August 2010


Things are well under way with our adoption process, and it’s getting exciting!  We have been blessed with a wonderful case worker in charge of the homestudy, and she is very easy to work with.  The process has taken only about 7 weeks from start to finish, and she said our FBI clearances came back in record time (typically takes at least 6 weeks for JUST that form!)  As of last night, we have completed our portion of the homestudy meetings.  She is waiting on one more clearance form from another state, and then it will be completed.  That will be any day now!   I was up late last night working on our profile which will be posted online.  Things also got a lot easier when we recently found out that the agency director approved our past trainings and will not make us repeat them.  That was a relief!  We fully support training, however, in this particular case, it would have been completely redundant, not to mention taking almost 20 hours of our time away from our children and family.  We still enjoy reading and learning on our own though, and talk to others involved in adoption, read related books, or watch videos whenever we get a chance. 

We are so interested to see how God works in this adoption, and what He leads us to do.  As of this time, we still feel no leading toward a particular state agency, so we are still focusing our efforts on simply putting out the word that we are interested in adopting.  We will be putting a profile on record with an organization known as Project Cuddle, as well as putting out an online profile.  At that point, it will be completely in God’s hands, as we wait for a birthmother or birthfamily to find us, get in contact with us, and, perhaps, select us to parent her new baby.  It is an exciting prospect, and I can only try to imagine the myriad of ways God could work through this opportunity.

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Have you ever read the labels on a carton of eggs and wondered exactly what those labels and terms mean?  Terms such as “Cage-free,” “Free-range,” or “Organic,” to name a few.  The more I have learned about eggs and the American food system as a whole, the more disgusted I become.  Some labels are downright funny (albeit very WRONG and misleading) if you read the fine print.  For example, these days, it easy to walk through your local grocer, and find mega-farm production chicken packages with the label “No Hormones!”  Sounds good, right?  The funny thing is, it is illegal for ANY chicken producer to use ANY kind of hormone in their chickens!  So that package is absolutely no different than the unlabeled one sitting next to it! 

I was thrilled to see an article on CNN today that explains the legalities behind those egg terms.  Check it out for details:   http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2010/08/20/egg-splained-free-range-cage-free-and-organic/

With the recent multi-million egg recall from 2 mega-producers, and the massive beef recall a few weeks ago, I have learned a whole new appreciation for knowing EXACTLY where my food comes from….be it my own garden, the rancher who raises my beef, the dairyman who milks “my” cowherd, or the local farmer who grows my crops and collects my eggs.  I can personally talk to the person who grows the food, I can visit the farm and see the animals, I know that the farmer/rancher’s family is eating that food as well, and I know that it is still produced on a small enough scale that quality and safety is still a big concern.  Does this mean my food is always free of every potentially harmful organism?  No, of course not.  Any food worth eating could potentially harbor something else that wants to share the wonderful nutrition.  But the risk is significantly less than food that has been passed down an assembly line, conveyer belt, through a dozen or more hands, washed in a tank of chemicals or bacteria-contaminated water bath, and has never been directly handled by the person who technically “owns” it.  It is wonderful to know that, in the midst of such recalls, I don’t have to worry about consuming my clean, healthy, unpasteurized raw milk, my locally-grown-until-ripe and minimally handled fresh produce, my locally raised, grass fed dexter cow, my free-ranging, bug-and-forage-eating chicken (or its eggs), etc. 

Many people argue that eating that way is “too expensive.”  Fact is, yeah, it costs a little more.  There are many ways (such as co-ops) to reduce the price, but for the peace of mind provided, I have to say it is worth every extra cent to know that my family is healthy and as safe as possible!

