cover pic

cover pic

Sunday, April 9, 2017

BlookUp Will Publish Your Blog or Social Media Posts

Do any of you bloggers have concerns that your blog posts could disappear from the Internet and years of your heart and soul will be deleted along with them?  My blog has been like a new baby to me over the past two years, and I like to know that I have the contents of it in a hard copy sitting in my living room.  Also, in case I ever move on to other creative pursuits, it feels good to know that I still have the hundreds of pages of Preppy Mountain Farmhouse, and they won't be lost if I close my blog.

I went to BlookUp for publishing all of my blog posts, and they made it so easy to do this seemingly daunting task.  It didn't take me much more than an hour to choose the size, which posts I wanted to include (all of them, of course), where I wanted page breaks, and what to include as the cover photo and the bio on the back.  Their home page can be found by clicking here.

Before placing your order, you get the opportunity to preview the entire book online.  Then you can order a softcover printed book or pay only a few dollars for an e-book.  You can even choose to make your book available to the public and by choosing your price, you can sell it to others.  Each volume of my blog was nearly 500 pages (the maximum amount for one book), and it was a bit pricey, so I couldn't imagine anyone other than me purchasing it.  But if you have a smaller book or you choose to only publish certain posts by categories, you might want to place yours up for sale and see what happens.

You can choose any picture for your front and back covers; they don't have to be from within your blog.

At the back of the book they place a Table of Contents with each post title and its page number.  How handy is that?

I was thoroughly pleased with the layout and design and the quality of the printed pictures.

Since my blog is about my family, these two volumes will be the equivalent of two years of family scrapbooks that usually take me weeks to complete, and they end up more expensive than the BlookUp books, without all my commentary.

Shipping is free if your book totals around 100 euros, I think.  My books came by USPS within a week or so.  BlookUp will also print whatever posts you choose from your social media sites, if you're so inclined.  I haven't seen any of those in person, so I can't give my review on them.  But I do give a high recommendation for their blog publishing services.

Have a Wonderful Week of Spring, Everyone!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

To the Church, a Party, & the Hospital: A First Communion Story

As we are preparing for our youngest daughter's First Holy Communion later this month, my mind keeps returning to the night she was born, which also happened to be the same night we celebrated her older brother's First Communion.  As joyous of an occasion that the Sacrament is, this was one twenty-four hour period of time I would definitely not want to relive.

Let me preface this day with some facts:

Fact #1: Our daughter's due date was still a week away, but I typically delivered my babies about a week early.  All I could think about was my water breaking in church while we were standing in one of the front pews, leaving my family mortified.  Or I would go into labor earlier in the day, and my husband and I would miss the entire event.  I did some earnest praying all week that the birth of this baby would hold off until after our son took his First Communion, and preferably wait until the end of the party we were having at our house afterwards.

Fact #2: A stomach virus went through our house that week, and it was the worst one I'd ever seen in my family.  Every two days, a different family member was sick around the clock for about forty-eight hours.  Nothing stayed down, and with a house full of toddlers and young children, this meant a lot of disinfectant used throughout the house.  I was exhausted from being up all night with little ones and constantly washing sheets, mopping floors, wiping down walls, and comforting children and a husband who felt absolutely miserable.  But I hadn't gotten sick myself.

Fact #3: When I had the appointment with my midwife earlier that week, I mentioned this illness to her and said surely I wouldn't get sick while I was in labor.  That God would be merciful and spare me that at least.  The midwife looked dubious, and said she couldn't guarantee that, but she had seen women who had a similar virus, and the vomiting helped induce the labor.  So along with praying that labor would wait until after First Communion, I also began fervently praying that this stomach bug might somehow skip right over me.

