It's been a while

You know, I’ve started this post 100 times in my head. It’s been over a year since I’ve posted. Every year the renewal comes up and I debate about renewing my hosting plan or domain name. There’s something I can’t let go each year.
It’s not that I don’t want to write or that I don’t have tons of posts started in my head. Life has changed so much from when I was posting regularly and it’s been so much busier. We’ve moved, changed jobs and added 3 more children.
I miss writing for fun. I hope to do it a bit more often than I have been.  I don’t know what my blog will look like now. 6 years ago I used it as an outlet to grieve after Knox and Lily were born and to process their loss. We still think of them often but much has changed in 6 years so I’m not sure where this will end up, but this is a start.
Here’s a brief update:
We have 7 boys. Our oldest will be 15 soon and the baby is close to 1. Our lives are busy and we love it.
We are still homeschooling. This year has brought our first adventures into high-school with Gabe and we started kindergarten with Zeb. That leaves us with 5 homeschooling this year and 2 littles tagging along for the ride.
We have 2 dairy goats (plus a visiting goat), 40(ish) chickens, our farm cats and dog Cash. Our beloved dog Jenny died about a month ago. She was a sweet dog whom we loved much. We got her when Otto was 6 months old and she was part of our family for the last 13 years.
We’re living close to family again which has been wonderful. 3 years ago we bought a place in the country near where we grew up. We love it.
I work full time from home. I am transitioning to a new position as strategic operations manager after being involved in staff development for the last year. I’m so thankful for the answer to prayer this job has been for our family. I love my work family and the work I do.
Perhaps another update will be coming again soon. For now, enjoy a picture of Titus with one of our baby goats early this summer.

 

Disappointed

I was so close to a dream this week I could taste it. I’m a dreamer by nature so it’s not hard for me to get caught up in the planning and visioning of what could be if only…
I’m usually pretty guarded though. I’ve learned that dreamers sometimes get disappointed (okay a lot of times). I’ve learned to temper my dreaming. Keep it far off in the distance and not let it run too wild.
But this one…this one was so close. I imagined what if, I imagined our family there…growing up…growing old. It took off before I could reign it in. And I let it. I let it carry me over the possibilities.
And I crashed today. Hard.
It’s been tough for me to not throw a temper tantrum, and honestly I have. I’ve been near in tears numerous times. I’ve struggled against spewing dreadful things at my family so instead I’ve been quiet and sullen. Short with my words for fear anger and disappointment would spill over or worse yet…I’d end up in a puddle if years like a two year old.
Sometimes dreams are fun, sometimes they happen, and sometimes they don’t happen. For me, today it’s a bitter pill to swallow. And I am disappointed.
 

New Recipe Monday — Baked Oatmeal

I’ve been struggling lately with breakfast. The boys go through so much cereal it’s crazy and let’s face it…it’s not like store bought cereal is that healthy for them. I need something quick and easy for them in the mornings. Something that doesn’t take a lot of brain power on my part because I am not a morning person and it takes me a bit to fire on all cylinders first thing. I tried this recipe for baked oatmeal this morning. The boys gobbled it up!
Baked Oatmeal:
Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar + 2 tablespoons for top
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raspberries (I used thawed frozen blackberries).
  • 1/3 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I didn’t add these, but I will next time)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons buttermelted
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • ripe bananapeeled, 1/2-inch slices (I omitted this too)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and generously spray the inside of a 9×13 pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, half the berries and half the chocolate. (Save the other half of berries and chocolate for the top of the oatmeal). In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla extract.
3. Add the oat mixture to prepared baking dish. Arrange the remaining berries and chocolate on top. Add the banana slices to the top then pour the milk mixture over everything. Gently shake the baking dish to help the milk mixture go throughout the oats.
4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is nicely golden brown and the milk mixture has set. For an extra tasty top, sprinkle a tablespoon or so of extra brown sugar. You can place brown sugar on top before baking or add when casserole is finished baking and broil for a couple of minutes.
5. After it has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge. When ready for breakfast, heat in microwave for 1-3 minutes, or until warmed through.
So in looking back over the recipe this morning, I realized I completely forgot the butter. Oops. It tasted okay without it. I had some blackberries I picked up at a local market last week so I used those. I think it would be good with strawberries, peaches, raspberries etc. I didn’t use the banana because they’re really not my favorite although the boys thought they would have been good too, so I’ll probably just add them to half the pan next time.
We sprinkled ours with a bit of cinnamon and sugar before serving. The best thing I liked about this dish is that I baked it last night and we heated it up this morning. It was super easy, warm and very tasty!
 

