Writers Conference

Lets say our life has been “flying by”img_0056 with many opportunities for travel this year.  “Flying” is literal as well as metaphorical as we’ve traveled to California, Madeira, Gibraltar, Spain, Netherlands and Israel.

We’ve also been dealing with some work related injuries that have required casts as well as surgery. Life is changing and “normal” is being recreated.  Maybe retirement is much closer on the horizon than we had thought.

We spent a good portion of the summer getting an airbanb functional called “Fiddle Family Farm”AirBnb6and “A Quiet Country Lane Cabin”.  The details to attend to for those projects left me with little time or energy to write. A challenge with the septic system also prevented our attending Fiddle Camp this year but that was more than made up for from the week long visit and help of friends from Texas. (Who knew that a four inch septic pipe protruding from the cement floor in the garage would not be connected to the septic tank?!?!)

In October,  Jeff and I made the drive to Oregon to attend the Oregon Christian Writers Conference.  Since I like to write, play music with and for people, teach as well as other things and Jeff has been working for 32 years , we may well be ready for something new. At the conference, we met many people with stories to tell. I like to tell stories and I like to laugh. Somehow it helps get through the hard things of life.

One point of the conference that stood out was to get your writing out there. It is easy to feel like it is not good enough or that timing isn’t right.  Life keeps happening! Maybe we want the story to have a neat ending that we can wrap up with a bow.  Unfortunately, things like the unexpected death of a young friend or the expected death of an old and respected friend and mentor really mess up our best laid plans. Health challenges of our own or a family member sometimes make us feel inadequate and unprepared for the “job”.  Another point that was put out there is, that if God gives us a story to tell and we don’t tell it, who will?

Yet God is faithful and brings encouragement from unexpected sources. This year in my Bible Study Fellowship group, we started with the book of Joshua.  Joshua is told,  “Only be strong and very courageous. Be careful to observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you. Don’t turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  This scroll of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make you way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.  Haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ” Joshua 1:7-9 Coincidentally at the opening of the conference, these verses were read as part of the worship time.  Coincidence? I don’t think so.

This passage encouraged me to launch our second “airbanb” cabin in the middle of September even though it didn’t have TV or wifi and it was the end of the season. Without these amenities I was told that no one would want to stay there. Bing! Someone booked it the very next day.  People have booked it at least two more weekends and it has become a haven for a family dealing with a moldy house.

Change in life is inevitable. We have a lot to sort through.  Our goal is to listen to God’s voice on our journey through His Word to confirm the direction we are to go.

Counting my blessings and things I am thankful for also help me on my journey. Sometimes the details are so overwhelming that there are no simple answers and it feels like there is no road map to follow.  My friend, Pam Farrel, co-author of “Men Are Like Waffles and Women Are Like Spaghetti”, encourages people to “Choose Joy” when life gets overwhelming and complicated. That idea comes from Nehemiah 8:10 “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Some things I am thankful for:  an unusually warm and beautiful October and November with gorgeous leaves and flowers, my family working well together through their challenges, my husbands time off from work to heal his shoulder and his broken hand, doctors who are working to help him, an excellent Bible Study with Bible Study Fellowship that welcomes people from all over the world to come and learn about God through His Word via local classes or on the internet, the hospitality of good friends who let us stay in their house even though they are out of town, unexpected visits with other friends, hummingbirds that feed among the fuchsia bushes and the juniper in the yard, conversations with my family and friends sharing ideas, stories and ideas. I must not forget the Thanksgiving conference at Cannon Beach with my family and friends.

Psalm 27:1 was also read at the conference:  “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of who shall I be afraid?” Overall, a very good couple of months full of unexpected blessings. Perhaps the best is yet to come!


Counting Blessings

This year has been full of unexpected blessings that often have come out of disappointments and mislaid plans.

Health challenges and the blessing of a week in a cabin in California during the winter in my part of the world ended and began this year.

Opportunities to be a guest teacher and meet up with young friends I have taught music to in the past welcomed me into new and different classrooms.  I now get paid to do something I enjoy the most –  reading and telling stories and singing and playing my guitar with children.

In April, a door swung open for my adult children and I to do a transatlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona followed two weeks later with a trip that included my husband and older daughter on to Israel in which we got to meet and minister to Holocaust Survivors and celebrate Israels 70th Anniversary.

Once home, we began the challenge to finish an upstairs apartment to launch as an Airbanb.  Things are never as simple as we think they will be.  Who knew that the 4 inch gray septic pipe in the garage floor was not connected to the septic tank? This necessitated a lot of detective work while my husband is recuperating from two work related injuries that gave him five pound weight limits on both of his hands. Thankfully, I have several homeschooling kids and a friend with a backhoe that I hired to help dig as we explored what we were dealing with.

Life has not gone the way that I planned this summer or fall. I am grateful that God has the greater plan and that I can trust Him to guide me step my step.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”  James 1:5 “If you lack wisdom, you can ask of God, who gives generously. To all without reproach.”  One of my favorite things we did this summer was to set these verses to tunes to teach children at our local Vacation Bible School. I had no idea that I would need to have these verses running through my mind as I sought answers and solutions to problems way out of my area of expertise!

I am so thankful that God directs my steps and that He provides in creative and unexpected ways.


