I typed a lovely Christmas letter and then promptly got over whelmed with running another theater camp (Beowulf!), schooling my kids, and traipsing to all their activities that I completely ignored my blog. I tried to write a couple times, seriously, but it just didn’t make it all the way to publishing. I’m here now though, to update you all on a very huge step our family has taken.
We’ve moved to Idaho Falls.
Does that seem random? It kinda was. Husband has been job hunting for some time, and we knew we wanted our kids in a more wholesome environment but we weren’t quite sure where that was. But, after Husband prayed a novena to St. Joseph, he got offered this job here at Idahoan Foods, on the feast of St. Joseph. It felt divine so up we packed, and a month later, showed up in Idaho Falls knowing no one, never having been here before, and knowing next to nothing about the place. Husband and I are not ones for huge spontaneous decisions, but this wasn’t really that; we truly believe we’ve been sent here by God. For what reason? I’m sure we will find out.
It’s been two weeks so far of Chris loving his new job, and the whole family throwing themselves into finding some roots. The journey to get here was quite exciting and I am blessed that we had so much help. I still find myself staring outside and wondering what the heck we are doing here but everything will be okay as long as we have each other. I tell the kids that when they mention that they miss home; “what made our house a home was the people we shared it with” and I hope that helps, at least, it’s what helps me. So, while we continue this adventure of setting up our lives here in Idaho, please think of us- send prayers, good vibes, what have you. I will try and keep the blog more updated on our lives here in Ida-home, while we navigate this leap of faith.
I’m watching my chickens hustle around foraging in the yard and I can’t help but admire their industriousness. Everyone likes to joke about how dumb chickens are but they are actually very intelligent animals. Did you know they can recognize up to 100 human faces? And it’s suspected they have names for each other? It didn’t take me long to figure how smart they are as soon as they left their brooder and we had to keep them contained outside. Despite having food available to them 24/7 their foraging instincts are so strong we’ve found our most rascally chicken scaling the fencing with her legs! They also come when called, which is very handy.
Watching the chickens be so self sufficient inspires me. Any time I try another project to experiment with self reliance I am always astonished at how much work it is. It is a good idea for me to read books about farmers and their experiences because it is sobering to say the least.
While I may not be self sufficient I am happy with the baby steps I’ve been taking to use the land we have more effectively; slowly transforming our large spaces of grass into something that will produce food or medicine. After all, lawns are gross waste of space, water, and money. The biggest issue I face in is process is the quality of our soil. I’ve always container gardened or brought in outside dirt for my raised beds because there is no way of knowing what our soil was treated with in the past.
Many chemicals used to kill ”weeds” stay in the soil for decades. I am sure our soil is very poor, since it cannot retain water well and is hard as a rock. I’ve been reading a book my mom recommend called Dirt to Soil which has put the breaks on me taking a tiller to the whole yard because it would destroy the soil’s natural microbIology, but since I bought myself some organic tillers a few years ago, but I’ve decided to put them to more effective use.
Chickens are the best tillers in the world. Now that the fall has rolled in with the smoke here in Western Washington, the kids are not outside much- a perfect time for me to experiment with the yard. The goal is to have the chickens till the whole yard slowly over the course of the fall, then once the rains and snows hit, they will go back to their ”winter pasture” and the soil has the chance to deep soak all the moisture nature provides. If the chickens till and fertilize effectively, the soil should be primed for the microbiology to make a better come back. We have a good amount of grass and clover intermixed, but if I am able to add in more diversity, our soil will be able to heal which means, it will be useable soil. I experimented with this method last fall, but I made a mistake and didn’t rotate the coop frequently enough. The grass came back really well despite the ravaging chickens. I didn’t water it even once this summer and it is just now (at the beginning to September) starting to turn brown. This tells me that it held moisture okay, but it could be improved.
