Videos of Baby for Her Absent Siblings

We predicted that Little Miss would learn to walk while her big sister and brother are in America. Until yesterday, I wondered if that would actually happen. Now, I am sure it will! These videos are for the two of you who are absent; hopefully you can see them in a few days when you have access to internet again.

First, she learned to push her stroller last evening–that was thrilling, as you can see! The laughter you can hear is Mr. Imagination.

Then, today, she started walking on her own.

She is also waving. She often waves with just one hand, but when she gets really excited she uses both.

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Carol and the Belles

I had the opportunity, over the past couple of months, to do something new. When my (current) favorite author, Chautona Havig, asked for volunteers to read her new Christmas book, Carol and the Belles, as she wrote it and help her launch it, I signed up. I’ve been enjoying reading another three chapters each week as she completed them–although it’s a little harder to keep track of the plot with that lag time in between. The book is finished now, though, and is publishing on Thanksgiving Day–she said it should certainly be up by 8:00 pm PST. If you would like some light reading after Thanksgiving, check this out. Here is my review; as with my other reviews on this blog, I’ll take it down when Esther publishes it on her website, so I don’t mess up her SEO.

Chautona Havig has dreamed up an incredible “hook” at the beginning of Carol and the Belles! I won’t tell you what it is, because that would spoil the suspense, but it’s one I couldn’t have imagined.

The basic story line is simple. Carol and Michal have been writing each other letters since they were 9, about 25 years ago. Now, Carol has the opportunity to travel from Romania to Rockland, in America, to help Ralph in the gift shop at Hearthland, and they finally meet. Both get the shock of their lives.

Throughout the story, Michal struggles to understand what true love is, and Carol practices true love. This struggle culminates in a surprising—yet quite plausible—twist at the end of the story that only Chautona could have dreamed up! The ending is quite satisfactory. If you’re looking for light reading with a Christian message, this is a beautiful Christmas story.

We also get some glimpses into life in a Romanian orphanage. Carol’s parents died when he was very young, and his life was not exactly easy. Michal’s job was working with an agency which raised money to help people in need around the world, including, of course, Romanian orphans.

For more about this book, and a special bonus for anyone who buys the book over Thanksgiving weekend, go here.


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Fun Times

Life in this family can be a lot of fun! Here are a few glimpses into the past few weeks of life here.

Our oldest two left for America the beginning of the month. This was our last glimpse of them, as they headed for their gate at the airport.


The lemon tree outside my kitchen window is blooming.


Mr. Sweetie lost a top front tooth—but this is the look I got when I tried to get a picture of his gap!


I had Mr. Sweetie clean out the container cupboard one day.


Little Miss loves to stand up by herself!


She also loves being carried in the backpack. This time, Mr. Inventor carried her for awhile, and then Mr. Intellectual took a turn. She is very happy in there!


Mr. Imagination and Mr. Sweetie were busily reading How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. They had the story pretty close to right! Mr. Sweetie was taking apart a pallet last week and fell, giving himself a greenstick fracture just above his wrist. He still hasn’t had an x-ray and doesn’t have a cast on it, but two doctors have said that is the problem and we’ll be going to Christchurch in a couple more days to get the x-ray and the cast. They said there shouldn’t be a problem if we keep his arm wrapped and he doesn’t do anything silly with it.


The cat comes in to beg for food when the door is open. Little Miss was sure checking him out!


She is such a happy little girl!


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Outdoors Fun

Because it’s spring, and the temperatures are lovely and moderate most days, and the grass is green, the boys have spent a lot of time outside lately. I get out when I can—I try to get to the garden at least a little each day. Here are several pictures I’ve gotten lately. As you can see, Little Miss loves being outside. If she’s grouchy and nothing seems to suit her, asking if she wants to go outside will often make her happy. This week, she figured out how to get outside without falling on her nose out the kitchen door, so watch out—she won’t be contained in the house any more!

Little Miss wanted to go watch her brothers play in the water.


She stands up anywhere she feels like it, without support, although she hasn’t started to take steps yet.


Apparently, she didn’t want to go through the patch of bare ground; it was more interesting to follow Mr. Imagination.


He had a toy car!


I assigned Mr. Diligent to plant pumpkin seeds in the moist creek bed. We’ll see if they grow. He had a wetsuit on because he had been playing in the water.


Mr. Imagination and Mr. Sweetie were still playing in the water. The boys built this dam across the creek after the 3-inch rain we had in September. The creek dried up behind it by mid-October, and the boys reinforced the dam at that point, and then when we got another inch of rain a few weeks ago, it filled up again. They rigged up a small sump pump below the dam to pump the water that leaks through back above the dam. That’s what the white pipe is for. The boys have spent a lot of time playing in that water, but by now it is starting to smell like swamp muck and I’m not very happy to let them “swim” anymore. Yesterday they put a bigger pump in and used the water to irrigate the garden—perfect use for it!


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Ten Months Already!

