The Children, The Chicken, And The Chores

It has been awhile since I have written anything on our farm animals or gardening or anything of that sort. Must of been the trauma of losing our goat Ramsey. Ha! That’d be a lie. Truthfully things have been pretty low key around here. We managed to keep the majority of our chickens alive so I was ecstatic to say “nope” every time we came across baby chicks for sale. It only took purchasing like twenty five chicks to keep six alive. Practice makes perfect people. Six is plenty for us though as we can not eat enough eggs to keep up with the production here. I’ve given several dozen away and HAD to have an egg hunt just to make use of two dozen or so.

Wanna be my neighbor?

I want to take a moment though and introduce you to Tiny. Tiny was from last springs batch of chicks. Not sure if I wrote anything on the challenges of introducing old and new flocks but let’s just say, there will be blood. The chickens were mostly living in harmony when one day during a coop cleaning we set everything off kilter. An older hen, who my children innocently and ironically named Queen Bee, severely bullied Tiny and bloodied her up pretty bad. After getting her cleaned and assessing her wounds I was really hesitant to put her back with the flock so I stuck her with the ducks where she could recover. Well it’s been like six months and according to the girls the ducks, Sunny and Webster, have adopted her. Tiny is truly a free range chicken and she is living it up! She gets dinner scraps at the back door, she comes when you call her, she follows the girls everywhere and she’s eats dill pickle sunflower seeds.

I mean does it get any better for a chicken??

The kids have really taken ownership of the animals and ensure that everyone has food, clean water, and a clean environment. Jason has started giving them an allowance and I have been super proud of Micaila and Ryann as they, on their own accord, tithe off it every Sunday. Caleb on the other hand asked me the other day when he will have a million dollars. We calculated his 2 dollars a week and figured it would take roughly 9,616 years for him to get to a million but hey, there is always an opportunity to move up around here. 😉

The girls continue to have riding lessons with Duet. She has been such a great horse. I love watching the girls do ground work with her on their own or just go out and brush her. They have gained so much independence this last year and it’s bittersweet for this momma.

Jason has already planted the garden and last year I did try a few pickling recipes that were a big hit so, looks like it’s a requirement this year. That is, if we grow anything….😳😉

Zippys Birthday

I’ve written before about my children and their love for stuffed animals. I would say it’s a problem……storing them is a problem for me…. but more than any other toy they have their stuffed animals have always been the favorites. Once again I’m reminded that the delight these fuzzy friends bring is completely worth the inconvenience of a floor that can’t be walked on. 😬😉

Today was Zippys birthday. Zippy is a little TY Beanie Boo I bought for Caleb when Jason and I were in Gulf Shores. Just like the Beanie Babies each Boo has a given name and birthdate. This is not the first stuffed animal party my kids have thrown. They are pretty much professionals with a party planning committee and everything.
This afternoon Micaila whipped together cupcakes out of pancake mix and some kind of Oreo filling frosting while Ryann decorated and rounded up all the guests.
I was downstairs when Caleb and Zippy made their way up to the party. All of a sudden I hear “SURPRISE!!!” and the three of them in unison singing happy birthday to Zippy.

There is something about hearing my children play, use their imaginations, and enjoy stuffed animals and each other that just compels me to give thanks to God for His grace and goodness. His mercy in my life is mysterious. And this I do not want any of us to forget. 🙂

I also dont want to forget that “the animals are having a sleepover” which is why they cant be cleaned up yet. 🤔😂

Well played.

Micaila is 10!

We have a ten year old in the house! Our sweet eldest daughter is a decade old. I still vividly remember bringing her home. Wrapped up in a pink, princess labeled outfit that swallowed all seven pounds of her, with most of her weight being in that head of hair.

Now she is a kind, smart, and beautiful young lady.

She drives this John Deere daily to deliver hay to Duet.

This past year we watched her mature, grow, and blossom in countless ways. I would like to highlight one.

