Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Before/After

just before the barn fire
The fire trucks were here to fight the brush fire that snaked around back.
We still miss our big barn. It had been built decades ago and was nice respite from summer's heat.
It was a peaceful and pleasant place with many fond memories.
taken last week
We now have five small "barns."
It is amazing how much and for how long a big loss affects life afterwards.
We used the big barn several times a day. We had dry household storage (building materials, canning supplies, furniture, clothing, seasonal items, etc) upstairs. Downstairs was Clint's tools, garden equipment, feed storage, and animal shelters. In a couple of terrifying hours, 4,000 square feet and all of those goods were gone!
I have finally broke the habit of saying "Please go to the barn and get..."
Insurance does not replace everything.
We still need certain things like better animal shelter, but God will provide.
We are very thankful for all He has done for us since that awful night!

And, So It Begins...

 Every year when the weather starts warming up, Joshua and Caleb test themselves against Amanda. They know they have to beat her before they can take on Brandon. Usually, it is both boys testing their strength against their very good-natured sister! Amanda is down the driveway picking out her "sword." The swords are river reeds.
 Last week, Joshua decided to go one on one with a "sword" battle.
 He's looking pretty fierce! He had her on the run a lot!
 She still got in plenty of strategic shots!
She was in trouble when her "sword" broke!
You can see victory on his face!
(You can see part of one of Joshua's swords flying past Amanda's raised leg.)

If they try to take her down in a mud puddle again this year, I will do my very best to capture it on film!
Shoot, I may even challenge them to go after her ;-)!

Update: See: A Princess Wrestles with Two Little Brothers

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Aggravating Cat and Acts of Love

 I put the birds outside when the weather is nice so they can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine too. It always attracts the cats though. That kitten has big aspirations!
 This is the infamous Miracle's kitten "Minnie Mi." She stared at that cage the whole time it was outside. She never found a way to get to it though.
Do not fall for that innocent look!
This cat is trouble! :-)
 Miracle (who is a miracle) and Minnie Mi in Brandon's lap.
Brandon with Miracle and Mini Mi.

Miracle is eight years old and is the most aGgRaVaTiNg cat we have. She will run into the house and get into my trash or any food that has been left out. She usually makes a terrible mess! She has also cost us a lot of money by getting into meat I have had thawing on the counter. During trying moments, I have threatened to give her away. There have been many trying moments with Miracle. Now, she has self replicated! Ack!

But, my boy loves her; therefore, I love the cat.
When Brandon is in school or at work, I look out for the "old lady." I make sure the dogs leave her alone, and I take her treats. I pick her up and pet her since he's not here to do it. If her back legs look stiff, I take a few minutes from my day and massage them for her. When someone is putting her outside, after she's charged through legs to get in, I remind them to be gentle with her. If I see her searching for "her boy," I let him know she was missing him. I take pictures of her and text them to Brandon. I put up with the cat because it shows my son I love him in a way that says love to him in a tangible way.

Love is an action verb. You have to live it out. Words have no meaning without action to support them. How are you living out your love for others? Can they look at your actions and find proof you love them? Do you understand what they see as love? You can show them you love them according to your thinking all you want, but if it doesn't speak to their heart*, they won't see it. 

What about your love for the Lord? Are you obeying His commandments? That is what He asks from us. The wonderful thing about His commandments are that they are designed to protect us. He is asking you to obey what He has established to protect you to show your love for Him. That's the love of a parent/Father!

1 John 3:18 
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.


John 14:15
If you love me, keep my commandments.


* One exception is when someone is self abusive. You do not give a drug abuser drugs or money for them. It's a common sense thing, but I felt it needed saying.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Year Later

We are still trying to get our lives settled from the barn fire that happened a year ago February 19th.We have a lot of building, organizing, and arranging to do in all of the sheds still, but we'll get it. We need to run water and power to some of them. This is the most difficult shed because it holds the most stuff and will be used several times daily. I am trying very hard to get this shed fully functional before spring.It's not helping that Clint keeps sticking his stuff in there (ahem!). :-)

In the top picture, you can see ways we have created additional storage space in the sheds. The lofts Clint put in store things we do not use often. The boards he put up under the framing make perfect places to store games and wrapping paper.
 There is usually a lot going on around me, and this shot has captured one moment in time. Hannah was talking to me as I sorted books until she turned to see why I had grabbed the camera. Caleb is testing his strength on the home gym while a mischievous Brandon holds the weights down. Emily is testing Brandon's shelf. That is not even 1/4 of the books we own. Homeschooling moms LOVE books!
 Look at Caleb's face! See Brandon's?! Ha! It didn't help that his little sister (Emily) had just pulled that weight like it was nothing! We have a lot of fun here!
Brandon putting up the bookshelves in the shed.
Hannah is testing them!
We hope to one day insulate this shed. I dread moving all of those books again!

