Random ramblings on New Year’s Eve…

Happy Anniversary to us! My husband, Mitch and I have enjoyed eight long years, er, WONDERFUL years of marriage!  I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It has always been a time of reflection and planning for me. This is especially true since I have become a mother. I love to look at the past year and see how far we have come. In the past few years, there is usually another little person that we have added to our family. Another little life to celebrate! Now, as a homeschooling family, we get to look at what worked for us and what didn’t this past year. I get to plot our course for next year.

I have considerably fewer goals for 2016. In 2015, I had a lengthy list of smaller goals. Some were accomplished, some not. Some goals in 2015 were semi-accomplished and some were changed in mid-stream! I can see all of this easily in my homemaking binder. I began typing up my goals for the year and putting them in the front of my homemaking binder in 2014. I got this idea from Kelsey. She has a great series on making a homemaking binder! The idea is to think about the big picture. What do you want to accomplish this year? Then break your goals down into small pieces that are easy to insert into your daily routines.

Although my goal list for the new year is shorter, some of the goals are quite a bit beefier. For example, EXERCISE. I despise purposeful exercise. But if it means I will sleep better at night, then I will try it.

Another big goal is to actually WRITE. I have so much to say. I have a list of blog posts just waiting to be written. I need time and energy. I need Jesus. I need to effectively implement early morning prayer time and Bible study. I was thinking about maybe adopting a word or phrase or verse for 2016. I had not fully committed to this idea when a verse hit me like a ton of bricks. It showed up in two different places.

Romans 13:11,12 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (NIV)

Here we go. Maybe this year will be the year that I am able to implement more of my wonderful ideas. See, I am full of wonderful ideas. I am short on the discipline needed to carry them out. To follow through. To take something full circle. These are my New Year’s ramblings….

What are you thinking about on this last evening of 2015?

 

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“Help” for a M.O.M. (Mama of Many)

Disclaimer: This is some pure Rachaelology here folks. If you can’t hang, (read: take it with a grain of salt and smile) you might want to move along to a different blog.

