Friday, July 19, 2013

Just do it~

This is the view I have each morning- isn't it beautiful?  Back in May, I began running again so that I could get back into a healthier lifestyle, and it's jumpstarted my transformation from frumpy to fit.  I don't run far- only 1.5 miles, but it's enough to get my blood pumping and has helped me lose 6 lbs so far this summer.

I also included what I call my Toner program, which I try to do every day as well.  It consists of various exercises that I researched that focus on abs, arms, legs, and butt muscle groups so that I can firm up as well as lose weight.  Usually by the time I get done I'm pretty worn out, so I'm hoping that it's working!

One of the on-line adoptive moms that I've connected with put together a work-out support group of other moms, and we've been able to communicate via a Facebook group set up just for us.  We've shared weight loss ideas, offered work out challenges, and provided a supportive fellowship of women that has really helped me to keep my momentum going.

To keep me running, I went and purchased a new pair of tennis shoes for running.  Two reasons-The first is I only had one old chore pair that wouldn't have lasted long once I started running. (And they were stinky :-(  )  The second reason is that I'm so stinking frugal that I knew if I spent money on shoes that I would MAKE myself go out to run just so I wouldn't feel as if I had wasted that shoe money!

My goal is to lose 12 lbs by the end of the summer, so I'm half way there!  Besides, I'm a 52 yr old mother with a 3 yo and 4 yo, so I've got to stay in shape so that I can keep up with them!

Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What we're up to...

It's a myth that with summer comes long, lazy afternoons and time spent reading a good novel. Our summer so far has been constant motion, either with farm projects that are waiting to be done, kids activities, the endless task of trying to grow food, or social obligations.  So many days I have thought "I should blog about this..." and I never stay awake long enough to make it happen! 

Food Supply: This summer will be the second year on this garden spot, so I am working extra-hard on keeping the weeding a priority this year.  Today we began enjoying strawberries that we have grown, and have been enjoying lettuce and radishes for weeks now. This week I made our first batch of rhubbarb blueberry jam.

 We planted 13 fruit trees and they are doing beautifully, and added to our raspberry, strawberry, and asparagus patches. My goal is to provide a majority of our fruit and vegetable supply for this year, and the best part is that it's all organic.  We also have our first batch of meatbirds ready to butcher, but every time we set a date to do it, it rains!  (And a wet chicken is just gross, so we keep postponing!)

Farms Projects- We continue to plug away at the to-do list for the farm.  Added a second stanchion for our newly freshened Jersey, Nipper; worked on fencing repairs, and cleaned up all the piles of junk laying around left over from the move (mostly branches and rocks), cleaning out buildings, and scraping up dirt from the cattle yards to put around the house to cover the clay and grow some grass. 

House Projects- Loren did a killer job on the mudroom, putting up cupboards and coat stalls to hold all the coats, chore clothes, boots, and a storage area for mittens and such.  LOVE IT!  I was so proud of him, because he's the first to admit that he's not the handiest guy on the block, but he did a great job on this project. (See the pull out baskets for the hats and mittens?  I guarantee you they will pay for themselves!)

I'm working on turning our old canning room into a room for Quinn and Godwin- it's painted and the border repaired and cleaned- now working on getting some of the water stains out of the wood flooring, then apply a coat of varnish and I can begin moving the kids in.
For Loren's birthday, Bri and I put together Loren's office and got him a new chair for his work area, framed and hung pictures of his family, and made it a nice little work haven for him.
Loren's office
Personal: Both Loren and I noticed that we were getting a little out of shape, so we've  incorporated a morning run into our daily schedules, along with some toning workouts.  I love the feeling after I've exercised, but fitting it into an already tight schedule can be a challenge.  But, we know we need it if we want to stay around for a long time and to be healthy while we are on this earth, so each morning we get up and do it.  You know, just like the commercial says :-)
Loren and I don't really have hobbies- our kids are our hobbies.  And with summer comes alot of activity with them- we've been doing Horse 4H practices, Boy Scouts, 2 Vacation Bible Schools, basketball camps, sleep overs, violin lessons, yadda yadda yadda...  It only gets worse as the summer progresses- coming up: swimming lessons, volleyball camp, County Fair, more 4H activities, mission trip for Bri, and I'm sure lots of trips to the pool.  I'm so blessed to be able to be home in the summer to supervise and chauffeur our kids to all of these events, and to be part of their lives in a way that I couldn't be if I was still working outside of the home.  (Notice I didn't say "if I was a working mom?"  Haha- we are ALL working moms!)

And with that note, I'm heading off to bed.  Gotta haul our 5 youngest to VBS tomorrow morning bright and early...after a good run, farm chores, packing a lunch, serving breakfast, and making sure all the kids are fully dressed with shoes as we run out the door.  Better not forget the swimsuits and towels- it's Water play day tomorrow.  :-)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Native children in Foster Care

Recently our state held an ICWA Summit in Rapid City to discuss the issue of Native American children in the foster care system.  ICWA stands for Indian Child Welfare Act, and it was established to preserve the Native American culture by keeping these children in Native homes connected to their culture and their families.

I watched the news coverage and was frustrated by what I heard.  The only people interviewed for news coverage were two grandmothers who wanted to get their grandchildren placed with them instead of being in foster care.  They need to raise their grandchildren because their children are unable to, whether it's due to alcohol, drug addiction, or other situations. 

Now I haven't walked a mile in their shoes nor do I assume to understand the nuances and struggles of life as a Native American in today's culture.  But I do have over 10 years as a foster parent in South Dakota, where more than half of the children in foster care are Native American, so I can speak to the experiences that we have had.

First let me say that as a child, I watched the Lone Ranger, and it was one of my favorite shows.  However, it wasn't the Lone Ranger that I admired- it was Tonto.  He could follow any trail, ride bareback, and was as loyal as the day is long.  I wanted to be an Indian in the worst way, and many of my pretend play included mylself as Tonto's best buddy.