Forests never get watered in this part of the state, and they stay lush and green all year. So, by letting the chickens do their thing again this fall, and adding more plant diversity to the soil, I hope to be able to keep a kid and chicken friendly “yard” while being able to produce more food AND have the space be attractive to the eye. Totally reasonable right?! Ha ha! While I’m not sure how long it will take to achieve my end goal, I have already had such success seeing more green in the past year that I can help but feel hopeful. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
I hope your fall is off to a wonderful start. Our schedule is about to get more busy with our extra curricular activities, so I’m soaking up these last few days of a slow paced week. And of course, taking all the extra time to squeeze in all the homesteading projects! Here is to a industrious autumnal season.
There certainly is a magic in rearranging your space isn’t there? Nothing like a new coat of paint or tossing out a pile of clutter, am I right? As much as I like to decorate and refresh our home, I rarely get the time to do it. But necessity is the mother of invention, and with school coming to a close I had to make time to start the big project of switching A and C’s rooms.
Lil C is 2 and a half and around this age we start thinking about a “big kid” bed for the gradual transition she will be making to sharing a room with A. I’m not fooling myself, I know Pickle will be sleeping near me (for at least most of the night) for a good while yet. We all embrace this. Our philosophy is; let them be little. In the mean time, she can start having a more concrete space for her toys, books, and clothes. Where toddler property laws are concerned, if they like it, it’s theirs! A bedroom space helps solidify the concept that there are Pickle things, and there are Miss A’s things, and that it’s okay to not share all the time. To accommodate for both girls and all their things, it was necessary to swap C and A’s rooms. They were both very excited for this change much to my relief. The process took me a couple of weeks, fitting in painting, shopping for and assembling furniture, and sorting toys and clothes in between school and guild prep.. you get the idea- it has been hectic.
As a family of five in 1000 square feet of living space, we have to get creative with storage solutions. Since hacking small spaces is super “in” these days there are quite a bit of resources and inspiration online, however, doing so amidst the current price surges and supply chain issues is a whole other kettle of fish. To solve this problem I had to plan ahead, compromise on some furniture choices, and go with used options. I appreciated the opportunity to be frugal and resourceful but I’d be lying if said it all turned out exactly how I envisioned. But the deviation from the vision wasn’t all because of the current market.
As kids get older they have the audacity to start to get opinions, so despite what my Pinterest boards looked like, C and A had different ideas. Don’t get me wrong it’s their rooms, their choice, within reason of course. So while wildflower wall paper and off white walls is what I thought the girls would like, the overwhelming vote was for purple, pink, and gold. I have to admit, it reflects their girly style and colorful personalities very well. C was confident he wanted black walls but once I said no to that he wanted white. Less is more with this almost pre-teen; I was told more than once very nicely that a few of his past decorations in his room he did not want to use again because they, ”are kind of little kid ish, Mom.” *sniff* Growing up too fast I tell ya.
That’s what has been keeping me pretty busy these days! I am lucky to have such helpful kiddos. C even assembled some of the furniture by himself! Miss A is always so helpful with Pickle entertaining while I paint. The project took me longer than I’d like, but I am really proud of all the hard work the kids did to help make their new rooms happen. They each got chances to work on assembling things, and they both learned how to prep for painting a room and helped me with that in both rooms. Most importantly, they are thrilled with the new look and updated space.
Summer is almost here, and with school and our big extra curricular commitments are almost finished, we start our summer sports and prep for 3rd and 5th grade. With the bedrooms refreshed and a little more time on my hands (hopefully for a couple weeks) I look forward to writing more about our adventures home and abroad.
Oh, my lanta. It has been a whirlwind around here lately. Between winding down the 2nd and 4th grade (hey, Saxon math, WHY do you introduce all the hardest material at the END of the year?!) and all of our 4H events and presentations starting up, oh, and let’s toss in piano Guild Auditions for good measure (HA! Get it?!), I’ve been jam packed each and every day. Probably the remedy is more detailed to do lists, right? Right. And some deep breathing. Whew.
I promised I’d share some of our Easter traditions and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to document this years’ as it was wonderful. Easter celebration traditions start on Holy Thursday for us, with celebrating the Last Supper. The main dish after the ceremony is pierogi, and I’ll tell yoy- its been no small feat to figure out a recipe that works for our family.
