January 24, 2013

Not What We Expected

For starters... Pretend you are impressed that it is Thursday and I am actually making some attempt at my mom's post.  And then, while you are at it, pretend you don't notice there are no photos of me this week.  It has not been a photo worthy week for the mom of the house.
I so love Carmella in these striped tights.  The adorable slippers were made by Brianna as a Christmas gift.

If I had to sum this week up it would so be the idea that it is definitely not what we expected it would be.  Sunday and Monday were all about dealing with the well.  Tuesday dawned with sore throats and runny noses.  By Wednesday, six of us were miserable with whatever bug has found its way into our church family.

And by Wednesday night we had cancelled our long planned trip to the south for this weekend to spend a few days in sunshine and sand and most importantly to be part of the wedding celebration of our friends Rick and Barbara.
Last night Brianna and Emma spent two hours in the kitchen making these home made cough drops.  It was a huge mess... the place smelled terrible from the stuff that had boiled over on the stove and the smoke alarm went off a few times.  But they really are delicious and some comfort to those who don't feel so good.

And that was so hard to do!  For months we have talked about it and looked forward to it.  Tuesday Brianna packed the suitcases.  Our rental house was paid for, the gift was ready to go and none of us could wait to see our friends and have a little warm treat in the middle of winter.  But... the idea of 24 hours in the car in 4 days time was a lot to start with and doing it with a bunch of sick people just doesn't seem fun.  We were very blessed by the company we rent our vacation home from who gave us a credit for the full amount.  Standard company policy is no refunds if you end up cancelling your trip.
Love this few of the grape arbor out of the school room window.  That little gold finch nest gives me hope for spring in these dark days.
It has turned very cold here.  It has been in the single digits at night and not above freezing for days.  Which is fine with me.  If it is going to be winter, I am glad to have real winter weather.  I hate the in between weather when it is just damp and dark and dreary but not truly Maryland winter.  The boys keep us well stocked with fire wood and with Allen on the road it is my job to keep the home fires burning.

As we went to bed last night, a very light snow began to fall.  Elisabeth, not feeling well, woke at 3 am and noticed the snow.  She was so excited, she couldn't go back to sleep for some time.  This morning, of course, all the kids wanted to go out and play.  I was thinking, sick kids... cold air... asthma attacks... bad idea.  But they broke me down and went out for a few minutes.

Last week I had these visions of four great school days in a row since it was a rare week when I had no doctor appointments at all.  Ha!  What was I thinking?  If the kids are having a good moment to do school, then I am not up for it.  We've barely made it through the week's worth of work.  Never mind gotten a little extra in like I had thought.  C'est la vie, eh?

And that about sums it up around here.  It is cold... we have a cold... and the coffee maker is still broken.

Until next week,


January 22, 2013

Learning... Home School Style

Remember how I joked about the coffee maker going out and how we can manage well in crisis but no coffee really pushes the limits of this family?  Well, that was Saturday, for those who don't recall.  It wasn't long before the Lord decided to test our theory.

Stay with me.  Saturday night after a full day of working around the house Allen and I opted for some carryout by the wood stove for our date night.  As we sat and chatted for a few hours we noted the water pump was not turning off.  Allen said he was going to call the well man Monday morning and warned the kids to go light on water usage... just in case.

As we were getting ready for church Sunday  morning the water shut off.  Yes, the pump had given up the ghost.  The timing was actually not bad since we had all showered and were ready for church.  As we drove into town we commented on how nice the weather was compared to when our well went our 6 years (almost to the day) ago.  Back then our yard was covered with 6 inches of ice.

We are so blessed to have a friend in our church who is very handy and as it so happens has gained a lot of experience working on the wells of various church members.  I didn't want to imagine how much extra it would cost to get the well man here on Sunday and, as we later found out, it turns out he passed away since he worked on our system in 2007 so we weren't going to be able to get Mr. G out here anytime soon.

