Life With Seven Kids

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fighting Winter Blah and Raising Turkey

Winter Wears On
I have been really, really, really unmotivated lately. When Ricky went back to work after having twelve days off I knew things were going to be hard. So, I jumped right in feet first and started cleaning, putting away Christmas stuff, and getting laundry caught up again. Things were going well until suddenly overnight I became tired, weak, and lacked motivation. My health seemed okay. I just felt so blah. I upped my vit D and held on. Winter can be so hard but I am usually SUCH a trooper! I let school stuff slide and I let the laundry slide and I just felt so blah! I haven't even wanted to cook anything much lately. We are also going through one of those 'everything is breaking' spells which is always hard on the spirit! 

I felt really bad for the kids. I felt bad I was slacking off and that they were/are bored. Then I reminded myself that a lot of kids get bored in the summer. Some kids spend summer in front of the tv, sometimes without parents at home for 6-10 hours at a time. It is just reversed for us. It's our bored time. Love it or hate it is our isolation time. Last winter was the worst cold in at least 20 years, yet I did better last winter than I am doing this winter! (Because there was loads of snow last winter!) We go and go and go all spring, summer and fall. Even at home we keep very busy during those seasons, so this too shall pass.

I know the winter isn't just bumming me out because one of the little kids said, "I wish it was summer, I wish there were fireflies." Then we talked about how much fun we all have in the spring/summer. Sebastian just six years old said, "Summer is so fun with our family." Awe! How sweet that was to hear. The weather has now been between 45-58 degrees and that has helped a ton with my spirits! At least there is sun, too! I have some energy restored, my creative side feels back, and the next few weeks should be better, I think. Soon we will start tomato plants indoors and incubate some of our own fertile chicken eggs. I hear about my garden friends pouring over their seed catalogs this time of year, Ricky and are pouring over the cackle hatchery website.

A New Animal?!
The winter brings on boredom and with it a drive to get something new and exciting! So far this month I have said no to (but wanted to say yes!): a mini donkey, a St Bernard Pyrenees puppy mix, two more bourbon red female turkeys, and rabbits. I knew we "needed" a new critter anyway though. Still, it needed to be easy to care for and beneficial. (Even if I really did want all those other animals!) So, I found an inexpensive low maintenance critter project for us...

We are starting a mealworm treat farm for the chickens!!!
It is not super exciting, but it's new and interesting. We are raising our own chicken treats/food! Mealworms are a yummy treat for chickens, a good source of protein, and especially great during molting because protein gives chickens the nutrients needed to re-grow feathers. So we bought 1000 worms. (They turn into beetles, reproduce, make baby mealworms, etc.)

Everett and Beatrice helped pour the baby cereal and wheat germ into the tub (that's the worm food) and shake the worms from their mailing package. The worms came to the post office from California and we had to pick them up. (We made jokes about surfer worms! And sang Beach Boys song worm parodies. I know- so sorry you missed it lol!) We placed carrots and potato in with them and that is their water source.


We can do a whole unit study on beetles now! BOOM! There's some animal science, kids.

In two months our mealworm farm should be stocked enough to start feeding some to our chickens and turkeys!

 The best is when Ricky casually asked me over the weekend, "So at some point are we going to have beetles flying around our house?" (I laughed!) The answer is probably not. We will eventually move them to an enclosed tub (with air circulation) were they reproduce their little hearts out.

Eye Pillows! 
We made eye pillows with the kids. I bought big bags of organic chamomile and lavender flowers (dual purpose use for tea, too) and we had everything else on hand: rice, fabric, thread, sewing machine. I thought of the idea because Penelope (8) has a hard time falling asleep, scares easily, and even sleeps with a flashlight. She often likes me to put a dab of lavender oil on her at bedtime to relax. So I thought the eye pillow could be a way to gain a bit of comfortableness with darkness, have something special an useful she made, and have the herbs she likes for comfort and relaxation. Everyone had a great time making them! The kids love sticking them in the freezer and having the cold pressed on their eyes. Beatrice had a fever last night and we used hers for her head, it worked so great! Awesome idea for cooling hot heads! And the coolness even helped cool me, as her hot face was plastered to me nursing and sleeping.


The Weekend
The weekend was great and warm and sunny for January. We butchered turkey, picked up the yard, stayed up late and visited with the teens/talked about college options, had a BBQ one day, smoked ribs another day, I drank a margarita (or perhaps a few), the kids got to play outside (so muddy), I snuggled in bed late at night watching tv with Ricky (we rarely get to watch tv!)...and now we thrust ourselves into a brand new week. Come on spring, we are waiting for you...
Spring 2011