“in everything give thanks, in every circumstance. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Some days are easier to do this than others.  This year has been full of so many ups and downs that I have lost track of where I am at times. I am so thankful for the Word of God and my Bible Study Fellowship group and lesson that really helps to keep me centered on what is really important. When facing challenges, it is hard to be “strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you may go.” Joshua 1:9.

I am thankful for the creative and busy family that I have. It has been hard these past weeks because of all the doctor appointments we’ve had.  While Jeff is progressing, there are new things being discovered to deal with.  Yet the long drives give us lots of time to talk and pray, work on my Bible Study Fellowship lesson or listen to music.  Looking for answers to some of our challenges is not easy. God is guiding and directing each day. God opens and closes doors. Sometimes quickly and sometimes not.  His faithfulness and provision is something to be thankful for!

I am grateful for neighbors who will trade help or just step into help when all the doctor visits get overwhelming, are long and far away.  On one of our trips we got a call from the local dispatch operator that a man who had gone into our yard to inspect for a bid on cleaning our roof had left the gate open and our goats got out.  We were over an hour away.  Several phone calls later, I was grateful for the one neighbor who was willing to go and make sure they got put back in.

I am thankful for all the children I get to work with whether through music with the Moppet program, music lessons, tutoring, farm lessons or substituting in the public schools. There is never a dull moment. God’s mercies are new every morning and that is something to be thankful for for sure!

I am thankful for the new friends we’ve made traveling this year.

I am grateful for the sense of urgency God gave me to get our Airbanb finished this summer. With Jeff home recuperating from shoulder surgery and hand issues,   I am grateful for people who help me learn how to do things as I accidentally seem to have started a business!

I appreciate our long term connection with Cannon Beach Conference Center and the tradition that started 24 years ago when my dad told us that they would no longer be hosting Thanksgiving. All of my siblings made other plans and did not include us. I am grateful for the advertisement I heard on KCIS in Seattle inviting us to the Thanksgiving Conference and for the continued tradition that has been for our family. I am thankful that my children still want to come and for the friends we have met here down through the years as well as the opportunity to walk the beach and share burdens and blessings with other friends. How encouraging to learn that someone has been praying for us! I am thankful for the guest speakers who teach Gods Word and from experience, how to apply it.

I am thankful for the gift of music and for Christmas as we get to go and play out in our community.  We have an upcoming playout at the Port of Everett Holiday Festival on December 1 at 2 PM and we will be participating this year at the Stanwood Haggen’s “Sing from the Heart” on December 15.   We also look forward to our annual recital at a local retirement home.  The greatest gift for which I am thankful is the gift of forgiveness for sin and restoration of a right relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. “It is not by works of righteousness that we have done but according to His mercy He has saved us.” Titus 3:5.img_5594-animation

There is a a lot of JOY in Thankfulness.  Happy Thanksgiving!

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5 NIV


Change and Transitions

img_2411This year has been a very full and eventful year.  We’ve traveled more that I could have imagined possible.  From the Palm Desert for Christmas, to a repositioning cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona, to Israel and back home, its been an interesting and educational year.

Added to all of the traveling, we also worked to finish and upstairs apartment and launched an AirbandB in June and another one in September. This has been an HUGE learning curve for me in terms of energy and resource management.

Another challenge is that my husband is recuperating from two work related injuries that have become increasingly not as straight forward as originally hoped or assumed. It has taken much prayer and ongoing research to find out what is really wrong, what can be done about it and what else do we need to know?  It is frustrating when health care providers are not as forthcoming with information as they could be. Last  week we had four days of leaving our home to drive an hour or more to get to the various doctors that each part of the injuries require. We are playing the waiting game for one surgery to be authorized.

Our children are also branching out and people who once had time and inclination to do farm chores are not home as much as they once were to do them. This makes communication very important.

There are several things I had hoped to get done this year. One is to record songs we do for the local MOPS group. Another is to record Christmas songs we do when we play out over Christmas. This is another learning curve for me. I am learning slowly but when days are filled with doctor and therapy appointments, some of the “want to do” gets slid to the side. img_00781

I am grateful that I know that God is charge and He is using the circumstances of my life to guide and direct us.  Who knows where we will end up next?

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Cruising and Healthy Eating

Traveling is challenging for anyone on any kind of special diet or medical challenges.  Something that I have discovered is that on Princess Cruise ships, they do an outstanding job of attending to special diets. A Bible verse that inspires me states, “Ask and it will be given unto you;  seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to you children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:7-11 God opens up doors and closes others as I apply His word to my life and ask for His guidance and direction.

I am gluten, grain, dairy, soy, legumes and I-can’t-always-remember-free.  I have cleared my home out of known allergens. I also am sensitive to perfumes and scents as well as dust, mold and mildew. This is much harder to manage when I travel. On a cruise ship, the stewards do an excellent job on keeping scents out of our cabin.

