Saturday, February 28, 2015

Requiem for Baby

Today was hard for our family. Baby had to be put down.

Old picture. Nobody would want to see Baby today.

I went out to check on the guineas, and the blood we had seen the last couple of days was still there. There was no new blood, but I did notice something I hadn't noticed before. Baby's foot, far away from Baby. We're thinking frostbite was an issue although we did our best to keep Baby warm in this brutal cold.

I told my husband, and he went out to do his duty. The children stayed inside, wailing, with me. It wasn't easy. They had questions of "why?" and resolved that we needed to bury Baby. Some of them felt the need to troop out with Daddy to dig the hole and bury our poor, picked-on guinea.

Today was a tough day to be the mother, to be the one trying to explain death and comfort. I know all the Biblical answers, so far as we are able to know. I know to share our Comfort, but their little hearts still grieved. More than one of them made a connection between Baby's death and the eventual death of their grandparents. Dealing with this is just not easy.

However, I am not the only one today dealing with the loss of a baby. An acquaintance of mine lost her own baby yesterday unexpectedly, her 15-year-old son. I'm sure she, too, was struggling not only with her own grief, but how to explain to and comfort her living children.

My struggle pales in comparison. May God be with you and yours, friend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Did You Think You'd Ever Say. . . ?, No. 3

"Let's not chew on the chair."

Allow me to clarify. I was not talking to the dog. It was a child.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What An Honor

More than a week ago, Emily from Simple Cheap Mom nominated me for the Liebster Award. Cool! Thank you, Emily. 

The Liebster Award is known in the blogging community, but I’d never heard of it because I tend to be ignorant of such things. 

I did a quick search online, and basically what it seems to be is an award that is created by bloggers and intended for bloggers. It’s passed from person to person through a nomination/chain letter type of process in order to encourage connections and discover not only new blogs but new and interesting people to relate to. In other words, it’s a great way to get to know the person behind the blog. 

From what I understand, you share a few random facts about yourself, answer a few questions from the person who nominated you, and then nominate a few other bloggers you enjoy (and ask a few questions of them). 

Here goes:

11 Random Things About Me

1.  I’m left-handed, married to a lefty, a daughter and sister of lefties, but have only one left-handed child.

2.  My friend and I were once stuck in an elevator that fell about 2 feet below the bottom floor. The doors wouldn’t open, so we used the emergency telephone. After waiting for a good long while with an annoying alarm sounding, I called back only to be told that they had checked and “nobody was in that elevator.” The operator believed us only when we asked her to get a message to our band director so that he would not be worried about where we were.

3.  My favorite books of all time are Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. I’ve worn out a set completely and have no idea how many times I’ve read each. If I read the last two pages of Little House in the Big Woods, I’ll cry--guaranteed.

4.  I have lots of pregnancy food aversions and cravings. This time around I’m sick thinking of sweets. I’m craving a Thai Spicy Roll from my favorite sushi place. And red wine. I want red wine.

5.  I love, love, love yard sales. My husband loves auctions. Me, too.

6.  I have a small quilt that I started making with my Oma when I was 8. It’s still unfinished, and I look forward to the day that I have time to make it a priority.

7.  While I was born in California, I only remember living in West Virginia. That is the state I call home. I can see her hills from my front porch. I can see Pennsylvania from my back porch.

8.  I went to college in one of the most historic places in our country--Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I did not take even one history course while there. I regret that.

9.  I met my husband online, and I knew in my heart I would marry him before I ever set eyes on him in “real life.”

10.  I love my favorite pair of maternity jeans (which were handed down to me about 5 years ago) so much that I actually called the Levi’s company and asked if they’d start making them again. 

11.  I love the game of Yahtzee. My grandmother used to play with me. More than 7 years ago, my husband bought me a hand-held electronic Yahtzee game. It’s been lost for months at a time, needed new batteries a couple of times, and been dropped in the toilet twice (not by me!), but it’s still going strong.

My Answers to Questions by Simple Cheap Mom:

1. How many hours of sleep do you need each night? How many do you get? 

 I have no idea how many hours of sleep I need each night, but I normally get between 5-7. However, it all really depends on what’s going on in my life. If I’m pregnant, I’m up in the middle of the night a lot. If I have a newborn, sometimes I’m happy to get a couple of hours. 

2. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

I would take my family on a cross-country trek with many stops along the way, but the destination would be Olalla, Washington where my grandparents lived and I spent many vacations. I know it wouldn’t be the same for them, but it was magical for me, and I want them to experience even just a little bit of it.

3. What was your best Christmas gift as a child?

I honestly can’t remember one that stands out. I always enjoyed the Christmas ornaments my grandmother and aunts made. 

4. Do you have any pets? 

We have a golden retriever, Calvin, who loves baby carrots. We have three outside cats, black as coal and deadly to bunnies, mice, birds, snakes, etc. We call them the three ninjas. We also have a tankful of fish, but really don’t know what kind or how many. And we have guinea fowl, but I don’t know if I’d call them pets. For the record, I’m not an animal person.