Turkey Farming!
We butchered our first turkey! It was exciting and worrisome and fun all at the same time. We had only butchered our own chickens and they do fine with a head chop. Chickens seem easier and less violent to kill. You grab one, put it on a block, chop its head, it flops, and it is done. With turkeys the preferred method is to cut their neck arteries on each side and bleed them out while they hang upside down by their feet. Blood does not make me feel sick or ill at all and I obviously am okay with eating humanely raised animals, but I can't watch anything suffer. I can't even watch television that shows violence. If too much violence or any kind of torture comes on a movie or show I get up and leave the room. I whined a bit about the turkey suffering because killing a turkey like this takes more time than killing chickens, but Ricky didn't think he was suffering and everything did go well. I appreciated that Ricky was very patient and kind with my whining and worry throughout it. Overall I was really impressed with the whole event. I was a little bummed to see our huge tom go, but he was bought for food and he was getting too large. We actually thought we had bought heritage bronze turkeys (they were labeled as such) but as they grew fast and started to waddle it became very apparent we have standard bronze broad breasted turkeys, meaning they are bred for meat production not for keeping as livestock or pet. We also have heritage bourbon red turkeys pictured below:
Heritage turkey breeds are endangered because they are no longer raised on large scale. Farm enthusiasts like us raise them and help to preserve them. We have two toms and one hen we are keeping for breeding. We like them a lot, but they are not as friendly and affectionate as the ones we have to butcher.

After the kill Ricky saying "WOAH!" as he is having trouble scalding the bird (for feather plucking) with one hand. The turkey was very large and we obviously couldn't get all the feathers scalded.
After plucking and cleaning our bird he weighs at least 34 lbs. We need a better scale though. I joked in the kitchen how our methods for weighing newborn babies and poultry are the same: old scales, not super reliable, weighing our self first and then our self with the baby - in this case the bird. Haha. I think it is time after all these kids and several chickens that we invest in a reasonably nice scale!
It fits! Sort of.
Future Homesteaders
This was our trial run with turkey (we will do it again asap) and Ricky has hopes for duck, geese, and rabbit as well. I hear a lot of people say they couldn't kill an animal they raised. For me though, I see them being raised by me and butchered by me as a honest and healthy way of eating. I know if I raise them myself I know how they lived. Ricky and I love having homesteading skills. It makes us feel really happy and fulfilled, I also love the time Ricky and I spend together on our common goal of self sufficiency. When I said butchering the turkey was fun, it is not because the actual act is fun. The collaboration, time, and energy spent with my husband is fun. We love working together. Homesteaders see value in working at the home for the home instead of depending on others as much. That is the path we have been headed down for a long time. I love that we keep learning skills and planning out the home life we want. For now we are practicing it on a small scale...one day we will be able to do it on a large scale! And that is super, super, super exciting!

What we learned raising turkey -
-Keep the babies WARM. They need it much warmer than chickens and get a thermometer or you will surely lose birds. I thought I was good enough at raising chicks and that turkeys just needed "a little" more heat. I was wrong.
-Consider buying a couple or few week old turkey chicks from the feed store. This gives them a big head start health wise, especially if they already have feathers.
-They train very easy if you put in the effort. And it's not very hard! I trained them to stay in the backyard by feeding them a little bit 4x a day and hand feeding them some. Worked great.
-They really are, like everyone says, a joy to have around. You do enjoy them and they aren't that dumb.
-They make the best sounds, chirps, gobbles, they talk to each other and you, too!
-They drink a lot of water
-As expected, they handle the cold weather like a pro. They didn't need or want a real shelter, but if we had severe ice or below zero temps we would have forced them into housing.
-We would have never tried raising the standard bronze turkey because we hate raising the broiler chickens who are also bred to grow super fast for meat. But, we accidentally bought five of them and we loved them! They were super, super friendly and really nice, fun birds. It is unfortunate we couldn't keep some and a shame that we can't breed them. They can technically reproduce, but they can't mate very well because of their size. We would have to learn how to 'milk' our tom and inseminate our female ourselves. Most normal people wouldn't even consider this and I don't know anyone who does this (besides factory farms), but I'm just weird enough that I went online and looked it up to see how. lol. :)
-Killing them bothers me more than the chickens (but it's okay), but processing them is a cooler lesson in anatomy than with the chickens.They take longer to pluck, but I like them better than chickens and I thought the plucking went fast.
- Home raised turkey is phenomenal in taste and texture. Delicious, wonderful, perfect, phenomenal meat.

Monday, December 22, 2014

You Have to Love Four Year Olds

Today we were unwrapping Hershey's Kisses to make peanut butter blossoms. As little four year old Everett helped he soon noticed there was a paper with writing attached to each one. He started asking us what his "fortune" said. It took me a minute to realize that he thinks they are similar to fortune cookies!

Ricky and I are just beaming with grins on our faces now and just laugh at the cuteness. The other kids thought it was so funny and cute too.  So I start the game... I read him some of the "fortunes" he handed me. I tell him different things like:
Your family is special
Siblings are friends
Soon you will bake cookies for holiday fun

Each one I "read" he smiles at and full of pleased excitement yells "yay!" at whatever I say. He is having a total blast.

