Seeing a Complete Family

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I am a wife and mother.  My husband and I have two wonderful, adventurous and often challenging boys.  Tractor Man is six and Tag Along is three, but that’s not where our family ends.

For years I have not been able to talk about the members of our family that nobody sees.  The children born to us and just as quickly lost.  While they brought us much joy, there have also been seasons of ache.

The Rest of the Family

On February 27th, 2015 our twins came into the world.  They were only 12 weeks along so many see that as to early to be excited.  We were though, this was to be our last pregnancy as Sir Swine and I had agreed upon.

Twelve short weeks and our decision changed.  Our family grew by two but nobody saw or really knew about Cassidy and Carter.  Our twins.  Can you imagine!  It brought me joy to know that I had gotten the twins I had always dreamed of having, but sadness that our time together was so short.

We grew by two but no one really knew.  We moved on and so did our family.

At the end of May 2016 we rejoiced when we found that I had a positive pregnancy test again.  Knowing how hard it was to tell everyone about losing the twins we again chose to keep the pregnancy to ourselves until we were much farther along.

June came and on the 7th things changed again in a way we had not expected.  A rush to our doctor confirmed that I had lost the baby, Morgan, and was bleeding internally.  After surgery while you sit quietly with your thoughts it is a good time to cry.

It is also a time when I am thankful most for my mother.  She has a great way of showing up when things are going south, often before we even know it.  She’s really amazing like that.

Why People Don’t Know

I am not really sure why it has taken so long for me to finally talk about our family.  I think in the beginning I was hurting and I simply wanted to hold them close to me and selfishly not share them with anyone.

They were my babies.  They are my babies.

The other part of me simply felt that others could not possibly understand what I was going through.  The mental battle I was facing everyday trying to figure out life and death and why God did this.  Why would he give us these babies only to take them away?

I still do not have the answer to those questions.  I don’t think I will ever fully understand.

However, I have found a joyful appreciation for the two that I do have here.  Tractor Man and Tag Along are challenging and exhausting but they are also wonderful and loving.  They are a gift that I am thankful for everyday – not every moment (crayons on walls are not one of my favorite moments for me).

Finding Joy Through the Pain

At a homeschool conference here in Minnesota I went to the bloggers gathering that I have attended the last several years.  I was pregnant with Morgan at the time.  The year before I had shared with the group the loss of our twins and only three days later I would lose Morgan as well.

These women, my fellow blogging mommy’s, are what provided me with some of the most remarkable support when I needed it.  Several of them have lost a little one as well.  So many of these women reached out to me after our twins, just to check up on me.  How wonderful is that?

I will be seeing all of these lovely women in just a few short weeks at the same conference.  We will share our joys and triumphs of the last years blogs, homeschooling and parenting.   We will share our challenges and heartaches.

Most importantly we will share our faith and how we have been able to find joy through those challenging and painful times.  We will unite as women and mothers and rejoice for the things we have lost.

We will renew our hope.

I recently participated in providing a reflection of how prayer got me through the loss of my twins.  This book was created by one of those lovely Mommy’s at the homeschool conference I mentioned.  This wonderful book can be found on Amazon (this is my affiliate link).

When it comes to families, always remember that we only see a small portion of what is really there.  Sometimes our families are so much bigger than meets the eye but no matter how they look we all know that we have a complete family.

 

Kids Activities: Fun or Chaos?

Hello fellow parents.  I am a stay at home mom who homeschools her kids.  While I like to have my kids involved in many different things I have recently noticed and exhausting trend-over involvement.

 

What am I talking about?  Take a look at your calendar and see just what you have “going on” over the next two weeks, or even worse the next month.  Parents (not all of us though) are really starting to spread themselves thin by having their CHILDREN become over involved in activities. 

 

This, my friends, while wonderful for your child is exhausting on parents and ultimately your pocketbook.  How?  The activity only costs us $50 dollars a month.  Well, let’s take a step back my friends and see what that childs’ activity is really costing you…

 

Have you thought about the gas?  Convenience foods since you are running more?  Good old fashioned time?  Stress (both you and your childs’)? Lack of sleep?

 

It can’t be that bad right?  Wrong!  Think again my friends. 