Two nights before the big day, our eight year-old son came down with this virus.  I honestly thought we were going to have to back out of it.  But he rallied and was fine by the day of the Mass, and miraculously, we had not a single sick family member in our house by the time all of our company arrived.  Only our six year-old daughter and I had been spared.  I felt tired, heavy, achy, and as if I would pop at any moment, but I hadn't gotten sick, and I hadn't gone into labor.  We would all be at the Church, and no one would miss our son's First Holy Communion after all.

And everything did go according to plan.  Our sixteen year-old son was an altar server at this special Mass.  We were all there to witness it, and take pictures, and celebrate this Sacrament with our second-grader.  Then we came home and celebrated some more with lots of good food, toasts of champagne, cake, gifts, and family.  I was still nervous about going into labor and getting sick, so I ate very little.  Our guests began going home around eight, and we had cleaned up the kitchen and gone to bed by a reasonable hour.

That didn't last long, however, because I awoke around midnight with that dreadful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when of of those viruses hits.  And it was horrible; like, in the top five worst nights of my life kind of horrible.  Then my water broke.  And then I started to cry.

Since this was my sixth baby, and we lived twenty-five minutes from the nearest hospital, my husband didn't want to wait around.  Fortunately, my parents-in-law were spending the weekend with us, so we left the children in their care while we headed to the emergency room with a large bucket carried beneath my chin the entire time.

We checked in at the hospital around two in the morning, and I learned that I had a long way to go.  Labor coupled with a stomach virus has got to be one of the lousiest combinations ever.  But one good thing came out of it: Zofran---which was in my IV drip continuously for many hours.  It didn't stop the nausea completely, but it was definitely an improvement.

I won't go into all the details of the labor and delivery, but I will say that the eleven hour labor won second place for my worst birthing experience.  It was only topped by her red-headed brother who took a full forty-eight hours of incredible pain before he finally made his appearance.  I went into this labor intending to tackle it naturally like I'd done with most of my children (even the red haired one.)  I had this noble notion of holding my Rosary beads and praying a Hail Mary through each contraction, but after a couple of hours when I could barely even breathe through the pains, I abandoned that idea.  And I asked for the pain meds, which I had never done before.  Then when I was finally far enough along, I asked for the epidural too.  And finally, around 11:30 AM, our youngest daughter (and last child) was born, fifteen hours after her brother's First Communion party ended.

So as luck would have it, it turns out that I didn't miss out on anything...not even the stomach bug.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How to Get the Stink Out of a Cabin

After an eleven-day sabbatical from blogging when I was in a self-induced contemplative coma, you might expect me to return to Preppy Mountain Farmhouse with a profound, philosophical post.  I thought about that, but I decided instead to share the miracle solution to a very earthly problem we've been tackling around here: getting rid of the stench in our cabin.

If any of you have a cabin in the woods, an old house in the country, or some other structure that doesn't get used much, you're probably familiar with that closed-up, musty smell that you get a whiff of when you first walk in the door.  We were certainly acquainted with this when we first started cleaning out our newly-purchased cabin two years ago.  It had been an unused hunting cabin for decades, and it was full of clutter, layers of carpet that had gotten wet from broken water pipes, and some mummified mice caught in traps.  After filling a dumpster with all the stuff we didn't want or need, hiring Molly Maids to do a thorough cleaning, and ripping up some of the damaged carpet, I made my own carpet freshener that I sprinkled generously throughout the rooms and let sit for a few days before I vacuumed it all up.

That simple recipe can be found in my first month of blogging here.

And that did help somewhat...but not enough.

So my mother-in-law brought me some Resolve Fabric Refresher spray, which I have used on the carpets, furniture, curtains, and bedspreads.  She also bought me a bottle of wonderful smelling lavender linen spray for my birthday, which immediately got toted up to the cabin and gets used every time I go up there.  Both of these products mask the musky smell for a day or so.  However, they also make the inhabitants smell rather perfumey.  If I go up there and stay for a few hours, I come back to the house, and everyone says I smell like the cabin: a unique blend of mustiness and lavender and perfume.  It's really not the fragrance I'm going for.

