Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moo

Last week our family was able to fulfill a longtime dream of ours of purchasing livestock. Granted, Cara didn't come to us in the traditional way, but she is ours nonetheless. Well, at least 1/14th of her.

Meet Cara
Cara, blog readers. Blog readers, Cara.
She's a little camera shy. But isn't she beautiful?
We purchased what is known in the state of Indiana as a "cow share". You can also purchase a herd share, but at this particular farm there are only five such "Dairy Queens" so for now, a cow share it is. In purchasing a cow share we became legal owners of Cara, and we pay for her upkeep and boarding.

All five ladies, doing what the ladies were made to do. Cara is in the middle.

Cara comes to us from This Old Farm, located in the rolling countryside of Darlington, IN. Cara lives on a beautiful, expansive farm of 22 acres and is quite spoiled by farm owners, Erick and Jessica Smith. She thrives on acre after acre of beautiful, nutritious, fresh green grass. As you can see in the above pictures, she quite enjoys her feast. She is living the pampered life, as a cow's life goes. She has lots of freedom and plenty of room to move and live and breathe...and gestate. That's right, Cara is also going to be a mama come fall.

Entrance to "This Old Farm". I love how the robin so nicely posed for us.
Cara is a dairy cow and as her owners we are blessed to share in the bounty of her silky smooth, fresh, raw milk. We also enjoy skimming the cream off the top and making homemade butter and buttermilk. The taste is incredible, the health benefits are plentiful and it sure doesn't hurt that we know where our food comes
from and that we are supporting an incredible, local, sustainable farm and more importantly, farm family.

Yummy goodness.
A proud, raw milk family
Each Sunday, we travel to the farm, which is about 35 minutes one-way, to visit Cara and pick up our milk. Cara is milked Sunday morning for us and we like to go directly after church. This means there are approximately 2 hours, give or take a few minutes, between the time of her milking and the time we pick-up our milk. It doesn't get much fresher than that! In fact, this past week, we got there so close to her milking time that the milk was not even completely cold by the time we got it. We take it home immediately, put it in the coldest part of our refrigerator and it is ready for us to enjoy in just a few hours.

Enjoying a fresh cold one.
We are so thankful for the way God has provided this resource for our family. We are taking baby steps toward a more natural and healthful lifestyle and teaching life's valuable lessons along the way. This isn't necessarily how we saw the dream of livestock ownership taking shape, and as much as we would love to have Cara for our very own, we recognize and accept God's provision and blessing no matter the form it takes.

So long, Cara. See you next Sunday!
In future weeks I plan on sharing how we came into cow ownership and why we feel it is important to drink raw milk. In the meantime, share in the comments how God is blessing YOUR family these days? And I'm curious, have YOU ever had raw milk?

I'm linking up over at Raising Arrows' Simple Homemaking Link Up.



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Boy Crazy

I love my boys! So many people have assumed that we were disappointed when we found out our most recent child was going to be a boy. And while it is true that my heart longs for another daughter and a sister for Madison, I was thrilled to hear that we were expecting our third boy. We are truly outnumbered in this household and I wouldn't have it any other way.

But sometimes? The testosterone can be a bit overwhelming.

Take yesterday for instance. I was summoned outside by Madison shouting, "Come quick, Mom! You've got to see this!" And, as I've noted before, those are words every mother dreads. It can mean something very, very good, or something very, VERY bad.

If any of you have boys, I am sure you could just let your imagination run wild considering what Madison could possibly be so excited about. Instead of me telling you though, I think you can only truly appreciate this heart-stopping moment by seeing what I saw.

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a ... tree???
 Let's have a closer look, shall we?

Why, yes, that is a boy in that tree. Why do you ask?
Peek-a-boo, Mom
Well, that's not really all that big a deal is it? I mean, climbing trees is just a typical right-of-passage for any young lad, right? Well, let's get a little bit of perspective.

And now?
Hmm...he's kind of high up there. Uh, maybe you should think about climbing down now, my sweet!

Might it be a big deal now?
Am I allowed to get nervous now?

