Our Loving Choice of Hermitude…

Confession: I am a illness-phobe. Not to be confused with germaphobe. The difference? A germaphobe hates germs. I hate germs that cause illness. Let me explain why…

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For the past six years, I have been the protector, defender, nourisher, nurturer, mama hen, mama bear of a little boy the medical community has diagnosed with a terminal illness. As well as his beautiful, healthy and by no small miracle with no disease of her own, little sister. My little boy is immunochompromised (def: having an impaired/weak immune system). He dwells in the valley of the shadow of death by default because of this illness, and we as his family dwell with him. Our light is from our Heavenly Father and it comes from within, but we dwell in this shadow. It’s a fact. There are certain things about this disease that we have no control over. A few that we do…or at least tell ourselves we do. If and when our sweet son receives his healing and it comes from going to heaven, we hope that it will not be from anything that we could wish we did differently or have to live with regrets or blame. We make what some who cannot understand our life might call “ridiculous” sacrifices and measures, to keep our family well and healthy so we don’t get him sick. A couple sneak through each year despite our best efforts, but because I work SO hard to keep us healthy on the inside, we have stronger defenses and heal quickly, and because I’ve leaned ways to be drastic and isolate the sick person and their germs (usually meaning ALOT of extra work), we seem to keep it from him. It’s necessary and it’s a labor of love. Each year from the time school starts until it ends, we practice almost total “social abstinence”. Does it suck? Big time. Is it fair to any of us? Not a bit. But if life was “fair” we would have never learned what Alper’s Disease even means. Life is NOT fair, and it’s something I want my daughter to understand early on. I also want her to learn what it means to lay down your life for another, even if it’s just your social life. I want her to think about how her decisions affect others that sometimes she may not even know. I want her to understand that God and love at the core of a home can overcome even many years of hardship. The upside is that this is all she has ever known. Someday, possibly, she will know more freedom. Her social life will be brimming and active, and she may even be fine suffering through illnesses more often and be very much okay with it. But her heart will ache because her big brother is gone.

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Our life may be isolated and boring and even lonely at times, but our home is full of peace, joy, laughter, love, and hope in a Jesus that experienced loneliness during His time here on earth, even surrounded by those that had pledged their undying love to Him.

No fear. No regrets. No blame.

I don’t at all judge parents who accept illness as just “a part of life”, and lovingly nurse their little ones back to health, but I don’t have the luxury. Mine may not make it back to health and I just can’t live with that.

Praying protection over all the other fragile children warriors and wisdom for their mom’s and dad’s, as well as understanding, compassion and thoughtfulness from those who want to hang on to their entitlement to social activity and decide to “spread the joy”…

~LEAH~

Winter Funk

Hello late January, we meet again. All the signs of your arrival are here: wanting to sleep all day, lack of motivation, a messy house, a frustrated husband, epidemic-sized sickies swirling all around the pod home I keep my family in this time of year, deep thoughtfulness sometimes leading to sadness and a feeling of stir craziness, scrolling Pinterest for interesting fresh-veggie filled GRILLED meals to replace the ho-hum of winter dishes, the cabin fever, the literal daydreams of a fresh sun-soaked breeze and green vegetation outside…yep, you’ve arrived all right January! Counting down the days now…

In other news, we are still all healthy by the grace of God! HE IS GOOD! Not that He hasn’t given us the wisdom to be SUPER vigilant, but I give HIM full credit for that too! I am tweaking my eating a bit in that whereas I know that a completely sugar-free and gluten-free diet is completely unreasonable for me considering our lifestyle, I am eating both sugar and wheat in a very intentional way and as sparingly as possible, and educating myself on all the very simple ways I can sub out both. As I sit here drinking the fab DELICIOUS new healthful “faux-tea” my sister just introduced me to of 1 T. local honey, 1 T. Raw Apple Cider vinegar, a generous shake of cinnamon and boiling water to fill the mug, I make myself hold on to hope that the sun always returns, and that this powerful new drink may be just what I need added to my new exercise fun to add some vigor to my sense of wellness and vitality. A girl can always hope, and I always will!