On Good Friday we always do the stations of the cross. While we clean the whole week extensively in preparation of Easter, we make sure we have a quite hour on Friday, a time when i encourage the kids to do some spiritual reading.
On Holy Saturday we always make Resurrection Rolls and has been one of our own traditions we started ourselves. I’ve since made my own recipe and use my own marshmallows but the link above will give you an idea pf how it all works.
Easter morning the kids wake up to find their Easter baskets and the mad rush procession of haste ensues in order to get to church and to add all the last minute food preparations for the festivities. Needless to say, I usually give the kids smoothies for breakfast- something quick and nutritious to off set some of the sugar of the day.
During Holy Week we don’t just clean and do yard work- we also prepare decorations. Of course we dye eggs (I cannot wait till the bigs are ready for Pysanky, I absolutely loved doing them for Easter) and we make some Easter themed art.
During the week we also participated in a local event put on by the parks and recreation department where we search for a bunch of bunny cut outs at various parks. It was really fun!
Then, because the week wasn’t busy enough, haha, our 4H club had a petting zoo event on Holy Saturday. I hope this becomes a tradition, it was a great experience for the kids and I’ve always wanted to be a family that volunteers together.
Can it even be Easter if you don’t have lovely new Easter dresses for your adorable little girls or a snazzy outfit for your handsome little man? I think not.
Our Easter traditions focus quite a bit on food, probably because we abstain from so many foods during Lent. Being free from the top allergies is the most challenging during Eastertide because so many of the traditional celebratory foods use dairy, eggs, and gluten. I’ll not lie to you- it’s very difficult and time consuming to bake without those things. However, there are still plenty of treats to be had. This year I made a vegan and gluten free lamb cake, an allergen friendly version of one I had growing up, a vegan sourdough pascha bread taking from the Ukrainian tradition that I grew up with, and a sourdough vegan chocolate babka. I make the lamb cake and pascha every year without fail- they are a staple of our Easter traditions! In addition to the foods from my childhood, I made vegan gluten free donuts and a gluten free vegan blueberry coffee cake. We had a decadent spread!
This donut recipe is a keeper, I plan on making them and the coffee cake a new yearly tradition.
Above you can see that our Lenten cross red candles get replaced with white for Easter. And it’s not Easter if the house isn’t decked out in lilies. Why? Because part of the miracle of Christ’s resurrection was that when the tomb was entered, the smell of lilies was overwhelming despite lilies being out of season.
How blessed are we?! I hope you had a wonderful and joy filled Easter celebration friends.
Do I already have Easter baskets assembled for the kids? You bet your hot cross buns I do! I get endless teasing for how early I do things but I simply do not care. There is peace in planning and I get better deals if I gather things throughout the year for their baskets. Yes, you read that right, I got some of these things last year on a clearance sale. Don’t worry, I don’t get the candy a year in advance, haha!
There is nothing I love more than putting together a Easter basket for my kiddos. This is a tradition that I am so glad that Husband brought into our family from his childhood. This year I thought I’d do a little peak into what I usually do for their baskets. While it’s tempting to fill it with a lot of toys and tons of candy, I bet you can imagine that I tend to err on the side of practicality- you’re right! However, I’m not a total curmudgeon and I have some really great brands I recommend for candy options; No Whey, Choc No No’s, Yum Earth, Enjoy Life, UnReal, Project 7, and Smart Sweets.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a gift giving situation for my kiddos if it didn’t involve BOOKS! Gotta have some good reads with those treats. This year the bigs are getting their own Bibles. They were due for something more substantial since they haven’t gotten a Bible since their toddlerhood. C also is getting Ember Green, a new series I’m excited for him to start, Dinotopia, and a Trixie Belden mystery. Miss A is getting a Trixie Belden, The Jolly Postman, and Just Plain Fancy. Pickle is getting giant coloring book for church and a WaterWow. Pickle is also getting some chalk for our outdoor chalk board- can’t wait to use that more again, she’s going to really enjoy it this year.
