Parenting Tales

Dear Kids…

Dear Daniel, Andrew, Heidi, Joey, and Josh,

Tomorrow you all will be heading off once again for a brand new school year!  I know you are ready to start back up, but may have some butterflies about it too. I know that I always did when I was your age.

As your dear old Mom, here are some things I’d like to tell you before I send you off to start your new grade. I know I’ve said lately that I’m excited for you all to get on that bus so I can have a little time by myself, and that is true. I do like a little time alone here at our house when it’s nice and quiet and everyone is at school. However, know that I do miss you all and am praying for you every time that bus picks you up. It’s like 5 pieces of my heart leave me and then return in the afternoon.

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Guys, I encourage you to do your absolute best while you’re at school. Each of you has been very blessed with the ability to learn things pretty easily and to usually do well on tests. Not every kid has that advantage, so don’t take it for granted. Help other kids as you are able and while it’s okay to be proud of a good grade (and you should be!), no one likes a bragger. Also, just because learning may come easier for you than some other kids, it is not an excuse to slack off. You are still called to do your best at whatever job you’ve been given, and right now that job is schoolwork.

Now, this is what I want you to know about your teachers. They are there to help you learn and be the best person you can be. Teaching is NOT an easy job, and you are to be kind and respectful to each teacher you have, even if they are not your favorite. From what I’ve seen, they really do want what’s best for their students and love all of the kids in their care. All teachers have tough days sometimes and I want you to help make their days a little brighter by being in their class.

With that being said, let’s talk about the other kids in your classes. Every kid is different, and I think you all already know that. Some kids are ones that are easy to be friends with. I used to gravitate towards those types of kids and stick with them. Other kids are not so easy to be friends with, or maybe they are difficult for the teachers and other grown-ups in the school.  Perhaps they are mean or rude or maybe even cry over silly things. Maybe it’s a kid that is dirty a lot or smells, or has other issues. Here’s the thing, guys—you just never know what that kid is dealing with at home. You all come from a pretty good household (I think!) and have two parents that dearly love you, take care of you, discipline you, and teach you about Jesus. Maybe you think every kid comes from a house like that, but they don’t.  Anymore a house like ours is a little rare. I just think that it’s important to remember that when a kid is maybe acting out or different in some way.  Please, please, be kind and show love to everyone, even if they are not especially likeable. Remember how much Jesus loves each of us, and maybe YOU are the person he is using to show that love to another kid.

Here’s another thing that ties in with what I just said: I want you guys to be a “little light” to everyone you meet at school. Dad and I think that you already have been, and we are so proud of you for that! Keep it up. I really do believe that God uses people in certain places and at certain times. For the last years and even now we think that we’ve been called to have our family be a part of the public school here. As I said before, not everyone comes from a family that believes like we do, but I want you to show them love as Jesus has commanded us to do. Maybe that means being a friend to someone who is shy, or holding a door for others, sharing a book, or inviting a kid that’s alone to play with you on the playground. You just never know what impact you’ll have on someone else.

Also, stand up for what you believe in. Our world is a little crazy right now, and sadly, it’s just going to get worse. That makes me worried for you as you grow up. This is part of what I pray about for you all the time. However, you have been taught what is right and what is wrong, and don’t be afraid to say and act on what you believe. I know you can do it!

I love you guys like crazy and will miss you. Have a great first day in your new grade!

Love, Mom

Parenting Tales

Big Yellow Bus

O Big Yellow Bus,

Will you stop by real soon?

I have missed you, my friend

And am turning into a loon

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You see, I dearly love my kids

But I also love routine

It makes me oh so productive

And also…not so mean

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It happens every year

‘Bout this time of the summer

We’re done with ALL The Fun

It’s really quite a bummer

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I’m sick of hearing “Mom!”

The house is just a mess

My diet is atrocious

The kids….well, too much Togetherness

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Fights are starting to break out

Here, there, and everywhere

The natives are getting restless

My cupboards are looking bare

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So Big Yellow Bus

Will you change up our days?

You always arrive on time

With your lights all ablaze

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I’m ready to greet you again

Each morning and each afternoon

This Mom is starting to miss you

Will you please stop by soon?

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Craft/DIY Ideas

Easy & Pretty Teacher Appreciation Gifts

You may or may not be aware of this, but Teacher Appreciation Day is tomorrow, May 5th!

I happen to be highly thankful for my kids’ teachers and all they do on a daily basis. Therefore, I want to let them know what they mean to our family by at least giving them a little something.

