Monday, May 31, 2010

Mulberry Jelly Recipe

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“This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. ‘What do you see, Amos?’ he asked. ‘A basket of ripe fruit,’ I answered.” Amos 8:1-2



Happy Memorial Day everyone! Hope you’re spending some time with the fam and remembering those who gave us our freedom.

My hub wanted to take the kids to the lake today to throw rocks in the water or fish, but my 5YO said he wanted to stay home because it was too hot (he’s related to me). I secretly think he just wanted to talk my leg off, but our staying home gave me time enough to finish my mulberry jelly, round 2. I thought since my mulberry expeditions have generated a lot of mulberry memories amongst my friends, that I would share my recipe here, in case you feel adventurous.

Oh, and I personally would stick with jelly since the seeds turn a weird shade of brown and the fruit/stem mixture really doesn’t look too appetizing.

Mulberry Jelly

Ingredients:

1 gallon sized zipper bag full of well-rinsed mulberries (approx. 3 lbs.)*

¾ cup lemon juice

4 ½ cup sugar

1 box pectin

Water

Jars (7 half-pint or equivalent), lids, rings for canning, plus any tools of the trade like jar grabber, magnet stick, and funnel

Directions:

Cook mulberries over high heat, just barely covered with water, until a full boil is reached. Lower heat and continue to simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Then use a potato masher to squash all the berries down into the pan. (This is an imprecise art, so if you get the berries pretty well mashed up, you’re good.)

Place a colander over a pot that is big enough to cover all the holes on the bottom of the colander. Line colander with two layers of cheesecloth or other cloth to use for straining that you don’t mind throwing away. An old t-shirt could be used, since this is hick cooking. Pour the berry soup through the cloth in the colander. Then gather up the cloth and close with a zip tie. Let the bag sit until it is cool enough for you to handle. Then, wearing latex gloves unless you really like the color purple, squeeze said bag until you’re happy with how much juice you’ve extracted. At this point, I suggest throwing the bag of mulberry goo away. My chickens would not eat it and it didn’t really smell all that good anyway.

You should have approximately three cups of juice or more at this point.

Place 3 cups of mulberry juice in a pot with the lemon juice and one box of pectin. Bring to full rolling boil. (While this is occurring, you should be getting your jars, rings and lids ready.) When the mixture comes to a complete boil, add all the sugar at once. Stir sugar until fully dissolved and wait for mixture to return to boiling. (Once it does this, I suggest taking your jars, lids, rings out of the hot water and get ready to fill them.) Boil for one full minute. Remove from heat, ladle or pour into hot jars. Cover with hot lids, and seal with hot rings. Then, process full jelly jars for at least 10 minutes in hot water bath to ensure they seal properly. Remove from hot water bath and place on countertop. Listen for that distinctive POP that tells you all is right with the world.

Do not move the jars until fully cool, usually 6 or 8 hours. By this time, your jelly should have properly set. Tighten down the rings, and label for future reference.

Now you have to decide who is worthy to share your creation, or if you will keep it all to yourself. This recipe makes approximately 7 ½ half-pint jars of jelly, so you really should share. Unless you really like jelly…

*Note: mulberries can be quickly and easily collected by placing a tarp on the ground and having your hub, or other coordinated person, climb the tree and give it a good shake over the tarp. You should also taste the mulberries prior to using them to ensure they have good flavor. We have three small trees that are really tasty, but our neighbors’ trees taste like grass.

Happy Mulberrying!

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…” Collosians 1:10

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Personal Plague

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“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” Exodus 8:16


Every year I am plagued. I am one of those people to whom blood-sucking insects are drawn. They love my pasty white legs and by the end of the summer I look like I’ve had chicken pox for the millionth time. I am also slightly allergic to their bites and usually a simple mosquito bite turns into something as big as a quarter that swells up and itches while I try to sleep. I take allergy pills when I am particularly ate up, just to keep the itching at bay. In other words, I hate mosquitoes!