(This recipe was adapted from allingoodtasteblog.wordpress.com)

 

New Recipe Monday — Chicken Fried Steak

Each year we buy half a beef and I’m never quite sure what to do with the minute/cube steaks we get. I’ve never been a big fan of them and I’ve had a hard time finding a recipe for chicken fried steak that our family likes. I tried this one last week and it was a huge hit with all of us!

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Pound the steaks to about 1/4-inch thickness (My cube steaks come pre-tenderized so I skipped this). Place 2 cups of flour in a shallow bowl. Stir together the baking powder, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a separate shallow bowl; stir in the buttermilk, egg, Tabasco Sauce, and garlic. Dredge each steak first in the flour, then in the batter, and again in the flour. Pat the flour onto the surface of each steak so they are completely coated with dry flour.
  2. Heat the shortening in a deep skillet. Fry the steaks until evenly golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Place fried steaks on a plate with paper towels to drain. Drain the fat from the skillet, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid and as much of the solid remnants as possible.
  3. Return the skillet to medium-low heat with the reserved oil. Whisk the remaining flour into the oil. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release solids into the gravy. Stir in the milk, raise the heat to medium, and bring the gravy to a simmer, cook until thick, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the gravy over the steaks to serve.

After I had cooked the steaks, I put them on a cooling rack on a cookie sheet in a low (170 degree) oven to let the steaks drain, so they wouldn’t be greasy and to keep them warm. The batter made more than enough for the steaks we had, I cooked 8 of them using this and probably could have made 3-4 more using these ingredients. Like I said, this was a great recipe and our family loved it. I served it with a side of mashed potatoes and broccoli (we’re out of corn…) I also think this would be a great chicken fried steak to serve alongside eggs and hashbrowns.

 

 

What do you see?

When you see someone out an about do you really see them? It’s so easy to just categorize someone as “my nurse” or “the waitress” or even “the neighbor”. But do we really know what’s going on with them? Do we see them as God’s creation and that they have value or do we just see them for what they can do for us?



It’s so easy to get focused on everything else we have going on in our own lives that we forget to see those around us for who they are. We forget that they have lives too, we just see the in their “roll” in our lives. For example, the lady who waits on you at the grocery store, you see her as what she does not who she is. She may be dealing with a dying mother or sick child at home. We don’t see the “baggage” that others have. We’re too focused on carrying our own. When you ask someone how they are, do you take the time to really listen to what they’re saying? I know people who when asked that question respond with “do you really want to know or are you just asking to be nice?” Most of the time we’re just asking right? We don’t really want to know, we don’t want to get dirty. We don’t want the details, because then we have to care. It’s easier to just keep going on doing our own thing rather than stop and help someone else do theirs.



Many Christians would like to say they care for others; they’d like to say that they want to help others and that they love others like Jesus loves them. But do we really? The majority of Christians would rather just throw money or another program at the problems they see around them. They don’t want to actually help with their hands, it’s too personal, it’s too real. So how do we fix it? How do we as Christians make people feel valued and let them know they’re worth our time?


First I would say, we have to stop seeing others for what they can do or are doing for us. That involves stopping and looking around us. Look at the person in front of us in the eye. I mean seriously. Really look at them. See them as another human being not just the server, the bank teller, the teacher or the student.



When we talk to the person in front of us we have to listen to them. We have to want to hear them and then we have to be willing to respond to what they’re saying. And not just “um hmm” or “oh that’s nice”. Sometimes we won’t know what to say, but just listening to what they’re telling us is important. I’ve been trying to take time to hear what those serving me are saying with their words, their facial expressions and their actions. On occasion I don’t say anything more to the person other than “thank you” but when I say it, I say it with sincerity and while making eye contact. To be totally honest this last week, it caught a couple of people off guard. The lady who waited on me at the grocery store the other day looked completely shocked when I looked her in the eye and said “thank you”, like no one had ever done it before.



What a difference it makes when we see others for who they really are! It makes a difference to them and to us. We gain a little perspective. We remember that life isn’t all about me me me. Showing God’s love to others should be our priority. Our focus should be outward rather than inward and on ourselves.


I would encourage you this week to purpose to make those around you feel important. When you’re rushing through the drive through or heading to the bank. Stop. Ask the person helping you how they are and really listen to what they have to say. Show them that you care. You might be the only one who does today. Pray for them as you leave. You may not know what their baggage is, but you can pray for them. Pray that they will be blessed today, pray that their load will be lightened. Thank God for them and their willingness to serve you. (Even if they didn’t do it with a smile). I promise it will change how you see others. It will change your perspective. Ask God to teach you how to really see people as He sees them. Set out to be used by God.

