Roughly 5 years and 3 months ago, a baby was almost aborted in late term —  but he wasn’t.  God intervened through a series of circumstances, and he wound up being placed in our home, as our son.  This month, we were blessed to celebrate his 5th year of life with us.  They certainly haven’t all been easy, but he has certainly  helped us become better people, and we wouldn’t trade those years for anything.  We love you little buddy!  Happy 5th birthday, and we look forward to many more!!



Among his other gifts, M made some bird feeders out of her craft supplies.  When the weather warmed up a bit, A got to role the feeders in the grains, hang them outside, and watch the birds come.

Among his other gifts, M made some bird feeders out of her craft supplies. When the weather warmed up a bit, A got to role the feeders in the grains, hang them outside, and watch the birds come.



With just 3.5 weeks left to move day, things are getting busier all the time!  We have our last formal military event coming up this weekend, followed by a last visit with R’s birth family .  I’ve told S he has to find someplace to take me once a year so I can use the formal dresses I have collected over the years for these events.  I have a doctor appointment to update all my prescriptions, and one or two vet appointments to get all the paperwork lined up.  I have begun cooking in batches both to use up food and to prepare frozen dishes for move week. Our closing on the house is scheduled for next week (YAY!!!!), S and I have our final driving class (to learn to drive draft horses), Latte is due to deliver in 2 weeks, I have to pick up my 4th doe who has yet to kid, we have a half-a-ton of grain being delivered which will be divided into our fifty-five gallon drums, and plenty of other tasks I’m sure I’m forgetting right now.  I am still plugging along on the packing, we had a big yard sale this weekend so are living a little creatively right now.  We are down to just 2 kids’ beds, so kids are sharing beds and using pallets on the floor.  They love it, as they feel like they are camping.  We also sold our dining set, and are making do with a folding table and some folding chairs we borrowed.  We sold off our last litter of rabbits, and the cage-building equipment should arrive this weekend so we can build our transport/new cages for Red Gate.

I have been trying to wean my milking doe, Joy, to a twice a day milking schedule, but she turned out to be an incredible producer, and I’m still forced to milk 3 times a day right now.  She is currently producing 12 cups a day–thats about 3/4 gallon.  She is only a first freshener, and with the early issues we had, I am really trying to stretch her udder gradually.  I have her going 11 hours at night right now, but can’t seem to get beyond 9 hours in the day time.  Otherwise, she begins squirting milk everywhere and her hair gets all sticky.  ICK!  She is coming along nicely, though, and I think I’ll be able to get her to twice a day by move day (which will mean one less milking at a rest stop–maybe).

The kids will wrap up their school this week (another YAY!!!).  As soon as we have the check from closing, we have a LOT of items to order and have shipped to the farm for the projects we still have to work on there.  All this is so bittersweet–the time has come and yet, we are once again leaving another chapter that includes friends and memories.

What free time I do still have is spent spending time with the kiddos and making contacts for our next 4-legged additions to the farm after we get moved.  I have been in touch with Donna and Keith at South Pork Ranch in central IL, where we plan to purchase a couple of heritage Red Wattle pigs.  The plan is to pick them up when we finish installing the final section of fence for our pasture next month, and rotate the pigs and goats through to clear all the brush currently there.  Then, this winter, the hogs will be used for some hams, chops, and bacon, deliciously flavored by all the forage, acorns, and dairy products we will be feeding them.  While it isn’t the Large Black I still hope to try one day, we are excited to try the Red Wattle.  Not only will we be helping an endangered breed of heritage hog, but we will be supporting a local small farm operation who has worked hard to develop a good, hardy hog that thrives on pasture and forage, which still have their tails and ears, and that aren’t loaded up with antibiotics, chemicals, and junk foods.  These pigs get to grow up with all the “pigginess” (in Joel Salatin terms) that God intended them to have.

A Red Wattle hog; Source: Internet stock photo of a red wattle farm

A Red Wattle hog;
Source: Internet stock photo of a red wattle farm

For the record, we are raising two, and only need one.  If any of my readers are around the Illinois area and would like to reserve the other as a whole or half, just let me know. We are happy to split with you as well, as I can always use bacon around here with 5 farm kiddos around!!

