Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

the cat(s) story

It all started at the little red feed store where I've been buying eggs. A cozy little place, they offer a variety of items: raw local honey, pet toys, animal feed, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and locally-raised duck and chicken eggs. They also have a big box inside with chicks basking under a warming light...and a crate bearing the sign" Free Kittens." Ben didn't notice the sign - which was a great relief to me at the time - but he did notice a certain black and white kitten. "Mom, she likes me!" he beamed. I smiled at him, and we said goodbye to the cat and went on our way. I had no intention of adding more mouths to our household any time soon.

But he didn't forget about that kitten. Ben began planning and plotting. He was going to save up his money - money he had been planning to use to in the arcade the next time we visited our favorite pizza parlor - to buy it and bring it home. I kept putting him off "That's something we'd have to talk with Daddy about, sweetheart..." and the conversation never seemed to happen. We went back to the store the next week, and the kitten was still there. And Benjamin's dreams kept growing.

After the children were in bed at night, my husband and I talked it over. We never outright considered a cat, but we were sort of skirting around it. It was a flirtation, yet one we never expected to go anywhere.

But the other morning our conversation picked up momentum, and before we knew it, we were seriously discussing it. Should I call to see if the cat was even still there? Where would we put the litterbox? When might we go pick the cat up?

We stared at one another. "Are we seriously considering this?" we asked each other. We'd been pet-free for just a little over a year, after keeping two older cats the entire 13 years of our marriage. It had been a welcome change, both financially and in terms of home maintenance. But maybe...just maybe, it was time.

Yes, we had a baby. Yes, we had a toddler. But Elise would be toddling soon, too, God alone knows if or when a baby might join our family. Maybe there would never be a perfect time. And the thought of our kids' shining eyes, how much they would love a kitten - it drew us.

So I called the red store. And...the black-and-white kitten was gone.

My heart sank. I'd even begun to think of it as "Oreo."

When I informed my husband, we were both quiet for a few minutes. Then, it became evident that as we'd both turned our thoughts toward introducing a cat to our household, our own excitement had quickened. We even began to discussing the possibility of two kittens instead of one. In the end, Jeff found another country store with some kittens who needed a home. And so, that afternoon we loaded up the van and drove out as a family to meet them.

We didn't tell the boys where we were going - in case the kittens were already claimed when we arrived. It was just a surprise adventure. And even after we found the kittens sleeping in their cage, the children still had no idea that they'd actually be coming home with us.

As our family walked to the counter to inquire, Kyle spotted a small sign attached to their cage. "Children left unattended will be given a free kitten." His eyes grew large, and his step quickened. A free kitten! Could it be true?

And so, it was. Despite the fact that our little ones were not left unattended, we left the country store yesterday afternoon with not one, but two free kittens. Two gray, furry, blue-eyed little ladies have come home to join our household. They're a barrel of fun, and have already given us plenty of smiles.

I have the distinct feeling that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

we have twins

Yes, it's true. Today we brought home twin girls...

I'd like to introduce you to Molly and Holly. Or, Holly and Molly. We're still figuring them out, to be honest.

They're sweet, they're playful, and they're all tuckered out. It's been a big day!

I'll share the story of how they came to live here, soon. For now, sweet dreams to us all...

Ben is 8!

My biggest boy turned 8 years old on Saturday! He is such a sweet, sensitive fellow. Such a fun-loving, re-purposing, soccer-playing, wrestling fellow.

Eight years ago, his arrival made me a mother. With Benjamin's birth, my world was changed forever. I will never be the same...and I am so grateful.

I love you, Ben! Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 17, 2010

scrumptious peanut clusters

Last week I pieced together something which turned out to be the best experiment I've had in a long time. The chocolate-covered candy I made last year was good, but it seemed to be missing some vital element. Therefore, I went digging...and determined that the lacking note was a little thing called butterscotch.

I preferred to not use packaged butterscotch chips, so I poked around some more, and came up with a recipe for butterscotch sauce. It called for brown sugar, butter, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. I've found that Rapadura and Sucanat are excellent substitutes for brown sugar, so I decided to go for it. I used Sucanat which I had powdered for a few minutes in my food processor.

