Saturday, October 31, 2015

Discipline Scriptures

Our church had this hanging up in the nursery at church. I absolutely loved it! I am planning to put this on the refrigerator and when my kiddos need it, have them read the scripture or even write it! I love backing up what I am trying to teach them with sound words from the greatest book ever.

"He hit me first!"
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other. (I Thes. 5:15)

"She's stupid!"
Do not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up. (Eph. 4:29)

"You're not my friend anymore!"
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)

"You're not my boss!"
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. (Rom. 13:1)

"Why do I have to do that?"
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus ... taking the very nature of a servant. (Phil. 2:5-7).

Friday, October 30, 2015

We Bought a Farm: Disheartened

Drove to Asheville, North Carolina today (about 1.5 hours) in JB's big Ford F-250 with Hannah to pick up some feed for our chickens. JB, Shane, and Dan were staying home to process 10 of our ducks.

Picked up the 1,000 pounds of feed and then, on the highway on the way home, the truck basically ... died. Like threw a rod died. It's forever dead.

It had been such a nice day. Beautiful weather. And a wonderful lunch just me and my youngest. I was feeling so carefree and just enjoying the day so much.

And then that.

I was one mile from a mechanic and I managed to creep the truck into the parking lot. Where the mechanic broke the news that the truck was no more.

I waited an hour and a half for our friend Shane to pick me up in Dan's truck. We loaded the 1,000 pounds of feed over and headed home.

I'd love some prayers for us tonight. We've had a few financial punches in the gut in the last few months and this one really hurts. To lose a vehicle like this really spins us on our axis.

We know God will provide. He always does. But in the meantime, feeling a bit winded.

P.S. If anyone knows anyone in the Asheville, NC area who would like to help us sell a truck for junk, please let me know.

Girly Ninja Warrior

I bought Abigail a really cute pair of ruby red slippers to wear a blue gingham dress she already had. She wanted to be Dorothy for Halloween and this seemed to be an easy costume to put together.

Last night she mentioned she might want to be something different. Sidge pipes up and says, "Hey Abigail! You want to be Dorothy ... with weapons?"

She seemed intrigued by the idea. Something tells me her costume might get pretty interesting. So goes the life of a little sister of two big brothers!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Zippers and buttons and toothbrush-covered suds

I put Hannah down for her nap. I have been working on bribery with a jelly bean after a few suggestions on this blog and on Facebook. "If you keep your clothes on in your bed, I'll give you a jelly bean when you wake up." I really thought she got it after about four naps/nights with no clothes removal.

But then ... this.

She didn't have her diaper off, but folks, I still don't understand how she unzips and unbuttons pajamas down her back? I checked and the snap and zipper were apart. I'm seriously flabbergasted by this chick.

But wait. My mother story isn't over. As I walked downstairs after putting her back down with her pajamas back on, Sidge came up to me, his hands covered in suds. "Mom, the suds in the bathroom sink came up over your toothbrush. But I got them to go back down."



We Bought a Farm: Meet Red

When we purchased our arm, the owners asked us to consider taking on "Red" as our own dog. We quickly agreed. But we closed on the farm in November and didn't move here until June, and by then, the interim foster family across the street from us had fallen in love with Red and he with them.

So while he is technically not our dog, we still sort of lay claim to him. He's really skinny because he lives with four other dogs who dominate eating time. So we all keep treats in our van, and anytime we see Red out and about, we stop and give him some. He is usually with his pal "Blue" but on this particular day, it was only Red, and I managed to snag a few pictures of him. 

He's such a sweet pup!

When Josh and Sarah were visiting, Red and Blue came over to visit us, and Sarah said, "Man, this is country life isn't it?" It really is. I love that these dogs just come to see us and I love the friendliness of all the people who live over in our neck of the woods.

Every day this feels more like home.

Mr. Shane

Our friend from Turkey, Mr. Shane, is in town visiting. The kiddos LOVE him. Unfortunately, he got the series of colds that has been running through our house and it has rained non-stop since he got here. But otherwise, it's been a great visit!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hannah (in her own words)

My name is Hannah Kitsteiner Joy. Did you know that I know how to put on tights by myself? My mommy found me like this. My big sister Abigail doesn't even put tights on by herself. And yes, I'm wearing Abigail's shoes. I rarely wear my own shoes.