Last night, after an evening trip to the clothing store to use a coupon card I got in the mail on some new duds for the husband, we returned home with a couple of blow up pool chairs that were 50% off. Of course the kids wanted to try them out and since the sun was going down, I thought why not? They’d not been swimming in two days since I was delinquent in putting the sunscreen on an ample amount of time before swimming on Tuesday and fried my little one’s arms. Dusk would not be a sun threat to them.

So while my children sat in the comfort of their blow up pool chairs (more like wrestled a large slippery beast that continually bucked them off), I sat on the bench and watched the sun go down… and the mosquitoes descend.

First they attacked my legs and feet, so I went to the garage and retrieved my can of mosquito repellent. I liberally sprayed my pasty whites with the nose hair frying spray and felt confident that this would relieve my problem. No such luck! The mosquitoes then began to swarm around my head. I couldn’t very well spray my hair down with the mosquito repellent since I know it contains something that melts off my toenail polish, so I resorted to spraying it up into the air around me to shoo off the little buggers.

Unrelenting as they are, this tactic was not successful in the least. I then grabbed the kids’ pool towels and shrouded myself with them around my face and neck – think colorful Mary in the Christmas pageant. Even this wasn’t good enough, as they could still find my lips, so I tightened my head gear to where only one lens of my glasses stuck out so I could still keep an eye on the children – blissfully swimming the evening away (Read: splashing each other and screaming their heads off). However, every time I would so much as peek out at to check out the mosquito situation, there were at least 50 of my little nemesis flitting around my shroud.

So I did what anyone else would have done – I retreated to the house!

What I thought was kind of funny about all this was that the children looked at me several times while I was hiding under the towels and never said ONE word! I guess they chalk this up to normal behavior and dress for their mother. They know me too well!

“So let it be written! So let it be done!” Yul Brynner as Rameses II in The Ten Commandments (1956).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Family Vacationing

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“But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” Psalm 68:3


So last weekend we went to Branson and did the family vacation thing. I think my hub and I have finally lowered our expectations of ourselves and our kids enough, that we finally were all able to have a good time. We visited Silver Dollar City, a couple of shops in the outlet malls that we usually hit, the A&W restaurant where I consumed no less than 60 ounces of root beer, and on the way home we stopped at the Wild Animal Safari in Strafford and got slobbered on. It was a good time.

We used to assume that we could do anything we wanted with the kids in tow and that they would not have an opinion about our activities since they were just kids. We were na├»ve, to say the least. But now after seven years of kids in tow, we’ve learned that if they ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So, this time we actually asked them what they wanted to do. They wanted to go to Silver Dollar City, and they wanted to jump on the beds and swim in the pool at the motel. And that’s pretty much what we planned for.

To me, going to Silver Dollar City means riding the log ride, the Lost River of the Ozarks, Fire in the Hole, plus going in all the shops and watching the craftsman make stuff. To them, going to Silver Dollar City means going in Grandfather’s Mansion, going across the suspension bridge, riding maybe the Flooded Mine and Tea Cup rides, and then spending the rest of the day in the play house shooting foam balls out of air guns. We used to try my way, but by this time, we’d finally given in. We rode the rides that the kids wanted to ride, and walked through shops the kids wanted to walk through. They are finally old enough to notice people making things and we actually got so watch a basket maker and a potter this time. I wish they would hurry up and think the glass blowing is cool!

The second day of Silver Dollar City, we had dubbed “water day” where we all wore our sandals and clothes that would dry quickly, and the kids could ride the new boat ride where you shoot crank-up water guns at each other and look like you’ve jumped into a pool with your clothes on by the time it is all over. My hub thought shooting other peoples’ kids in the face with water guns on purpose was great fun, as did my 7YO. The 5YO and I sat on the bench in an area where the guns wouldn’t quite reach us. We did manage to see a “bee-yoo-tiful” butterfly, as he called it, in the hour or so we sat there.