5. How many credit cards do you have? 

We have one that we pay off each month on time. We’ve earned lots of bonus points that have paid for helpful gift cards.

6. What's the best thing you've ever done for your finances? 

I suppose the best thing I’ve done is to stop working. When I worked before I was married, I wasted so much money. Then after we were married and began a family, I stayed home, and there was no extra money to waste. Having a limited budget has forced us to employ all sorts of frugal strategies. 

My Nominees

I nominate these three blogs I enjoy for the Liebster Award:

The Merry Mennonite by Laura because she’s so honest. I wish all mommy bloggers were this open and honest.

Day by Day, at home, away by Ewe because I like reading what she does with her boys because I just so happen to have 3 boys about the same age.

Lucy's Quilts by my aunt, whose name actually isn't Lucy, but Alicia. I nominate her blog because I like reading about her way over on the west coast and because I think it's fun to look at the things she makes and does. She's super-talented. And I might be trying to prod her into another blog post. 

So, nominees, I just copied what Simple Cheap Mom did. Announce, 11 Random Things, answer questions, nominate, ask questions. Gee, it kind of sounds like a school assignment. But I promise, if you don't do this, nothing bad will befall you (from me, at least). 

Here are my questions for the nominees:

 What do you like/dislike about your blog?

 With whom do you want to spend more time?

 What award (real or made-up) would you most like to win?

 What is your favorite children’s book?

 What unhealthy food is your favorite?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- February 11, 2014

Years and years ago, I remember just a hazy sliver of what hog butchering was like at my grandparents’ farm. My memory goes something like this. My grandmother, mother, and maybe some aunts were inside talking. I had my face glued to the window watching my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins doing something that looked interesting outside. 

“I want to go outside, too,” I begged my mother. 

“No. It’s too cold. You’ll get underfoot. You don’t want to be out there anyway,” she replied.

End of memory.

But I really did want to be out there anyway.

Nowadays, few things excite my children and, to be honest, their parents, more than butchering day. Granddaddy has been gone for decades, but so many other families carry on the tradition. Our family has been blessed for the last ten years to be invited by our dear friends to be part of their family’s butchering day.

I’d like to tell you that I have mastered all aspects of the butchering process in those ten years, but I don’t think I’ve lifted a finger to help with any of the hard work that goes into putting sausage gravy and biscuits on my breakfast plate throughout the year. While I make the occasional trip outside to see how things are going and to snag a cracklin’ or two, most of my butchering day is spent inside my hostess’s warm house, enjoying the conversation while taking care of the current baby and toddler because, of course, it’s too cold outside for them and they’d just get underfoot anyway.

My older children, however, love nothing more than running around outside--cold and probably underfoot. They play with sticks and pine cones and listen to all the talk, a treasure of stories from now and long ago and practical wisdom passed down from one generation to the next. They warm themselves around the fire and enjoy all the yummy things to eat.

I can’t keep track of what they eat on this day. The outside workers have a tableful of pig-pickin’ food-- doughnuts, homemade pickles, soups, and steamers, and the list goes on and on. 

Almost everybody usually ventures inside once or twice to warm up or to ask for a pan or salt or some other thing needed for one of the outside tasks. Few head back outside before sampling some of the inside feast which may consist of homemade macaroni and cheese, soups, hot dogs, and hot coffee. It varies from year to year, but always there are pies.

 The favorite butchering day pies are made by our hostess, one of the best pie-makers ever, I’m convinced. And the favorite pie of the day is, without a doubt, her raisin pie. Yes, I suspect this raisin pie is the real reason some of the workers bother to come inside at all.

One year on the way home in the afternoon, I wondered if I’d need to prepare a healthy snack at home. While I figured the boys had consumed a mountain of sweets, I still held out some hope that they’d found room for a sandwich, too. I asked what they’d eaten, and what they told me just made me shake my head.

Instead of cake, cookies, and pie, they replied, “We had snout, heart, tongue, and cracklin’s!”

As for me, I think I’ll stick to the pie.


If you don’t have the opportunity to be part of a hog butchering, you can still have the raisin pie. I’ll share with you my friend’s recipe, one that used to be on the package of raisins. It has also been called Funeral Pie by the Amish, but my friend wasn’t sure why. Just remember that it’s best if you can use lard in the crust.

Sun-Maid Raisin Pie

2 cups Sun-Maid Raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed down
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. butter
your favorite pie crust (both top and bottom crust)

Boil raisins in 1 3/4 cups of water for 5 minutes. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt, and moisten with the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Add to raisins, stir until mixture boils. Remove from heat, then add butter and vinegar. Pour into the pie shell and cover with the top crust, seal the edges, and cut a few slits in the top crust.

Bake at 400F for 10 minutes and then turn down the heat to 350F for 25 minutes. Remove pie and let it cool before enjoying. This pie does not need to be refrigerated.

This post has been shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Monday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fast Fix


We recently had some stale crackers. Just plain old soda crackers destined for soup. Edible, but not tasty.

