Thursday, December 29, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Adaptive Handlebars

A while back, I came across some examples of people using pvc to adapt handlebars for kids with limb differences.  I forwarded it to Nathaniel, and today it was warm enough for him and Gyunay to try it out.
His little arm fits into the pvc, so now he is learning to control the scooter with 2 "long" arms.  He's always been able to ride his scooter, but he has trouble controlling it, since he always veers right.  Now he can turn left for the first time.

And here is Nathaniel adapting his tricycle.  Actually, this tricycle was originally Elijah's; it's went through all of the kids.  

Being able to really ride a bike will be huge for Gyunay.  He wants to so bad, but it is really difficult for him, and he sometimes flips forwards over the handle bars.  The trike is super low to the ground, and he never goes fast, so he hasn't gotten hurt, but it is a concern.  Plus, he really wants to ride a bike.  So although he doesn't know it yet, he is getting a 12" bike with an adaptive arm on it for Christmas.  Right now it is hidden.  I hope we have decent weather on Friday, so he can try it out.  (We are doing our Christmas here Friday, before we spend time with family.)  It's supposed to be freezing rain later and back into the 20s tomorrow, though, so you never know.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mornings with Gyunay

Gyunay has preschool four days a week, but he's in the afternoon class, so after we get the big kids off to school, we have the mornings together.  Lately, he's really enjoyed playing with play dough, so today we made some more.  He requested orange, and then for a second color he chose yellow.  
He was so delighted to see the white play dough turn colors!  Here's a look back at a long time ago, when I made play dough with Lydia and Malachi:
It's been a popular activity here for many, many years.

And you can see the edge of our Advent wreath to the left in the photo.  I've been meaning to do an Advent wreath at home with the kids for about a decade; this year, I finally got it all together.  The kids made the candles (they are just rolled sheets of beeswax).  The boys made the purple ones, and Lydia made the rose one.  They have really enjoyed lighting the candles at dinner.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hanging Around

Nathaniel hung the kids' new swing chairs.

Malachi's is hung as well, but I don't have a picture of him in it yet.  Elijah got a different chair that he enjoys.  These are all from my inlaws, since we do presents with them at Thanksgiving.  (Which works out very well for everyone, I think.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November Harvest Totals

November was naturally slower than the summer months, but we did have more produce than usual due to the very late frost date.  I harvested parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme at will (and I can actually still harvest these herbs from the herb gardens outside), as well as basil, dill, and mint.  We also had a good amount of cherry tomatoes for the first half of the month, plus:
211 eggs
1 Bulgarian pepper
1.5 pounds of tomatillos
1 tomato
1 carrot
and a handful of raspberries and snap peas.

I do still have peas growing, as well as carrots, lettuce, and radishes in the playroom and outdoors.

I have been planning and plotting next year's gardens, as well as working on growing some cool season crops in the playroom.  I've also toyed with the idea of raising turkeys next year, but I baked another of our home-grown chickens last night and it may have changed my mind.  Turkeys are more expensive and take longer to raise, whereas the chickens taste fantastic (and I've never been a fan of chicken) and finish out quickly and relatively cheaply.  Plus, turkeys take up a lot more space in the freezer.  So now I'm thinking that I may just raise 2 batches of meat birds, in spring and late summer.  Chicken is a very popular meat around here with all of the kids, and I like raising chickens.  They really are so easy.  I've also toyed with the idea of raising non-flying ducks (like Peking), but I would definitely need to do some more research on that.  Right now, more meat chickens are winning the debate.

My biggest garden plan, literally, is to make a tall hugelkulture bed.  That will be interesting, and as I get closer to actually building it, I will take pictures and have updates.  I'm not sure yet which plants I would plant in that bed.  Also, I am building a square foot garden, with 16 squares, for the kids to each have 4 squares to grow the veggies/fruits of their choice.  They are all quite excited about this plan, and I think having their own plots will make them more eager to garden.  There will be a trellis on one end, so they will each get one space for vining plants.  Malachi has already picked out that he will grow crescent beans, green onions (this one surprised me!), cabbage and maybe carrots.  The crops I'd like to plant next year (but am not sure where I will fit them all!) include: tomatoes (30-40 plants), cherry tomatoes (3-5 plants), Bulgarian peppers (10-12), green and red cabbages, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, snap peas, crescent beans, white cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, cantaloupe, pumpkins, sunflowers, corn, zucchini, other squash?, kale, radishes, onions, kholrabi, sweet potatoes, potatoes, sunberries, tomatillos (5-6), arugula, calypso beans, swiss chard, and the usual herbs.  Turnips and beets are also possibilities.  And although I'm not devoting my garden space to broccoli, I think Gyunay will grow a square of it, and maybe Elijah as well.  I think I'll have to talk some of the kids into growing some of the produce I want to grow in their squares!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


We have the fortune of being able to celebrate with all of our family over two weeks in November.  I didn't take many pictures, but these were good.  First, the girl cousins on my side:
Next, Nathaniel's side, and Grandpa's assembly line.  He very cleverly had all of my kids working to clean his golf clubs - and they thought it was fun!  It was a nice diversion on a rainy, cool day after we had all had too much to eat.

