Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Winter wonderland

Enjoy these pictures of our house in our first genuine snow of the season while I make endless tamales.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tamales and barking dogs

Today was tamale preparation day. Tomorrow my sister-in-law is joining me and we will spend a good chunk of the day making tamales... I'm hoping to get at least 120. But in order to spend the day making tamales, I had to spend today getting ready to make tamales. (There's a reason this only happens once a year!)

So far today I've poached two chickens, so I could make broth for the masa and to make the green chili chicken filling. I've also boiled and soaked so many chiles that my sinuses may never be the same. I'm all done except for the red chili and pork combination that is currently slow cooking in my oven.

So many chiles. There were also fresh jalepeno and Anaheim chiles.

It's not a great picture, but this is the finished chicken and green chili filling.

Broth for masa.

Pork and red chili sauce. That sauce is thick and is made from 18+ chiles.

But really what I want to tell you about are the terribly fierce guard dogs which live in our house. Kenzie has always been a bit territorial, which I really appreciate when I'm home alone at night. He can sound incredibly fierce. Olive likes to copy whatever Kenzie does. She also is extremely protective of A. No one should ever try to get between Olive and her person in a threatening manner, because I cannot guarantee what would happen. Both dogs have big barks that sound a little scary if you don't know them.

It's nice the dogs love their people. It's nice to be protected. (I think.) It's certainly loud sometimes. It's also nice to be alerted to someone in the drive or in the yard. When the dogs do start in on their crazy barking, I will always check on what's going on. Sometimes it's just a dog from next door, but other times it is someone who has come up the drive. It's good to be aware of these things.

Well, today, in the middle of the cooking, both dogs start going berserk. Their hackles are up and they are not sounding at all friendly. The barking just does not stop, and I think they both would have gone through the glass of the doors if they could have figured out how. People start heading towards the windows thinking it must be something terribly serious out there. To hear the dogs, you would not have been out of line to think that indeed the zombie apocalypse had begun right in our very own yard. I like to have some warning before the zombies arrive, so I start to look out the window at what is causing the dogs such major distress. 

I look. And I look. And finally I spot what is so very dangerous and distressing. What is this thing that is causing the dogs to act like wild slathering beasts, as they bark and bark and bark next to their friend the quail? 

It's a chicken. 

One lonely chicken out for a stroll.

The dogs may never be the same.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

It's not really about the fifty pounds of oats

Today was the day my two friends and I drove an hour south of me to pick-up our bulk orders. I now have 50 more pounds of oats, 50 more pounds of wheat berries, plus other necessary things such as salt, sugar, cocoa powder, and the like. Oh, and I picked up another large food grade storage bucket, because we needed to have a place to store the game bird feed for Q. This amused my friends enormously. It actually amuses me enormously as well, though I'm the one who has to figure out where to store another bucket. (It's more difficult in this kitchen. In my kitchen in the Big Ugly House, I had designed the pantry to accommodate my dozen plus buckets.)

While being able to buy in bulk is helpful, what we really look forward to is going to pick it up. This is because it means several hours in the car (without children) and uninterrupted time to catch up with each other. And because we leave in the morning, there is no way we could get home without also having lunch as well.

Today was even better since we added in a little thrift store shopping. Elburn has a great thrift store that I have become a frequent visitor at. My friends also really appreciate a good thrift store, so we had to go. I scored a couple of very nice scarves for 69 cents each. I also picked up a couple of small Christmas gifts.

But most of all, it's just a giant excuse to spend some time together. Between us we have 28 children. While a good half of these children are grown, it is still a bit difficult for us to find time to see each other during the course of our ordinary days. Me moving an hour and a half away has not helped the situation, either. So twice a year, we use the bulk order pick-up as an excuse to clear our schedules and spend time together. We've been doing this for well over eight years, possibly a lot more, I lose track. It has becomes a sort of sacred time in all of our calendars. Not all of us can make it all the time, but for the most part, we do our best to make it work. Really the only downside is that the fourth member of our twice yearly bulk food excursion team  (the H-S mom) moved and cannot join us. I really don't know why she doesn't want to come to Illinois from the west coast to purchase her oats!

