An Archeological Dig

Caleb mapping stonesSummer time is the busy time around here.  As soon as school was out at the end of may, I headed to Yellowstone via Wall South Dakota as a tagalong on the Grandparent trip for my youngest 2 kiddoes.  Every year for the last 4 years my parents have taken 2 of their grandchildren on a cross-country adventure.  This time they felt Grant was too young to go without his parents, so Darren and I got to come along.

Yellowstone

We were home for a couple of days, just enough to wash and repack everybody.  Then I kissed Darren goodbye and took the kids to Lamoni, Iowa for reunion.  I think other denominations might call it family camp or camp meeting.  It was a week of living as families in University dorms. We had prayer and testimony service and classes every day, time for recreation in the afternoon, and powerful music and preaching in the evening.  It’s a time to rest from the cares of the world and get a fresh perspective on our Christian walk.  The leaders encouraged us to stay off the internet to keep apart from the influence and cares of the world.  I had to get on a little to make sure the meal plans went out on time and take care of customer service issues, but for the most part I tried to rest.

The day reunion ended, I filled my mom’s car with 5 of my kids and all their stuff and sent them back home.  My 14 year old son and I headed east to an archeological dig in Nauvoo, Illinois.  He’s at the age where he’s trying to make some decisions about a career and education.  At first he wanted to be a novelist, so we homeschooled his 8th grade year with the One Year Adventure Novel program.  It was a great program but showed him that he prefers to write for a hobby and not to make a career of it.  When he mentioned archeology as his next choice for careers, I used some connections to join the end of a dig unearthing an 1840’s home foundation and artifacts.

IMG_2800

He’s still trying to unpack the experience and see if it’s a career option he wants to pursue, but it was super interesting to learn about all the different aspects of the dig.

Last year it took the team most of their month long dig to locate the foundation of the home.  It was a lot of digging to find nothing and trying again to get just the right location.  This year they were able to get started right away in the correct position and make progress.  By the time we arrived they had found 3 of the 4 walls of the home and the 4th wall was uncovered while we worked.

IMG_2859

We found things like flatware, scissors, square sewing pins, marbles, square nails, china and other earthenware, glassware, cast iron cookware, animal bones, teeth, fossils, buttons, and a cast iron trivet for a clothing iron.

IMG_2829

Each 5 foot square was dug down 2 inches at a time.  The diggers would gently scrape the soil to protect any artifacts that might be hidden beneath.  The loosened soil would go into red scoops (we called them fire trucks) and sent over to the sifters.

IMG_2842

Another team member (ahem–me, so hot and sweaty) would rub the dirt through a screen and look for smaller artifacts that might have been missed by the diggers.  All artifacts were placed in a green scoop labeled with a sticky note to show the quadrant and soil level it was found in, then sent over to be washed with a soft brush and clear water.

IMG_2840

Then the artifacts were carefully dried and sent to the head archeologist, Paul Debarthe who would identify and document each piece in a database.

IMG_2855

Finally the documented pieces were sent to the restoration lab, where Synthia glued pieces back together for display.  It is the team’s end goal to rebuild the home just as it stood in 1840 and display the artifacts inside.
13450943_1012268108862829_7607377967401943150_n

It felt awesome to play a part in recovering history, but it was also a dirty, sweaty, exhausting job.  Caleb and I only dug 3 days with the team.  Most of them were there for a solid month!

 

If Valentines Reflected Real Life

I’ve been thinking about love a lot the last few days as we meandered through Valentine’s day,  about the heartbreak of my teen years and wondering how I could protect my kids from some of that.  I wouldn’t insulate them from all of life’s heartbreaks. That would be robbing them of crucial character development.  I would, however, like to Read more

Just pushing a car down the highway…don’t mind me

Heidi's 16th Birthday

Friday night we threw a little skating party to help our oldest daughter turn 16.  It was so much fun to pick out the playlist for the event.  I’m keeping the list for when the skies have been too gray for too long.  How can you go wrong when Van Halen’s Jump; Ray Steven’s Mississippi Squirrel Revival; Piano Guys’ Cello Song; and Taio Cruz’s Dynamite all made the cut?  It was a great mix of all the things Heidi loves including a few bits of soundtrack from her favorite movies. Our only sadness was the private school held a basketball game that night so not many of her friends from her old school could come.  We had a lot of family and just enough friends to make it a lot of fun.  Here’s the best part–everyone gave skating a try, even the grandparents, which was unexpected and delightful.