Then my hub did something nice for me. He told the children we were all riding the Lost River of the Ozarks tube ride “to make Mommy happy.” Unfortunately, this did not make the children happy, but they did it anyway. Amazingly, none of us got painfully wet, as is the usual norm on this ride, but my hub and I had a good time. The kids? Well, they were less than impressed, but they survived just to make Mommy happy.

I hope you all have time to spend on a family vacation this year, and I hope you all have a good time. Hopefully the memories you make on vacation will be happy ones, instead of everyone screaming horrifically as the tube goes through the dark tunnel.

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5/25/10 Home Keeper's Journal

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Just in case you've not heard of the Christian Homekeeper Network, it is a site where fellow Christian ladies give practical and everyday advice concerning living a Christian life.  The Network includes blogs from mothers around the country, journaling their particular journey through life.  One of the features offered is the Home Keeper's Journal, in which several prompts are given to get you going and then you finish in your own words.  Even if you've never blogged or written much before, this could be the start of your introspective journey.  Check it out:  http://www.christianhomekeeper.org/.  Oh, and I will be "guest" writing on this site in the near future.  I'll let you know when. 

What’s cooking in my kitchen this week is …… a mish-mash of culinary delights provided by my freezer and pantry shelves. I vow not to grocery shop until I use up duplicates of items in the pantry that are non-essential and can see the bottom of the freezer! Or at least until we’re out of ice cream.


The one thing that needs to be done the around here the most is …… mow, but the lawnmower battery is dead, and I’m not in the mood to go buy a new one. I think I’ll take a nap instead.

If someone went through my trash, they’d think …… now what was I looking for? This looks like everyone else’s trash.

A memory of mine that involves the smell of vanilla ……. my mom used to make cakes for people when I was a kid and she would always have to shave the tops off the cakes to make them lay flat against the cake board. I would eat the excess and always looked forward to it when the house smelled like cakes baking.

My mind keeps on wandering back to ……. My friend, Sherry, who lost her job last night, and all the people’s lives that she touched and the expanding heartache that has been set into motion by this single event.

I need God’s grace to  ….. just let some things go!

Something that I am anticipating is ……a big crop of tomatoes this year. They seem to be growing bigger by the minute!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Memorial Woman

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“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20



Has a scent ever tipped off a portion of your brain that hasn’t surfaced in a while, leading you down memory lane? Yesterday I was in my local Supercenter of Confusion looking for aluminum foil pans amongst the bath towels and caught a whiff of something that took me back in time. I had to look to see what it was coming from – Memorial Day flowers. (See why I called it the Supercenter of Confusion?) I’ve been thinking about my experiences with Memorial Day flowers ever since. So I thought I’d tell you the story too. Here goes:

There once was a man named Walter, whom I thought to be about 100 years old since I was 6 or so, and everyone over 30 was 100 to me. He was probably in his seventies then. He went to my childhood church and lived in a single-wide trailer a few blocks from my grandparents. His wife, Grace, was in a nursing home and occasionally my Nanna and I would go to visit her. Grace was not in good shape and the visits to her were very frightening to me. She would scream and I would hide. I would later work at this same nursing home when Walter lived there.

Anyway, my Nanna had known Walter and Grace forever and when Grace went into the nursing home, my Nanna would help Walter clean his house and such on occasion. Of course, I was always in tow. I had to entertain myself and would mostly watch the parakeet he had in a cage, stare at the items in his curio cabinet, or stand and look at myself in the mirror in Grace’s old room and talk to the figurines that were on her dresser. Walter also kept the Last Supper in milk chocolate in his refrigerator, which I would always want to see, but it could never be eaten since it was after all, the Last Supper, and his son had gotten it for him on a trip to Germany. His son lived in California, and I can still remember his face to this day, although the details about Walter’s appearance are now sketchy.