 I had such admiration for the Native Americans, so when I began fostering, I was looking foward to helping the children from this proud community.  What I discovered was not at all what I was expecting.  Between our foster care system and the Tribal personnel who have authority over Native children who have membership, we are doing a huge disservice to these children.  Let me give you a few examples.

Our first Native girl, Isabella, was 2 years old- found at attending a party with her mother one night, who by the way, had already lost 2 children to termination (meaning her parental rights had been taken away and the children placed with relatives or adoptive families.)  After 3 months with us, the foster family who had adopted her older biological sister was located and Isabella was moved to that home.  After almost 5 years with them, she is still in limbo and has not been released by the tribe for adoption, even though her mother has written a letter asking that this foster family adopt Isabella so she can grow up with her sister.

Our second Native kids were a sibling group of 3 boys- their 2 older brothers were placed in VOA due to gang related activity, and we took the  boys who were 5, 8, and 9 years old.  Their mother was a Meth addict and after placement, she disappeared and they never saw her again.  These boys were with us for 9 months.  Each boy had a different father, and they couldn't pick their dads out of a lineup if they wanted to.  They had learned to shoplift for food and wash their clothes in the bathtub. They had witnessed an uncle put a gun into his mouth and pull the trigger in their kitchen.  They doodled "Native Pride" on their notebooks, but were clueless when I exposed them to Lakota culture.   DSS wanted to keep all 5 boys together, and thankfully a prison guard and his wife were up for the challenge, so they adopted all 5 boys.

Next came Echoe, a child frought with attachment issues so severe that I couldn't leave her sight or she would scream. She almost died in an apartment fire because her mother and mother's boyfriend had passed out with cigarettes burning.  The boyfriend died in the fire, but neighbors were able to tell the firemen about Echoe, otherwise she would've died too.   She was with us for 4 months, then the judge threw her case out.  Echoe's mother is a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome adult and doesn't make good choices.  Echoe screamed in the van all the way down our driveway as the caseworker drove away.  Police found Echoe alone in an apartment clear across the state 2 weeks later, and last I heard she was still in foster care.

Our next Native sibling group was a 6 yo, 3 yo and 6 month old removed because their parents and grandmother were arrested in a drug bust. ( Apparently this isn't the cookie-baking kind of grandma).  Because these kids were enrolled in a tribe, we knew they would be claimed eventually, which they were about 5 months later.  The tribe has members who will keep the kids, then the kids are returned to the parents when they get out of jail.  DSS has no jurisdiction on the reservation in these cases.

Our last Native placement was a little 3 yo boy named Marcus who was placed with us as an adoptive placement- he had been in care almost 18 months, but the current foster family did not want to adopt.  His parents were unstable and the father looking at some serious jail time for sexually abusing his daughters, and meetings with relatives had come to a standstill, with no one willing to raise this little guy. Since DSS was looking at termination, Marcus had been placed with us for the 6 month prerequisite time prior to being able to adopt him.  Well, once an elder Auntie who had been asked repeatedly to take him and refused, found out that a White family was going to adopt him, she told the caseworker she wouldn't let that happen, so she begrudgenly stepped up at the last minute to take him. This woman had a record that intimidated me, including embezzling funds from the Indian Health Clinic where she had worked, and charges of blackmailing employees to get what she wanted.  When you are a Native child, the only prerequisite for claiming you is to have a family connection, or to be a registered member of the same tribe.

In all of these cases, the birth families did not have the abilities to provide a safe environment for these children, whether it was due to addiction or dysfunctional lifestyles.  In each case, the kids had been living in situations that no child should have to be in.   NONE of these situations were providing these children with anything close to the lifestyle and culture that the ICWA advocates keep saying are waiting there to wrap these children up in it's arms and raise them.  These homes are not "Native American Culture" homes that they preach about and say these children are being taken from.  These kids are growing up with drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, gang activity, incredible neglect and abandonment, and a less than stable family unit.  THIS is what ICWA wants to preserve?

So when I hear these people demeaning placement into foster homes for these children, as if we are the bottom of the barrel home/family situations option, I tend to get a bit incensed.  And when they insist that Native kids be placed into Native foster homes, we all wonder how the hundreds of Indian children could fit into the whopping 3 licensed Native homes here in the Sioux Falls area. 

 I won't go on about the things we provide to these kids, but I can say that I find alot of satisfaction in seeing them begin to relax and breath again, knowing that they are in a safe place with plenty of food and parents who watch over them with care.  They need their basic needs met first before they can begin to worry about whether they are staying in touch with their culture.

Now I know that the ICWA advocates have a lofty goal for keeping these kids attached to their culture, and I fully support that goal.  However, they are going about it in ways that won't provide results.  Most of these families are already so far detached from this elusive "culture" that the foster families often provide more cultural experiences for these children than their birth families ever did. 

I truly don't know what the answer to this dilemma is, but I would like to hope that DSS and ICWA can begin to work together more peaceably to come up with a solution.  If the goal is to retain a time honored culture and it's traditions, the children need to be able to grow up first into functioning adults so they can pass those traditions on to their children.  If these kids never get that far, then the goal is lost.

Focus should be on the family issues that are putting these kids into care in the first place so that it never gets to the point of removing the children.  Then, if it does get to that point, for these elders of the Native community to see foster care for what it's intended to be- a safety net for these children.  Work together with the foster families to keep these kids connected to their culture, recruit stable Native families to be foster families, and focus on the best interest of the children.  They are the future.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Frugal Friday~

“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”
John Stuart Mill

I have a confession to make....I have no problem putting consignment clothes on my children. 

Seriously- have you all watched how your kids play, with total disregard for their clothing??

We are big outdoor lovers and spend much time outside among the livestock, manure, and dirt.  My goal is to have them clothed,  but mainly I'm just looking for clothes that are inexpensive and will last.  (Of course, my second goal is to pick out clothes with their favorite movie characters on them because how fun is THAT?!)

To buy the "better made" clothes, I need to go to consignment stores to find the brands that I know will last, and because they are used, I pay less.  Win-Win!!