Heidi's 16th birthday 2

The next day her youth group was going ice skating.  We picked up her friend, Brandon on the way and partway down the highway, ran out of gas.  This is my first experience with running out of gas.  We’ve only had this car a couple of months and I haven’t figured out all it’s quirks yet.  Our old car had about 20 miles to go when the warning light comes on.  This car has about 2.

I couldn’t coast to the left because that was a highway entrance ramp.  I couldn’t coast to the right, because there were 2 lanes of fast moving traffic over there.  I put on my hazard lights and thought for a bit.  I had successfully pushed my car up an icy driveway twice that week to get to school on time, and  I had two permitted drivers in the car…what could go wrong?

I told the kids my plan, moved Heidi into the driver’s seat and Brandon volunteered to help push.  We pushed that thing at least half a mile to Costco to buy gas, laughing all the way.  A really nice stranger jumped out of his car when he saw us and helped us push.  His wife drove past cheering us on :).   A 2nd stranger helped us the last few hundred feet when we were the most cold and tired.  That’s one for the memory books.

When I got to school this morning, one of my students said, “I saw you Saturday, pushing your car down the road.” Yep–that was me.

Have you ever run out of gas?  I hope not, but if you have I’d love to hear about it.

Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.  Ours was lovely.  I was determined not to be stressed, and it worked out except for about a half an hour on Thanksgiving morning. That’s the half hour, I feel compelled to tell you about.

I already mentioned Friday that my dad was released from the hospital on Tuesday, then was right back in on Wednesday for more tests checking for complications.  My mom still planned on hosting Thanksgiving for 20 at her house.  It was easier to do that for my dad than to try to move him or make him spend the holiday alone.  I went over that night to help Mom carry the tables and set a few things up.  Nothing major.  Then I convinced her to let me bake the rolls and sweet potatoes to lessen her stress a little.  She still had the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, salad, and pies to do. That was still too much.

Master Bedroom winter 2015 2

I determined to get over there by 10am to help and had a perfect checklist in my mind.  Get up; make the bed all cute with my new allergy free bedding; turn on the parade; bake the sweet potatoes and then head over.  But no one in my house was cooperating.  Darren wouldn’t get out of the bed so I could make it. The kids complained about having to watch the parade (and I couldn’t’ see it from the kitchen), and when I looked at the sweet potato recipe, it was going to take an hour longer to prepare than I was counting on. There was no way I could get to my mom at 10 and I didn’t like leaving her alone with all the prep work.

I could feel things start to boil inside.  “Fine, you make the bed!” I yelled at my husband.  Muttering under my breath why he couldn’t grow up and help out a little.  He is a smart man, and he got up and made the bed.  It looked absolutely nothing like I had planned it to look.  I boiled up a little more.

He tried to tell me things would be fine.  “So we get there at 11.  What’s the big deal?” he wanted to know.  The big deal is my dad is sick, my mom is stressed, and the SOURCE of the irritation doesn’t get to say it’s not a big deal.

I stomped and huffed around the kitchen a bit and when he got too close I glared at him, “I’m angry at you because you made the bed and it looks STUPID.” And then the humor of the whole thing kind of hit me.

Who cares if the bed looks stupid?  My dad is alive.  My husband is alive.  My kids are healthy.  We have a big family to gather with.  Get a grip, Woman! I calmed down and apologized to my family and we had a really nice day.

I wish I could get a better handle on my emotions when things start to spiral out of control. It triggers when I have a goal and I think others are purposefully blocking my goal. Usually it’s because I didn’t communicate it clearly or early enough.  The reason really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I understand that the only thing I can control is ME.  So, I choose JOY.  I want to influence others with my love and happiness instead of trying to control them with my anger.