Here is another photo of me that I think pretty perfectly sums me up. I insisted on wearing each item I have on. Yes those are leopard print shoes. They are currently the only ones I will agree to wear without taking them off wherever we may be. I also picked out my dress, sunglasses, hat, and even the book I am reading. Mommy is now letting me look at non-Hannah-proof books on occasion because I have given up senseless ripping of pages. (The activity was boring me.)

When we went out this day, Mommy got a bunch of compliments on coordinating my shoes and my jacket. Only thing is -- she didn't mean to do this. This was ALL me.

Here's a picture of me before I went off for my homeschool co-op class. This blue purse is my favorite. I try not to go anywhere without my sunglasses and my purse.

I put this shirt on by myself. (Check out the tag in the front. It's the newest style. All the rage.)

A close-up of me at homeschool co-op. These are my favorite boots. I stole them from Abigail and don't let her wear them anymore. They are too big for me, but I really don't care.

I often attempt to change my own clothes with some funny results.

Our friend Carla gave this to Sidge for his birthday, but I have taken it over. Don't I look like Emmitt from The Lego Movie?

 Brother's flip-flops ad favorite purse. Totally my style!

When it is finally time to go to sleep at night, I'm pretty tuckered out from all the clothes changing and wardrobe styling and trying to get out my clothes in my bed I do all day long! Night night!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I quit!

Hannah figured out how to get out of her zippered backward pajamas. They have a zipper and a snap at the top? How is that possible?



I had heard of children like her, but I have never seen one up close and personal like.

How can I do parenthood four times and never, see ever what I am witnessing now on a daily basis?

Overwhelmed by child who wants to sleep naked but isn't potty trained.

Gonna try a safety pin first.


Bring on the duct tape.


My friend Teri posted this on Facebook. She has eight children. Yes. You heard that right. Eight. And most of them are boys. Big boys. That eat a lot of food. Teri posted this and it made me feel SO much better about my life as a mom.

I have to be honest. Up until Hannah's arrival, I feel like I was doing pretty okay at this motherhood thing. I think the combination of returning to the USA, losing my housekeeper, adding this little fireball, and just having four kids now instead of three has put the nail in the coffin so to speak.

I am no longer in control of my life. 

I am trying, but there are four of them. There is one of me. And most days, the stuff and the chaos and the pecking of little "chickens" is more than I can handle.

This post made me smile and laugh

and not feel alone all rolled up into one. Long live the mothers who are just barely hanging on!

1. Lower your standards for cleanliness and order.

2. Did that? Lower them even more.

3. Your house will never look like a magazine spread, period. Embrace that.

4. No matter how many baskets you buy to contain toys, they will always be visible. Embrace the Toys ‘R Us/ frat house-chic decor.

5. You can never have too many Popsicle in the freezer. How many bad moods have been fixed by a simple Popsicle?

6. If you can’t change them, change your perspective. For example I read recently – probably on Satan’s website Pinterest – that toothpaste is great for cleaning things like faucets. So now when I go into the bathroom every day and see toothpaste splatter all over the bathroom faucet I think about how my children have done half the chore of cleaning for me. How considerate of them! Then I wipe it off while cursing.

7. Those chores that no one ever wants to do. Decide if you would rather do it yourself, badger your child to it, or let it go. If you are confused about what to do, see Number 1 on this list.

8. No one cares what is stuffed under your child’s bed, why should you. Unless it is old food. In that case, you should get a dog.

9. If you have boys, your bathroom will always faintly stink like pee. Invest in some Febreeze and count down the days until they move out and you can go visit them and pee on their bathroom floor.

10. Don’t buy white furniture. Unless you enjoy screaming at your children every time they go near it.

11. However bad a situation might seem, one day it will be funny. I have a few for which I am eagerly awaiting for the funny to kick in. Any time now….

12. When your child is a young teen there will be nothing more embarrassing than your very existence. Use this to your advantage. Start planning early.

13. Do not paint any walls in your house with flat paint.

14. Be okay with letting your kids stumble sometimes. Whether that is turning in an assignment late because they didn’t do it or wearing an outfit so hideous you have trouble looking at them without laughing.

