Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Ideal Farm

A glistening drop of moisture drips onto lap as the tangy taste of the lemonade washes over my tongue. Birds scatter as the squirrels chase each other around the one of the leafy maples in the front yard. I lean back in my rocking chair and survey the bright green, weed free pasture. The lambs playfully run from the yearling calves as their mothers lazily chew their cuds. The soft sounds of horses are heard from the freshly painted barn and a rabbit is sighted sitting on the edge of the garden. I wonder if he is nibbling in the rich thick lettuce or on a bright green giant head of cabbage. The sun settles low in the western sky. I consider clipping a pest free rose from the trellis for my lovely wife.

Nice picture isn’t it. Unfortunately, it’s the cover of a small farm magazine, not my farm. Can I get an amen. One of the first mistakes that I made when making the move to our simpler life was painting a mental image that was unattainable. While you certainly should plan and set goals, you have to keep it real. Those pictures sell magazines, but they don’t always reflect what 99% of us face on a daily basis.

The ideal image created by many companies (trying to sell me something) and by some bloggers (trying to make themselves feel better), causes two very big potholes on the road to simplicity. The first is mental anguish, with the second being financial anguish, which by the way, leads to more of the first. While dreams are useful and goals are necessary, unrealistic expectations can become burdens. The constant frustration with the real farm never reaching the unattainable bar that you’ve set will eventually lead to burnout and just plain giving up. There will more to follow on this subject in several future posts about expectations, priorities and purpose.

Anyone reading this that has attempted to make all or part of their small farm look like the magazine covers, you know what I’m about to talk about……money. Simple lifestyle it may be, but it still takes money to make it work. There are definitely some things that can be accomplished on the farm with minimal funds, but if you want it to live up to the ideal, you had better have a rich uncle close to death. The subject of money will also be explored in more detail as I go along. It is a very a complex part of the simpler lifestyle that must be analyzed piece by piece.

While I wouldn’t say that we have tried make the cover of a small farm success magazines and journals, I would say that I’ve often made myself crazy trying to achieve many of the ideal philosophies espoused by small farm/self-sufficiency experts. Julie would say my anal type “A” personality doesn’t help, but I figure if you’re gonna do something, do it right. The problem I’ve run into is figuring out what is right for us.

Check back over the next few days, and throw your own opinions and observations in as we go.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Complex Simplicity

While Julie is taking a break because she says she has nothing to write about, I've decided to pick up the slack.  Although the changes we've gone through in the last few months have diminished our farm holdings to a stock trailer, a handful of equipment, and a large dog (I think you're all familiar with her), our farm is still very much real.  Plans are in the works, and hopefully by this time next year there will be more than enough rural life antics for Julie to write about.  But, it seems for now, you're stuck with me.

With the new home and property, we've certainly been spending a lot of time discussing what can be done with the land, animals we would like to have, fruit trees, landscaping, etc., etc., etc.  Our new farm has great potential and is an opportunity for a do-over on some of the things we messed up with our old farm.  But amid all the discussion and new ideas, I've spent a great deal of time in reflection on our original plans when we first moved to Tennessee.

After having spent many years in the military, moving from state to state and really not being able to enjoy country life, we were ecstatic when we realized we were actually going to be moving to Tennessee 10 years ago.  The final few months prior to moving were consumed with planning for a farm, and a simpler lifestyle.  I was making plans to continue working in a off farm job for enough years to obtain land, equipment, and animals, then transition to full time farming and self sufficiency.  We were so excited and happy with those grand plans.  We read everything we could on the Internet, in magazines, articles, etc. that pertained to self sufficiency, small farming, direct marketing; you get the idea.  Upon arrival in TN, we immediately began to take action on those ideas and a great deal of our adventure has been chronicled here on this blog.

