Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Candy

     After we are done with our schoolwork for the day the girls and I have been enjoying creating quite a variety of Christmas candy and treats.

    Every year we try several new recipes while still making all of our favorites.

    On the list of candy that gets made every year is a surprisingly simple and delicious truffle. I'm not sure truffle is the correct name for them, but since that was what they were called in the recipe I used we have kept the name.


    I start by dumping an entire pack of Oreos into the food processer to reduce them to nice even crumbs, and then add an eight ounce package of softened cream cheese and mix it up.

    I refrigerate it for several hours and then using a teaspoon measure I scoop out bits of the Oreo mixture and form into little balls which I then dip into melted chocolate.

    I like using the mint filled Oreos, but any flavor will work. Delectable little treats that look a lot more difficult to make than what they are.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cleaning House

     Sharing a little about my house of memories, and then your gentle encouragement to address that dark room gave me that extra push I needed to finally venture in where I had banned myself from going for more than fifteen years.

     I wandered in through the first two rooms, pausing a little at the wall of little shields. I looked at several and I could feel my courage slipping. Why bother continuing on to that dark room when I have so many other memories I could focus on instead?

     A noise distracted me though as a box tumbled down over the wall and I discovered just how cowardly I really am. It felt as if I couldn't breathe, and a dull panic seemed to press in from every side as I forced myself to go pick up that box and instead of flinging it back into the dark room like I have been doing for years and years I slowly opened it turning my head slightly in hopes the full impact of the contents wouldn't hurt quite as bad if I didn't look at them straight.

    I allowed the memory to play back. It was ugly, but somehow it didn't hurt as bad as I thought it would. I closed the box and set it on the floor, I would be brave I told myself, I have to be. Part of me was still screaming to run the other direction, but the other part was telling me it's time to do this.

     I opened the door and like I expected a flood of boxes came tumbling at me. I reached for the nearest one that had landed by my feet and opened it. The contents weren't what I expected at all. Instead of a clear full memory, only a few dried up specks of something rattled in the corners of the box. Having been closed up so long they had dissolved and disappeared, the only trace that there used to be something awful there were those few specks and a lingering bad smell. I tossed the box into the garbage and went to pick up the next. I was surprised as box after box came up basically empty. There were a several piles of boxes that still held ugly things, but somehow having discovered all the empty boxes I found I was brave enough to make myself watch as the contents played themselves for me in a sort of detached way. A way that I realized that these things I had been blocking for so many years no longer had power over me. I had been afraid I would feel the same burning hatred I used to, but that was totally gone.

     I went through the entire room, and when I was done I knocked down the walls. It's no longer necessary to have it. The boxes that still had contents have been stacked in a corner of the shadowy room. Strangely they also changed their color, instead of black they're now various shades of gray. They still hold ugly things, but they no longer cause the blinding, choking, pain when I see them. I realize that these will probably never dry up and disappear like so many of the others in that room did, but they also no longer hover in the background threateningly like they had previously.

     When the last thing was cared for I wandered back out to the wall of shields. Maybe the reason they are in shapes of shields is because he really did love me in his own way and did the best he knew how. I allowed a few to open, and I knew I did the right thing all these years choosing to only allow my children to see these manipulated shields, to only see the good things.

     My life is better than I ever imagined possible while I was growing up and all those dark memories were being made, I might share some of how God was directing my path even then. Truly He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning. Above and beyond what I ever dreamed possible.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Answered Prayers

     After several tear filled days when it looked like we would have to say good-bye to our beloved dog I was at the point where I wished it would be over and we could start the healing/grieving process instead of the drawn out waiting for the inevitable.

    Things changed this weekend, and instead of planning a doggie funeral, we are rejoicing that he has been healed, thanks to answered prayers. He lost a lot of weight during this ordeal, but other than that he is back to normal.

     We're feeling very thankful, and it has reminded us once again how we need to value every day. Life is so fleeting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

House of Memories

    My memory has always been very good, so good in fact that my mother used to find it somewhat consternating by all the things I could recall perfectly even from a very young age. Just how my brain works to catalog all these memories is something I don't understand. I've heard people describe memories as kind of like a filing system which automatically brings a picture of filing cabinets and tons of file folders to mind each containing it's own memory. That image doesn't describe what I feel or see when I look at the past.

    My memory happens to be more of a house of sorts. The first room is spacious, sunny, and colorful. And constantly changing. It's not outdoors, but somehow there are butterflies, flowers, and trees involved. The leaves on the trees shift as moment by moment little memories attach themselves, the butterflies flit about, the constant change seems to be because it's my short term memory, it's the life I'm living right now. Even when things go wrong this sunny room always stays sunny.