About three years ago,  an auto accident in which I was rear ended,  resulted in pain from my right shoulder down my arm and prevented me from playing my guitar and violin.  I was ordered by my doctor to go and rest.  How could I do that? I have a farm to run, animals to care for, goats to milk, a garden to weed, music ministry I feel responsible for, and a myriad of other things to do and get done. In order for me to heal, It became clear I had to do something different. I prayed and asked God for a way to really go and rest. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ESV Matthew 11:28-30 It sometimes feels as if my family and farm cannot make it without me supervising everything to make sure it all gets done in the right amount of time and in the right season.  There is also the proverbial shoe waiting to be dropped. I feel like I need to do everything within my power to prevent or avoid said shoe from dropping. This is exhausting and I am still working on letting go and letting God handle His job.


Mauna Loa, Hilo, Hawaii

We found a “drop and go” cruise to Hawaii that left from a near by city and provided 15 days of rest and relaxation. This  was just the thing we both needed.  It was affordable for us and God provided the timing of an extra paycheck that was the exact amount needed for us to go. Even with booking it two weeks before we left, Princess accommodated my dietary needs.  My doctor advised me to walk up and down the stairs. He said I could “go and look at the Midnight Buffet, but don’t eat it.”  As it turned out, we were too tired to stay up that late after going dancing and enjoying other activities on board.  By following his advise, I was able to maintain my weight and have plenty of fun.  Especially as I got to learn to play the ukulele on this first cruise!


In search of sea turtles, Hilo, Hawaii


Filling out the medical diet form and choosing Traditional Dining provided me with excellent food choices prepared the way I needed them to be. While I did bring some food bars and protein bars just in case, the Maitre’d has always been outstanding in keeping me informed and still providing me with choices. It is fun to have dessert be a surprise every night and have it be something I could enjoy without fear of a reaction.

Our first cruise was such a good experience that we have since then gone to Mexico,  through the Panama Canal on a repositioning cruise which began in Fort Lauderdale and ended for us in Los Angeles. This spring we were able to go on a repositioning cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona, Spain. It was exciting to me to be able to go to Cartagena, Columbia one year and then to Cartagena, Spain the next.  They are really one of the most cost effective ways to see the world once section at a time.  If I could go back and add one thing to my homeschooling years, I would add cruising.  There are so many “hands on” educational opportunities!  Geography, Astronomy, Cultures, Languages, manners and history as well as art, cooking demonstrations and my personal favorite, music!

My advise for cruising is to ask for what you need for your diet, walk and attend active classes, enjoy Traditional Dining and have fun!  Most of all, know that God loves you and cares about the needs in your life and wants to provide what you need.  I’m continually reminded that He doesn’t always give me what I want but He always gives me what I need.


Molasses Crinkles 2018

The blustery days and dropping temperatures seem to inspire me to experiment with recipes.  I am also experimenting as I try to incorporate a new change in our food plan based on “The Plant Paradox” by Dr. Gundry.  I am once again having to redo my food plan as my doctor tries to help me deal with my food sensitivities. I am also working on cleaning out my pantry.

I saw a request on a Trim Healthy Mama Facebook group in which someone wanted to have a chewy cookie rather than a crunchy cookie.  I have been adapting recipes for years,  One of my favorite cookbooks is the “More With Less Cookbook” put out by the Mennonites. I really like the recipe for Molasses Crinkles but have chanaged it accommodate our food challenges. I also have adapted a “Master Mix” so that I have it ready for pancakes, cookies and quick breads.   A friend of mine did a workshop on making “Master Mixes”.  She said, “One mess, many meals.”

My baking experiments include using other flours. One of my favorites is to use two cups of oat flour with 2 cups of Fava and Garbonzo bean flours for Bobs Red Mill.  Unfortunately, that combo doesn’t work with the current food plan.

Mix  dry ingredients for the cookie mix

2 cups Coconut flour

2 cups of banana flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon of baking power

1 teaspoon of salt

I mix all the dry ingredients together in separate containers.

This is a practical learning opportunity for cihldren to measure and mix the ingredients. I like making math meaningful.  Cooking and baking are about as meaningful as it gets.  An additional benefit I have found is picky eaters will often eat something new that they make.

When you want to make molasses cookies:

Mix  well with a mixer. I have also let children mix it with a spoon.

½ cup olive oil

2 eggs or flaxseed meal substitute

1/4 cup of molasses

2 cups of sweetener of choice or equivalent

1 teaspoonful of vanilla extract

1/2 cup of apple sauce

Add to the dry mixture

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

Some add 1 teaspoon of cloves. I omit this because my son is sensitive to cloves.

Or, you may decide to omit the molasses and spices and put in chocolate chips instead. I also like raisins with cinnamon as an option.


Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  You may need to add a bit more flour depending on the consistency.  Refrigerate the mixture until stiff enough to form balls or to roll out.  I use this recipe for making gingerbread cookies too.

Roll the cookie balls in cinnamon sugar or plain sugar and place on a greased air bake cookie sheet or a stoneware baking sheet.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

I find that with alternative flours, it is helpful to use a pancake turner to get them off of the cookie sheet so they don’t stick. I set them on cooling racks to cool. These are useful as a surface to leave cookies on that I am decorating.

If I bake them on stone ware, take them out as soon as the timer goes off and let the stoneware finish cooking them.

This results in soft and chewy cookies. It makes the house smell wonderful!  Yum!