I also remember that he had two huge apple trees from which we could pick as many apples as we wanted. They fell all over his driveway and were a slick, brown mess before it was all over. The smell of rotten apples also invokes Walter memories as well.

Walter had a huge patio outside his trailer door that had two toned concrete in a checkerboard pattern. The blocks were probably 3’ x 3’ and I remember hopping around on them and trying to do hopscotch by myself. There was an elm tree to the south of the patio that had hanging on it a metal orange pop advertisement thermometer sign thingy. Walter also had a small shed that acted as his garage, and another smaller shed that was his workshop. It was rarely open, but when it was, I would stand at the door and watch.

Walter had been a sign man in his past and now in retirement, he hand crafted Memorial Day decorations from Styrofoam. He made foam books, wreaths, and stand up tablets that said Mom, Dad, Son, etc. on them. I particularly remember the ones that said Baby. He would fashion them all by hand, spray paint them, add artificial flowers and sometimes glitter, and then my Nanna and I would sell them in an old fireworks stand down along the highway. They came with green wire fastener things you would push down into the ground to secure them at the cemetery. The scent in the fireworks stand from artificial flowers and spray paint was heady.

Time went by and Walter passed away sometime when I was a teenager. My Nanna called me and said that the family was taking everything out of the trailer and getting rid of it. She said they told her she could have anything she wanted that had been his. She asked me, “Is there anything in there that you would want?”

My response, “I want that woman.”

I described her and told her where she was in Grace’s old bedroom. She had been a good companion for a little girl looking for company while her grandma worked. She had an air of elegance to her and had been the subject of many imaginary conversations. She was the only thing in that trailer that I wanted.

I didn’t know if the family would let her go or not. I thought they would probably want her, since I wanted her so bad. But, a couple of days later, my Nanna brought me my “woman” as I’ve always called her. I’ve had her since that day, and outside of surviving a couple of compound arm fractures from being pushed from a ledge by my cat, she looks the same today as she did to me as a child. She sits in my kitchen window and gives an air of elegance to my sink area. It needs all the help it can get!

So when the spoils of my life are separated and divided up amongst the survivors, I hope my family won’t look at my “woman” as just another garage sale find. Maybe they will read this and know that sometimes memories come from the most unlikely places, but they are treasured memories nonetheless. Maybe they’ll associate my “woman” with Memorial Day and remembering.

All this from the smell of fake flowers. Good thing I don’t go to the Supercenter of Confusion more often!

“Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:5

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wailing Along

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“But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:12


My children are passionate wailers, especially my oldest son. Any small, seemingly insignificant injury with or without blood, has always produced an onslaught of tears and a horrible tone uttered in long continuous whine much like that of a train whistle. My husband and I joke that we should have named him Waylon, as in Jennings, but then his brother would have had to have been Willie, and I’m not sure I could have dealt with the braids. Plus, we’re not THAT country!

Anywho… We have reassured him many times that scraping a knee was not a fatal blow and that he was not dying, although he sounded the contrary. Very few of his injuries have required professional intervention. But, like Old Faithful, you can bet that in the face of discomfort, he’s going to blow! High pitched anguish to follow for any surrounding ears, along with possible stares from well-meaning strangers, while mother stands by waiting for the storm to subside. It’s best not to intervene early as this seems to produce more siren blasting.

Today was a summer-themed fun day at his school that involved being hosed down by the fire department and playing with beach balls and Frisbees out on the football field. I was unable to attend due to a previous engagement involving Jupiter jumps and snow cones for five-year-olds. (It’s the last week of school.) The weather had threatened rain all morning anyway, so I wasn’t sure any of the outside activities were actually going to materialize. Then this afternoon the sky opened up and it turned out to be quite sunny. I didn’t know there was good reason for this.

When I picked up said older son from school he said, “Guess what? When I was out on the football field and fell down and hurt my knee, I just got back up and kept playing. And I didn’t cry at all! And God saw that I didn’t cry and was still having fun, and that made him happy, so the sun came out! So I made the sun come out!”