And the new swing was a big hit with everyone, even Grandma:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Book Review - The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

Last year, I read the first book in the Darkwater Saga by Patrick W. Carr, The Shock of Night.  (See that review here: )
This novel, The Shattered Vigil, is the second in the trilogy.  I think readers should really read the first book before reading this second one, or they would quickly become confused.  There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the action sweeps the reader into the story really quickly if the first book has already been read.  I enjoyed this book very much.  I think it is even better than the first, except that I felt the first book had a firmer ending than this one.  The story is mainly told in first person by the main character, Willet Dura, but there are also chapters in third person focused on other characters.  I didn't have any trouble switching between characters in this fashion.  I especially enjoyed learning a bit more about Bronwyn's character.  The book has plenty of action, and some of the questions from the first book are resolved, or expounded upon.  Of course, there is still a third book to come, so not everything is resolved yet, and I really can't wait to read the next novel.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy.

I received this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for the purpose of writing a review, but all  opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Leaf Pile

It's always nice to have all four kids play together.  The leaves fell later this year, but the joy was not dimmed.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

First Frost

We finally had our first frost last night.  It's only close to a month late.  So now the tomatoes are really done, but the herbs are still looking great.  In fact, I was humming "Are You Going to Scarborough Fair" yesterday as I cooked.
It is nice to be able to walk outside and get so many herbs for cooking.  

Oh, and here is another math page Lydia brought home:

It just seems like such an extra amount of work to me!  
And Malachi really wanted me to post this last picture.  He received a Halloween haunted gingerbread house for his birthday from a sweet 6-year-old friend, and he loved making it.  

Notice that his lips are black from eating the icing as he worked.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review - Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette

This book is the second in Cossette's Out from Egypt series.  I do recommend reading the first one prior to reading this one, but I think it could be enjoyed independently, it just may take a bit for the reader to find her footing without the background of the first book.  I liked the way the story was told from both Shira's and Dvorah's viewpoints.  Of course, Shira is the preferred character, and she was a fully-drawn persona with a traumatic past but joyful spirit.  I enjoyed her character very much.  I also enjoyed the wisdom gleaned from the midwife, Reva, and the way midwifery was woven into the story.  The author did a very good job of imagining what life could have been like for the people after fleeing Egypt but long before seeing the Promised Land.  The story was believable and had enough detail to get the reader fully immersed in the time period.  I was less excited about the romance aspect in this book (I won't give away any details), but I did like the way Shira's faith and ability to heal evolved.  I recommend this book to anyone interested in historical or Biblical fiction.  I'm looking forward to the third book next year.

I received this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Second Grade Math & Etc

Nathaniel was in Europe last week, and then was home for 2 days and then off again out of town, so it's been not so fun around here.  The kids and I did attend a nice wedding last Saturday, and they even behaved.  OK, I may have threatened throwing away all Halloween candy if they gave me any grief during the ceremony, but whatever, it worked.  And the younger three came away with some fun favors: dowel rods with colored ribbons on one end, that they can swing around like wands, swords, or streamers, depending on mood.

The weather continues to act more like summer than fall.  It does get cooler at night, but yesterday it was 68 degrees here!  Just two years ago we had a snow day in early November, but this year, we still have some leaves on the trees and there are still 4 tomato plants alive in the garden (two cherries, two regular).

A look at Lydia's math homework:
I then asked her to do a couple of math problems for me.  Do you see the second one?  She wrote the 30 out to the side, then completed the rest in her head.  So it appears that they are being taught to add the tens column first, then the ones, then add those 2 numbers together.
I knew they don't teach math the same way we learned, but I can't figure out the logic in teaching to add the tens first.  Anyway, I thought you may be interested.  All of my school-age kids do very well in math, which is good because I don't know if I could handle teaching the way they are learning!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review - Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard

  I stayed up way too late finishing this book.  I didn't want to put it down, which is always the sign of an excellent book.  Author Sandra Orchard has created another action-packed and fun romp with FBI agent Serena Jones.  I love Serena's character, and the slowly revealed details from her family life give many of the characters added depth.  Tanner and Nate are both back and given prominent roles in this book.  Aunt Martha remains a funny and enigmatic character.  There is plenty of action in the story.  The humor throughout the book makes it a treat.  I love Serena's stream-of-conscious narrating.  This could be read as a stand-alone novel, but I recommend reading the first one prior to this one, just because the series is so good.   I can't wait to read more from this series.  I highly recommend this book.