15. Noise cancelling headphones are great for blocking out whining, bickering and the endless episodes of Sponge Bob.

16. Socks do not have to match. Every day is Crazy Sock Day at my house, which is infinitely better than Crazy Mom Day.

17. The crayons will break and it is okay to throw them away rather then save them to make some sort of craft that involves the hair dryer. In fact, I give you permission to not feel guilty about all the crafts you know you will never do.

18. Your children will not die from eating the occasional hot dog or frozen pizza. And by occasional I mean more than you are really willing to admit.

19. If your children are driving you crazy arguing with each other, start an argument with them. Then your children will bond over their mutual hatred of you and be quiet.

20. Children do not appreciate top sheets or high thread counts. Buy neither.

21. Homework time is the worst time of the day. Help your kids and yourself by having a designated time and a quiet place to do homework. Preferably in a neighbor’s home.

22. Just say No to ironing.

23. Last, but not least, some chocolate and some really bad TV makes everything seem a little better.

Monday, October 26, 2015

High and Lows

It is not until people meet Hannah in person that I feel they can truly appreciate the incredible bundle of passion and energy and busy-ness all rolled up into one dynamo package. She makes us laugh so hard, but I am not exaggerating when I say that my entire day with her is moving from one moment to the next -- clean-up and damage control -- non-stop!

I never experienced the likes of her with my previous three children. Like ... ever. I am not going overboard when I say she gets into more, in one day, then my previous three children did in their entire childhoods combined.

Take yesterday for example. Here is just a quick summary of the "Human Tornado" (i.e. Hannah.)

1. Figured out how to put her stool under our water dispenser and turn it on. But didn't know how to turn it off. Water ... everywhere.

2. While I was practicing my piano, I finished, turned around, and found that she was eating a banana that she somehow got off the counter and peeled herself. (She doesn't even like bananas much and before I knew it, she was handing it back to me.)

3. Got out cereal and a bowl and poured herself some, coming out into the living room eating the snack that I never even knew she got.

4. Climbed up on the washing machine to get different clothes out of our clothing shelf. Changed clothes at least five times, completely, herself. 

5. Went into the bathroom and started washing her hands, all by herself. 

These are just a few of the things she did. Couple that with moving from one thing to another in tornado style and my house is continually a mess and so is she! So many things about her are so different from the other kids. She puts on shoes all day long. And she never puts them on the wrong feet. Ever. (My other kids will still do this now and then.) It also appears she is dropping her nap. (My other kiddos all napped until at least 4 or 5. Abigail is is still napping.)

[Don't worry. I don't plan to stop putting her in her bed for at least two hours each day for my own sanity.]

I now have to put her into her bed in pajamas zipped up backwards every time she goes in because she completely strips herself down to her birthday suit anytime I don't. (Never experienced this with another child.)

[Side note: I bought four pairs of zippered pajamas online at Children's Place. How smart of me to buy one with feet. How do you put footed pajamas on backward? Duh! That won't work.]

Our friend Shane is in town. He was around us a lot in Turkey when we had young children, and he concurs. He has never seen anything like Hannah in our family!

She has never met a stranger. She goes to everyone. She rarely cries when she leaves me. She is outgoing and intense and a dynamo!

But in the midst of the Hannah storm that sometimes leaves me feeling like I am playing catch-up in a game that I will never catch up in, I will find myself dealing with a completely different monster -- almost a complete 180 from that which I deal with with Hannah. 

One of those moments involves Abigail. Most of you know that since the day Abigail was born, she has been shy.  She barely spoke until she was 2.5 (while Hannah is currently speaking in paragraphs!), and even when Hannah was born, JB had to leave me at the hospital with our new baby because we couldn't even get her to stay with grandparents. 

This year we started a Homeschooling Co-op every Monday. Each of my kids takes three different classes with different parents teaching the class. This is a huge Co-op group -- over 200 families. It is run so well and is such a positive thing for me and our family. I was hopeful that this might go well because she had been going to Sunday School mostly

But typical Abigail-style, each week with her did not feature improvement. In fact, it actually began feeling like her ability to be away from me was regressing. I am perfectly okay with the fact that she is on the shy side. (Reading this book helped me understand her so well.) But still. I really wanted to have a time that I could fellowship with other moms and have a little break and allow her to be with other kids and have a good time.