Cinnamon, Apple Sauce and Molasses

IMG_0617.jpgI recently saw a recipe for making cinnamon and apple sauce ornaments.  I love the smell of cinnamon…and ginger and nutmeg!   I enjoy making ornaments, cookies and reading stories about God’s gift of His only Son Jesus who came as a little baby to be born in a stable to stories from around the world about how other people and cultures celebrate the season.  I love to sing songs and learn new ones – whether it is a lullaby or something fast and snappy!  I love the foods, colors and lights, plays and performances. There is never enough time to do everything – which can lead me to exhaustion and collapse. IMG_1016.jpg

Several years ago, I found myself doing too much at Christmas time. I think I was in several choirs and plays. I had four performances in one day.  It was before children and I was much younger but I was stressed out when I found how far I had over extended myself. A friend suggested that I just do one day at time and then plan on not repeating that scenario again.  Which, when one has such a bad case of FMS as I do, is very hard! FMS means “fear of missing something”.   Another year, my children were in a series of vignettes at “The Lights of Christmas” at Warm Beach Camps in Stanwood, Washington.


Lights of Christmas, Warm Beach Camp, Stanwood, Washington.

My son had a main part as a giant in the play that originally was only going to be one week for our group and then other groups were doing other weeks. But then the other groups lost their giant so of course we said Joshua could do it!  That meant we were out every night for over two weeks so he could play that part.  There were a series of years with choirs, drama teams and volunteering in the petting zoo or with leading horses or Christmas choirs.  Lots of rehearsals, making costumes, rehearsing lines, music and dance steps and finding and keeping track of props. Then there was the years my teens were working out there hanging lights and parking visitors.  Not to mention hundreds of crock pot meals so there was something hot to eat when we got home since we were too tired to cook!

Then there is all the special food to prepare for the season. This means a significant amount of work since we have to make everything we eat from alternative flours and real foods.

No purchased box mixes for us!  Even gluten free mixes that can be purchased usually aren’t something that I can eat.  So I make my own mixes.  I also like to make something to give to the neighbors. I enjoy decorating cookies.  I like to make gifts for people. It would be better to do it through out the year but that doesn’t always happen.

No one can do everything all the time anyway.  God has a way of helping me to slow down – I just get pneumonia or something and then I have to slow down.  The past few years, I have been deciding to take breaks instead of allowing myself to get so run down I spend time in the hospital. The good news is that I only had one appendix so that week long painful hospital stay isn’t something that I can repeat!

Something I have been learning to do are to pick my activities more carefully while asking for more input from my husband and family. That “no” word seems to have a hard time coming out of my mouth! This has varying degrees of success especially when I ask them about doing something and they don’t realize what their part will have to be in agreeing to do it. Maybe we all have a bit of people pleasing we need to get over.  This year we have several opportunities to play for some Christmas events. This requires practicing what we are going to do. It requires saying “no” to other things.  There are members of my family who have very strong feeling that people should not sing or play Christmas songs until AFTER Thanksgiving. That doesn’t work so well anymore because it seems like the Christmas Fairs and Bazaars start a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving.  Flexibility becomes a key player in what and when we are going to do something. Add in overtime at work and winterization chores and there isn’t a lot of extra time to do anything else.  To play out, we also have to decide what we are going to play. Thankfully, we have learned quite a few songs over the years through going to District 16 Old Time Fiddler Jams.  However, when we go to play, it is helpful and important that we have the same music in the same key.  We’ve had a couple of performances where we discovered that music got switched. One person only needs words but the rest of us need music in the same key. Oppps!

I find myself thinking about what is really important to be doing with my time.  I only have so much energy.  I enjoy helping to teach a family and some friends how to crochet hats and headbands while watching my daughter create an airplane and a jelly fish from yarn.  I appreciate friends who are coming over and finishing up an apartment that we are hoping to rent soon while another comes and cleans the house for me so that I don’t have to deal with the dust. I am enjoying writing and playing music as well as learning to use my computer to record tunes. I am enjoying taking time to learn how to make this blog work.  All of this reminds me that “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9. This also reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate, a time for war, and a time for peace.”  God knew what He was doing when He said, “Six days you shall labor. But the seventh day is to be a day of rest.” (Exodus 20:9; Exodus 23:12; Deuteronomy 5:13)

In the midst of the holiday rush, I pray that we can also choose to find rest in the midst of it.  Choosing joy and delight in the celebration of Jesus’s birth with music, lights and decorations that help point and hearts and minds to Him. And oh yes, I don’t have to do it all myself!

Making Goat Cheese

I actually took these pictures last summer. I am on a bit of a learning curve as far as blogging and posting is concerned. I hope you will bear with me as I work to get some of my ideas to match up with the pictures that I took this summer. Summer is a very busy time of the year on the farm.  Garden, chickens, ducks, cats and kittens, dog, goats and babies, planning, pruning, planting. IMG_2787.jpg When we add our music activities, it becomes even more so.   I often read a chapter from the book of Proverbs in the Bible because there are 31 chapters in this book.  It is full of good and wise sayings that still work even thousands of years after Solomon wrote them.  Many, if not most, of my ideas are inspired by my study of the Bible and my relationship with Jesus Christ.  Proverbs 27:23-27 recommends “Know well the state of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does the crown endure to all generations. The hay is removed, and the new growth appears, the grasses of the hills are gathered in. The lambs are for your clothing, and the goats are the price of a field.  There will be plenty of milk for your food, for your family’s food, and for the nourishment of your servant girls.”