     Things that need to be remembered longer are stored in the next room that keeps growing larger and larger every year to hold everything I need to store. It's in this sweet room where I wander into to look at memories. Things I enjoy replaying. Each one being its own unique shape, color, or item. There are shelves of books all with beautiful covers that I take down when I want to tell the children some little childhood memory. There are rows of glowing lights, not exactly chandeliers, but more than orbs, where memories of entire days of being a newly wed are stored. A huge silver framed mirror that can be pulled forward revealing where hundreds of little replica mirrors are hidden that hold every minute of our wedding day. Neatly wrapped little packages store memories of the dates Mr. Pepper and I had leading up to our wedding day. The birth of each of our children each has its own lovely memento. Flower vases, bouquets, and music boxes hold treasured memories of my mother. Indistinct colorful patterns on the walls hold memories of friends standing out only when an effort is made to locate something. Babies firsts are all in cozy baby toy and blanket packages. I could describe this room further, but I think you are starting to get the picture. One thing that does stand out in this room though is a section of wall, all by itself that is lined with little shields. These little shields have been manipulated. They've been shined, polished, and pieces removed to leave only the bits that I want to see, and the only bits that I have allowed my children to see. I have visited these manipulated shields so often, I have showed them to my children, to my friends, and to myself so often that sometimes even I don't remind myself where the remaining bits of these shields are. These shields happen to be the good memories I have of my Dad. Why they are in the form of a shield though I have never really figured out.

     Wandering into the next room takes a little time to adjust my eyes after having been in the two previous beautiful rooms. It's shadowy, memories here are more dim and dusty. They're vivid enough when I open the item they are stored in, but mostly I don't visit this room very often.

     And then there is this huge, ugly, dark, room that I keep locked with memories that make me cower in dread and pain. Every once in a while a black box will come tumbling down over the wall, but I've been practicing for years opening that door and flinging it back inside with out allowing myself to look at the contents and slamming the door shut before any others tumble out. It's in this room where the things I have chipped off those polished shields have been banished to. Everything in this room is a memory of my Dad.

     I don't know why, but lately it feels as if maybe I need to go through that dark room. Like last night I woke up at 12:30 and spent hours trying to fling back an avalanche of black boxes before they burst open too wide. I didn't want to see the contents, but even though I didn't allow any boxes to fully open the pain was nearly overwhelming. Maybe I'll be brave enough soon .......

Monday, December 1, 2014

When Life Hands You Lemons

     We took a break from homeschooling for Thanksgiving week, and instead focused on family, friends, and food. With a few other things life threw at us in the mix.

     My hitting a raccoon on the way home from Christmas pageant practice the other week was made to look trivial when Mr. Pepper hit a deer, totally disabling our van. It's times like this I'm thankful for insurance.
    
     This morning we were ready to dig into a brand new week of school, having a break was making everyone feel like getting back to learning. We had barely cracked our books open when our oldest son discovered there is something seriously wrong with our dog.

     Everyone was sure he is dying, and somehow floods of tears don't mix well with anything we had planned to study. I'm actually surprised we made it through our scheduled lessons for the day. Our dog is still breathing, somehow. Whether he survives the day until Mr. Pepper gets home with our only working vehicle remains to be seen.

     Until then I feel pretty helpless. This is not the way I had looked forward to starting a new week, or the month of December.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Food Collection

     Several weeks ago our pastor announced in church that they want to do a food collection to help out a family that could use some extra love and care over the holidays.

     We are on a budget, but happily looked through our pantry for some items to donate, and when we went grocery shopping we chose a few Thanksgiving related items. Knowing you are helping  a family who is struggling be able to have a nice meal made us feel good, spreading love and care anonymously .... is something our family has always enjoyed.

     About an hour ago my daughter announced that someone just drove in. I looked out the window and saw one of the ladies from church getting out of her car. The house was, lets say, interesting. We had just finished our school day and hadn't straightened up yet afterwards. I was wearing an over sized comfortable t-shirt. Knowing I didn't have time to do anything about either one I went to answer the door and welcome her in.

     "We came to drop off the food the church collected for you," she announced.

      I'm not sure if my face showed the disbelief I was feeling. "You didn't have to bring us anything," I assured her.

     "We did it for you," she beamed as if she were bestowing a huge blessing on us, and then stepped aside while three huge boxes over flowing with groceries were carried in followed by someone carrying a big turkey, pumpkin pie, and a sweet potato casserole.