As I am also in charge of our school’s PTO, I came up with this handy little idea for all the staff in our school this year:

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Packs of flower seeds displayed on various flower and leaf shapes I made from printed cardstock.

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I attached each one to a bamboo skewer to act as a stem.

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The skewers are inserted into foam blocks I placed at the bottom of several baskets. Colored mesh was bunched up to cover up the foam. I attempted to place the flowers at different heights to create some semblance of a flower arrangement.

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I then made a sign that reads “Thank you for helping our students grow.”

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Hopefully they like it.

Many thanks to all of the teachers out there!

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

How We Homeschool Without Homeschooling

Today I have decided to re-post a favorite article from my archives. Hope you enjoy!

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It may come as a shock to some of you dear readers, but I do not homeschool my children. Neither do they attend a private Christian school. Yes, my friends, this product of public schooling sends her brood of children to public school. (Gasp!) A lot of people think we do homeschool, and I really take that as a compliment.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the wonderful aspects that homeschooling has to offer. I really, really do. Many of the Moms on my personal “Most Admired” list homeschool their kids and do an awesome job of it. However, I also know a LOT of highly admirable, godly Mothers who send theirs to public school as well (and their kids are doing great). And lest I not forget, some who choose private schooling for their kids.

**Don’t take this post as an offense to any of these categories of schooling!**

Oh yeah, and please don’t judge me for sending my kids to the big-bad public school. I personally believe that every family is different, school districts are different, and each one has to choose what they deem best for their family. That’s what we all really want for our kids, isn’t it?

Since Day One of entering the world of having school-aged children, this is a decision that so far my husband and I have stuck to. However, just because we don’t homeschool doesn’t mean our kids don’t get “homeschooled,” if you get my drift. Though I desire a great education for my kids, I have an even greater desire for them to love God, learn His Word, and want to share that love with those around them. I believe that we can still instill this in them on an everyday basis. Some days I really do a cruddy job of this, but this is something we really work towards doing at home and in our daily interactions.

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So, how in the world do we “homeschool” without homeschooling? Here’s some examples I have thought of that our own family does. While you read this (hopefully you haven’t tuned out by now!) please don’t think I have picture perfect kids or that I’m some picture perfect supermom. I can assure you that we are most definitely NOT. This is what we TRY to do to instill values, a love of learning, and godly character in our gang.

* Be involved in their schooling. Anyone who knows me can assure you that though I don’t homeschool, I am very actively involved in my kids’ school lives. I know their teachers, know their friends, am on PTO, volunteer in classrooms, and make sure they do their best at whatever they’re learning. We do homework Every.Single.Night and if someone is really slacking or struggling in a subject, you’d best believe I’m in the trenches trying to help them conquer that area of weakness.

*Read, read, read. We are a household of readers, and I love it. You can find books in literally every room of my house. (Even the bathroom, you say? Yup.) Though my crew isn’t homeschooled, I have some boys who are off the charts whenever their reading levels are tested. Though all can read independently now, we still like reading chapter books aloud to them most every night. Parents who love to read usually (though not always) have kids that learn to love reading. Together we have been on many adventures to faraway lands without even leaving our home. Most of the crazy random facts and knowledge my older two can spout off was learned through independent reading.{Just as an aside, I have noticed that on library days my daughter always brings home fiction and my boys drag home non-fiction books. One day it was a book all about FEMA. I’m like, really?}

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*Experience things together. Summers are especially great for this, but it can be done any old time of the year. Visit a museum, an art gallery, go fishing, take a hike, cook a meal, grow a garden together–it doesn’t matter what or where, just doing things together is important. Kids learn by doing and they need our time as well.

*Read God’s Word together. One of the best Christmas gifts we received this past year from my parents was Jesus Calling for Kids. It is a daily devotional that has a short bit to read everyday and then some verses to look up. We have taken to doing this at dinnertime and they remind me when I forget– “Mom, we didn’t do Jesus Calling!” I read the page out loud and they take turns looking up the coordinating verses.

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*Go to church and Sunday School. As a child, my family went to church every single week unless we were half-dying. My kids also know this is just what we do. It is not an option. We love our church family and they love us. Many of them have taught at least one of my kids in some capacity through either VBS or Sunday School or Children’s Worship and I cherish that. I have taught each of my kids in Sunday School as well. Our small group convenes at our house and they hear us praying corporately together. They know that we are invested in the ministry of our church and we are invested as a family. Church is not just something we go to, it is what we do.