Micaila made a profession of faith just before Thanksgiving. This thrills us to no end. Jason and I desire our children to have relationship with Jesus Christ but we’ve never tried to coerce them into making a disingenuous decision. We pray that as the Spirit draws them in they would respond, but we want their confession to be authentic. I believe when Micaila told me that she trusts Jesus and wants to be His disciple, following Him wherever He leads, she meant it. I have already seen evidence of her faith in many ways. I can’t wait to see how God uses her strengths (and weaknesses) for His purposes.

The ten year mark is a huge milestone. Lord willing we will have many more, and I know there will be ups and downs as we enter this prepubescent roller coaster. Having said that, Micaila is truly a delightful daughter. I am thankful for the privilege of being her mother. And I am thankful to know she is a daughter of the King.

Happy 10th Micaila! We love you more than words can express.

The “worth it” moments 

Because I want to remember this stuff.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any one that home schooling can be hard. The logistics of getting school done is exhausting in itself. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again, I’m not Wonder Woman. Some days we have what seems like a hundred interruptions, other days I’m freaking out over math facts, and probably once a month I have to (or Jason does) remind myself why we are choosing to homeschool our children. It’s easy to feel defeated or get sucked into the comparison trap. And at just the right time, God always seems to give me that “worth it” moment. Like today….. Just sittin on a hay bale, no big deal. (By the way, those hay bales are the evidence of our first horse coming soon! Eeeee!!!)

We are learning about countries and cultures. The girls were given passports and currency and have decided to “visit” each new place. They have chosen a spot on our property to geographically represent each country. I love how imaginative they are. Packing suitcases, going to the airport,….. I hear them pretending it all. This week they’ve traveled to Brazil.

Micaila remembered to pack good reading material. A book about Cameron Townsend, the missionary who founded Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Some days homeschooling is hard. And it is a sacrifice. But I’m so incredibly thankful to God to get to be here alongside my children as they learn, struggle, grow, pretend, play, mess up, forgive, mature, and repeat over and over. And while I enjoy the little “worth it” moments, they also serve as a reminder that God is good in all the moments, even if I may not be seeing it or feeling it at the time.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”‭‭Psalms‬ ‭28:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A Caleb Post

Caleb, Caleb, Caleb. It’s been far too long since I have written a memory of the little man you are becoming. I missed your 4th birthday letter, but I figure, what the heck, that was only 2 months ago 😉 One of the things I love about writing these memory posts is when I go back and read through and see how much each of you kiddos stay the same. It is so cool how God makes you uniquely YOU from the very beginning.

See. Nothing’s changed. 😜

Caleb, you get sillier every day. You have comedic timing unlike any of our family members. You quote silly things from your favorite movies, like when mommy gives you a long hug, you often will say, “You can let go now.” (Finding Nemo) Or if we find ourselves in an intense situation like a thunderstorm or something, you might quote Ice Age “We’re gonna live! We’re gonna diiiiieeee.” The other part that makes your humor so entertaining is your many facial expressions.

You and Aunt Nikki at the beach. Graham Slam!

The Rock. 

“Seriously mommy?”  (You really say that, along with, “Are you kidding me?”)

Everyone say cheese!

Your humor is just one aspect of your personality that makes you special. You have big emotions like mommy, all or nothing. You can be very sweet, polite, or caring one minute and the next be a big scary mess. You thrive best with consistent daddy discipline and preferably a nap. Without these two you turn into the Incredible Hulk or a Werwolf after 6:00pm. Speaking of daddy, you love him so much. You want to do everything like and with him. Cut the lawn, go to work, play guitar, fix stuff around the house, ride in the truck, or just simply wear no shirt. You squeal and scream when he comes home and squeeze his legs while gritting your teeth with excited boyish aggression. (You always are in some sort of wrestling mode) You crawl into his lap every chance you get and you wish he never had to leave. At one time I was worried you’d be too much a mommas boy but you’ve balanced out and absolutely adore your daddy, too.

Caleb, you are smart! Your memory is like a steel trap. Like movie quotes you also remember songs well and like your sister Ryann you sing all the time. I love catching you singing your heart out in my rear view mirror while driving.