      I was speechless as they wished us a Happy Thanksgiving and turned to leave.

      The children were equally as speechless. "I thought we were helping a very poor family or maybe some homeless people," my oldest daughter whispered.

      "I thought so too," I told her. We have never gone hungry, while we are no where near what you would call wealthy, we also don't consider us to be living in poverty. Right now I'm trying to decide if I should be feeling very thankful that God has blessed us with extra groceries. Or should I be packing everything up and dropping it off at a food bank. Either way, I feel about two inches tall.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Driving

     Ever since the day I first got my learners permit I have loved driving when ever I had the opportunity. There are only a few exceptions like bad weather, cities, and the occasional road that really shouldn't even be called a road.

    Over the years my driving record has been impeccable. I've never been pulled over, I've avoided becoming a snack for the hungry ditches along these winding mountain roads, I've never been in an accident of any kind including hitting an animal.

     That changed on Wednesday night on the way home from Christmas pageant practice. A raccoon ran out in front of me and even though I did my best to avoid hitting it, I was not successful. A thud and a bump, and poor Mr. Raccoon was dead, as was my impeccable record.

     Continuing on I kept hearing this weird noise. Surely a raccoon couldn't damage the van, but the longer I kept driving the less sure I was about that. Arriving home I looked, and sure enough, the front bumper was busted.

     I wasn't very happy about the whole deal and heading into the house the children reminded me of the Pollyanna glad game from the book, Pollyanna.  We tried thinking of something to be glad about hitting the raccoon. The only thing we came up with was we were glad it wasn't a skunk.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Simple Woman's Daybook

http://thesimplewoman.blogspot.com/
 
FOR TODAY

Outside my window... it's still dark, but the voices of many cows bereft of their calves is filling the air. Our landlord moved all the calves to another pasture last night and it's been musical ever since.

I am thankful... our firewood has been made and our coalbin is full. We're ready for winter!

In the kitchen... I have a whole chicken ready to plop into the slow cooker. We'll be having chicken and dumplings for dinner again tonight. It's one of our favorite things to eat.

I am wearing... A  long, cozy, burgundy housecoat/robe. I'm always cold in the morning when I get up and tend to wear it for at least half the day.

I am creating... I'm trying my hand at making a quilt top in a design I have never tried before. So far it has been a lot of trial and error.

I am going... no where today, but tomorrow night I have to take the children to another Christmas pageant practice.

I am wondering... how long it will be before they get serious about making the costumes for the pageant. I was asked to help, but since no one else is doing anything I can hardly "help" It's making me feel a little antsy.

I am reading... Other than my Bible I don't have a whole lot of time for reading anything other than school related things. We're all enjoying reading through the Life of Fred language arts program.

I am hoping... that our landlord will get our water situation fixed today. He brought a new water tank out last night, but it was defective and didn't work at all so he'll be trying again tonight. In the meantime the water we have is murky and needs care before being fit to drink.

I am looking forward to... Thanksgiving!

I am learning... that homeschooling high school isn't as scary as I thought it might be.

Around the house... The remnants of a blanket fort from last night are still on the floor. The breakfast dishes from Mr. Pepper and I are still on the sink waiting to be washed until the children wake up in about fifteen minutes and have their breakfast.

One of my favorite things... my Inkjoy pens. I enjoy writing, a lot. And ever since I discovered Inkjoy I like it even better.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Besides the daily dozen and our regular school work every day.......Today music lessons. Tomorrow night pageant practice. Thursday grocery shopping. Friday wrapping up our school week and doing some type of fun art project. Saturday laundry and deep cleaning the house.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weird Like That

     When our children were still itty bitty babies, Mr. Pepper and I decided sleep overs, whether at our house or a friends house, would be out of the question for our children. In addition, playdates and afternoons spent at a friends house, including birthday parties, would only be allowed if one of us would be there as well.

      As the children grow older we find we have to turn down requests for sleep overs quite often. Most of the time the parents may seem a little taken aback, but are supportive. Others seem to have no problem telling me that we're depriving our children of experiences ever child should have.

       I don't usually go into detail why we think this is so important to us, but yesterday after church a certain grandmother came up to me to once again plead for my daughters to come spend the night at their house when her granddaughter is staying with them this weekend. Her husband has asked a few times as well. They are more persistent than any other family has ever been on this matter. I again tried to kindly say that, no, our family does not do sleep overs.

     "I don't know why you have to be weird like that," was her miffed reply.