Needless to say, we've obtained a plethora of experience in the last 10 years.  While some of that experience was practical (how to administer animal meds, planting techniques, soil preparation), much of it has been learning about the realities that come with this lifestyle.  These realities have not always been encouraging and have caused us to evaluate our priorities as we move forward into this new season.  The single biggest lesson we've learned is how complex transitioning to a "simpler" life can be.  Over the next few weeks, I will share our thoughts about what we've learned; the good and bad, how our priorities have shaped; and are shaping our farm life, and maybe vent some of the frustrations we've experienced.  Who knows maybe I can get Julie to weigh in on some of these things.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Good Bye for Now

I am sure you have noticed over the last few months that my posts have been getting fewer and fewer.  The reason for this change is our Internet service.  We no longer have high speed Internet because it is not offered in our area.  I have tried to overcome this challenge, but I find that I am only getting frustrated.  With that being said, I have decided that it is time to say goodbye to the world of blogging for now.  I appreciate all of you that have read my writings for the past several years.  I plan on leaving the blog in place so that you can still access my recipes or articles.  We have been told that high speed Internet will be in our area in several months.  As soon as that happens, I would love to come back to the world of blogging.  Until then...

grace and peace,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Thoughts

Although it has been hot around here the last week, I know that fall is in the air.  We are enjoying the cooler evenings, and there are a few trees starting to turn colors.  I love the smell of the outdoors during fall.  My mom used to say that she knew fall was almost here because she could smell it.

 I also love the smell of the kitchen during this season!  With fall approaching, I find myself automatically changing my menus.  I tend to cook more soups and stews.  I bake more breads and desserts too.  I am also drawn to make more pies during fall than any other time of the year.  Fall meals are usually budget friendly so that is just another reason to enjoy the good food!  With the cooler weather,  more opportunities come to enjoy sipping coffee in the evening on the front porch.  I am looking forward to the pace of life slowing down a bit.  I also can't wait until the trees adorn themselves with the glorious display of color that only the Lord Himself could orchestrate.  Until then, I think I will go bake something and enjoy a peaceful afternoon in the kitchen!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Hope Shalom

Yesterday we celebrated our daughter's birthday.  We always allow our kids to choose the activity and dinner that they want for their birthday.  I would have let her stay home from school, but she really wanted to go.  Any of my boys would have chosen the get out of school free birthday pass!

Hope wanted  to take her birthday money and go shopping for the evening.  We drove to Chattanooga and we had a great time together.  We spent the whole evening in the mall just looking at girl things.  She spent most of her birthday money in order to finish out her fall wardrobe.  She is a great shopper.  I kept looking at the front of the store for pretty items.  She never stopped at the front.  She always headed to the back of the store and looked at the clearance racks first.  She never would buy anything full price.  She is a much better shopper than me.

While we were at the mall her brothers made her dinner of choice.  Hope knew all along that she wanted to go shopping. She chose an easy meal that she happens to love so that we could shop without having to worry about making dinner.  The  boys made her hot ham & cheese subs with marinated lettuce.  Dinner was almost finished when we got home.  She had requested a cheesecake with cherries for her birthday cake.  I made that ahead of time!  I didn't trust those boys with that task. 

We all had a wonderful evening.  The only thing that was missing was our oldest son Matthew and his girlfriend Chelsea.  This morning I was driving Hope to school and she mentioned that she was really tired.  I asked her why because I knew she had gone to bed on time.  She giggled and said that Matthew had called her right before she went to sleep, and they spent a long time talking together on the phone.  I knew he didn't get off work until 10:00 last night so I wasn't too upset that he kept her up late.  I was just thankful that he took the time to call her.  It was the perfect ending to her birthday!

grace and peace,

Monday, September 20, 2010

He Made Me Smile Today

Look what I found this morning laying right beside all the dirty breakfast dishes, the leftover pancakes, and the book that the eighth grader forgot to take to school.    Just a few words scratched  onto a piece of torn notebook paper by my 16 year old.  It made all the difference in the world for me today.

grace and peace,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Scripture

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Planning and Dreaming

When we haven't been busy playing checkers on the front porch...

Or watching our boys play football...

We have been busy thinking about farm babies.

While farm babies do bring a lot of work, they also bring a lot of rewards.  We know the steps that we have to take to bring animals back to our new home.  For now, we aren't in the position to get animals.  The fences need to have major repairs which cost money.   It is also expensive to purchase animals. Michael will be in school for the next year so there isn't time to work on the farm.   For now, we are spending our time planning  and remembering.  Our daughter is enjoying not having any animals.  She likes not having the responsibility.  Our boys are feeling quite differently.  I hear them talking often over a good game of checkers just how much they miss having the animals.  It always makes me smile because I remember it wasn't that long ago when they complained about all the extra work that the animals created for them!