The men spent Sunday afternoon trouble shooting the problem.  After determining it must be the pump burned out again Allen made the first trip to Home Depot.

As dusk began to set in they pulled the old pump.
 And got the new one connected.
Temperatures began to plummet after the sun went down.  What had been a beautiful day turned into a very cold night.  The men brought out lights and came in to switch out frozen gloves from time to time.  Twenty or thirty minutes before Home Depot closed they discovered they needed a different pump and made a mad dash for town.  Trip number two was successful.  
Meanwhile, life went on indoors with dinner on paper plates.
After lots of power outages and water issues the boys are pros at handling water hauling for flushing and washing purposes.  Don't know what I would do without my little men.
By 10:30 the new pump was in but we were all disappointed to find it didn't work.  The men decided to knock off for the night and instead thawed out by the fire while we watched the Ravens play their way to victory in their playoff rematch with New England.
Two men, both engineers, tossed and turned all night trying to trouble shoot the problem.  They reconvened for breakfast 
 and a planning session Monday morning when they narrowed it down to three possible issues.  It only took one more trip to Home Depot before they were set for business.
 Home school was traded in for some real learning... what we call life skills around here.  The boys helped pull the pump for the second time.  As it turns out one of the electrical wires frayed on the way down.  Some propane, four rolls of tape and who knows what else and the six man team had the system up and going by afternoon.
We had running water again in just about 28 hours.  And just in time, as temperatures continued to drop into the teens.
Good lessons to learned....

No one should underestimate the value of Home Depot being opened on Sunday.
Or the blessings of good church family.
Who happen to be handy, too.
Paper plates and cups are a great modern convenience.
The Ravens will play like mad to make sure the Patriots don't trump them twice.
And the Wachters can go way longer without water than we can without coffee.

January 21, 2013

Grits~ Not just for the South Anymore

Wow!  I can not believe I never published this post.  I wrote this for my friend Julianne many months ago and just found it in my drafts.  Sorry about that girlfriend.

Julianne wrote a post about some of the very odd foods Southerners eat.  And for the most part I have to agree. They eat some weird stuff down there.  I have a friend from South Carolina who won't touch meat but eats fried liver like it is the greatest food ever known to man.  The thought of eating liver, or any other internal part of an animal, makes me gag.  But I have to disagree with Julianne about the grits.  I too wouldn't eat them for many years.  And then I saw a recipe for savory grits and breakfast as I knew it changed forever.

To start with I always look for regular grits, not the quick grits sold in most stores.  And even better yet, we have a wonderful organics store that sells Italian grits, also known as polenta grits.  Unlike the white grits you find in the Southern United States these are yellow and denser and oh so flavorful.
Another key to good grits is to skip the way most southerners enjoy them.  Jelly and sugar?  That's for toast or oatmeal or something. Grits are way too good for something so boring.

Cook a batch and then try some amazing toppings.  My family loves grits with cheese and Old Bay (Old Bay is a Maryland thing) for breakfast.  If we have leftover fish or meat from the night before it makes a great topping.  But don't stop at breakfast.  Grits with some sauteed vegetables on top and a fried egg on the side is a quick and comforting dinner on a rainy day.

Here is my super easy but absolutely perfect directions for cooking grits, Northern style.

1.  Bring 4 cups water to rapid boil.  Add a pinch or two of salt.  Then, stirring constantly, pour in 1 cup grits in a slow but steady stream.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the grits are thickened and all the water is absorbed.  Turn off heat.  Drop a stick of butter on top of grits and cover again.  Let this sit while you finish preparing the remainder of the meal.

2.  When the butter is melted stir it in well.  At this point we stir in some ground chipotle pepper or Old Bay Seasoning.  Grits will be a little too thick now.  This is the good part.  Stir in some cream or half and half until you have a beautiful texture.  You can use regular milk if you'd like but why spoil something so good by trying to reduce the fat?