*Serve others together. Our kids know that their Dad and I want them to look for ways to serve others, not serve themselves. Whatever my husband and I are doing, we try to get the kids involved too. An example of this is my husband’s role as Head Trustee at our church. He has done this for years and completely rocks at it. It is a habit that whenever he goes to the church to do trustee work, at least one if not several helpers go along with him and he puts them to work. And you know what? This is something they look forward to, don’t complain about, and also ministers to others.

*Be a good example. Live it out. Show them that you love to learn new things. Be respectful of others. Use manners. Let them see you studying the Bible. Treat others as you want to be treated. Talk about Jesus, what he has done for us, and how he loves us. Show your kids and your spouse unconditional love. Serve your family without grumbling or complaining. The list could go on, but you get the idea. Some of this stuff is caught, not taught.

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I’m going to stop right there with my list, but I hope you get the picture. I really, truly believe parents can raise awesome, godly kids while still sending them to public school. What’s really great about this is that they can then shine their light to those they encounter there. We need to be focused on raising kids that are in this world, but not of this world. We are called to be salt and light wherever God has planted us. I have a couple kids that think nothing of popping their Bible into their backpacks. My one son has witnessed to other kids already and is completely unashamed of what he believes. Hallelujah! A former teacher has told me with tears in her eyes how she still thinks about some of the things one of my boys said to her when he was her student a couple years ago. My heart leaps with joy whenever I hear something like this.

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For now we feel like this is where God wants our family. I’m not saying that I’ll never, ever homeschool. I can see some really great benefits of it. However, if God is using my kids for His glory in the midst of a public school setting, then so be it. Use us, Lord, and use all the other Christian families out there wherever and however they “do” school.

Uncategorized

Dear Stay-at-Home Moms of Little Ones…

Dear Stay-at-Home Moms of Little Ones,

There is a specific moment I can clearly remember from just a few short years ago. It happened on a late fall day that was quite ordinary for me at the time. There was nothing especially new or different going on.  My oldest son was in afternoon kindergarten and I sent him out to our driveway to wait for the bus. I was standing in our front doorway to keep watch as I was unable to actually walk him out that particular day. You see, I had a LOT going on at the moment. I remember holding a baby in each arm, both fussing loudly to be nursed and me trying to hold them off until their big brother was on the bus. My second oldest was in our upstairs bathroom yelling, “Mom, you need to come up and wipe me!” Oh yeah, and then there was my daughter,  2 at the time, who had spilled something all over the floor while this was playing out. Not a fun or really endearing moment, but one that I have held on to these past years.

Now you may wonder, whoa, why would this lady remember such a moment? A normal person may try to blank that one out! I can recall it so clearly because as it was happening, I was thinking to myself, “You need to remember this. It is not going to be like this forever. Someday you may actually look back and be able to laugh at it.”  Believe me, at the time I was NOT laughing at all. In fact, I’m sure I really was on the verge of tears and praying just to make it to nap time.

So, dear Moms of little ones, particularly those of you who are home with your babies, I can tell you that I’ve been there. I’ve been in your shoes at one time and wore those shoes for a number of years. Whether you know me personally, have read my blog for awhile, or just stumbled upon this article in a search, I have some things I want to share with you all. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on anything, but these are just some things I wish someone had told ME while I was in the thick of it. I know I really looked up to Moms who were in the stage ahead of me and really appreciated any wisdom they had to impart. I still do! So hopefully you read this and take something away from it, even if it’s just a spark of encouragement. (Warning: It may read like a list, but these are just little tidbits that randomly came to mind when I pictured all of you sweet Mamas.You may agree or not agree with some of them, but hey, some of these are just taken from my humble experience. Also, I can assure you that I certainly did not excel at all of these as a young Mom!)

-Enjoy each snuggle, toothless grin, and sweet moment. Treasure them. Each one is a gift.

-Live within your means. Be content with what you have and don’t complain about what you can’t afford.

Me with my 2nd born, Andrew.
Me with my 2nd born, Andrew.

-Don’t compare yourself with other Moms. On that same note, don’t compare your children with other children either.

-Don’t feel pressured to go out and get a job so you can “be something other than a Mom” Being a great Mom is a big enough job.

-Respect your husband and don’t be a nag!

-Exercise regularly as much as you can. Drink plenty of water.

-Don’t ignore your own health.

-Keep your kids on a schedule. Everyone typically functions better that way:)

Our only girl!
Our only girl!

-Don’t feel pressured to hop on the bandwagon with some parenting trends. Examine each one and pray about what is best for YOUR family.

-Don’t judge other Moms who do things differently than you do.

-Don’t make sweats your everyday outfit. If you make an attempt to dress cute, you will likely feel more confident and motivated. (PS-I’m sure your husband will appreciate it too.)