So now I'm stocked up again, both on food and time with friends. Once we figure out the snow clearing situation for our drive, it can feel free to snow with abandon.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Friday bullets, December 8, 2017

I don't know about what is happening in your house, but in mine, children feel the need to constantly give me the number of day (or house, depending on the child) until Christmas. I do not find this relaxing. Besides the constant reminders that Christmas is coming, here are some things that have happened here this week.

  • There is a midweek program at our new church that G., L., and Y. have been loving. This past week was shopping week, where they got to redeem the stickers they had been earning for doing things such as memorizing Scripture and such. In some ways, Christmas came early for these three. Two nights before the actual event, L. announced that she was not sleeping well, because she was excited about shopping night. That gives you sense of the level of excitement these girls had about it. I hoped it lived up to their expectations. I think it did, because today was kind of a bust with the left over excitement. It was sweet in that not only did they find things for themselves, but they each collected things for each other as well. All those annoying tchotchkes I worked to hard to divest ourselves of before the move? Well, it was for nought. But the masses are happy.
  • The girls loves the program so much that they also spend all of Wednesday making Christmas cards for their leaders. Y. let me take a picture of the card she made. For the record, I helped her spell 'merry', 'is', and 'you'. Not bad for not quite two years home, huh?

And a close-up of the words.
  • After 20 years of homeschooling, I think I'm just going to have to accept the fact that we become unschoolers for the month of December.
  • When A. was a life guard her first year, all of the old enough guards all went sky diving together. Yes, A. went to. She was looking at the disk on my computer and put a picture on my desktop so she could send it to herself. I feel as though that makes it fair game to share, don't you?
  • I have set up a wrapping station in my room so I can try to wrap gifts as I get them. So far, I have wrapped zero gifts, but the youngest girls have wrapped what looks to be 100. I have managed to stop some of it, but other times, they get past me. It seems they see this not only as a fun activity using paper and tape, but also a way to clean out their rooms of unwanted things and getting credit for giving those things to someone else. So for my older children reading this, I have no idea at all what is in the possible dozen extra gifts you will all get to unwrap on Christmas morning. Please act surprised. And happy. A lot of tape went into the wrapping of those gifts.
  • Olive is now well over 60 pounds and is quite tall. Tall enough that we realized that Kenzie looks rather short and stocky. He used to be a big dog, but not anymore.
  • G. was riding in the car with me somewhere this past week, when she asked me, "What is your favorite thing about Christmas? I think my favorite thing is having everyone all together and happy." She can be the sweetest thing.
  • Of course, the above is tempered by this. At the shopping night G. bought herself a large plastic play knife and the girls gave K. a set of hand-cuffs. When I go to pick them up from their art class, I realized that K. was hand-cuffing himself and G. was waving her plastic knife around in the art studio while they waited for me to get there. I have now made the rule that toys are not to be taken to art class.
  • We finished up Peru this past week, and flew home. Everyone decided that it would be nicer to be home for Christmas. We may make a very brief trip to Easter Island before the holiday if time allows... and I get myself organized.
  • L. has taken her hand sewing up a level, and is now starting to create clothes for her stuffed animals. I think I am going to have to lay in another supply of felt, as the first supply is quickly dwindling.
  • Tomorrow is bulk order pick-up day. What excited me most about this is getting to see friends I don't get to see often enough these days.
Have a terrific weekend.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

and she laughs at the time to come

If you don't recognize that line in the title, it's from Proverbs 31:25b, talking about the excellent wife. I find it to be a Biblical passage that many women have very mixed feelings about, myself included. It's a great thing to try to live up to, but, geez, can anyone? Instead of inspiring, I feat it too often becomes demoralizing. But that's not really why I'm bringing it up today.

What I want to discuss is the idea of the excellent wife laughing. I don't know about you, but I have always found the line to feel a little incongruent. I mean, here you have this woman who is so good at so many things. She doesn't waste time, she gets up before dawn, she stays up late at night, working, working, working. I always picture her if not actually frowning, at least looking stern. Relaxed and laughing just doesn't seem to fit a woman who is never idle. Has anyone else felt this way about this verse?

Then today, a friend posted a quote from Martin Luther which I had never heard before.

"You have as much laughter as you have faith."

