Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Large Family Canning

Every year 
autumn arrives bringing with it loads of tantalizing fruits
 which when home canned,
 bring their wonderful wholesome flavor to the table all winter.

I remember canning as a child with my mom and my grandparents.  
Every year the grands would fill their capacious car with peaches, pears and apples 
then drive across state  to our house.  
They would help in all the canning, then go home. 
 Their gift of love to our family was a gift that would last for months and months,
 the memories made, will last always.
 No one could peel an apple like grandpa Clyde.  
With the ever present twinkle in his eye,
 he would peel each and every apple all in one string of peel. 
 I watched in wide eyed wonder, always amazed.

Now Grammy and Bethany peel peaches my dad brought across state,
  for another season of multi generational canning. 
Rose and I  listen as Grammy tells of her adventures growing up  on a farm 
with 60 milk cows 
and a thousand laying hens.  
Bethany listens wide eyed, peeling and peeling 
while I fill jars and set them in the canner.  
She will remember these days canning with Grammy 
just as fondly as I remember canning with my grands.
  Good company 
and a big, big stove make the processing go quickly.  

I am very thankful, 
especially when putting food by in large quantity,
 for my commercial Wolf stove. 
 With 6 big burners, we can keep two canners going 
and still have plenty or room for the other big pots for fruit.
 The stove is one of those "God things" which a friend saw on Craig's List and contacted us about, 
and we then purchased for the same price as an average new stove.
Such a blessing!

There is more and more caning to be done, 
for we have foraged apples and plums again this year,
 finding apple trees loaded with juicy, sweet, and large fruit, 
and plum trees
 though not so abundant this year, still provided three box fulls. 

Many hands make light work indeed. 
 Rose, Joe, Jim, Ben and Bethany worked alongside me all day in the kitchen
 making apple sauce and the coveted plum sauce we discovered last year. 
 We listened to worship music 
and tried to encourage Gabe and Olivia to not help

 102 quarts is a good days work, 
done just in time to clean up and start dinner.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finding Time to Abide in Christ

Long ago I came to the conclusion that the idea of a "Quiet Time" with the Lord is quaint, but not necessarily practical
for the mother of small children. 

 As a mother of 9, I can say,
 it rarely happens.
There just isn't a practical time of day to have a hour in prayer,
 or a half hour to study the Bible or do a devotional in private.
  It is going to have to be in the midst of the crazy chaos of littles, 
or it's not going to happen at all. 

 Having had preschoolers consistently for the last 20 years,
 I have come to rely on a never ceasing kind of prayer life. 
 The one where you end up talking to the Lord all day, because
 A).  There are no other adults to talk to, and
 B).  This the only prayer time you have. 

 I often pray out loud, lest my mind wander. 
 I pray while ironing,
 while washing dishes, 
while changing a diaper, 
while cooking taco meat,
 and especially while nursing.
 You get the idea.

 The result is, then,
MORE prayer time with the Lord than ever! 
 I often find myself overwhelmed in the midst of my little herd of children.
 I wonder how I will manage.
I need Him.
 I am utterly dependent on Him, 
so I chatter away all through the day- a never ending conversation.
  While ironing or folding laundry,
 I pray for the person whose clothes I am working on. 
 When changing diapers, I pray for the little one I am cleaning up. 
While on my walk through the woods, I tell Him all my troubles and marvel in His goodness. 

We MUST believe that children are a blessing,
 and so, even the "never alone, go potty with your little one present",
 season of life will be a blessing from the lord,
and therefor there will be a way for your relationship with Him to grow and flourish.
 For me, the more children I have, the more dependent up on the Lord I am,
the more He shows me the ugly sin in my life that I need to turn over to Him,
 the more He sanctifies me.

 There may be no little quiet time,
but that is fine, because- it is an all day never ending walk with my savior,
and I am so much better off for it! 

Our family reads the Bible at the breakfast table. 
 We memorize scripture together at the dinner table.
  Between those two and the weekly sermon,
 I have plenty of Scripture to meditate on, 
and my own weaknesses are ever before me
to reflect upon and turn over to the Lord. 
 However, I do read the Psalms on a almost daily basis, 
but I do not expect it to be quiet.
  I may have 17 interruptions,
children climbing in and out of my lap,
 goats who have escaped their pen,
or a potty training disaster to deal with.

  This is my life,
I must learn to live with it.
Not only live with it,
 but I have the opportunity to make it beautiful.

 Not to say that you cannot have a time when you ask 
children that are old enough to understand 
that you need a few minutes of uninterrupted time,
 but with babies and really little ones,
 we must just deal with it,
 and it is alright.

Some days a mama does find time to herself ,
 and knowing that it is a rare opportunity, 
be faithful to
Seek First His Kingdom,
before the chore list or computer distracts us away from
Our Precious First Love.

 Our life with Jesus is so much more than 30 minutes in the morning.
It can become a true relationship,
where I see Him as ever present,
 always available,
and myself as always working out all the details of my day with Him. 

Finally, I do not think of morning devotions as my time with God.
  My time with God begins when I wake..I walk with Him all through the day:
 we are never "done,"
 I never check him off my list.
 No, we have a relationship. 
 We are in constant motion with one another.

