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Chasing Babies... Growing in Grace: October 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Read Alouds above "grade level"

For a long while now we've been reading chapter books... This past winter/spring we read through the Little House books for the first time.  Now, we're reading them again.  He's almost 5.  He's catching much more this time, and Sweet Pea is enjoying listening to them more this time around. 

Just this past week I'm seeing true evidence of what reading "above grade level" can do for our children...

Monday, we were at work with Daddy.  After going further down the hall to look around without me Tornado informed us that he "journeyed further on without us" to look around.  I could only smile.

Last night, while I was learning how to use my new sewing machine (so cool by the way), Daddy took the kids to Home Depot to shop for a few things (Snow shovels was not one of them, but evidently the entire town was there for those too!)  When they picked me up later, Tornado told me the woes of the "car-carts" being wet in the parking lot, but that there was one "under shelter", so it was dry.

"Under shelter?"  I never talk like that.  That came straight out of those books!

We're reading these books again, because I didn't really have a good chapter book to read when we finished the last one.  And I hate not having one going. 

What "above grade level" chapter books do you read with your kids?  Have you noticed any words and phrases coming out of those little mouths because of it?

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Friday Night Pizza

One fateful October night back in 2007!

I guess you could say we've come a long way in pizza.  I'm not sure this was our first... but it was definitely from early on in my homemade pizza journey. 

For along time we made pizza at home.  It wasn't the same as going out or ordering in of course.  And it certainly never filled that craving for pizza.  But it was something on the menu.  And it worked.

We worked through several different recipes.  Finally we found one that wasn't too bad.  When I informed my husband one night that I was trying a new recipe, he wasn't thrilled.  "Why mess with a good thing?"  I think he just wanted to know that dinner was going to taste good, and a new pizza recipe can never guarantee that. 

Turns out though, that it wasn't too bad.  And it became the one I made.  I really liked it because it made 3 pizza crusts instead of just the one... a very impressive point for me!  I no longer had to whip up our pizza twice each time I made it and I could put one in the oven.

Finally we discovered the real secret to enjoying homemade pizza.  No matter what recipe we used, the crust was always too tough.  And we suspected that it was because our oven doesn't get all that hot.  We're lucky if we can pass 425 degrees.  So one night we decided to try it on the grill.  We have one of those four burner grills, and if we only turn on the outside two, and we put my pizza stone on the grill to heat up before the pizza is on it (this is important as it wasn't getting cooked in the middle otherwise), we can have our pizza in approximately 6 minutes (give or take... so watch closely).  And it was sooo good.

But, of course it still wasn't restaurant pizza, so after a while I got fed up with the whole thing and we went a long time without making pizza.  After all, it's a lot of work to have it be disappointing.

Then one night at random, I decided to try it again.  My mom was here, and I was feeling well enough to help with dinner.  I made the dough.  But when I pinched off the first section, it was a little on the small side.  Oh well, I thought.  The other ones will just be thicker.

But when it came time to eat that pizza, it was sooo good!  My Beloved even asked about it.  Between the yummy, restaurant style crust and the ranch dressing in place of pizza sauce with "gourmet" toppings, it could have been Pizza Grille!  (Or any other supper yummy specialty topping pizza place you may have in your area.)

Great friends came to enjoy it with us... and they made wings! :)  Yum!
Suffice it to say, pizza was "back on the menu boys!" Er... girls.  Sorry.  (Lord of the Rings moment.)  And we've been eating it weekly (pretty much) ever since... often with company to help us enjoy it.  But instead of breaking it into thirds, I make four pizzas.  The thin crust is what makes it!  Oh, and I don't do red sauce on pizza anymore.  I usually use ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing (for buffalo chicken pizzas)... my favorite pizzas from the restaurants don't use red sauce anyway... why should I?