Little did I know two years ago that the musty smell would later be considered a mild odor---almost pleasant even---in comparison to the horrible stench we smelled last spring when a groundhog dug a tunnel under the center of our cabin...and then died under there.  I thought it was coming from the chimney because the stench seemed strongest in the one bedroom where the flue connects to the furnace.  We searched everywhere and couldn't find a dead animal anywhere, so I eventually called a chimney sweep to investigate.  By the way, this all occurred right before my parents were to come for a visit, and they would be sleeping at the cabin, of course.

The chimney sweep came and took things apart and checked out every possible nook and cranny, but he found no dead animal.  He did discover, however, that our chimney needed repairs and a cap on the top of it so nothing could possibly fall down there in the future.  That wasn't the bad news though.  The bad news was that something had crawled under the cabin and died, and there was nothing to do but wait out the next four weeks or so until it had decomposed.  Thankfully, this was early May in the Alleghenies, and it would be another month until we experienced any summer heat, so the odor wasn't as bad as it could have been had the animal died in August.  Fortunately we had a month until any other visitors were expected, and my parents had to sleep on sofas in our farmhouse with the trough full of three-week old chicks, who really didn't smell too great themselves.

Since there wasn't really anything I could do to speed along the biological process of decomposition, I did the next best thing and buy some strong scented candles and went up there periodically and lit them.  The pine fragrance was my favorite.

As we began this year I was feeling much better about the smell of the cabin.  Between the bowl of cinnamon scented pinecones, the candles, and the linen spray, the place wasn't smelling too bad.  My coat and hair didn't reek of the cabin smell too much when I returned from an excursion up there.  After two years of being cabin owners, I felt rather proud that we had actually overcome the odor problem.

That is, until we had out-of-town guests coming to visit a couple of weekends ago.  A day before their arrival (which coincided with the two feet of snow Stella had just dumped on us), I trudged through the snow to do my ritual spraying of the fabrics, take up clean towels and stock the fridge with breakfast items, and clean up the sinks and shower.  I even brought a book because I thought I would finish my tasks and have about two hours of leisure to read and reflect.  But as soon as I opened the cabin door, a fresh wave of dead animal stench hit me, and I was then on a two-hour mission to find the offender and try to rid the place of yet another horrible smell.  

This was a mystery because I had just been up there finally taking down the Christmas decorations just a week earlier, and all was well.  The cabin had been closed up and locked up, and the chimney was supposed to be capped in a way that absolutely nothing could fall down inside of it.  I did see that a window was cracked slightly, and I vaguely recalled my husband going up there early one morning looking for a wrench.  Did something sneak in while he was rummaging around in the dark?  As I walked toward the back of the cabin, the smell got stronger.  Then I found a pile of feathers.  Why were there just feathers and no bird?  I used my nose to search everywhere, but I couldn't find a carcass---just those feathers.  I vacuumed them up, practically emptied the bottles of linen spray, lit the candle, but I could still smell it.  It was strongest back by the chimney again.  I located a flashlight and started shining it everywhere.  Still nothing.  It wasn't until I sat on the floor by the bedrooms in the back of the cabin that it occurred to me that the stench was strongest near the air hockey table.  So I managed to pull that away from the wall, move all the storage bins we had stashed under there, and then I saw the culprit: a dead sparrow.

I'm still not positive how it came in.  It was lying at the foot of the chimney where there was an opening cut out of the wall that I never noticed before because it had been hidden under the hockey table.  From the looks of every windowsill in the cabin, it had been flying around looking for a way out, and leaving bird droppings everywhere.  So I went on a cleaning spree scrubbing everything and using whatever disinfectant that was on hand to clean woodwork, fabric, windows, carpet, EVERYTHING.  I disposed of the bird and vacuumed up the feathers with an ancient vacuum cleaner that came free with the cabin.  But then I noticed that the entire place smelled like burnt roadkill.  Because the relic of a vacuum wasn't used to handling this much carpet cleaning, and the motor on it decided right then to burn up and die.  So I removed the full vacuum bag (which aren't even made anymore, by the way) and took all the trash outside and hoped that the cabin would air out in a day or two.