grace and peace,

Monday, September 13, 2010

Technical Difficulty

I am experiencing frustrations beyond belief with trying to upload a new picture for a header on my blog.  I can't get the picture to fit the header space.  When we lived in our old house, I could try multiple pictures until I found one to fit because we had high speed Internet.  Our new house doesn't come with such conveniences.  We have satellite connection.  While I am thankful for Internet, it is still unbelievably slow.  When I upload more than two pictures to my blog, I have time to take a shower and get ready for my day while that upload is taking place.  I need to figure out how to change the width of the picture in the html.  I know this has to do with the amount of pixels, and I know it is accomplished in the layout.  I don't have a clue as to what to change the pixel size too.  If you have any advice, help, or just sympathy, please leave me a comment.  I am starting to get frustrated.
grace and peace,

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Morning Quiet Time

The morning sky beckoned me to come outside and sip a cup of coffee.  "Come and enjoy the beauty that the Lord Himself painted in the sky" was the cry of the moment just before sunrise.

Although I am drawn to want to do this every morning, I often times do not give into those callings.  However, this morning I gladly resisted the responsibility that morning time brings to a busy mother.  I took a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a prayer. 

A stolen moment in time to whisper thanksgivings and petitions to my Lord always makes my day go better even though the clocked bellowed that I was running late.  The morning came and went.  The children made it to school on time.  The breakfast dishes have been washed and the youngest child of all has been diligent to work on his school.

 Those quiet moments entertained before the household was awake laid the foundation for the new day.  I am thankful to have enjoyed them and to cherish each new day that the Lord gives to me.  I ask myself, "Why don't I stop more often and share a cup of coffee with Him before the whirlwind of each new day begins?"

grace and peace,

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Enjoying the Front Porch

The weather has turned off cooler the last week or so.  We have taken advantage of it and spent a lot of time on our front porch.  We have been enjoying the humming birds.

With the cooler weather, the thought of fall is on my mind.  I have had this candelabra piece for almost two years.  It was still in the box because I had no where for it in our other house.  I assembled it last night and added some cheap silk flowers.  I love the fall touch that it adds to the front porch.

I also had another piece that I kept in our fireplace in our other house.  It held pillar candles, and it was always pretty glowing with candle light.  I had some leftover flowers and only a few pillar candles.  I threw it together and placed it on the other end of the front porch. 

I also created a checker area on the front porch.  Michael's dad gave us this checkerboard before he died.  He grew up playing checkers on it.  I wanted Michael to make some checker pieces, but he has never taken on that task.  However, he was in the process of building a chess board.  He had all the pieces cut out.  I was stuck in the shop helping him get it in order. I found the pieces and decided that they could be used as checker pieces.  He wasn't thrilled, but I promised him that they would be alright.  We put the board on top of an old barrel.  The kids are always gathered around playing checkers. 

I am ready to get some rocking chairs for my front porch.  I am also ready to find the rest of my fall decorations.  I love this time of year!

grace and peace,

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Raised Beds Or Row Gardens

We are trying to decide how we want to do our garden this time in our new home.  In times past, we have had both raised beds and traditional gardens.  There are pros and cons to both.  Raised beds in my opinion are more beautiful.  They have the look of large flower boxes with beautiful things growing inside of  them. 

Raised beds are also great for growing large quantities in small areas.  You can also control each individual bed easily.  Did I mention that they are beautiful?

What are the negatives of raised beds?   They can be expensive to install.  There is also a lot of work to getting raised beds first started.  Depending on the material used for the beds, there is also the cost and time of replacing the wood on the beds later down the road. 

We have a large area just past the drive way and before the cow fence that we have decided will be our garden for next year.  The previous owners already had a garden there and they installed a water spigot which is very helpful when gardening.  The area is large and narrow, but there really isn't much else that could be done with it except have a garden or mow it. 

We could have the neighbor plow it up and make a traditional row garden.  Space isn't an issue for us.  We have plenty to plant whatever we desire.  We could still use drip tape and water in that manner.  This would be the least amount of upfront  money as well as the least amount of work.  Our traditional row gardens have always yielded plenty in the past.  The only real problem with it was that I had a hard time keeping up with it.  I can't run the tiller myself so it required Michael or one of the boys to till between the rows to keep up with any weed issues.  They weren't always available to do that when it needed to be done.  I also had to have one of them around to till up an area if I wanted to plant something new.  My raised beds were much easier to work.  I could work with out Michael for the most part if I needed.  I spent many afternoons   planting new items in the garden while Michael was at work.  The other great thing with raised beds is that the rain didn't stop me from picking in my garden.  I could walk easily on the grass beside the beds and harvest freely.  I didn't have to worry about sinking in the mud in a traditional row garden.  In the end, gardening is about harvest.  While I like it to be beautiful, I still need it to function well.  I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars just for the beauty factor. 

