200,000 Miles

My van hit 200,000 miles this summer. I knew it was coming and one day I looked down and it had passed. I had missed it. Nothing spectacular happened. No fireworks. No cheering. Thank the stars there was no disastrous breaking down. It was quite anticlimactic.

It made me think about when we bought this vehicle. It seems like a lifetime ago, but it wasn’t really that long ago in the grand scheme of life. A lot has happened since we bought this van so I decided to write about my life in 200,000 miles.

It all started in 2007 when I bought the van……

In 200,000 miles I was working in lactation for an inner city WIC office and doing hospital rounds. Mark was working at a very small account for his (now former) company.
In 200,000 miles I had 3 children.
In 200,000 miles my eldest was trekking through kindergarten and my baby daughter was allowed to go to work with me as a living example of how to breastfeed.
In 200,000 miles Mark took a transfer to a new state; moving our family halfway across the country.
In 200,000 miles I crossed the Mississippi River for the first time ever.

In 200,000 miles we made our home in the Midwest.
In 200,000 miles my eldest son started first grade.
In 200,000 the school nurse called to tell me my son’s head got cut open on the playground; he had to be stapled shut. This was our first “tragic” accident as parents.
In 200,000 miles I made it through my first tornado.

In 200,000 miles I discovered I was pregnant with baby #4!
In 200,000 miles I loaded up 3 kids and my very pregnant self and traveled to Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and then New York again for a summer-long trip to see family and friends (some whom I hadn’t seen since graduating high school!) and watch my beautiful cousin get married while Mark worked.

In 200,000 miles we drove to Iowa in the August heat, went to the famous Iowa State Fair, and watched one of our favorite people get married to his gorgeous bride.

In 200,000 miles my eldest son had surgery. This was a very hard time for me, yet he took it in stride. Bless him.
In 200,000 miles my second son developed a golf ball sized lump in his neck and we waited in scared horror for the results.
In 200,000 miles we learned that we were lucky and our son didn’t have cancer but rather a spectacular infection that would stick with him for quite some time.

In 200,000 miles I made the extremely difficult and personal decision to homeschool my children.
In 200,000 miles I taught 2 children to read.
In 200,000 miles I learned things I never knew as I taught them to my children.

In 200,000 miles we made an autumn family trip to Indiana to see another beautiful cousin get married.
In 200,000 miles I suffered from extreme hypotension and had to be induced and after a very scary birth of a blue baby (cord wrapped 3X around the neck) we welcomed another beautiful baby girl into our family.

In 200,000 miles we heard the gut wrenching scream of a child falling and breaking their arm.
In 200,000 miles my eldest endured a second surgery for the same issue as previous and my mom flew to Missouri to be with us.
In 200,000 miles we drove to Florida and saw family and went to Sea World; our first real family vacation.
In 200,000 miles we traveled to Florida a second time in order to visit with my grandmother who was staying with her daughter for a spell; a trip I am so glad I made because it was the last time I would see her healthy.
In 200,000 miles I made weekly phone calls to my grandmother and learned so much about her I never knew beforehand.

In 200,000 miles Mark’s baby sister celebrated love and got married.
In 200,000 miles we made several trips to AL to visit my parents.
In 200,000 miles we sat helplessly watching difficult times hit friends and family and we prayed.
In 200,000 miles we rejoiced over the good things happening to friends and family and we praised God.

In 200,000 miles we said good bye to Mark’s grandmother, my Great Uncle L (who I thought would live forever), and many others whom we loved.
In 200,000 miles we watched friends and family joyously welcome new life into the world.
In 200,000 miles we walked beside and prayed for friends who took the journey of fostering. We have learned so much through this and them.

In 200,000 miles our parents (all 4 of them!) had various surgeries as we stood helplessly hundreds of miles away and simply prayed for the best for all of them.
In 200,000 miles we learned just how grateful we are for siblings.
In 200,000 miles our second son had surgery on his tongue and we praised God the lump wan’t cancer (what is it with him and weird lumps?).