Christmas Tree 2015 3

So Friday, when it came time to decorate the Christmas tree, I thought ahead of time about the things that matter to me (hang the balls towards the inside of the tree) and I communicated it clearly.  I decided on the things that didn’t matter and let the kids have free reign with them (put the silver and gold on this tree, but put it anywhere you want.)  I limited what mattered to me to just one or two things. The kids aren’t used to a pleasant Christmas decorating mama and they asked me a lot of questions about what goes where and what to do with this or that.   They were surprised with how much freedom I gave them and we all had a really pleasant day.

Christmas Tree 2015 2

Any time I had a strange feeling of “don’t put that there” well up in me, I swallowed it and reminded myself that I could change anything I wanted another day.  What I got in exchange was beauty.  Our decorations this year are so very human.  The kids will never be this age again and I loved watching them put things in places and step back to judge their work. It won’t end up in a designer magazine, but it’s a special collage of their current ages and thought processes represented in design.

Am I the only Mom out there that gets a little freaked out on special days?  If you haven’t seen it already, this video could have been taken at our house.

“If you haven’t made your bed already, throw it away.  It’s too late.”

This Changes Everything

autumn-in-holland-1410318-639x426

Two people in the exact same circumstances, one is happy and the other is miserable.  Why?

Attitude

The character quality that influences our happiness the most, is gratefulness.  Gratefulness is a seed that flowers into contentment and joy.

When we have it we spend less money. We smile and laugh more. We can rejoice in other people’s blessings.

There’s an herbicide that will kill it all.  It has the generic label Complaining but can be found under the brand names of Comparison and Envy.

DCF 1.0

Sometimes reading someone else’s grateful list brings up some jealousy.  This time of year, I wonder if I should share my grateful list or if it is better to tell it to God.  When I list off my list of things I’m thankful for, I naturally leave out the things that we are struggling with.  It would defeat the purpose to complain and be thankful at the same time. That can leave an impression that my life is perfect and make someone else wonder why theirs isn’t.

In this human experience we will all have trouble.  If it’s not happening now, it’s coming.  Our gratefulness is interwoven with tragedy. The contrast is beautiful.

autumn leaves

My goal is to become thankful no matter my circumstances.  It’s easy for me to be thankful when I look at those who are less fortunate.  If comparison is the thief of joy, then I want my gratitude to be independent from comparison .  There will always be someone better off or worse off than I am.  My joy and my gratitude has to be unaffected by circumstance.

There is one constant to be grateful for,  Jesus.  He remains unchanged no matter my circumstance. He lived and died and lived again so that whatever happens in this life is a blip in the scheme of eternity spent with Him.  If your Christmas tree is already up and you’re singing Christmas carols while you work, it doesn’t bother me.  It’s just another reminder of the reason for our gratitude this Thanksgiving day.

Happy Thanksgiving from Our Family to Yours

I’ve sent up special prayers for those of you with family members who have already been welcomed into the arms of our Savior.  It seems like we miss them more on days like today.

 

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

We had an unexpected death in the family last week. Darren’s Grandma was 92, but still living alone in her own home with her mind, sight and hearing sharp as a tack.  He lived with her during the summers after his family moved to Texas and again when he graduated from High School so he could farm. They were very close. I lived with her part of the time when I was student teaching and she taught me a lot of things about frugality, being a homemaker, wild edibles and frying mountain oysters.

Lest you think she was all sugar and spice, she was a person who told things as she saw them.  Every time she saw me she complained about my long hair, big earrings and tall heels. When I got pregnant with our 4th baby, she offered to teach me about birth control. I learned to smile and roll with it. If she didn’t care about me, she wouldn’t say a word.  It was her way of saying, “I love you.”