Do any of you have any suggestions concerning this garden issue?  What has worked well for you?  Have you had raised beds in the past and decided to go back to traditional row gardening?  If so, would you please let me know your reasons? 

grace and peace,

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

College Classes Back In Session

These two started their new semester of college classes this week.  Matthew called and said he didn't like to do the grown up things like paying bills.  He is enjoying his new classes though.  It is still strange for me not to have him living here with us.  We all talk to him several times throughout the day, but I miss seeing his smiling face.  And I miss that girlfriend of his.  I only get to see her about once a month, which isn't enough in my book.  Whenever he comes home, he eats whatever I prepare like there is no tomorrow.  He doesn't cull anything.  He leaves his "resident health nut" title at his apartment, and he enjoys the food...even the desserts.  He even asked me to bake cinnnamon rolls for him! 

grace and peace,

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bread Baking Problems Fixed

Since we moved to our new home, I have had a problem baking bread.  I kept baking it, but it wasn't turning out the way I wanted.  Sometimes it was fit to eat, but other times it was used to feed the neighbor's cows.  The cows have had so much food from me that they run to me anytime they see me.  We now have a relationship that involves a lot of mooing on their part.   The last straw was when I served half done biscuits one morning.  I couldn't get them baked.  I marched myself to Walmart and went in search of an oven thermometer.  It cost me $5.50, but it saved my sanity.  I was starting to think that I had lost my touch at baking bread and sweets!  I discovered that my oven was off by 50 degrees, and even more than that the higher the baking temperature.  I had my oven adjusted at 475 degrees to bake my biscuits, but it was only baking at 375!  That explains all of my issues...well, at least the issues with my baked goods!  I am now leaving the thermometer in the oven and using it to adjust my temperatures.  It was a quick fix that got me ready to bake a loaf of bread once again.  Now all I have to do is get over this nasty cold!

grace and peace,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Scripture

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put your confidence in man."  Psalm 118:25

Friday, August 27, 2010

Memories of a Father

It has been five years since I heard him laugh or felt the touch of his hand.  It has been five years since I looked into the beauty of his blue eyes or heard him call me Julie Bell.  This past year has found him in more of my thoughts than in times past.  I am sure that he has been there so often because it was a hard year, and when hard years come he was always a safe place.  I remember when I was just fifteen years old.  A small occurrence happened that seemed like the size of the universe to my young heart.  He was watching t.v. on the couch.  He called me to sit down beside him. I obeyed.  As soon as he put his arm around me, my tears flowed like a river.  He held me while I sat there and cried into his chest.  He promised me that my heart would heal soon, and he was right.  The feeling of safety that a Daddy's arms brings to a daughter never leaves... even when the Daddy leaves.  Where there once were silly phrases like, "Cat for to make a pair of kitty britches with" now all that are left are memories of a long ago childhood.  Memories that sometimes flood my mind and heart unexpectedly, and leave traces of tears running down my cheeks or laughter pouring from my lips.  My older children have their own memories of this man that they called Papaw.  My younger children have fewer memories of him.  And the youngest child of all only knows him through the stories that are told to him. 

But my memories are etched in my heart for a life time.  

grace and peace,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fun At Fall Creek Falls

  Matthew and several of his friends came down this weekend for a visit.  We took all of them to Fall Creek Falls to spend the day.  Fall Creek Falls is my favorite Tennessee State Park.  Our family had been there about 7 years ago.  I was pregnant with our last child at the time.  My mom and dad brought their camper and we spent several days enjoying the beauty of the area.  Seven years ago I would never have dreamed that we would live close to Fall Creek Falls.

Here are some of the boys enjoying the waterfall.  It was cold, but apparently the water hits with a lot of force.  This was the reason for the faces!

Seth was mad because he had to play in the calm water instead of climbing up the rocks to the falls.  I promised him that in just a few blinks of the eye that he too would grow big enough to follow his older brothers.   He was still mad, but was willing to cool off in the water while waiting for the rest of them. 