3.  And then lots of cheese.  Sharp cheddar, Monterrey jack, blue cheese, Parmesan  Asiago or a combination of any of those would be delicious.  Let your imagination carry you away into deliciousness.
Now you can serve them just like that with a nice fried egg on the side and you've got a great meal in itself.

But if you want something a little more special saute some Italian sausage, peppers and onions and top the grits.

Or... grill some shrimp to add to the top.

Or... top with some lump crab meat, leftover steak, black beans... The possibilities are really endless if you are willing to dig in your fridge for a few minutes.

When you are done you can tell me how you don't know how you ever lived without grits.

all photos courtesy of google images

January 20, 2013

Do You Ever Find Yourself at a Loss as to How to Pray?

"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost."  Jude 20

Sometimes life seems so overwhelming it is hard to even imagine where to start or what to pray.  Don't let that keep us from going to the Lord.  Remember our trials are in fact the Lord filling our life with faith building circumstances.  Many times we miss the opportunities to see the Lord answering prayers and working in our trials because we simply don't know what to ask.  These are the times when we must be most diligent to seek His face.  In these times we want to be certain to take from each struggle all He intended for us in His perfect will.  If you find yourself at a loss for words, simply put your life and trials in His care and pray for His will to be done.  Seek the help of the Holy Ghost to give you the prayers to offer and the words to speak.  Ask him to fill you each day and to keep you sensitive for the time when He will answer.



January 19, 2013

Cookie Crumbs and Sweaty Socks and Some Other Stuff

I should probably be using today to take down the Christmas tree, but that never goes over big around here and I hate to be the one to initiate it.  And I should probably be fixing the Sunday meal.  And I should probably be working on putting together the Bible study we are hoping to start with some church family this February.  But after a lot of not sleeping last night, I feel completely unmotivated to even get off of this couch.
So I found this picture on my camera card.  Someone must have taken it the other day when I was napping.  But it gives you a pretty good idea of how I feel today.  
And it doesn't help that the espresso maker broke this week.  The company is sending us the part but unfortunately it is back ordered for 6 weeks.  We are a lot of people and all our appliances get an extra hard work out all the time. Even though Allen always does much research to find the best quality for our home it is not uncommon to have something broken.  It occurred to me somewhere around Thursday how odd it is that the washer or water heater or some other major appliance can break and, while it is inconvenient  we all just make do and keep on going.  But the coffee maker, that little machine in the corner that most people take for granted, it breaks down and our entire house comes to a stand still.  Even the little kids who don't drink coffee are in a panic wondering how long it will be before we return to some state of normal.

I can hear Allen and the kids hammering and sawing and making a lot of construction noise in the basement.  There is talk of having doors sometime before spring.  I was commissioned to come up with some sort of design for the buffet and hutch built in for down there.  Some people see this as a neat adventure.  I have a friend who is amazing at this sort of thing.  If it was her house she would have the graph paper out and have the entire thing marked down and know just what was going on each shelf already.  I like the idea of designing our own pieces so that we get just what we need and just what works for our limited space.  But mostly it makes me nervous.  When you are hiring someone to build such a thing for you, well, it is not like going to Target and picking something up.  It is a real investment and thus for keeps.  What if I miss some important detail and then we find out it wasn't really such a good idea and we are stuck with it for the rest of our lives.  Yeah, I know that's so stupid.  But that's what my brain goes through when Allen asked me to tell him what I want for here or there.  I bet you know just what you would want already, don't you?  Fortunately for me, my husband is a very talented carpenter and can take my vague ideas and make it into a real plan.  Also, fortunately, I am not actually very particular.  I've learned to like what we have and love what the Lord provides so no matter how much worrying I do about it on this end, I know I will love it when it is done.  Next up, I'm supposed to come with a plan for the sewing corner in the playroom.