Playtime!

 Miss Em
 Hannah with the short hair!
 through the playhouse
 Maggie gets jealous and shows off when I am taking pictures of the children.
 sandbox
 Sandpie!
If you look close, you can see how uneven Hannah's hair still is.
Emily went right to the skin with some cuts.
Sisters

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Daffodils at Contentment Acres in February


We have enjoyed the warmer weather this winter.
The children joke that winter is on vacation!

Texas Roadhouse

This is for Jonathan, the Texas Roadhouse waiter. As you can see, we really do have seven children and very little phases us! :-) Now that you are family, drop us an e-mail contentmentacres@yahoo.com so you can plan a day for a visit! Tell your mama "No more orange hair!" :-) We hope work is going better than it was for you on Friday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Forgiveness

Someone Prayed For Us

We do not know who, but someone out there prayed for something very special for Clint and I. It happened! Thank you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do Good Anyway

Anyway
by Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Flash Card Storage Ideas

I was asked by a reader if I had any ideas for storing flash cards "since the boxes do not last very long." She is right about the boxes not lasting long. I have had many boxes tear as I opened the set because they were packaged so tightly.

What I normally do is cut out the label, throw away the rest of the box, put a rubber band around the cards, and store them with the label on top inside plastic sandwich bags. I put those together in a gallon sized plastic freezer bag. This is simple, cheap, waterproof, and everything needed is already in the house. I can easily see through the bags and know which set is which. It adapts to different sized cards very easily. It doesn't look the best, but I put mine in a desk drawer out of sight and reach of little hands.

Here are some other methods I have come across over the years:

You can use one of the hang on the door shoe organizers inside a closet. Just pop the cards into one of the pockets.

You can put rubber bands on each set and store them in a plastic shoe box.

Repurpose empty baby wipe containers to store each set.

Use plastic reusable food containers (sandwich size) to store the cards.

Buy pencil zipper cases with the clear front  when school supplies go on sale and use those.

Find recipe boxes and store them in those.

Find clear cosmetic bags with zippers at the Dollar Tree and use those.

The sheets and pillow cases I buy come with a fabric bag with a snap. If you sew, you could make smaller bags with snaps, zippers, a button, or a drawstring to store your cards.

On Pinterest, I recently saw an idea using plastic index card boxes inside of a plastic shoebox. This looks very neat and organized.

If you have another flash card storage idea that would work in a homeschool setting, please send me a description. Include a picture if you like. I will post it here, and give you credit. 

If you are a homeschooling mother, I am praying for your success and well-being. Remember to look to the Lord for answers as you teach your children.

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Host an Orphan in Your Home Through New Horizons for Children

I learned about this ministry though Above Rubies. The cost is $3,000 (an easy amount to fundraise) and a home safety study by a social worker is required.

"Welcome to the New Horizons For Children Website. We are a Christian based, international hosting program, which brings over orphaned children from Eastern Europe twice a year to share with them the love of God and the love of a family."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Planting Guide Based on Zip Code

http://sproutrobot.com/ Type in your zip code and it will tell you what to plant when in your area.

Vegetable Planting Guide and Recommended Planting Dates

Spring planting guide with chart

Fall planting guide with chart

You have to fill the charts in based on the frost dates in your region of the state. It's easy to do and gives you a good guide to know when to plant for each season

These are for Virginia. If you are in another state, check your state's cooperation extension office website and see if they have one. If not, call the state cooperation extension office. If that doesn't work, you can still find one based on your planting zone. When all else fails, contact a local gardening club.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quick, Nutritious Breakfast

cooked, chopped vegetables (Normandy Blend is what I used here.)
My Wilton's Baker's Blade is one of my most used items!

caramelized onions
This brownie cutter/lifter was found at Dollar Tree. I use it a lot also.

 Egg Muffins before baking

Egg Muffins

Bulk cooking is a necessity in our house. If I had to cook individual meals three times a day, I would have very little time for anything else in my life. It makes more sense and is time saving to cook extra meals while your tools and ingredients are already out.

For something this simple, I do not measure. I crack the eggs and add a little milk, mix it together, and pour over the ground meat (use any you want) and chopped vegetables (use any you want). I believe I used 18 eggs and half a cup of milk for this batch. I had almost two muffin tins filled. The amount of egg mixture needs to be enough to cover the vegetables so it will hold them together.