The butterscotch sauce turned out beautifully! As for the chocolate, I followed Kimi's recipe for a wonderful honey-sweetened, dark chocolate coating. As soon as the chocolate was ready, I mixed in my butterscotch sauce. I then stirred in the peanuts, and dropped them in clusters onto waxed paper, and chill. So easy!

And so delicious. They turned out far better than I ever imagined. Now, the only challenge will be making them last until our guests arrive next week!

I didn't measure all the amounts, but this is approximately what I used:

10 oz chocolate sauce
8-10 oz butterscotch sauce
3 cups peanuts

I will absolutely be making these again. Definitely homemade Christmas candy at its best!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

job description

"There are few assignments in human experience that require the array of skills and wisdom needed by a mom in fulfilling her everyday duties. She must be a resident psychologist, physician, theologian, educator, nurse, chef, taxi driver, fire marshal, and occasional police officer. And if she succeeds in each of these responsibilities, she gets to do it all again tomorrow."

~Dr. James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys

(After I'd decided to post this, I realized that I've posted it before. But it's been more than two years, and frankly I feel it's work a re-post. As mothers, we have our hands full. But God gives us the grace we need, daily!)

Monday, December 13, 2010

cookie time!

Here we were in mid-December...and it was time again. Time for Christmas cookies.

I've gotta tell you (and yes, I know that I've told you before) that it is not always easy or comfortable to have my kids help me in the kitchen. I suppose it's a control thing. It's definitely related to the potential for mess. It's also a quality control issue. But I flatter myself that I'm getting better about this.

A little.

Besides, there are just times when you've got to just do it.

Now, Sally Fallon writes, in Nourishing Traditions, that her one exception to the "no white flour" rule is pie crust.

Personally, I choose sugar cookies.

I apologize for the blurriness!

Yes, all the frosting is yellow. That's the only food coloring I've been able to find locally, that I'm comfortable with using. But! Soon I want to order these food colors. I am so excited about them!

I used Wardeh's Basic Vanilla Frosting recipe, except that I substituted pastured butter for the coconut butter. The original recipe is amazing, but I found butter more convenient.

Color aside, our cookies turned out delish. I'm still using the Sugar-free "Sugar" Cookies recipe from My Year Without. So, so yummy, and no refined sugar at all!

Granted, there's refined flour. But once a year, I think it just may be worth it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

another first

...And so it was that Benjamin Wayne, firstborn son of a certain Jeff and Mindy, lost his very first tooth on December 12, 2010. The tooth came out a mere six days before his 8th birthday. It was the first tooth lost our offspring, and long anticipated.

And there was much rejoicing!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

name that song

Big Mama had a post about her favorite Christmas songs, and I thought it would be , worthwhile to do something similar. Here's the deal: I'll share mine, then you share yours. Fair enough, yes?

Ah, Christmas music. There's really nothing else like it, is there? Nostalgic, poignant. Happy, wistful, and yes, sometimes sad. Personally, I try to hold off on Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Well, let's make that until after Thanksgiving dinner. After that, it's a delirious festival of yuletide tunes, up until right around New Year's Day, when I screech to a halt, feeling hung over with the heaviness of evergreen branches and holly berries.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Because right now, this moment, my household is newly (re)awakened to the beauty (ethereal and otherwise) of Christmas music. And so, without further ado... not in any particular order, here are some of my dearest, most beloved Christmas songs. At the moment, anyway.

1) Precious Promise by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Do you know this song? Tender, honest, and poignant, it carries the fragile beauty of what was perhaps God's most "majestic whisper."

2) O Holy Night - covered by Selah. Breathtaking!

3) Joseph's Lullaby by MercyMe. A few years ago, hearing this song for the first time, I was reduced to tears - I could hardly see to drive home.

4) Going Home For Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman. This song always makes me think of my Grandma Oyer. The bridge makes me cry...every single time I hear it.

5) Christmas Offering by Casting Crowns. Yes!

6) Christmas Is All In The Heart by Steven Curtis Chapman. This wonderful season is not about having tons of money, the perfect tree, or opening presents. It's about "the love heaven gave" on that holy night. Here is a beautiful reminder of that truth.