      Weird like that ......... hmmm....... if this is considered to be weird I'm okay with being called weird. You see, Mr. Pepper's sister was molested as a child by people they had totally trusted, someone they didn't think for one instant would ever do something to hurt their children. We have seen first hand the horrible things that follow something like this, the lifetime of hurt, the trust issues, among so much more, and it is not a risk we are willing to take.

      As parents we want to protect our children to the best of our ability, for us that includes never having sleep overs. It's something that is simply not up for debate. If that makes us weird, so be it. I'll accept that title with no apologies.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Misty

     Rinsing off the dinner dishes I simply stacked them in the sink. They would have to wait to be washed until after the children and I got back from Christmas pageant practice, I checked everyone's face to make sure there were no traces of our sloppy joe night on them, amid protests that they had thoroughly scrubbed them on their own. After years of checking for dirty faces as part of my mothering job description it's something I find a little hard not to do.

     We headed out into the misty darkness with me fumbling for my keys in my purse, and muttering under my breath, "Ain't nobody got time for this."  We got into the van and once everyone was seatbelted we were ready to go.

    My oldest daughter sat in the front seat next to me, "Don't you just lo-o--ve when it's misty?" she asked.

    No, I really don't though I suppose it's better than fog, rain, or snow so it really isn't that bad.

    "I just love everything about misty weather," she gushed. "Especially with it being dark and pole lights giving such a nice light through the mist. Even the word misty sounds so sophisticated and elegant." She clasped her hands in her lap with a happy sigh and wriggled in her seat.

    I looked around me as I drove down the road. It really did look nice. The gentlest of mists created an extra nice glow around the lights next to the street.

   Thanks sweet daughter. Maybe I do have time for this. Your love for misty weather is contagious and is beginning to rub off on me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Did It

     Yes, I did it ...... voted that is. For a little while it looked as if we wouldn't be getting to do it this year, but somehow in the last minute we managed to get it done.

     Mr. Pepper headed off to work early just like any other day, but had plans that once he comes home we would both be going to cast our ballot.

     I put chicken into the slow cooker to make chicken and dumplings for an easy dinner, and then we settled down to get our school done. Everything seemed to be flowing smoothly. Some friends stopped by for an afternoon of visiting which we all enjoyed immensely, and then I get a call from Mr. Pepper. "There was a breakdown so I'll be home late tonight. It doesn't look like we'll be making it to the polls after all."

     I knew our two little votes wouldn't make that big of a difference, but still it's something we have done every year ever since we could, and I didn't want this year to be any different.

    I pulled out the things I needed to make several loaves of bread. Mixing bread dough by hand is therapeutic in times like this. All the thumping and kneading ....

   I had just pulled the bread out of the oven and the chicken and dumplings were ready to eat when Mr. Pepper came home with still ten minutes until the polls closed. We hurried off and got there in time, cast our votes and chatted for a few minutes with the three elderly ladies that were sitting there. Voter turnout has been great this year they informed us, they have broken all records for our little precinct with over 80% of registered voters showing up, which was even better than our last presidential election!

    With our votes cast we returned home to enjoy a bowl of chicken and dumplings and warm homemade bread.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Time


     Ever since becoming a mother I have wished there was a way to control time. Speed it up through tough times like sickness and sorrow, and freeze it for a while during other times. Make those special moments last for longer than just a moment.

     Since manipulating time is not an option, a good thing I'm sure, I instead try to make the time I do have, count. Weighing priorities helps.

     When my youngest son comes to me carrying a coloring book and a box of crayons wanting me to color with him I decided the dusting can wait until tomorrow. Dusting and cleaning will always be here, but  he will grow up before I know it. Placing my dusting cloth on top of the rolltop desk, I joined him lying on the floor and colored three pictures.

     Reading Green Eggs and Ham just one more time instead of a book I acquired several weeks ago and have yet to crack open the covers. Playing Uno with the girls when I have not yet checked my email today. Discussing farming methods and costs with my oldest son even when I find it to be a less than stimulating conversation. It's all part of trying to make this time with our children count. They're growing up much faster than I'm ready for and I don't want to look back and wish I would have spent more time with them.

    We may not be able to provide them with the best of everything, their clothes may come from a thrift shop, their toys may be few, I may not be able to give them much material wise, but I can give them time, attention, and all the love in my heart. In the end I'm thinking and hoping that the latter three meant the most to them anyway.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Meet the Peppers

    I haven't officially introduced the Pepper family on my blog, so here goes.