“Do you need help?” I glanced to my right before walking into the post office this afternoon to see who had addressed me. My first thought was, “Dear goodness, I hope not.” I thanked the poor dear kindly and assured him I had it under control. I held the door for him and he hobbled on inside. I had to mentally shake my head and laugh. The man was kind indeed to offer help to me. He used a cane and from all appearances had just come back from serving a 50 year prison sentence in Azkaban. I was carrying my 3.5 month old in the infant carseat on one arm. (I’m trying to learn Babywearing but it’s proving tricky in this in-between stage.) Over the other shoulder I had my bag and package of cloth diapers that I was mailing. (The resale value of used diapers is something I am still amazed by.) The thing is… I only had one child with me. One very small child. Ha! If he had seen me with the rest of my beautiful brood he would have assumed I needed help.
I do not consider myself to actually be a Mama of Many. I only have four children. When I hear “large family” I usually think of a family with 6 or more children. However, I am grouped together with M.O.Ms because my children are closely spaced. Society calls us a large family. So for purposes of this discussion, that’s how I will refer to us.
In American culture today, people with more than the standard 2.3 children are seen as anomalies. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been looked at askance in the grocery store and badgered with questions such as “Are they ALL yours?” (That is one of the nicer questions, actually.) For a long time, I thought people must be misunderstanding me. Perhaps they thought I had 14 children. Surely four wouldn’t cause this big of a fuss would it? But that’s a different topic for a different day.
I would like to illustrate some of the ways that others have tried to “help” me. And maybe bring to light some of the ways one might actually help a M.O.M.
1. Laundry. There are literal mountains of laundry piled up in various stages of the washing/drying/folding process in a large family’s home on any given day.
Honestly, this is not the first place I would direct any help. I love laundry. It soothes me. But since we are laying it all out there… I will say it plainly.
Grabbing up the first pile of clothing you see and stuffing it into my washer with the wrong detergent is NOT helping. You have just made a mess. And quite possibly taken life out of those clothes that I work very hard to preserve. God help you if you mixed up my piles. Some things can be dried in the dryer. Some cannot. One example: Dirty diapers that have been rinsed only (not washed yet) should definitely NOT be put into the dryer. Doing this will result in a urine scented home. Yummy.
Want to help with laundry? Fold clean clothes. Don’t try to put them up. The end.
2. Newborn baby. This is where I get the most requests to “help.” Helping when I have a newborn baby involves cooking for the family and scrubbing bathrooms. Also changing sheets is acceptable. Taking my older children out to play is the best way to help. Reading to them and making them feel special too is the greatest way to help. Coming to snuggle a soft newborn while the M.O.M drags her exhausted tail around trying to carry on normal duties is not considered helping. Either show up with a story book or a toilet brush my friend. Or else we will see you in 6-8 months.
3. In public. There are very few ways in which you can help large families while they are on an outing. The best rule of thumb I can give you is, “Unless a child is in immediate danger of falling off something or getting run over in the street, please just give a friendly smile and be on your merry way.” Don’t stare at the family like you’ve never seen people before. Do not question them about their birth control methods if you aren’t prepared to answer questions about yours. If you can’t smile and say something polite, please act like we are invisible. Also, if you happen around a quiet corner and a woman is doing her best to feed her baby discreetly, again, pretend she is invisible. She is not out to embarrass you. It is not always possible to get back to the vehicle to feed a screaming baby. Opening doors, making POLITE small talk, anything you would normally do for anyone else is perfectly acceptable. Asking in front of them if they all have the same Daddy is not.
3. The kitchen. Here is where I will accept happy helpers in any capacity. My mother, grandmother, and great-aunt all help me in the kitchen. And I am SO grateful. After they have played with the children, they immediately start loading my dishwasher, washing the pots or cleaning the stovetop. Do I expect my visitors to do this? Never. It is a giant gift to me every time. That chore that would take me 2 solid hours to finish is being done so that I can tend to other things or small people. Cooking is also always welcome. Invite a large family over for supper at your house. Not many people do! This is a real blessing. Don’t worry, we will always bring a dish if you want.
4. Deep cleaning. There are actually two ways to help in this category. You can either mop, dust and wash windows or take the kids out to play so I can do it myself. Either way is fine with me. And I don’t care how you do it. I’m not picky a bit! (Do see the note on laundry, though. Pretty please. I’m begging you.)
There are certain people in my life that are always a blessing to me and my family. I do my best to bless them back. After all, our true HELP comes from the Lord. It is from Him we should draw strength. Let’s all make an extra effort this weekend to treat others the way we want to be treated and to esteem others better than ourselves. And if you are TRULY interested in families that are different from your own, then by all means, ask. Polite, respectful questions will be answered in kind. Most of us would love to give you our testimony.

Know Him and make Him known,
RachAel

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Beautiful…

My eldest daughter is absolutely beautiful. She always has been. Ever since the moment I laid eyes on her there on the sonogram monitor. There she was, the daughter I have prayed my whole life that I would have. AliBeth. See? Even her name is beautiful. But I digress.

This is the story of planning AliBeth’s fourth birthday party. And a fine example of how she teaches me things I didn’t know I needed to learn.

AliBeth’s fourth birthday was fast approaching. She and I were discussing what type of decorations we should have for her party. A few months ago she said that she wanted a “dress-up princess party.” We had been planning it for several weeks. I had even found princess skirts on sale in January! So, you can imagine my surprise when she declared, “Mommy, I want snakes, frogs and iguanas at my birthday party.”

Excuse me?

“Yes, I want there to be lots of snakes, frogs, and iguanas at my birthday party.”

“You mean, you want these creatures at the dress-up princess party? But AliBeth, they won’t go with the theme.”

“Oh no, Mommy, they won’t match the dress-up princess party. So we will have bugs and spiders instead.”

I think my left eye started twitching. It was literally 5 days before the party. How on earth was I going to pull off a creepy crawly UGLY reptile party? I would have loved nothing better than to create a nasty reptile party for my sweet baby BOY. But my gorgeous baby GIRL???? She couldn’t be serious?

Actually, I knew from the first moment that she looked at me deadpan with those searing AliBeth eyes that she was in fact, quite serious. I didn’t even try to talk her out of it. (Much.) Once she announces something she wants (or doesn’t want, for that matter), you might as well give in or tell her no right quick like. There is not a whole lot of debate with her. She knows what she wants and means what she says. There may have been one occasion on which I was able to talk her out of something, but if I ever have it’s just a faint recollection now.

“Ok.” I decided to jump right in. What else could I do? “Well what kind of cake should I make for this party?” I asked, as my dreams of a 3D castle cake flew right out the reptile window.