Last night was Dish Night.  The girls made pizza and we watched Second Hand Lions, again.  This is such a great family movie.  Each time we laugh as if we've never seen it before.  Michael Caine and Robert Duvall play such lovable characters and they come out with some of the greatest lines.  I love the message of living each minute of life as if it is the only opportunity you have.  Too much of life is wasted on what ifs and not enough is spent on the here and now.
And that means here it is another Saturday in Wachter World.  Even though to day is all about work and getting stuff done there is a sense of excitement in the air.  That's the great thing about Saturday.  Just by virtue of being Saturday it creates a lot of excitement.

The sun is out for the second day in a row and I must admit it creates a lot of excitement after a week of dreariness.  I was beginning to think we wouldn't ever get out of the gray doldrums.  The sun just makes my spirits a little higher.  Are you one of those people whose day is directed by the sun or are you one who doesn't even notice the big ball in the sky?

Another thing I am really excited about is the giveaway Brianna is hosting over at By The Way.  It just so happens I am totally loving the bags at Luckycann and I can get an extra entry into the January 28th drawing just by mentioning it here at Art's Chili Pepper.  So pop over to Nana's blog, say hello and check out the great stuff you could win this month.

I am also excited to introduce a new book by my friend Jen T. at Many Blessings, Busy Life.  A Christian, homeschooling, blogging, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, child training, natural living, mama to 11 Jen has lots of experience and  advice to share.  You can get her ebook, Cookie Crumbs and Sweaty Socks, at Amazon.com for just $2.99.

I know its the middle of winter and for those of us in the Northeast that means a lot of dreary days.  But think hard and tell me, what are you excited about these days?

January 17, 2013

Two Weeks

Time sure flies when you are otherwise distracted.  We are already two weeks into the new year and I see on my side bar that I have done a pathetic job of blogging.  I seriously need to get more diligent about taking pictures.  My camera went on the fritz a while ago and I've been using Brianna's.  Not having my camera right with me as I typically do I have almost no photos for the last couple of months.   Instead of a weekly update (like when was the last time I actually got around to doing regular weekly updates) how about a two week update?  The first few weeks of January are always packed with lots of celebrating around here.

Of course there is the New Year celebration.  This is the first time we ever made a fresh ham.

I've never been a huge fan of the cured type of ham usually served in Maryland on New Year's Day but this recipe looked interesting.  It didn't take much preparation but it did take a long time to cook.  It was so much better than anything I have had in the past.  The spiced fruit was a delicious accompaniment but my favorite parts of the meal were the black pepper popovers and the citrus salad with rosemary and cured olives.
 Carmella has taken to climbing up and playing piano the last few weeks.  I love to hear the kids play and I hope she takes to it as her siblings did.
A few years ago the kids bought a box of tinker toys in the thrift store for a dollar or two.  Half the pieces were missing and several have broken since but these are still a favorite toy of every kid in our house.  It is not uncommon to find a bunch of photos of their projects on my camera card.
Last Sunday was a very bad day for me.  No matter what I did I couldn't get my sugar up.  When it is like that there is literally nothing else to do but lie down and eat every 15 or 30 minutes.  It was a long day.  Without energy even to read I watched our church service with Emma who was left home to babysit me.  

On the bright side, both the Ravens and the Redskins were in the playoffs that day.   That doesn't happen often.  As a matter of fact, I don't know if it has ever happened.  We were thrilled to see the Ravens play so well (and for anyone who is keeping score even more excited by last Saturday's game).  It would have been nice to see the Skins move on, too, but you can't have everything.  

That also happened to be the premier of Season Three of Downtown Abbey.  The girls were prepared with chocolate, coffee and Kleenex   I was disappointed they did not actually show Mary and Matthew's wedding and even more disappointed by the rest of the season.  But I won't spoil it for those who didn't watch all the episodes already.  
I strongly urge caution when viewing this series.  (For more information see discussion in the comments of this post).  While over all it is a fun program for mature audiences there are episodes which we do not watch because of situations we do  not consider appropriate.