She had a deep faith and prayed poetically. When Darren and I had been married 2 years, her son died in a tragic car accent.  It was a serious time of grief for all of us.  She told me death was beautiful and not to be sad.  She had already buried her husband and oldest son.  She KNEW they were in the arms of Jesus.  During her service I kept hearing her voice say those words, “Death is beautiful.”  But I still miss her.

My oldest son was acting up in the car during the funeral procession to the gravesite, poking his siblings and making them scream. I told him, “Your grandmother is in a hearse 10 cars ahead of us.  Remember what we are doing here and what your frame of mind should be.”

My oldest, Heidi, chimed in, “Yeah if grandma were here right now, she’d whack you with her cane.”

He said, “If she were here right now, I wouldn’t dare.”

After the funeral Saturday we went to her house with all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (28!) and a few extended family.  The church brought over the funeral meal leftovers and we ate and visited just like we would have on Christmas day.  The only thing missing was her and we all felt it. It was a lovely day until it was time to leave and I realized it was probably the last gathering like that in her home.  The last time there would be fig Newtons in the jar put there by her own hands.  The memories flooded in as tears running down my face.  My first date with Darren was there, a whole day of learning to farm. Not long after she decided Darren was taking too long and offered me her wedding ring set so we could just go get married.  She didn’t see any point of big weddings or long engagements.  If you love each other, go make a life together. What’s so hard about that?

I had plans to finish Kids and Money month strong with some posts about Kids and Christmas spending, but it was just more important to be with family.  I’ll come back and visit the topic again in a few weeks, but first I want to get some recipes out there.  Too many times I’ve searched my own site for a favorite recipe to refresh my memory on some of the details and find it wasn’t there.  Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas 2

This recipe is my go to when life gets really busy.  It throws together in 15 minutes and then just has to heat through in the oven.  Every ingredient is available at Aldi making a very frugal main dish. Add a tossed salad for a complete meal or make it bigger with sides of Spanish rice, corn, and fruit.  If you are gluten free, grab some gluten free tortillas.  Low carb tortillas work great here too, for a THM S Meal (You can have up to 3 Tbs of refried beans in an S setting.)  You can also assemble the whole thing in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1 jar, 24 oz salsa
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 10-8" flour tortillas
  • 1 can, 15 oz refried beans
  • 1 can, 15 oz black olives, drained
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar, Colby, or Monterey Jack

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic, drain.
  3. Stir salsa into ground beef mixture. (If you have picky kids, puree the salsa in a blender first, and use onion powder instead of chopped onion.)
  4. Chop the olives and reserve 1/3 for topping.
  5. Divide refried beans, olives and 1/2 of the cheese cheese among tortillas and roll up. Place seam side down in a 9x13 casserole dish.
  6. Top with beef mixture and spread to cover the edges.
  7. Top with remaining olives and cheese.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through.
http://www.groceryshrink.com/beef-topped-bean-enchiladas/

 

The Cost of Being House Poor

I want to introduce you to a long time friend, Jennifer Dickson.  She and her husband, Andrew, are risking everything to change the world for YOU.  Their dream for you is to never owe another utility bill and to live in a paid for house so you can spend your income and your time with your family.  With that introduction, I’m going to let her tell you more:

Acre Designs

It was a typical morning last summer when I, pregnant and late to work (where I’d recently been told it would be unlikely for me to reduce my 50+ hour work weeks once baby #2 arrived), backed our 10-year-old car into our 15-year-old car. After working through lunch and spending the customary two hours of family time with our toddler that evening, my husband and I agreed that something had to change. But how could we make a drastic career shift and still pay the mortgage?

cam1_post-AD2_slides

A quick survey of most any family budget will reveal that the biggest monthly expense is housing and housing-related costs.  We take it for granted that mortgage debt is a part of life, and that utility costs will always rise. But it hasn’t always been this way!

