on putting it in my store.  I'll probably hang onto it for a rainy day.

And that's what's happening here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yarn Along

I'm keeping it simple this week for the Yarn Along.  Ginny is our hostess, so stop on over her blog if you like for some knitting eye candy, and never disappointing photography. 
 I'm reading Strawberry Girl with Silje.  It's not what I had expected from this book, but I still like it.  I'm reading Stink: Solar System Superhero with David.  Out of this world success.  (Hardy-Har-Har).  Thank you public librarian for your recommendation of a book my son would actually sit through.  I cannot wait to share with you one of these weeks a book I'm reading for me. 

This is bamboo sock yarn sitting on top of my design notebook.  This is a preview of my "Miss Serina Cardigan" that I'm making for Silje.  I've only redone the top about 4 times, but I think the design is finally how I like it.  I was having a lot of indecision for the front of the design and had an epiphany about it just yesterday.  I cannot wait for you to see the finished product. 

I'm also very relieved that I won't have to start it over until I'm making the version for me.  Yes, after this cardigan for Silje, (only her 3rd mama-made-cardi, not counting shrugs or anything) and after this I'll finally make one for me.  I've already splurged on some sa-weet Madelinetosh yumminess in the color "ginger" that is all wound into balls and being admired in a bowl on my dining room table until it's turn comes up. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Top 10 Grocery Budget Tips

I've been trying to assemble my tips and tricks to making a grocery budget work.  This seems to be an ever-increasing challenge as prices seem to be growing.

However, making a budget work doesn't require that you stock up on cheap $1 pizzas and Ramen noodles.  I'd say that most of the time when our family goes cheaper, it's the healthier option anyway.

I'm not much of a coupon queen.  It's not that I don't have the time to cut/print them because if I really wanted to, I probably would make time.  The 2 main reasons that I don't are: I can't keep them organize or remember I have them at the store no matter what kind of system I try, and second: most coupons are for name brand, processed foods.  I find that buying generic or making it myself is the same or cheaper than using a coupon.

There are some rare instances where coupons come on what I buy and the checker scans it for me.  Sometimes there's a coupon for real food like potatoes or eggs, and I'll take advantage of that if I can overcome the "I forget I have them when I get to the store" challenge.  Why do I forget?  I'll give you 4 squirmy reasons and a wall of candy conveniently placed at check-out as my reason.

I do find that when I shop at my local mom and pop grocery store, they'll often say "There was a coupon for this in the paper.  Here, I have an extra."  While I do shop for groceries at Walmart sometimes as well, I certainly don't get that "I have an extra coupon" service there, and I'll say without a doubt that I prefer the fruits and vegis at the mom and pop place over Walmart's produce.  There's just no comparison.

So besides coupons, here's what I attempt to do (although these rules are often broken, which often breaks the budget as well.):

Eat all the leftovers.  Uneaten leftovers aren't just wasted food.  They're wasted money.  I have a few recipes that use up bits and scraps.  This time of year almost any leftover can be thrown into a basic homemade soup.  I often use leftovers fried up with rice and soy sauce on a skillet.  We call that fried rice.  Ingredients: a meat (eggs count) a vegi, rice, soy sauce, and olive oil as needed.  If I have any of those ingredients as leftovers, this is a quick meal.  Knut often gets packed leftovers for lunch.  It's really the best way to clean the fridge.

If you are getting sick of some leftover, package it up for the freezer and pull it out when you need a quick meal.  I often will make a triple batch of something and freeze all the leftovers so they don't even make it to the fridge.  That way you can pull them out in 2 weeks or a month when you haven't eaten that meal in awhile and all you have to do it warm it up.

Meal plan.  When I'm really on top of this, I'll even plan in the snacks.  If you need cheap, healthy, snack ideas, I consistently go to the Healthy Snacks on the Go ebook.  It's a great resource combining organization, frugality, and healthy recipes. Granola is our new favorite, but that's for another post.  As ski season is approaching, I'm going to try her recipe in there for homemade power bars ad Knut goes through those a lot while training. 

I'm finding that for me, the snacks made in here are about the 1/3 cost on average to buying them at the store.  Grocery budgets are ruined when we get a pizza because I have no clue what to make, or we're in town during snack time and the kids need something now and I didn't plan for it.  When I see an overview for the week, I can alternate more expensive meals with cheaper ones so that we don't feel too deprived or anything.  It helps to not make heavy meals back to back.

Make a grocery list and stick to it.  This goes along with meal planning.  Sometimes I'll make a list with the sales ad in front of me, and other times I don't.  The main thing is to stick to the list in the store.  Never ever shop from the end of a row where the price is big and bold.  Making the font bigger does not make it cheaper.  Sometimes if I want that item, I'll go to that aisle, and see that the "end cap" brand was the most expensive version of whatever that item was.  Stick to the list like a grocery shopping Nazi following orders.  There are only 3 things that I'll vary from the list for if they're on a good sale: meat, butter, and cheese.  Shredded cheese can be frozen well, so that makes all 3 of those items easy for me to stock up on, and we use all 3 of them all the time.  Around holiday time I'll break the rules for chocolate chips as well because we go through bags of those like nothing else at Christmas baking time.