7) O Come, O Come Emmanuel - covered by Selah. Hauntingly beautiful, the longing is palpable. May all Israel find her Messiah.

8) Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) by Amy Grant. So vulnerable and honest. I had the privilege of performing this song as a teenager, and it's meant a lot to me ever since.

9) Mary Did You Know. God's own Son, clothed in human skin. Incredible.

10) Worthy Is the Lamb That was Slain/Hallelujah by Handel, as performed by Twila Paris (and company) for the New Young Messiah album. Christmas? Easter? Does it matter? The line grows blurry for me here, because it's all part of the same amazing, beautiful, heartrending story. He came, He died, He rose. He is worthy!

Have Merry Christmastime!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

10 good things to know about Owen

1) His new catch-phrase is "That gonna be fun!"

2) He has a fairly insatiable appetite for fruit.

3) He's very fond of his baby sister, though they rarely share an opinion on meaning of the word "fun."

4) He loves to sing his signature song, "Wah-Wah Day." No one has any idea what it means, but for Owen, it's what singing is all about.

5) He's so good at bedtime. Once we tuck him in, we never hear from him again until morning. He's been like this for ages...

6) He is now old enough for Sunday school, and he is so pleased & excited to go to his class every Sunday. Big boy!

7) He seems to have an imaginary friend. For months he's said things like "Where Dohda?" and "Dohda here, Mom." I had no idea what he was talking about, but recently I noticed him saying "No Dohda, no!" and "Dohda want take my Legos." When questioned, he revealed that Dohda is green. Also, he likes Dohda. So that's good...we've never had an imaginary personage in our home before, so this is totally new to us!

8) He doesn't nap anymore. (*sob*)

Well, except for the fact that about once a month I find him like this...

9) This boy would put together puzzles until the cows come home. Preferably puzzles with cows on them.

10) He's very fond of dogs, but whenever he pretends to be an animal, he always, always picks a "horsie."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

my little omnivore

(9-month-old Elise, enjoying some grass-fed meat from this week's Beef Stew)

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, "diet" has the following definition(s):

a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed
b : habitual nourishment
: the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason

: a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight ;going on a diet;
: something provided or experienced repeatedly <a diet of Broadway shows and nightclubs — Frederick Wyatt

Can I just stop here for a minute, and say how much I love definition 1.b? So great! But we won't even mention 1.d...except to say that I don't believe in that sort of diet - not anymore. That's a whole other post. Now on to the topic at hand...

My little one's "diet" is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself. First of all, she adores vegetables. It's extremely unusual for her to turn up her nose at any kind of vegetable. She's not so keen on fruits, which is frankly just fine with me. Fruit is delicious, but from what I understand, it's a little overrated nutritionally. I'd much prefer that she eats a variety of vegetables.

Another great thing about Elise's culinary tastes is that she is very excited about meat! When I've given her pieces of roast, or fished out tender stew meat, it seems that she can't get enough of it. I am so pleased that she's falling in love with grass-fed meat at such an early age. I've found that I personally do better when there's more meat in my diet - both in terms of how I feel, as well as my weight, and I think a love of protein can only benefit my daughter. She's shown great interest in raw cheese, too - something our whole family adores.

Perhaps the most exciting development is that lately my baby has been very into lacto-fermented dill pickles! Fermented foods are something I've been slowly trying to incorporate more into our family's life, and I am just tickled pink that my wee little daughter has taken to them. I hope she continues to develop a love for foods that will truly enhance her health.

She does love the few grains I've given her so far - though I'm trying to keep those pretty limited, since grains are so difficult for babies to digest. All in all, she's simply keen on food.

We've been trying out the Child-Led Solids method when it comes to baby food this time around, and it is such a gift for this busy mama. Added bonuses are that it's kinder to our food budget (already a major priority every month), and it contributes to Elise's sense of herself as an individual in our family. For the first month or so, I (a formerly by-the-book mama) wasn't too certain, but I've grown to really love it.

And when I look at my daughter's budding love for real food, my heart fills almost to bursting. I'm so pleased with her open-minded approach to the human diet. What a little omnivore!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

big girl

Just look what my (little) big girl can do! Besides crawling and sitting herself up, she is now pulling up on things. Look out world, Elise Corrine is on her way!