All this to say... you've got to try it.  High heat (more than 500 degrees) for a short time and this recipe split into 4!  (I should say, I never make the pizzas 15 inches like she says because my stone is only 13 inches.  If you make it a 15 inch pizza, you may want to try making only three.)  But three pizzas at 12+ inches was too thick.)

Topping ideas:

Chicken Bacon Ranch
Ranch dressing as the sauce... as much as you like
mozzerella and cheddar cheese to taste
left over chicken cut or torn into small pieces
red onion sliced thin
bacon crumbled

Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Blue cheese dressing as the sauce... as much as you like
mozzarella cheese to taste
chicken prepared with Frank's Red Hot sauce (I put left over cooked chicken in a pan and pore in sauce and cook till wetness is mostly gone)
additional Frank's sauce (optional... I don't do this because it's hot enough for us without)
additional dressing for dipping!  (we do this... yummy!)

Sauteed Mushroom and Onion (a new one for us... and my favorite!)
Ranch dressing for sauce... as much as you like
mozzarella cheese to taste
mushrooms and yellow onions sliced and sauteed in olive oil to taste

Feta and Sun Dried Tomato
Ranch dressing as the sauce... as much as you like
mozzarella and feta cheeses (I use about 2 oz feta plus whatever else of the mozzarella)
sun dried tomatoes, diced
Kalamata Olives, diced  (though other olives would probably work too)
Red onions thinly sliced

We also do some "normal" toppings from time to time.  Sometimes we'll do pepperoni for special because the kids like it.  But I still use Rance dressing instead of red sauce! 

Use your imaginations and enjoy!

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Meet the Family... newly updated stats!

Most recent group shot!

(If you've read the top of this before, scroll down for updated info on the kids!)

I'm so glad you've taken the time to stop in and meet us "in person". In this busy place called the web, it's hard to keep up. We read snippets of this post and that post, travel through 3-4 blogs before we can remember which blog we were reading in the first place. In all this hustle and bustle we can be reading about the day to day life of someone we've never "met".

How old is this kid I'm reading about anyway??? Where do they live to get that kind of weather? I've asked these questions and more about other bloggers. So here we are... I'd like to introduce you to my family!

If you've been reading this blog for any time at all you probably already know some about me. I'm The Babychaser. When I chose that name for myself back in the beginning, I chose it because I couldn't think of anything else and needed something for the blog address. I've been thrilled with it ever since... especially since it's more true now than I ever thought it would be.

So who am I? I'm a lot of things. Like all of you I wear many hats, though most of them I'm still learning to wear. First and foremost I am a Christian. There are lots of ways to explain this first title, but let me try to simplify a little by saying that I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he came to earth a man, lived a sinless life and died on a cross so that I could be forgiven of my sins. Because of my trust in Him, I am made righteous, clean, and new before the Lord. Because of His sacrifice, I can have a relationship with God the Creator. I am not perfect, but I am forgiven. Everything else I do in life and everyone else I am in this life is with the goal of bringing glory to Him. (There... that was simple right?)

Other hats I wear? I am wife, mother, homemaker. Child trainer, counselor, encourager, friend. I'm a photographer, small business owner. Like many of you, my hearts desire is to reflect Christ in my life and to be a Proverbs 31 woman (I have a long way to go on both of these!)

My Beloved and I were married on January 9th, 2005. We have one of the best love stories I've ever heard myself. Perhaps someday I'll finish posting it. When we met, My Beloved lived in a one room cabin here in Central PA with a loft and no plumbing. They had offered him room and board in exchange for keeping up the computers etc at a local camp. He'd only been there a year, but it was right up his alley! We could have stayed there after we got married, but I really wanted plumbing! :)

During the day he works as the main "computer guy" at a local missions organization... a job he loves, serving people he loves. I am thankful that the office is only minutes from our home. It makes it easier for us to manage our one car. It comes in handy on days when everything falls apart just before the end of the work day and he only has time to come home for a couple minutes to eat a quick dinner with us before returning for the rest of the night. And it comes in handy on days when he can join us for lunch, or better yet, come pick us up and take us out to lunch with him!