I received a copy from the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October Harvest Totals

October saw the garden winding down.  Egg production exploded.  And I did some planting for a fall garden - peas, lettuce, radishes, carrots.  Actually, I planted cauliflower and cabbage, too, but the squirrels dug up those seedlings.  Malachi and I also planted garlic, which we will harvest scapes from in May, and the bulbs themselves in July.  But here are the totals:

Crescent beans - 1 cup
Cucumbers - 2
Bulgarian Peppers - 7
Tomatillos - 4 pounds
Tomatoes - 3
Cherry tomatoes, herbs (parsley, dill, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, basil)
Eggs- 220
Meat Chickens - 5
Carrots - 3

There are actually still tomatillos and peppers growing, and since the weather is so warm, I've left them to keep growing.  Normally, this is about 1 or 2 weeks after our first frost date, but the weather has been really weird this year, and frost is still not in the forecast.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Cabins and Garlic

Nathaniel took off a few days, and we went to my parents' cabin for fall break.  We had a great time.

Lydia won the bravery award.  She stuck her little hand into a crawdad hole and pulled out this one.  
You can see that it has eggs, too.  Lydia had never held a crawdad before.  She won the award for catching the most things: crawdad, several toads, and a small box turtle.  Nathaniel was the only one who actually caught a fish, a nice bass.  

Now we're back home, where I was relieved to see that the chickens were safe and sound.  And the first batch of garlic I planted is sprouting:

I planted 24 cloves a couple of weeks ago, then Malachi helped me plant an additional 16 cloves just last week.  The first planting is sprouting, so I am quite happy.  Forty garlic plants should be ready for harvest next July.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review - Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

When I received this book, I didn't expect the depth that the author provided.  I thought it might be a more "fluffy" romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually very layered.  Ben and Kacey have both tried - and failed - to get over their teenage relationship.  Now they are thrown back together again in an exciting environment on the Search and Rescue helicopter team.  They have both been pretty lost for a very long time, and both need to find a way to forgive the other and work on their relationships with God.  There were many secondary characters that added some detail and depth to the story.  I did feel that the Judge's role in Ben and Kacey's past and present was glossed over a bit too nicely.  The action in the book kept the reader interested.  I felt that the action was well-paced, and the main characters unfolded nicely throughout the book.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I recommend it.

I received this book from the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cousin Fun

We had a nice visit with my sister's family this weekend.  The kids had a blast together, as always.

Lydia was anxious to show her cousins the new lion statues at the zoo.  She calls this one "Aslan" and loves to ride on his back.

The zoo was decorated for Halloween, and so had lots of additional places for pictures.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Book Review - Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon

This contemporary novel is the third in the author's Men of Valor series, but it is a stand-alone novel.  I loved Finn's character, and I felt that he was well-developed, and the chemistry between him and Dana was well-written.  I liked Dana's character, but I did feel that there was a bit more distance between the reader and her, whereas Finn seemed more tangible.   This story is indeed full of tangled webs, as Dana and Finn try to discover who is behind the vandalism on her property, and Police Chief Roger wrestles with his personal issues and a swerve from his entire life's values system.  This story is a bit different from the typical suspense novel in that the reader knows who the "bad guy" is long before the characters do, but I liked the added dimensions it gave to the story.  Overall, this is a very good romantic suspense story, and I do recommend it.  I've read and enjoyed several books by this author.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Crabapple Time

It's been a couple of years since I made crabapple butter, but we have the tree, so it's kinda silly not to.  It is more work than regular apples, and they are super tart, so sugar will be added, but the crabapple butter always tastes so good.  Gyunay and I picked some for half and hour this morning, and now I have them simmering on the stove to get ready to be put through the strainer.  Then I'll cook it down into butter and add spices and brown sugar.

We had our big camping trip family reunion this past weekend (with Nathaniel's side of the family).  

This tree is always a hit with all of the kids.  I hope it lives for 100 more years.