He hands me yet another paper and this time I say: "Cookies bring sweetness to life"
Everett: Yay!!! WAIT. Wait. So my cookies will come ALIVE?
Ricky: No, cookies will bring SWEETNESS to our life.
Everett: Oh phew, I thought mom said they would come alive.

Then Everett gets in on the fun. He tells us he will read us some fortunes now. 
Everett made up the following great fortunes off the top of his head:
When someone wears a hat they are a dad.
When snowflakes fall Santa will come to your house.
When you wear a firefighter hat then you have to help the firefighter put out the fire. 

We had such a great laugh. He is so cute!

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We had quite the surprise today when Santa and his mother were across the street visiting loved ones at the cemetery! I went outside with Everett as they were leaving and Everett yelled, "Santa! Merry Christmas Santa!" then Santa came over! Santa got a teddy bear out of his car and gave it to Everett! Everett gave it a big ol' hug and was so, so happy! It was just great. Charlotte is the one who thought to run out with the camera! (Thanks Charlotte!) Everett didn't ask, but Santa told him he didn't have his Santa hat on because it falls off when he is driving. We know it was the real Santa because 1. He obviously loved children 2. He had toys with him 3. He had real beard and number 4 is the weirdest of all... Layla pointed out that the dogs did not bark at him! Our dogs bark like crazy at everyone. Merry Christmas to all! 
Everett clutching the teddy bear

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 Everett, like most kids, likes to play with tape. He got a hold of some tape and taped his plate to the table and taped his banana back together. This pleased him so much I had to congratulate him on his ingenuity. I have never had a kid tape a banana back together before. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adventures & Fun With Our Baby Bea

Yesterday just as we were next in line for a picture with Santa, Beatrice grabbed her diaper and loudly said, "Uh-Oh!" She gets the most funny expression on her face when she is concerned. Charlotte, Layla, and I were cracking up so hard as we looked around to see if anyone heard. She was able to get in the picture with Santa just fine. Lucky for us and Santa it was not that urgent and we made it for the picture first. Sometimes her uh-oh's are urgent, sometimes false alarms.

Beatrice stared at Santa long and hard before deciding she was then done with him. She just looked at me reaching out and whimpered when she was ready after a minute. Everett's face was priceless. He looked right at Beatrice watching, enjoying her, and smiling at her reaction. I thought it was really cute.

Beatrice has been such a joyous little baby. Time has been spinning out of control as it often does. I thought this month she turned sixteen months old. Ricky told me nope...18 months. My mind was blown.

The way she interacts with our family is amazing. She lights up all of our lives in ways I can barely put into words. When she was about nine months old she started getting up with Layla (10) in the mornings. She would wake up and crawl around our bed jabbering at her tired mom and dad until Layla would hear her and reach her arms out to her. Little Bea would reach out to Layla and off she would go. Layla would change her diaper and play with her. (And we got to sleep a little more!) Soon Bea started letting Penelope get her out of bed too. It didn't take long for Beatrice to expect her sisters to get her every morning. Between 6 and 7am Bea would wake up and shout jabbery words and sounds towards our door waiting for her sisters to hear her and get her up. It was beyond precious. As she started eating more solid foods Layla would pop Bea into her highchair and get her some breakfast and the three of them (or five of them if Everett and Sebastian got up) would eat breakfast all together without any help from us. When her sisters get her out of our bed each morning or after nap time Beatrice sometimes rests her head on their shoulder as she wakes up fully. If she pulls at her diaper and says uh-oh like in the Santa story above the girls rush her off to the bathroom.

Layla and Penelope pay attention to so many little things that her baby sister likes. Like how Beatrice is more likely to go pee on the potty if the bathroom door is closed. Beatrice is more vocal of her bathroom needs than most babies her age because we practice part-time elimination communication (EC) with our babies at most stages. We have had varying degrees of success. One thing has remained consistent, though. Our babies are aware and vocal about their bathroom or diaper needs at very young ages and tend to get out of diapers between 13- 20 months old. I do attribute it to EC.She has been telling us "uh-oh" about her diaper for a while now and the funny-cute factor is still not getting old. Everett was nine months old when he would wake at night wiggling and fussing half asleep. He would not settle down until I took him to the toilet to pee.  Babies are so smart! He was our one child out of diapers the earliest at around 13 months old.

Charlotte taught Layla how to use the potty when Layla was a baby. And now Layla, without any prompting from us, is teaching Beatrice. It's really sweet to see. Layla lines up stuffed animals on little pretend potties on the bathroom floor and Beatrice is so amused. See how adorable:

Beatrice is a feisty independent sweetie.  Her siblings are very close to her and drag her around everywhere with them. They were all playing outside and Beatrice was running along like she was the baby wolf cub after her pack. She held a stick in her fist and was having a ball.

