Friday, December 31, 2010


I've never been one to make specific New Year's Resolutions, but I have recently desired to achieve some specific goals and decided that the new year was just as good a time as any to start working toward them.  I am really posting this list for my own personal record so that I can refer back to it later and evaluate my progress, but feel free to read along and encourage me along the way!

  • Join the 6 o'clock club - I'm taking a baby step here.  I don't think I'm quite ready to jump into the 5 o'clock club, but I have felt convicted to rise earlier and get ready for the day with my husband, rather than sleepily kissing him goodbye from the comfort of the warm bed.  My goal is to get up and dressed, accomplish a small cleaning task (start a load of laundry or sweep the kitchen), and begin the day with prayer and Bible Study before rushing into the rest of the day's activities.  Maybe if things go well, I will work my way down to the 5 o'clock club!
  • Partake in intentional exercise at least 4 days a week - exercise videos, brisk walk outside (carrying laundry and babies up and down stairs throughout the day does not count)
  • Not turn the computer on until after school is finished for the day - This is a biggie!  I think I would accomplish a lot more with my children and cleaning tasks around the house if the constant temptation of checking email/facebook and reading blogs is not available.  The only exception to this would be if we needed the computer for a school activity....but still no facebook until later.
  • Read out loud to my children everyday - Unfortunately, I have gotten out of this habit, but I want to restart it. 
  • Drink at least 32 oz of water everyday - I got a 32 oz Nalgene water bottle for my birthday (thanks, Dad), so if I fill it each morning and drink it throughout the day (instead of tea), I will be able to easily measure my water intake.
That's all I can think of for now....but I think I have plenty to keep me busy and occupied for awhile!  I want to wish each of you a safe and happy New Year!  If any of you want to share some of your goals for the next year or you have similar goals, I would love to hear them and help encourage each other throughout the year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To Market, To Market....

Today on the farm was butchering day.  No, we do not butcher our own meat like they did in the "Little House on the Prairie" days, but we do raise our own beef and about once a year we take a steer (not to be confused with a cow...more later) to the "local" (an hour away) butcher.  Today was the day to go pick up the meat.  As simple as it might sound, there is actually a lot of preparation and planning that goes into this process. 

As our freezer supply of beef begins to run low, we assess the status of my in-laws' supply of beef and decide when to "put up" an animal.  The process takes about 3 months, so we have to have a good idea of how much meat we will eat for a few months before the freezer is ready for another animal.  To "put up" an animal, we have to dedicate a Saturday, usually in September or October, to round up the cows.  This all day event requires my father-in-law, husband, and now, my oldest son, to herd the cattle into the corral by the barn.  They usually use this opportunity to tag any animals without tags, castrate any bull calfs as needed, and apply worming medicine.  As the cows are "worked" as we call it, they are released back into the pasture, one at a time.  My father-in-law then studies the remaining steers and decides whether to sell any and which one (or two) to "put up" for beef.  During this all day process, I take on the very important role of staying out of the way, in the house with any small children.

Now, before the small children came along, I would participate in the cattle round-up, usually by standing alongside and asking very important questions such as "Why are you keeping those cows separate?"

"Because those are the steers."

"What is a steer?"

"A bull calf that has been castrated."

"Say What?!?!  Ok, why are they castrated?"

"Because we only need one bull in the herd."

"Lucky dude....So, what happens to the steers?"

"We sell them."

"Why not sell the girls?"

"Because they make babies."

"Oh.  Good reason.  What are you doing with that cow?"

"That's not a cow.  That's a heifer."

"A what??"

"Heifer.  A girl who has not had a calf yet."

"But it's still a cow, right?"

"No, it's a heifer."

"Ok, but that's a cow, right?"

"No, that's the bull."

Sorry, but when I was in preschool, a four-legged hairy animal that stood out in the pasture and said, "mooooo" was a cow.  Now, after several years of trial and error, I know the difference between a cow, bull, heifer, steer, and bull calf (a boy calf that has not yet know), except for when my 3 year old has to correct me. 