Make your own bread.  I promise, it's not as hard as you think.  It tastes way better, it's healthier, and it's a fraction of the price.  If you have the time, there is no downside here.  I've used a breadmaker for about the last 3 years (it paid for itself in about 2 months but probably less), and have not used it since I got the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book.  It literally is 5 minutes a day, and I'm doing less dishes than when I used my breadmaker.  I think the bread tastes better than my breadmaker as well, and the waiting from setting it out to rise to eating it is less than the breadmaker.  So I can throw it in "last minute" a little easier.

They do say you should use a cooking stone, but I've been using a cookie sheet and it's turned out just fine.  I just got a stone last week, but I just wanted to say for the record that you don't have to have all the tools they suggest on hand in order to make that kind of bread.

I've been making 2 different types of bread a week and storing the dough in my fridge.  This type of breadmaking does not require's that fast.  So Saturday I make the 2 doughs so we have variety during the week.  (This week it's regular white and oatmeal pumpkin sandwich bread.)  The kids help me stir  the dough right in big Rubbermaid fridge containers and love it.  About 2-3 hours before I need the bread, I take it out of the fridge, rip off a portion of dough for the day, shape it quick with flour and let it rise a few minutes (depending on the recipe) until it goes in the oven.

So far we haven't had a loaf make it to day 2, so I can't tell you how it keeps.  I can tell you it's super yummy, and it's pennies and minutes to make.

Make your own yogurt.  This idea came from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship as well.  The lady is a genius.  It's so stinkin' easy.  Yogurt makes a healthy snack, breakfast, or frozen dessert.  I try to make this only once a week, and it can be done after the kids go to bed.  I normally make it when I'm watching a movie at night.  I do one step before the movie, and another step after the movie, and then I put it in the cooler/incubator for the night and in the morning it goes in the fridge to cool.  Again, this is not a lot of time or money.  It's not a little bit cheaper than store-bought.  It's a small fraction of the price than store-bought.  We eat it with honey, frozen fruit, homemade granola, and I use it for baking a lot as well.  I sub it in any recipe that calls for buttermilk.

Make your own stocks.  This feeds into the whole "use all your leftovers" rule as well.  This is something that I throw together in the morning, let cool in the afternoon, and divide up in the evening.  That being said, it's not an all day job.  More like a "fix it and forget it for a few hours" job. 

For clarification, a broth is meat bones boiled dark.  A stock is meat bones, as well as vegis and whatever else you fine boiled until dark.  Many broths/stocks that are store bought have a very high salt content.  That is because they are being smart businesses and using the cheapest ingredients.  I prefer flavor to saltiness, so I make my own and it is cheaper than the salty stuff at the store.

Here's how you do it:
-get some bones.  For beef broth I get beef bones at the store, and often throw in a beef liver because they're cheap and full of nutrients too.  I don't like the texture of liver so don't eat it, but it's great in beef stock.  For chicken stock add chicken bones.  If you have access, add the guts and neck or anything else you can find cheap that is chicken related at the store.  After Thanksgiving, I always make a turkey broth from the turkey carcass and use that in recipes that call for chicken broth.  I do this so I don't have to feel bad about not cleaning the meat off the bones very well off the turkey because that gets tedious at some point.

-Next add some vegis.  Use whatever you have on hand and don't feel you need to go to the store if you're missing something.  I use unions, garlic, carrots, celery if I have it.  Your vegis should be clean and roughly chopped, but there is no reason to peel, slice, dice, or leave out the papery outsides.  Shove it all in.  We'll suck the life out of it.  Avoid creamy vegis like potatoes or corn. 

-Next throw in some spices.  I find that chunky salts like sea salt or kosher salt work well in stocks because they gradually work their way into the stock and don't just sit on top.  The same goes for peppercorns instead of ground pepper.   I like to add a sprig of thyme and/or parsley.  I find a bay leave or 3 are good in the beef stocks.  Just don't add a spice that you wouldn't want in every single recipe you'll use this stock for.  Keep it generic because you can always add spice when making the actual meal.

-Lastly cover everything in the pot with water until it's very full and boil for hours until it's the color you want it to be.  Let it cool, strain, and put in freezer bags or whatever containers you use for the freezer.  I like to freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions and I always label!  As our family is getting older I find myself reaching for the 2 cup bags more often, so that's what I'm doing now.  Freeze flat in the freezer and stack them up for when you need them.  This practice is not "a bit cheaper" than store bought, it's pennies on the dollar to store bought.  Not only that, but you will immediately taste the difference.  Knut can taste when I've cheated and bought broth at the store with the first bite. 

What do you use stocks for?  Gravy, soups, stir fries, sometimes casseroles or making a seasoned rice.  I also like to make some biscuits and then use this to make some sauce and add some cooked ground beef to the sauce, pour it on top of the biscuits and it's a really quick meal. 