IMG_2974.jpgI don’t think my husband really had any idea what he was getting into when he married me.IMG_3037.jpgHe had little experience with farm animals. I had some experience and happy memories because my grandparents lived on a farm and I deeply appreciate the farming heritage. We had a dairy goat and a milk cow for awhile when I was a child as well as fancy chickens my father raised and showed at the state fair. I also have found that as I pray and ask, God sends the information and help that we need in order to do what He has called us to do.  A life verse is “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

We got into having our own goats as a result of our children and myself having dairy sensitivities. Since I am a Home Economist, Naturopathic Assistant, Teacher and Home Educator by training, study and experience, I am a proponent of eating our nutrition as much as possible rather than just taking a bunch of vitamins and minerals.  Calcium is a very important nutrient as are probiotic. I once was in a doctor’s office where I noticed they were selling powdered goats milk that featured “probiotics.” At that point, I was buying rice milk as a substitute for my family by the case. I started researching the cost of feeding a goat and realized it would be more cost-effective to have our own goat rather than the time we spent driving to the store to purchase the substitutes. We were not intimidated by owning a goat because we had spent much time with friends helping to care for and milk their goats so they could go on vacation. I found a dairy goat for a good price at a petting zoo while my husband researched fencing from the local Farmers Co-op. How hard could it be?  Which probably should go under the category of “Famous last words.”

We had quite the learning curve. It is one thing to take care of a small herd of goats and an organic garden with chickens at a friends farm vs bringing home a goat from the petting zoo and then learning how to care for her and contain her for her own safety and ours.  The good thing was she was used to being milked and handled by children. We soon found out why she had been donated to the petting zoo – she was an escape artist par excellence!  The Farmers Co-op told my husband we only needed a four-foot high fence. What a joke!!!!! She easily jumped that height. Next he ran a wire about a foot higher to make it look like five feet high. No problem for her to jump over. We took the field fencing and over lapped it so it became a six-foot high fence. She figured out how to go between the overlap to get out. Next, we went through and zip tied the overlap together. She then proceeded to commando crawl under the fence so we had to fill in those places with rocks and logs. I think she created weaknesses in the field fencing by pushing her head through until the hole was big enough to get her body through.  She also found weaknesses where ever there was a connection to the shed and got through there. She would get out and come and stare at us through our sliding glass window. I guess she was lonely.

One day it snowed and she got out – again.  Since we live in the country, we were concerned about her becoming food for the local coyote pack or occasional cougar. We tracked her down our long driveway and over into neighbors yards. The benefit of this is we were able to meet many neighbors. As my young daughter got cold, we returned home while my son continued tracking her. When we got to our driveway, there were her tracked going down the drive way! The goat was waiting for us by her pen!

IMG_2901.jpgFinally, someone pointed out that goats are herd animals and you really need to have at least two of them. We found out who donated her as we really like Toggenburg goats and went and purchased two more who had pedigrees and everything! We even joined the American Dairy Goat Association and our children started 4-H, which was a real help at least for me, to learn how to do vaccinations, feet care and caring for pregnant does and their babies.  This was a tremendous help to homeschooling as many aspects of science – Biology, Nutrition, Chemistry are covered while doing the regularly necessary farm chores. Goats have a particular stomach balance among their four stomachs to maintain.  We covered Botany as we learned which plants are beneficial to goats and which ones will kill them. 4-H gave ample opportunity to learn public speaking and how to interact with people at fairs doing Herdsmanship.  Then there are the opportunities to learn how to use milk in various forms as well as meat as there is no way we can keep all of the goats that are born on the farm. Milk, cheese, ice cream, pudding, custards, and goat burger and sausage are some of the many other delicious and nutrition things we’ve experimented with successfully. Food Science experiences and experiments are regular occurrences at our house with our food sensitivities and challenges. My son is now a successful chef who can go from field to table. The animals and farm provided many opportunities for learning for my son with Aspergers Syndrome as well as therapy and training opportunities.


The goat cheese that we make is a very versatile cheese.  This is Velvet. She is a purebred Toggenburg and a bit persnickety to milk.  She needed an experienced milker as she was good at literally putting her foot in it – the bucket that is! She passed away this fall at 12 years of age. 


A gallon jar, sanitized in the dishwasher or by pouring boiling water into it is where we start the cheese. To make cheese, start with a gallon of milk at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. I discovered if I had half a gallon of cold milk and added half a gallon of fresh warm milk, it was the right temperature to start this cheese.Add ¼ cup of buttermilk and stir well. Next add ¼ of a tablet of Rennet dissolved in a ¼ cup of cold water to the mix and set it aside on the back of the kitchen counter.


This is a picture of the curds and whey. The white cloth is flannel that has been draped over a colander which is over a large pot. I cut the curds up with a large knife in the jar prior to pouring it into the colander. Next I gathered the corners of the cloth and I used a rubber band to hold it together.


This is the cheese after the whey has drained out into the pot. I transfer it into a container and add salt to taste or herbs. Sometimes I add cocoa and Trivia to make a dessert cheese that reminds me of fudge.