This little girl is already ten months old. She is more fun all the time. All her brothers love to cuddle her and encourage her to walk, although she isn’t taking steps on her own yet. She stands up from a squat anywhere she is, though. She’s a very happy little girl unless she’s tired or hungry or gets hurt, and she’s very good at expressing herself.

A week and a half ago, we spent the whole day getting Esther and Mr. Handyman ready to leave for six weeks in America. Little Miss loved playing on the suitcases.


Little Miss loves her Daddy! She was overjoyed last Saturday afternoon when he carried her around this way for an hour.


Last year’s Swiss Chard (called Silverbeet here) is going to seed, so I’ve been pulling it and cutting off the leaves to cook. Little Miss “helped” me and tasted the stems.


When I washed the Silverbeet, she helped by pulling leaves out and throwing them around.


She loves her doll, as well as this one, which belongs to Mr. Imagination.

IMG_2279Mr. Sweetie was trying to sweep and wash the kitchen floor last week. Little Miss wanted to “help”, but I locked her into the living room with the help of two chairs. She was not happy about it–watch this short video to hear what she had to say! She often talks like this.

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The Girl From the Train—book review

When I read a review of The Girl From the Train on a blog I follow, I was immediately intrigued by the story. Sure enough, it is a fascinating could-have-happened love story.


Gretl and her sister Elza were pushed out of a train full of Jewish people on their way to a concentration camp, by their mother and grandmother, who couldn’t fit through the sides of the car. The girls end up living in the house of a Polish family, but after Elza dies, Gretl ends up being rescued by Jakob, a Resistance fighter. After the war, he sends her to South Africa,where she will have a chance at a better life. Years later, he is forced to flee the Communists in Poland, and ends up in South Africa himself.

Initially, I was disappointed to discover that The Girl From the Train is fiction. I had hoped for a true story, but this did turn out to be very real. It certainly could have happened! Another thing I noticed immediately was that the writing style seemed to be somewhat stilted. Either that improved as the story went on or I got so engrossed in the story that I didn’t notice! When I finished the book and read the author’s biography I understood why it seemed stilted—it was originally written in Afrikaans and recently translated into English. Anyway, the story certainly sucked me in and I had a hard time putting it down, by the time I was a fourth of the way through.

I found the psychological side of the story quite interesting. Gretl, or Grietjie as she was called in South Africa, frequently had nightmares which she couldn’t understand. Until she was willing to be open and honest about her entire life to her adoptive parents, she was never able to find relief. I also appreciated the Christian faith that is a very real and natural part of the story. I could understand Grietjie’s family and their distrust of Catholics, but I also understand how she was able to find Jesus through the work of the Catholic nuns who helped care for her in Poland—God has His people everywhere.

Finally, I appreciated this quote, spoken by Grietjie’s grandfather. “Grietjie, love is not about excitement and physical desire and attraction. Those things are important, of course. But true love is the core that remains after the infatuation has burned out.”

I received this ebook free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggersbook review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. –

WARNING: Chapters 2, 4 and 6 each have one or two instances of someone swearing, and beginning in chapter 14 there are a number of times when a kiss is described. Physical relationships never go past kissing, however.

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October 2015 Pictures

Here are the rest of the pictures I saved from October but haven’t shared here yet—just a mish-mosh of random glimpses into our life.

One Sunday afternoon when we arrived home from church, a howling nor-wester was blowing. Mr. Inventor figured out a way to get a free ride. He had taken the engine off this old lawn mower (although now he’s put it back on and it works again!), and this time, he took a sheet of plywood to act as a sail. It didn’t work as well as he hoped, but every so often a particularly strong gust of wind would really push him along his track.IMG_2090

Since Mr. Handyman has a job in the afternoons now, we often have worship in the evening, in the kitchen while dishes are being done.


Story time. Little Miss just got out of her bath. Mr. Sweetie, Mr. Imagination, and Mr. Diligence were enthralled.


Mr. Inventor goes to the local dump (a transfer station) at least once a week to see what treasures he can find. This hand-crank washing machine was one. We scrubbed it out thoroughly and have used it twice now to churn butter. This was the first try, but I decided that the drill would probably end up breaking it so now we do it by hand. It works pretty well!


My two daughters! Little Miss was very upset because she had to sit still for worship. Pure torture—see that face?


Little Miss is standing up frequently without support right now. She also loves to be under the table, or a chair. Here, she had a shoelace and was trying to pick up the shoe.


One Sunday afternoon the boys were playing with snails. Mr. Inventor, especially, played with them for a long time.


This shed got crunched a year ago when a tree fell on it. A few weeks ago, Gayle and the boys fixed it; this is the before picture.


A turkey on her nest.


Two turkeys sharing a nest. It turned out that they didn’t have any eggs! Mixed-up birds.


We’re hoping to soon have the money to spare for plastic to cover a small greenhouse! Mr. Imagination here.


Choretime. I thought it was cute the way the ducks were all flocking around Mr. Diligence.


Busy Little Miss—she loves to be outside.