I’m off to tend to the honey-do list I was left with this morning, but first I want to share a GREAT new recipe we tried for breakfast and it was so great that I made it a 2nd time today to try out a few alterations to give it a little more awesomeness…

The original recipe is linked below. My alterations:

~For the oil in the recipe, I melted the butter and dropped 2 tablespoons of room-temp coconut oil into the warm butter to cool it a bit before whisking it into the egg-milk mixture.
~I added 1 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries at the very end.
~ The 2nd batch, I subbed 1/4 cup of maple syrup for half of the sugar it calls for. Great for sweetness but didn’t really taste it. I think next time I will try subbing ALL the sugar with either maple syrup, or get the added health benefit of local honey.
~The first batch I made with Quick oats, and it was GREAT, but 2nd batch I wanted to try out rolled oats. Worked just fine, but I think my family prefers the quick oats.
Can I just add that I LOVE that this recipe is gluten free! YAY!

http://www.mostlyhomemademom.com/2012/08/amish-baked-oatmeal.html#_a5y_p=1189307

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…and there is PLENTY of beauty in TODAY if you are willing to see it.

Grace and Peace,
Leah

It Takes a Village…

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A sweet message by one of my favorite “Golden Gals” in Christ, Sally Clarkson. Check out her website by going to the “I Take Joy” button in my sidebar. It’s a resounding theme in my life and the very existence of my little family. I honestly do not know HOW we would have come through the last 5+ years without the most insanely crazy and loving support system a human could ask for. I could go on and on with the details, but I won’t. Just an example, my pre-k scholar and I set out with a renewed charge to our home school journey today as kids across the country hopped onto the big yellow taxi themselves. It was a good day of learning and schoolwork considering we have been on hiatus for harvest/canning season and then the holidays! I was impressed by how far my student has absorbed and connected since we last met at the family table. I suppose that comes with a family lifestyle and commitment to those teachable moments. I am excited to head further down the path of our home education with this bright yet stubborn little lady, but just in the one hour we were working, I called one sister who is more of a seasoned mama-teacher than I to get reassurance for one area we were struggling in. As we completed and Alex headed off to enjoy her well earned pick of television show while I prepared our lunch, I phoned my other sister (also a more seasoned mama-teacher than I) and went over our school time and picked up some great pointers from her! When this child of mine graduates high school, it will most certainly be a combined victory of myself, her daddy, and her faithful aunties! I am SO thankful for this and it is comforting to know my own confidence does not have to be sky-high going into this, because I have an army of veteran mama-teachers encircling me.

I’m off to can up some delicious chicken stock that is currently simmering on my stove. It’s sweet to be canning again!

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Happy days…

Leah

She Had the Party, So It Must Be So…

My “baby” turned 5 years old last Tuesday. I am not sure why, but suddenly I feel SO. INCREDIBLY. OLD.
For some reason, this is the first of my kids birthday milestones that I feel a shift in time. In the past, it’s just another birthday and I still have a little kid so all is well. But this is different. I mean, her big brother is almost 7 years old, but his illness has made “normal” an oddity. Caring for him is like caring for a 60lb newborn, BUT he still feels like my big boy. He IS my big boy. My baby girl crossing that thresh hold into the first year of “big kid” seemed to be a large dose of reality…just because we feel like we are always waiting and life is on hold because of Andy’s illness, doesn’t mean life has stopped moving forward. It’s still careening into the future, and it’s taking my family with it. Kicking-and-screaming!

This is my little monkey girl around one year old. I think part of me will forever see her this way…{click}
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This is my sweet little lady today, ready for her 5th birthday party. Another mental snapshot…{click}
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This was her Mama-made birthday cake…
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We had a sledding party! This year I let her pick the guests. She picked her cousins, and all were able to come except her Richmond cousins who we missed dearly. We had a GREAT time! Here, everyone is getting ready to race.
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My sister and right hand gal, staying warm with her hot beverage.
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Ryan, Isaak and Danny loaded up and ready to fly down the hill!
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Alannah, Reese and their mama Heather ready to eat snow!
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My little lady went freakishly fast at Mama’s push and insisted after two goes down the hill that she was DONE. But she stood at the top of the hill and cheered on all her crazy cousins in their fun and competitions! :)
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Papa was teasing her that he was going to send her sailing. lol
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Every debutant needs a wardrobe change at her party, so once we headed inside, she put on her gown (a flower girl dress she never got to wear for the intended wedding that we saved for her birthday party) I got a little choked up seeing her in this gown and looking so grown up. Today her 5th birthday party, tomorrow her prom or wedding…I WILL NOT let the years between slip by me un-noticed.
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My right hand gal brought a basket full of boys dress-up clothes so almost all the kids got decked out in fun costumes! Here we have Captain America and Bumblebee from Transformers. :)
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Nope, it’s REALLY Isaak and Danny!
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Fabulous gifts!
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The “Cousin Crew”. Captain America seems to have gone pseudo cowboy and developed a bad a$$ chip on his shoulder. LMBO
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It’s official. The candle got blown out and 4 years old is just a memory…{click}
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It was a wonderful day! We missed everyone who couldn’t make it, but my girl fell asleep exhausted, still sputtering from the lingering sugar rush, but smiling and knowing she is loved and has a strong group of kids who call her one of them and always will. For that I am severely thankful.