In 200,000 miles I learned baby #5 was coming. This was an enormous shock.
In 200,000 miles my eldest daughter went to kindergarten at the public school but after 2 months dropped out because we moved to a different district (that was awful).
In 200,000 miles I homeschooled 3 kids.

In 200,000 miles I went through a deep depression and learned who my real friends and family are as I was surrounded by loving support.
In 200,000 miles I made new friends.
In 200,000 miles I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in a pool of water; a birth that was able to heal the trauma of my daughter’s not-so-smooth birth and the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy.

In 200,000 miles we learned the account Mark was at had to close its doors and we were going to be transferred to Indiana.
In 200,000 miles our eldest earned an academic scholarship to attend Space Camp!
In 200,000 miles we moved and were shocked to discover our east-coast hearts were actually in Missouri and that we wanted to go back.

In 200,000 miles Mark came home from work carrying a box….

In 200,000 miles Mark was unemployed for the first time ever.
In 200,000 miles we learned what poverty really is, that no one is immune, and that there are people who are selfless and help those in need.
In 200,000 miles we learned humility.
in 200,000 miles we learned judgement.

In 200,000 miles, with some help, I was able to fly to MA and make good on a promise to my grandmother. She met baby Zen and I said goodbye to the woman who had more influence in my life than I think she ever realized.

In 200,000 miles I drove to Ohio with 5 children and a dog to visit family.

In 200,000 miles both older boys broke a foot each.
In 200,000 miles my eldest called me while I was out and said, “I cut myself really badly.”
In 200,000 miles he got stitches (a first for our family).

In 200,000 miles we made the decision to move back to Missouri.
In 200,000 miles Mark found the job that would allow us to move home.
In 200,000 miles we learned that being homeless sucks but that we are lucky that we have friends and family to take us in while we transition.

In 200,000 miles we cried, we laughed, we loved, we were scared, we were optimistic, we were sick, healthy, tired, full of energy….
In 200,000 miles my love for my husband only grew and my respect for him deepened.
In 200,000 miles we lived life and made memories.

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Here is to another 200,000 miles.

Kidstock 2014

I will never forget the morning my cousin told my family about the tragic fire that took the lives of 2 precious little girls. These 2 little girls were the daughters of a friend of hers and of my dear friend Echo.

Sophie and Madigan….Such sweet girls who lived life fully and exuberantly. You can read a bit about the fire here. It was a true accidental tragedy. I know I hugged my kids tighter that day.

As the weeks passed those closet to these angels wanted their spirit to live on and so the concept of Sophie & Madigan’s Playground was born. It has been incredible to watch people from all over the country donate to this cause in order to give families a place to make memories.

Sophie and Madigan’s Playground is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and you can read about it here .

They have done numerous fundraisers. 5k’s, auctions, setting up an Amazon Smiles account (look for Sophie and madigan’s Playground Inc), and more. The current fundraiser is actually pretty amazing. They are putting on a Kidstock; a music festival just for kids! This must-see event is in Frederick, Maryland so if you are near the DC area then you can total make it to Kidstock. The line up is pretty amazing. Check it out here! This is seriously a must do event if you have kids or know kids.

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Children are precious. They are a gift and they deserve to run, play, and laugh. When that time is cut short it is tragic and families cling to the precious memories they have. Parks and playgrounds will bring a rush of memories. Often that time isn’t cut short, thank God, but kids do leave the nest and parents still cling to those precious innocent memories of their children. The family and friends of Sophie and Madigan want to give a real and practical way to help families create memories that they can cherish and look back on fondly. Kidstock 2014 gives you the opportunity to participate in a very fun day with the added bonus of making a real difference in the community by giving to a charity that more than deserves it and that will make a positive and lasting effect on the lives of a community and those who happen to travel through it.

Again here are the links (used with permission):

https://www.facebook.com/SaMPKidstock/info

http://www.sophieandmadigansplayground.org/kidstock.php

http://www.sophieandmadigansplayground.org/about.php

http://m.fredericknewspost.com/news/disasters_and_accidents/fires/proposed-park-to-honor-memory-of-sisters-who-died-in/article_b2db5175-f859-5e69-87b0-94a2231ff018.html?mode=jqm

I hope that those of you who are close to Maryland can make it. Be sure to share this with your friends and families!