My Beloved is different than any man I've ever known. He's super friendly, has an amazing servant's heart, and would do just about anything to keep me safe and happy. He loves all things outdoors (hiking, hunting, biking, backpacking, campfires, hanging out in a hammock, and on and on), yet he says that he still would have picked me if he had known how much outdoor stuff he'd be giving up. He truly is the perfect man for me. He loves me in spite of me... and tells me all the time that it's the easiest thing to do.

Hunting for Roley Poleys

Tornado was born December 4, 2006. You may be able to figure out where his name has come from. He's always moving... and he's loud. All. The. Time. As a toddler he was ever leaving destruction and mess in his wake. One of the times my mom was visiting, she took to calling him the little tornado... I decided it was an appropriate name. :)

Tornado is still all boy at almost 5... and the smartest kid I know! This past September we "officially" started "kindergarten". He loves doing "school" and is thrilled when I bring out a simple workbook, coloring books or scissors for "scissoring".  (Read more about our schooling here.)  He's my song bird and sings all the time, both real songs and fake word songs he makes up. He is also always playing some imaginary instrument. We do lots of reading together (though not as much as I would like) of both picture and chapter books, and in the last few months, his reading has really taken off and he spends even more time reading aloud to me, his sister and himself!  He is getting more and more genuinely helpful as his "chores" now include folding laundry with me (he can do all kids clothes, towels, etc), helping with dishes, and keeping up with both dusting and vacuuming in the living room (among other things!)

Sweet Pea was born March 7th, 2008. She was so tiny (at least compared to Tornado) those first few months... Sweet Pea just seemed the perfect name for her. She's 3 1/2 now and loves to follow her brother around.  Daddy calls her a little parrot!  She's now more of a preschooler herself, but isn't ready for academics like her brother was.  This is fine with me and we're taking a much more relaxed path with her.  She's learning the memory verses and chatachism right along with him though and our focus is character more than anything!  She melts my heart when she says, "I want to be with you mommy."

Her talking is more clear everyday. She started late like her brother, and is still hard to understand sometimes. She's also much quieter, which makes it that much harder to understand what she's trying to say (over the noise coming from Tornado's direction). She too loves to sing. Her favorite song these days is Jesus Loves Me... she sings it all the time, even when Tornado tries to get her to sing something else with him. It's great!

She's quite the little lady and is learning to do some chores too.  She can now fold small towels and bibs in addition to the wash clothes when we are doing laundry together. She's also great at throwing things in the trash for me and most of the time bringing me something... except when she gets sidetracked!  She's also learning to use her little broom and does a great job rinsing dishes!

Watching our neighbor dog go by

Little Man was born on August 6, 2010. At 9 pounds 10.6 ounces at birth, I looked down at him and couldn't help but think that he was my little man already... and the name was born. Now, at 14.5 months, he just starting to walk and makes a few noises for words.   He's starting to show more personality everyday and delights my heart with his smiles!  He loves his daddy best of all and moves very fast when he hears that Daddy's home.  He just can't get there fast enough!  Just this week he's started helping with a few things, carrying things for me or bringing me trash.  Now that he's walking we're beginning some "helping mommy" training!

Coming in March 2012 is baby number 4.  Stay tuned to find out boy or girl... we should know in a few more weeks!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The *Little* Unveil

Homestead Made

Ok... so this isn't exactly the *big* unveil I had planned.  Or even hoped for. 

It's pretty lame actually.  But here goes...

I... have opened an Etsy story.  (head hung in shame)

Why is this something to be ashamed of?  It's not really.  Way back in April or May when I was still trying to sew on that broken (unbeknown to me) machine, I decided (and got blessing from My Beloved) that I really wanted to open an Etsy shop. 