No such luck.  And it didn't smell any better a week after that.  So I took matters into my own hands again, and I finally found the miracle cures for this ongoing problem: Kids'n'Pets Stain & Odor Remover for cleaning that spot on the carpet where the bird actually died, and Airwick Scented Oil Warmer Plugins.

This odor-removing spray is simply sprayed, or dumped, directly onto the smelly area and left.  That is my kind of cleaning, and it worked great!

But these AirWick scented oil diffusers that you plug in are the miracle cure I've been searching for.  I bought four of them and plugged them in all over the cabin.  Within a couple of days the cabin smelled better than it ever has, and a week and a half later, they're still going strong with plenty of oil left in them, and I don't even need to light any candles or spray any more fabric freshener.

They come with quite a variety of different essential oils and fragrances, which are usually sold separately.  I got a deal and bought the combo packs with the diffuser and two bottles of oil in each.  I think I went with the above "fresh waters" scent because I just didn't think "cinnamon apple" or "sugar cookie" would mix well with "scorched dead bird."

I am so incredibly relieved to finally have this cabin odor dilemma resolved.  If I had only tried these AirWicks two years ago when we first got the cabin, I could have saved myself so much time and money on other methods.

And that, my friends, is what I want to share with you today.  After an eleven-day break from Blog Land when I was wrapped up in a contemplative cocoon, I come back to shout out the odor breakthrough I've recently had.  I'll keep my profound, soul-searching discoveries to myself for now.

Have a great week full of sweet spring scents!

P.S.  This post does contain affiliate links to Amazon.  If you click on one, it will take you directly to that product on  Any purchases you make (whether they're the products pictured here or just about anything else) within a day or so of clicking through, provides me with a small commission at no extra cost to you.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bucket Lists

Bucket lists are things I've heard others refer to from time to time, but I never gave them much thought.  I've been too busy keeping up with my to-do lists, wish lists, seasonal project lists,  grocery lists, Christmas and birthday lists, carb counter lists, blog stat lists, and lists of short and long-term goals.  Bucket lists were for middle-aged people who were considering their mortality and making a plan to complete in the last half of their lives all the things they had never done but still wanted to do---before their time ran out.

However, last week I came across a newspaper article about creating bucket lists, and it has been occurring to me lately that unless I live well past the century mark, like it or not, I am middle-aged.  So I read the article, jotted down the questions in my phone, and have been giving this a lot of thought.  These are the modified questions I've been pondering so I can create my own Bucket List:

  • If time and money were unlimited, this is what I would do:
  • What have I been putting off that I have always wanted to do?
  • What are the countries I want to visit?
  • The things I want to see or experience in person are:
  • What skills do I still want to learn?
  • The most important things I can do are:
  • What do I need to do to lead a life of the greatest meaning?
There was also a question about what I would like to achieve, but I chose to replace it with these two:
  • If I knew this would be the last year of my life, how would I spend it?
  • If this was the last hour of my life, what would I wish I had spent more time doing? 
I was rather surprised to discover that there wasn't as much on my bucket list as I expected there to be.  Much of the traveling I've always wanted to do hasn't happened yet.  I haven't written a best seller.  I don't yet have an addition on our old farmhouse.  I didn't go to graduate school and get my PhD.  I haven't thrown a grand farm-to-table party in our back yard.  But that dream I had as a girl to live in a white farmhouse with covered porches on a mountain with an adoring husband and lots of beautiful children did come true.  I did get my BA; I did teach; I did work and volunteer in libraries.  I have the goats and chickens and gardens, the porch rockers and swings, and the piano and white wicker furniture I used to envision.  Our house is the one where extended family congregates for holidays and other special occasions.  Our first grandchild lives nearby.  Life is good.