These blocks, also a cheap thrift store find, are another favorite toy in our house.  As with the tinker toys, I regularly find lots of photos of the kids creations on my camera card.
Carmella is a good sleeper but doesn't often sit still long enough to fall asleep on your shoulder anymore.  Her molars are coming in and she was in a lot of pain for a few days and having trouble napping.  She was so tired one particular morning she fell asleep rocking with Nathaniel.  He was in heaven and spent the rest of the day boasting to everyone how he got to cuddle with sleeping Winnie.
Us bigger people enjoy coffee with our morning study but the younger set have hot cocoa during their Bible study.  Samuel was being artistic with his marshmallows one morning.
Aedan made these Muppet characters out of recycling for Allen's and Nathaniel's birthday celebrations.  As a totally not creative person in the least, I am always amazed at how they come up with these things.
Allen celebrated his 43rd birthday. 

 He wanted to celebrate with a 10K run.  What a difference a year makes!
Emma had a wire break on her braces over the holidays.  Our orthodontist had taken some time off so it was two weeks before it could be repaired.  She was in a lot of pain having everything cinched back into place. Her diet consisted of soup and a lot of milk shakes for a few days.  Doesn't that look beautiful?
One of Carmella's favorite activities while we do school is to take cans out of the pantry....
...and line them up on the steps.  We know she is out of mischief's way as we listen for the thump, thump, thump of soup, olives and tuna.

And there you have it... two Wachter weeks in review!

January 16, 2013

Snowman Luminaries

Aedan saw this project in an issue of Family Fun Magazine.  He was so intrigued he has been stock piling jars ever since.  I knew this would be just thing to warm the house up when the Christmas decorations came down.  Yesterday while I was in town Kaitlin led the kids in putting this messy, but oh so fun and super simple, project together.  This evening our dinner table was cheered by their smiling faces.

*We used the LED tea lights inside the jars.*

January 10, 2013

Caught Off Guard

Since January 1st there has been a common theme in all of my daily study.

"... The Lord preserveth the simple..."  Psalm 116:5-6

"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."  2 Corinthians 4:16

"Wait on the Lord:  be of good courage and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord."  Psalm 27:14

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:  and ye shall find rest unto your souls."  Matthew 11:29

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."  James 4:10

"I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:  for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety."  Psalm 4:8

"And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear even I will carry, and will deliver you."  Isaiah 46:4

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."  Revelation 21:4

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."  Isaiah 43:18-19

On January 3rd I claimed Isaiah 40:31 as my verse for 2013.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles they shall run and not be weary  and they shall walk and not faint. 
I don't know about you, but when the Lord keeps bringing verses like that before me I begin to wonder what is coming my way and what wonderful thing is the Lord going to do.

Being a diabetic means lots of testing and watching and fussing during pregnancy.  Mostly, I think it is unnecessary and rather annoying.  However, we've come to accept it as a necessary evil to get the high level of care we do need to keep my blood sugar in check and help ensure healthy pregnancies, healthy deliveries and healthy babies.

One of the many tests we sit through ranging from 2 per week to 1 every 1,2, 3 or 4 weeks starting at nine weeks of pregnancy is the ultrasound.  I have literally had so many sonograms over the years I could not begin to count them.  I am guessing, and purely guessing, I've had about one hundred... give or take a few, but not many.  The neat side of this is seeing constant images of your baby while they grow and change from week to week really makes you feel even more connected... if that's even possible... to feel more connected, I mean.  When Elisabeth was born, I didn't know if she was a girl or a boy but I knew exactly what she would look like.  I periodically still glance at one of her profile pictures from an ultrasound and think how amazing it is that it looks just like her.

That's the fun side.  But mostly these things are just a waste of time, if you ask my opinion.  But we have arrived at a place of compromise with our caregivers as to what we will and won't do and what they will and won't do and this is a place of compromise that works for all of us.