Then I got sick

Then we decided I needed a new machine.  And we went on vacation.  And I was very very sick (early pregnancy) and tired.  And... so much for my big beginning of September kick off and unveiling.  A whole summer of (not) sewing.  Sigh.

The best laid plans... right?

So I set a new start date... middle of the month... end of the month.  October 1st!  (Ahem.)

Do you know how hard it is (for me anyway) to sew and sew at all.  Let alone to finish a project.  With 3 children 4 and under?  I'm sure some of you can and do it all the time.  And maybe I could if I didn't have so many projects going for our own family already.  But still, there is only one item in my Etsy shop.  One.  (This is where the head hung in shame comes in.)

So why share this shame with all of you?  Why even mention it until I at least look like I'm a diligent and productive Proverb's 31 woman who can "supply the merchants"?

Oh, I have plans... but nothing seems to actually happen.  One of my problems?  I have a bunch of things started and nothing finished.  Another problem?  Forgot to buy orange thread the other day.  Otherwise there would be a second really cute thing in that shop right now. 

My main problem???  I'm struggling to find that perfect unique and creative thing that would set me apart.  Oh sure... I can do all the same cute things everyone else already does.  I can even put a personal spin on it.  And I will do some of that.  But I would love to find something unique... and I'm at a loss.

So... enough whining! 

Hey... I opened an Etsy shop!  Wanna see

Yep... I only have one thing in there right now, but I'm working on more. (Isn't that little leaf cute?  It's like a little heart!)  I've got to say, I'm pretty excited about this little guy!  I have one decorating my home... but it's not quite this cute!

So... a little about my shop.

First of all... I'm still moving in.  This is a bit of a "soft-opening".  Maybe we'll do a grand opening when I'm ready.  In time for Christmas?  New Years?  Valentine's?  Now, let's not get too carried away.  :)

I'm calling myself and my shop "Homestead Made". 

But you don't live on a homestead?

I know, I know.  But it's our goal... and we started working on some of the behind the scene "homesteading" stuff a while ago.  It's a dream... but I'm going with it!  I'm hoping that the items I sell will be associated with all things home and "stead" (can I shorten it to that?)  Learning the old arts, and turning them into something today... something beautiful!  That, and I love the play on words.  It's just me.  Sorry. 

So, back to the question, Why aren't you waiting to tell us about this until things are a little more... ready?

'Cause I just couldn't wait anymore!  I'm too excited to have it be a single completely unknown listing that no one will ever see.  And... I may need the encouragement and accountability to get more up there.  You know, in the midst of making quilts for my older two children and our own bed before the real cold gets here (dreaming) and the wedding we are photographing in a few weeks that will make me miss my sewing machine terribly!  Sigh.  Sure... I can get more in there. 

The scary part, of course... will anyone buy???  I'm terrified... and I desperately need to support this new habit! (Without taking from our house/homestead fund anymore!)

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meal Plans... a necessary evil

Most of you know that I used to make meal plans... cause I used to share them with you regularly.

Then for a long while, I didn't have a plan at all.  It didn't go well... we'll leave it at that.

And then for a another long while I had a basic one that hung dinners for me to see, but was not worth sharing.

And now, at least for this week, I have one to share with you.  Let's just say it's necessity!  (More about that another day.)

I can't really call it a menu for "toddlers", because my toddlers have grown into preschool +, and my baby is not quite a toddler... though he will be before we know it.  (He just started walking... though crawling is still faster.)

So here is a new, fresh and un-pretty Menu Plan for Littles (and bigs too!)