So, once the steers have been singled out to eventually find their resting place in our freezers, they stay in the corral for about 2 months, eating like kings on sweet feed.....if they only knew.  Once they are good and fat, we load them up into the trailer and haul them away to the butcher.  At the butcher, they are slaughtered, skinned and then hung in a refrigerator for about 2 weeks.  During these two weeks, I am reminded on a regular basis that we need to be "eating from the freezer" in order to make room for the new beef.  On the designated day (today, in this story), the butcher cuts and packages the beef, and we go pick it up and bring it home to the freezer.



Guess what we're having for dinner tonight?  And no, it's not chicken.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Snow Day!!

We thought that the snow we had Christmas day was awesome!  But then, the day after Christmas it got even better!  Overnight, the temperatures dropped further, freezing the ground, and then there was more snow the next day!  It was the perfect combination for sledding!!  The kids got a great sled for Christmas last year, but never had an opportunity to use it, so we were excited to try it out this Christmas!  In addition to sledding, there were plenty of snowball attacks and snow well as cold, wet feet and tired babies.

She never misses an opportunity to ride her bike!

Our family of snow people!

The first time I've been sledding....
since I was 7 months preggo with Eli!

Before the cold, wet feet became an issue

After the cold, wet feet (and a snowball in the face
courtesy of big brother) became an issue

Snowball fight on top of the hay bales!

Rolling down the hill

Rolling down the hill

Rolling down the hill

Dog pile at the bottom of the hill

And today, the sun is shining, temperatures are slowly warming up, the snow is melting, Ezra has returned to work, decorations are coming down, and we're slowly getting back into our normal routine.  Funny, when Ezra takes a few days off work, he has to catch up on email.....when I take a few days off, I have to catch up on this.....

The snow was wonderful.  It was a treat for us southerners who don't see very much of it, and I absolutely loved making sweet memories with my family this Christmas!  I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas as much as we did!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A White Christmas!

What a blessed Christmas we had!  Down here in the South, we only get a White Christmas about every 20 years or so; therefore, it was a real treat to enjoy the snow this Christmas weekend.  The funny thing is, when I talked to my Dad over the phone early Christmas morning, he asked if we had a White Christmas.  At the time, it was just dreary, wet and drizzly snow.  About ten minutes later, the snow started and didn't stop for several hours.  Here is a glimpse in pictures of our White Christmas on the farm.

Christmas Eve

The best attempt at a picture of all the cousins...

And the stockings were hung by the chimney sitting on the couch with care....

Christmas morning

1st Christmas....not too sure about this.

You mean, I don't get to eat breakfast until all these boxes are opened???

My hero....getting the fire ready in the cold, drizzly, spitting snow

The beginnings of a White Christmas

About an hour later....

2 hours later....

The beauty of God's creation

Our Snowman, Ned

Ummm, Big Pop, is that Charlie's bottle you have there??

Patiently waiting for Christmas Dinner

Not so patiently waiting for Christmas Dinner

In the midst of family gatherings, opening presents, eating wonderful Christmas food and playing in the snow, we gave thanks to God for his gift to us....Emmanuel.  I hope you all were able to enjoy this Christmas with those you love and remember the true reason we celebrate. 

Merry Christmas!!!

*More snow pictures to come....soon.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bake Day!

I was first introduced to "Bake Day" the first Christmas that Ezra and I were married.  We traveled to the farm (from Columbus, AFB) a few days before Christmas, just in time for "Bake Day."  I had never heard of such a thing and was informed that it was a designated day before Christmas, often a Saturday, when the ladies (mostly) baked all the goodies for Christmas.  It included sugar cookies, brownies, Martha Washington cookies, cakes, and/or any other goodies that were planned for Christmas.  Ezra and I participated that year....My mother-in-law had even made me my own worn by Matthew.

Baking all these goodies in just one day (and with more than one person in the kitchen) was very different from how I had been raised.  Since my mom stayed at home, she baked and prepared goodies throughout the day, for several days before Christmas.....usually while my sister and I were at school.  We would come home to find Christmas cookies and such already made.  She would often begin around the 1st of December and freeze any treats that could be frozen in order to prevent baking overload closer to Christmas. 