All three are getting matching summer pjs and some neat homeschooling t shirts with different sayings on them. C’s says, “Join the resistance, homeschool” in StarWars print and he’s just gonna love it! A is getting a shirt that says, “Not all classrooms have four walls” and Pickle’s shirt says, “The world is my classroom.” I think that they are gonna love them!
I splurged on the super cute wooden bunny name tags, but I figure it’s okay because all the baskets were thrifted, right?
Planning Easter was never so fun! I can’t wait for the baking and cleaning frenzy to start. For Catholics in particular, Easter is our jam, much bigger than Christmas! We are the Easter people! I try to make Easter as big of deal as possible. The practical part of assembling the Easter baskets early is to mentally check it off. That way I don’t end up buying all the cute spring nicknacks that flood the stores and am more intentional about their gifts.
I recently read an article that discussed how stay-at-home moms are around their children all the time but frequently are not present. Boy, did I feel that to my core. The author mentioned how it’s so easy to be so overwhelmed by the noise of motherhood that we don’t ever really listen– which made me think to myself, “Abby, when was the last time you really listened to the kids?” Oh, I’ve heard them. I hear them all day long and sometimes night. But it’s been a bit since I’ve listened to their little hearts.
I have to be honest with you. I struggle with being present. I have difficultly focusing on all the little joys of motherhood because, well, all the big burdens of motherhood get in the way. We are the foundation of the household and if we slack I feel like the whole house will crumble. Whenever one of my kids is chatting endless in my ear I must admit, my mind wanders to the endless list of things I need to do. Let me elaborate.
My kids have the opportunity to earn what I call “special time coupons”. If I need a set amount of time with one child during school but Pickle has reached her limit, I ask the available child to entertain her for a few minutes so I am available to give undivided attention to the issue with school work. These coupons can be cashed in to add extra time to the individual special time they each get night with a parent. I was astounded that both big kids always cash in their coupons for time with me. ME! I’m the one home all day with them, I’m the one always doing things with them. I was surprised they didn’t want time with Husband. However, my daughter illuminated me with this one comment; “I feel like I never get to chat with you mom.”
Oof. Cue the mom guilt.
I felt horrible when she said that. All those parenting books I’ve read never talk about how to balance parenting with, oh ya know, homeschooling, 3 autoimmune disorders, household finances, housework, chef duties, maid duties, driving duties, extracurricular coordinator duties.. the list goes on and on! I can’t do it all! Actually, apparently I can, just not well. So when I daughter said that, I felt enough realization to ditch all my social media permanently. I didn’t need another pointless time sink. And things improved. Lately however, I feel like I’m slipping. I’m overwhelmed and over worked. Being present has taken a back seat. With my autoimmune illnesses does come a certain amount of brain fog occasionally, but this just feels like I need another jolt of fire to bring me back to the present. I want to be able to tune out all the background noise and listen more.
Do I have a plan? Not really. Except maybe, “let it goooo!!” (Sorry, I had to). I find if I am not reactive to my stress, the whole household functions better. Is that a lot of pressure? Heck, yeah. Or maybe it’s a opportunity to harness the grace of motherhood, the epic calling that is being the bottom line to an entire family. There is peace and beauty in the struggle, I am sure of it. I have felt it before and I’m searching for it again. In the meantime, I’ll try to soak up all the little joys in the journey.
We try and go hiking at least a few times a month and in the summer I can usually get four hikes in a month- nothing beats a hike in our lush PNW forests. However, don’t think that I’m some magical wood nymph with little forest nymph children who frolic effortlessly over hill and dale. Our road to hiking as a family was won with lots of training, patience, and strategic bribery (and I’m not just talking about the kids, haha!).
