February 2013


M is realizing more and more that she truly has a little guinea pig sister.  I don’t know if she has just gotten tired of playing Lincoln Logs  and Leggos with her brothers, or if she is coming of age, but dangly earrings (thanks to Nana!) and nail polish are the choice right now.  The fact that she has a little sis willing to let her practice on her makes things even better!

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Anyone who has ever lived in a heavy-snow area can understand how the little things can brighten a day so much….

Kind of like when I head out to milk the morning after a blizzard, only to discover that my awesome hubby got up early before work and shoveled a path from the house to the animal sheds for me.

snow

Things are going well for us right now.

My parents just left from a week long visit.  It was the first time I’ve seen my dad in 3 years, and the first time he had met R.  We had a great visit, and may see them again this summer.

JR’s rabbit doe delivered another healthy litter this morning.  Seeing as how we are technically considered in the “high-altitude plains,” we are still getting our fair share of snow from this latest storm.  Due to the cold factor, we haven’t bothered the nest to count the little kits yet.  The doe has proven herself a good mom in the past though, so hopefully she will stick with that trend.

I finally got the blood drawn on my last 2 does, to determine once and for all if they are pregnant.  I’m crossing my fingers, as they are definitely not cycling any more.  I’m about ready to dry up Faith, as she really isn’t producing much anyway.  I’m just keeping her going until I get those test results.

The sale of our house is moving right along as well.  The buyers have already begun the inspections process.  It has already paid off that we got the 5-year roof inspection warranty, as it had begun snowing when the first inspector showed up and he couldn’t inspect the roof.  The buyer opted to believe the inspection and warranty we had given them.  The rest of the house inspection seemed satisfactory though. We also already have title commitment from the title company.  We are hoping for a warm spell this weekend so we can do some outside paint touch-ups for the appraisal process.  The buyer is having a radon test run right now, and they are working on scheduling a well flow test for next week.  There isn’t much we can do except allow them to schedule the inspections and tests at this point.  However, things seem to be going well, and the buyers seem very excited with the property.  We are hopeful this will continue to be rather quick, easy, and painless, without too many expenses on our part.

The kids are in the final stages of their schooling.  They are on lesson 129 of 170.  That doesn’t leave much.  They have done so well this year.  I am just thrilled with the Abeka Academy video program.  It is very thorough, and the kids are learning far more than they would have had I tried to handle the teaching alone.

So that’s our latest.  Things are anticipated to start getting pretty busy here soon.  I will try to keep the updates coming.

Just a “random thoughts” post, regarding something that’s been on my mind lately.

Around our area (perhaps a nationwide thing, I don’t know), we have an annual event known as “40 Days For Life.” During this 40 day period, abortion is a topic that is frequently discussed amongst church groups and other religious groups who are anti-abortion.  I really don’t know a whole lot about it, honestly, other than they are always looking for church members to join in prayer and peaceful protest sessions outside of abortion organizations such as the local Planned Parenthood.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  I am very pro-prayer and very anti-abortion.  I believe God can work miracles (each new life proves that!), and I believe life absolutely starts at conception.  A fetus, otherwise known as a little human baby formed in God’s own image, has a heart that beats as soon as 22 days after conception.  I was very blessed to be considered very high risk during my pregnancies.  I say blessed, because my condition meant that I had an ultrasound every single week, beginning at just 7 weeks gestation.  I had the amazing experience of literally watching my babies grow and develop each week.  It was one of the most incredible and memorable experiences I’ve ever had.  I saw the heart beating at 7 weeks.  I saw one suck their thumb at about 10 weeks.  I saw them playing with their fingers and toes, even while in the womb.  I saw them get upset and react when the ultrasound probe pressed a little too hard at 12 weeks.  Each baby showed different personalities and activity levels before the end of the first trimester.  Later, when the bumps, thumps, and movements were stronger, I felt an ever-increasing connection to this little one inside me.  It. Was. Incredible.  I had a life inside of me, I was responsible for the welfare of that life, and there was no doubting it.