(Click here for a downloadable version)

Scram. Eggs w/ cheese, Toast, banana, OJ
1/2 cup Milk
Daddy's away
Oatmeal w/ applesauce and cinnamon, OJ
Chili n Cornbread, 1/2 cup Milk
Fish, Twice bake Pots, Texas Toast,
Cookd Carrots, milk
Yogurt w/ applesauce, toast, OJ
Tomato Soup,
Grilled Cheese, water
Salad, milk
Oatmeal w/ applesauce and cinnamon, OJ
Mac n Cheese (w/ pure cauliflower and carrots)*
Beef Stroganoff,
Lemon Broccoli,
Rice, Milk
Yogurt w/ applesauce, toast, OJ
1/2 cup milk
Homemade Pizza,
Overnight French Toast, fruit,
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup milk
LO Pizza
w/ babysitter
Oatmeal w/ applesauce and cinnamon, OJ
Mac n Cheese (w/ pure cauliflower and carrots)*
Fish Tacos,
Refried Beans,
Scram. Eggs w/ cheese, Toast, banana, OJ
Beef and Veggie Soup with biscuits,  1/2 cup milk
Daddy's away
Oatmeal w/ applesauce and cinnamon, OJ
Chili n Cornbread, 1/2 cup Milk
Yogurt w/ applesauce, toast, OJ
Tomato Soup,
Grilled Cheese, water
Spanish Rice,
Salad, milk
Oatmeal w/ applesauce and cinnamon, OJ
Potato Soup,
Bread, 1/2 cup milk
Chicken Alfredo,
Pasta, salad, garlic Texas toast, milk
Yogurt w/ applesauce, toast, OJ
Mini Veg. Pot Pies,
1/2 cup Milk
Homemade Pizza
Cinnamon Rolls,
1/2 cup milk
Chicken Noodle Soup, Bread,
1/2 cup milk
LO Pizza
w/ babysitter
Oatmeal w/ applesauce and cinnamon, OJ
Crock pot Chicken n rice casserole, salad,
Fruit, Sausage,

I know this is a bit of a jumble without the nice lines, but the downloadable version is easier to follow!

I'd love to know what you think... whether my links work out for you and best of all... what's your best menu for this week?  Maybe I'll need to try it out on my kids!

Joining up with Menu Plan Monday.  Click over for more ideas!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

His blood is enough

Ever have a day when you just don't care?... and you don't know how to want to.

It was not an especially bad day.  No different than any other day anyway.  But my heart was sharp.  Cold.  Uncaring and impatient.  And I didn't know how to want to change it.  

I stood at the sink after yelling (again) at my boy.  I'd just called him back over and confessed my sin to him and asked his forgiveness.  He'd gone off to finish cleaning up the toys and I just stood there looking out that little window above my sink.  I so wanted to be repentant.  I prayed... a shallow unfeeling prayer of help.  Help me to care.  Help me to want to please you.  

The whole day was colored by this heart of mine.  And I knew it.  I haven't felt that way since that dark month or so this summer.

Still, even after kids were in bed for the night... I alone for the evening, I struggled to want to be different.  Even thought I wanted to want to.  

Can anyone relate?  

Has it been that long since I've sat at His feet?  I mean, really, sat at His feet.

Then the words began filling to fill the air... my ears... and finally my heart.  I stood still.  Listening.  The music traveled from the next room:

"Son of Man, you shed your blood.
I could know no greater love.
As your life ebbed away,
though my sins were red as scarlet,
Your blood had washed them white as snow."  Eden's Bridge, Son of Man

Suddenly it was all clear... so so so clear.

His blood fell for me.  Unworthy.  Sinner.  (So clearly displayed every day!)

How can I not want to show His love to my babies?  How can I not cringe at my own impatience.  Uncaring reactions.  Sinful attitude.

His blood is enough.  Even on the hardest days.  It's enough to try harder.  To give in.  To surrender.  

My heart fell into repentance.  My spirit softened.  My flesh, once again, restrained.  Tomorrow will be a new day.  

Jesus, Your blood is enough!  Help me remember... Your blood is enough!