She has felt like one of the little kids for a very long time, but now she is finding her voice and lets her preferences be known. She's getting that spark of independence and willpower. She is starting to pinch at people if they are bothering her, and she yells "HEY!" when someone takes her toy or food away. She also says "Hey!" when she sees something she wants. We might get a drink and she exclaims, "Hey!" to us. It's so funny. She loves a colorful crocheted blanket her Grandma Kathie made for her and she has to sleep and nap with it. When I am ready to nurse her asleep she looks for it and makes cute gasping noises and shakes her head from side to side looking for it and as if to be worried and fretting about finding it. It is her way of saying 'where is it?!' When she sees it she exclaims "dare-uh-is!" which sounds like jumbled baby talk words saying "there-it-is!" She says I love you now and it's so cute, too. It sounds like "agg-yeah-you." She counts with the kids but says two over and over again no matter what number they are on, it's so funny and sweet!

She has picked up on the words "mine" and "stop." Two words that you will hear non stop with a large amount of young kids. She waits at the kitchen table just like the rest of the kids for her food. She sits there so pleased with her place in the world, she almost rocks back and forth, kicking her feet ever so slightly with a pleased grin on her face waiting patiently. We have always sat her up at the table with us ever since she could sit up. She also sits at the table and plays Legos with the kids. After a while we have to rescue Penelope's Lego set-up when Beatrice becomes too destructive but it's adorable while it lasts and teaches her so much. Beatrice dances a lot too. We have dance parties and have great fun.

She colors, decorates candy houses, and in general does anything else we do.

A few weeks ago I taught her how to unlock the bathroom door. We live in an 88 year old house with cool solid wood doors that have crystal or porcelain doorknobs throughout. All the doors have ancient cool locks too, some with skeleton keys. Once locked, our bathroom door cannot be opened from the outside. There is no key, no hole, and no door hinges on the outside. Nothing. You could take the outside crystal doorknob off, but the porcelain one on the inside of the bathroom would remain screwed in. If a baby or toddler were to lock themselves in the bathroom I would be in a panic. We would potentially have to break the door frame away from the bolted door lock or break a window. Either process could hurt her and she would surely be frighted and crying. Bathrooms are horrendous places for babies to be trapped in for so many reasons. As soon as we see a baby fidget with the lock we start worrying and try teaching them how it works. It is a very loose and swift lock with a simple left and right motion. She had been unscrewing lids for quite a while so I knew she could learn this. One day in the bathroom with me she locked it and I told her to unlock it. She looked at me confused and I said the words again. "Unlock." I then showed her how. She looked at me and smiled and locked it again. I said "unlock!" and she unlocked it. I was SO happy. She did it back and forth with me and I told her the words lock and unlock.

On a Saturday morning I was still in bed and I could hear Ricky up with the five youngest kids. I didn't want to pry myself out of bed so I stayed a bit longer drifting in and out of sleep despite the rowdy noises coming from the other room. Suddenly I heard a loud slam and then all was very quiet. Deeper and deeper I drifted off again but suddenly I heard Bea's jabbering voice distinctly muffled behind a door. I jumped out of my bed in an instant. Moms total intuition and my brain put all the sounds together. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom door. Ricky was there and worried, he told me she was locked in alone, I said I could hear it happen. The kids gathered around and I shushed everyone. Ricky started to speak, he seemed like he was going to tell me what he was planning to do, but I interrupted him and told him to shush too. Ricky was somewhat surprised when I rushed to the door crack and said, "Beatrice, unlock! Unlock the door for mommy." In one little click she unlocked it!!!! I was already turning the doorknob to get in, just in case she swiftly locked it up again. Proud mom moment! My little one year old baby girl did it! So proud of her and proud of my forethought too! I scooped her up and celebrated how good she did and hugged her to bits feeling so relieved. I excitedly told Ricky how I had just worked with her mere days earlier trying to teach her the lock.

Right now I'm in the bathroom typing the rest of this on my laptop while Beatrice is in the tub. The  girls just came over to me to ask me something. Before they could speak Bea started patting the water and jabbering to Layla and Penelope to get in with her. I can tell a few stories and examples about how they all interact with each other, but it's hard to capture the real beauty of it. I get to live it everyday though and watch how close these kids all are with each other. The teens included. She smiles, waves, reaches up for them to pick her up. They talk to her and include her in everyday things. I have seen her put her head on each siblings shoulder for comfort or rest. It's very special that she feels so safe and loved by all of us. It's got to be amazing to be our Baby Bea. It's amazing being her mom, and the mom of all her sweet siblings.
Tired baby eyes, Layla just got her up from her nap
Nicknames are so fun! And our Baby Bee has lots of them. Nicknames she has that we use regularly:
Bea, Bee, Bumble Bee, Bumble, Stinky face (It's a cute children's book), Bea-tree, Bebe, Stink Bee, Killer Bee (When she is throwing a fit or is mad at us), Sweet Bee, Honey comb, Honey Bee, Baby Girl.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Why You Gotta Be So Mean?