I realized that the things that nag at me---that I think I must have or do or be in order to feel that I have lived a successful life---fall off my bucket list when I get to the last few questions.  And then it really all comes down to one very important thing: how well I have loved.

"At the end of life, we are going to be judged on the basis of our love for one another."---Saint Mother Teresa
 What's on your bucket list?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

So Many Cooks in the Kitchen

 Last evening my white farmhouse kitchen looked like we were preparing a stone soup for dinner.  Four generations of family members wandered in and out of the room, most staying to contribute something to a hearty chicken stew I was attempting to make for the first time.

Some were stirring the pot at the stove while others were retrieving ingredients (and wine) from the refrigerator and basement.

 Others were using their culinary skills to chop numerous vegetables and herbs while a few smaller family members stood by inspecting the progress.

Many of us took turns with the challenging task of keeping a certain eight month old happy and out of mischief.

Those with less experience in the kitchen were in charge of being the sommelier and making lively conversation. 

There were a couple of us in charge of adding diced ingredients to the pot when it was time.

While others just hung around looking handsome and waiting to be sent outside to gather eggs and feed the livestock.

As for me, I was the photographer, of course.  I was all prepared to make the entire dinner myself, as I do most of the time.  It was a pleasant reprieve to simply be the one overseeing it all and delegating various tasks to everyone else.  In the midst of the organized chaos, though, I forgot to take any pictures of the finished product, which got an excellent rating from almost every family member.  All I've got is the image in the cookbook above.  There weren't even any leftovers to heat up and photograph today.  I'll conclude by saying that the phrase "There are too many cooks in the kitchen" just didn't apply.  Each of the eleven family members who were present contributed something and turned out to be the perfect number for making this stew.

Adapted from the Cooking Light: Top-Rated Recipes special edition:
Chicken, Apple, & Butternut Stew (p. 56)

Peel & cube a butternut squash, and peel and dice a bunch of parsnips, and set aside.

Cut up 2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs into bite-size pieces and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt & 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Put 1 Tbsp. olive oil into a large pot and heat over medium heat.  Add half the chicken and saute until browned.  Repeat with remaining chicken, then remove to a plate or bowl.
Chop 2 onions & 3 Tbsp. fresh sage.  Add another Tbsp. olive oil to pot and add the onion, sage, and 2 tsp. dried ginger.  Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the cubed squash and the diced parsnips.  Cook another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the vegetables with 5 Tbsp. of flour.  Cook 1 minute, stirring to prevent sticking.

Stir in 3 cups apple cider and 3 cups of unsalted chicken stock.  Stir in the cooked chicken, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper.  Bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.

Peel and chop 3-4 cups of Granny Smith apples.  After the stew has simmered for 25 minutes, add the apples and cook for another 10 minutes.

* I probably added a bit more salt and pepper to this.  I didn't actually measure it.  We also wanted to make the stew thicker, so after adding the cider and stock, I dissolved 1 Tbsp. of corn starch in 1/4 cup of water and stirred that in.  There was so much talk and activity going on that it's a really good thing that I wasn't making this myself because it would have taken me hours to concentrate and get all the prep work done.  It was definitely more fun to read the recipe aloud, sip some wine, take some pictures, and hold our grandson.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Buried: Snow Covered Dreams

Snowstorm Stella came, and she didn't disappoint.  The children are having their second snow day this week, and we are in the midst of digging ourselves out from under the biggest snowfall we've seen since we moved back up North eleven years ago.

The snow was past the knees of our little ones yesterday morning.

It was up past my knees yesterday afternoon.

We had to shovel out doors and vehicles and animals.

It continued to snow a bit through the night, and the children can now crouch in the shoveled paths and let the wind blow the snow right over the tops of them.  They say they're crawling in the trenches.