“A fly cake,” came the immediate response. (Well at least the girl can coordinate!)

And so the journey began to throw together a wonderful, magical birthday party that would make all her creepy crawly dreams come true. In 5 days, mind you.

I have been a Mama for over 5 years now. And during that time, I have been snatched through a lifetime of lessons. There is a recurring theme. You have to go through some ugly to get to see any beautiful. There are some folks who say that childbirth is beautiful. Those poor idiots are delusional. Now, don’t get me wrong. Seeing each one of my babies’ faces after long months of worrying and waiting is one of the most beautiful sights I will behold this side of Glory. But the actual process of getting them here? Come on, people. There ain’t nothing pretty about it.

I know some blended families that have been through a lot of ugly stuff. You do too, I bet. But thanks to the grace of God and some dogged determination on their parts, they now enjoy a beautiful, happy family.

My son Logan exclaims, “WOW! IT’S BEAUTIFUL IN HERE!” every time we enter the dollar store. Did I mention his voice isn’t quiet and carries well?

The poor crippled man outside the gate called Beautiful in Acts chapter 3. He had suffered his entire life, not being able to walk or work. Then Peter and John encountered him and in the name of Jesus healed him. How beautiful life must have been for that man every day from then on.

Let us never forget the ultimate example of Jesus having to endure an ugly, ugly death on the cross of Calvary just so that we might inherit the most beautiful gift of all- eternal life.

See, in the eyes of AliBeth, all God’s creatures are beautiful. She loves snakes because they have nice tails. (How’s that for seeing the good in everyone?!) The child doesn’t see the ugly that the rest of us are so lightening quick to point out. And I pray she never does.

AliBeth and I have had many ugly moments. There have been nights of wet beds, days of continuous vomiting, hours of lost tempers, lost time and sometimes hurtful words. But I dare you to find a love stronger than the love that I have for this precious girl. This morning, my beautiful girl woke up and was a cat. I mean, she literally opened her eyes, stretched in a cat-like manner and instantly began licking her “paws.” Before she ever said a word or acknowledged me standing by her bed. Her imagination knows no bounds. She is deliriously happy at almost all times. She loves nearly all she encounters. So who am I to call her beloved critters, “Ugly?”

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We ended up with “dirt cake” cups instead of a full blown fly cake, but sadly, my camera broke!!! These pics are before we set the cake cups out and are really not “finished.” My aunt took some pictures, though so maybe some of those turned out better.

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The table was a grass/pond scene. It was really cute!!! Even if I do say so myself!

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Our “chandelier” was made of cut outs from an Ellison machine. Courtesy Granny Beth!

I wish I had better pictures, but life happens! You will have to take my word for it that it turned out really cute. Way to go, AliBeth! Happy fourth birthday, baby girl!

 

 

 

 

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Disaster Strikes Chirpyville Farms

It was bound to happen. We have had a few instances of forgetting to close the chicken pen properly. We have been really lucky. Until yesterday. Let me back up.

      After a wonderful trip to see my oldest brother and his family over the weekend, the Chirpys and I arrived home late Sunday evening. We were all exhausted and a little bit ill (That’s Southern for cranky.) as was to be expected after a five hour road trip with little ones. We played outside a while and visited with Mitch. Yesterday also happened to be the first day of daylight savings time. I LOVE having more daylight hours in the evenings. Spring and especially summer are my absolute favorite times of the year. But I digress.

      After a good wash, a great meal and a good night’s sleep, we awoke to perfect weather on Monday here in Chirpyville. I started the washer, and we headed outside for the day. We played with the dogs, said hello to all of our animals and played the morning away. When lunchtime rolled around, we retired inside for a quick lunch and a good nap. As the older two children (3 & 2) fell asleep, I heard a ruckus outside. It started with a hen clucking persistently. I didn’t think much of it at first. The hens generally go into a tizzy congratulating themselves when one of them lays an egg. The clucking turned into a distress call and got louder. I suddenly remembered the dogs were still out.

     Let me stop for a minute and catch you up. For Christmas, we got two livestock guardian dogs. Not guard dogs, mind you, but guardians. They are half Great Pyrenees, half Anatolian Shepard. One male and one female. Jack and Zoee. Their sole occupation is to watch over and protect the class of live stock that we have the most experience with: small children, aka our “Chirpys.” I would like for them to watch over the whole place and everything on it when they mature, but for now, their job is to learn to watch and protect our children. Jack and Zoee are five months old and are doing extremely well. We have been very pleased with them so far. Until yesterday. Back to the story.