Make noodles.  Homemade noodles is a new project of mine.  I will blog about this more later and come back to this post and add a link telling how it's going.

Make crackers.  We've switched from buying graham crackers and wheat thins to making them at home.  They take almost no time.  Buying a box of either one of these is about $2.50.  Making the same amount is about $1.  Seriously, like many of the other things listed above, you will slap your forehead and think to yourself  "I've been paying someone to make this for me?!?"

What I love about making crackers is that it isn't as hard to roll out or manage as cookie dough or even bread dough.  It doesn't require the mess of lots of flour like some other rolling foods.  This means that the kids can help with this one and my kitchen recovers that much faster! 

Always look at the "price per oz" on the tag at the store, not the total price.  You'll be surprised what things in bulk are actually more expensive, and what brands cost how much.  I never, ever shop by the big price in the bold numbers.  I shop looking at the small price per oz numbers in the upper left hand corner.  It makes an enormous difference.

Cut down on cereal consumption.  My kids love cereal.  Love might be an understatement, especially when it comes to the boys.  The reality of it is, cold cereal is about the most expensive breakfast we have in this house, even when we get the generic stuff in the bag.  So a few days a week, we're swapping cold cereal for one of the hot kinds.  Eggs are cheaper.  Oatmeal is cheaper.  Steel cut oats in the crockpot overnight are cheaper.  Toast is cheaper.  Cream of wheat is cheaper.  Pancakes are cheaper.  Don't get the instant oatmeals because there's an insane amount of sugar and it's not cheaper.  Dish up 1/3 cup of oatmeal, 2/3 cup of water, brown sugar, or whatever cinnamon or the like, some frozen fruit or dried fruit or cut up apples, and stick in the microwave for a minute and a half.  It doesn't get more instant than that.

We get more full and don't require as much food for snack later.  Knut has eggs scrambled with spinach, peppers, cheese and tomatoes almost every morning.  If he has anything else for breakfast, he is always hungry before noon.

So that's it.  Most of things on this list will not require much time, but they do require planning and that's normally the tough part.   It's an exercise in organization, but one that is well worth it.

Other ideas for budgeting groceries can be found over at Raising Olives.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm Blessed

It's Sunday night when I'm writing this, and the very first thing that comes to mind as I count my blessings is that I got a nap today.

That's just the beginning, but that's the lovely feeling putting an overcast on my writing today: rest.

I got Knut all to myself on Sunday.  Well, we went to church, and of course the kids shared him too.  There weren't any family functions to attend, there wasn't anything on the calender, and there was a lot of hanging out.  Knut insisted that I take a nap since Solveig has been working on some new teeth.  Friday night and Saturday night each I got less than 5 hours of sleep with no stretch longer than 1 1/2 hours.  By Sunday morning I was a zombie, and Knut sent me up to nap after church.  It was one of those really good naps too, where you wake up refreshed and delighted.  I normally wake up from napping feeling groggy and cranky, so I normally avoid the practice. 

I can't tell you how amazing it is to have another adult around the house.  He did the job we both hate: cleaning up the playroom with the kids.  He actually did the dishes too.  It wasn't a work day by any means, but I feel so caught up and refreshed to start off the new week.

Other blessings this last week:
-One point in the sermon giving me food for thought for the week on loving God with my mind.  My mind is often all over the place, and the point I caught was talking about setting aside the energy to think about our prayers, and not go through our day in a rote style religion.  The fact that I was able to catch any point of the sermon when I was so tired catches my attention because it is so directly a work of the Holy Spirit.  The thought grasped will be such good kindling for prayer this next week.

-One of my blog readers (who is also a real-life friend) read on my post last Wednesday about the hymn I've been pondering.  Since it was one of her favorites too, she sent me a music copy in a key that is much easier to play and is in low voice range.  I don't know if she knew I'm an alto, but that made me a little giddy.  It was a very sweet act of kindness.

-Another friend who lives a few hours away sent me an "I'm thinking of you" package in the mail.  Overall it was a great mail week!  She sent me some Christmas potpourri, YARN!! and a little craft book and activity for Silje.  Seriously, I have amazing friends.  This time of year it's so easily for me to feel isolated and some very sweet people reached out to me to encourage me.

That's me.  How about you?  How have you been blessed this week?  Sometimes it's very easy to identify, and sometimes blessings come in unexpected packages.  One thing we do know, it's that God gives us the exact blessings that we need.  I'd love for you to share how God has been blessing you.  You can leave a comment, and/or leave a link to your own blog post on the subject (don't forget to link back to this blog in your post!) and join the party that way.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been participating in this each week.  It is such an encouragement.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Homeschool Friday

(used with permission from The Family Man.)
This week was much better.  I got some great practical advice from a former single mother (thanks, Mom!) on how to manage this week a little better.  I am learning that homeschooling skills have less to do with teaching qualifications, and more to do with parenting skills than anything else.  So I'll take advice from a non-homeschooling mother because you know what?  She knows what she's talking about too. ;)

My mom encouraged me to not make excuses for my kids when they're missing their dad.  My mom never let us kids be victims and I'm so thankful for that.  She gave us some great skills and always set a high standard, and I hope to do the same with my kids.  That's just a side thought, but I don't know if my mom knows how much her words helped me this week.  I'd call her and tell her all that myself, but I know she's busy with her big yearly audit at work and maybe this public thank you will make her smile during her break, which doesn't line up with my breaks as often as I'd wish.