I have the boys work in the garden for 30 minutes most days, to help pay for the food they eat. This day, it was wet so I said they didn’t have to—but then there were enough spats that I sent them out anyway! This is Mr. Sweetie, Mr. Intellectual, and Mr. Diligence.


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Baby Kittens

No pictures with this post; it’s hard to get a picture of something invisible.

Mr. Imagination came in the house while I was cooking supper, cuddling something in his hand. He told me he had a baby kitten. I asked him where he found it. “Out in the paddock.”

“Did the mommy cat leave it?”

“It was in another cave.”

I asked what color it was. “Blue.”

I asked if it had to have a bottle or if it could drink out of a dish. “It still needs a bottle.” I pretended to give him a bottle, and he pretended to feed it to the kitten, making sucking noises with his mouth. Then, after he told me there were actually three kittens, I told him that after you feed a tiny kitten you have to wash its bottom with a warm wet cloth to help it poo. I thought that might faze him, but obviously it’s no problem with an invisible kitten!

The next problem was where to put the kittens to sleep. He wanted to put them under a light to keep them warm, like we do with chicks, turkeys and ducklings. I told him that kittens just need a hot water bottle with a clean dry cloth over it in a box. “Where is the clean cloth?” I told him to see if there was a pretend one on the coal range—sure enough, there was! “Where is the hot water bottle?” I pretended to give him one, and help him fill it, and then he found a pretend box.

Now he had the problem of where to put his kittens. I suggested in a quiet corner of his bedroom, so he trotted off—but was soon back. The kittens had woke up! I told him to take them back, but “Mew! Mew! They will wait for me!”  I suggested putting them on my rocking chair in the kitchen. “Oh, yes. They will not wait for me there!”

Then, when I called everyone to the table for supper, he brought his kittens along and started “feeding” them. A shred of meat went to the kittens…and into his mouth. A bit of bread—“They like the inside bread”—went to the kittens…and into his mouth.

I think he’s forgotten them now, an hour later, but it was awfully cute while it went on. I love being able to play along with him like that. It’s an easy way to connect with a three-year-old, and I don’t even have to stop what I’m doing to play with him. He is so much fun!

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Today’s Major Fail—and God’s Mercy

In case you ever render fat, please let it cool down before pouring it into a container. That’s my advice for today.

We butchered two sheep last week, and they were the fattest sheep I’ve ever worked with. I put the ribs and flaps (meat and fat around the stomach) in my big stock pot and cooked it, and today was finishing dealing with the fat. I heated it enough to get out all the rest of the water, and then poured it into ice cream containers. The first panful was only barely above the boiling point of water, but the second must have been much hotter. Before I poured it in, the thought crossed my mind that I should probably let it cool down, but I wanted to get the job out of the way. Well, that was a major mistake. Half a minute after pouring it in, the container started melting! I grabbed a ladle and started frantically scooping, but got two ladlefuls out before the container was flat! Nearly two quarts of hot melted sheep tallow had spread over the contertop and down onto the floor. The worst of it was that I had an open box just below it, with rolls of tinfoil, plastic wrap, and baking paper in it. I don’t know yet how bad the damage is—I’m waiting for the fat to solidify before I try cleaning it up. This is what the container looks like, beside one that isn’t melted.


I am thankful for lots of hot water, and that the baby wasn’t close when this happened, and that it happened back in a corner where we can’t walk.

Within 10 minutes after that episode, I went to the bedroom to change the baby. When I went back through the kitchen to put the diaper in the bucket in the laundry room, I noticed that the peculiar smell I’d been smelling was stronger, and there was a smell of burning plastic now, too. Then I saw the source—the baby turkey’s light had fallen down and the straw was black and smoking, and the side of their tub was melting! Praise God, I saw it before it actually caught fire! Time for those turkeys to go outside before the baby knocks down their light again.


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Leaf Jumpers…and a Cannibal!

A couple of weeks ago, I took the children to the Domain here in our village. It’s a piece of public land, and it’s fairly heavily wooded, with trails through the trees. There is a large open area, which is now a cricket playing field. The cricket clubhouse is at the edge of the field, and was built on part of the foundation of William “Ready Money” Robinson’s mansion. Robinson made a fortune on the Australian gold fields in, I believe, the 1870s, and came here with the money. He bought an immense tract of land, about half the size of a county in Michigan, and then built this mansion. If I remember right, all 3 stories and 40 rooms of it were finished in about 1881, and Robinson died the following year.

Anyway, we went there a couple of weeks ago to do some filming for a movie the children were making. (Watch for it to post here sometime in December, after Esther posts it on her blog, The day was a perfect spring day, so after the filming was finished, we just spent some time enjoying the beautiful setting. While the boys played, and rode a bike very fast down a very steep hill, Esther and I read for awhile and played with Little Miss. The little boys (and some slightly bigger ones) enjoyed jumping in a big pile of leaves that Esther raked up for them. Esther put this short video together for me.

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