 

Here’s our example.

 

Last year we put Tractor Man into wrestling for a year.  The season runs basically all of November, December, January, February and into March.  You can choose to continue on past March, for how much longer I am not sure, but for us five months was enough.  Practice was Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5:30-7pm.  Cost up front was $35 for the wrestling fee and a lovely $50 for hours worked (you got your check back after you worked at least two hours at a tournament). 

 

So, $35 isn’t that bad…but you need to factor in costs.

 

Gas, being nice, we will say our car gets 32 miles to the gallon.  Gas (again being nice) is $2.00 a gallon.  We live 10 miles from town, twenty miles round trip, or forty miles a week. For ease of numbers we will round it DOWN and say that we only used one gallon.  Nice! Only $2…but that’s per week.  This went on for 24 weeks.  So $48 dollars in gas. 

 

Hmm, it’s adding up.

 

Throw in a few convenience meals say at twenty dollars each, we are a family of four, so that will add on another $40.  I personally feel this is on the low end for families that do grab food and go.

 

Ahh and the final one that I really feel looks simple but bites hard, tournaments and events.  My bet is that if you have your child in a sport like this and they have a chance to compete you might take them up on that opportunity.  Registration $10, Admission $10 (per parent-Tag Along is still free), snacks and drinks $10, clothes and gear $50. 

 

**Note on the gear.  I’m sure some of you are saying no way it costs that much.  Well Tractor Man’s singlet was $40, head gear was $10 (used) and shoes we borrowed from a friend.  So again, this sadly could be worse.**

 

So let’s total this up.

 

$35 (up front cost), $50 (work hours), $48 (gas-only to practice, no tournaments included), $40 (convenience food), $80 (events).  Total of $253 for one season!

 

Let’s say you worked those two hours so you saved yourself $50.  That is still over $200 for one child’s sporting event.  And that is only if you have one child in the sport!  OUCH!

 

I have a few friends with more than one child.  They do events like swimming, dance, gymnastics, wrestling and basketball.  At every time of the year these kids are involved in at least two sports.   How can they afford it?!?!

 

The one thing that really is the biggest that I didn’t even factor into the costs is time.  While this event was wonderful for Tractor Man to be able to go out and meet new friends and exercise it cost us a LOT OF TIME.  Every Tuesday and Thursday from 5-7:30 pm, since we had drive time.  As I said above by the time we reached March I was exhausted!

 

So parents here is a thought.  Take the money you would have spent and save half (buy a basketball hoop for at home or something like that instead).  Take the other half that you would have spent and invest it in some family games (not computer ones either) and use the biggest thing you saved and spend it with them.  Your time is what your children are looking for the most. 

 

Take your kids out on a parent child date night for ice cream.  Shut the radio off, talk to your child in the car.  See what they have to say.  Sometimes the conversation is completely hilarious!  Laugh with them, make jokes and listen to each other.  There is no price tag that can be placed on quality time.

 

Happy homesteading.

 

Freezer Fill Up:Day3-Freezer Apple Pies

It is day three of our freezer fill up.  I’m not sure about the rest of you but I really enjoy my sweets.  And no dinner is complete without a desert right?

Today’s freezer apple pie recipe is from my wonderful friend Super Sarah.  This lady has three beautiful children, another on the way and she still manages a farm with her husband and an amazing garden.  Thank you Super Sarah for this simple recipe!

Here is what you will need:
Pans

For the crusts:
1 3/4 cups Crisco or 1 1/2 cups lard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold water
1Tablespoon vinegar
1 egg

For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon brown sugar (optional)

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This one didn't get to the freezer...

Alright, let’s get started on these pies!

Note: the crust recipe makes enough for at least two full sized pies top and bottom. This is not a single pie recipe.

First start your crust by mixing the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. 

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Add the Crisco and use a pastry cutter in incorporate it until it is nice and crumbly.

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In another bowl mix your water, egg and vinegar. Whisk them together well and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix until well incorporated.

Seperate into 4 and place in plastic wrap in your refrigerator.

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While that sits chilling, mix the sugars, and cinnamon in a bowl (I’m relbelious and used the same bowl).  Start peeling and chunking your apples and add them to the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Mix as you go to avoid browning.