I hit Once Upon a Child and this is what I came home with. 
For Quinn:  1 dress, 2 capri pants, 8 shorts, 9 tops
For GW: 4 shorts and 5 tops.

All for under $90.00!  Many of the clothes were Gymboree, Levi, Gap, and Childs Place, so I know they are made to last.

Bottom line is...WE ARE READY FOR SUMMER!!  BRING IT ON :-)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Adoptive Mothers Day

I read this and wanted to share it, because it speaks for so many of us that have traveled this journey of adoption~

Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,
I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident.
It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have.
Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the right thing. Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to their cousin’s neighbor’s friend. Maybe you ignored them.
Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your first choice. But maybe it was.
Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?
I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones, too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language deficiencies. About counseling support services, tax and insurance issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.
I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.
I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted.
I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because, well, these things fall through, you know.
Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it to your cheek every night.
I know about your home visits. I know about your knuckles, cracked and bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara before the social worker rang the doorbell.
And I know about the followup visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks because the baby had colic. I know how you wanted so badly to show that you had it all together, even though you were back to working more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants.
And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying, nesting, coming home.
I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t have to go through with this. I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those moments—while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so much.
I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long enough to give yourself over completely.
And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours.
I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss.
I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge, the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.
I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.
I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of things — but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so intent on celebrating sameness.
I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories, leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into big problems later on.
I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come, mama? How come?
I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded, “You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.
I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way around.
But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing yourself.

~~~ Through all the fostering, adoption paperwork, travel, attachment struggles, and worry, it's all been worth it, a thousand times over.  And I would do it all over again.
Love you, girls!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Frugal Friday

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important as living within your means."  - Calvin Coolidge
Home Repairs
Me texturing the stairway down to the basement.

As you know, we moved our farmhouse from our acreage to Loren's family farmstead about a year ago.  Since then, our home has been a running series of This Old House reruns.  Lots of finishing work to be done to the new basement and added mudroom, and repairs on the cracks created by the move.

Home remodeling is an area that can get fiscally out of hand very quickly.  Once we had refinanced our mortgage to include the added basement and mudroom structure and the expense of the move, we didn't want to add to our debt for the additional tasks of texturing and taping, painting, carpet laying, trim staining and application.... you get my drift. 

To combat this, we knew we had to follow a few guidelines:
  • We would only do future finishing work as we could afford it.  This explains why there are still rooms that are still waiting to be worked on, even ones that we really need, like the downstairs bathroom. :-(
  • We would do as much of the work ourselves, with the exception of electrical and plumbing work, because of something is going to go wrong with that, I want someone else to take the blame! 
Truthfully, this extra work has been a blessing as well as a curse.  As much as I dreaded working on the house each weekend, it has been a good bonding experience for all of us.  Once you've tackled texturing a room together, with spackling in your hair and your arm feeling like a dead weight from the roller, you are bonded for life.

Not to mention the skills we are picking up- I like learning new skills and I take pride in learning how to do a fairly good job with some of these projects.  However, there is a learning curve with all things, and the walls I textured last look WAY better than my first few attempts.  Oh the house character. 

I like that we are also modeling self sufficiency for our kids and teaching them a few of these skills- hopefully they will make use of these new talents when they have homes of their own.  There is nothing more attractive than a handy man in my book, and I'm trying to impress that on Luke so that he sees the advantages of learning how to do his own home repairs. 

Someday, his wife will thank me.

I hope our family is also learning a little about delaying gratification.  Yes, we could've had all of these things done right away, paid someone else a bundle for it, added to our debt load, and our undone house wouldn't be inconveniencing us now.  But maybe this is teaching them some patience?  Maybe it's showing them that they don't have to live in a house right out of Better Homes and Gardens, with everything in it's place and arranged shabby chique. 

I believe there is merit and a feeling of self worth in working to create something, especially when it's your home. Working together as a family to build a home- it's what kept the pioneer families together, right?  And if it was good enough for the Ingalls, then it's good enough for the Johnsons. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Frugal Friday

“he who will not economize will have to agonize”

These two inconspicuous ice cream pails hold the wastefulness of my family's eating.  After every meal, any food left on a plate or scraps from meal preparation are diligently placed into the chicken bucket (on the left) or the cat bucket (on the right). 

With these scraps, we supplement our chickens' feed, and in return, we get fresh eggs!  Nothing goes to waste, and it reduces our feed bill for our laying hens.  It also gives me great satisfaction to know that we aren't creating waste and we aren't wasting food , which in my universe is a sin :-)

As for the cat bucket, those scraps feed the many barn cats that seem to migrate to our farm.  Table scraps might not seem like much; a spoonful of pasta, a crust of bread, or the milk left from cereal, but they add up during the day.