The yellow liquid is the whey left over from the process. The cheese in the plastic container and is ready for herbs, or to be used in an omelet, lasagna, a spread or dip for bread and crackers. The other jar is a new batch of cheese in process. The whey can be used to make lemonade or as starter for making sauerkraut I am told. I have made lemonade with it too and no one knew.  

Choosing Gratitude

I was reading a Facebook post from a friend of mine who stated that for the first time in 42 years, she would not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her family. She is clearly grieving this change. I hope that my response did not minimize or discount her sadness over this change as I tried to share some things that I have learned.

This is what I wrote as I asked her, “What can you replace it with? I think that when we let go of one activity, it is helpful to look for something else we “can bring to the table”. Did you ever read Let’s Make a Memory by Shirley Dobson and Gloria Gather? Another book I’ve used is Family Celebrations – Meeting Christ in your Holidays and Special Occasions by Ann Hibbard. Since you won’t be cooking, perhaps you can choose some activities to make it special for kids and family members that you may not have had time to do when you were in charge of cooking. We have board games and crafts we do so that everyone is included and gets to talk. We minimize use of TV unless it’s a special movie. My family doesn’t care about football so this is easier for us. We also set the timer so that everyone knows when there is an end point or break time. I also like to have a puzzle out for people to work on. Kids don’t get much if this kind of interaction these days so providing an opportunity to try “new” old activities is priceless! We also bring small instruments (ukulele) and teach/sing simple songs. The grief of change is real. You are moving into the place of influencer and that is an important position. Tell stories, sing songs and share jokes. Make it fun and full of thanks for all of God’s blessings to you and yours.“

There is much change going on in our world: hurricanes, famines, fires, and random death through crazy choices of people who should know better. People we love are going through some very difficult situations inclusive of loss of life, livelihood, homes and other things we all have gotten used to and expect. While God is still sovereign and is providing for us even if it is in a different way than we expect, it is very hard to have the proverbial rug pulled out from under us. Yet we have seen some of our family’s best blessings came out of change and devastating circumstances.

Twenty-four years ago we were faced with a change for our Thanksgiving when my father and mother announced that they would not be hosting Thanksgiving at their home. All of my siblings and families made other plans that did not include my family and me. We had just gone through a very stressful time in which we had sold our home in order to take on the family business but the house we were going to move into fell through. We had very new baby and a puppy with plans to purchase five acres and build a log home and to create an organic garden with goats and chickens so we would be “self sufficient”. All of those ideas were totally destroyed. We ended up camping in the back of our pickup truck in a friends yard. All three of our kids came down with chicken pox including our three month old baby. Our truck had no bathroom so we were in our friend’s home a lot. My husband became very discouraged and so was I! One pastor went so far as to tell me that my husband would be doing better if I were being the submissive Christian wife he needed me to be. Another “Christian” counselor asked me “what are you doing to make Jeff act that way.” And he told us that if we got our marriage together, many of our son’s difficult behaviors would go away.  A great many things that my father and mother promised did not happen and we were left to try and find our way with out help that was supposed to be forthcoming. My husband continued to work two jobs. It wasn’t until years and years later that we realized that my father did not pay us for work that we had done. It was a blow to have my father say that we could not come there for Thanksgiving. But God had a better plan!

I was listening to the local radio station KCMS and KCIS out of Shoreline. I heard an advertisement for Cannon Beach Conference Center in Oregon. I have always liked going to the beach. I don’t care what time of year it is. The beach is one of my favorite places to go. I did some research and discovered that they offered scholarships to families who wanted to come but couldn’t afford the full price. When I approached my husband about this idea, he said, “Are you crazy?!?!? It will be cold, wet and rainy on the Oregon coast this time of year!!! We can’t afford to go!” I responded, “ I think it would be good for us to go. It’s been a hard year with the birth of a new baby, the housing challenges and I don’t feel like doing Thanksgiving myself here. I am tired and I need a break. If they will approve a scholarship, can we go?” He reluctantly agreed. We went, had a wonderful time and the rest, as they say, is history. Our children were loved on and made friends and other people became substitute aunts, uncles, and cousins. I didn’t have to cook or make beds. There were new friends to be made through prayer meetings and spontaneous visits at meals or in the coffee shop or recreation center. We have continued to go for summer and women’s conferences as I discovered I got some much needed respite care.

A counselor we work with once asked how we made it through so many challenges. Just one of the many things we have dealt with – job layoffs, homelessness, depression, Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, our Adult Children of Alcoholics issues, a child with Trisomy 13 who died 5 ½ hours after he was born, various surgeries and other health challenges in his experience just one of those problems were enough to cause people to get a divorce.  I think the training and time at Cannon Beach Conference Center as well as time we spent at family camps with Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton, Oregon,  gave us access to teachers and counselors with real Bible knowledge that applied to what we were dealing with and taught us skills to grow and thrive through the challenges rather than running away from the challenges or shaming and blaming each other.  People came alongside and prayed with us. We came away rested and encouraged and able to take the next step to deal with the next challenge.

Our adult children still ask, “Do we have our reservation for Thanksgiving?” That says a lot to me about the value of our time there. We play board games, crochet hats for various needs, paint pictures, walk on the beach, visit the candy kitchen, shop, or otherwise just hang out. We enjoy music opportunities at the conference and in the community. God is good as He guides us to the next stage of life.