People are so mean and hateful. You know what I have done, and just did do? When I see someone being attacked on FB I might occasionally stick up for them a little on the thread. But I hate drama and it's so lame. Mostly, I sent them a loving private message. I just did just that to this woman who asked a natural birth community why some people have so many kids. Her question was really genuine and she wanted to know some very specific things. Like if over population is a concern for big families (why not?), if they do it for religious reasons, if they are afraid of being alone, if they just like having kids (but still why so many), Etc. She made a very clear point to say she did not want to upset anyone or sound judgmental, and I quote, "Please don't kill me."

I mean, I understand her asking, seriously who wants 6, 8, 10 kids.... !? Not very many people! It is a very good question and a very curious question to some. Financially and physically it is a ton of work. Are we really so blind to that fact that others don't understand why a family would keep having kids? There are lots of things I don't understand because I don't live that way. I am absolutely dumbfounded when I go into the city and see city living. It looks totally bizzare to me! Why would anyone want to live in the city!? But actually I know the main answers to those questions. They are fairly clear cut: more jobs, convenience, more amenities, culture, diversity, schools...I would probably never ask someone why they like to live in the city, I probably could guess.  I would more expect some one to ask me why I like rural/country living. I wouldn't be the least bit offended. I honestly suspect most people wouldn't be offended by either question.

Well, she was viciously attacked. The hatred and meanness was unbelievable. Someone mocked her, "I'm not racist, but..." Implying that she was being judgmental/hateful and making it sound like she wasn't. Others called her a troll. She apologized profusely and explained she actually wants four kids, which is a lot where she is. (That's a lot nearly everywhere, last I checked) But why have more than four? She pondered. ...you know, because it seems like a lot of kids. She even tried to explain that she understands being the odd one no one understands because she has eight cats, and lots of people think that is weird and expects her house to smell bad. She was then trashed for comparing kids to cats. When she said she was in tears she was mocked and somebody said, "Ah she's crying, cry me a river."

My brain is seizing at this point. I hate people sometimes.

I messaged her:
People on the __________ group are out if their minds. The internet sure shows the worst of people. I am so sorry. I have eight kids and I will try and answer your questions if I find the time. I do not have the time right now, but I love to think and write about big families. I have a blog, but with eight kids it can be hard to find the time to write! Lol. Seriously, those women are being nasty and probably have nothing else to do. They are in attack mode and are acting like a pack of animals. We are not all like this, I assure you.

She says:
Thank you Shauna!
I suddenly start to cry. You're so nice right now. After all those mean things they said. I just posted an second apologie but saw that the post was removed..
Things got out of hand. I really didn't meant to hurt someone. I tried to carefully write what i meant. Fortunately you understand

By the way, I believe she is foreign. Good job American women. Way to look like a bunch of horrible people. We talked some more, she is really sweet. And now I have a new friend. I love hearing her describe her cats and how that makes her weird to some, and how she feels she has to defend herself too! Fascinating. Why is it just so dang hard to love other people? Why do we have to defend ourselves so angrily? What do we have to hide, defend, or feel so angry about? Why would we not feel compassion to others, especially as they try to understand, explain, and ultimately cry? What kind of people, friends, parents, wives, or mothers are we being by acting like that, ladies?? Online I see that women are fierce, but not in the good way.

Blog title inspired by Taylor Swift.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wibbily Wobbily Timey Wimey...Stuff: My First Baby Turned 18 and I Didn't Think I'd Cry at All

September 30, 2014 2:00 am
I finished the TARDIS cake I set out to make for a surprise for Charlotte's 18th birthday! The metallic blue frosting I found for it is mesmerizing. It looks even better in person. It shimmers. As I sat up frosting the cake at midnight I thought about how nonchalant I'm taking my first baby turning 18. I thought it was because I have so many children, I figure it is so less jarring because I am still in the thicket of babies and kids. I am also proud of myself: I had a baby, I was a young mother, and I did nothing but put her first for 18 years. I set out to raise her to be the best she can be to herself and to others. I also tried to raise her to stand up for herself when needed. As a mom I set out to make really sure she never got hurt. Children get hurt a lot in our society, and nobody seems to be doing anything about epidemic rates of abuse in children. I am amazed I raised a whole entire human being: I grew her, I kept her, I nurtured her. I wanted to nurture her soul and feed her body well, and I did. I will love her always. She's mine, but not really mine. Her DNA is a part of me. (See Mother & Child Are Linked At The Cellular Level)

I have never watched even one episode of Doctor Who. I don't watch hardly any TV. I am merely a guest amongst the chitter-chatter about Doctor Who in my house. I am totally in the dark but it's fun to hear them talk. I ask questions and they very eagerly explain. To my children's absolute uproarious laughter I mixed the two up and called The Dalek the TARDIS once. (I also called Dobby from Harry Potter 'Dobby the Shelf Elf' instead of the house-elf. My kids laugh so hard.)
Sitting there looking at the TARDIS cake in the middle of the night I suddenly acknowledged that it was a time machine and not just a blue rectangle that I was painstakingly painting in with frosting. Thoughts of space and time filled my head. Tears started to fall when I thought to myself how fitting making a TARDIS was for her 18th birthday. If I could just go back in time to hold baby Charlotte: to smell her baby head, to dress her, to picnic with her in her pop-up school bus like we used to do every day when she was two, or to see her whole head get braided on the beach in Mexico at eight and watch her freely run into the ocean.
Pop-up school bus lunch time
Young moms can be great moms and I am proof