When finished, I pop them out and put them into a container. We heat them up and put the egg muffin on biscuits or eat them alone. My family loves them, and it is so easy to do.

The Stress and Miscarriage Correlation

Because of yesterday's post, a lot of women are asking me about the correlation between stress and miscarriage. Below are links with more information. I am sure there are more and you can always search for the individual studies.

To the women who are concerned about miscarrying: There is some evidence that progesterone can help counteract the effects of stress on the pregnancy. You can try progesterone cream or get progesterone from your OB. I would do everything I could to minimize cortisol levels. I would also research and use herbs that help prevent cortisol levels from rising. 

To the mothers who have miscarried: I know how it feels to lose a child to miscarriage. I have lost four. I wish I could hug each of you and cry with you. My sincerest condolences for your losses.

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/can-stress-cause-a-miscarriage.html  "According to miscarriage statistics, many women lose their pregnancy due to stressful life situations. A lot of research studies have been conducted to find out the correlation between stress and miscarriages. If you are thinking whether can stress cause a miscarriage in early pregnancy or otherwise, then the answer is yes."

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6644-stress-can-make-pregnant-women-miscarry.html "We can clearly say that stress has a major impact on pregnancy maintenance," says team leader Petra Arck of Charité, an institute of the University of Berlin.

http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/02/22/16129.aspx "According to a team of researchers in the U.S., women who exhibit signs of stress are three times more likely to miscarry during the first three weeks of the pregnancy."

http://www.pnas.org/content/103/10/3938.abstract  Cortisol levels and very early pregnancy loss in humans


http://www.medpagetoday.com/OBGYN/Pregnancy/2730 Women with increased cortisol levels during the first three weeks after conception were 2.7 times (95% confidence interval, 1.2-6.2) more likely to experience a miscarriage (p=0.03).

May God bless you with beautiful, healthy children!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Can Stress Cause a Miscarriage?

http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/news/20030605/how-stress-causes-miscarriage
 There are many more articles on how stress affects the hormonal levels in pregnant women, especially in the first stages of pregnancy.

Yes. Doctors believe the extreme stress caused by a person's open hostility towards our entire family last year after they saw our pregnancy announcement resulted in my miscarriage January 1, 2011. According to church leadership, what they said was a curse against each one of us which hoped for the downfall of our family. The pregnancy was going along fine until their nasty reaction to it. I had never before then had a miscarriage once the HG hit me.

This person had come back into our lives in November of 2010 after many painful ins and outs. Clint and I prayed and asked God to reveal their heart for our family and immediately after that prayer, wow! They did something very hateful.

This caused an extreme amount of stress. At that point, the hCG levels began to fall. The baby soon died. Over the last few days as the current situation has deteriorated, I have had to accept there will be no happy ending in this relationship. As a result, my mind is forcing me to come to terms with ALL of it. It's hard. I am not angry or resentful. I am deeply saddened and brokenhearted.

We decided to keep the doctor's reason for the miscarriage to ourselves in case they would take joy in it, and also so it would not hamper things if there could be a relationship down the road. They did come back into our lives, but it was to seek their own gain. They were hiding property from Clint for four years and could no longer hide it due to circumstances.

They came into our lives this October and admitted once we discovered what they were hiding that they were not going to tell us until February or March so they could "build a relationship." They manipulated me to get to Clint. I was the "easier" prey, I guess.

We found out about the scheming after we noticed inconsistencies in their words and actions which led us to start praying God would reveal their heart for us. Right after that, we received a bill for insurance put in Clint's name without his knowledge or permission. When we called the insurance company, we learned they had lied about the dates they obtained the insurance as well.

When we discovered all of this, they admitted it and then immediately asked my husband to give it away...to them!! That is why they wanted to "build a relationship" before we knew what they were scheming. They thought if Clint felt close to them, he would give it to them. My husband is the sole provider for nine people. He often works overtime, weekends, and has a second job. He has had two financial blows due to natural disasters. For years, I have been praying God would ease Clint's burden and provide him with a financial blessing. This person is not destitute by any means, but they esteemed themselves more worthy of Clint's property than Clint. They esteemed their wants to be more important than our family's needs. The pride and greed in that kind of thinking astounds everyone who has heard the story.

Clint's name is right there in black and white on the same court papers that informed them they owned the property jointly with Clint in 2007. We will produce those documents for anyone who wishes to see them. Should they tell you they didn't know where Clint was at that time, we have court submittable documentation which disproves that also. You see, our lawyer had the same thing happen to her, and she already knows what we need to prove our case. God has blessed us by quickly putting everything we needed to prove our side into our hands!