So, we got back on track.  I got my new spreadsheet all organized, and we've been on a good roll.  It's been a HUGE help to write down Silje and David's daily "to do list" in their little composition notebooks.  They absolutely love checking things off, and the amount that I have to get them back on track has dropped significantly.  

David's now half way through his McGuffey Primer.  I'm nervous he's going too fast and isn't retaining as much as I'd like.  I'm brainstorming ways to go deeper where he's at. 

He's having a tough time breaking out of the "reader" safety zone.  He will only attempt to read books from designated readers, and hates it when I ask him what the next word is when I'm reading him a regular picture book.  I only ask him that when I know he knows the word, and he just won't do it.  However, he reads the cereal boxes/bags, so there you go.  

"Mommy, can I have some more 'Great Value Apple Blasts?'" (when I'm pretty sure I called them Apple Jacks)
"David, who told you these were called 'apple blasts?'"
"I read it on the box.  It says 'Great Value Apple Blasts.'"


I asked for a recommendation from our local librarian for a good read aloud for him as Stuart Little is both his and my least favorite part of the day as he's not into it even a little.  Following the Sonlight model (but not the curriculum for kindergarten) I like to read aloud a book to him a bit above his reading level.  

The librarian pointed me to "Stink: Solar System Superhero."  It's about a little boy named "Stink" who saves the solar system, or at least that's my best guess.  I'll let you know.

Silje is stressing out over math, which she doesn't need to do.  People seem to feel the need to quiz her on math when we're out and about and they find out she's homeschooled.  I know...weird.  I mean, I completely understand why they do that, but it's always math, and she has it stuck in her head that it's her worst subject and she's bad at it.  

People ask her the most off the wall questions and she feels so humiliated if she doesn't know.  She's about a half a year ahead of grade level in math, so I'm not the least bit worried, but she still stresses on this subject.  I'm realizing this subject is very sensitive to her.

I keep telling her at the beginning of mini quizzes that this is just to show me what she knows, and to get into the habit of trusting her gut.  I won't be mad if she doesn't get them all done, or if she does it wrong.  Maybe she's stressing out about the curriculum itself, but I think it's teaching her quite a bit.  Maybe she just hates math, or maybe she hates tests.  I'm not sure.  My current plan is to keep pressing on, and making kind corrections if she gets one wrong, and coaching her through.

Chinese is her favorite.  I think she just likes being on the computer.  I have 2 lessons a day (they're quick...maybe 10 minutes or less) written on her to do list, but 2 times this week she asked if she could do more.  Now when I'm cooking she tells me what some of the foods are in Chinese, and I hope that she's right!  She could be making up this gibberish for all I know.

The kids have been more imaginative this week, more playful, and better listeners.  I don't know if someone has been praying, but it sure feels like it.  We still all miss Knut, who's around, but not around.  I've taken them to see him more often when his semi pulls up to the grain bins on the far side of the yard.  I'm still so pleased to see them all asleep at the end of the day. 

I wasn't able to make the monthly "Mom's night out" with my local homeschool support group this yesterday since the kids aren't old enough to be left at home alone (ha!), so I called my friend whose husband happens to be Knut's cousin who also works on the farm.  I made myself some coffee and called her up on the phone and we commiserated together.  It was wonderful.

For those who like to leave a link to their recent homeschooling posts:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Babes

Our little Solveig has now passed the 10 month mark.  I am surprised how perfectly she was named "Solveig Joy" as she takes that "Joy" part extremely seriously.
This isn't her normal smile.  This is her just being silly.  This girl wakes up with a squeal and hugs me as hard as she can.  She kicks her legs when she's excited and that's pretty much all the time.  She likes to pull books off of bookshelves during school.  I let her because it's a diversion.  She laughes at Lena, she really laughs at Elias, and she adores the big kids.  She is overjoyed when she sees Knut.  Overall, I'd say "Joy" is her middle name.

This is her normal smile:
When this girl smiles, she nearly shakes with intensity.  Her smile pushes those fat cheeks as best as they can and there's normally a good squeal that goes with that.

I mentioned how much she likes Lena, but I have a photograph showing how much Lena loves her.  I was taking pictures of her as she was crawling around.  We were in the kitchen and I had not closed our makeshift gate leading to the back hallway which has stairs to the basement.  Normally she can't get back here, but since I was standing right there, I thought I'd see what she would do.

Well, Lena was not comfortable with my choice to let her explore the rug while I overlooked.  She marched right past us both and parked her body in front of the stairs.  If Solveig was going to get to the stairs, she would have to get through Mama Lena first.
Have I mentioned lately how we have such an awesome dog?  You can train most dogs to do lots of things.  I've only met one other dog (Sunny, who was my step-dad's dog) who was intuitive like this.  There's little needs for commands as she just knows what to do.