We have also been blessed, thanks to an inability to have any more children biologically, by allowing God to lead us to adoption.  We may not have been willing to take that step without my unexplained pregnancy complications.  Because we allowed God to lead us, though, we have also been blessed with 3 amazing and beautiful children by adoption.  We were blessed to get to meet each of our children’s birthmothers, and learn about each of their situations.  Each situation was uniquely different, but each involved a mother who was at a point in her life where she felt she could not handle a (or “another”) baby–for whatever reason.  In addition, years ago, I also volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center, where our main goal was to educate woman on their options.  Because we were a Christian center, we focused on alternatives to abortion, of course, but we also educated women on the truths of what exactly abortion involved.  My experiences working with these women taught me that in almost all of their situations, there was not only a baby involved, but a woman who was struggling to make the best decision.  For many women, a lack of education regarding pregnancy or the options available forced them to base their decision on their own needs and desires.  The more we were able to educate and work with them, the more often their decisions would involve both them and their unborn child.  In every case, though, the woman wanted to be accepted, loved, and not judged, regardless of the decision she eventually made.

This is a topic that has been near and dear to my heart for many, many years.  My parents used to take in foster children for the state, and that likely planted the first seed that made me understand how important a life was.  I saw what could happen when a child was born into a home situation in which they were considered a burden rather than a blessing.  I saw premature babies whose mothers were drug addicts and/or alcoholics.  I saw newborns with concussions and broken bones from abuse.  I saw children who couldn’t walk from sheer neglect and lack of teaching.  I saw elementary-age children who were so used to competing with the dogs for the leftover morsels, they didn’t even know how to use a fork or spoon.  And those weren’t the worst of the cases we had.  It was heart-wrenching and eye-opening.

As we are getting into this year’s 40 Days for Life, though, every time I hear someone promoting it, I just can’t help but wonder….Of all the people standing out there praying, how many are willing to truly go the extra mile to help one of these women personally?  How many are willing to love the woman as well as the baby?  How many have offered to take a girl by the hand, when she may be at her lowest point, and help guide her and support her through that tough decision making process?  How many have ever offered to pick up a woman without transportation and give her a ride to pre-natal appointments?  How many have gone so far as to offer a loving, adoptive home to the baby, providing the woman with an alternative to abortion?  How many have offered to help an overwhelmed, frightened, single woman who may actually be willing to keep her baby, by providing some financial support, babysitting, and advice to help her raise that child?

Every time I hear a Christian preaching against abortion, I can’t help but feel for the woman who may be in that situation.  I realize that not everyone is called to adopt.  I realize that not everyone has the financial resources, or even the physical resources to support a young mother.  I realize that sometimes, prayer IS the ONLY option.  However, I also firmly believe that more often than not, it is our duty not to judge these women, but to love them just as much as their unborn children.  When a woman feels judged and misunderstood, she is often left feeling defensive, alone, and with no choice but to quietly end her pregnancy, in the hopes she won’t have regrets.  Imagine, however, if just one person got personally involved and offered love and support to that same woman.  When a woman feels loved, safe, and supported, even if she were to make a bad decision, she is much more likely to want to learn about and consider her options.  I have seen proof of this through our own adoptions.  One of our son’s birthmom was planning to fly to another state where late-term abortions were legal, but on a whim, she decided to call the first adoption agency in the yellow pages.  The voice on the other end offered just enough love and support that she was willing to at least explore the idea.  Sadly, knowing her baby was bi-racial, when she was given our profile, she gave it back to the agency counselor, explaining there was no way this “white” couple could love her “black” baby.  When the director assured her we could, she wanted to call and ask us personally.  She did, and we explained how we believe EVERY child is a blessing, created in God’s own image.  She eventually went on to choose us as her son’s adoptive parents, and because the original agency director simply showed the woman that she was every bit as important and loved as her baby, little A is here today.  This woman, who had come within days of aborting her unborn baby, eventually proved to us that she really did love him because she desired some contact after placement, just so she could know he was OK.  We e-mailed and exchanged pictures for almost a year until she felt enough peace to move on with her life.

While I think these anti-abortion events can do good things, and prayer can certainly be a good thing, if you are a participant in these events, please consider a way you can take a physical step toward helping a woman directly, in a way that will not leave her feeling condemned and judged.  If you are a Christian who finds yourself angry because a woman has chosen to have an abortion, please take a moment to put yourself in her position, think about the reasons she may feel she has no choices, and think about what you could do or provide to help her directly.  If you don’t know a woman personally, consider adopting a child, volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, or even providing transportation services to a pregnant woman in need, thereby providing an alternative for a woman out there somewhere.