Now, if you don't have chickens or other pets to feed your scraps to, you can always compost them.  Other than meat, table scraps will compost really well and can be put into your garden once they have had a chance to decompose.  Food scraps can be mixed with lawn clippings, leaves, or other "green" refuse to produce rich, dark soil, and it's another way of making use of those scraps instead of throwing them away. 

Look at you...being all Green and Planet Friendly and all!  Now you can tell your friends that you are "reducing your Carbon Footprint", and watch them be impressed :-)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Don't tell me I'm not a working mom!

Last Thursday morning, in the midst of another winter storm here in the Dakotas (yes, in April) I drove 25 miles to pick up the 2 brothers of our foster children.  We were scheduled to have them until Sunday while their foster mom got a well deserved break.

So as I'm driving through almost white-out conditions on icy roads, the younger brother, George, says "So Michelle, what DO you do anyway?"   We had been discussing his foster mom's job as a teacher, and so I guess he was wondering what job I held.

I didn't know whether to laugh or spit.  His question was genuine, but somehow, it struck a nerve.

It's not as if I'm clueless about the working world.  I've had some form of a job ever since I was old enough to partner with our neighbors in a paper route when I was about 9 years old. As I hit adolescence, I was the go-to girl in our neighborhood for dog walking, housesitting, and my area of expertise- babysitting.   I worked part time during college then full time plus once I graduated from college.  By then, I was supporting a family, and didn't have the luxery of NOT working. 

I was a single working mom for 5 years (some of those years as a teacher) and continued to work when I remarried because we needed to catch up financially.  Suddenly, my oldest son was graduating high school and my youngest was 8 months old, and I realized that I had never gotten to try out being a stay at home mom. 

After spending the next 2 years paying off as much debt as we could, I finally made the move to being able to stay at home, raising our children, and taking care of my home and family the way I had always wanted to.  No more doing laundry at 11:00 at night, no more putting my kids to bed and wondering if they had had a good day or not, no more feeling as if I'm being pulled into twenty directions, juggling so many responsibilities and not doing any of them justice.  I would finally get to focus on the important people in my life.

So George, what do I do? 

I stay at home and supervise 6 kids and partner with 1 incredible husband.  I get 3 kids up and off to public school, and homeschool another one.  I wrangle with a 3 and 4 year old all day, do laundry for 8 people, plan nutritious meals with homegrown vegys and home raised meat, do farm chores and dishes, home repairs, garden, chauffeur various doctor, dental, and ortho appointments, basketball games and 4H meetings, teach Sunday school and work funerals, update kids scrapbooks, plan birthday parties and all holiday activities, clean the house, mow and do the yardwork, pay bills,....need I go on?

I've worked both in and out of the home, and truthfully, being a stay at home mom is one of the busiest, most frustrating, and hardest jobs I've ever had.  And the most gratifying.

We both felt God leading us to the decision of having me stay home to raise our children, and it's one that we have felt so at peace with.

Loren tells me I get paid in hugs and appreciation. 
After seeing my list, me thinks I need a raise :-)

Homeschooling on the deck!  Littles are doing playdough while Bri tries to do her reading under her blanket.

Look who fell asleep while snuggling with Mom on the couch~

Monday, April 15, 2013

Project Update

Spring continues to be elusive here in South Dakota.  Last week we had 3 no-school days while thousands of people were out of power due to an ice storm that hit that week. Roads were treacherous but our ever-faithful linemen were out keeping us all connected and warm by fixing downed lines.

It looks so serene, but there's solid ice under that snow.

Even though we can't get into the gardens yet, there are still plenty of projects that need to be done indoors.  In fact, our Honey-do project list never seems to get any shorter....hmm?
Not to worry- we can get some much-needed projects done inside where it's warm, while we wait for spring to show up.

Here is what we are working on...
  • Finished reading the Bible, cover to cover. This was one of my New Years goals that I set and I'm so glad that I did it.  It took me 3 months and 2 weeks, but it was a good experience to do it all in one stretch, instead of piecing it together as I have done for years.
  • Working on my next quilt- it's to be a pinwheel done with retro fabrics, that I have been collecting for years.  Can't wait to see how this looks on our bed! (I'm not very far yet)

  • We're finishing the texturing and painting of our mudroom to make it ready for all the canning we plan on doing in there this summer.  Once the walls are done, we will begin work on the cubbies along the north wall to hold chore coats and overalls, boots, and gloves.  I am thrilled to have a place to store all of the grubby farm clothes and keep the mud and SMELL out in the mudroom far away from the kitchen.
Almost done texturing!!!  See my recycling bins in the lower left corner?  I'm so proud :-)

A work in progress~
  • My last indoor project is the on-going Decluttering schedule that I'm following to reduce the stuff in our home.  I am currently doing the May calendar and hope to complete that within 2 weeks.  The 15-20 minutes per day assignments really make a difference and I'm all for reducing the clutter in our house. Here is the link if you want to declutter too~
I'd like to say that I'm using all of the "stuck inside" time productively, but I have to confess to recently watching the entire Harry Potter series on DVD, and I've kept up fairly well reading my favorite blogs.  A girl's gotta have some down time too, right?
So how are YOUR winter projects progressing?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Frugal Friday

Lately I feel like I've been doing more laundry than normal, but then I shouldn't be surprised with 8 people in the house. 

And I realize that I've discussed frugal ways to deal with laundry before, but mainly in using racks and clotheslines to dry clothes, or how to make your own laundry soap.

But then I realized that there's more to it when it comes to laundry.  It's a whole new way of looking at what goes in the hamper; and attitude on how we look at clean.  I mean really, Americans are so brainwashed when it comes to our hygiene.  Commercials tell us that everything has to be spotless, or we're just "not good mothers and homemakers". 

We can either buy into that thought process, or we can realize that we are being sold an idea, developed by marketing teams to sell their products.

 I decided that we were happier when we weren't chasing the "spotless dream" and trying to look like we just walked off of a magazine page.  And was that a good use of our funds, by the constant washing of our clothes, homes, and bodies?

So here are a few of our rules:
  • You get one clean towel a week, and you must use that towel all week.  If you hang it up correctly, it WILL NOT SMELL!  Remember, its job is to wipe clean water off of your just-cleaned body, so it's not really dirty.
  • Jeans rarely get sweaty, so unless you are outside and they get dirty, you continue to wear your jeans until they do get dirty. 
  • We have a set of chore clothes that are hung in the mudroom and used for outside work, and they don't need to be cleaned as often, so that saves on alot of laundry each week.