We packed a picnic and grilled at the park.  Grilled hamburgers, chips, store bought desserts, and a large watermelon were all on the menu.  This was a spur of the moment trip so I wasn't able to make food ahead of time.  You know what?  It was nice not to have to make a whole bunch of homemade goodies to head out for the day.  It was kind of like a vacation day for me.  When we got  back home, my kitchen was still clean!If you ever get into this area of Tennessee, you must head out to Fall Creek Falls.  Trust me...it is worth it!!! 

grace and peace,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Laughing is Good for the Heart

When all of our family is together, our house is full of laughter.  You know that deep down in your belly kind of laughter.  It does tend to get loud sometimes...

But I guess we should have thought of that before having five children!

It is often loud enough to drive the Mastiff under the table to look for a quiet refuge.  You know what?  I would rather hear my children laugh than fight so I am good with it!  When was the last time you laughed with your family?  Why not try it tonight at dinner?  You too may be under the table looking for refuge, but it beats an argument any day!

grace and peace,,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Glimpse Into My Schedule

As a reader and writer of blogs, I often am curious about how other people order their days.  I am not nosey, but what I am looking for is something to make my day easier or more organized.  You know.... a better way to do a common chore.  I have decided to share with you a common week in my world now that school has started.  Please keep in mind this is a loose outline of how my time is spent during the day.  Each and every day has unexpected things come up in the day.  Some of those things are good and some of them are bad, but they all have to be dealt with one way or the other.

My day usually starts somewhere between 5:45- 6:00 a.m.  It is during this time that my husband is getting ready for work and I am downstairs making breakfast, packing his lunch, and trying to get my eyes open!  (Before we go to bed at night, I usually ask a child to put coffee on for the next morning.  This chore consists of grinding the coffee beans and filling up the pot with water.  The next morning all I have to do is pour the water in the maker.  This not only saves me time in the morning, but it makes me happy.  You know like somebody else made coffee for me)!

6:30 a.m.  Michael is out the door, and I have a few minutes to take a quick shower and get dressed.  By 6:45, I am waking up all the kids to get ready for school.  We have about 30 or 35 minutes to get ready and eat breakfast.  The high school junior drives himself to school.  (I am so thankful that he has a car to do that)! I take the two middle school students to school.  I arrive back home around 8:00 a.m.  This is when the fun begins!  Seth and I eat a quick breakfast so we can get ready to start his school.  He is in 2nd grade this year.  By 8:30, we have finished breakfast and checked the kids rooms to finish anything that they may have left undone before school.  My kids are pretty good to make their beds and at least pile up their dirty clothes.  We are still working on them getting their dirty clothes to the laundry hamper!

Now it is time to work with Seth for school.  He gathers his backpack and heads to the kitchen table.  He spends a couple of hours working through his assignments. ( I have always loved the idea of having a school room.  The first house we lived in here in Tennessee had an area that we devoted to the school room.  It lasted about 2 weeks, and we moved school back up to the kitchen table.  This was when all of my kids were little and I was still home schooling the three older ones.  The school room concept didn't work because I was stuck away from the kitchen.  When I home school, I take the extra time in between kids' questions and I work on dinner or folding laundry.  I couldn't do this if I wasn't in the kitchen area).  Now my days are a bit different because I am only home schooling one of our children. I have more time in between questions to work on daily chores.   I teach the concept and while he works on it, I am busy preparing things for dinner or cleaning up the kitchen.  I am right there to answer any of his questions, but I want him to learn to work without me having to sit right beside him.  (If you are working with a child that still can't read, this method is not as effective).  After seat work is finished, I always give Seth a little bit of time to play.  He will often choose to go outside for a few minutes or sometimes he will play with toys.  This gives me a few minutes to check the computer or take care of any business things for our family.  We then come back together for reading, science, and social studies.  We always curl up together to read on the couch.  It is a fun time that we both enjoy.  After reading, we are finished with formal school time.  Here in Tennessee, I have to fulfill 4 hours of school time.  In order to do this, he will work on an art project or he may get on the computer.  He loves Webkins and he has learned a lot using this teaching game.  He then has about 2 hours to spend playing toys before the rest of the family starts coming back home.