Throughout the years, we have participated in Bake Day in various ways, depending on our Christmas plans.  This year, my three bigger kids helped their Nana bake and decorate sugar cookies a few weeks ago (which, by the way, have already been eaten).  I knew that I had several sweet treats that I was planning on fixing for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  All week I had planned on getting started and maybe doing a little bit over a few days, but for some reason or another I never got anything done.  Therefore, today turned into an impromptu "Bake Day" for me and my littles.  The plan included chocolate dipped peanut butter crackers, almond bark covered Oreos, Oreo pie, and almond bark dipped pretzels.  I have plans later to bake a Red Velvet Cake and decorate a gingerbread lighthouse, but I think we are saving that for a Christmas Day activity.

My "helpers" are ready....And no, I did not realize until I downloaded the pictures that my apron was on backwards....

 "Act like you love each other."
Apparently Matthew wasn't too sure...

Lots of "help" in the kitchen, melting chocolate

White chocolate covered peanut butter crackers


Almond bark oreos

Plan A:  Dipping pretzels one at a time and letting excess drip off

Plan B:  dumping in a whole bunch of pretzels as once and gently stirring until coated

By the way, did you know there is a difference between white chocolate and almond bark?  Growing up, I always assumed that all white candy coatings were white chocolate; therefore, I claimed to like white chocolate, sometimes more than milk chocolate.  It was not until a year ago (seriously) that I discovered that almond bark and white chocolate are totally different!  All of the great treats growing up that I thought were white chocolate....turns out they were almond bark!  Almond bark is a vanilla candy coating, rather than chocolate.  No wonder I like it better!  Hello, my name is Allison, and I like vanilla better than chocolate.

And finally, today....

Oreo pie....yum.

Yes, I do realize that today did not actually involve any baking, despite the name "Bake Day."  It did, however, allow me to finish all of the sweet treats for tomorrow night, giving me time tomorrow and Saturday to bake meatballs, au gratin potatoes and squash casserole. 

Happy Baking and Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear Big Pop......

This is what happens when you leave the gate open.....

Why, hello there, Angel. 

 So, is the grass greener on the other side???

Nice try, but I still see you....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spreading Christmas Cheer

Stepping out of my comfort zone.....

Last week the kids and I went on a field trip to an assisted living facility to share some Christmas joy.  We prepared goody bags ahead of time, learned some songs and my 3 oldest learned and recited the Christmas story from Luke 2.  It seemed easy enough, but I was so nervous!  I've never been comfortable in nursing home settings, even in college when I had a whole semester of clinicals in a nursing home.  I relate much better to children (under age 5, preferably).....but at the same time I wanted my children (and myself, for that matter) to find joy in giving back to the older generation that worked so hard to provide for future generations. 

There was also the element of the unknown.  I had no clue how my kids would react to being in a new setting, interacting with people they did not know.  With their history, it could range from absolutely wonderful with smiling faces to absolutely disastrous, extreme shyness, refusing to speak, hiding behind mama the entire time or at the other extreme, running around wild and crazy like a bunch of undisciplined monkeys.  I did choose a facility where I knew the activities director, so we had at least one familiar face.  And to my relief, and by the grace of God, everything went fine.  The kids were a little quiet to begin with, but they warmed up quickly and were very friendly with all the residents, shaking their hands and telling them how old they were.

Preparing Trail Mix goody bags

We had a great turnout when we arrived.  When the activities director announced that there were children there to sing to them, silver-haired ladies (and one gentleman) started wheeling themselves down the hall and finding a spot to sit and listen in the day room.  I had been told that there were about 20 residents in the area that we would be in, but not to expect all 20 to show up.  We still prepared 20 goody bags and passed out every single one of them!  Charlie decided to be a "mama's boy" (which isn't too uncommon these days) and Matthew was a little shy at first, too.

Holding 2 babies and encouraging Maggie
to speak up when telling her part of the Christmas Story

Singing Christmas Carols

So maybe Matthew didn't enjoy it quite as much as I'd hoped......

Overall, the outing was very successful.  The residents were happy to see the children, they joined in singing the Christmas carols with us, and my kids eagerly passed out the goody bags, unafraid to go up to the residents, many of whom were in wheelchairs.  There was even one lady that was 102!  And if I live to be 102, I hope I look and act as young as she did!!