Thanks be to God for noticing small personal achievements, even those unknown to others!

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rain Pain

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“He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love.” Job 37:11-13


Rain. Rain. Wind and Rain. Possible tornadoes. Rain.

This past week has been a wet one. Gloomy clouds, soggy socks, and cold drips down my back. Day after day of the rain, along with 15 hours of no electricity yesterday has me thinking enough is enough! I’m ready for sunshine. I’m ready for a little heat. I’m ready for air that is not so thick with humidity that you can almost cut it with a knife. Remind me I said this in August.

Today I noticed that my garden has grown significantly while I’ve been in the house wallowing in rain misery. My potato plants seem to have doubled, and my baby tomatoes are almost the size of golf balls. While I’m complaining about the high humidity that makes me want to take a shower after being outside for five minutes, my lettuce dances the happy dance and makes a straight shot for the sky. While I’ve been covering my head with an umbrella, my corn plants have sprouted and stood as soldiers in the face of the storm. The pumpkins are sprouting. The squash vine is blooming. The blackberries are forming. Even the flowers of the pasture are beginning to show themselves. Plus, I haven’t had to water once.

So what do I have to complain about?

I like to complain about things I have no control over, like the weather. It’s always too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too sunny, too cloudy, too windy, too something. I’m pretty sure that no matter where I live, there would be something about the weather that would not appeal to me all of the time. During the winter, I contemplate moving to the equator. During the summer, I dream of 70 degree days, instead of 100. I’ve even heckled the weatherman on TV when he’s given a forecast that didn’t go along with what I thought would be ideal.

For therapy today, I went to my nearest home improvement garden center and purchased a few more flowers for planting. The soft ground made for easy shoveling, keeping me from complaining about manual labor. I added two rose bushes, an Indian Paintbrush, and some Impatiens. Maybe I can learn from their examples how to better weather the weather.

“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.” Psalm 104:14-15

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No Mistake

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“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17


My 5YO explains why his new Frisbee landed in the neighbors’ pond: “God and Jesus made a mistake today. It was their first one.” We have talked before about how God never makes mistakes, but sometimes Mommies and Daddies do, and sometimes kids do, and sometimes everyone makes mistakes. We’ve talked about second chances and I’ve even granted a few requests for pardons and do-overs.

Today, though, my son carried on the tradition of looking for someone else to blame for our own actions. He’d thrown his Frisbee in close proximity to the pond and instead of it being his fault that it landed in the pond, God and Jesus has made the wind blow the Frisbee into the pond. How could he be held responsible?

We rebutted his reasoning, of course, telling him that God and Jesus don’t make mistakes. He makes mistakes. Then, a second chance was granted. Armed with telescoping tree saw, his Daddy took him to retrieve the Frisbee from the pond. It took all of the tree saw’s telescoping reach, but the red Frisbee was returned to its rightful owner.

And all was well with the world.

Until I shot him in the eye with his Nerf gun.

Then he had the opportunity to repay the favor and forgive me too.

“I still love you,” he said.

I think I need a do-over.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

Monday, May 10, 2010

Who Needs Me

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“A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” Proverbs 18:16


We spent Friday night at my dad’s and returned on Saturday. The cat, who usually acts as if she doesn’t care whether we live or die, must have missed us. I’ve become predictable in my days at home and she knows that she can expect to be let into the garage around 8:30 every morning and that my 5YO will pet and feed her. I guess this routine has her thinking maybe we’re not so bad after all.

After returning home, we discovered a dead baby robin by the driveway, along with some miscellaneous intestinal items surrounded by rabbit fur. Then we found another dead robin in the garage and a small snake on the driveway. She must have REALLY missed us to have gone to all that trouble celebrating our return!

Isn’t it nice to feel needed?