After I finish school with Seth, I have about 2 1/2 hours before I have to leave to get the other kids.  It is during this time that I do housework.  Some days I may really concentrate on the floors other days I may hit all of the bathrooms in the house.  It kind of depends on the need at the moment and the mood that I am in at the time.  I also use part of this time to exercise on the treadmill.  Around 2:00, I am usually ready for a few quiet moments before it is time to head out the door again. 

2:30 p.m. finds Seth and I back in the truck heading out to get the middle school kids.  We are back home around 3:15 p.m.  The school kids are usually famished so they are raiding the refrigerator and getting ready to start home work at the kitchen table.  I am busy helping them while preparing more of dinner.  Michael gets home around 4:00 p.m.  We take a few minutes to chat as a family.  The kids are always ready to share their day with him.  He helps with any math homework that they have.  I stay in the kitchen for that!

Football season puts a kink in my usual dinner plans.  We have to eat in shifts because of the kids' schedules for practice.  I hate that, but I don't have any choice during the season.   After football season, we will all be back around the table for dinner once again. 

 Michael's new job comes with 16 months worth of school.  He did Nuclear Power School once already in our first year of marriage.  Now he is redoing it, but in a much shorter amount of time.  He is in an accelerated program that requires a lot of study time in the evening.  This has been a huge change for our family.  He spends a large chunk of his evening studying nuclear things.  His job depends on him doing well during this training so we are all very supportive of him.  We just don't like it very much.  I spend my time with the kids in the evening.  Sometimes we are watching t.v. together or sometimes we are sitting on the porch relaxing.  We always find time to talk no matter what we may be doing. 

Tuesday evenings find me and Hope at ballet.  Thursday and Friday evenings find our family at football games.  These nights I have to plan easy meals.  I usually have something in the crock pot or something like homemade pizzas or tacos.  

Around 9:00 p.m., we are all getting ready for the next day.  Kids are taking showers and clothes are being set out for the next day.  Any kitchen chores that need to be finished are getting completed.  9:30 p.m. brings bedtime for the kids.  The high school junior is allowed to stay up a little later.  By this age, I figure he is mature enough to go to bed when he needs to.  If he doesn't, then it is he who has to pay the consequences the next day.  I am almost always in bed between 10:00 to 10:30 p.m. If I had my way, it would be more like 9:30! 

As I said earlier, each day comes with its own set of challenges.  I try to multitask as much as I can.  While Hope is in ballet, I will do my grocery shopping for the week.  (Her instructor won't allow parents to watch or I would stay and watch her dance).  There are always errands that need to be ran or other things that are unforeseen.  I try to do all of these things when I am already out picking up or taking kids to school.  Fridays are my cleaning days.  I want the house cleaned and in order for the weekend.  We cherish our weekend times together.  Michael doesn't have to study on the weekends so we can enjoy being with him more.

What must get done everyday in my world?  Meals and laundry are always a part of my day.  The other chores can wait until the next day, but I have to feed everybody and they must have clean clothes.  I also make it a priority to spend some one on one time with each child.

Our life can be hectic.  We could slow the pace down by quiting sports and ballet.  However, I believe those things are good for our kids and they enjoy them.  We just have to make sure that the extra activities  don't steal away all of our time as a family.  We have to purpose to find the time to be together and laugh and make memories. 

grace and peace,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekend Happenings

This past weekend was full of fun activities, company, and a birthday celebration.  First, on Friday we had some dear friends drive an extra 4 hours out of the way to spend the day with us.  I can't believe I didn't get a picture, but I was busy visiting.  Later that day our oldest son's girlfriend also came to spend the weekend with us.  I was a little worried about her driving down by herself, but she made it just fine. Our son had to stay behind and work.  Such is the life of a college student who has to pay for an apartment!

After a fun filled Friday, we spent Saturday at the football field.  As  you can see by the picture, this football season will bring our boys playing for a new football team.  Jacob looks odd wearing the #21.  He has always had the #22 on all of his jerseys.  That number was already taken.  He is enjoying running the football for his new team, and he doesn't care what number is on his jersey as long as he can run the ball!  After spending the day at Jacob's jamboree, we then loaded up the family and headed to Chattanooga to watch Josh play for his new football team.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of him.  My camera got left on all day and the battery was dead.  I felt so bad about missing taking pictures of his first outing with his new team.   However, I did get to enjoy his performance.  He looked like a total different football player than in times past.  I was impressed.  It was during this moment that I missed our oldest son the most.  He would have just beamed if he could have watched his brothers play football.