Elias doesn't like when I take pictures of Solveig and not him.  So here's a little Elias love as well:
O, this guy knows how to turn on the charm!
We're finally making strides with his "constant whining" voice that was grating at me for a few months.  I've been trying to teach him to speak with a smile on his face, because he has a tough time whining when he's smiling.  It's so cute because now when he asks for something he pushes his cheeks up with his 2 pointer fingers and goes, "See, Mom?  See?"  I think he's very relieved to know how to ask for things now in a way that we'll listen.  His frustration level has gone way down now that it's clicked that whining = not getting what you want and asking nicely = better luck getting what you want.

He turns 3 next month.  He's done everything differently than the older kids.  I'm hoping that "3" will go better this time around!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yarn Along

Today I'm back with my friends doing the "Yarn Along."  A blog party, for those who don't know, is where you get together at one blog and read other people's post on one topic.  It's like a lot of voices that you get to listen to in any order you like.  This particular party is hosted over at Ginny's beautiful blog.  The topic, like always, is what we are knitting and reading.

Forgive the picture.  I was playing around with my 50mm lens and it doesn't have auto focus and I'm still getting the hang of it.

I've been all over the place, knitting-wise.  I'm not showing all the projects on needles at my house right now, simply the ones that are getting all the attention and love at the moment.  I have a Clara cowl, which is the second of 2 ordered by a sweet, sweet person in my life.  Then I've got this wool diaper cover that I've been playing around with.  The design is still under wraps, so I'll just give a peek.

Then I've got the Knit Picks sample sweater that has a complete body, and just waiting on some sleeves.  Thank you to so many of you who gave me suggestions on colors to pick.  I ended up going with one of our suggestions to stick with the heathers and I'm so very pleased with that decision.  When I think of how much I love how it's turning out I get a little giddy.

As far as reading goes, I was debating what should make it to the picture.  I've been going through some knitting reference books.  I picked up The Scarlett Letter from Goodwill the other day, and plan to re-read that classic.  I haven't started it yet, though.  I couldn't even throw in a good homeschool book because I didn't do much school with the kids last week.

However, the only thing I've found time for lately is the oddest thing.  I played the violin when I was little, though I didn't read music well.  I learned by the Suzuki method, which is mostly playing by ear.  I also took about 9 months of piano lessons when I was a few years older, and learned some music there.  As Silje is taking lessons for her 2nd year, I've been dabbling on my own again.

I was telling my mom that my goal was to be able to sit down at the piano and play any hymn in a hymnal.  So I figured the best way to do that was to get a hymnal and start plunking away.  I got this one at a garage sale a few weeks ago for a quarter.  There's a church's name embossed on it, so I'm having a crisis on whether I should attempt to return it there or not.

Anyway, as I've been working my way through a few songs, I've come across an old favorite.  I can't play it well at all because it's in a difficult key, so when I reach the point (about a measure in) where I can't play it anymore, I just start singing it without the piano because it's one of my favorites.  Silje likes to sing with me, though she doesn't know this one yet.  She just sits on the couch when I get to this song and listens, and when I'm done, she always thinks it's strange that I'm crying...over a song.

I thought I'd copy the lyrics for some who may appreciate it as well.

The Love of God

verse 1:
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can every tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall for everymore endure
The saints' and angels' song.

Verse 2:
When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,

God's love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam's race--
The saints' and angels' song

Verse 3:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

I don't get to play the piano often.  I sneak in 10 minutes one day, another 10 minutes a few days later.  It's been like that for a few weeks.  I'm thinking by the time I have grandchildren, I may be able to play for them.  I'll confess, though, sometimes I'm not even at the piano with this book.  These songs are beautiful to just read.

My Knights

I recently pulled out of my bag of tricks for the kids a knight's costume as we begin to study the Middle Ages in school.  Since the revelation of this new costume, David has decided to be a knight for Halloween.  The costume didn't come with a sword, though.  So when David and I went to town on his birthday, we picked him up a play sword.

He was very eager when he got home to fight his brother with it.  However, a second sword was not purchased.  Not to worry, Elias is very good at improvising.

The whisk was all his idea.  

The boys fought it out before supper, after supper, and the following morning.

The excitement of new toys that have arrived at our house since the most recent birthday has served as a reminder to me to do a major toy purge.  We actually buy very few toys for our kids, but somehow the playroom is some sort of vacuum that collects massive amounts of toys by itself.  Before Christmas every year my goal is to get rid of half.  I'm thinking that may have to come early this year.  I'm trying to figure out a way to store some toys so that they're not all out and within reach of the kids all the time. 

The toy closet serves as a great storage space other than the fact that the kids go in there and destroy it almost daily.  I'm imagining ways in my mind to lock it so that I can control how many toys are out at a time.  I know that any sort of contraption will be taken as a personal challenge to overcome by David. 