This snow has covered outdoor benches, picnic tables, patio chairs, and most of our chicken tractor.  You can barely see where the front porch begins because the snow is higher than the steps and nearly level with the porch floor.

Other than driving our daughter to the orthodontist later today, I'm staying inside, content to watch the blowing, drifting snow through our farmhouse windows.  I'm feeling rather contemplative and am re-reading some books on discovering and living your dreams.  Like the daffodils that had sprouted a few inches but are now covered with two feet of snow, I think the dreams of my younger self have been buried for years under decades of birthing, nursing, and mothering young children.  I can feel the seasons of my life changing though, transitioning and morphing into something new that I want to more clearly see and define.

Just as clearing paths in this snow helps us find what was buried underneath, I find myself needing to uncover dreams from long ago that got put on the back burner because my family needed so much of me for so many years.  Even though life is still full of activities and responsibilities and obligations, and our farmhouse is full of children and life and growth, there are now some nooks and crannies of my day that are free for me to dream again.  I can take out those buried dreams and brush them off and pursue them again, or I can dream up something new.  I'm more aware than I've ever been that I've still probably got half of my life to live, and I don't want to waste it all on mindless tasks, errands and shopping, and social media consumption.  I want to make sure I am living purposefully, and that is what I'm pondering these days.  

Nelson Mandela said it better than I:
"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead." 

I'm praying that all of you hit by Stella are finding your way out of the mounds of snow today, and I'm hoping that all of you readers everywhere are living your dreams to the fullest.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Beautiful Mess: My Life

Last week while in Michael's, I came across a bin of brightly colored journals with various words embossed on the covers.  As soon as my eyes landed on this one, I knew it was the right journal for me.  A beautiful mess perfectly describes the season of life I am living right now.  It's a different kind of mess from five years ago when we were finishing up our last round of breastfeeding, potty training, and getting children to sleep in their own beds throughout the night.  Back when we were establishing our little farm and helping goats birth babies, butcher our own chickens, and start seedlings for the gardens all throughout the house.  Those were the days when we had five children under the age of eleven, and I was homeschooling all of them.  Life was most definitely messy, but it was a different kind of mess.  I never thought I'd say this, but I actually kind of miss some of those days.

Now the house is void of diapers, potty chairs, and toddler beds.  I typically let the goats and sheep do their own birthing and only intervene when they're in serious distress and no one else is available.  We no longer butcher any animals (hated that part of farming), nor is my husband allowed to fill every sunny windowsill or table with trays of dirt.  My eleven years of being a homeschooling mom have come to an end, and our farmhouse is now full of preteens and teenagers, except when our baby grandson comes for a visit.  I suppose our youngest---who is about to turn eight---isn't officially a preteen yet, but in her mind, she's been an adolescent since she was about three.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers bring their own unique brands of mess to the house, as do the middle-aged parents who reside with those adolescents.  And that is the season we are currently in.