I think everyone need breaks from their regular schedules. We all need times of reflection as we ponder what our part is for the next stage of life. We all need time to choose to think, remember and give thanks for the many blessings God pours out on us even when and especially when, we don’t realize it was a blessing at the time. “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good and His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1; Psalm 118; Psalm 107:1 God created Holidays to give His people special times that we can choose to remember His great love and provision for us and hopefully, help us redirect ourselves to choose His path and way. We choose to remember His provision of people to help us, encourage and redirect us through the challenges to come as we remember His provision through the challenges of the past. We can choose to trust Him with the challenges of the present. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn to choose gratitude. I’ll see you at the beach!


Helping Children Prepare

Our family has been on a lot of “adventures”.  Sometimes the word “adventures” is a euphemism for “potentially disastrous and very difficult times”.  My daughter labels some of these times in our lives as a series of unfortunate events.  Another friend of mine used to listen to some of my current events and she say, “Oh there you go again!  Your family is bonding, bonding, bonding!”  I once heard Dr. Gary Smalley say that if you want to have bonding experiences in your family, you need to go camping. Inevitably, things happen.  The tent site floods, the tent collapses in the middle of the night, you hear bears outside who are stealing your food, someone falls off a cliff or your car breaks down in the wilderness and you have to figure out how to get home.  You have to learn to work together to over come the situation and survive.  It may not be funny in the moment and in may be life threatening.  Some of these disasters we are seeing essentially are requiring people to go camping for a much longer period of time than they had planned.  People are reeling with shock, amazement and grief over their losses.  Their trauma is real and I don’t want to give the impression that I am minimizing it at all.

I have said that I am a “Professional Home Schooling Mom”.  I am also a trained educator.  One thing I learned in college is the value of looking for “teachable moments”.  These are moments  that can happen because of the interests of children/people you are working with, something that is thrust upon you because of circumstances through no fault of your own.  One thing that we “stumbled upon” was Fort Clatsop National Park in Astoria, Oregon.  My children have some learning challenges.  They learn much better with “hands on” and “interactive” situations.Strabismus, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, Dysgraphia, food allergies and other labels.  I don’t like to call them disabilities because I don’t want them to think they can’t do things. In fact, I avoided people who seemed to think it was their job to point out obvious things that were none of their business.  My children may not be able to do something the way the rest of the world does but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn and become self supporting adults in their area of gifting.

Our experience with Fort Clatsop provided the “hands on” and “interactive” form of learning opportunities that my children thrived on. It is a re-enactment site of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1805.  The fort has been built per the specifications of their journals.  Throughout the year, staff demonstrate how Lewis and Clark, and their crew, survived the winter and how they had to manage during their travels. During that time period of history, there were no stores to go shopping at for supplies after they left St. Louis on the boat heading north.  Everything they took had to be carefully planned and packed.  They had to make their own bullets for hunting and self protection, they had to gather food along the way and trade with Native Americans for supplies they couldn’t make.  They had to make or find their own food, medicines,  music, ink, clothing and shoes out of hides.  Once their supplies were gone, they had to adapt and adjust and work together.  They had to boil sea water to get salt to cure the elk and salmon they needed to carry with them on their trip back.  They each played an important part in encouraging each other and lifting each others spirits up when times were hard.  And the times were hard.  Sometimes food was scarce and hard to come by.  They had to just eat things that they normally would not eat because they had to keep their strength up.  They had to work at communicating with other people.  At one point, each sentence spoken had to go through five people to get to the leader of each group.  Clarity of communication would mean life or death.  Each member of their team was essential for their survival just as each member of our family is essential for our survival.

Exposure to Fort Clatsop, reading stories about the pioneers, Native Americans, participating in Royal Ranger campouts, taking my kids through CERT (Citizen Emergency Relief Training), CPR and Lifeguarding classes, created the opportunity for us to practice emergency survival skills when it wasn’t an emergency.  It also made the learning experience fun.  Anytime we can make something a “game” or a “puzzle to solve” helps calm fears and release anxiety.  My children learned how to make things and barter for things they wanted from these camps; how to cook over an open fire; how to build fires safely and how to put them out; how to purify water; how to make their own clothes and repair them; how to preserve and store foods; how to use firearms and knives safely, wisely and well.  The goal is to give your children and yourself skills so that when things do happen, everyone knows what to do.

For instance, do you know where your “Ten Essentials” are? Each child and family member, including the dog,  needs to have a pack that is their size with their own “ten essentials” in it. The Ten Essentials are: 1) food; 2)water; 3) extra clothes include socks and underwear packed in plastic bags; 4) shelter 5) matches/fire-starter pack in a plastic bag. Matches can be waterproofed by dipping in wax or nail polish.  Little ones can help with this preparation process. I think kids need to learn how to manage a fire safely at much earlier ages than people do it now. Even cooking hot dogs gives them confidence for their future.  6) flashlight or glow sticks.   7) whistle for communication purposes as shouting for help takes a lot of energy while a whistle does not.  8) basic first aid supplies. Kids need to know how to clean a wound and put a bandage on it. Cleaning things is the first line of defense for health in any situation so include some hand sanitizer and small bar of soap.  9) Protective gloves and rubber boots sized appropriately can make a huge difference in letting kids help.  You can get child size work gloves and boots at the Farmers Co-op.  10) repair kit and simple tools that fit your child’s hands so they can help with mending and restoring broken things.  I started my kids learning to sew at age 3 sewing on badges for their AWANA vests. Knowing how to thread a needle and sew up a hole in clothing or a tent can make a lot of difference for someone.  I add for children a small pack of colors, a small Bible, a deck of cards, paper, color or activity book, pencils or a pen. If child’s pack has something to drink, eat, and do as well as a jacket, something to do and a special toy, it helps so much to calm them down and help them be helpers in the situation.