-Take advantage of nap time, whether it’s to catch a quick cat nap, drink coffee with your feet up while watching Netflix, or to give the house a once-over. Nap time was always golden to me!!

-Find a good balance of being home and doing activities that are outside the home.

-Make time for a hobby that interests you. Sometimes doing a little something fun that puts an extra pep in your step helps keep ya sane!

Our oldest, Daniel, as a toddler.
Our oldest, Daniel, as a toddler.

-Get the kids outside (and yourself too!) on a daily basis. Fresh air and sunshine does wonders.

-Pray for your husband and children. Spend time in the Word regularly, even if it’s a really quick devotional.

-Pray with your husband and children as well.

-Get away from your kids once in a while. Whether Daddy keeps watch or you drop them at Grandma’s, a little time alone or away from littles is not something to feel guilty about. Enjoy it.

-Don’t feel pressured to sign your kids up for activities and sports too early.

-Carve out some time to be alone with your man, even if it’s after the kids are in bed.

The youngest two, Joseph and Joshua, in the arms of their Dad.
The youngest two, Joseph and Joshua, in the arms of their Dad.

 

-To go with the above statement….Your hubs still finds you beautiful, even though you’ve birthed some babies. You may not think so, but he does. Mine told me he thought I looked “pretty cute” and made bedroom eyes at me on the way home after having our twins! I was like, “For real dude?” Yup, he was serious.

-Don’t attempt to have a perfect house. I hate to burst your bubble, but it ain’t going to happen. No one does, at least for longer then like 5 minutes.

-On the same note, I personally feel better when mine is regularly picked up and at least passably clean. I know it seems like a never-ending cycle, but don’t let it get too far out of control.

-Don’t let your little ones turn into mini dictators. You are the parent, not them.

-Don’t spend too much time on the computer or phone, especially when they are awake. On the same note, don’t let them spend too much time on electronics either.

-Strive to be kind, courteous, respectful, and generous. Some things are caught, not taught.

-Read to your babies.

The whole crew back in the day.
The whole crew back in the day.
Our quiver full of blessings. Love them to pieces.
Our quiver full of blessings. Love them to pieces.

-Don’t overindulge. They really don’t need 50 bazillion toys to make them happy.

-Learn to be a planner. Being at least semi-organized makes a world of difference and makes your home a calmer place.

And last but not least…….

-Teach them about Jesus.  Live out your faith.

Whew! I know that was an exhaustive list, and I’m sure I could add about 50 more things to it if I wanted to. Hopefully you took something away from this and know that it was written with good intentions. As I mentioned previously, I certainly didn’t do great at ALL these things. Some were lessons learned along the way and some I’m still learning as I go. I hope you feel encouraged in your parenting and know that you will one day be able to look back and maybe chuckle at some of the crazy moments you had. You are doing just fine. I totally respect and affirm your decision to be home for your little ones. They are well worth it. Know that I am praying for you all as you love on those babies God has entrusted you with.

Rock on Mama.

 

 

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Weird, Wild, or Wonderful Things from 2014

Hey y’all. To wrap up my 2014, I’m reflecting on the good, bad, funny, or just plain random things that happened to either me or my family this year. Hope you enjoy!

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Snow, snow, ice…and yet more snow. This was what the first several months of the year looked like for me and most others from my neck of the woods. Lots of snow. Very cold. Ice storms and many, many days off school for my kids. A tough winter overall, but we made do!

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I taught my first ever grown-up Bible study to a group of ladies from my church this past Spring. Though I am pretty comfortable and experienced in teaching kids Bible lessons, I had never led a group of adults. I would highly recommend this study, and not just to females! Through it I learned a lot, but the thing I most took away from it was that I needed to work on building the “walls” that have been placed closest to me.

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This Spring my Mom signed her and I up for a one day rug braiding class. She knows how I love anything hands-on and that I enjoy learning new skills. It was a fun day of learning an old-time craft and getting to know some other ladies we had never met. (Surprise, surprise: I was the youngest person there.) I took the circle she made and turned it into a cool braided wool basket.

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All five of my children attended some kind of camp this past summer. This is a photo of one of my littlest guys taken by a camp staff member. (For the little guys it was a “mini-week,” a 3 day, 2 night intro to camp.) They all LOVED camp, so we’re already planning on it for this coming year.

We celebrated our oldest son’s 13th birthday.  Though it was back in June, I still feel really weird typing that. Can’t believe I am the Mom of a teenager.(This pic is him at maybe 6-7 months old?) In a few more years we will have five teenagers at one time. Lord help us is all I can say.