Something about seeing my first-born son dangling 12 feet in the air just makes me a little uncomfortable. Can you say HEART ATTACK??? Needless to say, I demanded he come down immediately. (But Mooooom, why do you always have to go and spoil our fun?) These boys are going to do me in! Testosterone, I tell you!

The harrowing descent
Yes, as a matter of fact, there was some serious, fervent prayer going on at that moment!

Wait a minute. How did he get in that tree to begin with?

Aha! Caught red-handed!
Tell me, who do you think is the bigger kid?

But Moooom, it was just a little afternoon workout!

Hey Mom, check out the gun show going on over here!
BOOM! BANG! FIRE POWER!!!
Oh my! What's a mom to do? Ah well, at least I have two younger boys, maybe I can correct my mistakes with them.

Wait a minute!
It's true. There is never a dull moment in our house full of boys. It's quite an adventure for sure! Sometimes I wonder if I'm really cut out for this. I'm a mani-pedi, bubble bath, give me a massage kind-of-girl being thrown into a world full of wrestling, epic war battles and hilarious farts at the dinner table. But then I remember:


Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127.3-5

So, is it all worth it? The loud burps, the stinky feet, the pure wildness, the testosterone-filled days?

You tell me.
Yep, livin' the dream. And loving every minute of it!





Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ten Things I Swore I Would Never Do

I used to be a judgmental mom. I had a whole list of things I swore I would never do as a mother, or allow my children to do. And then I had kids. I am sure there are more, but here are 10 things I never thought I would do, in no particular order:

I will never allow my children to sleep with me.

Oh my, where do I even start with this one? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I broke this "never" before we even left the hospital with Madison. She stayed in our room for five months. And has slept in our bed many times since. Let's just say, this mama likes her sleep, and it is so much easier to roll over and nurse a baby back to sleep than it is to become fully awake, walk down the hall, nurse the baby, rock the baby, try to gently maneuver baby back into bed without waking the baby (an exercise in futility), and then attempt to get back to sleep if this routine happens to be successful. Yeah, I'm a lazy mom. What can I say?

I also have allowed children into my bed for any one of the following excuses ahem, reasons: "I'm puking", "I think I'm going to puke", "I just puked", "I'm scared of the dark", "I'm scared of the thunderstorm", "I had a bad dream", "I want to snuggle with you, Mama", "I wet the bed", "My brother wet the bed", "My sister wet the bed", "The dog pooped on my bed" (I wish I was joking), "Can I please sleep in your bed tonight?", "Daddy's not home and you need someone to keep you company", "It's really cold in here because the furnace is broken and it's 52 degrees in our house". Yeah.

I will never breastfeed longer than a year.

Again, this was one that I knew I would break from the word go. There is no way to describe the relationship and bond that is established when a mother nurses her baby. I remember the first time I nursed Madison, all I could think to say was "WOW!" I just kept saying that over and over because I was so in awe. And because she was a Hoover. Since then, I have become comfortable in my skin as an exclusively, on-demand, breastfeeding mama who practices baby-led weaning.

I will never let my daughter play with Barbies.

I used to hate Barbies. I mean LOATHE them. With a passion. I don't really know why. I guess maybe I thought they were degrading to women or some such nonsense. But my daughter, she is a girly-girl through and through. She is pretty much out of the Barbie phase now but she used to love Barbies. I am not sure how it started. I think someone got her one for Christmas one time and it was all downhill from there.

We still have some rules where Barbie is concerned. She has to be fully and appropriately clothed. No pregnant Barbie, no tattooed (nothing against tattoos) Barbie, and definitely no MasterCard Barbie. Thankfully we successfully avoided the Bratz phase. No way! Madison actually did get one for Christmas once and looked at it and said to me, "Why does it look mad?" I don't know baby, I just don't know.

I will never say "because I said so" or "because I'm the mom, that's why"

I always told myself that I would have a good reason for telling my children "no" and when they asked the inevitable "why", I would tell them. I would never use the above cop-outs. However, I have one particular child, that can be a bit, shall we say, obsessive? When this child gets an idea in his head, there is just no derailing that freight train. And then come the questions. And more questions. And arguments. And debates. And negotiations. And begging. Okay, I'll admit it, I'm the one doing the begging. "PLEASE STOP ARGUING WITH MOMMY. I'M THE MOM, I GET TO MAKE THE RULES. SOMEDAY YOU WILL GET TO MAKE THE RULES BUT THAT DAY IS NOT TODAY." Sometimes, "because I said so" is a perfectly legitimate reason. Yes, I know I have turned into my mother.