  • Because we homeschool and don't "go" to school, we don't have to have a different outfit each day, so we can wear our comfies a few days in a row.  This is one of my favorite perks of homeschooling!
An extra bonus is that our clothes won't wear out as quickly because they aren't going through the rigor of the washing machine!  So yah for that!

So the next time you slip on one of your favorite cozy outfits for the third day in a row, don't feel guilty!  Feel FRUGAL!!  And be proud of it :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mother Nature is a fickle creature

A week ago, we had temps in the 60's, the girls were outside in shorts training the dogs, and we were thinking that spring was finally here.

Then yesterday, we got hit with an ice storm that has effectively shut down the state- highways are closed and over 20,000 homes are without power.

We were lucky down in our corner of the state- we didn't get hit as hard as other parts, and so far, we haven't had any trees down on our farm.  Pictures shown on the news have shown entire telephone poles tipped over and trees down everywhere.  We've had gates frozen shut and ice coated hay to pitch, but otherwise we have not had any damage, other than to have one meatbird chick freeze before I got them moved indoors.

And I thought I was going to plant potatoes today- Guess not!

Meanwhile, these little guys are growing quickly, being sheltered in our mudroom.

Don't hate me for my awesome canning shelf!!  I put the seedlings in front of it, hoping that the canned goods would inspire the seedlings!  I've planted tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, brocolli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and pak choy so far.  Loren cultivated the garden last weekend, so we are ready to plant once Mother Nature cooperates and gives us some warm temps.

With so many of our neighbors out of power, it puts me in Survivalist Mode, and I have been taking inventory of what we need on our homestead for future calamities. 

We are fortunate to have a woodburning stove, which keeps us warm and can also double as a stovetop with a cooking surface on top. Keeping our woodhouse stocked takes some teamwork, but between the two farms we have enough dead wood to keep us warm for a few years yet.

Between our milk cow, laying hens, our freezers full of meat we have raised, and over 200 quart jars of canned vegys and sauces stored, we have at least tackled the problem of having some food available.  We have set aside an alcove in the basement as a cold storage room that we haven't quite finished yet, but will be used to store potatoes, squash, etc... from the garden next fall.

Now that we have our mudroom, I plan on having a section for stocking up on nonperishables such as canned goods and nonfood items like toilet paper.

To this, I would like to add a greenhouse onto the south side of the house for raising produce during the late fall/early spring to extend our growing season.  We would also need to have an adequate water supply stored- so far, we have about 10 gallons of water bottled in the basement, but know that we would need to increase that amount to have enough for all 8 of us for any length of time.  We've also talked about investigating into getting one of the old wells repaired for useage during the summer, and setting up a rainwater collection system on the house and buildings.

As for our energy needs, I would like to invest in a generator to keep our home running- at least for the freezers, refrig, and stove.  (Oh who am I kidding?  I want it for the tv!) 

  I like the solar lamps that I've seen for providing lights, and would like to increase our stash of flashlights and batteries.

I'm sure there are many other items that I haven't even begun to realize I would need, but these are the first ones I would address. ( Because if I can't keep this crew fed, it could get UGLY!! )

I realize that we are so far removed from true "surviving" these days, because everything we want is just a drive, or a call, or a click away.  We no longer have to rely on a set of skills, or on ourselves, to keep our family fed or safe.  However, the past few years we have had to watch families just like ours on the news facing major disasters, whether it's a hurricane or a grass fire, and they have had to use these techniques to survive and stay safe.

 It's in our best interest to know some of these skills and since we have two Eagle Scouts in the house, I know that I need to "BE PREPARED!"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

He is Risen

Yep, I hide Easter baskets for my kids.  And yes, we have a (gasp!) Easter egg hunt.

Blasphemous?  I don't think so.

Once upon a time, I struggled with religious celebrations, because they become very commercialized, focusing on materialism instead of the "Reason for the Season". 

Santa versus Jesus' birth. 
Easter bunny versus Jesus rising from the tomb.

 I wondered "Am I ruining my children by indulging in the traditions of presents and baskets and hunting for eggs?"

But as the years have gone by, I think I'm getting better at balancing the two, Faith and Fantasy, so that I can make joyful memories for our children, and also instill in them the importance of their faith.

Quinn and G hunting for eggs

We stress the sanctity of Christmas and Easter by attending Lent, Christmas, and Easter services, talk about what the day really means, read the Bible stories before the season to prepare them, and limit the amount of commercialism that we introduce into the day. 

The girls with their baskets- boys slept in!

However, I also see the joy they get from running around the yard hunting for eggs, or running downstairs on Christmas morning to see what's in their stockings, and I know that these are memories that bond us all together as a family. And how can that be bad?

Coloring Easter Eggs

 So with a careful blending of both, we can learn all about God's love for us, and have alot of fun doing it.

Happy Easter!!  He is Risen!!
Empty Tomb Picture 16

Friday, March 29, 2013

Frugal Friday

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." ~Albert Einstein

I haven't had many Frugal posts the past few months because it just seems that I've posted most of my ideas and I hate to repeat myself!  However, since we had 2 birthdays this month, I got to thinking that I've never mentioned anything about being frugal when celebrating birthdays, so here goes.

I'm hoping that you don't think many of these ideas are "inappropriate", but they work for us.  Then again, we aren't very picky either :-)

First, I keep a stash of what I refer to as "reusable party favors".  For example, I reuse birthday candles, because let's be honest, they're only lit for about 30 seconds, so why throw them away?  (Of course, I do wash the cake off of them afterwards.)

I have a drawer of Congratulations banners and toppers for kids cakes and plastic party tableclothes that I can use over and over.  No one seems to notice- they are just excited to see colorful decorations on their special day! 

I keep all the extra unused kids paper plates and napkins.  We have had several parties that have a mixed theme of Disney Little Mermaid, Barbie, and Dora, but again, no one seems to mind.

We also reuse the gift bags and tissue.  As long as I am careful, I can fold the tissue paper and it looks almost new.  By reusing the bags, I can save alot, and then I can put more money towards the gifts.

As for gifts, I try to either hit a great After Christmas type of sale, or I purchase gifts through Ebay or Amazon.  I can find a better deal on Amazon, especially on movies and electronics, than I often can get at Walmart, and I don't even have to leave the farm! (Saving gas and saving $$..... yah!)