Charlotte's First Birthday
 When she was a baby and toddler I spent countless nights promising myself to never forget her smell, her skin, her soft breath next to me. I rocked her sweetly and she slept in my room exclusively. I remember every single morning I couldn't wait for her eyes meet up with mine. I know mothering doesn't always come as naturally or as easily for some moms, but it did for me. I just loved it so much and so instantly. By night I watched her sleep, by day we picnicked, laughed, and I pushed her on swings. We went for lots of walks. We talked about having farm animals someday. We read books and literally laid under the blue sky and watched clouds roll by. I stayed home with her to suck up as much as I could. I realize now I stayed home with her as much for me as I did for her. I knew it was fleeting. Those little: newborns, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kids. Those little hands that grab yours, and their small, heart-shaped, red-lipped mouths. The way their laughter fills the air with joy. There are endless funny things they say and so many amazing questions they ask. I love watching eyes full of first-time wonder. Kids make life make sense. I learn so much about myself by raising kids. Raising kids makes me a better person and I know Ricky feels the same. It makes me set a higher standard for myself and it makes me aware of what really matters. Even through the growing pains of childhood tears, fits, and tantrums, there are surprising rewards that come from the hard times. It sometimes seems endless but even those hard times are so full of purpose, too. If we get too caught up in how hard parenting is we could very easily miss watching them learn about thing like: love, empathy, time management, communication, the world around them, and self control. There were some sleepless nights and endless messes... but they don't last. They do end.

Babies and children grow from each stage and you remember who they once were... but they change so much as they literally morph into new people. The person they were outgrows them, and sometimes we feel it as it hits us hard right in the middle of our chest. I realize now it is because that baby or child is gone. They will never be again. We miss it and it makes us sad inside. It's a weird kind of sad though. It's an amazing sad. An uplifting sad. The tears I shed are of joy, loss, pride, and growth all rolled into one. I find my breath is taken away with awe, and when I inhale again I'm filled with so much gratitude. I can't even explain how it crushes me and completes me all at once. It's overwhelming and beautiful.

I moved from the table where I was frosting the cake so I wouldn't sob all over it. I crept through the still house and found Ricky reading in bed. Ricky asked me what was wrong as the tears started to fall, I could not explain, I could only softly cry. He wrapped his arms around me tightly because he knew and I mourned for that baby girl who is now all grown up.
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In the morning I wrote this:
She turned 18 today! Happy Birthday to the beautiful young woman I raised! I am so proud of us both, we did great. I love you Charlotte.

Oh, and She LOVED her cake. I'm a very happy momma.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I Would Do Anything For Love: A Food Post

Shepherd's Pie
 I think it's interesting my husband loves casserole type dishes but when he eats a regular meal he eats one thing at a time off his plate. I eat everything mixed up together on my plate and I'm actually less than thrilled with casserole dishes where everything is mixed up on purpose. It's hard to find casserole meals that don't call for msg laden soups acting as the flavor and thickener to pull things together. Lots of things call for cans of soup! I once looked up how to make cream of chicken soup and the recipe called for a can of condensed cream of chicken soup! Really!? This seriously takes away from the original intent of making a homemade meal. With the exception of chicken pot pie and taco bake the kids aren't crazy for casseroles either, so that can also be a challenge.

 Ricky has always wanted me to make him shepherd's pie. Honestly shepherd's pie looked gross to me. I was such a little kid about it. But just look at this picture, seriously! I just don't think it looks good at all. It always seemed like it was having mashed potatoes with ground beef instead of gravy. 
 I was vegetarian but starting to transition back over to meat when Ricky and I met, so I had a lot to learn about cooking meat, especially country/home cooking. I have learned to make tons of other dishes since, including an awesome Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. I kept plenty busy making other things over the years, but I avoided shepherd's pie like the plague... I would do anything for love but I won't do that. (After typing that I have MeatLoaf stuck in my head SO BAD! My poor kids, I'll be singing that all day now. Oh my, 1993. lol.)