My husband fixed them up in a jiffy by applying a little heat via the oven. I don't even know what temperature or how long, but it wasn't particularly super-hot and it didn't take very long at all.

Wow! What a difference. They were so much better than even not stale crackers. Even the kids noticed the difference. It was a big hit.

Try it sometime if you have a few spare minutes or just feel like making things seem a little fancier for your kids (if plain old soda crackers can be fancy).

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It All Adds Up

This past summer we bought a lot of books at an auction. There were some keepers, but this one, a geometry book from 1909, just isn't one of them.  In an ideal world, I'd have enough space to hoard all of the neat old things we find, but we don't have that kind of room.

This book still held some fun. Like many old textbooks, the previous owner(s) wrote in the neat old-time script, and added a few non-math-y notes.

I love the script.

My favorite is "A NEW ARITHMETIC" pasted inside. I'd always assumed that way back when, people simply didn't know the dangers of smoking. I was proven wrong earlier when I read in our history studies about King James (I think) ranting on about the evils of tobacco. Then this little treasure shows that others in our country also had a clue.

Practical math--sorry if it's tough to read. I'm no photographer.

I am not one to tell others they can or can't smoke; I did enough begging my parents in my younger years to know you can't persuade somebody to stop smoking, not even with a cute little ditty like this. I just can't handle the smoke myself; after living in clouds of it in my growing up years with no problem, I am now nauseated every time I get a whiff. I'm just hoping my children won't start. Perhaps seeing their grandmother with COPD and all it's accompanying limitations will be enough to keep them from picking up the bad habit.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- January 28, 2015

Weather folks name hurricanes, and I’ve heard old-timers talk about the Great Flood of ’49. In my mind, I name the big illnesses we’ve battled as a family.

The first really bad one was the Stomach Bug of ’05 that brought all of us to our knees at the same time. Then there was what I’m convinced was the Great Swine Flu of ‘09-- the only time my children have suffered from earaches.

Now the younger children here have just finished with the Great Lingering Cold of the New Year which actually began in the old year. The noses were only a bit stuffy, but the cough was the kicker. It just didn’t want to go away. It hid out for a few days and then popped up in the middle of the night, waking child, Mom, and Dad, who ventured out of bed to find the cough medicine. One child would wake one night, another the next, and so on. It was tiring and annoying, and I’m glad it seems to be gone for good. 

Just as an impending weather event like a blizzard or hurricane calls for a trip to town for bread and toilet paper, the first signs of feeling under the weather in our house requires a few specialized sickness-fighting items.

First up, appropriate food and drink-- namely chicken soup, orange juice, and tea. Our family prefers homemade chicken noodle soup, but because we live in the real world, we usually feast on dehydrated chicken noodle soup that comes in a box. Orange juice and warm herbal teas provide more liquid nourishment and add all sorts of vitamins and other good things with unproven health benefits.

Second, we must make the house smell like sick people live and cough here. Such atmosphere is partially achieved by running the humidifiers--both hot air and cool mist ones in case one actually works better than the other; there’s so much conflicting advice out there! 

However, nothing says “sickroom” better than an overpowering smell of Vick’s VapoRub. We make sure to slather it all over everybody with a sniffle-- on chests, backs, and necks. Even the feet get coated in the eucalyptus-menthol-camphor goo and covered by socks.

Last, we have to attempt to keep the little balls of energy as immobilized as possible so they can get their rest. Hours of quiet play while lying down and Mother reading favorite classic books is ideal. Of course, a week or so with six sick children is not ideal, and since Mom is usually worn out, cartoons take the place of a good educational read. However, if the goal is to keep the children still, then television accomplishes it perfectly.

Does any of it work? I don’t know, but it does make us feel like we’re doing something for the ones we love. When it’s one of those sicknesses that just takes time, the kids feel comforted by the routine.

And the cartoons. Don’t forget the cartoons.

Recently I’ve shared a bit about the holiday season and now about the cold and flu season, but I’ve completely neglected the other important cold-weather season in our home-- hunting season. This year our oldest joined Dad in the great outdoors and soon learned perhaps the most important hunting lesson of all. To quote a dear friend, “Hunting ain’t getting!”

Sylvia from Hagerstown passed along a recipe I’ll share with all those hunters out there who were successful. If you are not a hunter, beef can be substituted for venison. 

Goulash Soup

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 pounds venison or lean beef, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green or red sweet pepper, chopped
1-1 ½ qts. beef stock ( made with bouillon cubes or beef base)
1 qt. canned whole or stewed tomatoes
½ cup red wine
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. marjoram
½ tsp. garlic powder (can use fresh if desired and add with onions)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Cook onions and meat until meat is slightly browned.Season with paprika, mustard, marjoram, and garlic and stir for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add hot beef stock and simmer for ½ hour.

Add chopped tomatoes with juice, and stir in wine, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Add more seasonings to taste. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer ½ hour more. For a thicker soup, thicken with cornstarch, for “soupy” soup add more beef stock.

Makes a hearty main dish served over noodles.

*This post has been shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Mondays.