If you happen to be reading this and you are a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, please know that there are MANY people out there who are willing to help you in many ways.  You do have options and you do have choices.  You may hear of many positives regarding abortion, but please be very careful and educate yourself fully before you go that route.  You can find others online, and you will quickly see that far more women go on to experience a lifetime of regret and pain from their decision to abort–far more than an abortion counselor will ever admit to.  Ask for a simple ultrasound–many crisis pregnancy centers offer this service for free–and take a look at that little miracle growing inside you.  Is it a perfect situation?  Perhaps not.  Did you bring it on yourself? Maybe, maybe not.  Is your unplanned pregnancy a punishment for you?  Absolutely not!  We live in a fallen world, where everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes, we have unexpected consequences, and while an unplanned pregnancy may seem like a nightmare right now, you can rest assured that you do not have to be alone through this.  You may have to take some big and frightening steps, but you CAN find support.  There are people out there who will not judge you, who will support and help you, and if necessary, who are willing to adopt your baby.  There are many who are called to counsel, be a shoulder for pregnant women to lean on, help you with appointments, and sometimes even help with expenses.  There are people who desire to adopt babies of all races, and others who feel called to adopt babies with all sorts of disabilities.  I firmly believe that God created that child within your womb, and He has a plan for that child’s life–if YOU will allow Him to see it through.  He also has a plan for YOUR life, and while it may not seem like it now, He can help see you through as well!  God can take a seemingly-nightmarish situation and turn it into something amazing.  At least consider it.  Don’t rush into any decision, but take your time, do your research, talk to those you trust, pray about it, and see which option leaves you with the most peace.  If you truly don’t know which direction to turn, we are always happy to help in any way we can.  You can e-mail me personally at crmemory2 (at) yahoo (dot) com, and, if I am unable to help directly, then I am happy to put you in touch with someone who can.  Just remember, YOU are loved, and you do have options.  You just have to reach out to accept them!

I am 32 years old and around 5 and a half feet tall.  That’s right, I said my age.  Get over it.  I have.  Thankfully, I am married to a wonderful man who happens to be 10 years my senior.  Yeah, he’s old, but the way I see it, as long as he’s around, I can feel young.

Unless of course we decide to get into draft horses.  Which we have.

This past weekend, we attended a private clinic where we learned, hands-on, the basics of working with draft horse power.  It was a great experience, but let me tell you, I learned a few things about myself.  Not the least of which is that I am short and getting old fast!

Our team consisted of two black Percheron horses.  The gelding stood at 18 hh (that’s 6′ at the withers, or shoulder area), and the mare stood 17.2 hh (that’s 70″ at the withers).  Not only are they tall, but they have width that goes along with that height!  Need a frame of reference?  Here ya’ go…

percherons

Let’s just say that I don’t look forward to having my foot stepped on by one of these guys!  At my height, I was left feeling shorter than I have ever felt.  He doesn’t even look that big in the photo, but when you add in his width, I could barely reach the center of his back to groom him.  I certainly couldn’t see up there.  I now have a new understanding of how my 4 foot children feel when I ask them to groom and tack up the 11.2 hh (46 inches at the shoulder when I last measured) donkey.  Then, when I realized how difficult it was for someone of my build and height to lift a full leather harness, weighing around 60 lbs. up onto the back of that horse above….well, let’s just say I ain’t feeling so young and strong anymore.

harness

Nonetheless, we had a great experience.  We arrived at 9 in the morning, and spent 2 hours getting accustomed to the horses, grooming them, and then learning about the collars and harnesses.  The teamster (owner/driver of the team) discussed many of the pros and cons of different types of harnesses and collars, and spent a lot of time discussing safety when harnessing and driving.  I found some of it to be pretty basic, similiar to saddle horses and riding.  The harnessing and driving related topics were totally new to me, though, and we both learned a ton!