I'm a little more aware of (and annoyed by) the disarray today because we are just finishing up spring break when we are all home together much of the time.  The weather has not cooperated with the break, and even though the younger children did spend some time outdoors, most of the week has been rainy or cold, so we've been inside a lot.  The kitchen sink has filled up quickly with coffee mugs used to create individual "snickerdoodle" treats found on Pinterest by our ninth grade daughter.  The dining room/multi-purpose room table has been covered in papers, pencils, and tape used by our youngest as she makes more artistic creations.  Which, by the way, is most definitely an improvement over the entire walls she used to cover with her "artwork."  The coffee table in our living room held Nerf guns, tablets, headphones, and sketchbooks until I insisted that everyone pick up their stuff last evening before company came.  The boys' bedroom has always been a disaster zone, but this week all I can see are Legos everywhere.  This is because the ten and eleven year-olds are creating an entire Star Wars themed village with various shops such as Darth Vader's Bakery, Jabba's Fitness Center, and Jawas' Junk Shop.  It's quite clever, I think, but it creates a huge mess while they are in the midst of a creative brainstorm like this.  The girls' room is full of shoes, makeup, nail polish, and a homemade Shopkins house as our teen daughter is practicing new hair and cosmetic techniques for the prom, and our seven year-old has used some of her free time to build a structure for her 86 Shopkins.  Even our bedroom---which is supposed to be off-limits to everyone other than the parental unit---contains clean wet clothes hanging on Amish drying racks, clean folded piles of clothes waiting for the owners to put them in their dresser drawers, and a stack of items to be carried up to the attic, plus an additional large bag full of clothing to be taken to Goodwill.  Even the outdoor areas seem to have extra mess this week because it doesn't matter that I am ready to decorate the porches for spring; Mother Nature is making it clear that I am not in charge.  With a foot of snow forecasted here in about 24 hours, the snow shovels, skis, and rock salt are still sitting on or beside the porches for future use.  And our boys are in the process of building some kind of fort on the bank, so there are poles, arrows, rocks, and homemade flags adorning the side of our property making it clear to everyone driving up the lane that children most definitely still live here.

These are just some of the messes that make up my life and home right now.  It's by no means all of the messes.  I do get frustrated...and aggravated...and discouraged by it all far more than I care to admit.  But I also recognize that what all of these messes have in common is Life.  When I was a little girl, my favorite place to go on Sunday afternoons was my grandmother's house.  Her house was far from empty, quiet, and lonely.  Instead, my many aunts, uncles, and cousins congregated there every weekend, and the house was bustling with activity, good country food, noise, and life.  I had the best times of my childhood right there rolling down the grassy banks, playing games of wiffleball in the yard, hiking up through the cow pastures, and hunting for Easter eggs with my numerous rowdy cousins at my side.  My favorite TV show in the seventies was The Waltons, and I imagined myself growing up and living in a big white farmhouse in the mountains full of energetic, beautiful children, swinging or rocking on the expansive covered front porch.  There would always be people around, and there would always be something going on.  And that's pretty much what I finally got.  I just never thought much about the messiness that comes with that big family country life.

I sometimes feel fed up and disgusted with the messes, especially after looking at Pinterest or home magazines on the store shelves.  I want to post my own beautiful house pictures on Instagram, Facebook, and here on my blog.  I suppose I could make everyone pitch in and do some serious cleaning up, then stage the house just right, and then kick everyone out of the house for awhile so I could get some great shots to load to Google photos and use on here.  But that wouldn't be our real life.  It's not what's really going on here.  When I am feeling rather discouraged, I remember something my mother-in-law said to me four or five years ago when I was feeling especially low.  It was this time of year, and everything outside was a brown muddy mess.  My husband decided to try a new feed project for the livestock by sprouting buckwheat in trays in our kitchen.  We had an actual week old goat kid in a trough by the coal stove whose mother had rejected her and my husband insisted on saving.  And he had bricks from the barn heating on top of the coal stove to take out to the kidding stall at night to keep other new goat babies warm under the heat lamp.  I sat there on a kitchen chair in front of the stove, taking a turn holding this tiny goat kid wrapped up in a blanket, looking around me at this mess of a house that was now my life.  And I started crying.  I sobbed to my mother-in-law that I'm really not this messy, sloppy, terrible housekeeper.  That I used to live in a beautiful, neat, organized, immaculate home before I got with this son of hers and had all of these kids.  That all of this mess around me was not who I really am.  And she said the kindest, most beautiful thing that anyone could have said to me at that time.  She leaned closer and looked into my eyes and said, "Don't you know that when we come here, we don't see a horrible mess?  We see a family full of love for each other and this wonderful Life."

So in my low moments, when I start to feel angry or bitter at the clutter, the projects, the messes around me, those words of hers reverberate in my mind.  And I choose to see instead a Beautiful Mess that is this Life.