A year or so ago, we set out to eliminate as much plastic and other toxins from our lives as possible.  We discovered that there are many items that only come in plastic, but other items do come in safer options—if you are willing to search them out.  Toys for example, come in plastic most of the time, but if you look for older toys, or search on specialty websites, you can find them in metal and/or wood.  Around the kitchen, I eliminated most plastic, aluminum, and most teflon, and replaced it with pyrex glass, stoneware, cast-iron, wood, silicone, and stainless steel.  We even eliminated the kid’s plastic tumblers and sippy cups, and replaced them with glass canning jelly-jars.  Eventually I found some stainless 8 oz. tumblers that were perfect, but very expensive.  Unfortunately, there were a few items I just could not find, or could not find at an affordable price.  I wanted a few more tumblers, a better option for S to take his lunches to work (he was taking 2-3 heavy pyrex containers everyday, and stainless popsicle molds.  Some of these were just impossible to find. 

Until now.  A lady in Canada was in a similiar situation, couldn’t find what she needed, and decided to find a way to make the items.  The store she has put together as a home-business is amazing!  I wanted to recommend it to anyone else looking for options.  I found my stainless popsicle molds (a little pricey, but I LOVE them!!).  They are great for our family, as the design allows me to fill them all the way up for the bigger kids and adults, or only 1/3 to 1/2 full for the toddlers.  When we are ready to eat them, I just run the steel under tap water for about 5 seconds, and they slide right out:

I also found a great option for S’s lunch box meals:

This stainless container has removable dividers that allow him to seperate his food.  It is much lighter and safer than pyrex, seals better to prevent leaks, and locks.  When he gets home, we just toss it into the dishwasher (FYI, the instructions say the lid is NOT dishwasher safe, though we have put it on the top shelf with no problem). 

They have MANY other items to choose from, including storage containers, child-related items like plates and tumblers, and more.  Check them out! 

http://thetickletrunk.com/store.php

A few other things I have come to really like can be purchased from many retail outlets like Amazon.com, other websites, or even local stores, so I always do a little price-comparison when shopping.  These items include name brands (or similiar items) such as:

  • Melissa and Doug (wooden toys and homeschool activities)
  • Klean Kanteen (stainless and very versatile sports bottles)
  • Lodge Logic  (pre-seasoned cast iron)
  • The Container Store (lots of wood, glass, and metal storage ware and organizing tools)
  • Pampered Chef (the best stone bakeware I have found yet)
  • Re-usable fabric grocery bags
  • Re-usable mesh produce storage bags
  • Debbie Meyer re-usable bread bags (they are plastic, but are re-usable, and sized perfectly for homemade loaves)
  • Glass canning jars for dry food storage (I use plastice lids, but the lids don’t generally come in contact with the food)

If you have found other solutions, I would love to hear about them!  Please share in the comments section!

Remember these adorable faces?  

Well, they got bigger.  I have learned why rabbits are generally housed outside!  They are messy and smelly in an indoor cage!  As hoped, they have been wonderful for the kids.  JR and M share responsibility for them–JR feeds and waters in the morning, M feeds at night and JR waters again, and both kids share responsibility for exercising them almost daily.  One thing is for sure, these little bunnies are living the high life….healthy diet, homemade mega-condo cage, outdoor exercise in the grass, and all the love and attention they can stand!  Cleaning the cage, on the other hand, still falls to me, and I was looking forward to having one less rabbit messing in it!

But, all good things must come to an end.  If you read my previous post (here), then you may remember that we thought Clara (the orange and white one) was rather frail, and Stew (the black one) had a bad eye infection.  Well, as it turned out, in the healthier conditions, Stew’s infection not only cleared up, but his eye healed completely.  He has turned out to be quite a nice mini-lop buck!   Clara, on the other hand, remained more frail than the others.  She wound up having deformed legs (hard to tell with her other issues early on), and we couldn’t figure out what the problem was.  With the daily exercise and the great cage, one of her legs improved and gained strength, but the other always stuck straight out, obviously fused at the knee joint.

This bunny had been M’s pick when we got them, and she was always the sweetest, most gentle and laid back bunny.  She was perfect for a child’s pet, but, alas, she didn’t gain weight like the others, and that bum leg was really a hinderance for her. 