I end up truly abiding in Christ all the day.

 And that is a tremendous blessing!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beautiful Days

This has been an active week, full of beautiful things.
A visit to Nanny and Papa's house with cousins, my two brothers, 
and of course, pony rides. 
The beautiful lady with white hair is my mom.
The adorable 32" pony is Little Bit.

My brothers and I being silly.

Our family has a long standing  beautiful tradition of attending the Symphony concert in the park each summer.
Spreading a blanket on the grass, 
we all flop down and relax, listening to great music,
sharing a picnic,
 a lovely, lovely evening.

Watching Olivia dance during the William Tell 1812 Overture was definitely a highlight.

We have had opportunity to be on top of the mountains around here recently,
and the view is always just

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Preparing (Preschoolers) for a New School Year

As the summer winds its way to an end,
 and the frost kills the last of the garden, 
my mind starts shuffling toward gearing up for a more regimented schooling season.

 I rock the  baby-turning-toddler in my arms,
 realizing that as the season turns outdoors,
the baby season is turning in the home,
and soon, Olivia will be full toddler.
  This change will need to be thought of and planned for in our daily routine.
 When there are many in the household,
literally every aspect must be thought of and carefully planned
to help the function, peace, and harmony of the home
to run as smoothly as possible.

I have noticed over the years
 that the most practical place to begin in preparing for a new school year
 is with  these littlest ones in mind.

 I start by making a daily routine for us
that incorporates the littles and their napping,
play, and need for mama.
We created a place for them during our school day,
 with cozy little nooks
and drawers filled with items to interest them in playing independently.
Gathering baskets full of board books,
 stacking blocks, magnets, plush toys,
 big wooden beads and such,
we have turned a corner of our living room into a play area close at hand,
 with more children's books,
 a small table, coloring supplies,
 and the kind of toys toddlers love.
These toys are the more quiet kind;
 the louder, messier type can go upstairs in the family room,
 away from our study areas.

Although we have not begun school just yet,
I am spending a small part of each morning with Olivia and Gabe,
helping them into the routine,
so that when we do begin school work, the little ones are already used to it.

They have morning reading with mama - a good snuggle up time filling up their little "love tanks".
Then they are set to play in the living room for awhile...
sometimes one of us will help them in their play essentially teaching them good playing habits,
like sharing and putting the toys away before you move onto something else.
 I am teaching Olivia to color...on paper and not on everything else.
After some play time, they can move to the table with color books,
play dough, beads, or a snack,
then go back to play, perhaps upstairs for a change of scenery.
Next is lunch, then naps, and by that time,
 our students are finished with their work.

Being PROACTIVE by working with the little ones for a few weeks before we begin
 saves a ton of frustration later,
 and allows me the freedom to avoid being REACTIVE with squirrely toddlers
 when I am occupied with a student.
Olivia is 21 months, just beginning to talk fairly well, and want to play with Gabe and Bethany.
She needs to learn good interaction with the other children now,
learn to play nicely...
and it does not happen without intentional teaching.
So for us, the first step in getting ready for school is preparing the preschoolers.
A little preparation goes a looooong way in a big family.

What does our Fall routine look like?
Daddy gets up early and heads off to work before every one else is up.
Olivia and Gabe get up with mama around 6:30am.
The rest of the family are up at 7am.
We like to hang out and snuggle while we drink our coffee and tea in the morning.
(Excepting John who goes off to work right away.)
Eventually, we get dressed and have breakfast around 8am.
After breakfast, each person goes off to do their chores.
Schooling will then begin around 9am.
First off is reading, for an hour.
The older ones have assigned reading and I am free to read to the little ones as described above.
Secondly, at 10 am, we have Math at the table while the little ones have play time nearby.
We then move on to copywork, a good time for the littles to join us at the table and color, etc.
While the smaller ones go off to play again,
the rest will have History,
and then it is lunch time and outdoor play for all.
This is most likely my best chance for a walk through the woods,
 with or without Olivia in the Ergo.
Next is journaling, around 1 or 1:30, and Gabe and Olivia have their naps.
During this quiet time of the day, the older children will have research and Bible study time.
 By 3 pm daddy will be home and we will celebrate with tea and a snack.
The next scheduled activity is dinner at 6 pm.
The children have a strong tendency to get really wild after dinner,
so this is a great time to wrestle with daddy,
and if mama didn't get her walk in yet, she can sneak away to the serene forest.
Nearing 8 pm, we settle the children down in the living room to read aloud,
then are off to bed.

After the first week or so on the new schedule,
Brian and I will talk about it and tweek anything that needs adjusted.
 I think it is important to try our best to stick to the schedule,
but also, be flexible as needs arise, or things get out of hand.
 If something happens and we are off track,
 we can work together to get back on time,
 but it is not a something to stress over, or  let fluster you.
I love the structure of a daily routine.
There is something very freeing, beautiful, and satisfying
in going about your days with a systematic approach to accomplish all that lays before you.
 Such a day ends with great satisfaction.

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