I will never let my child go into a store with dirty feet or a dirty diaper.

Oh man, was I ever naive! My child crawls across my kitchen floor and the tops of his feet are covered in dirt. I swear I mop my floor. But it is impossible to keep a child clean. And the degree of dirtiness increases in direct correlation with the importance of the occasion. Upcoming doctor's visit, and I want to look like a good mom who actually washes her child? Guaranteed diaper blow-out. Family picture day? Someone will puke, no doubt about it. Sitting on Santa's lap? Let's not even go there, shall we? Needless to say, we are now THOSE parents. The ones who let our kids take their shoes off in a restaurant. The ones who run out of diapers or wipes or changes of clothing when you need it most.

There was one particular occasion with Brady where we were out to eat and he had such an enormous explosion that by the time I had gotten him into the bathroom for a change, his entire back, neck, and arms were covered in...well, you get the idea. I am telling you, there were not enough wipes in the world to clean up this mess. So what did I do? Well, what any resourceful mother would have done! I held him under the faucet and cleaned him with soap from the soap dispenser. And Madison was my lookout. And then I proceeded to walk out of the restaurant with my freshly diapered (and bathed) baby. Unfortunately, all he was wearing was a diaper. In January. I'm telling you...THOSE parents!

I will never give in to one of my children's tantrums.

I have to admit, this is one I am pretty good at. I am no sucker, that's for sure, and my children know for the most part that if they throw a fit about something, they will not get that something. Then I had child #3. Let me let you in on a little secret about having your third child. Now this is highly advanced mathematics so try to keep up. YOU ARE OUTNUMBERED!!!! And we thought it would be a good idea to name our third child Brady. Does anyone happen to know what Brady means? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Brady means "spirited". That's right. And we're Irish. Sometimes you have to pick your battles and with my "spirited" child the battles are frequent. And don't forget, I'm a lazy mom. Sometimes, it's just easier to give 'em what they want.

I will never yell at my kids.

This one would be pretty funny, if it weren't so sad. I come from a family of yellers. I'm pretty sure that until I met my husband I didn't even realize people could communicate without yelling. It was seriously a novel concept to see his family sit down and resolve conflict without going on a tirade. In fact, in over 10 years of marriage, I can honestly say, Rick has never raised his voice to me once. I didn't want my kids to take after me in their communication skills so I resolved to never yell at my kids. This is one I try very hard to achieve, but way too often fall short. I guess one good thing has come from it though-I have mastered the art of apologizing to my kids.

I will never wear my baby in a carrier.

I never thought I would be one of THOSE moms. The ones who never put their babies down, who never have a moment to themselves, whose lives are dictated by the whims of an screaming adorable 7 pound bundle of joy. Well, my babies were closer to 9 pounds, thank you very much. I first became a "baby-wearer" out of sheer necessity. Need I remind you that I am sorely outnumbered? Not only that, but I actually have things I need to do that I use my hands for, so my carriers are invaluable to me. Add to that the fact that I can't stand to hear my babies cry, and I have become a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the baby-wearing club. And I love it! Tell me there is nothing more sweet than having a sweet baby snuggled up on your chest. I didn't think so. Don't knock it til you've tried it! Maybe I am a sucker after all.

I will never reward my child with food.

Don't judge me. Don't you judge me. When you have tried for the seventeenth time in one day to get an uninterrupted 5-minute shower, that Easter basket full of candy looks pretty tempting. Please, go have a peace of candy...and be sure to share with your siblings!

I will never lose myself in my kids.