 I'm a pie maker at heart and so a good 'ol chicken pot pie with homemade crust comes naturally for me. Plus chicken pot pie is a pretty package tucked under a tender crust. It's moist and mild. It's down-home comfort food. (That's another dish that's near impossible to find a recipe that doesn't include canned soup!) Ricky liked chicken pot pie okay, but would drop the Shepherd's pie hint every time we had pot pie. I have a real aversion to putting ground beef in everything under the sun. I pretty much reserve ground beef for hamburgers. Big, thick, juicy, veggie and cheese topped, dripping with ketchup, grilled burgers! Also: Salisbury steak, meatballs, taco bake, meat loaf, and stuffed peppers are all suitable uses for ground beef to me. Sticking it in a casserole dish with mashed potatoes was just not appealing to me. Mashed potatoes go with turkey, fried chicken, smothered pork chops, meatloaf, roast, Salisbury steak... but not ground beef! I grew up with stuff like Hamburger Helper which is probably where the entire aversion came from.

 A couple months ago I finally got bored enough with meals to try Shepherd's pie. I wanted to make it to surprise Ricky. Work has been super stressful and he wasn't eating as much as he should (stress can suppresses the appetite). My first shepherd's pie was a success. The kids even liked it. It looked better than most the ones in pictures, but still kinda gross. It was pretty good though. It was not bad at all. Ricky said it was "very good." My second attempt was last night where I tweaked some things and more confidently prepared it. It turned out AMAZING! The mashed potatoes on top were crisp at the peaks and edges and the inside was bubbling up around the edges. The filling was perfectly seasoned and just saucy enough to be like a gravy for the mashed taters but not soupy. Ricky said it was totally *delicious* with a lot of enthusiasm and he couldn't believe how much better I had gotten it this time. I love the baked corners and peaks of potatoes. *pats self on back* The extra "gravy/sauce" in the pie really made it awesome. Plus I had baked it perfectly (credit the vintage stove, which is the most amazing thing I've ever owned, ever).

I'm going to make it again this weekend while I carefully write down my recipe. Then I shall share it for all who, like me, fear the shepherd's pie! Reading online I have learned that shepherd's pie is technically supposed to be made with lamb, but it can be made with ground beef at which point it is then called cottage pie. Technicalities.

The mashed potatoes reminded me of yummy twice-baked potatoes! And technically they are. (Boiled and then baked) They were so good! Seasoned and browned to perfection.

This looks saucy, but when we were finished the sauce was all gone. The pan was dry and so were our bowls. We ate every last drop and it mixed in well. Some people use only peas and carrots while others use peas, carrots and corn. I buy an organic mixed veggie blend so ours has corn. Ricky isn't crazy about corn and ground beef together, but for Shepherd's pie he says it is appropriate. (Appropriate use of corn is actually a very funny discussion in my house LOL. A lot of my Dad's  family is from Iowa and we use corn a lot, and in "everything." According to my husband's observations anyway. Hahaha.)   The family gobbled this up so fast I'm going to have to start making two casserole pans, or one big one and a small one. At some point as these little kids get older we will be a two casserole dish family! Wow!


More food Stuff...

This is my favorite summertime dish:
Ricky smokes the salmon and we use it in lettuce wraps topped with mango and black bean 'salsa.' The salsa is super easy. Lime juice, black beans, tons of cilantro, and lots of chopped mango. You could add salt if you wanted, we dd not. The corn is roasted with lime-chili-butter. The lime chili butter is SO GOOD. I make it with melted butter, chili powder, a dash of seasoning salt, salt, sprinkle of pepper, a pinch of paprika and cayenne pepper. Use as a dip for corn or anything else. (Rolls! lobster! Shrimp! Endless possibilities here!) You can experiment and make your own buttery dip with seasonings.

Date Night in the Backyard!
Last month the kids were away visiting Aunt Sharon and so I surprised Ricky with a seafood extravaganza dinner for two! Yummy salad, lobster, crusty grilled cheesy garlic bread (garlic bread on the grill is GREAT!), shrimp, oysters, escargot, steak kabobs, and a brown rice-quinoa boxed dish. Beatrice is still little and nurses so she was with us, she LOVED the rice. I wanted to take a picture of her nomming the rice down in her high chair but the camera battery died. It was a really fun dinner! After the baby went to bed we had a fancy carrot cake cupcakes I bought, and coffee for dessert.

A couple years ago I was really excited to make Salisbury steak from scratch and it was actually pretty easy. Recipes online called for beef bouillon, canned soups, or gravy mixes! I refused! That's not from scratch. I was really proud of this super flavorful gravy, made from pan drippings and mushrooms! I had the same happy experience when I learned to make chicken fried steak. I really love home cooking. (I think I enjoy feeding my husband more than myself!) So many of these skills are lost since people don't grow up with as many home-style meals these days. People are busy doing other things and so homemaking is a lost art. People also fear real fat and don't widely buy healthier raised meats (less fatty). Our meats are all locally raised and much of it from Ricky's parents' farm. I'm happy that there is definitely a resurgence and trend of stay at home families, do-it-yourselfers, and backyard gardeners. Most of the people I know cook at home, but I also know many people don't these days.