Ebay offers alot of opportunities to find great gifts at a much more reasonable price, especially if you don't mind buying something that is used and your kids don't mind getting something that is used.  We have a huge rubbermaid tub that is full of wooden Thomas Trains, track, and buildings that have been purchased exclusively from Ebay, often gently used and a few were even still in the original box.  It is probably the most used toy that we have, and I never could've gotten it if I had to purchase it at retail, because they are crazy expensive! 

When it comes down to it, I think the thought behind the gift and the love that it's given with is WAY more important than the price spent or the packaging used. 

Besides, we save more using these little tips so that we can buy more TRAINS!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Need filled life

This morning during my Bible reading quiet time, this verse hit me.

In fact, I went back to it several times.

"Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required: and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more."

God tells us that those of us that are fortunate need to share with those who are not.

And I look around at my home and my things, and even though we are frugal and don't have alot of "toys", we still have everything we need.


And I am again hit with the need to share all of my wonderfully safe, fortunate, need filled, family focused, blessed life with another little one who doesn't have all this. 

Doesn't have a lap to sit on and someone to read stories to her.

Doesn't have her own bed, or even clothes or toys to call her own.

Doesn't have brothers and sisters to clown around with, wrestle on the couch with, or snuggle with at night while watching a movie.

Doesn't have the unconditional love of parents and a family.

Doesn't have the teachings of a faith that she can hold on to and rely on.

And I know that I am again being nudged to do something about it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A story about a boy.

This is a story about a boy named Tanner and a girl named Natty.  Two kids, both born with some challenges that would keep many people down, but not these two.  They faced obstacles but overcame them.  They were fortunate to grow up with famiies that were protective enough to keep them from some of the tougher realities of the world, but supportive enough to teach them how to become independent.

One day, they meet at the adult learning center where they both spend their days, and as they say, "that's all she wrote."

Over the next 3 years they spend lots of time together, getting to know each, meeting each other's families and learning what being part of a couple is all about.  They competed together in Special Olympics, begin spending holidays with each other, and even begin tossing around the idea of getting married some day.

Then one day Natty is diagnosed with cancer.

And for the next 2 years, she spends her days getting chemo treatments instead of going to work...has to stay home to avoid being exposed to germs instead of going to the movies.  So they begin to text daily to keep in touch, and wait for the results of Natty's white count to give them permission to see each other. 

And she earns the name Might Warrior Woman from me because she faced the ravages of her treatment with no complaints and so much courage that I respect her even more.

And their committment to each other stays strong.  And they still talk about having a future together.

Then one day, Natty loses her battle with cancer.

And we are all devastated by the loss of this very special young woman.  But no more devastated than Tanner.

While we are relieved that Natty's pain is gone and that she is now healed, we struggle to understand the reason for her having to leave us.

 We struggle to understand God's purpose. 

And we struggle to not be bitter by the unfairness of life.

We love you and miss you, Natty Clayton. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What we're up to..

Not alot of time to post these days...not sure why, but I'm sure it's because I'm being so productive, right???

Anyway, here are a few quick updates.

On the farm:
The farm is beginning to stir and prepare for spring.  We already have our seed order sorted and will begin to start tomato and pepper seedlings later this week.  I am trying a few new items to grow this year, like celeriac, and can't wait to get into the garden.  Nothing like the feel and smell of fresh, warm soil.

We are also putting together our chick order for 4H birds and replacement pullets.  I order 10-15 replacement laying hens (pullets) each year as the birds we have age and stop laying eggs, and we often pick a few "fun" birds to try out and show at our County Fair.  This year, we are trying out Golden Polish "Hat Heads", because they make us laugh!

Miss Candace, Bri's new Oberhasli goat, delivered two little doelings during the night, and sadly one didn't make it :-(  However, the other one is up and just cute as a bug!  We are busy perusing the soap making websites and planning our first batch of goats milk soap.  Once we get our mudroom set up and plumbed, we will begin making soap for our own use and maybe to use as gifts.
We ordered a bar of goatsmilk soap from our coop, and it's like silk on your skin- cannot wait until we begin making our own.

In the house:  I'm working on the April decluttering schedule, but it's about filing and paperwork organization, something that I try to avoid!  I plan on having the month's schedule completed over the next 2 weeks so I can move on to meatier projects, like tossing, I mean, cleaning out lots and lots of toys

Started setting up our mudroom and got the wall of shelving moved last weekend.  I'll post pictures once we are done with the room.  It's going to be so nice to have all of the canning equipment and jars out of my kitchen.  There will also be a spot for coats and boots when you come in the back door-  Goodbye mud being tracked into the house!  Yah, life is good.

With the kids:  Quinn has accepted her new haircut with barely any acknowledgement and doesn't appear to hold a grudge, so peace reigns among the Littles.  However, she has entered the "Me Do" stage, which means everything takes three times as long as usual. sigh.
Homeschooling continues to flow- Bri continues to tackle advanced math and Early World History, and the Littles are learning colors and shapes, counting items,  how to do a puzzle without breaking the pieces, how to play Memory, and coloring. We are doing more reading and both Quinn and GW are doing more pretend-play, which neither of them had much exposure to before.   The other day I was the patient while they played with the Fisher Price doctor kit, and they didn't want to stop that game for nothing!  However, after being pinched about 30 times by GW with the tweezers and getting shots from Quinn, I was more than done!!

With us:  Barely making it to 10:00 every evening tells me that we must be working hard, right?
 I am still sticking with my Bible 90 day challenge, and currently in Lamentations.  Told my pastor about this challenge, and he said that many of the seminary students did a 1 year schedule to read the Bible.  When I told him this one was to be done in 90 days, he was more than a little impressed.  Of course, I have no time to read anything else, including the Sunday paper.

Other than making some squares for our local theater's raffle quilt, I haven't done any of my own quilting in about 2 weeks.  Need to get working on the retro pinwheel pattern that I started, and then begin a quilt for Quinn for her new room.  Now that basketball season is over, I will have more evenings and Saturdays to get things least until track season starts!