Some women think in order to be a real woman you need to do it all. You need to have the career, and the perfect marriage, and the nice house, and maybe, if you have time, you can throw motherhood in there too. But be sure you stay true to yourself. Don't lost your identity. BALONEY!!! This is one I have NO regrets about. I AM A MOTHER. That is who I am. You cannot separate my identity from that of me as mother. It's not just a role I play or a hat I wear when it fits in my life. IT IS WHO I AM. I AM MOMMY, MOM, MAMA, MOTHER.  And that's okay with me. I don't want to be anything else. Sure there are other things I do that are important, there are other things I could say to identify myself. But this one? This one defines me. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about you? Are you a judgmental mom? Were you ever? What made your top-ten list?

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!

Today is also my mother's birthday. Our relationship isn't perfect but she's my mom. It's who she is. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Have You Ever Canned Sweet Potatoes?

I have.


Ethan checking out my new canning pot my in-laws bought me...just because. Wasn't that sweet of them?

Yes, we are THOSE parents.


Please don't turn us into CPS...we're just having a little fun!

And tell me, is that not the sweetest potato you have ever seen?

I'm linking this post up over at Raising Arrows.







Thursday, April 28, 2011

Physical Education, Epsteen-Style

Today, after the kids had completed their assigned work for the day, they built a fort with the cushions of the couch and enjoyed a little physical activity. I snapped a few pictures of our highly advanced homeschool physical education curriculum. Enjoy!







Yep, that's how we roll. Good times.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Green Smoothies

A thing of beauty
 I've written recently about our green smoothies. This is a yummy treat we try to enjoy every day or every other day at the very least. What makes our green smoothies so beautifully green? Why, spinach of course. Today's particular smoothie was made with 3/4 banana, a whole pineapple, 3 cups of spinach and about a cup of almond milk.

The ingredients I use varies daily based on what I have on hand. I like to buy my produce in season because it's cheaper and fresher, although there are certain seasonal fruits that I will buy frozen because we love them in our smoothies but don't want to buy them out of season-particularly strawberries and other berries. A bonus to having them frozen is that they act like ice in our smoothies-I love me some cold smoothie!

I choose my ingredients based on what looks like it might go bad first. Oh so very scientific! Today I had a pineapple that was starting to get soft. We were having peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch and I had one banana already open so I tossed that in there too. Spinach (or kale-though I personally like spinach better because it's easier to clean-you really can't taste it) is the key ingredient. The greener the smoothie, the better. I used to add strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries at the end to mask the green color. But, my kids knows what goes in them so the color doesn't bother them. I just toss it all in the blender and we get what we get. It's actually a fun experiment to try and see what color we are going to get. I thought today's was just beautiful.

What do you think?


What ever possessed me to do such a thing? Well, the whole point of a green smoothie is to add more raw food to our diets. Ideally, AT THE BARE MINIMUM, 51% of every meal should be raw foods. This is such a simple way to achieve that goal. And SO yummy! If you have a sweet tooth, I definitely recommend trying out a green smoothie. The fruits in the drink are so flavorful that they definitely make-up for the veggies you add (although I like fresh spinach, but I know some who would not go within 10 yards of fresh spinach who will eat it this way).

So, are you ready to take the green smoothie plunge like we have? The sky is the limit on what ingredients can go into your smoothies. Here are some we have tried and some we would like to try: mango, papaya, any type of berry, apples, grapes, carrots, tomatoes, avocado (yum!), yogurt (Greek, plain or vanilla), kefir (going to write a post about this soon!), flax meal, wheat germ, watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit.

To start with I recommend using mostly fruits that you know that you like and then slowly increase the amount of veggies you add and playing around with new things that you haven't tried before. Green smoothies can also be frozen with popsicle sticks to make a yummy treat.