Family Vision — Most important

Last week I talked a bit about how our family has developed a vision. Something we are working towards, something that guides our decisions, something that will help us build a legacy for future generations. I encouraged you to start thinking of your vision for your family. What is your purpose as a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or child? How will you impact your family and the generations you will never meet? What is your vision?

The first thing I would tell you in developing a vision is pray. Pray for God’s wisdom, His guidance and His grace and mercy to fill in the gaps where you fall short.  Make it a habit to pray daily for your family, your children and their spouses (even if your kids are still in diapers…they will grow up someday), pray for your grandchildren and their grandchildren. Start to think and pray for beyond what happens this week or next, pray for your future generations.

For our family, the most important thing we want our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to do is know God and have a relationship with Him. We feel that their coming to know Christ is/should be our first priority. It’s part of the reason we have decided to home school them. We can’t save them, we can’t cajole them into loving God or wanting a relationship with Him. God has to draw them to Himself. It’s a work He does within their hearts…BUT…we can give them the foundation. We can be His tools to plant the seeds, water them, protect them and give them the spiritual food they need to grow. We can’t make our children “sprout” in faith, but we can make sure the soil is ready. It is our number one priority and responsibility as parents. If we succeed in every other area, but fail here it is all for naught.

The first part of our family vision statement reads, we have scriptural references for each point and I will include them as well. :
Every member become a believer saved by gracethrough faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-10)

Ephesians 2:8-10

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which Godprepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
So if our priority is that our children and future generations is that they come to know God, what does that look like? It’s not enough to go to church every Sunday and send them to VBS every summer. That might be part of it, but it won’t give them fertile soil in which to grow.



We open every day at our house after breakfast by reading our Proverb of the day. There are 31 Proverbs, we read whatever number Proverb corresponds to the day on the calendar. Proverbs is a book of wisdom. We discuss the things we’re learning as we read, we talk about how to discern wise vs foolish, how to pick a wife, how to be obedient. We’ve been doing this for some time, and I assure you it never gets boring. We always learn something, no matter how many times we’ve read it. We have the attitude, and have often said…”if you don’t have time for devotions you don’t have time for much else”.

Something we’ve been doing that is relatively “new” to our day is we’re memorizing scripture together as a family. We usually do a whole chapter over the course of several weeks.  We make up actions to go with the verses so they’re easier to remember. Zeke and Titus sit and recite or do the actions they can remember with us. We usually add a new verse every day. We’ll recite what we already know with the actions, we’ll learn the new verse and come up with actions for that verse and repeat it several times. Then we’ll recite the whole passage again ending with our new verse for the day. When you get towards the end of a chapter, it takes a bit to recited the whole thing twice, but it really helps cement it in your brain.

After our Proverb and memory passage, we study a character trait and it’s definition. We study the same trait everyday during that week reciting the definition and talking about what that character trait looks like. There are lots of lists of character traits out there, some are biblically based and some are not. I made a list for our family that we feel incorporates both behaviors and heart attitudes that we want our children to learn. You can view our list here.



Then we pray as a family. Each member takes turns and prays for whatever is on our heart. We pray for the children we sponsor from World Vision and Compassion International. We pray for our family, our brothers and sometimes our dog.

We end our day usually with Daddy reading from the Bible (we’re currently studying James). We also pray as a family at the close of the day. Some evenings we’ll sing…I can plink out the melody for most hymns and it’s fun to hear the boy’s voices raised in praise.
We’re not perfect and don’t have all the answers. This is what we’ve found works for our family and helps us develop the foundation we desire for our children.

But you know what I think…what happens between the bookend Bible reading to our day is just as important. Between our Bible times we strive to LIVE what we’re learning. We try to incorporate our character traits, our Bible passages and their principles into our everyday life. For example, in Matthew 18 it talks about how to appeal to a brother. When the boys are fighting and they come tattle to mom…rather than jumping right in to solve it…I ask them “how are we to appeal to a brother?” They reply “go to him first and talk to him”…”did you do that”…”no”…”why don’t you try that first and then we’ll see what happens”. 9 times out of 10 I don’t hear another peep about “Mom! So and so did this”. Instead I hear the boys talking about how they are going to solve their problem. We talk about forgiveness and practice it (at lot).

It’s not enough to just throw water and fertilizer on the soil, but we have to work it up, we have to get our hands dirty and feel it. It’s the same with our kids. It’s not enough to just “throw” God’s word at them and hope it sticks…we have to practice it. We have to live it out. It’s not enough to have a family vision…but we have to work for it.