One of the complications with diabetes are congenital defects caused by high glucose prior to conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.  I have always worked hard to keep my blood sugar within normal range and we have never been concerned about the effects of diabetes on our unborn children.  As has been the case through all our pregnancies my A1C was in excellent range at the start of pregnancy,  5.4 which is the same as a non diabetic.  And so, even though most of my pregnancies have had complications and been high risk I have always assumed that in the end all will be okay.

But because the heart is often a place where diabetes takes its course on an unborn baby, our doctors always request a fetal echo study at 20ish weeks.  Going into our check up Tuesday at 21 weeks I didn't give it another thought aside from the fact that the day was beautiful and I hoped we didn't have to wait too long because I'd really like to get home for a run before dark.

How very foolish I was.  As the sonogram tech did her study we chatted, as we always do.  A time came though when I knew something was up.  She stopped talking and kept going back to the heart and making notes.  I've sat through enough of these over the years to know that isn't standard protocol.

She left the room and my specialist came in.  Dr. H. quickly scanned over our Henry, asked about my glucose, typed a lot and left the room.

That's when two, not the standard one, prenatal/pediatric cardiologists came into the room with the technician.  While one doctor tried to distract us, he was so very kind, the other talked with the tech in code that said to us, "I may have no idea what they are talking about but they are looking for something."   As we probed into what was wrong and what were they looking for they spent a long time, maybe 45 minutes, trying to disprove their suspicions that Henry has a hole in his Ventricular Septum.  They could not.
See the black circle in the center of the picture? That is his heart. And the white line going across is the wall between the two chambers. The break in the line is the uncertain area that could either have just been not picked up by the sonogram or is a hole between the two chambers. 
And this is what it means.  Best case scenario... It may be a deficiency in the sonogram or worst case scenario Henry has Ventricular Septal Deffect.  The good news.  If he does it will not affect him during pregnancy or in the first few weeks following birth.  Best case scenario it may grow smaller between now and then.  Best case scenario he lives with it and we see no complications.  Worst case scenario around 1 month of age it may become a serious condition.  Worst case scenario that condition may require heart surgery by six months of age.

And that is so many unknowns we aren't even sure how to pray.  But we ask you to join us.  We are praying that if there is indeed a hole where it appears to be the Lord will simply close it.  We are praying that regardless of the Lord's will, when we return for a followup study next month doctors will be able to clearly confirm the diagnosis one way or the other so that we will be able to make whatever preparations are necessary.  We are praying that through this the Lord will strengthen the faith of our family and the bonds of our church.  And I am personally asking that the Lord use this as a time to show His strength to any and all who need to see His power.
Wait on the Lord:  be of good courage and he shall strengthen thine heart:...   Psalm 27:14

January 9, 2013

Nathaniel's 11th Birthday

It's Time to Start the Music...

The Decorations
 It's time to light the lights...
 It's time to get things started... 
On the Muppet Show tonight.

The Food
 Hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream for Bible study.
 Doughnuts and clementines for breakfast
 Fizzy lemonade with rainbow ice cubes
Kermit apples, club sandwiches, raw veggies and crab chips
Grapefruit Meringue Pie

Eleven Years Old
 It is hard to believe this handsome young man was our little baby just... yesterday, wasn't it?
We have seen him grow into someone who loves the Lord, loves his family and loves those around him.  Nathaniel really puts his heart into developing relationships with those he meets along the way.
 He is so talented and so helpful!  He has become my go to man when something breaks around the house.  He is also becoming a good cook.  He is helpful with teaching the younger children new skills.
This last year I have been so impressed by the responsibility he has taken on himself to develop his own character to fit the word of God.  It's no longer us saying, "Son, this is something you have to overcome," but rather us noticing he is using his Bible knowledge and skills we've taught him over the year (like self control, manners, etc...) to grow in areas where he struggles.  And as a mama seeing that kind of growth is better than having a kid who has figured it all out.  It gives me the peace to know that he has the tools he needs to serve His God and love the Lord's people through all his years.

"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself:"  Proverbs 9:9-12

Happy Birthday dear Nathaniel!