Here is a list of benefits we have seen in since starting our green smoothie regimen:
  • Increased energy levels-with the addition of child number 4, I have rarely the opportunity to take a nap during the day, when I used to need one on an almost daily basis, and if I couldn't get one I would totally crash in the afternoon (and be thoroughly cranky).
  • Better digestion-do you really want me to give more details about this one?
  • Better sleep-For years, I have struggled with sleep issues, insomnia and the like, even getting to the point of doing an overnight sleep study, it was that bad. I struggled to fall asleep (sometimes taking hours to do so), and once asleep I struggled to stay asleep. I never felt refreshed. Lately though, I am out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow, I am sleeping more deeply at night, rarely hearing Rick's alarm in the morning, and I wake up with more energy and feeling ready to conquer the day. Before, it was all I could do to get out of bed every day.
  • Weight loss-after struggling pretty much my whole life with my weight, I decided that I wasn't going to fight it anymore. I was going to be healthy but not so much concerned about the number. Even when I was thin my weight was a struggle to maintain. An added benefit of consuming more raw foods is that I am losing weight, slowly and more naturally, without the aid of any fad diet-just by making this one choice. I'm not even trying to lose weight. I am just trying to live responsibly, eat healthy and naturally. I have a very long way to go to get to a more healthy weight, but I am pleasantly surprised at this particular side effect.
  • Decreased cravings-this to me, is nothing short of super-natural. I have been longing for years to just be able to have better control of my eating habits. I can honestly say I am addicted to food. It's been a source of heartache and struggle for me for as long as I can remember. Many people (usually skinny people) just see fat people and think we have absolutely no self-control and are just lazy slobs. Many people think it is just a matter of will power and choosing not to eat certain foods or too much a particular food. It's hard being judged before someone ever gets to know you. Honestly? I don't even want that stuff anymore. I mean, sure I enjoy a brownie as much as the rest of you, but I don't CRAVE it. And when I do have the occasional treat, I don't have to have a huge portion or second-helpings. I am just not as hungry as I used to be. I have no desire to eat fast food ever again-the thought just literally sends chills down my spine. I rarely eat processed foods and refuse to eat anything with high-fructose corn syrup. I can't even begin to put into words how incredible this is for me-to not even want some of the foods that used to be my favorites.
While all of the above advantages are not directly related to green smoothies per say, they are definitely related to actively and intentionally eating a more whole foods/raw foods diet. And our green smoothies are a very important part of that diet. It doesn't hurt that they are yummy either!

So who's with me? Has anyone tried to make green smoothies? What are your favorite ingredients? Have you seen any positive side effects?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Home Sweet School

Our school room
I am always curious about how other homeschooling families organize their school rooms. Organization is one of the things I am passionate about. I tend to feel a lot of anxiety and tension when my environment is out of order. I try not to be super-anal about it, and with four kids, it's pretty much a given that our home will be quite chaotic at times (just this weekend my dad told me I needed a maid! I agree!!!). But in order for our school day to run relatively smoothly I have to have a system of organization in place. Nothing can throw off a day like having to spend half an hour looking for paper and a pencil. So, without further ado, here is a peek into our homeschool "classroom". (Please, accept my apologies for the quality of the photos-I am not much of a photographer).

The above picture is what our whole school room looks like. I think the room is about an 8 by 10 foot space. Technically, it is supposed to be a living room or formal dining space, but for us it is perfect as our schoolroom. We are close to our kitchen where we do a lot of experiments and where I spend a better part of my day preparing meals for my family, but it also has the feel of a separate space. If you were to look directly to the right of the school room, you would see my front door, and directly left, conveniently, is a half bath. The rest of the pictures work their way around the room clockwise.

The Reading Nook
This is where the kids can sit for some silent reading time. Brady likes to look at his picture books while big sister and brother are working on their school. Sometimes they sit together and Madison reads to her brothers. More often than not, these chairs migrate around the room as the kids find their most comfortable spot to do their work in. I'm not a stickler for making them sit still or stay in one spot. I figure as long as they can be focused and get their work done, they are free to do that in the place that is most conducive for them. They will even do their work walking around the room sometimes. If the boys are at a break time and being especially rowdy, sometimes Madison will choose to work quietly in her room. For the most part though, we all spend the better part of our day together, in this room.

Madison's desk
This is Madison's desk, which is an antique and the first piece of furniture my grandfather and grandmother ever bought after they were married nearly 70 years ago. However, it is used more for storage than actual sitting. Like I said, the kids are free to do their work where they please, as long as they aren't too distracted. Madison rarely chooses to actually sit at her desk. But her desk is invaluable to our organization as it holds wipe-off boards, extra paper and craft supplies and other miscellaneous items we need to have close at hand.