My dear son you have challenged mommy in a whole new way. Parenting a boy is just, well, different. It’s hard! You are strong willed and a fighter. You push mommy to her knees praying to God that he would equip us to raise you up into a strong godly man. I pray all those fighting qualities, all those big emotions of yours would get channeled into a fierce faith that cannot be shaken. I pray you would be like your daddy, a hard working man of integrity. A man who is loyal and loves his family. I pray you would become a man that passionately loves Jesus and all He stands for. I pray your strong will would bend to the Lords will and that you would let him have his way with you. I pray you would “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

I love you so much, Caleb. Happy 4 years, 1 month and 25 days, my handsome boy. 🙂

Fireflies and Frogs

It isn’t the last day of school or the intense heat wave that sets summer in. It isn’t the beach vacation or first days at the pool.

It’s the fireflies.

Even Billy Currington knows it. 😉“Summer comin’ through, a rolled down window, tearin’ down an almost two lane back road. Freedom and fireflies in the air.”

Last year we spent many evenings on the porch waiting for the sun to set and the fireflies to rise up from the lush green grass. I’m certain this year will be no different. We ran around last night grabbing the glow bugs and sticking them in a giant pickle jar. Caleb squealed with delight over the “butterflies”. He later discovered an old pink bb gun and proceeded to go around “shooting” them. Ryann and Micaila are expert catchers, far better than I, no doubt. They’d catch 5 to my 1.

In addition to catching fireflies my girls enjoy trapping all the night time frogs. A past time they had with their cousins. Micaila attempts to do so with as little contact as possible. Ryann on the other hand….. She.just.don’t.care. She had 7 in a bowl in a matter of minutes. With apprehension I picked up my first frog in about 20 years. It took me all of 5 seconds to run to the sink and sanitize my hands. I’m so glad that my kids find it entertaining to play with both frogs and fireflies. I’m also glad I have been influenced by women who showed me that it’s not only okay for my kids to get dirty, touch bugs and frogs (and whatever else their exploring outdoors finds them) but it is good for them. 🙂

I sometimes feel insecure about not having “some THING” to do at our house. We have no pool, trampoline, or playground. We have 2 broken 4 wheelers and a few bikes. I don’t know why I think coming over to simply play isn’t enough. It always was when I was a kid. But imagine me…. “Hi Miss Smith, would Jill like to come over and play with frogs and fireflies today?” No seriously, fake names but that really happened. The minute I begin feeling insecure though, I am reminded that my children lack no good things. Not only do they have an abundance of material possessions but they have each other. They play for hours on end with all sorts of natural stuff, using those wonderful imaginations God gave them, and building their relational bonds. Just like I did as a child. I definitely would enjoy having a pool, or a playground, or atvs that were running. Those things are good. They provide unique avenues for our children (and us!) to grow in courage, maturity, confidence, strength, endurance, etc., but I don’t believe that we are deprived in any way because we don’t possess such entertainments. And I don’t want my children to believe that either. I hope we can continue to cultivate contentment and thankfulness for all God has given us; from our toys to the fireflies. I am certain these simple traditions will be some of our fondest memories. And at any rate we are fortunate to know people that do have other sources of fun. Both the kids and I are practicing gratitude for the friends and family that are so generous with us. 🙂

Win, win. 😉 Happy Summer!

Ultimate Satisfaction

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We just returned from our annual family beach trip. To call it anything less than wonderful would be wrong. The Grahams have enjoyed Gulf Shores white sandy beaches for over 30 years now. I’ve been privileged to participate in this tradition for the last 13. At this point we can’t all fit in the cozy beach house, so my father in law, Randy, puts us up in roomier accommodations. We’ve tried splitting up before and it just wasn’t the same. Randy has always been big on being together for this week and I have to say I am thrilled that he can afford this luxury for us. It’s a real treat waking up and being greeted by Jason’s sweet mother as she cooks bacon and serves up her delicious lemon pound cake. I love this woman. 🙂 Not only are my in laws lavish with their children but they also include my parents on this vacation. I find myself at a loss for words to express the delight this brings me. I’m very grateful that he is so generous with my family. I am so incredibly thankful for the grace of God and our parent’s friendship. While I know Randy’s intentions for inviting them have much to do with being a gift to me, it also helps that they all like each other’s company. 🙂

This year seemed to be extra exciting and fun. I don’t know if it’s the ages of our kids but I feel like I enjoyed playing with them more than ever. We snorkeled, kayaked, played ball, biked, fished and found many sea creatures and shells. I was definitely a lot more tired by the end of the week! beach1

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Look at these sweet cousins. Isn’t baby Michael getting so big and handsome?