Hug your children tight,
Andrea

I am back online!

Hey all! Many of you know I have moved from our temporary shelter. Mark has been in Missouri trying to find us a place to live. He was sleeping on the couch of some very dear friends. I took the kids to Alabama and we lived with my parents. Being separated sucks. It was not ideal, but we had no choice.

We are finally reunited and in a nice rental. Mark isn’t making a ton, but he has full time work and we can afford the very basics. For me, that is enough.

Sure, I wish we could go back to how we used to live, but at the same time this is teaching all of us some very valuable lessons in making money stretch and in having faith in God’s provision.

I am learning to (slowly) let go of the bitterness and (let’s be honest) hatred I have harbored. I need to stop thinking “If only we could have just stayed put and never moved to Indiana…”

The kids are happy and most are healthy. Zen is fighting pneumonia and bronchiolitis. He is on the mend and I am thankful for modern medicine. I definitely prefer natural remedies, but sometimes they just do not cut it. This was such a time.

Mark’s new job is going well. He had an awkward moment when the president of his former company came in to do business. Mark rocks though and was able to be the better man. He took care of the business at hand and moved on. I really need to follow his lead on this.

I am looking forward to the new homeschool year and to writing and sharing with y’all. I hope y’all are well. I have missed you and I will spend the next 2 weeks catching up on comments and thank you cards/emails. Please fill me in on your lives!

Peace and love,
Andrea

Life Update

I am in Alabama at my parent’s house and it is a hot mess. 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 kids, a frazzled mom trying to keep the peace, and a dad with high blood pressure that he brings upon himself. I am at wits end! I was about ready to pack and leave 2 nights ago. Things have calmed since then, but the stress is still lingering under the surface.

Mark is still in MO and the home-hunt is a royal mess. Rent is too high, the area is too dangerous, the place is already rented despite the ad just coming out, the house is not livable (how can they legally rent that??), the landlord doesn’t show up to show the house…..

We are frustrated and about ready to throw our hands in the air and sell every last item and move to a tropical island and raise a herd of beach bums.

However, the children bring joy and we are still surrounded by friends and family and even strangers helping us out. I am not sure where we would be without our community of support!

Here are some awesome things going on:
Zen now says lots of words!
He can say banana and up. If you call for him he says “Here I am!” and if you call for anyone else he asks “Where are you?!?!” The other day he picked up the phone and said “Hi daddy!” He is quite the hot ticket!
Santa stopped at Mark’s work and left a candy cane for Elf because she is his favorite elf. When I told Elf about this she replied “i just saw Santa last night and he didn’t tell me he would see Daddy! It must of been a surprise! He is sneaky!”
How cute is she? <3 Princess has bonded with her grandma and enjoys watching my mom and I in the sewing room. Bug and C-Dog are anxiously waiting to ride Papa’s tractor. The kids are running in the woods for epic games of hide and seek. They are free range here because there is only one other house on this road. They fall asleep happily exhausted. This is what summers are about!

So despite the wretchedness of homelessness there are many positive memories being stored up.
For your enjoyment here is one…I filled a random container with water for Zen to play in on the porch. He had a blast!
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So, for those who pray, please pray we find an answer to no home. For those who don’t pray we appreciate and treasure all positivity you send our way!

I don’t have much internet access here so I will try to write more as soon as I can!

Peace and love to you all!

The Washboard Part 3

My kids like to help me with household duties. They sweep, mop, dust, cook, and more. Zen watches us work as a team and has taken to participating. Normally this results in more mess, but how else would he learn? The chore Zen currently likes the most is laundry. Who can resist a tub full of water and a washboard that makes noise! Zen is our noisy boy. He loves all things noisy and creates “music” wherever he goes :)

I think it is very easy for adults to either think a child can’t help (too young) or simply do not want them to because they (the adult) can get the job done faster and more accurate. We are doing our children a disservice though when we have this mindset. They aren’t learning! How are they going to learn if we aren’t letting them try and gently guiding them. I have to admit I have to often hold my tongue and not intervene, but I am seeing continual progress. Best of all they are learning to clean the way I think is best ;) Ha! 