The teamster harnessed the first horse, and then allowed us to work together to harness the second one, with his assistance.  All those straps can easily complicate things if not done properly!  Finally, after we understood the functionality of the harness, like which parts are used for pulling, and which are used for braking, he showed us how to hook the team up to a wagon.  Then, we went to a driving track to learn the basics of driving.

driving

We spent about 1/2 hour practicing using our reigns, more properly called “lines,” as we guided the team down straight sections, over up-and-down dips and rises, through tight turns and large arcs, etc.  For those of you who have riding experience, driving is a whole different ball game!  I can compare it somewhat to english riding, using a direct reign.  However, since you aren’t actually riding the horse, you can’t use your body to signal the horses.  All communication is done through voice commands and through your hands and the lines.  However, even that is more complicated than it sounds.  There is a BIIIIIIGGGGG difference between direct-reigning using a pair of 8 oz. nylon reins that are 4-6 feet long, and trying to signal using a pair of 1 inch wide, several pound, 16-20 foot long leather lines.  The horses, however, when properly trained, still feel every movement you make through those lines, so we had to be extremely careful to only cue them when we wanted a change in what they were doing.  There were times the team would veer off track with no warning.  The teamster would give us a moment to try to figure out our mistake before correcting us.  It was always an unintentional tightening or moving of the line that signaled the turn.

S did well, but I had some old riding habits that would periodically creep up and interfere with my directing of the horses.  For example, when riding one horse, if the horse speeds up, you naturally sit down in the saddle and gently but firmly use the reigns to stop or slow the horse.  With a team, however, both lines are connected to both horses.  So, if one horse speeds up, we had to learn how to properly correct the one without punishing the other for doing the right thing.  It wasn’t always easy!

Next, we took a break, unharnessed the horses and fed them lunch while we went into the bunkhouse to eat lunch, provided by the teamster’s wife.  After lunch, it was back out to the barn, where we re-groomed and re-harnessed the horses.  Only this time, we were on our own.  We each had to fully harness one horse, with supervision by the teamster for safety and correction when needed.  The horses were so tall, though, that S and I had to help each other get that heavy harness up on their backs.  I will definitely have to build a platform in my barn at Red Gate to help get me up higher when grooming and harnessing these big horses.

After they were ready, the teamster drove the horses into place in front of the wagon, and S and I had to hitch them into place.  Then, we went and drove about 3 miles or so, taking turns driving them through certain obstacles and situations in the forest.  We did this for several (cold) hours.  Finally, we headed back to the barn, and S and I had to unhitch and unharness the horses.  That was when my physical condition (out of shape) and age (feeling really old) really hit me.  I was so tired and sore, it was all I could do to finish the job and give the big guy a good brushing and a sincere thanks.  Last night, I hit the sack an hour early, and was unconscious in record time.  Today, my shoulders and upper back are a bit sore from the lifting of the harness, as well as the driving activity itself.

Nonetheless, we had a really good, educational time.  We still clearly have a lot to learn, though.  We are planning to pay for one more class in a month or so to review, improve, and learn the next steps.  In addition, S was given an offer we aren’t sure we can refuse.  The teamster, who is 65, has 6 horses currently, plus the rest of his farm to run.  With the arrival of spring and summer, he has a lot of work to do that will involve horse power.  He learned of our situation, where S will have a bit of a transient lifestyle for a while, and the teamster offered up his bunkhouse part time and experience working the horses, in exchange for some help around the farm.  We have friends that S has already promised to help out in exchange for a place to stay, but I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out so everyone is happy, and everyone benefits.

Of course, if S spends much more time with these Percherons, then my dreams of owning Clydesdales may vanish into thin air if he gets his choice!!

Our house is officially under contract!  After too many phone calls and some research, we have decided to try to be proactive with this whole inspection/appraisal thing, without spending the fortune we originally feared.  We contacted a highly recommended roofer for an inspection, and got a 5-year warranty on our roof. We also had the septic system inspected and cleaned, and tracked down all our well documents, and proof of repairs, cleanings, and inspections we had done on major systems (like HVAC and electrical) when we moved in.  The idea behind these decisions being that, if the buyer attaches all these warranties and proofs of inspections to their loan application, the appraiser will hopefully see that it is a pretty good house in perfectly liveable condition, and not delay the process at all.  We’ll see what happens, but we are feeling a little less pressured at the moment.  In the mean time, the buyers have scheduled a well-water test and full home inspection this week, so that will be our first big test I guess.  We are hopeful that all will go well, and the process will just move right along.  What a relief it will be to not have a house to worry about here in CO.  Please keep the situation in your prayers.