As originally planned, the time finally came to select a bunny for the dinner table.  We decided Clara would be the best candidate, due to her physical issues.  We spent about 2 weeks preparing the kids, and allowing M to absorb the fact that Clara would go and she could claim Stew as her own.  Surprisingly, JR was more saddened at the idea, but both kids were so excited to taste rabbit, they both eagerly awaited butchering day. 

Note:  the following pictures are graphic.  If you have issues with raising animals for meat, you probably don’t want to look. 

It was decided this past Saturday morning was the big day.  S spent a couple of evenings prior studying the process and preparing his tools. 

S sharpening his knives.

 Meanwhile, we told the kids to say goodbye to Clara, which they did.

That bunny should've had no question that she was well-loved during her short life!

Since S had not actually killed before, we decided not to let the kids watch that part (much to JR’s dismay—he is a typical boy, after all), in the event anything went wrong.  Fortunately, all went smoothly, and the bunny did not suffer.  After S removed the head (making the body a bit less familiar to the kids), we allowed the kids to watch the rest of the process, so they would fully understand where their meat comes from.  JR had seen a cow skinned and butchered before, but M had no experience with it. 

They were fascinated, and S turned it into a bit of a science lesson, explaining the body parts as they were removed.

Skinning the rabbit.

Everything went smoothly, with the kids learning more about anatomy with each step.  The mystery of her leg was solved after skinning as well.  Turns out her knee joint had been dislocated at some point early on (before we got her), and had fused in that position.  We were all looking forward to dinner, until S pulled out the liver.  It was covered in white lesions, which we knew couldn’t be good!

The questionable liver.

 We spent several hours researching what the spots might be.  We even considered sending it off to a pathology lab to be sure (and for future reference), but when we found out how pricey that was, we decided to take our chances.  We concluded it was most likely tape worm cysts, and just decided to ensure we thoroughly cooked the meat to reduce the chances of anything else it might be.  Even the worst of the issues would apparently be eliminated at 180 degrees!

S later prepared dinner–fryed rabbit.  Unfortunately, M and I were at the E.R for her lip repair during dinner, but according to S, the kids were absolutely crazy over the rabbit meat.  Even the toddlers just kept asking for more!  Finally, S set several small pieces aside for M and I.  When we got home, M looked at it and said, “I’m NOT going to eat Clara!”  JR proceeded to animatedly tell her how delicious the meat was.  Then she watched me bite into it, and when I exclaimed how great it tasted, she got very curious and wanted a bite.  I gave her a bite, then she took the rest of my rabbit.  Oh well. 

So I guess we have kids who are well on their way to being farm kids, eating their own butchered animals as the main course.  Additionally, I have a husband well on his way to being the main butcher on the farm!  One more step toward self-sufficiency!

So now, I just have to figure out what I’m going to do with a buck and a doe housed in the same cage.  We were supposed to have 2 does (Smokey and Clara), but since things turned out this way, we have to come up with a new plan quickly (like in the next 2 weeks) or there will be lots of little kits running around.  We will have to divide the cage, get a new, seperate cage, or plan to eat lots of rabbit in about 4 months!

Over the weekend, we took an excursion to visit a popular attraction here in CO.  We went to Garden of the Gods to let the kids do some long-awaited “rock climbing.”  The magic of the area is in the brilliant red rocks that almost appear to just be stuck out there, at the base of Pike’s Peak.  The following picture shows a good contrast of the red rocks against the otherwise desert-like lighter colored sands, rocks, and green brush.

This is the first rock you see, known as the "kissing camels" due to the appearance of camels nose-to-nose on the top left.

We had a great time just meandering the trails through the Garden of the Gods.

While each of these sections of rock had a name, I can remember very few of them. This area had something to do with spires.

These spires literally just stuck straight up out of otherwise flat land.

It was amazing how the same rock could look completely different, depending on which angle you viewed it from.