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Once you feel you have enough to fill your pie shell, take your pastry out of the fridge and put it in your pans.  This is very forgiving pastry so I just pat it in since my roller and I have different ideas from time to time.

Optional at this point, is adding a handful of cornflakes to the bottom of your pan at this time.  It helps to absorb some if the moisture and you cannot tell they are in there even.

Fill the pie shells with your apple mixture.  Normally you would have these heaping full, but my pans have lids that I want to use so I had to tame it down a bit.  Feel free to fill as much as you wish.

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Another optional thing I do is to add just a tad of butter on top of the apples.  This is not necessary but who doesn’t like butter.

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Use remaining pastry to cover your pies.  Label them and freeze. To bake simple put in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour to an hour and a half.

Talk about a treat to have in your freezer.  This recipe is so simple you cannot help but double it.  In just a few hours my sisters in law and I made eleven pies.

Go use those beautiful apples and fill up your freezer.

Happy homesteading!

Freezer Fill Up: Day 2-Chicken Pot Pie

It’s day two of our freezer fill up and I am so glad you are back.  Yesterday we covered freezer corn today we are moving on to a ready made meal. 

These are my favorite things to have on hand.  Delicious homemade goodness ready to be baked at a moments notice.

Today we are making freezer chicken pot pies!  Here’s the list of supplies you will need:
Chicken (I used thighs-2lbs)
Carrots, peas, potatos, corn, or any other veggies you like
An onion
Pastry or your own homemade ones. 
Salt, pepper and thyme

Alright lets get started. Please note when I made this batch I made enough for one large pot pie in a 9″ pie pan, and three 7″ disposable freezer pie pans.

First take your chicken and put it in a large stock pot with plenty of salt (2Tblspn) some pepper(1/2teaspoon) and half of an onion. Cover the chicken completely with water and bring to a light boil for an hour or until the chicken is fully cooked and fall’s apart easily.

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Chicken preparing

Let this cool and set to working dicing your veggies.  You can put in any vegetables you like. In our home the regular add in’s are potato, corn, carrots and green beans or peas.  We also add the other half of the onion.

Get a sauce pan nice and hot and melt three tablespoons of butter in it.  Then add your veggies.  Saute them for three to five minutes or until the vegetables are starting to turn. Potatoes and onion will become translucent.

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Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the mixture and let it absorb all of the juices.

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Ladle the broth from the chicken pot into the sauce pan.  I added about three to four cups.  Liquid content is based on preference.

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Pull your chicken out and dice it all up. Add it to your pan as well and stir it all together.  Here I usually add salt and pepper to taste and thyme. 

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Using your pie pans fill each crust about 2/3rds full.  Do not over fill as this could boil over later. 

Place a crust on the top, label and freeze.  To cook simply pull from your freezer and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Remove the lid part way through so you get a nice golden brown crust.

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Enjoy!  This is well worth the time when you have three spare meals frozen for later.

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Three dinners whenever needed.

Happy homesteading!

Freezer Fill Up-Day 1 Freezer Corn

Welcome to our first day of the Freezer Fill Up! I’m so glad you are here. I hope you are excited to fill up your freezers.

My inspiration for these posts is two fold.  First when you have a bounty or can buy inexpensive produce you should stock up while you can!  Second a recent illness has led my family to use up a lot of my freezer stock pile.

Today we are getting started with freezer corn.  This is my mama’s recipe and it is super easy.  Just the way I like things to work this time of year.  In two days I froze over 250 cups of corn!

Here is what you will need:
Freezer bags (lots of them in the size of your liking)
Canning salt
Sweet corn
Butter
Water (tap water is what we use)

That’s it!  Lets get started!

First get your corn off the cob.  You will need 16 cups of corn.

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Next put it in a big pot.  Add 4 cups of water, 1 stick of butter and 4 teaspoons of canning salt. 

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Bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Boil for 8 minutes. Then let it cool.

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Bag and freeze your corn. 

That’s it.  How simple is that! Of you have two pots going at the same time it goes by very quickly. I like to take my cooked stuff and place it in a big turkey pan to cool so I can keep things moving.