Noah's desk
This is Noah's desk, and believe it or not he actually does love to sit here and do his schoolwork-especially his writing work.  Brady also likes to sit at this desk to color and draw. A lot of Noah's school day is spent on my lap in reading and math instruction, but anything he does independently, he tends to do at his desk. The top of it also comes off and flips over and is a chalkboard on the other side, and there is storage under there as well.


The bookshelf
I know this probably pales in comparison to a lot of bookshelves in most homeschoolers' homes, but I am scrupulous about getting rid of curriculum and books we don't need or aren't using. I have other hiding places for future curriculum or stuff we are storing for the younger kids, but this shelf mainly contains stuff that is used on a daily basis for easy access. You can't really see it in the picture but on the top of this shelf sits a microscope, a globe and one of those huge roll-out thingys with the huge paper roll on it.

Madison's shelf
Madison gets the top shelf. This is where we keep her books that she works in every day. Included here is math, language arts, Bible Study, and reading. The boxed-set of books is the collection of the Anne of Green Gables novels which we are working our way through as a read-aloud. This was an awesome and welcome Christmas gift from my in-laws.

Math Manipulatives
The basket and tote below it hold our math manipulatives. These include items such as play money, clocks, flash cards, geoboards, teddy bear counters, a balance, rulers, plastic shape pieces, dominoes, decks of cards-basically just about anything you can think of that we could use to make math real and tangible. These are so helpful in the early elementary years before children have developed the more advanced skill of thinking abstractly. They are also very important for the tactile/kinesthetic learner.

Noah's shelf
Noah doesn't have a whole lot on his shelf yet. In pre-school and kindergarten, I like to focus on building a strong foundation. primarily in reading and phonics instruction. We also work on Math, handwriting and thinking skills. The box to the right of his books holds cards for sight words, sentence/word games etc... The shelf just below it is for books that we read together as a family or that Madison can read (longer chapter books that don't hold the boys' attention too well just yet). That big gold one there is The Chronicles of Narnia which we are working through as a family in our before-bed reading time.  The blue and yellow book beside it is one of my favorite homeschooling books of all time, The Well-Trained Mind. Next to that are lots of classical literature and poetry books.

Toys/Board books
Next we have some items for Brady that he like to play with. In the box is a LeapPad-we've had this since Madison was young and all the kids love it. There is also a play computer in there that Brady uses to work on letter sounds and early math concepts. The books on this shelf are story books that Brady and Noah love to read. The last shelf holds a basket of toys for Ethan and our board books.
The most comfortable chair in the world
This is the chair I gravitate towards when I am in the school room working with one of the kids. It is SO comfortable and makes for a nice cozy area for us to work together. Bonus, I get lots of snuggle time in the middle of the school day! To the right of that chair you will notice I have a decent-sized wipe-off board. That seriously needs hung on one of the walls. I also want to find some really good maps-hopefully a United States map and a world map-to hang on the walls.


Supply/Extra books cabinet
This is my cabinet from IKEA. The front can be used as a chalkboard.

Library books
The containers aren't very pretty, but these sturdy paper boxes are where we keep our library books. I am VERY strict about this rule as we have learned the hard way what happens when we lose a library book. As soon as we get home from the library the kids know that they unload their bags and put the books away in the boxes right away. They also know that when they are not in use the books go right back in the boxes. I would eventually like to get some prettier containers for this purpose, but this works just fine for now.

Inside the cabinet
Inside this cabinet is where we keep all of our extra books that we use frequently, but not daily. On the bottom shelf are all manner of reference books. The middle shelf holds our school supplies, some books we aren't currently using but will in the future, a bag of activities for Brady and some readers for Noah. The top shelf is where we keep Madison's other school books. Included here are history, science and other electives. Currently we have Art, Manners, Fitness and Money Management.

A closer look at our supplies
Pardon the baby head! I have several plastic boxes filled with extra supplies. We have one each for crayons, markers, pens, pencils, glue, dry erase markers, and colored pencils. This is all easily accessible for the kids so they can get what they need, when they need it. And as long as the door is shut, Ethan can't get to the contraband!