15 weeks and flashbacks

I am 15 weeks today. Another milestone. Another week of giving my fears to God. And a week that brought the unexpected too.
I started having flashbacks this week of the days Knox and Lily were born. While the days they were born were horrible emotionally for me, their actual births weren’t really that bad. But this week I found myself not sleeping well because I would wake, dreaming that I was back in my hospital bed giving birth to Lily or Knox. I would wake up crying feeling that same deep sadness, that same desperation and emptiness. It would take me forever to go back to sleep and I laid there holding my now growing belly praying for this little one. Begging God to spare the life of this baby, asking Him to not make me go through this again.
But then it started happening when I was awake. Most of the time when I was alone but sometime while I was sitting at the table with my family. I would be right there. Back in bed. Reliving it all again.
I wondered often if I was going crazy. If these flashbacks meant something was wrong. Or if it was just me worrying because of where I am in my pregnancy. They have slowed down a bit now though,with lots of prayer and support from those around me. 
I was surprised. Caught off guard. I grieve the loss of my children but I thought I had made more peace with their births than this. Another facet to the grieving process I suppose.
The boys could hardly wait for today to come. They knew I was 15 weeks today and that meant that we could listen forbthe baby. (We only listen once a week).
I debated internally about listening with all of them. What would happen if we didn’t hear it? How would they take it?  How would I? But I didn’t want them to know my worry.  I wanted them to know my hope. My trust in our God. So we listened together as a family.
And praise the Lord we heard the heartbeat again today. We are thankful. And hopeful that once again God will see fit to grant us another week of healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. We pray daily, for this little one.
It is still a moment by moment struggle against fear and doubt. I am thankful for the support of my husband and my boys. I am thankful for prayers from friends and those following our  journey. I am thankful for the blessing of a new life and the ability to carry this baby for another day.

Auric Blends Review

I recently got the opportunity to review 2 bottles of roll on oil perfume from Auric Blends. I have to say first that I have never tried roll on perfume before, but I have tried the oil blends perfume and never really liked it. I always thought they left my skin feeling greasy and oily, so I was curious how these were going to work.
The cool thing is right after I put it on, my skin felt really soft and smooth. You couldn’t tell I had just put an oil blend perfume on. I was really impressed.
I got 2 scents to try, Lavender Dream and Jasmine. I generally really like the smell of lavender, but know that some don’t, so I was curious if this one was going to smell as strongly as some of the other lavender products I had tried. It didn’t! It left a really light scent, one that you could only smell if you hugged me or maybe after I handed you something and had put some on my wrist. The scent stuck around for quite a while too, but it was never over powering (something I really hate about perfume in general).
I’ve never worn Jasmine before, when I tried it though it made me sneeze. I think it’s just how I react to it because I gave it to a friend of mine and she loves it! I did like the smell though.
Each of the bottles is sized just right for a purse or make up bag.

You can find Auric Blends at the following links…

Perfume Roll Ons

Our classic line of 1/3 ounce, oil based roll on perfumes is our top selling product line. Created with a combination of exotic, imported perfume ingredients from around the globe, each of our hand-blended perfumes are a journey within themselves.
Auric Blends perfume roll ons are enjoyed by millions of people throughout the world. Our oils have been chosen for regional awards, (Majik was voted best love potion by New York Press), and they are adored intensely by our loyal customers and fans. They’ve also been reviewed on makeupalley.com to a grand array of praises.
With 40 fragrances to choose from and collections that range from floral and fruit to oriental and fresh fragrances, you’re certain to find one, or maybe more, favorites!
Would you like to purchase samples of our perfume oils? Click here to view our available sample kits.
I received the above products through Sublime Media Connection in exchange for an honest review. In no way was I asked to give a positive review.

 

New Recipe Monday — Guest Post

No bake cookies are one of my favorite cookies to make, they are super easy and really delicious, and they are a good source of fiber. I have given this classic cookie a lot of thought. Everyone uses cocoa and peanut butter for the main ingredients, but what about adding a special twist to the no bake cookie? I want to share a no bake cookie recipe with you that gets rave reviews from everyone I share them with.
Double Dark No Bakes
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
3 teaspoons of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
1 cup dark chocolate peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats (quick oats)
In a medium sauce pan bring the milk, cocoa, sugar and butter to a steady boil, allow it to boil for about 90 seconds. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peanut butter stir until the peanut butter is melted. Add the oats and mix well. Drop by a spoonful onto waxed paper. Allow to cool and harden before serving. Enjoy!
Sara McKibben Lehman writes the Sweet Silly Sara blog. She is a proud Mommy to one, a wife, a college student and a homemaker with a passion for the environment.