This struck me rather forcefully, and immediately called to mind the excellent wife. At least for me, it made that line about laughter suddenly make a lot more sense. Not only was the excellent wife productive and capable, it also says she was wise and kind. Wisdom in the Biblical sense is knowing and fearing God. She must have had great faith. And if Martin Luther is correct, then with great faith comes great laughter. Of course she laughed.

And of course she laughed at the time to come; the future. Think about it, our fear is more often than not rooted in what the future holds. Unless we are in a terribly dire situation where we are fearful in that moment, the rest of our fear is all about imagined possibilities of the future. I am the queen of this. I can go from normal to panicked in about three seconds just from misusing my imagination. Since very few of these imaginings ever actually come about, no matter how very possible they feel in the moment, that's a lot of energy spent on absolutely nothing. And when we are fearful (about the future), that usually makes us less than pleasant people to be around. I know I'm not a lot of fun when I'm busy convincing myself the sky is about to fall. I'm certainly not laughing.

On the face of it, it doesn't seem as though it would be a faith issue, but it is. I may say that I believe that God's in charge, that all things work together for an ultimate good, but my actions reveal otherwise. If I truly believe that God has my best interest at heart, then why do I spend far too much time being fearful about what is to come? What is even crazier about all this is that I have story after story after story of how God has repeatedly proved His faithfulness to me time and again. 

What if we really lived in a way that reflected what we said we believed. That things may not turn out as expected; that God may ask us to go through some hard stuff; but through all of it, God is with us, and ultimately things are going to turn out for the best. God really does have our back. What if we believed this to the extent that we lived like it. 

It would be joyful. We don't have to worry about things because God is taking care of it. The burden of fear and worry could be lifted off our shoulders. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If we truly believed this and lived it, we would laugh. It would come bubbling out of us for the sheer joy of it all. There really should never be such a thing as a dour and overly serious Christian, because truly believing in what God has promised us would make us into the exact opposite. We are to be joyful. Joyful people laugh.

Does this mean we won't ever be sad or disappointed or angry? No, of course not. Life, while still in God's hands, is also being lived in a fallen world and we cannot escape these things. But after the hard, we are promised joy. I also have been learning that even through the hard and painful parts of life, there are still joyful parts of it to be found, living side by side. This side of Heaven, joy and sorrow live side by side, and the older I get, the more I experience both of these things happening at the same time.

We know the end of the story, though. We don't have to wonder or fear. The best really is yet to come. And for that we can laugh. We can laugh like young children living in a secure and loving family, because in God's eyes, that is exactly what we are.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

What I say; What you hear

I know I've written about this before, but it is lost somewhere in the bowels of the blog, and may never see the light of day again. A conversation on a social media venue made me remember it, so I'll revisit it.

I have learned that my (or anyone else's) decision to homeschool can feel threatening to others. Here's why:

Other mom: Where do your kids go to school?
Me: Oh, we homeschool.
What the other mom hears: I have chosen the more responsible and valuable option for educating my children. It is because I am so much more patient and able than other mothers who send their child off to be educated by someone else. I must love my children more than you love yours.
What I meant: I homeschool my children.

Yes, I happen to think that I have made the best decision FOR MY FAMILY. If I didn't think this, there were not be much basis to continue or on those hard days when I wonder what the heck I was thinking. Trust me when I say that I have enough on my plate with my own children to give even half a thought to how you choose to educate yours. When I say I homeschool my children, it is a mere statement of fact, and not in any way a value judgement against you, the public school parent.

The trouble can come when a parent is sharing about difficulties their child is having in school. Not only have I jumped off the traditional schooling path a long time ago, but the path is so far away from where I currently am, that I wonder why someone puts up with a child having such severe issues with the school system. When you see one way of educating a child as just that, one option out of several, than it becomes easier to see the problem as that particular path and not with the child. I know I am not the only one to see things this way, though others are often a little quicker to throw out the homeschooling life preserver. I guess I should add, 'out loud,' because I will admit to thinking it.