After hiking through the Garden of the Gods, we drove up the road a bit until we found a nice little area of rocks the kids could climb on.  It was their desire the whole day.  Although lots of people were climbing on the rocks in Garden of the Gods, there were signs posted everywhere asking you NOT to do so.  We decided it was more important to teach the kids to respect such signs and protect the environment.  So we went elsewhere.

We found a perfect place in a section just south, that was part of the Old Colorado City trail.

The rocks posed enough challenge to thrill the kids, while being safe enough that we could give them free rein.

Even A and N got in on the action, climbing up rocks, and sliding or crawling down steeper areas.

JR really wanted to climb to the top of the largest rock out there, so S went with him.

We had a great time, a fun adventure, and wore the kids out big time.  The 3 younger ones all fell asleep on the drive home.  For your viewing pleasure, here is a video of the kids playing on the rocks.  It really shows their personalities at the moment!   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8VaIYfiPd0

It has been a crazy 2 weeks, and I am hoping the end is near!  I am ready for peace in my home again!  The events of last week took a bit of a nasty turn after our bedroom flooded, and, when housing wasn’t responding to fix the problem, S had to take it to the commanders.  We don’t yet know what happened after he sent the pics and details up the chain, but something definitely happened!  Within 24 hours, we had appointments to get EVERYTHING repaired within 5 days, AND we noticed our neighbors were suddenly getting their issues resolved as well.  So, now we have a new ceiling in the bedroom, done by a professional dry-waller instead of the inexperienced roofer, and they are scheduled to have everything in the bedroom and other repairs around the house completed by Wednesday evening.  We’ll see what happens. 

That’s not the end of the story of our recent unanticipated adventures, however.  But, I must admit, I am hoping this is:  

Yesterday afternoon, M and the other kids were outside playing, and M went running across our asphalt drive.  Then, she tripped and did a face plant right on the asphalt.  Myself and another mother were standing there, and as soon as she hit, we knew it was bad.  Her screams confirmed it.  There was so much blood when I picked her up, I couldn’t even see the source.  I am well aware, thankfully, that even mild facial injuries bleed like crazy, though, so I didn’t panic.  I just raced her inside, grabbed some ice and napkins to apply to her face to try to slow the bleeding so I could get a good look.  It soon became apparent that her teeth had left a nasty gash on the inside of her upper lip (but didn’t go through), and the asphalt had left a gash on the outside.  The blood was pouring from both areas.  While I couldn’t see the extent of the gash on the inside, I knew the outside would require sutures, so I raced outside, turned the other 3 kids over to my neighbor, and told S to jump in and take us to the hospital.  Thank the Lord, our neighbor is a P.A., so we ran over to her house first, and she confirmed that sutures were needed, called the local base acute care clinic to see if they could help (they couldn’t, but her call saved us several extra steps and lots of time), and then called in a referall for us to go to the E.R. down town.  By the time we arrived, the bleeding had slowed, the ice had melted, and we were just trying to control the swelling.  It quickly became obvious, however, that it was not considered an emergency, when, after our arrival at the E.R., we waited over 3 hours to be seen!  Finally, around 8:30 last night–with a half-starved and dehydrated child (they wouldn’t let her have anything in case they had to sedate her), we got the sutures, and went home. 

Today has been good so far, she has only bumped her lip once causing a bit of a bleed, and we are trying to keep her a bit calmer than usual (no easy task!).  Her lip is still very puffy, making it difficult for her to talk and drink.  She only required 3 sutures, but I guess the trauma of the whole deal semi-paralyzed her lip, as she has very little feeling in it, and drools out the side constantly.  I guess the plus side is that it also minimizes any discomfort, as she seems to forget it’s even there. 

So there you have it.  Our week in review.  Lots more typical posts to come, as soon as a I get a free moment to type it out.

It has been a busy couple of days dealing with housing stuff and trying to continue our normal routine somewhat.  Here is a pictorial of just a few things we are dealing with:

We haven't had rain since Monday, thank the Lord. The roofers left the bad plywood roofing sheeting, despite the fact they could feel soft spots walking around up there. Instead, they just covered it over with metal sheeting, and applied the new shingles. It took 3 days for the horrible, wet-sheetrock smell to leave my bedroom.