I also talk to them about different situations and pretend you are doing them. Just like they do fire drills as school, we need to be practicing at home. We need to be giving kids practice in dealing with hard things. Thinking through who are your contact people in an emergency. Who do you call in another area of the country if phones are over worked here? Who will look after them if you cannot? Do you have a code word so they know someone is supposed to pick them up? How do we manage if the power is out? I think it is a good idea to write in permanent marker on the inside of the pack the child’s name, address, phone numbers and emergency contact people incase they get separated from you. A zip lock bag with a photo copy of ID, an insurance card inside with some cash is also a good idea to add to your child’s ten essentials. Although as I read this, this is more like twelve essentials as you prepare your child for life’s inevitable challenges.

Something else that I have learned is to remind children that it is not their fault that hard things are happening to and around them!

Due to some difficult circumstances our family ended up living in a travel trailer for several years and moving every two weeks. We had had a goal of buying property, building a log home on it, having an organic garden and planned to raise goats and chickens and be self sufficient. Land prices were such that we could either afford the payments on a 2 bedroom 35 foot trailer or a piece of land with nothing on it. The 35 ft trailer was the upgrade from the 16ft trailer which was the upgrade from the “tent in the box” tent trailer that really was a box that folded out with poles and a canvas tent thrown over it, which was the upgrade from the quasi camper/canopy on the back of our pickup truck. Now they call people who live like this “Full Timers” in RV circles. In reality we were just recovering financially from trusting a family member we never should have trusted.

We made friends with RV people even when our “rig” wasn’t as cool as their “rig”. These RV parks are really resorts with heated pools, tennis courts, mini golf and a clubhouse where “all you can eat” pancake could be had for a dollar a piece on the weekends. During the summer, they had craft projects for kids and adults. Our kids became expert swimmers who gave free swimming lessons at the parks. People were predominately friendly and if they didn’t like you, they could just move to another site or we could move.

We often cooked outside just because it gave us more room.  We had a Tragar camping ‘gravity fed’ cook stove that had a hot water tank on it. We could bake in it and have hot water on demand when it was running. Our kids learned to help pack and set up even as little people. We all had to work together. We still volunteered at gleaning groups and the Dorcus society because I wanted my children to know how to take care of themselves and give back to the community. We mainly dehydrated foods during these years because there wasn’t room to store canned goods.

We continued to seek out opportunities to learn about how “they” did it. A favorite book series is “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingall’s Wilder. Her family went through some devastating times and yet they and their neighbors worked together while trusting God for the rest. They had to clear and prepare the land to grow, raise and make almost everything they needed so they could trade for what they could not make. Pa sometimes traveled miles by foot to find work so he could make money to send home. They did what needed to be done through floods, prairie fires, locusts, disease and huge disappointments. Neighbors came together to do tasks like building barns or houses, harvesting  the crops and butchering the hogs for winter food. They celebrated gains and grieved losses. Sang songs and danced as Pa played his fiddle. Ma Ingall’s would say, “There is no great loss without some small gain.” They thanked God for what they had and were grateful for food to eat even when during the  “Long Winter” food was running out and Ma ground wheat in the coffee grinder to make enough bread for them to each have a piece. They gathered together at church and prayed with and for their neighbors. They had to twist hay together to have anything to burn so they had heat in that brutally cold winter. Hardships can bring us closer together if we make the right choices.

Eventually I found the “Little House on the Prairie Cookbook” and used Ma Ingall’s recipe when I finally had goats and had enough milk to make cheese. There are a lot of cooking supplies we have come to take for granted, I think many foods today were made during an era of hardship where a woman had to make due with the supplies she had on hand to feed her family.  Sometimes in an emergency, we need to gain skills so that we can do that too.

These are very troubling times we live in. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trials and tribulations come to you. But be of good cheer! For I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. I have found that as I pray, read my Bible, sing and play instruments, while asking God for guidance on what to do, He shows me. When I ask for help, it generally arrives from an unexpected source. He provides and protects in the midst of trouble. We don’t always have what we want but we always have what we need. Psalm 56:3  reminds me I need to make a choice in my circumstances, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Faith is a decision followed up with action to do and say what we can to point people to the only firm foundation in this world.   Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28; “Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and door shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7; “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33; “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven where neither moths nor thieves can harm it. For where your treasure is, your heart is there also.” Matthew 6:20,21 NIV

God bless your day with peace as you choose to look to Him as the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” Hebrews 12:2-3.”God is my refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear. Though the earth may shake and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its water roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3

What are you going to do today to help prepare children and yourself to handle what comes your way?