I realize that not everyone can homeschool. If you are working, it makes it extremely difficult. I also realize that not everyone wants to, and that's just fine, too. But remember, just because I say that we are homeschoolers does not mean anything more than that. And if a parent shares that their child is struggling with the school, and a homeschooling parent suggests that homeschooling might help, it is not thrown out there as some kind of magic bullet, but because that parent has found something positive in homeschooling and feels it would be wrong to not share what was working for them, with someone who is struggling.

People seem to me to be so very touchy these days. It's almost as if we have lost the ability to understand that we are all different and will choose different ways to do things. That one person's choice doesn't really have any bearing on another's. In my many discussions with people about homeschooling, I have found that the people who have the most difficulty with it are those who have not spent a lot of time thinking about why they are on the path that they are. It's almost as if my choosing something different than the standard, accepted path causes too much cognitive dissonance in the other person. There's nothing like realizing you had a choice, but didn't realize it until after you had de facto made one. Interestingly, these are also the same people who then assume to know exactly what homeschooling looks like. The subsequent conversations then tend to be frustrating all the way around.

So, just in case you missed my main point, if someone says to you that they homeschool, and you do not, that other person is making no judgement on you, but merely stating a fact. This would seem a simple thing to grasp, but the evidence in the several social media venues I've seen recently would indicate otherwise.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

I want to do all the things

M. and I have this conversation fairly frequently, that is, we each have so many things on our want-to-do lists that we just don't know how we will ever fit it all in in our lifetimes. It can be frustrating. There are so many things to do, and really, so little time. Here's some of my list at the moment, though it is subject to constant change. The trouble comes that I do a lot more adding than subtracting. I also realize my list takes on a rather stream of consciousness hue.

  • Do more sewing... get a dress form and really figure out how to sew for myself, make more of the children's clothes, etc. etc.
  • Make more quilts
  • Make more crochet and knit projects... I really want to make a ripple stitch afghan
  • Continue to hone my spinning skills... I would love to have some fleeces to spin
  • Raise sheep, so I have those fleeces (plus, they're cute)
  • Learn to do dying (of fleece)
  • Get my riding skills back up to where they were... and I would love to add endurance riding into the mix
  • Learn to drive horses
  • Learn more about equine therapy... possibly getting certified (or whatever one does)
  • Go back to school and get my doctorate in educational psychology
  • Spend more time learning about nueroscience
  • Spend more time working on learning French and Mandarin... so that I can move on to Italian and Vietnamese (I should probably have written, "Become a polyglot")
  • Spend more time writing... trying my hand at fiction?
  • Write a book or two
  • Practice doing more book making/binding
  • Read more books
  • Play the piano more
  • Learn to play mandoline
  • Learn to play hammered dulcimer
  • Do more baking
  • Learn how to do those cool decorated cookies using color flow icing
  • Do more embroidery
  • Learn more about gardening
I'm sure I could keep going, but you get the idea. I flit from thing to thing, depending on my mood and schedule. I've always been like this, and often had the "Jack of all trades, master of none" line told to me. M., my Jack of all Trades child, did a little searching and discovered this line didn't use to be as derogatory as current usage has made it. The whole thing is, 

"Jack of all trades, master of none
though oftentimes better than master of one."

That is so much nicer, isn't it? Still there are just too many interesting things in the world to do and learn and explore, I just don't get it when people say that they're bored.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Tree trimming party 2017

Having a family party with lots of treats, some friends, and getting the tree decorated and decorations all put up has become a family tradition around here. It gets a little trickier as people get older and have different schedules. A. missed a lot of it because of work, which didn't make any of us happy. She was there at the beginning and very end, though.

Before we could start in on the party, we first needed a family photo. I may do this every year. Get everyone home from church, and while they are still in their dress clothes, hold lunch and comfortable clothing hostage until the photo is taken. We actually got several good ones to choose from this year. I rather remarkable feat considering there were 14 people and 2 dogs. (We decided that adding the cats and quail would be a near impossibility.) Here is one of the out-takes which cracks me up. The odd perspective makes it look as though it is "Family picture with giant dog in front". What I do like is that you can see the side of the house so nicely.

And then it was time for the party... and food. We also had M.'s roommate who has now joined us for probably more than four years, and another family friend. In a rare instance of not being long-winded, I'm just going to share some of the many pictures and not say anything. I think it's pretty evident what is going on. I took some, D. took some, and TM took some.

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