Clint and I were willing to let them into our lives, but they came in with selfishness, greed, lies, manipulation, and scheming. Even after that, we forgave them and welcomed them anyway because our love for them was deeper than our hurt and disappointment. We have given them over a dozen verbal and written invitations including an open one where they could pick the date and time to get to know and be a part of our family which they said was their reason for returning into our lives. In five months, they have not come to see us once. They have not invited us into their lives either. This pretty much summed up for us what they were truly after. When I brought up the miscarriage to them, they never said they were sorry we lost our child. They acted like I had not spoken.

Last week, I asked the Lord to have them call and talk about the thing that interested them the most: a relationship or the money. They called Clint the next day. All they spoke about was the money. That was the point I finally gave up holding out hope and accepted God has been showing us every step of the way. There is no real (godly) love for us in them.

Now, all we want is for them to go their own way and leave our family in peace. Showing love towards us is something that escapes their abilities. They prefer to believe their illusions about us rather than face the reality they are wrong about the past. They have given us affirmation we had done all we could then too. People who love you do not act the way they have.

When they came back into our lives, all we wanted was to welcome and love them. We did this. Even after we knew what they had done, we put our words into action. We gave them gifts, spent hours cleaning the property they had neglected, left them notes to reassure them of our love, and tried to keep the communication flowing. They couldn't reciprocate.

I can only assume they will rejoice over the revelation in this post. That is another reason I never shared what we were told about the miscarriage. Now, I don't care what they do. I need to accept them for who they are, accept the ways this has cost my family, and move beyond hoping for a happy ending that isn't going to happen.

I am done with it. My healing is beginning today.

Our actions towards them have not been in vain. Our Father saw our efforts and knows our hearts. He will bless us for forgiving them and being willing to befriend them. I know my God. There is a blessing in this somewhere.

Prayer Request

I am having a hard day today thinking about the baby I lost January 1, 2011. Please lift a prayer for me. My husband and children need me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Trimmed Up Hair

 I had to shave her hair down to 5/8" to even the heinous haircut out.
The whole time I did it, I kept thinking "This is what I do to my little boys, not my little girls! This is so wrong!" :-)

Hannah with her new "hair." We're going to have to get creative for the spring pictures!

In case you land on this post as a separate page, this story goes with this one.

Another Toddler Hair Cut! Lord, Have Mercy!

The Victim:







Perpetrators:


This was actually a chain of events. Bethany left the safety scissors down after she did a craft. Emily, never one to bypass opportunity, grabbed them and hacked her sister's lovely locks off. Emily works fast! This isn't her first hair atrocity, click here for here the job she did on herself. (Note my prophetic note at the end of that post! :0) My poor baby, Hannah! Her lovely curls are gone!
The teen who didn't take me seriously when I told him to keep a good eye on them because "They can get into trouble quick!" He looks worried, doesn't he?

Go ahead! Laugh! It will grow back!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Little Help

The other day, I asked myself "Why is it taking me so long to clean this bathroom?!" Then, I turned around and saw my help! They do slow me down, but I have proof in my older children that it is so worth it!

Melted Snowman Cookie

We didn't get too fancy because the children ate them right away!
Sugar cookie and a marshmallow make the snowman's body. The rest you can figure out!

Bulk Cooking


This is how I package individual meals when I bulk cook.
Pans are 3 for a $1 at Dollar Tree and are reusable.
The cardboard lids do not hold up well, so we cut new ones from recycled plastic food packaging or use foil sheeting. We reheat our food in the oven or toaster oven because food tastes better than when you reheat it in a microwave.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Real Love Looks Like


(not our image, not sure where it originated, Thank you to Mike Y. for sharing!)

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Father, help me to learn to love like you do!

Woman Commands Robber to Leave Store in the Name of Jesus

CBS NEWS: Jesus Saves Jewelry Store Owner; Armed Robber "Arrested by the Holy Spirit"

This is amazing!


Proverbs 18:10  The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Trials

This week is guaranteed to have some bumps in the road, but we are keeping our eyes on Christ, trying to obey Him, and focusing on His promises to smooth out the ride. I thought I'd share this quote to encourage others who are in similar circumstances.
TRIALS are like a WASHING MACHINE. They twist us, spin us and knock us around but in the end, we come out cleaner, brighter and better than before. Have faith in Him! ~unknown

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Photos

 Bible Study Time (cell phone pict)
an interruption in work for some snuggles
 Hannah sleeping on me
 Maggie insists on being treated like one of the children!
 horse has new shoes
Amen!