So far no Diet Coke or Aspertame have touched my lips since Lent started, and the more I learn about the dangers of this chemical, the less I want to ingest it.  Gotta check out some of the organic soda that our coop sells, because I'm really craving carbonation and caffeine!

Medical appointments have really been ruling our lives- SB clinic for Quinn last week, rheumatology, cardiology, and orthotic appts for J and now two orthodontic appts tomorrow.  I will be glad to get past these and have a more "stay at home" week so that I can get some of these pending projects done.

Lent services are a joy and our community shares these services between all the different churches, so every Wednesday evening it gives us a chance to worship with people in town that we otherwise don't get to and hear pastors from other denominations- really loving it. <3

Meanwhile, in the rush and hurry of the day, we will continue to live this life that is ours, blessed that in it's simplicity we are happy and healthy and growing in body and spirit, and continue to follow where God leads us. 

Bri's new little doeling

Monday, March 4, 2013

Surprise Haircut

For those of you who don't know...those cute little kindergarten scissors with the rounded ends that barely cut paper?  They cut hair surprisingly well.

And you would think that an old pro like me would've had all those darn scissors gathered from every nook and cranny of the house, stuck them in a large tin box  and buried in a deep hole in the back yard.  Because I like them that much.

And because I have had previous little ones (can you say CAMILLE?) give themselves" bold new haircuts" just because they could, you would think that I would be better at keeping those darn little things up out of the reach of busy hands.  But for some reason, one rebellious pair of scissors always seems to escape me, and there you have it....the Home Haircut.

This side seems to have gotten the most attention.

  In this instance, Quinn is the victim of a misguided and mischievious 4 year old boy, but the results are the same.  Thank goodness we have connections- an aunt that can work wonders with a scissors, so we headed to her shop for some damage control.
Poor Quinn looks so sad! 

Auntie Gayle can work wonders with her scissors :-)
Thank you for making Quinn pretty again.

Quinn even helped clean up!

What's a mom to do?

Thank goodness hair grows back.  Enough said. :-)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

SB Clinic

Well.............spent another morning sitting in a tiny room at Sanford Children's Specialty Hospital trying to entertain a 3 year old while the SB specialists at the clinic parade through our room.  They spend a whole 10 minutes with her, then we wait and wait 30-40 minutes for the next specialist.  I told the coordinating doctor that there has to be a better system, but they seem to think they have done a great thing by putting all the doctors in one place to reduce the number of appointments, so I'm guessing it won't change soon.

The final consensus is that we should wait for Quinn to have surgery until she is around 5-6 years old, unless she begins to show symptoms of tethered cord.  I have mixed feelings about the directive to wait- as she gets older, she will be more susceptible to comments that kids make about her bump (mylomeningecoele) and I don't want her to become self conscious about it or have her feelings hurt.  However, I am in no way anxious to have her go through surgery, and the neurologist says that it's easier to operate around all of those nerves if they are larger, so I know it's in her best interest to wait. 

However, we couldn't be more thrilled on how well she is doing and on her progress so far!  The ultrasound of her kidneys showed that they are healthy and not showing any damage, and as we all know in this household- THIS GIRL IS POTTY TRAINED!!  This is amazing, since we originally thought she would never be continent and that I would have to catheterize her daily.  She has grown 6 inches and gained 20 lbs, now losing 5 lbs (thank GOD!) Her diet is solid and her lactose intolerance isn't causing her as much grief as I had first thought it would.  Her foot positioning and walking is right on the mark, and she will not need AFOs or any type of bracing as originally thought. 

Truthfully, could we ask for any more good news? 

Then the OT and Early Childhood gals came in to test Quinn on her developmental milestones, and she blew us all away!  She is testing high in the 36-60 month range and she is just 38 months old, and considering she spent 2 years in an orphanage and had to learn a new language this past year, that is amazing to me.

 The fun part was watching her work the blocks- she was given 10 square blocks and shown to make a tower with them.  She got up to 9 blocks and on the 10th, her tower tipped over. She only needed to stack 9 of them all to pass that test, so she passed, and then she did something that astonished the therapist- she began to build a double tower with the blocks so it wouldn't fall over, using one tower to brace the other tower.

Crazy, right?  Of course, I commented that Quinn was clever, but I guess I wasn't sufficiently impressed for the therapist.

 The therapist turns to me and says "Do you see that?  That's AMAZING  for a 3 year old to have problem solving skills like that." Then, Quinn asked for more blocks, and she proceeded to build a foundation around the base of the tower to further strengthen it!

Yep, my daughter is going to be an architect when she grows up :-)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hands and Feet for Jan and Feb

Last year, I started a scrapbook called "Hands and Feet of Jesus".  I am using this to encourage my children (and myself!) to be mindful of making opportunities to help, donate, and do good whenever possible.  I began documenting these activities so that we can celebrate their efforts.  I told the kids that if we can scrapbook their extra curricular activities and sports awards, aren't our just as proud of our good works?

Truthfully, we've been alittle slow on the start since December, but hopefully we will find some substantial activities that we can work on as the year progresses.  Loren knows that I would love to include a Mission Trip some day, or work on a Habitat for Humanity house.  However, these days, with our busy kid-centered lives, it's hard to fit in those large time-committment projects.  Our projects were small these past two months, but we are hopeful that they were a blessing to someone.

  • Babysat 2 little boys for a single mom for 3 days when her sitter was sick, our treat :-) 
  • Submitted food to our local Food Pantry through Camille's class project.
  • Loren and I took our cattle trailer to Sioux Falls to pick up the new chairs for our church, unboxed and unloaded them, and set them up for our Annual Meeting.
  • Donated a carfull of outgrown clothes to Goodwill.
  • The kids collected all the pop tabs off of our pop cans collected to recycle, and are turning them in to Ronald McDonald House.
Bri playing violin for the nursing home residents.
  • Worked a shift at our local Food Pantry.
  • Provided respite for a single foster mom for her two boys for 4 days so she could have a break.
  • Donated all my extra kitchen items/pans to Goodwill.
  • Bri played violin at our area Nursing Home for the residents.
  • Luke, Loren and I worked shifts at last week's basketball tournament to raise money for our Little League baseball League and also for the High School basketball team.
Luke working the concession stand at the Luke Hansen Tournament