I have also been working with a new friend who has been supplying us with our raw milk when we vacation at Red Gate.  She also “happens” to be probably the best contact I could ask for when it comes to getting in the draft horse loop there.  She is going to be setting me up with her neighbor who raises good, solid Clydesdales that actually do real farm work rather than just shows.  At this point, we are still just trying to decide if we want to buy a single or a team.  In addition, she works with an Amish farmer and together, they have developed a breeding program for high-quality miniature jersey cattle.  My former contact may not work out afterall.  All her mini-jerseys wound up having the bovine disease BLV, which I don’t want to pass on.  She wound up selling off her herd to try to work towards a BLV-free herd, but it kinda ruined my plans to buy her minis.  The fact that my new friend lives only a few miles down the road (OK, more like 20) is huge bonus!  At this point, it looks like we may be getting a heifer calf rather than a cow, but seeing as how I may be swimming in milk anyway with 4 goats, a calf may not be a bad thing.  Good thing we’re getting hogs to help consume all that milk!!

Winter has turned Asha into a spoiled brat of a yearling donkey, so I have been working with her a lot more lately to teach her some trust and some manners.  The weather is not cooperating at all, snowing again even as I type, but at least I have her used to loading in the trailer and improving in the other areas.   I have decided that if the right buyer came along, I would sell her, just to reduce my load a bit.  She won’t be very useful to us as a riding for the kids for several years yet, so I wouldn’t be opposed to selling her.  I won’t give her away though, so if she doesn’t sell, she’ll move with us as planned.

One other task I may have to do is to shave the dogs’ bellies.  None of the animals have lost any of their winter coats, as our highs are still in the 30’s most of the time.  Red Gate, on the other hand, is having highs in the 70’s already.  Another 3 weeks from now, and the sudden change from cold to hot may add too much stress to the girls, so I am considering shaving their bellies to buy them some time to acclimate, while still being able to make some belly-contact to the cool grass and earth at the farm.

Sorry the posts are likely going to be sparse for the next few weeks, but I will do my best.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell you when this is all over with though!

“Sugar and Spice and everything nice…that’s what little girls are made of….”……most of the time, anyway!

I love that little poem.  It’s so cute, and, generally speaking, kids are pretty cute too.  Most of the time, I can even see how it’s relatively true.  Take 19-month-old R for example…so cute, innocent, sweet, and cuddly.  With her love for her puppy and pillow, and her constant desire for giving hugs and kisses and even imitating her siblings (and mommy), there is no doubt she is all girl!

19-month-old R and brother 3-year-old N sitting on the bench together. N was in time-out for misbehaving, and R decided to keep him company.

She’s always good for hugs!

Then again, she has 3 brothers.  I think they have confused her a bit, dampening some of that little girl sweetness, as evidenced by the trouble she seems to get into on a frequent basis. For example, she has a passion for putting everything–and I do mean EVERYTHING–in her mouth.  Her diapers almost always contain bits of crayon that have managed to pass on through.  At least her diapers are easy to change!  She tells us she’s dirty, backs her little bum up so we can check it, runs to her room, waits eagerly to be lifted onto the changing table, and sticks her legs straight up in the air.

Ready and waiting!

Sick of dirty diapers, and seeing as how she displayed most of the signs of being ready for potty-training, I decided to give it a go.  She loved it–as long as I allowed her brothers toys to keep her entertained on the potty, including the harmonica she is playing in this photo.

Potty Training attempt #1–totally failed.

For the record, I totally gave up after one day.  I decided the diapers were a little easier for a few more months (I have always trained around age 2 in the past).

They have also managed to teach her how much fun the outside chores can be–when you don’t necessarily get straight to doing them.  I witnessed this first hand, as she found the egg-collecting basket (I think I was looking for it at the time), and decided it made a perfect hat!

Basket? What basket?

Oh! This basket! Yup, I have it, and you don’t, and I’m not gonna give it to you!! Nah, nah!

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the climbing!  Her trouble-seeking brothers have taught her well!  She can climb on pretty much anything she sets her mind to.  Most of the time it’s fun:

Like when she gets to clean-up snack leftovers on the table…

Or finds JR’s hidden treasures up on his bunk!