Each week I've tried a different strategy and each strategy worked  a little but not very much. Today I tried telling her that I would be back every ten minutes. And that's what I did. Every ten minutes I returned, poked my head in or gave her a thumb's up through the window. Every ten minutes for all three hours. (I even snuck away during the P.E. class I teach to give her encouragement through the window.)

And it worked!!!! Her teachers were as excited as I was. (They've been so amazingly patient and understanding.) One of the teachers took these pictures of Abigail participating in her music class:

I literally am tearing up while writing this. She is so much fun and loves life so much, and when I see her at school or church closed up, I want so badly for her to fly!

And today she flew! I joined her class on the playground third period and she was actually playing with other kids -- communicating and talking to them and participating!

I am so happy for my little girl.

And so amazed at how different and how different the challenges are of parenting two sisters who are night and day!

Brussel Sprouts

We have a lot of people that come to our farm, and when they find out we are making Brussel Sprouts, they hesitate -- just for a moment. I can see the look on their face. Trying to be polite. But not excited whatsoever about the prospect of faking their way through this green vegetable. 

They don't like Brussel Sprouts. Or don't think they do.

But JB's Brussel Sprouts? So good! While we've still had a few people who have decided against this awesome veggie, the majority of our visitors have changed their tune after trying his recipe.

I call this JB's recipe. But the truth is, JB is doing very little cooking in our house anymore. Oh how I miss his food! But with his full-time job off the farm and his full-time job on the farm, I've taken over.

He's taught me how to make his Brussel Sprouts. And according to Grama, mine are better than his!

All we do is put cut up pieces of bacon in a large pan and cook the bacon until done. Then we add the Brussel Sprouts (ends cut off and cut in half.) We cook over Medium or Medium-High heat for about 25 minutes, stirring often, and making sure they aren't sticking to the pan. If they start sticking, add some white cooking wine to the pan to loosen it up.


I recently stumbled upon another recipe for Brussel Sprouts. It's very similar, and I plan to try it soon: Honey-Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

Seriously! If you have never given ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS a chance! Do it! They are nothing like the boiled ones your parents made you eat as children. I promise!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

When Asked for Advice on How to Deal with Grief, This Old Man Gave the Most Incredible Reply

I recently read a really great statement on grief. I have often written on this blog and said that grief comes in waves. I love how this person really brought that analogy home. I don't know who really wrote this or who said it or how this story has evolved. But I wanted to share it here on my Blog because I think it is a really accurate representation of how grief feels.

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.



I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes.
My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function.
You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.
~ by GSnow

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hannah Crisis Averted

Our friend Shane has just arrived from Germany. He brought me my very favorite chocolate EVER! It's actually a Belgian chocolate. It isn't cheap. And it melts very easily. Shane bought it, froze it, wrapped it in newspaper, and travelled with it all the way from Germany for me!

And I almost lost it all to the chubby hands of a two-year-old.

A two-year-old who would have never fully appreciated what she was putting in her mouth.

Before we picked Shane up from the airport, we stopped at Kroger and Costco so when we got to the farm, we had a whole lot of groceries to unload. I was unloading the van and letting Hannah peruse around the van and house and driveway. Suddenly I saw her IN my chocolate! Egads! I ran faster than I can ever remembering running and caught her, hand covered in chocolate but no chocolate eaten.


Day on the Blue Ridge

One of our favorite memories as a married couple was a day JB and I spent driving along the BlueRidge Parkway on our honeymoon. I actually had no idea that we were this close to Mt. Mitchell -- the highest peak east of the Mississippi. JB thought it would be fun to take the kids up there from the day. It is only about a 2 hour drive from our home. 

On the way to Mt. Mitchell, we tried explaining to all the kiddos that the last time we were there was on our honeymoon. Here is their confusion on video:

I went back through my old pictures and scanned in on our pictures from our honeymoon -- sometime in late June, 1998. Here are some photos I found from back then:

They have changed the whole viewing platform so it looks quite different today. But here are some pics of all of us up on the mountain:

So crazy to be at the same sign with six of us instead of two!