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Missionaries... what do they really do over there???

photo by Jeff Raymond

Isn't that the question we all want to know?  Missionaries visit our church and send prayer letters, but often times the question goes unanswered.  Or, at least, we don't catch the answer.  Joe Missionary and his wife stand up on that stage sharing story after story of their experiences with people in West Africa, but after the first bit, we sort of tune out.  Lose focus.  We admire this family for giving up everything to go serve in a difficult place, but their skills are obviously not in storytelling.  Nor photography.  We see blurry pictures of market square, cows eating socks (I kid you not) in the middle of busy roads, and a group shot of the new church, but we are detached.

photo by Jeff Raymond

Our culture is used to fast-paced technology.  Programs broken into 10 or 15 minute increments and cluttered with 20 second commercials.  Anything longer and we'd turn it off.  High graphic video games keep us riveted for hours, but try to sit and listen to a five minute presentation on what God is doing in the Czech Republic and we zone out completely.

photo by Jeff Raymond

And we can hardly blame the missionaries... though we usually do.  What are they doing over there?  Are they there to study the latest trends in media?  To photograph the people who desperately need to hear about Jesus?  No.  They are there to love those people and to tell them the Good News of Jesus.  A couple working alone in Slovakia doesn't have the time or the energy to take a quick picture of the ministries they are involved in... they are immersed in the work.

photo by Jeff Raymond

So what are they supposed to do when they return home on furlough and are faced with the task of turning everything they have done over the last 4+ years into a presentation for churches across the country.  They use what they have because there aren't any other options.

Photo by My Beloved or I... but we don't remember doing it!
Enter Jeff and Becky Raymond.  Jeff has a long history as a professional photographer, and after 12 years working in the home office of their mission board as Director of Photography, God made it abundantly clear that it was time for Jeff to take his ministry to the next level.  In July of 2009 they were appointed as career missionaries dedicated to helping missionaries tell their stories.  They travel overseas to learn and capture the stories in photographs (as well as other forms of media) that can then be made available to those missionaries.  They train missionaries, pastors, and Christian workers to be more effective in communicating their ministries.  They mobilize others gifted in photography and other visual media to go collect stories overseas as well.  And they stay up to date with the ever changing world of multi-media so they can implement them for missions and help the missionaries learn how to use them themselves. 

Together with their family, Jeff and Becky have been traveling the countryside since their appointment in 2009, reportedly traveling through 26 states as of this week.  In September, they departed on a 6 week, 13 state tour, traveling to churches and meeting with individuals to share their ministry and light a fire of excitement about the job the Lord has given them to do.  At 56% of their support needs (before they can pick up with their ministry to missionaries around the world), they are praying the Lord will provide through His people and bring them to the needed 85% by the end of October to meet their deadline for necessary training. 

photo source unknown
Through the rest of this month they will be continuing to travel through the plains states... and they'd love to fill in their schedule even more.  Would you like to meet with them to hear the amazing details (I only touched on it) of their ministry?  My family and I already have the opportunity of supporting this amazing ministry, but my heart is to help them more than that... I want to introduce them to you.  Maybe you know you can't help them financially, but you're still interested in their ministry.  They would love a chance to meet with you and/or to share with your church!

Want to sponsor one of the fields they aim to support with this ministry?  Go here now!

Or visit their website for more information!

One last thing to leave you with... an example of this amazing ministry.  All the audio and visual elements are done by Jeff himself.  The following is what Jeff tells his audience before playing this video:

The reason I like to show this video is that it’s an example of where missions communication is going – where you start with an end result of something God did in somebody’s life and tell the story behind it.  Instead of the typical missionary approach of standing up in front of a church and for 30 minutes giving a list of facts about their country and details of everything they’ve done for the past four years.  By telling stories, people hearts can be moved in only a few minutes.  Missionaries have stories, they have amazing stories.  But very few have the resources to tell those stories in a compelling, visual way, so that people can see with their own eyes what God is doing around the world.  I’m convinced that when people see with their own eyes, their hearts are drawn to find their role in missions and become more involved with what God is doing.

Fusini's Story from Jeff Raymond on Vimeo.

I can't wait to hear from you!!!