Other times, she gets stuck and can’t get down, but knows Mommy wouldn’t be happy if caught, so she doesn’t cry out, but just waits patiently, until Mommy finds her sound asleep where she doesn’t belong:

Like on her dresser at nap time, instead of in her bed.

Oh yeah, she is totally and completely sound asleep!

Despite her antics, though, she is one cute kid!!  She’s also a BIG kid.  At just 19 months, she is now comfortably wearing size 3T !!  She weighs as much as N, if not more.  The girl is a tank, and can out-eat half her siblings at any given meal.  I have already gotten a few “looks” from other people who think my 3 year old should be acting more mature, until I explain she is only 19 months.  Funny how that makes them more understanding.  When folks see S and I, they know those big genes didn’t come from us.  Sometimes we might confess she got them from her birth family, but most of the time, we just blame it on the raw goat milk!!

She is a sweetheart, though, and I am cherishing every moment I have with her!  We have been so blessed with this little girl, and I look forward to watching her grow up over the years–crazy antics, and all!

Since we are on a “have some fun family-time” streak at the moment, S decided to work with A and N to see if we could wean them off their training wheels.  JR learned at age 4, and M learned to ride at age 3, so we figured, “Why not try?”  After a few sessions of raising the wheels and working on balance, he took off their training wheels completely and told them “No more!”  Then, he took them out to our beloved, low-traffic, packed-dirt road in front of the house, and sent them on their way.  Just 2 sessions later, our little pre-school boys were riding on 2 wheels!

Now, perhaps this isn’t such a big deal to you.  However, you have to realize a couple things here.  You see, when N was 12 months old, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.  He couldn’t sit up, he couldn’t stand, and we were told not to even expect him to WALK before he was 3.  Riding a bike wasn’t even part of the picture just 2 short years ago.  Thanks to a God-ordained miracle, however, our little boy is not only walking, but running, climbing trees, and now, riding a 2-wheel bike with almost perfect balance!  And he’s only 3!

OK, ok, I said he’d learned to RIDE.  I didn’t say anything about him having learned to STOP.  That’s totally different!

At the same time, our other son, 4-year-old A has some neurological issues.  Despite seeing specialists for the last 6 months, participating in countless tests, and now dealing with 2 therapies a week plus seeing a neurologist on a regular basis, we still have no official diagnosis.  What we do know is that his balance is lousy, he is the clumsiest child we know, and he is prone to injury (just read a few recent posts!).  Yet, thanks be to our Heavenly Father, A is actually riding a 2-wheel bike!  Last week, his therapist concluded we are nuts for even trying.  I can’t wait to tell her this week that he is actually doing it!

4-year-old A enjoying his new found speed! Yes, sadly, he did inherit M’s pink bike and helmet. Seeing as how he’ll outgrow it all before long, I’m pretty sure it won’t damage his psyche any to use it for awhile. We just let him periodically share the boy’s bike N inherited from JR on occasion 😉

Truly, this bike-riding thing is a BIG…no, make that HUGE….deal for our family.  It has offered encouragement, excitement, hope, and promise for the future for our 2 little boys, neither of which had any say about how they came into this world, but have, for reasons only God knows, been placed in our family.  We have our moments of frustration and discouragement for sure, but every now and then, something akin to miraculous happens, and it puts a smile in our parent-hearts and on our little boys’ faces, reminding us that God alone is in control of the journey our life will take.  He gives and He takes away, and as long as we are willing to follow Him and His leading, we simply have to buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Our 4 happy, bike-ridin’ kiddos!

We recently celebrated R’s 1st birthday.  It is so difficult to believe that it has been a year since she was born.  Time truly goes faster with each child we have!  She started walking about a week ago (though she still cheats and crawls on occasion).  We got a real treat when her birth family agreed to join us for the celebration.  For their privacy, I must limit or disguise the photos, and withhold all video, but we had a lovely time with them–except for R, who is going through a “cling-to-Mommy” phase, and wanted nothing to do with them. 

I spent the morning making a carrot-cake (the overall favorite of our family).  Shortly before lunch, her birthmom and grandparents arrived, and we all gathered for lunch.  As a general rule, we keep birthdays pretty small and just-for-family–especially for little ones.  