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My husking helpers.

See you tomorrow for more freezer fill up ideas!

Freezer Fill Up

With fall well underway I find that now is the time to start thinking about a freezer fill up.    There is no better feeling than entering into fall and winter with a bunch of delicious homemade meals in jars and the freezer.

In the next week I will be posting daily, similar to my Living On Less posts from a few months back.  Each day will have details on various foods that you can fill your freezer with before winter arrives.

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Sweet corn harvest.

I’m focusing on having in season products being used as the main ingredient in dishes.  A few things I will be showcasing are freezer corn, chicken pot pies, freezer apple pies, muffins and lasagna. 

It is time to full the freezers and add some variety to our lives. Preparing these meals in bulk is a great way to save time later. Be sure to follow the blog so you don’t miss a thing!

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One day in the garden...

Happy homesteading!  I look forward to seeing you all in the coming week.

Homesteaders Notes on Preserving Foods

This time of year is always a time of great joy and complete stress.  I often find myself up to my elbows in a canning project, trying to tell kids to settle down and boiling something over on the stove all at the same time.  Then I realize I forgot to get dinner ready.  Ever been there?

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The mess of preserving.

But about an hour or so later when things have settled down, food is nicely in jars, children are eating a delicious previously prepared freezer meal (man I love having those on hand) and I am happily looking at a clean kitchen, I realize that I am always so proud of the canning I do each year.

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Spaghetti Sauce


It is an extremely stressful time, but it is a joyful time.  I know that as each jar fills up I am saving food and money for my family.  I’m reminded that all of the pain of weeding and planting has an amazing ending to enjoy.  That gives me renewed strength to start again the next day.

This week in one day I really put too much on my plate.  At the end of the day I had eight quarts of spaghetti sauce, eleven freezer apple pies and fourteen cups of shredded zucchini ready to be frozen for bread in the future. And I had even gone grocery shopping that morning, something I am only doing every six weeks now. Not a day to be disappointed in.

I want to showcase something that many on blogs do NOT do.  At the height of this canning and freezing excursion I am showing you a picture of my domain of chaos.  Simple steady home?  Yup, it is there you just have to look deep under everything.  Preserving your own foods is no easy task so why should it look clean and perfect. 

Clean and perfect exists in my jars, not so much the counters as I am more focused on the food.  Clean up comes later. 

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Zuchinni for bread.


My point is very simple.  I know there are other homesteaders out there who feel just like I do about this joyful, overwhelming time of the year.  Just hang in there everyone.  You will be thrilled when you look at your full canning shelves in two months and are able to say “I did that”.

Happy homesteading. 
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Craft of the Month-How to Freeze Herbs in 5 Easy Steps

It seems only fitting, being that we are starting harvest time, to have our craft of the month be something edible.  I know that not everyone has a planter full of herbs in their back yard but right now I also know the price is right if you are purchasing them. 

Our craft of the month for August will be showing you how to freeze your own herbs in five easy steps.  And when I say easy it is not an understatement. 

Let’s get started. 

First get your herbs together.  Wash them up really well and discard any undesirable parts.
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Second, dice them up very fine.  You can either chop them or I like to use my Quick Chef.  Dice them until they reach your desired consistency.
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Third, place the diced herbs into an ice cube tray in the quantity you use while cooking.  For my herbs I planned to have about a teaspoon per cube.
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Fourth, take your olive oil (or water if you prefer that instead) and fill each cube tray until just covering your herbs.
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Finally, place them in the freezer and let it do all the rest of the work. 
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You will be able to pull out the cubes individually for recipes as you need them.  I also like to store mine in a large Ziploc back after they are frozen to ensure they stay at their best quality. 

Now it’s your turn.  This craft of the month is super easy and will save you time and money down the road.  If you have never stocked up for winter before start here.  It is super easy to do and very affordable.

Happy homesteading!

Living On Less-Dinner Night Five

So far we have been having a good time keeping our meal costs low but the meals still tasty. For tonight’s meal we will be going for the nice hearty home cooked meal that fills you up and makes you come back for more.

In our house this is by far a family favorite!