Friday, October 23, 2015

We Bought a Farm: Big Visitor Month

JB's brother Ray and his family (Wife Gabbi and kids: Grace and Nate) came into town during their Fall Break. This makes our third set of visitors and we still have one more coming in in a few days.

I didn't get very many pictures. Hoping that Gabbi may have gotten a few more that I can add to this post? 

But here are a few I did snag:

We took the entire crew to Yoder's -- an Amish store with a little lunch counter that we just love to go to. It was a little cold but we all managed to have lunch outside. 

Another day we went with our church to Fender's Farm. It is about an hour from our house but was a really great time.

Here is a video of all six cousins on a swing together!

Friday Funnies

Grama: "Do you know I love you to pieces?"
Hannah: "Yeah. I'm a piece of work."


The boys were attending their Health & Safety class at our homeschool co-op. (The picture above is with the firefighters who came to talk to their class.) After the class, their teacher came up to me and said she had to tell me something funny. While talking about fire alarms, Sidge raised his hand and said, "We heard fire alarms in our house all the time. Every time my mom cooks they go off."

Ms. Kim asked me if this was a joke.

I wish.


Me: "Where's your toy phone?"
Hannah: "I think I left it on the playground probably so."


Me: "Do you want strawberries?"
Hannah: "Yes, I want strawberries badly."


Me: "Do you have a boo boo?"
Hannah: "Yes I need a bandache."


Me: "Look Hannah. Mr. Billy is here."
Hannah: "Oh. Yeah. Where's Ms. Gay?"
Me: "She's not here."
Hannah: "Yeah. She's taking a nap probably so."


This video cracks me up. The first reason is what happens before I get out the camera. When I walked in and saw the Fruit Loops, she had her head in her hands and was saying, "I no need spanking."

But then when I tell her she poured them on the floor, listen to her tell me they are not on the floor. They are on the rug.

She also tells me that she has had enough and she did not waste them.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

We Bought a Farm: Perceptions

This life we are living is such a mixed bag for me. It is so amazingly wonderful and full and our days are busy with all the good things that we hoped we'd be busy with. Things like being outside and being with animals and nature and being together as a family.

So many people are writing to me. Nearly every day I get a message or an email or a text from people saying that I am living their dream. And nearly every day I get a message or an email or a text from people saying that I am living their nightmare.

So which is it? 

The truth of it is, this is the life for us. We absolutely love it. But it is not easy. And it is not picture perfect.

Let me give you two examples.

This morning was an absolutely insane morning. Hannah had tried to make her own cereal and had stripped down completely naked in her bed again. I was totally out of laundry detergent. Our flies were running rampant. We had to have a short meeting with our intern. You get the idea.

JB also got word that he had to go into a work for a last-minute fairly urgent meeting regarding his company switching to a different management company. Sort of a big deal not knowing whether or not you have a job. (Meeting is over. All is well.)

So now we are down to just three hours of time. We have to get all the animals moved as JB isn't off again until Saturday. I really don't want to put Hannah in her bed because, well, she just woke up not too long ago and because, well, she keeps taking off all her clothes and diaper and the special pajamas I have ordered to keep her from doing this haven't come in yet.

So we opt. to take Hannah out with us to move the animals.

Here we are in the middle of our pasture with all four of our kids. The three oldest often join us. But we have never attempted to have Hannah with us for a move. These moves have a lot of steps. You have to put up new fencing, mow area around the fence, move the animals without them running away. There's food and water and a lot of little things.

I tell all the kiddos to get dressed. Here is what Hannah came up with:

Anyways, I write all that to say, if you just look at the picture you might think, "What a life! They have their kids in God's country, just all enjoying the great outdoors together. Look how happy their little lass is."

But what you didn't see was Hannah crying screaming for nearly the entire time we were out there all because our friendliest pig decided to give her a major sniff-down while I was off getting food and Daddy was on the tractor. I am actually shocked JB got that photo. I don't know how he caught her not crying.

Speaking of getting food, JB snapped this picture of me leading our 9 sheep and 6 pigs (you can't even see the pigs in the photo) to their new paddock. 

But here's another example of how real life doesn't always mirror what you see in a photo. This was a happy moment. The kids were laughing at Mommy leading everyone. JB was proud of me for my performance. I was enjoying playing my role.