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So what it’s like coming off this magnificent vacation? I have to say I am happy to be home. It is awesome getting away and I love being with family. I am grateful for the opportunity to rest, relax and have fun. However each year I am reminded that all the pleasure and luxuries this world offers are truly not as fulfilling as the sweet simplicity of daily life and consistently being with Jesus.

I strive to meet with Him each morning even when we are away from home. Unfortunately my social nature kicks in and by day 4 my quiet time takes a backseat to chatting with family. I know this is not sinful and my faith is much more than a formal devotional. God wants us to partake in the enjoyments of life. We can glorify him in everything we do. What I find happens is when I don’t begin my day centered on Christ the rest of my day follows suit. Just like any day, vacation can quickly become self-centered and I cease to intertwine my Creator with what He has afforded me. It’s easy to become distracted by pleasure and get caught up in over indulging not only my flesh but my kids too. And oh how rotten we become!

One thing that goes out the window for us is diet. I learned many years back that it truly is better to let it go rather than be the only one moderating everything tasty and sweet. Before I decided to embrace this laid back approach I struggled with resenting the ones who kept offering all the goods to my kids. So yeah in a case like this,…. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! 😉 The only problem with this line of defense…. You can’t be surprised when your kids whine about the size of their ice-cream even when IT IS THEIR 3rd serving for the day! (Because yes, popsicles are an acceptable breakfast item this week) :-/ Not to mention it’s 10pm, we’ve just finished a few rounds of putt putt golf and mommy risked her life (and yours!) riding the oldest most rickety wooden roller coaster known to man. All for you precious children. 🙂 By the time we were making the drive home I was practically throwing dunkin donuts at my kids and telling myself “Just a few more hours and it’ll alllll be back to normal.” You better believe our first dinner back was plain shredded chicken, smashed cauliflower and a salad! Time to retrain those pallets kiddos. And our manners!

But I won’t mislead you. They aren’t the only ones who need the grace of reality to set back in. I experience all sorts of BIG thoughts and emotions mixed with guilt and angst. One minute I feel bad for having such an awesome vacation. “Am I even allowed to have that much fun?” The next minute I feel convicted for feeling bad. Because I do believe we should enjoy what God provides us and be grateful. Sunday evening I sat on the front porch and pondered over why I felt so unsatisfied. For a whole week I didn’t have to think about anything other than being happy and having fun. Dreamy right? Yet ultimately I felt rather empty and needing something else. (eh hem, Jesus.) On one hand I am reminded of Paul. Who would tell me “I have learned to be content WHATEVER the circumstances.” Though I am certain Paul learned contentment not in the “what” or “where” but in WHOM. We were created to be satisfied by nothing less than the Holy Almighty God. And though I truly AM THANKFUL for our luxurious vacation it was a great reminder that my contentment and satisfaction will only and always be found in Christ Jesus. 🙂 Worldly pleasures really are “a chasing after the wind.” I’m not saying it’s sinful to have wealth and pleasures. Just when we over indulge and leave God on the back burner. Which by the end of the week I believe is what I was starting to sense.

Since I know we can learn from any and all experiences in life, here are some of my takeaways. 🙂 God does want us to enjoy those fun and rejuvenating moments with family, friends and HIM. So enJOY! 😉

Jesus IS better than all the money, food, drink, shopping, tans, youth and beauty you’ll be exposed to. Don’t get sucked in. Stay centered on Him! Pray without ceasing and always give thanks.

My kids are sinners just like me. Be gracious with them as God is with me.

Vacations are sweet but ultimately, wherever I am, what I need/want most is DEFINITELY Jesus. *Fades in theme song* “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”