Last summer, we got this romantic idea in our heads to sell our house FSBO (For Sale By Owner) in order to save ourselves a lot of realtor fees and, as a result, to offer the buyer a much lower price.  We really wanted to decrease our chance of having a home here in CO after we moved, so we dropped the price to rock-bottom, with the condition that we were selling as-is.  All those little needed repairs, paint touch-ups, landscaping, etc. would be the responsibility of the buyer.  We had fixed anything critical or major, but anything else was up to the buyer.  As a homeschooling family with 5 youngsters, we just don’t have time to deal with little things that don’t affect life.  Then we prayed that God would send the right buyer–someone perhaps who could appreciate all the efforts we went to here to set up a little homestead and do things naturally and organically.  It seemed such a sweet idea.

Unfortunately, sweet, romantic ideas are rarely reality.  Our first mistake was in not accounting for buyer’s agent fees.  We had originally decided not to pay any buyer agent fees, desiring instead to only work directly with potential buyers.  However, we were contacted by several agents.  We always turned them down until this most recent, who was convinced our house was what his buyers wanted.  Unfortunately, his buyers weren’t willing to pay his fee, which meant if we were interested, we had to pay.  Finally, we agreed to pay his fees, with some requirements attached.  He was right.  His buyers wanted our house, and submitted our first formal contract offer almost immediately, which included a fairly quick sale and allowed us to lease back.  This was exactly what we had hoped for, as it unloaded a MAJOR burden from our to-do list.  We really couldn’t beat the offer.  Unfortunately, they decided to take a government loan.  Things have quickly become a whole different ball game–more like a nightmare if you will for us as the sellers.

Based on our very experienced and professional “counselor” who has helped walk us through this contract, our second mistake was in not accounting for fees that we will have to pay for inspections and repairs.  Depending on who we ask, the government loan appraiser will likely require us to pay ALL closing fees instead of the half we had originally planned, they will want full septic inspections, roof inspections, lots of ridiculously nit-picky repairs, and so forth.  Let’s just say we are seeing the $$$$$$ adding up already.  We don’t know the extent of the repairs, but based on our counsel’s experience, it is typical that our area’s appraisers require the exterior to essentially require a nearly brand new, relatively perfect paint job.  If they find any chipping paint, they require the entire house to be painted.  $$$.  There’s just one big problem–it’s 20-30 degrees every day right now!  We can’t do the repairs or hire them done at these temperatures!  Our hands are literally tied.  Our roof, while in good condition, is older.  Our counsel claims it is typical for the appraisers to require a new roof.  Thus, we are working on getting an inspection and guarantee to try to save some money overall.  Still, those services cost $$.

We haven’t even signed the contract yet, as we had to counter based on all this new information.  We’ve had to push back the close date, which essentially ties up the house in contract for several months, all because of the government loan issues.  What a nightmare!!  To make matters more confusing, depending on who I talk to and what I research, I am also getting told/reading that many appraisers around won’t even look at the roof or paint, while others will require not only the house painted, but the inside of the gutters as well.  Most won’t look inside the house, but some may.  Some may want to see our wood-pecker deterrents hanging there to show we don’t have a problem, while others will see the deterrents and frown at the fact that it means we have a problem.  AAGH!  This is so frustrating!

At this point, we are taking it a day at time, doing what we can as best we can to keep things moving forward.  We really do like the couple, and sale seems very promising.  It just isn’t the romantic idea we started out with in our inexperienced minds.      So much for that idea.  In the mean time, we are also going to pray hard that all paperwork gets passed through quickly, that the appraiser is not too critical of little things, that he/she is realistic and in a good mood the day they come, and if not, that perhaps God would allow them not to see whatever silly little things may possibly exist that could otherwise hinder a sale.  Only God knows how this will play out, and we can only pray that He will give us peace and wisdom throughout the process.

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