And just five minutes later JB and I get into quite a doozy of a fight. I zigged. The sheep zagged. And suddenly JB had to go hike back up the hillside to retrieve the lost lambs. I thought he yelled at me so I got upset for being yelled at when I am just learning how to do all this stuff and I am not perfect. He said he did not yell. His voice is just quite hoarse. (Which is true.) So it sounded like he yelled. He also told me that I didn't think I stopped walking, but that in fact I had which is why the sheep took off again. Anyways, I was trying hard. He got frustrated. We got in a fight. 

Sigh ....

So all that to say that we are loving this life, but it is not without issue. It is not without stressful moments. It is not without me wondering what in the world I am doing here. It is not without me wondering if we can do this or not and whether I am the woman for the job.

But it is our life.

And we love it.

Even though it doesn't always look like the pictures!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pregnancy After Loss and the Innocent Question: Is this Your First?

The following is a guest post. Have something you'd like to share on my blog? I am ALWAYS open to people sharing their perspectives! As always, guest posts do not necessarily reflect my personal feelings, but I think hearing from others is always helpful.

Kelli Dorschel is originally from Michigan and moved to South Florida 12 years ago, where she met her husband and put down roots.  They have a 4-year-old daughter, and after losing two precious babies to miscarriage, are now expecting a baby boy in January 2016.  Kelli has her Master's Degree in Environmental Education and works at a nature center where she is  fulfilling her passion to teach visitors about nature. This is the first time she is sharing publicly about her losses.   

In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I am writing this piece to help bring awareness about a potentially painful question that many pregnant women will hear. Most people are aware they shouldn’t ask women and couples questions regarding their plans for children, but what about women who are clearly pregnant? I am currently in a situation and fielding a question that I never before thought would be painful. 

I am currently 26 weeks and noticeably pregnant. At my job, I interact with the visiting public on a regular basis, and many times, people will comment on my pregnancy, and I am routinely being asked, “Is this your first?” The first time this was asked to me, I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks and my eyes instantly welled with tears because I didn’t know how to respond.  

I have a healthy and happy four-year-old daughter who is the light of my life, so this would seemingly be an easy question to answer, but it’s not.  No, it isn’t my first, but surprisingly, this simple question by a well-meaning person brought a flood of emotions similar to when people would ask me when I was going to give my daughter a sibling, clearly not knowing about my two miscarriages and the struggles of having another child. 

I have heard this question many times now (mostly at work as my daughter is usually with me anywhere else I go) and I’m still torn about how to respond.  If I simply say “no” the person will follow-up with “how many do you have?”  I could respond that I have a four-year-old daughter and leave it at that, but then I am filled with guilt for intentionally not acknowledging my two other children.  However, if I say that this is my fourth child and I’ve lost two, the innocent person asking the question will be immediately uncomfortable, and while at work, I want visitors to leave with a positive and happy experience – not being made to feel bad by a staff member.  Some may suggest to just answer “This is my fourth,” and be done with it, but again, there are always follow up questions of, “How old, and are they boys/girls?”  Meanwhile, I still have a difficult time talking about my losses, and when the topic arises, tears readily flow. 

Any way you cut it, the question is always uncomfortable for me, whether it’s guilt from ignoring two of my children, or becoming emotional in front of strangers, or speaking about something so personal with someone I don’t even know.  Maybe someday I’ll get to a point where I can speak about it without getting emotional, but that day has yet to come.  Even so, if I am able to speak openly about it, the person asking the question will still be uncomfortable, so either way, it’s really a no-win situation.  I would imagine that if someone has experienced loss, they wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place, because they would understand the potential impact of the question.         

I then think about women who do not have a living child as I do, but are experiencing pregnancy after loss and being asked this question.  I have an “easy” answer if I choose to go that route, but many women do not, and I can’t imagine how they answer, let alone how this question makes them feel! By asking this question, we may be inadvertently prying into a very personal and private area of a woman’s heart.  Is it appropriate to ask a stranger about such personal things?  I know that is not the intent of the person asking the question – they are just making small talk, but it’s how the question could be perceived and the emotional havoc it can wreak, and that’s what we need to realize. 