In between football outings, we had a birthday to celebrate.  Since Chelsea wasn't with us on her actual birthday, we had to make sure we still celebrated her special day.  She chose a turtle cheesecake for her birthday dessert.  I was pleased with the new recipe.  I'll have to share it with you in a few days.  All of the fun, visiting, football, cooking, and eating made for one tired momma.  We were going to try and find a church this Sunday, but we were all wiped out from the previous days events.  I did take an hour long bubble bath on Sunday afternoon!  It was heavenly!

grace and peace,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Inside Tour of Our New Home

Since we are getting things in order in our new home, I thought I would show you around a bit.  Please keep in mind that we haven't hung anything on the walls as of yet.  We have only been in the house for 6 weeks.  This is a picture standing in my dining area looking at the front door.  We brought our couch that we had in our basement at the old house and put it in our great room.  It fits wonderfully and my family is enjoying having it in our main living area.

  This is a view of my kitchen.  I was standing at my dining room table when I took this shot.  Remember that our living area is a large great room that includes, living room, kitchen, and dining area.  My kitchen is small.  I almost went into a crying fit when I realized how small it really is.  Then I decided that I had to make it work.  I also realized that I had to use the top of the cabinets for storage so I wanted it to be as pretty as possible.  My stove is in the island.  I have to store all of our food in the laundry area that has a nice size closet.  It is just a few steps away from the kitchen so it is manageable.  This kitchen may be small, but over the last few weeks I have realized just how wonderful it is set up, making for a great cooking experience.  Over the winter, Michael will be making me a canning kitchen downstairs.  I will also have more storage area so I can get my pretty dishes and jars out of his shop.

There is a short hallway just off the kitchen area.  Down the hall, you will find the doorway to the basement, a bathroom, and the kids' rooms.  This is Hope's room.  It is a very large bedroom.  I would love to find her some beautiful bedroom furniture at an antique store.  For now she has her bed, bookshelf, and bean bag chair.  She has a small dresser in her closet.  She wants to paint it a lime green color.  I told her we would get to that soon. 

Across from Hope's room, you will find the room that houses all 3 boys.  This set up has worked out much better than I thought it would.  We must must must find the time to paint this room.  The yellow is so bright that I almost have the urge to find a pair of sunglasses before entering!  The boys have all been good sports about it, and for that I am thankful. 

If you go up the stairs by the front door, you will come into our bedroom.  This picture doesn't do a good job showing the amount of space that we have in our room.  It is truly a sanctuary that we are enjoying. 

Our master bathroom is huge!  I never thought I would enjoy a large master bathroom.  That was always Michael's dream, but never one I cared to desire.  Let me tell you...he was right.  It is glorious to have such a a large space. I also have a linen closet in here.  That too is something to enjoy!

Here is our loft area that is also located upstairs.  It is a large balcony area that overlooks the great room.  We have our computer, a couch, bookshelves, and a few of Seth's toys up here.  This area is in need of  some more of our attention.  I look forward to getting some pictures on the wall in here for sure!

See we still have plenty of boxes to unpack and things to organize!  I just stuck everything in the shop area!

Stay tuned over the next few months as we start to turn this house into a home with paint, hanging of pictures, and landscape.  We also have mountains of work to do in the shop area if I ever want Michael to build me some furniture.  I am tired just thinking about it!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Summer Visit

When Missy hasn't been busy hosting Reno and offering cold doggie drinks on the front porch...
She has been a playmate to maybe one of the cutest little girls I have ever seen in my life.  (Shh..don't tell Hope I said that)!
She has been giving kisses...
And playing trains...
And fetching balls... 
and being a snuggle pillow for this little girl. She also assigned herself the role of babysitter when this family came to visit.  The two youngest children could not go outside without Missy being by their side.  She had to make sure that they were safe at all times.

 It has been a full summer for Missy.  She was glad that yesterday was the first day of school.  She finally had time to catch up on her sleep!

grace and peace,

P.S.  If you have young children, babies, older children, or teenagers, an English Mastiff could be a perfect fit for your family.  I have never seen a dog be any more gentle than the English Mastiff.  She tolerates the explorations of children and she has a heart full of love for kids of all ages.  She is the perfect childhood companion for my kids.  Seth would like her to be a little more energetic, but she is always available for a good old fashion hug.