Now that the kids are older and can fend for themselves for the most part, I am basking in what I believe may be the honeymoon phase of my motherhood experience. Everyone in my house, I am proud to report, can use the bathroom, get dressed, and even make themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, without any of my help. They can fix cereal, pour milk, and flip grilled cheese on the griddle. My 7YO even knows how to set the griddle for 350 degrees, so we’re halfway there.

The fact of the matter is that I’m working myself out of a job.

But wasn’t that the plan all along?

Someday I hope to run off with my husband on a long weekend vacation without worrying about school schedules, packing four people, and other peoples’ toothbrushes. Someday I hope to stay home and send my children grocery shopping. Someday I hope to say, “Mommy’s tired tonight. Why don’t you cook dinner?” Someday I might even sleep in past 7:00 am.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday. May you feel needed for as long as you need to feel needed. Even if it is by the cat.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9

Friday, May 7, 2010

Queen of Youth

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“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12


This picture of me showed up on Facebook courtesy of my Aunt Norma this week:



I hadn’t seen it in years, but I remember I was running for Rodeo Queen at the time and came in second to a girl who couldn’t even ride a horse! (Winning was based on ticket sales, and she beat me.) But I won a belt buckle, that is lost in space somewhere, that I truly loved at the time. My mom sewed that shirt I’m wearing and made the concho thing around my neck. The shirt was magenta with black fans. Those pins on my straw hat were also my mom’s. One is of a barrel racer (which I have a scar to prove I did a few times) and the other is my mother’s middle and my first initial.  I got those earrings for Confirmation.

My mom once ran for Rodeo Queen too, or it was reported that she was signed up to. One of her friends, reportedly AunT who comments on this blog, signed her up and made up some fliers. My mom was wearing a big black cowboy hat in the picture and a dark jacket and tie, I believe. I haven’t seen one those fliers in years, but I remember my mom did not like that picture and swore she never actually ran for Rodeo Queen. Too bad. I liked the picture and never could figure out why she didn’t.

This picture of me was taken by my mom’s friend, Cindy, behind the nursing home where my mom and I worked in the kitchen. I believe I am 14 years old in this picture and was just about as happy as I could be. I was in the FFA and was some kind of officer – Reporter, I think. (I was President my senior year.) And I had yet to discover boys and all the grief that comes with that. I had a 23-year-old Appaloosa mare that would scream at the horse shows and try to buck me off for the first 15 minutes that I rode her. She and I would eventually come to terms, but I had to wear her down every single time I was on her. I loved her, and she probably secretly loved me, although it was hard for her to show.

I was really glad to see that someone still had a copy of this picture and now I have it saved to my computer forever or until something tragic happens to all my files. I may set it up as my wallpaper! I like that I have the same toothy smile (although I’m a little longer in the tooth) and freckles on my nose. I now share those freckles with my two boys and they seem to appreciate them more than I did at their age. I like the fact that I can look at that picture and remember so many good things about that time in my life.

I like to take lots of pictures of my kids, sometimes to my husband’s chagrin. I like to flip back through them on the computer, reminiscing about each phase of their short lives. Perhaps someday, one of the photos I take will stick in their minds like my Rodeo Queen photos stick in mine. Maybe they’ll remember their childhood fondly.

And if they don’t, I’ll have plenty of photographic evidence to the contrary!

“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.” Psalm 37:25

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Roy

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“All night, all day, angels watching over me, my Lord. All night, all day, angels watching over me.”


Have you ever noticed how although you may think about people who’ve died, the world hardly ever reciprocates and gives you any hope that those loved ones might still be watching over you? Everyone always says it, but you never really have any evidence or usually any hint at all.

My stepdad, Roy, was a pig farmer/tree surgeon by upbringing. He was next to the youngest in a family of eight children. He married my mom when he was 27, and it stormed like crazy the night of the wedding. Roy never had any children of his own, just me, and I was ten at the time.