So there you have it, that's our school room. It's pretty simple but it's constantly evolving. I find that my systems only work well for so long. Then the kids get bored with them, or we run out of room somewhere and have to re-think things. I have yet to come up with something completely fool-proof. Once every few weeks we have pretty-much a complete overhaul of the whole room where we toss old papers and broken crayons, purge drawers and shelves and just generally try to streamline everything again. In the very near future, I plan on getting set-up with a workbox system. I can't wait to try that out and see how it works.

What about you? If you are a homeschooler, how do you organize all of those papers and supplies and books that we seem to accumulate exponentially year after year? Anyone have any great tips of organizing to share?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

ONE

I have to admit, I am having a very hard time knowing where to begin on this post. It is hard for me to really even write. But yesterday marked an important milestone in the life of our family, so I feel I must celebrate it here.


Ethan opens his birthday present...with a little help.
One year ago yesterday, at 9:24 am, Ethan Richard Epsteen came into this world. And the world was never the same.
Ethan on the horse at Texas Roadhouse. Yes, we are THOSE parents. Don't worry,
he was only on there long enough for the picture. Priceless, don't ya think?
I don't know what it is about this first birthday. I don't know if it's the journey we traveled to have our miracle baby, the fact that we could have lost him again at five weeks old when he was VERY sick, the fact that he may very well be our last baby, or if it is just that mother/son bond we share, but this first birthday has been a hard one for me.

Ethan and his "fake" birthday cake. See the one candle lit-you can actually blow them out. So cool.
Sure, I want to and DO celebrate our sweet Ethan. I am so proud of him and what a sweet baby he is. In his short little life he has totally and completely captivated my heart. I can't imagine loving him more than I do. And yet with each new day I find I love him more than the one before. We are SO blessed to have him as part of our family.

Now, that's more like it.
I just see time moving by so quickly and I already feel like I miss it. It really does seem like it was just yesterday that I saw him for the first time, heard his first cry, felt his little fingers wrap instinctively around my own, and held and touched him. It is so hard to believe that a year has passed, that he will be a full-fledged walker any day now, that before I know it he will be talking a mile a minute, potty-training, riding a bike, learning to read, tying his shoes, playing soccer, wrestling with his brothers, driving a car, leaving home, getting married. It seems like a dream, an impossible dream. Sometimes I just sit and marvel at what a wonder he is.

What am I supposed to do with this?
Lately, thanks to my pastor and his incredibly convicting and inspiring sermons, I have been trying to work on a bad habit I have of complaining, of being discontented with where I am in life. Not that I'm not happy-just that I expect perfection and get frustrated when I don't receive it...RIGHT NOW! God has been working on my heart a bit and convicting me about that age-old "why me?" question. I have been trying to replace that whiny "why me?" with the same question asked a different way.

Mmmmm...cake.
I haven't stopped asking God, "why me?" I just am trying to choose to change the tone of that question. Instead of focusing on all the things that aren't perfect in myself or my life and my circumstances, I am trying to be more consistent about praising God and being thankful for how far I've come. For who He is and what He's done and does. For redemption and grace and beauty and love.


I always wondered what I would look like with blue hair.
So here are some "why me" questions I asked God yesterday. Why me, God? Why did you choose me to be this child's mother? What was there in me that You thought I would be the right mother for this sweet, sweet boy? Why me? Why choose me to get to be the one, the ONLY one, to be called "Mommy" of this baby? Why me? You could have given him to anyone. Why do I get to be the one to watch him grow, to love him and be loved by him? Why me God? I know it certainly isn't anything I've done. I know without a doubt I am completely undeserving. Why me? Why are you so good to me?
And, now we know.
The things that our family has journeyed through in the past year are just unbelievable at times. I feel like I need to be pinched to see if it's all a dream. Then I hear that familiar cry in the middle of the night and I know it's not. And instead of asking "why me?" (wah, wah, wah), I ask "why me, God?" and in hushed whispers I pray prayers of thanksgiving and praise to my God. For ONE. Lord, I thank you for THIS one. Even if it's my last ONE. It is still ONE. And I will celebrate.


All right people, I've had enough! Quit taking my picture and get this stuff off of me!

Ah, much better. Sweet birthday boy!