I have learned that a toy purge is something that is done at night when everyone is asleep.  It's done with black bags, and put in the trunk of the car before morning.  When the kids see the playroom after a big clean out, they are thrilled 100% of the time.  It's such a relief to them not to deal with so much and decide what stays and what goes.  I'm thinking that tonight may be the night for this magic play room transformation.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm Blessed

It's one of those "dig deep" weeks.  It's not that I'm not blessed, it's that I don't always feel blessed.
This week, I feel tired.

The soy bean harvest is finished, and they've moved onto corn.  That means if the weather holds, harvest could be done in a few weeks.  I always hope that they're done in time for Knut to come trick or treating with the kids to visit all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, and retired farmers.  Trick or treating way out here is an entirely different event than it was when I grew up in the city.  That's for a completely different post, though.

The kids miss Knut.  I need to take them out to see him more, and that would help.  Our recent turn of sicknesses in 3 of our 4 children since harvest started hasn't exactly made it easy.

I actually took myself to the doctor this last week.  Grandma was kind enough to babysit so I could go by myself.  It was really fun to just sit and look at magazines in a waiting room.  I got reacquainted with celebrities.

I went because I was concerned that I had another ovarian cyst.  I don't know who remembers I had to have surgery to remove on almost 2 years ago.  Pathology said it was a dermoid cyst, and that meant that my chances for getting one on the other ovary was higher than most people.  So I can get jumpy when I suspect it might be happening again.  They're not crazy dangerous, but it's good to catch them before they start too much trouble, and the smaller you remove them the less toll it takes on my body.

So after getting some tests, and a quick ultrasound, I found out everything is perfectly normal.  I don't even have any normal cysts right now, which is good.  The normal ones go away by themselves, but that's not a fun adventure either.

Have you ever gone to the doctor because you think you have something, and then find out that you're just fine?  It's a bittersweet moment.  You're glad you're healthy, but it's rarely fun to be wrong.  When you have a high insurance deductible, it hurts a bit too, even though you're healthy.

I swiped this from facebook the other day, but I don't know where the original source of this great comic comes from:
I'm so blessed to be healthy.  I do not ever want to take that for granted.

It's harvest when things are tough with the kids.  The bickering is growing, and I haven't figured out how to stop it.  The boys especially are clingy more than normal.  I feel that maintaining my house can be achieved only by barking at my kids all day long.  If I try to not bark at them all day long, I'm rewarded with an insanely messy house by the end of the day.  I then go to sleep knowing that I'll wake up the next morning already behind.

Like the doctor's office, this time is bittersweet.  I've been talking about the bitter, but there is the sweet:

-Our bins are getting full.  Knut is bringing in a paycheck.  It's not just monetary satisfaction, but such a sense of accomplishment, as well as a big sigh as once it's in the bins it feels safe from hail, flood, drought, and whatever else nature throws at it.  It will be the same feeling that I'll get when I find my first egg in the chicken coop.  At least, it's how I imagine it will feel, as the stupid chickens are still not laying.

-I'm blessed to have chickens.  That's not one of the points, but I just had to type it "out loud" so that I can get my mind back on track.

-Knut works for an amazing family that still takes Sundays off.  Even in the peek of harvest, they stop the combines and go to church with their families, and celebrate things like birthdays.  I'm told less than 3% of farms still do this.  I tell you the truth: I don't know how families survive otherwise.

-God puts very heavily on my mind families where there is a single parent, or has a parent who is gone somewhere.  It makes me think of military families, and how much they sacrifice everyday.  During these weeks, I am blessed to be able to pray for those families.  In normal days, I wouldn't remember to do this, but the prayers are constantly on my heart during this time of year.  It may sound like a strange thing to label as a blessing, but being able to pray for someone always seems to bring some kind of clarity when trying to understand the heart of God.  That is one of the biggest kinds of blessings.

-Lastly, I'm so blessed at night time when the kids are asleep.  Even if they get up, like David did last night.  He got up at midnight and was certain it was morning.  His eyes were squinting and he was looking around and confused.  It was adorable.  Any mother out there will tell you that even the most crazy day when you're ready to sell your children, the day ends and they fall asleep...eventually.

Even when Solveig wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, she reaches for me and snuggles in my arms in a sweet desperation that is so endearing. 

Eventually, they fall asleep and look like angels.  The sound of them breathing, and their innocent faces somehow make you fall madly in love with them again and the day's frustration falls off the shoulders. 

How are you blessed?  I'd love for you to leave a comment saying how you've been blessed this last week, or leave a link to your recent blog post about blessings.  I love reading them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Homeschool Friday

It has been an off week.  We did not "do school" this week.  The main reason was because my full time pupil was struggling off and on with a fever.  We took her into the doctor and found out she has bronchitis.  Having David's birthday activities did not help the cause for school, nor did Knut's absence for Harvest.  He's not there for school, but having him home in the evenings normally is a help to me.  We notoriously have trouble with whatever child is in the age 2-3 range during busy farm times.  At that age they are old enough to miss Daddy, but not old enough to understand why he is gone so often.  So Elias has been requiring some extra snuggles this week as well.  Only Solveig has been chill, besides her lovely new habit of waking up for the day at 6am which is normally inconvenient for me since the parent who loves mornings has already left for work.