Bring it on FIVE

She Fears Not the Snow…

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I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and contentment to my Heavenly Father this snowy winter morning. Winter Storm “Hercules” is laying down the law for us here in central upstate New York. We are hunkered down and fully supplied with proteins and veggies, as well as some leftover soup and venison stew. I slept in my warm bed piled high with clean, fluffy blankets next to the snoring man of my heart. My growing little ones were snuggled in their own warm beds and we woke to a warm home, hot coffee and homemade yogurt with homemade jam and homemade bread. My plans for the day include folding laundry, shoveling snow, making chicken stock to can tomorrow, and get some organic yogurt going in the crock pot.
Contentment is something I have struggled to find my entire life. I will probley spend the entirety of my life having to choose to be content, but this morning at least, I am completely content and humbled by the privilege of being the heart of this home.

“She is not afraid of snow for her household,For all her household is clothed with scarlet.” Proverbs 31:21

My Signature Tuna Melt Noodle Casserole

I have NEVER liked traditional Tuna Noodle Casserole. Ever. You have to be so careful with tuna fish…can we agree on that? Mixing it with egg noddles that inevitably will get mushy (or maybe it’s just MINE that always do) and a “cream of” soup that is super salty and full of MSG as well as other things and, well, even toasty bread crumbs on top cannot save it in my opinion. My husband has the strange ability to forget meals I make that are just complete disasters…bless his heart, and he has completely forgotten the two other times I have attmpted to follow a classic recipe to a T and make one of his childhood favorites, and insists that I have only made it once when we were first married seven and a half years ago.  He DOES however, remember it was a flop. So, this evening when he again requested it and I had everything to make IT and not much else, I decided I was going to give it ONE more try, but I was going to do it MY way….

First, I decided that I wanted it to have a mildly creamy and cheesy base, reminiscent of a tuna melt…who doesn’t love THOSE! Then I decided that I needed a more forgiving pasta than egg noodles. Elbows came to mind but hubby said he wanted something more like noodles. Enter tiny little bow tie pastas someone had recently given us. PERFECT! SO I set to work, inspired by my favorite homemade Mac and Cheese recipe. Here it is!

Makes 1 FULL 9×13 baking dish

4 Cups of mini bow tie pasta, cooked, drained and hot

4 Tablespoons butter

1/4 Cup a/p flour

4 Cups milk

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

16 oz. shredded monterey jack cheese

2 teaspoons seasoned salt (more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cans tunafish in water, drained WELL

3 cups frozen peas

2/3-1 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs

1-2 cups chopped mushrooms (optional)

Directions:

1) Cook pasta until mostly cooked. Should still be too undercooked to enjoy straight out of the pan, but still mostly cooked. Drain. I usually get the water going and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then start to make my sauce. Once the oven is ready and the sauce is ready, the pasta is too!

2) In a large pot or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat then sprinkle in flour. Whisk together and constantly until your “roux” is formed and it is a light tan color that smells toasty. Add chopped mushrooms if you are using them.

3) Slowly pour in milk and whisk together. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and starts to “plop plop plop”. Add mustard, onion powder, season salt and black pepper. Mix well and shut off heat. Add cheese and mik well until cheese has fully melted into the sauce. Add drained tuna and frozen peas.

4) Add sauce to cooked pasta in the pan you boiled the pasta in. Mix everything together WELL. Pour into baking dish and smooth out. Sprinkle with a liberal helping of seasoned panko bread crumbs.

5) Bake on 350 degrees F until the sauce in the middle of the dish is bubbling…about 45 minutes.

6) Let cool/set for 10 minutes while you enjoy a side salad, then serve and eat hot.

Love it!

Peace and Good Eats to you and your Lovies,

Leah

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