Homemade Ham and Potato Soup (with carrots).
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This meal starts off by simply taking that wonderful ham steak you purchased and trimming the fat from it. Once you have done that, cut the meat into small bite size pieces.  You want to make sure you are getting a small bit of everything in each bite.

Set the meat aside for now.

Peel some of your potatoes. I usually do about a pound or pound and a half.  For me this will be about 6 or so good sized potatoes.  Once you have peeled them, rinse them off and cube them up as well.
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Take a large pot and add two tablespoons of butter to it. Do not turn on the stove just yet.  Take a quarter to half of an onion, depending on your onion preference, and dice it up nice and small.
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Now go ahead and melt that butter. Once the butter is melted, toss in the onion and four diced carrots. You are cooking this just long enough to soften it up and be translucent.  Add two tablespoons of flour so that it forms a nice thick paste.
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Now slowly add your chicken broth a half a cup or so at a time. I tend to just drizzle it in slowly.  While you add, stir continuously.  You are making a mild rue here.  It will not be your true thickener for the soup but it seems to add some wonderful textures.
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Once you have added your full two cups of chicken broth to the pot add in your potatoes.

Adjust your broth level if you think you are in need of more at this point.

Bring this all to a nice low boil, rolling boil is not necessary for this by any means. Keep it cooking until your vegetables are fork tender.

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I three in some parsley here too.


Once the veggies are fork tender take half of your mixture from the pot and place in a blender. Be very careful so that you do not get burned here.  I use a towel on top of our blender top even just to be safe. 
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Blend the mixture in the blender until it is nice and smooth.  I like to add about a ¼ cup or a bit more of heavy whipping cream here just for some added richness but it isn’t necessary.
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Take the blended portion of the mix back to the pot and add it in again. Add ¼ teaspoon of black pepper and ½ teaspoon of salt to the pot as well.
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Now add the delicious cubed up ham steak. The ham steak will add some saltiness to your soup so don’t fret if it isn’t tasting just the way you want right now.

Let the entire contents get good and warm. I usually put it on low for a good 20 minutes.  Have a taste and adjust your salt and pepper at this time.
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Serve with big chunks of bread. Enjoy!

This meal freezes well and reheats beautifully. Every time I make ham and potato soup at our house I always do a triple batch.  Yup, triple.  My boys love it and I want to make sure we have some for later too.

Cost for this meal is about $1.77 a person, based on an individual eating about a cup and a half of finished product. Prices may vary based on location of products.

Like I mentioned before though we have plenty of leftovers. A serving size was honestly a good cup and a half (yup, we indulge).

Happy homesteading everyone!

This post was shared on a lovely blog hop. Check it out here.

Living On Less-Dinner Night Four

Welcome to night four of simple suppers! Tonight is going to be a wonderful chance to use up our leftovers in the house.  So grab those goodies out of your fridge now, look at that you just made some space again.  I don’t know about you, but in my house that is something to be happy about.

Anyway, for tonight we will be using those leftovers to make a simple Sheperd’s Pie. This is a super simple way to make a meal on the fly.  Plus by having cooked parts of it ahead of time tonight all you will have to do is construct it, put it in the oven and eat it up.
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So let’s get started, taking your leftover hamburger, peas, green beans and mashed potatoes set them on the counter until you are ready to use them.

Pre-heat your over to 350 degrees.

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Leftovers to use.


In a large bowl mix the leftover hamburger, peas, corn and green beans. Once well mixed, spread them into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking pan.  Place a few small slivers of butter on top of this mixture.
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Mixed vegetables and ground beef


Next, take your leftover mashed potatoes and layer them on top of the meat and veggie mixture. Using  a fork smash them gently on the top so that they are able to lock in the moisture from the layer below.
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Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until all the contents are piping hot.
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Add some shredded cheese if you have it.

Once everything is heated through you can either go ahead and eat it or try this. Remove the foil and bake for another ten minutes until the tops of the potatoes become golden brown and slightly crispy.

Remove and enjoy. This dish too heats up very well for a lunch the next day.

Cost for this meal is about $1.25 per person, based on an individual eating about a cup and a half of finished product. Prices may vary based on location of products.

Happy homesteading everyone.