So we didn't "do school" this week.  I know I mentioned this last week that I needed to work on my new chunk of lesson plans, but that did not get done until near the end of the week.  I didn't even have a list available to tell me what we should have been doing.

However, there were moments.  Lots of them in fact, where I wondered if this week of no formal school was exactly what we needed.  Even though Silje had a dull fever at times, and hot other times, she loved to sit on the couch and read.  One afternoon I was playing with Solveig on the floor and she had brought her school map over to the couch to look at it.

"Mommy, if Italy is shaped like a boot, I think Norway is shaped like a spoon."

She then proceeded to move about Europe with the relaxation of a child laying on the ground looking at clouds passing by.  She went through country after country, saying what the borders of each country resembled, and occasionally stopped and we talked about that country.  This whole spontaneous exercise lasted 45 minutes.  It was fun.

We did a lot of talking like that throughout the week.  We just talked about stuff.  Some was important, some was not.

The most amazing conversation happened about midweek at suppertime.  I've found that the kids (and/or I) am fairly close to meltdown near suppertime.  It's when it sinks in that Knut won't be here for it, and I have to feed these 4 kids by myself again, and then try to keep them from destroying the house for another hour, and then attempt to get all 4 to bed by myself.  The kids are hungry, so not on their best behavior, and each one is really wanting some serious attention so they're just hanging on me and I get so overstimulated.

I have found in recent weeks, that if I put some of our old VBS song music, or our new favorite "Hide Them In Your Heart" kids music which is basically memory verses set to song...we're all a bit calmer.  It's the strangest thing, but when I have music on the whining stops.  The kids offer to help.  I don't get overwhelmed, and even at supper the fighting and interrupting are down.  So music it is.  I save it for those times when things start to fall apart, and it seems to jolt us out of it.

Here's the best part of this post.  One night when we were sitting down to supper and the music was on, David asked "Mommy, why did Jesus have to die on the cross?"  While I was chewing, Silje attempted to answer for me, though she was struggling to explain that the soldiers killed him, although he was stronger than them and angels could have saved him.

When I had finished chewing, I started talking to David about justice.  I asked if he liked getting disciplined.  He said no.  I asked what he would think if his sister punched him in the eye, and I did not punish her for that.  He looked wide eyed and said "well that wouldn't be fair."  I said that's right.  When someone does something wrong, there must be a punishment for there to be justice.  That is a rule God has that reflects God's righteousness.  We spent a few minutes discussing God's holiness, and righteousness.

To me, that is so essential to understanding the gospel.  Not only that, but the concept of justice and being fair is one that is very easy for kids to understand.

Then we talked about Jesus dying to take our punishment for us, so that we didn't have to go to hell.  "Jesus died so that people don't have to go to hell?"  David asked.
"So there's no more hell anymore?"
"Well...there's still a hell..." Now how was I going to explain this one?

I talked a bit about judgment day, and how God will judge each of us for our sin.  I told them that since God is so holy, so righteous, that if someone has done even one sin in their whole life, He can't let them into heaven.

Before I got to my next sentence, Silje and David had huge deer-in-the-headlights eyes and Silje said nervously, "But Mommy, all of us have sinned.  I can't think of one person who hasn't done something wrong before!"

"That's right.  We've all sinned.  We're all in the same trouble.  So here's where Jesus comes in to save us.  When God is judging us, Jesus speaks for us.  He says 'I know them, and have been living in their hearts.  I talk with them and help them.'  Then, when God looks at us, He sees that Jesus covers us, just kind of like a cloak or coat covering us up.  When he looks at us, He sees Jesus who is perfect and has never sinned.  Not only that, but Jesus clean off all of our sins.  The Bible says that He washes us so that we are white as snow."

Relief and awe swept over Silje and David.  They know Jesus lives in their hearts.  They talk with Jesus and believe His words.  They both sat silently for a few minutes as this huge truth soaked in.  Jesus covers us.  He cleans us.  He took our punishment.  I've never seen either of them grasp this concept as concretely as they did that night.  Then the conversation turned to heaven.

This wasn't the first conversation I've had with my kids about this.  About 2 weeks ago, Silje and I were studying the beginning of Islam in our history, so I went into some detail about the differences between Islam and Christianity, which touched on this quite a bit as well.  Islam teaches something very different about judgment day, and how our good deeds and bad deeds will be weighed against each other on a scale.  Even then, that was not our first conversation either. 

When I told Knut about that particular conversation when he got home, he asked if I had explained original sin to them as well, not just the act of sin.  I told him that I wasn't able to explain our whole Lutheran theology in one big stroke, and we'll get there.  He laughed and then made more plans for studies to do with the kids this winter.