I was tired of always sitting at the same playgrounds with C and A when they were little and quite frankly, I was bored of the monotony. But, C and A were 3 and 1 at the time, and I knew no matter how buff I got, I just wasn’t going to be able to wear two backpacks full of toddlers, so I had to figure out how to get at least one of them walking for an extended period of time. So, how to get toddlers interested in hiking…
Enter geocaching! I’d like to brag a bit here- it turns out that if you rename geocaching to “treasure hunting” toddlers get quite interested (woohoo!), well at least the 3 year old does- the 1 year old was pretty content with being bribed with crackers. The geocaching app can’t be easier to figure out, and if you pick a kid oriented cache or two out ahead of time, you’re golden! Make sure you got good walking shoes and plenty of snacks (and maybe a few dollar store toys to swap in the cache) and enjoy the outdoors with your children.
Once our bigs got older bribery wasn’t really needed. They don’t mind hiking, and even bring things along with them such as slingshots and notebooks should a perfect rock appear or a opportunity for sketching present itself. Occasionally we do still geocache, which is quite fun for us in a different way now that the bigger kids can help look more effectively.
I thought I’d share some of our favorite kid friendly hikes that we have taken in hopes that you can feel inspired to get out hiking with your kids if you happen to be in Washington. All of these hikes are do able for older toddlers and for a parent packing a baby or spare toddler or an excessive amount of snacks. However, we still do all these hikes and my big kids love them! I highly recommend the app All Trails for directions and pictures.
Maple Valley Gnome Trail – a MUST DO with kids. My two year old can easily spend an hour walking this trail- it’s that fun!
Cedar Butte Trail
Flaming Geyser River Trail– while the geyser isn’t particularly exciting, this state park is a great destination for an afternoon.
Lake Fenwick– this is a bit of a challenge simply because of the stairs, but kiddos can do it! It’s great counting practice too, haha!
Cougar Mountain Indian Trail
Coal Creek Trail– look for the coal pieces in the creek on this historical trail!
Saltwater State Park– book some extra time to spend at the beach!
Franklin Ghost Town Trail– don’t be spooked! This hike has a lovely waterfall, but I recommend it in the summer as it can get washed out in places.
Iverson Railroad Trail and Westside Road– keep an eye out, and you’ll see Mt. Rainier in all her glory on a clear day!
West Hylebos Wetlands Trail- this is not only a lovely walk, it has a historical cabin right at the parking lot- so neat!
Echo Peak Loop Trail– this is one of our favorites and a hidden gem. The views on a clear day are killer!
Franklin Falls – short but well worth hanging around the falls for a couple of hours. Pack a picnic!
Dash Point Trail
Shangrila, Anti- Aircraft Ridge Loop – sounds weird, but it’s a great loop with even better views.
Myrtle Falls via Skyline Trail– this is on Mt. Rainier, so you could easily spend a day puttering around Paradise.
Nisqually Vista Trail– also on Mt. Rainier
Silver Falls Trail – lovely views on Mt Rainier- usually this is great done in tandem with the Grove of the Patriarchs hike, but alas, the Grove of the Patriarchs in closed until further notice. If they open back up, GO!
Well folks, that’s a few of our most favorite kid friendly hikes! I hope your able to try some or let me know if you have any other good suggestions, we love to explore! Cheers!
I know, I know, it’s so mainstream to pick a word for the New Year, but I really like the idea. My word for this year is Courage.
We had an incredible year in 2021. Incredibly beautiful, blessed, adventurous (I’m looking at you 7 new pets!), and yes, also incredibly hard. Between fractures in friendships due to pandemic differences, the loss of many socializing opportunities, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, disappointment in our relocation efforts, and my own eroding health, we (like so many others) have had some really tough and lonely days. Some of our hardships are following us into the new year and I am determined to find even more courage to ensure that my family still thrives despite our difficulties. I look forward to another exciting year full of hope and adventures with my family. We have some great plans already lined up; camping, 4H fair, hikes, short getaways, Field Trip Fridays, and more! To stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll be blogging it all.
I hope that you have a happy New Year friends. May your lives be filled with abundant blessings whatever the world may throw at you.
But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.