Please do not misunderstand.  I’m not advocating silence about pregnancy and infant loss.  I just know that I don’t really want to talk about it with strangers, and I don’t want to lie about my precious babies in Heaven!  I feel that the woman should be able to choose when and where and with whom she discusses the most horrific thing that has ever happened to her.  I know that the person asking the question isn’t trying to open this can of worms, but their question can do that in the woman’s heart. 

Pregnancy and infant loss affects 1 in 4 women.  Just think about that for a moment.  Twenty-five percent of women have endured the unimaginable. Please, let’s try to be thoughtful when asking people about their plans for children or commenting on pregnancies. I know I can’t speak for everyone who is experiencing pregnancy after loss, but I can speak to my experiences.  I never gave a second thought to answering that question when I was pregnant with my daughter, but times have changed. 

I’m hoping by sharing my experiences that we can all be a little more aware of the power of words, and that pregnancy and infant loss affects more people than we may realize. My recommendation would be that if you notice that a woman is pregnant and you wish to comment, please just congratulate her and give her your best wishes for a healthy pregnancy and baby.  The pregnant woman can then choose to engage or not engage in further conversation with you on her terms, helping to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation for everyone.        

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We Bought a Farm: Processing Complete

We have survived. Eight-two chickens in the freezer. And we have all lived to talk about it!

Dan, Dad, and JB started the processing preparation early in the morning on Monday. By the time I got home after co-op around 1pm, they were just underway with the actual "processing" part of the process.

Many people have asked me what the processing actually entails. I decided I would show you in photos.

The chickens are first moved from the pasture to a brooder up closer to the house. The kids helped with catching chickens four at a time, and giving them to Grampa.

Grampa then took the chickens to be killed.

I have skipped the "Killing Cones" picture. This is the part where the birds have their throats slit. They die as quickly as possible. Grampa did this part. People have asked if I watched it. Yes, I did see it a few times, but I attempted to just be as unattached to this part as I could. People have also asked if the kids watched this part. They did. We did not hide it from them.

There is some debate whether this is the best thing for kids, but ultimately, we have heard from many farm families that this seems to be the best way to handle this -- just have it always be a part of their lives. Isaac wasn't interested in watching, Abigail was there some of the time, but Sidge was outside and participating nearly the entire time. He was loving the whole thing!

After the chickens are dead, they go into a "Scalder." This helps loosens their feathers. Dad is dunking them in the picture below. They were dunked approximately ten times. You dunk them fairly fast as you don't want them to cook.

After that, they go into a "plucker". This machine can take all the feathers off four birds in one minute!

From there, they entered Dan and Dad's station. This is the "Evisceration Table."

Once Dan and JB are done with them, they are dropped into a freezing "Chill Tank." Once all 82 birds were in the tank, it was 7pm. We took a break to have dinner as Dan's parents were in from out of town and joining us for a meal. 

I did not help much with the processing at all. I was in the house with kids and cooking dinner. It was really a three-person job.

After dinner, Dan, JB, Grampa, and I finished packaging the chickens. JB took off the necks, and Dan checked the chickens to make sure they were in good shape for packaging (removing any wayward feathers etc.). Here is a photo of Dan doing his job. By this time of night, we were all pretty slap-happy and having some good laughs. This picture made me laugh hard:

Dad and I put them in bags, Dad dropped them into hot water which takes the air out of the bags, and then I weighed and labeled each of the birds. 

Here is just one freezer, filled with chickens:

The chickens ranged in size from 3.5 to 6.5 pounds. 

Another question is how we are storing 82 chickens. Well we have one deep freezer and a total of four other freezers on the property that we can use. All in all we only ended up using the deep freezer, and two of the other freezers.

Since we have another batch coming in two weeks, we want to sell about half of these chickens. I am selling them almost exclusively to people we know. It has simply passed through my homeschool group and word of mouth. We are selling them for $3.50 a pound. This is a great price for pasture raised, organically fed chickens who have received no antibiotics and are non-GMO.

As for how I liked the process, I wouldn't say I liked it. I don't like seeing an animal die. I did, however, have an appreciation for what was occurring. I was excited when we got a chicken over 6 pounds. I enjoyed seeing how all this good equipment came together to produce a good product. (We plan on renting out the equipment to help off-set the costs.)

I'd love to answer any other questions so please fire away!