Matthew 5:16  "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Getting to know you~

Quinn has been home for a year now, and I can't believe how much she has changed and grown, and not just in size!  She has absolutely blossomed and we are seeing new facets to her personality every day and glimpses into the young lady she will become.

Here are a few things I have learned about her:

She is gentle and loving towards her parents, siblings and her baby dolls.

Rocking baby Qiao Qiao

That she is braver than I ever expected.

She insisted on doing a sparkler "by herself".  Made Mama very nervous!

She has a very musical side to her, and is really pushing me to be able to express this side.

She can already 'sing" her sister's violin pieces, and Quinn turns many toys into violins and bows,

She is smart as a whip.

As she was building houses, she was counting the blocks up to 10 with no mistakes.  Who taught her that?!

I expected a shy introverted child with institutional delays and possible attachment issues.  What a beautiful surprise this child has been!  She is a dynamo that loves fiercely and who establishes her place in this family by loving up to all of us with no excuses. 


Quinn- thank you for accepting us as your family and loving us with the fierceness that is you.   I thank God every day that he gave us the courage at our age to answer His call to adopt, and its a decision that I will always be so very proud of, as I am of you.

We love you so much!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Because I sometimes feel that the redundancy of my job (mom, housekeeper, chauffeur) would lull me into a daily feeling of intense boredom, I am always making lists. (OMG, don't you just love LISTS?!)

My lists have to do with either goals or tasks that I need to complete to give me a sense of accomplishment for the day.  Because let's be honest, and Phyllis Diller said it best- "Cleaning house when you have kids is like shoveling the sidewalk while it's still snowing". 
The discouragement of seeing my work undone every day; clean dishes now dirty, picked up house now a mess, prepared food now eaten, clean kids now a mess...has a way of undermining the good feelings I get from being a stay at home mom.

So, I keep a running Project List so that I can at least have a few goals that are somewhat permanent and so that I can see some progress. The A type personality in me just needs this, know what I mean?

Here is my current Project List for the next 3 months:

Spiritual:  I am participating in the B90X challenge of reading the Bible in 90 days, and some days this schedule is kicking my butt!  However, it helps me to have a plan, otherwise I would linger somewhere in the Old Testament and never find my way out!

1.  I am following the Unclutter your House yearly schedule, because I seriously needed to gain control over my dominion again.  After moving the house and adding 3 kids to the mix, somewhere  along the way I lost control of my home and I need to get it back.  This website provides monthly schedules and weekly emails that give me assignments that take about 15-30 minutes a day.  They are making a huge difference in how organized my house is, and for that, I am grateful.

2.  We are working on converting our Canning room into a bedroom for Quinn, so that requires alot of handyman activities on the weekend to move shelving from the Canning room to the mud room, texturing walls, resanding wood floors, etc... The goal is to get Quinn into her own room and out of ours. (love ya sweetie, but it's time :-)

3.  Get the Mud room completed and plumbing done so that I can use it this spring for seedling plantings and canning later in the summer.  This includes texturing and painting the walls, installing the sink/counter/stove, and finding storage for all the canning supplies and jars. Gotta get ready for all that good garden produce that I'll be harvesting!

Creative:  My goal is to complete 2 quilts before summer- we'll see how THAT goes!  I have started a pinwheel quilt using retro fabrics that I am loving-  I will post pics of it as it progresses.  Then once I know the colors for Quinns room, I will begin a quilt for her big girl bed.  So far, I'm leaning towards yellows.

Personal:  I know from talking with friends that my family already eats healthier than most, but we are going to take it up a notch and introduce a new level of healthy eating for my family.  A more vegetarian diet, getting rid of some of the unhealthy snacking, and removing as many unhealthy chemicals and additives that I can.  My main concern lately is all the aspertame that I'm getting in my Diet Coke, so I have resolved to drastically cut down my DC intake. It may just be what I give up for Lent this year. Even considering a Juicer to get a better hit from all those vegys. 

So, that's what I'm working on these days.  What projects are YOU working on?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soaring like an Eagle

I know...sappy title, right?! 

Well, I would be remiss if I didn't brag about my teenage son every now and then, especially when he has something this prestigious happen in his life. 

On Sunday, he followed his father's footsteps in becoming an Eagle Scout from Troop 61.
And his father couldn't be prouder!

Loren was in a group of 5 scouts that got their Eagle Scout from the same troop one year, had the gym full of people, and they were on the local news for that accomplishment.  Our celebration was a tad bit smaller, but no less important.  Those that were there were special to Luke and helped him somehow in achieving his scouting awards. 

Good friends, good food, and a reason to celebrate- we don't need any more than that!

Bob and Mike putting on the Eagle Scout scarf
Putting the Eagle Scout pin on
I'm impressed that it's tradition for the mother to pin her son.  I guess they realize how much time, effort, urging, money, driving to events, and just lighting a fire under our sons it takes to get them to this level of scouting!  And BTW, I didn't stick him with the pin :-)

Luke and Loren put Mike in for a Scout Master award
Mike also received an award for being an Outstanding Scoutmaster, and he is!  It takes so much personal time and committment to head any kind of kids group, whether it's coaching a ball team or heading a scout troop. I have so much gratitude to those who are willing to sacrifice some of their personal time to lead and guide our children!

 And I love the philosophy taught to our scouts on the importance of community service and involvement. Loren and I are always trying to encourage our kids to participate in any possible community service projects they can, and we try to lead by example by doing our own "community service".  We have taught Sunday School for over 20 years, coached Peewee baseball teams for all of our kids, Loren has been a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader for several years, I've done Cub Scouts and 4H, and we dive in on any community projects that we can.  Hoping that we are teaching by example.

Troop 61 members that were at the ceremony
(When did Luke get so much taller than me?)

Food and Family

All in all, it was one of those days when you see past the teenager that is always either sleeping or sitting in front of the tv, and I can see the man that he is becoming.  And I am encouraged by moments of sweetness, maturity, and compassion for others.  We only get 18 years to form and mold our children into the adults we want them to be, and there are many days when I feel I'm running out of time!  But days like this give me hope that we have our kids on the right path and that all our efforts are not in vain.

Yes, I am Superman!