In the past 50 years the American home has doubled in size, energy consumption and percentage of income.  While families used to spend 17% of their income on housing, we now spend 35% – and that’s at all income levels, and despite a growing number of two-income families.  It seems that as soon as we start to get ahead of housing expenses, we go shopping for a bigger model!

cam2_post_slides

It’s no wonder so many of us can relate to feeling “house poor.” On an individual level this translates to less time, less disposable income and less flexibility to pursue, say, a different career, a new venture, a missionary opportunity or a travel experience. At the national scale we’re drowning under nearly $12 trillion of mortgage debt, with growing numbers of the population priced out of the housing market altogether.

This is what led my husband, an industrial designer and interior architect, and me, an architect, to found Acre Designs.  We are a startup creating NetZero homes – meaning homes with NO energy bills – for the same cost as traditional construction. We are able to build in about half the time of a standard house, using super-insulated panelized walls and roofs that install in a few short days. Acre homes require a fraction of the typical mechanical and electrical systems, and we make up the remainder with a small solar PV system, allowing the homes to produce as much energy as they consume.

internal_11_f

Grocery Shrink readers already understand the power of controlling food costs. Imagine the life that opens up when you can control housing costs as well! We think everyone should be able to expect more from their biggest investment, and Acre homes make that possible.

The average homeowner will save $250-300 each month on energy bills. If those savings are applied toward an accelerated mortgage, the savings are astronomical – well over $400,000 over the life of a typical 30-year mortgage! This is a game-changer for most families, and it’s a solution that’s currently unavailable on the market.

To make all of this possible, we’re fixing problems throughout the entire design and construction industry. Currently building in Kansas City, next year we’ll begin to integrate online tools with a network of builders, allowing us to build Acre homes throughout the country.

preview_35

Step 1 is to build our NetZero prototype, the Axiom House, in Kansas City. We will use it to demonstrate and document Acre’s revolutionary construction processes, sensors to collect data on actual home energy performance, and the budget to prove we can build at an affordable pricepoint. We’re currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo to make the prototype project possible – visit our campaign, donate and share today!  Each backer can choose from several great rewards, and will help us bring this revolutionary solution to market!

Learn more, and back our campaign, at www.acredesigns.com.

P.S.  Angela here–These pics show some of their modern versions of homes, but they have all styles including log cabin and more traditional looking homes.

Homemade Pumpkin Bagels Video Tutorial

Homemade Pumpkin Bagels

Tee hee.  This video makes me giggle.  My family doesn’t quite get why it’s so funny, but they enjoy that I enjoy it.  When I watch the replay and Grant (4) dumps the pumpkin on the counter, I roll on the floor laughing and then back it up and watch it again.  Maybe because I was there for the original moment, trying to balance a camera and helping Grant with the cooking at the same time.  How the pumpkin on the counter shocked us both and I got the giggles, which I tried to hold in making weird background noise.  Grant, relieved that I wasn’t upset said, “We better clean that up.”   Which made me giggle all the more.

After we made quite a mess but got most of the stuff in the bowl, I said “What should we do now?”  I thought Grant would say, “Let’s clean up!”  but he said “SMILE.”  Which made me giggle all over again.

This boy is the joy of my days.  The sleepless nights, messes, tantrums, and battles are all worth it.  I had the option to spend this year in a classroom blessing other people’s children, while I earned money that my family needed.  I would have had to let someone else be with Grant during the day, and I just couldn’t.  It’s his last full year at home and I fought for my chance to be the one to clean up his messes and talk him down from the ledge of toddler insanity. It was selfish and selfless at the same time.  He needs me as much as I need him and there’s something priceless about that.

For those who prefer a written recipe here you go:

pumpkin bagels 009

Pumpkin Bagels

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

Put all ingredients in the order listed in your bread machine.  Set for the dough cycle.  When the cycle is ended, divide the dough into 10 balls.  Poke your finger through the center and make a large hole.  Let the bagels rise for an hour or until doubled. Pour 8 cups of water into a stock pot, boil bagels for 1 1/2 minutes, turning once.  Remove to a dish towel to drain.  Place bagels on a greased baking sheet.  Brush with egg white and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden on the top.  Cool on a wire rack.