For some unknown reason, R was absolutely terrified of her biological grandfather.  He is a rather tall, large guy, and he has a moustache, so I can only assume he overwhelmed her somehow.  She eventually let her birthmom hold her just for a minute, and she would occasionally play peek-a-boo behind Daddy, or sit in my lap and play with her birthmom. 

They were patient, though, and everyone took tons of photos.  Her birthmom actually made a photobook for her, but sadly, it didn’t arrive in time.  I am truly looking forward to receiving it, and storing it for when R is older.  What a treasure that will be some day!!  Grandma (S’s mom) gave her Raggedy Andy to complete the Raggedy Ann doll she got for Christmas, and we gave her a little push-and-ride, solid wood, zebra. 

So, once again, I am out of the infant stage.  In case you lost track, we have a 1 year old, 2 3-year-olds (A and N), a 5 year old (M), and a 7-year old (JR).  I don’t feel old enough yet, but we are certainly blessed! 

For your enjoyment, here are a few extra photos taken during an impromptu photo session with R recently….

With everything going on with A, N fell to second place on the priority list for a while.  For those of you who have followed for a while, N is our 2, soon to be 3-year-old.  When he turned 12 months, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  After 5 months of intensive therapy, he caught up developmentally, and has been going pretty good ever since.  You can read a bit about his symptoms, diagnosis, early therapy, casting, more casting, and finally, his braces

Over the last 2 years, he has continued to develop better than we could have imagined.  Most people have no clue he has CP, and some have even tried to convince us he was mis-diagnosed.  To the experienced eye, however, you can see that he still has some muscular troubles.  Chewing tough food (steak) is difficult for him due to the muscle weakness (which affects the whole body to some extent).  He does well, so we have not pursued oral therapy, but meal times often take him twice as long to eat as everyone else.  Then again, he’s 2 and likes to play, so I’m sure that is a factor as well.  Also, his right side remains his strong side, and I have to be careful to monitor that he uses both sides as evenly as possible.  He naturally has a tendency to favor his right side when climbing or descending steps, for example, and I have to force him use his “other leg.”  He hates it when I do that, and on occasion will get very frustrated with the level of difficulty he experiences.  That is why the therapeutic riding is so critical for him.  Whereas A needs the practice balancing, N needs the stretching that Shiloh can offer. 

Over the past year, we have begun focusing on several other issues he had, that seemed less critical early on.  He has coughed, gagged, and choked since he was born.  Occasionally, he will throw up esophageal contents and mucous.  He voice sounds nasal when he talks, he sneezes, has a lot of trouble with his nose (to include thick, sticky mucous), and was becoming an increasingly cranky and tired child.  Much like A, I have mentioned these symptoms to docs, but it was either blamed on the shape of his nose, possibly swollen tonsils and adnoids (but they don’t worry about them until they’re at least 5), or on his CP muscle issues.  Over the spring, the issues just got worse and worse.  Finally, S took him to the pediatrician, and convinced him to at least order an allergy test.  They actually did the quite thorough blood allergy testing.  We got the results, and of all things, discovered he was mildly allergic to dogs and moderately to cats.  That’s good to know now that we live on a farm!

The doc gave us permission to keep the dog, but told us we needed to get rid of the cat.  As you know, I have issues with trusting doctor’s opinions and advice, so we began researching.  So many studies showed that children put in a more hypo-allergenic environment got worse as they aged, while children left in a clean, but similiar environment as before, would often improve as they aged.  Seeing as I’ve had the cat for 11 years, and since her issues, make her “unadoptable” by even no-kill shelters (we know because we tried to place her in one last year).  So, getting rid of her wasn’t really an option, as euthansia would be our only choice.  Nonetheless, we did what we could.  Since we had moved into our new home, we changed out all the carpets, and had the furnace and all air ducts cleaned. 