    Mr. Pepper, what can I say ....... all the dreams I ever had about a husband came true when I married my blue eyed prince charming. He treats me like a queen even though I have to do all his dishes and laundry. He's a husband, father, provider, excellent listener and advice giver, he values God and family above all else and I'm thankful every single day that God allowed our paths to meet.

    Mrs. Pepper, Ah now this is a little less flattering. I'm not slender though that happens to be one of my goals. My big brown eyes look at the world with slightly smudgy rose colored glasses. Like Mr. Pepper, God and family are the most important things in my life.

   Oldest son has a love for everything farm related. We are blessed to be renting a farmhouse and the landlord is teaching him all about farming. He would spend all day in the fields if he could, but since he still needs to finish school that doesn't happen. He's a great older brother and very protective of his younger siblings. Though once in a while he can't resist being a pest and teases his sisters. With big brown eyes he favors my side of the family. He eats like a horse and keeps growing taller and taller. Already I have to look up to meet his eyes and it won't be long before he's taller than his Papa.

   Oldest daughter is such a joy and standing at the brink of becoming a teenager. She enjoys whipping up great tasting dishes in the kitchen and helping out any way she can around the house. With her ready wit she keeps us all laughing. Spending time in conversation with her is always enjoyable. Her dreamy brown eyes look at the world as filled with endless possibilities. She is growing to be a fine young lady that brings joy to the hearts of her parents.

    Youngest daughter is a total girly girl. If the world consisted of glitter, pinks, and purple she would be thrilled. As it is she bounces through the house, her joy and zest for life is contagious. She sings constantly, except when it's time for math. With a healthy dose of freckles splashed across her nose and cheeks this little blue eyed beauty has made our life better simply by being in it.

    Youngest son is still basically a toddler. He has his Papa's blue eyes. He's cheerful and a joy to us all. I do need a toddler dictionary though. Yesterday when told he has to wait a few minutes for something he wanted he went into the playroom and I thought I heard him saying "I'm p*ssed off. I'm p*ssed off. I was absolutely horrified and wondered where he picked up that language, until I discovered he was actually saying "My baseball, my baseball."  He adores his older siblings and still likes snuggling on my lap. He's Papa's little man and helps with what ever he can.

    So there you have it, a little peek at the Pepper family.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday with the Peppers

     We had a wonderful weekend of family, fellowship, and an inspiring sermon that made me feel like tackling another week head on.

      The whole inspired feeling flew right out the door only minutes after breakfast. It started when our toddler got up and started his usual morning routine of clutching his teddy bear in one hand and walking down the stairs counting each one as he goes. "One, do, dee, foe, five, hix, ven, eight, nine, den ......... and then he tumbled the rest of the way down to number sixteen.
     
     After soothing his boo-boos it was time to tackle our school work, where the oldest children had me ready to pull my hair out with their algebra. After getting everything figured out we were all tired out and decided it was time to relax.

    A pot of peppermint tea and some girl-y time had us all ready to enjoy life again proving that Mondays aren't so bad after all.

   


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Christmas Plays

     Our church has started their weekly practice sessions for the annual Christmas Pageant. Each year I vow it will be the last year we will be participating, and yet every Wednesday evening finds me transporting the children to pageant practice. As it turns out it isn't the easiest of things to say, " No," to the pastor's wife when she calls and asks for your family's participation.
  
     I love Christmas. Love the songs, the movies, the decorations, the shopping, the food, the making of memories, and everything else that goes with the whole Christmas season. Everything that is, except Christmas pageants.

     I've been trying to understand why I feel this way, but I'm not sure I can articulate my feelings. To me Christmas is a joyful, yet reverent time of celebrating the birth of our Saviour. I have never liked nativity scenes, having a fake baby Jesus feels almost sacrilegious to me.

    So far every Christmas pageant at our church has involved a Joseph, Mary, and a baby Jesus. Seeing all the children kneeling around this makeshift manager holding a doll makes my skin crawl. I know it's a re-enactment of sorts, but it still bothers me. Especially as each year more and more "humor" has to be added. This year it includes the shepherd children and Bethlehem street kids clashing and having a rap off.

    It just doesn't feel right, so once again I'm telling myself this will be the last year we will be participating.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Pepper in my Pie?

If life could be compared to pie, any pie, but preferably cherry, we would expect something sweet and wonderful.

Since I want to approach this blog by keeping things real, I would describe my life as sweet and wonderful, but every once in a while there's some unexpected not so nice things that happen. Thus, pepper in my pie.