     I ran outside with Blair (1) on my hip and around the corner of the house and what do you think I saw? Jack, Zoee, and our chocolate Lab, Tucker in a circle taking turns biting at one of our Wyandotte hens, Maxine. I screamed and ran into the midst of them kicking at anything I could make contact with. The dogs scattered and Maxine retreated behind the air conditioning unit. Jack ran to the puppies’ kennel. I dragged Zoee part of the way there when she realized her victim must be getting away. She spun around out of my grasp and raced back to Maxine. I was right behind her and this time I beat the fool out of her for her trouble. She got the message. Into the kennel she went. Tucker, meanwhile knew he had messed up but wasn’t the least bit sorry. He stayed just out of my reach until I was ready to shoot him out of frustration. He disappeared into the woods and I gathered my wits and my baby to begin taking a body count.

     We have 16 chickens total. We started out with a hen and a rooster that we raised from little chicks. Their names are Marshmallow and Vinegar. They are special to us because we raised them from babies. AliBeth and Logan love them dearly. The next additions to our flock came soon after Mitch brought Vinegar and Marshmallow to live in a small cage on our back porch. I called into Swap Shop, our local radio program (More about that later!) and asked if anyone had any chicken coop building material that I could buy. My dad’s friend called and said he had a whole coop and pen! There was just one catch. I had to take all 7 of his hens with it. Oh, and dismantle the coop and fence that was actively housing the hens in his yard. SCORE! Free chickens and a free coop setup. With more than a little frustration on my dear husband’s part, the coop, pen and 7 hens came to live at Chirpyville. The hens were a variety of White Bard Rocks (Suzy, Betty, and Lucy), Columbians (Lily and Pearl), an Araucana (Arabella) and a Welsummer (Martha). The next set of hens completed our flock and were acquired from a business associate of Mitch’s. They also added some beautiful color as five of them were Red Laced Wyandottes (pronounced Wine Dots). Sassy, Fancy, Ruby, Maxine and Florence Nightingale are big beautiful hens. Grace and Annie are two more Araucanas (Yay! My favorite).

     Vinegar and Marshmallow along with a few others were nowhere to be found. Ten of the hens were hiding in the coop behind the feed barrel not making a sound. Poor Lucy was laying on the ground amidst most of her feathers inside the pen. After Blair and I made as thorough a search as we were able to of the surrounding trees, we finally found poor Suzy hiding under a dead tree branch with a huge wound on her back. With some gentle coaxing, she made it back to the yard. Lucy had made a miraculous recovery and was waiting for her feed inside the coop. I left the pen open and the others came out as soon as they discerned that the dogs had been contained. (Chickens are smart that way.)

     AliBeth and Logan had joined us outside by this time. Not knowing what else to do for Suzy, and knowing that all the chickens would eventually “come home to roost” if they were able, the Chirpys and I continued our outside play. Though now, with an ominous feeling gripping my heart. Would Suzy survive? Were any of the rest hurt badly? Chirpyville Farms just started selling our eggs last week. Would this stress cause the hens to stop laying for a time? Our yard was a snowfall of feathers and things were not looking good.

     Just as predicted, the other chickens slowly made their reappearance not long before sundown. Even though Suzy was pecking around the yard with the other chickens, she was hurt too badly and did not make it. At the time of this writing, she is our only casualty from the whole ordeal. I am grateful that it wasn’t worse. We could have lost Vinegar or Marshmallow. We could have lost them all. I am also strangely saddened by the loss of Suzy. She was one of our first hens and I wish she had come to a more peaceful end. The irony of my “livestock guardian” dogs attacking my flock is not lost on me. In their defense, the pen had not been properly closed after checking on them when we arrived home from our trip. That was my fault. I propped the door shut instead of latching it, thinking I would go into the pen once more before going inside. Whether the dogs knocked the board down and the door opened, or whether the chickens, being hungry for bugs pushed on it to get out, I’ll never know. (We let our chickens out almost every day to forage for insects and seeds.)

    Lesson learned. “In just a few minutes” usually never comes. Don’t leave things to chance. Your luck will eventually run out!

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