This week was full of little moments like our dinner conversation.  Our days were full, but not very rushed.  The kids and I talked a lot throughout the day about so many topics.  You may understand why I say a bit tongue in cheek "We didn't do school."  Part of me thinks that even though we didn't cover math, Chinese, Latin, grammar, history, our formal geography lesson, phonics, and the like, we learned every single thing that God laid out for us to learn.  All the fevers, the lazy conversations at home, and the celebrating, worked together for such good.

If you'd like to share your thoughts on homeschooling, or your experiences this week, feel free to link up!  Put a link to this blog on your post, and leave your link on the list here.  It's like a teacher's-lounge-party-thingy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Wait Continues

I know I usually participate in the Yarn Along today.  What can I say but this week has been not normal.  Today I'll talk about our chickens.

So, a friend of mine who got chickens after me (although they were from a classroom, so I'm not sure of their age) is already seeing eggs.  The guy who we ordered with is now at boot camp.  However, the chickens he has have the exact same hatch day as our chickens as they came in the same shipment.  As of last Sunday, his family said they've had 4 eggs.  Today is Wednesday and we've still yet to see one.

I know nothing is wrong, and it's still normal for our chickens not to be laying.  Hearing of Conrad's chickens laying already, though was not a huge help in the patience department!  I know it is the healthy thing for our chickens to wait as long as possible to lay.  There's something about the longer a chicken waits to lay its first egg the healthier the chicken will be long term, and a healthy chicken in theory will lay longer.

They have enough water, they have the right food, with all the right nutrients to produce eggs with strong shells.  They are very healthy.  Perhaps that's why we're forced to wait.

I intellectually know all of this, but it is still not helping me with my impatience. 

Last Sunday when Knut had his day off he suggested that we have a bonfire and roast some hot dogs for supper.  Our fire pit is next to the chicken coop, so the ladies watched us with great curiosity as we ate our hot dogs and s'mores.
I brought out a pail of cracked wheat and corn that Knut swept up somewhere and said we could give to the chickens as a treat.  So the kids had fun scooping out handfuls to the chickens while they were waiting for their supper.

Silje was getting her dull fever that night.  It wasn't yet at 100 F, and the night air was nice, so we said she could come out with us and sit in the lawn chair.  She played with this butterfly in the grass that couldn't fly for some reason any more.  She kept wanting to find a way to fix it's wing.  I don't think I posted about the huge butterfly migration that went through the woods behind our house.  When anyone would walk back to the woods to take out the slop, we could see 50 butterflies on one tree on any given night.  It was like this for over a week.  My camera couldn't seem to catch the beauty of it no matter how I tried, so I've never posted any of those pictures.  That was a few weeks ago, though.

Back to the chickens, I don't think I'm the only one getting antsy about them.  David wants the dollar for finding the first one so bad!  He doesn't just check the coop every morning.  (I've been delaying their release from the coop until later morning, so that if one does decide to lay an egg it will be in the nesting boxes.  I want them to get used to laying there if possible.)  He checks the bush behind the coop.  He checks the empty doghouse which we think looks like a cozy place to lay an egg using our "imagine what a chicken looks for" thinking skills.  He checks little hollows of trees.

Silje doesn't check as often, which is often apparent when she exclaims almost every few days she's out there "Mommy!  They laid some eggs!" and I run and see that she just saw the fake Easter ones in the nesting boxes for them to practice sitting on.  Of course in Silje's mind, a chicken laying a pink or purple egg would be just about right.

On David's birthday I was so certain they would give us the first egg as a present for him.  It just seemed like fate.  So we went out there together, almost like a parade to unveil the chickens for the morning.  It was yet again another let down.

There are so many decisions to make when having chickens.  Do you follow the route of a penned in run, or let them run free around the yard?  Do you insulate the coop and bring in light, or do you leave the coop without electricity and insulation and just have little to no eggs in the dead of winter, as they don't need heat and light to survive, they do need it to lay eggs.

Although the days are sunny and unseasonably warm right now, in the back of Knut and my mind we're wondering if they don't lay soon, we may have to wait until Spring to see eggs.  I know that's an extreme worry, but we'd feel so much better if we saw some eggs before the cold sets in.

Maybe someday we'll modernize the coop, but we're satisfied with the old fashioned way for now.  Maybe someday we'll get some fencing, but we're happy with them eating all the ticks and grubs in our yard for now.  We've even talked about getting meat chickens next year, and my mind likes to wonder to what else.

What stops the imagination on what else we could get is the eggs.  We'd like to see some eggs.

Have I mentioned Lena in all this?  I should probably say she's about the best guard dog for these chickens now.  She still goes out with me to feed and water them, and doesn't pay them much attention at all.  They get startled when she spots a squirrel trespassing on her territory as she bolts off to chase it up a tree.  I think she's given up on chasing birds and prefers squirrels now. 

I've started leaving her outside to guard them when I know we won't be back in time to close them in at sunset.  When we drive up to the house I look over and see her sitting in front of the coop until I get there to shut the door.  All the chickens are roosting inside, digesting their meals from the day...fat and happy.

I knew she'd be good with the chickens.  I just knew it.

To be continued...
...with egg news
...I hope.