With everything going on, we decided to remind housing of the issues we have complained about in the past and have never gotten resolved. Like this mess of exposed wiring left by the contractors who renovated the house before we moved in. These are mostly phone wires, which left a large number of our phone jacks not working. Housing said WE were responsible to fix it if we wanted phones.

This cable box has been free-standing in my side-yard, in the main thoroughfare since we moved in. Housing has told us WE are also responsible to have this re-attached to the wall. A couple problems, though....first, we don't have cable services, so we can't get a technician to do it, and second, housing won't allow us to drill into the wall. Thus, it still sits there.

Shingles and roofing scraps have been left all over my yard and in the rain gutters, where the kids can get them. I have finally gotten maintenance to agree to make the roofers clean up.

Included in those roofing scraps littered around the yard are LOTS of roofing nails and staples. I pick up a handful almost everytime I go out. I can't wait until the next rain washes even more out of the gutters. I heard them flinging into the gutters constantly yesterday.

Large hole left by roofing dumpster, right in my front yard.

Boxes of roofing nails were strewn and dumped around my side yard yesterday. The roofers finally returned and cleaned up most of the mess, but I found a number of nails still laying around out there.

So that is mostly what I have been up to.  Homeschooling has been a lifesaver, as I have literally had to forbid the younger 2 to go outside.  It helps me keep the kids busy for at least half the day indoors.  N puts everything in his mouth still, and A likes to clean up trash on the ground.  I don’t want them handling this stuff left by the roofers.  It is literally EVERYWHERE!  I do allow JR and M to go out, if they are together, and if they play well away from the house.  They MUST wear shoes, and they carry a bucket in the event they come across more nails.  They help pick them up. 

After I called housing daily regarding the ceiling, they finally agreed to fix it starting today.  We are still sleeping in our living room.  So the roofer responsible is supposed to show up around lunch.  Housing is giving me one version of how the ceiling will be replaced over the course of almost a week, to ensure it is thoroughly dried, removed carefully, the attic thoroughly inspected, and re-installed in a quality manner.  The roofer, on the other hand, apparently thinks I am a complete idiot, and is telling me that he will get the whole job done in about 4 hours this afternoon.  He says he isn’t planning to remove or replace anything, rather, he plans to simply mud over the damaged area, re-tape the seams, paint it, and go.  I have absolutely NO faith in this guy.  I am a little creeped out to begin with.  He has been extra friendly to me recently–not sure why.  But then he casually mentioned being outside my house and overhearing our carbon monoxide detector the other night.  That was at 9:30 at night!!  It was dark, there were no roofing supplies outside my house at that time, and for sure no one was walking around roofing at that hour.  I would still like to know why this guy was outside my house at that hour!  Now, I have to have him INSIDE my house for the afternoon, while S is working. 

So, there we go.  Busy, busy.  S has forwarded our MANY issues to the commanders in hopes of getting the appropriate military agencies involved to see if we can get these housing folks to get their act together.  The funny thing is that my overly high level of frustration doesn’t really derive from the issues themselves.  As inconvenient as power outages, faulty alarm systems, unexpected roofing noises and trash, etc. are, my frustration comes from the complete lack of ethics, concern, principles, whatever you want to call it from the “professionals” we are having to deal with.  They have absolutely no concern for the fact that I have 4 young children who play in my yard or the fact that there is a family who lives in this house.  Nothing takes a priority, except their collecting the monthly rent.  That is what is frustrating. 

Anyway, hopefully I will have some good news for you soon instead of all this negativity.  It has been a frustrating week, and I apologize.  God, of course, is taking care of us, and we know things could be a lot worse than they are.  We are merely inconvenienced at the moment, but are still very blessed in sooooo many ways.  Thanks to those of you who have sent encouraging messages and scripture passages.  They have been much appreciated!

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