Back from Paradise

Last week, Darren and I went to Paradise Island, Bahamas with a trip we earned working with my MomCeo team and paid for by Melaleuca.  We had a gorgeous room with a lush view and $480 in room credit to buy whatever we wanted.  Food at the Atlantis resort can be very expensive ($50-$100 a plate.)  We knew this because Dave Ramsey brought us here 10 years ago with the Total Money Makeover Contest (has it been that long already?!!!) We arrived with a plan.

To help stretch our room credit and minimize our personal expenses, we packed protein powder and granola bars for breakfast.  For lunch we ate poolside with our room credit (which was only $15 a plate) and then walked over the bridge to Nassau Island

bridge to paradise islandto buy inexpensive authentic Bahamian dinners at the Fish Fry Shacks.

fish fry shack nassau

conch fritters

Famous Conch Fritters

chef hair net

Our Fish Fry Chef and his amazing hair net

By the end of the week we had saved so much money we had enough room credit to pay for an extra night in the hotel plus buy a couple of EXPENSIVE workout shirts with the Atlantis logo.
snorkel starfish nassau

On Thursday we took a bus to Nassau to go snorkeling.  One of our guides spotted a starfish from the top deck, dove in to grab it and handed it to us for a photo op.  Snorkeling in the clear Bahama water is my favorite.  One of our dive stops had a shipwreck that we could swim to and check out.  The last one, they baited nurse sharks to come and swim beneath us so we could observe them closely. So cool. (Nurse sharks don’t eat people, but they might nibble on your feet if you don’t have on flippers.  Feet kind of look like fish to a nurse shark..but are not tasty.)

blown glass sculpture atlantis

A lit hand blown glass sculpture in the hotel.

glass sculpture

A hand blown glass light fixture.  It was gold glitter glass…pictures do not do it justice.

Atlantis royal towers

The famous Royal towers.  We stayed in the west wing on the first floor. The fist floor rooms are handicap accessible and much larger than normal rooms.  They have walk out sitting areas in green space and wet zone bathroom areas with zero entry showers.  (Sorry I didn’t take a lot of pictures, just enjoyed life outside the view finder.)atlantis fountain

One of the fountains near the entrance to the recreation area.atlantis 3

One of the many conservation areas for marine life.
Ebenezer Methodist church

Most of our friends left on Sunday.  We saved $200 by staying an extra day and not flying on the weekend.  We used our room credit for the extra night and walked into town to experience the Bahamian culture and worship with the folks in the Ebenezer Methodist Church.
Grant missed me

When we got home Grant was glued to my side. He snuggled beside me as I caught up on work and took part in a team conference call, then fell asleep in bliss that we were all home and together again.Me and Sue bootcamp on the beach

Meeting team member, Sue, for the first time on bootcamp on the beach.  Bootcamp A.  Run a 1/4th mile B. 30 pushups C. 30 sit-ups D. 30 squats REPEAT 4 times with a final finisher of 30 burpees.  I’m sweaty in this photo but better off than Sue, because I modified EVERYTHING and only did 3 rounds and no burpees. Sue did EVERYTHING and is such a rock star.  I have 2 years left to make a full recovery from Subclinical Adrenal Failure–so I’m being careful. I never want to end up in that bad way again.

I haven’t felt so healthy and energetic in a long time.  We got plenty of rest, tons of exercise, never missed my vitamins, and all the food I ate was full of the freshest yummies veggies, fruits, and fish.  This was the first time in 5 years that Darren and I had a few days together without the kids.  There were times I missed them fiercely, like when we saw the sawfish with his chainsaw looking snoz, and when we were racing down one of the 8 super fun water slides on the resort–that I knew the kids would have LOVED.  Thank goodness for Facetime and free wifi.

Anyhoo, so that’s why the blog has been quiet, and won’t be any longer.  I have a few things I can’t wait to share in September and in October I’m taking part in the 31 day challenge.  The theme here will be 31 days of Kids and Money.  You’ll want to
subscribe in the side bar now, so you don’t miss a post.

31 days of kids and money green

Coming in October!