So here is my challenge, let your kids do the house work with you. Show them how to use the kitchen correctly. Yes, my kids chop vegetables for me and I bet they hold the knife better than many adults. Teach them the best way to mop. Help them learn how to do laundry. You will be teaching them skills they will need as adults and you will have help getting the work done! Make sure you relax though because it isn’t going to be done perfectly. Let the memories and skills be made!

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That Moment

That moment when you have 5 kids and a chocolate lab and you are packing to move the next day but your husband is several hundred miles away working so you are doing it alone. That moment when you are mumbling to yourself because you STILL do not know where you are going the next day. That moment when the skies open and it downpours as you are trying to get everything into the barn because you have no home yet so everything has to be out of the current house and stored. That moment when you look at the mess and boxes and overall disaster that can only mean you are in the last hours of the leaving process and you burst into tears. That moment when you are so angry that you feel like you are radiating the color red. And the tears flow and your children look at each other helplessly; not knowing what to do because Mommy usually has it under control.

That moment when there is a knock at the door and Mr P, the dear family friend who has been making sure we are taken care of during this crazy time, pops in. His presence is fairly powerful, but in a kind and fatherly way. Immediate calm and excitement flood the air as the kids jump up and down exclaiming “Mr P! Mr P!” Zen reaches out to him to be held. The kids adore him.
Mr P asks “What can I do? What needs to be done?”
I tell him I am cursing the rain as it has seriously hindered my ability to do anything seriously productive. I unload a bit. He listens.

He looks at the disaster and then there is that moment when words heal the radiating red moment from above.
“Leave everything that has to go into the barn and we we’ll make sure it gets moved in after you leave.”

THIS is humanity. THIS is generosity. This is kindness. This is amazing. Seemingly small, or maybe not small but certainly not huge, this gesture has completely taken a moment from radiating red to calming and grateful blue…Peace-filled.

You have no idea what small gestures can do to completely turn someone’s day around. The kids witnessed the power of this moment. I hope they never forget it, I know I won’t.

Gluten-Free Scone Recipe

I have been wanting a good scone recipe but it seems all my trials have failed. This week I am packing so I am cleaning out the fridge and freezer. I had 2 bags of fresh cranberries I had frozen. I desperately wanted to use them so I decided to try one last time to make scones. I think I nailed it as best I can considering the restrictions we have.This was a simple recipe and fairly quick to make; maybe 10 minutes at most. The kids L-O-V-E-D them! That means I get to share my recipe with you!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Corn-Free, Soy-Free Orange Cranberry Scone Recipe

  • 2 cups GF baking flour (recipe at the bottom)
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder (make sure you are using a corn-free one if that is one of your restrictions!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use this because both girls can eat it but I prefer this, although Princess can’t have it)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (add about 1/2 first and rest only if needed. You do NOT want this too moist!)
  • half a bag of fresh cranberries (or less if you want and aren’t trying to get rid of food)

Blend together dry ingredients.
Cut in butter until it is crumbled.
Add in 1/2 cup orange juice, adding more slowly if needed.
A soft dough should form.
At this point you can follow a typical scone recipe and do this: Turn dough out on a floured board and knead for one minute. Pat into a circle on cookie sheet and cut into wedges.

I didn’t do that. I did this: Add cranberries and hand stir them in.
Plop dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

I made mine slightly bigger so I got 6. You can make them smaller though.

Bake at 425F for 10-15 minutes (until brown).
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While cooking I made a glaze. I used confectioner’s sugar and orange juice. Be careful not to add too much liquid!

Once I take them out I cool them about 5 minutes and add the glaze and eat them hot. I haven’t stored them so I have no clue how well they save.

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Gluten-Free Baking Flour Recipe
(I made this up based off of other recipes I had seen. Trial and error; this works for us)

  • 2 3/4 cups garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 2 1/4 cups arrowroot starch
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca starch

Blend well and store in an air tight container. I keep mine in the fridge. Make sure you stir/shake before each use.