We celebrated 15 lovely years of marriage together. Many ups, plenty of downs, and more blessings than we could ever count. So, so thankful for this guy and glad he puts up with me! I appreciate him more and more every year.

A major highlight is that our garden totally rocked this year. We put away tons of fruits and veggies, whether frozen, canned, jammed, etc. Our kids are getting to be excellent helpers with it all.

While browsing the clearance racks at Wal Mart one day, I happened upon THIS awesome tank. I once shared that I had a childhood aspiration of being Wonder Woman, so you know I had to scoop this baby up and wear it! You have no idea how happy it made me that day. Love this shirt. (If you see me sporting the gold headband, a lasso, and gold cuff bracelets along with it, feel free to tell me to tone it down;))

This picture represents one of the Best Pranks Ever in my household. My dear, dear husband is the one behind this freak-o-rilla. He was planning to borrow this costume to be a mascot for a fundraiser at my kids’ school. I didn’t know he had acquired it yet, so he came home from work and parked down the road so we wouldn’t see or hear him. Then he proceeded to put on this thing and creep up to our back sliding door, which was open. I heard a kid scream from my kitchen, came around the corner to investigate, and had the you-know-what scared out of me. He scared every single one of us with this thing. Priceless.

My friends think I live at the school and the kids think I work there. Hmmm, I wonder why?  The life of a PTA president.

One of my greatest joys AND challenges has been stepping up to the role of President of our PTO at school. Our one and only fundraiser for the year is little over a month after the school year starts, so my fall was consumed with this job. I am usually pretty organized and had good people to help along the way, but I definitely had some challenging moments to deal with. However, I think we’ve done some pretty neat things and I am glad to serve the kids/parents/teachers in this capacity.

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This is just a random “weird but cool” tidbit that I wanted to share. A gift given to us from my best friend’s family, this “game” has been a hit with my gang. Made by Jelly Belly, you spin a spinner that points to a certain jellybean you have to eat. It is either really good or really gross, but they look exactly the same. For example, a black one that is either licorice flavor or skunk spray. Juicy pear or booger flavor. Chocolate pudding or canned dog food. You don’t know until you put it in your mouth. I had to eat one that ended up being rotten egg and spit it out! I only had one kid dry heave on me, so I guess that’s not too bad;) Fun times my friend, fun times.

Well, I could bore or perhaps amuse you with many more random things from our year, but I’ll stop there.

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you have an extra special New Year.

—-Rachel

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Fall 2014 in Pictures

If I could choose a brief description of this fall, I would say it was “busy but beautiful.”

Here are a few pictures I have chosen that show a little of what we’ve been up to:

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I’ll start with my absolute favorite one. This I snapped with my phone camera one evening a couple weeks ago. I had a crazy day and took a little walk right near sunset. The sight of this literally stopped me in my tracks. I just had to capture the Stop sign in the foreground with the beautiful sky in the back. I felt more than a nudge from my Creator telling me, “Rachel, you just need to stop right now and worship me.” So I did.

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A lot of my time has been taken up with leading our school’s PTO. Though I had a couple of years in as Secretary, this was my first year as President with a completely new group of officers. Our one and only fundraiser for the year is a Race for Education, which we do in early October. To say I put a lot of time and effort into this is an understatement. But it is worth it.

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Our theme was “Wild Safari,” so our group had a lot of fun with making it all themed out for the kids. It was an awesome day!

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My poor husband dressed up as a gorilla and stayed in this costume most of that day. The kids loved it and enjoyed chasing him around.

I’m told he must really, really love me for doing that. He does.Thankfully.

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Our family has been really into hiking whenever the opportunity presents itself. We have had a number of gorgeous weekends to take advantage of and lots of pretty trails within reasonable driving distance. This is just a little snapshot of the kids checking out something on one of the trails.

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A shot of my husband sitting atop a huge rock at the end of one of those trails overlooking the Susquehanna River. It is named “House Rock,” due to the fact that it’s huge.

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My daughter is in her second year of violin, which she is pretty into. This is my sweet girl serenading us one evening.

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Not a very good picture, but this is my oldest son flipping acorn pancakes. Yup, you read that right. Acorn pancakes–as in, made from acorn flour. We took it upon ourselves to experiment with making acorn flour. A long process, but it turns out good! Next fall I would like to do more when the acorns first start dropping. We have a bit left that I put in the freezer to use in another recipe.

Well, that’s all folks. A brief snapshot into just some of what has been shaking around here. Like I said, busy but beautiful. I have LOTS to be thankful for!