Despite the changes, N’s sleeping habit got worse.  He got crankier with each passing week, and I began noticing that he was often lying in his bed, quietly, but wide awake, even after mid-night.  I was puzzled by this.  Finally, about 2 months ago, after we began using the Naturopathic doc for A, I took N to see him as well.  The doc listened to his symptoms, and said simply, “He’s dehydrated.  Make him drink more.”  I was a little frustrated, as N rarely complained of thirst, and never “acted” dehydrated.  It couldn’t be that simple.  He assured me it would work.  Having no choice, I paid the bill and left.  When we got home, I encouraged N to drink twice the fluid as normal for the rest of the day.  He fought me a little, but I got a pretty good bit into him as the day wore on.  That night, every time I checked him, he was actually asleep.  The next morning, he was happy!  I couldn’t believe it. 

I quite literally had 2 toddlers who were dehydrated–yet, one drank too much (A), while the other drank too little (N).  Good gracious.  So, both the boys were given free-choice access to their water-bottles.  A drank easily because of his kidney issues, but N had to be reminded and encouraged throughout the day.  It took about two weeks, but he finally began taking greater interest in drinking, so I didn’t have to push or remind as much.  He also started sleeping fairly well, and the thick, nasal mucous cleared up almost entirely.  I was amazed and impressed with the doc once again. 

He still coughed, choked, and threw up on occasion, though, and the coughing would sometimes get so bad at night, it would wake him–and everyone else in his room (all 3 boys share a room).  Sometimes, he would have a coughing spell that would last a couple of hours, waking the entire household.  At our next appointment, we decided to work on that issue.  The doc “prescribed” two things.  First, he agreed that we should NOT get rid of the cat.  However, he said N just needed a semi-sterile, pet-free place to go where his little body and immune system could have a break.  He instructed me to clean his room as thoroughly as possible, then make it off-limits to pets.  Secondly, to work on the mucous and gagging, he wanted me to try a dairy-free diet for a week or two. 

So, this week, with JR’s help, we spent about 6 hours one day cleaning the boy’s room as thoroughly as possible.  We tore apart every bed, vaccumed and dusted every crevice, dusted all window and door frames, washed the walls, cleaned out and wiped every drawer and shelf, etc.  We removed all the linens in the room, vaccuumed the matresses and boxsprings, vacuumed the carpets, and finally used our carpet shampooer to clean the carpet with vinegar.  It took me another 2 days to finish laundering all the curtains, bedspreads, sheets, pillows, and blankets, but everything eventually got returned to its rightful place, only a little cleaner and dander-free.  That night, for the first time in several weeks, N slept through the night without coughing.  It was wonderful, and once again, he was in a good mood when he woke up. 

We are also about 4 days into our dairy-free diet (for him–not the rest of us!  I MUST have milk, and crave it almost as much as chocolate!!  Almost.) N has been a great sport about it, rarely complaining or getting upset that he is getting something different.  He almost seems to understand, and JR and M have been wonderful at helping me remember not to feed him dairy.  So far, I have seen no real difference there, so I suspect we will gradually wean him back on to the dairy within another week or so to make sure nothing worsens as we do so.  Nonetheless, it is so comforting to know he is coughing less with the “break”-room he now has.

At our next appointment, the doc is going to attempt a chiropractic spinal adjustment to see if we can help even out the use of each side of his body at all.  We don’t know if it will help, but we know it won’t hurt to try.  As tight as his muscles always are, if we can help anything relax, he would probably sleep even better, and be even happier each day. 

I will never understand why God placed these particular little boys (A and N) in our home, but I know that He has truly provided the care we needed when we seemed to need it most.  I have my frustrating moments with medical doctors, but all in all, it always seems to work out.  I truly enjoy using the resources He provides us to be able to help these innocent little boys have a much better, healthier life.  It is truly rewarding!

Today was baby R’s big day!  We FINALLY finalized her adoption!!

It was a great experience.  Since our previous 2 adoptions were finalized out of state, this our first time actually in the courtroom.  We had a great, down-to-earth and friendly, magistrate presiding, and all our children sat behind us and watched the proceedings.  S and I each had to go up to the stand, take an oath, answer some questions, and then sit back down.  Finally, he declared R as our legal daughter, hammered his gavel, and congratulated us.  As a special treat, his clerk then entered the courtroom and we were invited behind his desk to take photos.  Another first for us!  So, we now have the moment recorded in photographic history!  As you can imagine, we are truly praising God tonight!

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