This picture was taken before both kids got plenty wet in the creek by the waterfall.  Luckily, it was a warm, beautiful day, so we let them get wet.  Then we had to get back to camp and change.  The weather was perfect for camping.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review - Kit Kat and Lucy by Lonnie Hull DuPont

This is a cat lover's book.  The author details her move back to the country after being a "city girl" for a couple of decades.  She talks about her newfound cats in her rural Michigan home, as well as her past and life with cats and a husband in general.  The back cover reads like the author discovered the joys of cats late in life, but I think it is more accurate to say she rediscovered them, as her frequent remarks about her childhood attest to her long love of animals, particularly cats.  I think the strongest points of the book detailed how the cats helped her through anxiety and depression.  Also, she is very good at painting a picture of how animals move with her words.  I particularly enjoyed how she described the banty hen and later, the cardinals.  Overall, this is a good book, but not a compelling one.  I had no problem setting it down and going away from it for a week while reading other things.  However, although I like cats and most animals, I am not a cat person, and I think the appeal would be much greater to a real cat lover.  I also felt that although the end of the book did actually end with some closures and new beginnings, it didn't feel like the end of a book so much as the end of a chapter.

I received this book from the publisher for a review, but all opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trunk or Treat Fun

Elijah decided on being a scarecrow this year, and he put his costume together himself.  He did a really good job; this picture doesn't do a great job of showing it.   Malachi loves his Flash costume.

This little guy is crazy about candy.

Wonder Woman loves inflatable obstacle courses!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Chickens and Eggs

The 9 young hens have been laying fabulously.  We get 7 to 8 eggs every day.  Here is the take from today and yesterday:
The big boys put up the chickens last night while I was at RCIA, but they obviously didn't collect the eggs, so it is 2 days' worth in the favored nesting box.  We do have 2 more boxes, but they are almost never used.  Chickens prefer to lay all in the same box.  I've even seen 2 hens both in this box at the same time -while the box right next to it is empty.  Actually, this happens quite a bit.

Gyunay wanted to carry an egg in his shirt like Mama:

The chickens enjoyed the yard for an hour today.  They have to stay in their safer yard most of the time, but they do enjoy getting out.

 Gotta check and make sure the egg is all right!

Friday, September 30, 2016

September Harvest Totals

The September harvest wasn't as good as I'd hoped, and again, it was heavy on eggs and cucumbers.  Here are the numbers:

Beans, crescent: 11 cups
Carrots: 2
Cucumbers, white: 59
Cucumbers, Russian pickling: 26
Eggs: 199
Pumpkins: 2 (plus 1 for the chickens)
Tomatillos: 1.25 lbs
Tomatoes (full-sized): 14
Zucchini: 1
Plus cherry tomatoes and herbs (dill, basil, parsley, mint, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme)

The cucumbers and beans are very close to done.  The tomatillos plants, however, are loaded, and I hope to can some tomatillo salsa in a couple of weeks.  There will be a few more tomatoes.  The peas I planted for fall have sprouted, and some of the radishes.  There are always carrots growing, but some caterpillars have been eating the greens on many of them.  I'm looking forward to harvesting a bit more this fall, and I'm already planning for next year.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Finally Fall

It's finally feeling like fall around here.  It's been rainy this week, but the temperature has felt wonderful.  Gyunay was excited to wear a jacket to school this morning.

I realized that I haven't mentioned the meat birds lately.  It turns out that one of the meat birds isn't a meat bird.
Can you guess which one?  It was pretty obvious really early on.

I call them my Jabba birds, after Jabba the Hut.  The kids love that.  As for the non-meat bird, we hope it will be a hen and will eventually integrate in with the other flock.  We did lose 3 meat birds to a possum attack, but we fixed the problem.  So now we have 7 meat birds.  I think Nathaniel will harvest 2 this weekend and the rest next weekend.

And Gyunay saw me come inside with the camera, so here's a cutie shot:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pumpkins & Superheroes

I've harvested 2 nice pumpkins from my garden, plus a third that the chickens got to eat.  (It slipped from the vine a bit underripe.)  The smaller one is prettier:

But I'm sure that both will be delicious!  

We were able to take a quick trip out of town yesterday for my nephew's birthday.  Can you guess the theme?

My kids were naturally very excited to dress up, although Elijah's Captain America costume is really too small for him now.  He's deciding what to choose for a replacement.  Everyone had a great time, but we were all worn out last night!  I thought for sure that the littler kids would sleep in a little, but of course Lydia was up at 6 (a half hour before she normally wakes).  Gyunay made it til 7, his usual time.