Roy was a God-send to me. When everyone else was too busy, he was always available to be the “assistant mother” as we called him. He coached my softball team, took me to ride my horse every day, took me fishing, taught me to run a trot line, seine for bait, and innumerable other skills that most kids living in town never learned. He hunted deer, squirrels, raccoons, and we always had quite the supply of hound dogs hanging around. For Christmas one year, he brought home two basset/beagle pups and gave me first pick. Moe and Joe we named them, and Joe was a great source of comfort during my adolescent years. He had great big floppy ears and was an excellent listener!

Roy’s constant availability stemmed from the fact that he had a drinking habit. His habit kept him from working at a regular job, but made him available to me. We had great fun together! His parents owned a pig farm down by the banks of the Neosho River. I had free reign to run wild through those woods and carry on like a banshee. Plus, with all of the sisters and brothers that Roy had, there was always a whole herd of cousins to play with on any given day. He even built me a riding arena in the middle of the field across the highway from his parents’ farm, hand placing railroad ties as the posts. You can still see it in the field on the west side of my hometown. Someday I hope to buy up every bit of that land, so I can relive all the memories I have there.

My mom said she prayed that God would send her someone to help raise me after she and my dad divorced. Strange that Roy would die of chronic alcoholism when I was 19. He was only 36. She had me go to Wal-Mart and buy him a new pair of Wranglers to be buried in, and since I was “legal”, I also bought him a can of Skoal for his back pocket. He was never without that round can. He was also never without pictures of me that we found after he died in the glove box of his truck.  He loved me. 

I think about Roy quite a bit, as he was the source of my hick soul, and I am getting closer to 36. I hope to teach my boys all the stuff that Roy taught me about living off the land and being self-sufficient. I hope they develop my love of animals and rural life, and take every chance they get to run around like wild banshees. I hope too that they can learn from Roy’s short life about things in this world that can take loved ones from us prematurely.

Usually my thoughts are my own about Roy, but last week someone brought a young pig up to the elementary school for the kids to see. They were having coin wars and one teacher was going to have to kiss the pig. I talked to the owners out in the parking lot and patted the pig while it squealed bloody murder. I told them about my stepdad being a pig farmer and all the runts that I’d taken home to nurse back to health. I told them how my oldest boy says he wants a pig. Then I went into the school and didn’t think much more about it.

Until they introduced the pig at the assembly.

Guess what his name was?

Roy.

Coincidence? I think not.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Message Will Self-Destruct

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“[The angel said to them] ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’ But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:17, 26


Yesterday, the children were on self-destruct mode. First, my 5YO decides it would be a good idea to talk to me while I was weedeating. I thought he went the other way and turned right into his leg. No broken skin, but four really big whelps showed up under his shorts. Good thing it missed his bare leg! I’m pretty sure my application for Mother-Of-The-Year was immediately revoked. After 30 minutes of serious screaming and crying and some frozen vegetables to the leg (he liked trying to pick out the green beans), he was back in action.

Then my 7YO notices that he has some loose skin on his hand from his monkey bar habit, and decides it would be a good idea to pull it off. Not so much when you have dirty, sweaty hands. Another round of high-pitched screaming ensued. Rinsing it off in the horse tank was rejected as crazy talk since he’s had open wounds in the bathtub before. He’s beginning to wise up! Finally, after I explained about sweat and salt and not pulling the skin off your blister, we rinsed it off under the faucet and he made a near immediate recovery.

Then 5YO takes on the cedar tree in the back yard and pricks his finger with one of the needles. It was weedeater incident all over again once he saw that drop of blood.

In exasperation I uttered, “You guys will never make it as cowboys!”

My husband reminded me that there is a song about that. “Mamas, don’t let yer babies grow up to be cowboys…” You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Russian sing Willie Nelson.

My sons have had days like this since they were born. I call them “Boy Days” - days when every activity ends with a head injury. I tell them to be more careful. Don’t do that. Stop! But in the end, I dole out the bandages and antibiotic ointment. Or drive them to the Doctor, whatever the case may be.