Healthy Super-food Salad
Last but not least, I re-purposed the leftover salmon and mango/black beans from the Salmon salad above and spooned it onto a salad mix of shredded broccoli, shaved brussels sprouts, chopped cabbage, curly kale, and chicory. This was fantastic and I'm not even a big fan of kale (bitter to me)! I just put some extra lime juice on it, no fancy dressing needed. This is a new favorite that I have to make for Ricky. I got the bag of 7 super food greens from Costco. Looks like this:
Mix comes with dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds included. I haven't tried them though. I bought it for the greens.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Beatrice's Bumble Bee Party: She's ONE!!!

Our Baby Bee turned one on Saturday. We decided to throw a party to celebrate. We had a lot of fun! It was pretty exhausting, too, but also loads of fun! I really enjoyed watching the siblings help prepare for the party. Penelope (7) and Layla (9) made some handmade decorations and bees out of pipe cleaners. They also helped me make a bee hive pinata! It turned out way better than I thought it would and was really fun. Everyone helped with yard work, decorating, and all those little things that you have to do to put on a party. We had a handful of family and friends over -which turned out to be the perfect amount of people to visit with. Beatrice got really into her party! Pointing at everybody, playing, snacking on raspberries a friend brought over, and the highlight was she LOVED her cake and totally hammed it up for us for photos! It was really a perfect day with gorgeous weather.









Bee hive pinata we made with pipe cleaner bees Charlotte made
Opening gifts
Ricky bought me and Bee these gorgeous roses!!! They are the most gorgeous yellow I've ever seen! I told him I think yellow roses on Bee's Birthday could be a tradition I'm in for ... :) He said, "You think so, do you." lol. We had yellow roses on all the guest tables.

All About One Year Old Baby Bee:
Beatrice likes to clap when she's happy, shakes her head to say no, she loves the guinea pigs and LOVES when her siblings takes her to see them. She loves all animals and grunts, squeals and is excited when she sees them. We go around visiting the goats and chickens daily and her little face just lights up. Beatrice loves her siblings and watches them intently. Through the good and the bad. I swear she is taking notes! Beatrice loves hanging out with everyone. She has started to try and bite when she's mad. She has two top teeth and two and a half on bottom. She stands up but doesn't walk yet. She moves around holding onto furniture only a little bit. We are totally content with that. She can wait to walk...we like her like this! But, walking will be exciting and sooo cute, and I just know her siblings will melt with cuteness when she does start to walk. Even though she's been clapping and standing for a while now, Penelope (7) and Sebastian (5) still have to holler nearly every time she does it. "Mom, MOM, MOOOOM! LOOK she is standing!!" It's cute how excited they get. Penelope and Layla haul her around a lot and are a tremendous help.  It's very cute. The teens hold her several times a day while I get stuff done around the house. It's so cute seeing teenage boys try and throw their hip out to hold a baby. They love her and they light up when they see her. It's really special. The kids will take her to the trampoline (like a giant play pen!) to watch her sometimes. Beatrice often asks to go to Charlotte and sometimes will holler up the stairs for her. She loves Charlotte. Charlotte is very close to Beatrice and those two are really sweet together. The kids take really good care of her. The teens even remember to give her sips of water when they are watching her. They are great caregivers.

Beatrice likes playing in the sand box and does not eat the sand. Beatrice likes playing with toys. She will sit for a while and play which is wonderful. She puts her arm into the air when she hears music and likes to wave it around to dance. It's very cute! She recently pointed to the radio to get me to turn on music. The pointing is SO cute. She points all over the place to tell us what she needs or wants. I love it. She waves to her daddy when he leaves in the morning. This is such a precious age. The little things she has learned over the past four months are getting refined and it's really neat to watch. She jabbers a lot and that's something we love to hear. I love watching her deep blue eyes absorb the sights around her. It's amazing to me that her life is so normal to her...it's all she will ever know. Lots of kids, lots of animals, a mommy and daddy that keeps her close by always and snuggled into bed with them, lots of adventures yet to come... oh happy, happy birthday Beatrice! You are such an amazing addition to this family. Simply amazing you came to us.

Father's Day... was the Sunday after the party.  
We were beat and didn't do much. I had to pry myself out of bed so he could sleep in. I was pooped! I made and helped the kids deliver breakfast in bed to their dad around 9 am. I made him walnut banana pancakes, eggs, hash browns and sausage. Afterwards we pretty much just hung out and cleaned up decorations.We got him a second hand mini fridge for the basement. He also finally got a recliner for the basement. He's been wanting that for a while. He's excited to keep beer in the mini fridge. :)
Ricky's such an amazing husband and father. He was raised by amazing parents to be an amazing man and his children and I reap the reward. 
Three year old Penelope
Newborn Everett



Preschooler Layla, toddler Penelope



Toddler Penelope 2008

Newborn Sebastian 2008




Father's Day 2013
I had more recent pictures of Ricky with all the kids here at one point but the links were broken over time, so I deleted them. Bummer.

The life I live ...the love I have...my dreams coming true... I owe to you. I love you Ricky, Happy Father's Day.