Why can’t they listen? I know that grabbing a hand of cedar tree will result in stuck needles. I know that pulling off the skin from a blister is not a good idea. I know that trying to go down stairs headfirst is not the ideal way. And I tell them these things. But they insist on trying it anyway.

Kind of reminds me of myself.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23

Monday, May 3, 2010

Something Egg-citing

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“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13


A few weeks back I bought a tiny incubator that looks a little like a UFO from an online hatchery catalog. It was rather flimsy and had what I think of as a nightlight bulb as the primary heat source. It also came with an oval shaped piece of wire screen folded in half, a tiny thermometer, and two pieces of aluminum foil. I was doubtful, to say the least, that this thing would ever be able to produce a chick from an egg. But with $20 already spent and potential chicks being laid every day in the barn, I thought I would give it a whirl.

First, I had to do several aluminum foil upgrades to achieve the magical temperature of 100 degrees. After working at it for several hours, I finally got it to settle out at 100. Then I collected my egg (only one that day), marked it with the date on one side and an X on the other and I became a mother hen, fretting over temperature and turning the egg twice a day.

A second egg was added a couple of days later, as my chickens kept laying cracked eggs for some reason. They probably knew I was up to something.

At one week, we candled the eggs for the first time in our lives. We held a magazine over a light bulb in our bedroom lamp and nearly set the cover on fire before it was all over. Egg #2 had a very porous shell and was clearly a dud, but in Egg #1, we saw something MOVE. It was really cool!

Egg #2 was tossed and Egg #3 was added a day later. At two weeks, we candled the eggs again. Egg #1 was full of something dark. Egg #3 was a yolker – another dud. So, since we were down to only one week before my egg would hatch and I wasn’t sure there was enough room in the UFO for a chick and another egg, Egg #1 became an only child… er, chick.

Friday night, I came home late and found this:



We could hear the chick peeping and see the egg quiver as the chick obviously moved inside it. But, the chick was in no hurry. No progress had been made by noon on Saturday, so with the Internet as my source of knowledge, I “helped” make the hole a little bigger. Then we had this:


Again, the chick was too lazy to make any effort on her own part to pop herself out of the shell. So, I called my neighbor, Mr. Fuller, who said there might be something wrong with it and it wouldn’t hurt to break it out of the shell, since it might die anyway. So at about 9pm on Saturday night, I hatched my first egg. She kept peeping as I pulled the shell off of her, and this is what I ended up with:


I taped the dome on the UFO so she couldn’t flop herself out onto the kitchen counter and went to bed, half expecting her not to make it. But… On Sunday morning, there she was staring up at me with her big eyes and much fluffier feathers:


I named her Betty. She’s the cutest chick I’ve ever hatched! Of course she’s also the ONLY chick I’ve ever hatched.

In only 21 days, Betty grew legs, eyes, feathers, a beak, and even toenails, not to mention all of her internal clockwork. She grew from breakfast to living, breathing poultry over a nightlight and aluminum foil on a piece of wire mesh. She even appears to know my voice because she comes to me when I talk to her.

Now who can say there is no God, when such a miracle occurs in an egg?

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Berry Fulfilling

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“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10


This past week was C-R-A-Z-Y!! I’ll try to catch up. I promise.

Yesterday we got up early and drove 40 miles or so to go pick strawberries at a U-Pick berry farm. The kids and hub had already been there a couple of times for blueberries, but this was our first strawberry outing.

The day was heavy overcast and threatening rain. Every now and then a hole would appear in the clouds and this would happen:



My 7YO noticed and said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! I think it’s the Holy Spirit!” He was also convinced that a battle was going on because when you throw someone on the ground the dirt puffs up and makes a cloud, so that must be what was causing all the clouds.

My husband and I just grinned and listened in the front seat while he was contemplating all this in the back.

We picked 16 pounds of strawberries, which will feed our bodies for at least a week, but it was the observation of a child that fed our spirits.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12