Wins and Losses

You win some, you lose some. Here is an update from the Johnson household the last few days.

First, obviously bringing home baby Davis is a big one in the ‘Win’ Category. We did successfully name the child before leaving the hospital – Davis Charles Dale Johnson. (I’ll have to explain the name sometime soon!) Davis is a good sleeper, although he’s better at it in the day than during the night lately. He’s a cuddly little chunk, and I am perfectly content to sit with him sleeping on my shoulder all day long. He has one dimple and he flashes his sweet smile a lot. Sure, I know they aren’t “real” smiles but who cares?? :)

 
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On the other hand, I forgot that baby delivery actually does require some recuperation time. So although Davis is sleeping a lot and I theoretically have a lot of free time, I’m pretty much couch-bound. That’s maddening, because there is plenty to do. On the other hand, I guess my condition is pretty conducive to typing out long rambly blog posts.

Here’s a fun tale. Friday morning I went to fill up my giant thermos (must stay hydrated) at the fridge and the found the dispenser wasn’t working. Opening the freezer, it was noticeably too warm in there, and some items had already begun to thaw out. PANIC! Ransom had just returned from his grandparents, I was a little low on sleep and high on hormones, and now, the freezer full of food that I’d managed to put aside for post-baby meals was THAWING. This fridge was our one Mississippi craigslist purchase, a standard-grade 7-year-old Kenmore. So began deliberation about whether to try to fix it ourselves, call a repair man, or just buy a new one. My newborn-addled brain was no use. Meanwhile the food was THAWING. We found basically the exact same refrigerator for $800 at the nearest Lowe’s so we opted for replacement. My parents headed off to Lowe’s to pick it up for us. August and Ransom carted the whole contents of the old refrigerator over to his mom’s house. Then a couple of hours later, while everyone was still out of the house except for me and the babe, the darn thing cut right back on.

Clearly something was frozen up and now it had thawed out. I heard the compressor fire back up and the water dispenser started flowing again. Agh.. Now that fridge resides in our garage, colder than ever, while we figure out what to do with it. Sell it ‘as is’ on craigslist? So all this is a big ‘LOSE’. I mean, I’m glad the old fridge is gone. It had a squirrely ice maker and always made weird noises. Surely it was only a matter of time till it really broke down for good. But I could’ve done without the random $800 expenditure this week.

After all, this is the week taxes are due, speaking of losing.

Enough negativity. Here’s another one for the ‘win’ column. The day I went into labor, my parents and husband spent the whole day working in our garden – weeding, tilling, planting. It all looks fabulous, about 50 times better than what I was planning for our 2014 gardening effort. So far we have tomatoes, a variety of pepper plants, strawberries, several herbs, and at least three plants that came back from last year: leeks, asparagus, and cilantro. Who has ever eaten a leek? Not me, but I intend to get on that soon. There are also two more beds that need to be planted. I think my excitement over all the progress in the garden was what finally sent me into labor, and the rest is history. I’d love to be out there weeding right now, instead of gazing longingly from the couch.

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And yet, guess what the forecasted low temperature is for tonight? 29 measly degrees. The supposed frost date for our area is April 10th. So I guess we’ll try our hand at frost protection tonight. The actual time below freezing is just a few hours, and the garden can be fairly easily protected. But was about all the buds on our poor fruit trees? I can’t think of a way to protect them, so I guess we’ll just see what happens. I

 

**Update: the forecast is now 34! Fingers crossed!! We may just make it through with minimal damage. August is out covering stuff now.

So Your Child Wants to Quit Violin Lessons….

So we’ve been slacking a little bit on the blog this week.  Mary-Hall, as you all know, has been busy with her first week of being a mom of TWO sweet boys, (if you missed the big news, check it out here!) and I don’t really have an excuse.  I’ve just been lazy.  So today I’m doing something that we never really do….I’m re-posting a blog that was originally posted on my music website, www.bethanybordeaux.com.  But I really love this particular post because my mom has some great words of wisdom.  So here you go!  I hope you enjoy the read….and the bonus picture of me playing the violin as a tiny munchkin.

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I love getting to meet people on the road and talk and hear their stories and questions.  Often times I get asked how I started playing violin as a career, my stance on music education, etc.  But then sometimes I meet moms of tiny violinists and the question comes up…“If my child isn’t as excited about lessons as they used to be, do I make them keep going? Do I let them quit?”  I always share my experience as best I can to encourage them.

Then a few weeks ago, a mom sent me a message on Facebook.  I’d met them at an event a few years ago and we had talked…I’d encouraged her that violin could be a great thing for her then 6 year old daughter and she and her husband had felt that it might be exactly what the Lord had for them and their little girl.  And apparently the little girl had the same idea.  Lessons were begun with a beloved teacher and it was a great experience all around.  Well, for a while.  Then she’d been moved to write me a letter.  Her daughter is now on the verge of turning 12 and they feel at a crossroads.  To quote her letter, “She has a natural gifting so there’s not that desire to practice, which I’m sure that’s totally normal for her age. But we aren’t going to let her quit because at this point we feel like we’d be letting her out of what we know God spoke. But I don’t want it to be miserable for her!!!  My question is, did you ever go through that? How did your parents encourage you to stay the course? What could I be doing to really make the violin something she loves?”

I felt a tiny bit at a loss. I can cheer-lead for music education all day long as I’ve been both a student and a teacher.  I know the impact it’s made on my life.  But there was a key element missing here as I’ve never parented a child at ALL, let alone through the decision to persevere or call it quits with an activity.  But fortunately, I DID know someone who had been through this, not only with violin lessons, but with a myriad of extra curricular activities that I chose to be a part of as a child, adolescent and young adult.  My own mom.  So I emailed her asking if she’d be willing to sit down and write a response.  Fortunately not only was she willing, but the letter she wrote was excellent.  So excellent that it seemed a shame not to share it with you all.

Dear Fellow “Violin Mom”,
I’m Bethany’s Mom.  Bethany passed your message on to me, thinking that perhaps I could give you some feedback from the point of view of a Mom whose “been there, done that.”

Now, believe me, I’m not claiming to possess the wisdom of the ages, just a little bit that comes from experience.  Here are some things I’d consider, although you may already be aware of all these:

  1. Is your daughter actually asking to quit, or is she just at the stage where the novelty of playing violin has worn a little thin?  Maybe her playing needs a little “new life” breathed into it through attendance at a special workshop or a few lessons into a different genre of music – some bluegrass or Celtic fiddle (which is usually pretty lively, fun stuff that can expand a player’s overall ability).  If she is actually asking to quit, find out why.  Sometimes at that age, kids get teased about their activity, if it isn’t the “cool” activity of the day. Also, that is the age at which girls’ lives are really beginning to open up and they see other activities and opportunities that compete with their music.  Bethany primarily took violin and piano up until age 11, at which point her schedule began to truly burst with other interests (horseback riding, 4-H, a theater group for children that she founded, show choir, jazz ensemble, etc. etc.).  These all had merit and gave her great experiences. There were many times all the way through high school when she barely had time to practice violin, but we plugged away at lessons from week to week.  After all, a girl may play soccer for a season in her life, but music can be taken THROUGH LIFE.  If she wants to “try other things,” allow it, if you can possibly afford the time and money for it all.  Not having to choose between violin and another activity may make it easier to stick with her music, even if her progress plateaus for a while.
  2. I’m assuming she takes not just private lessons, but has the opportunity to play [music] with other kids?  If she’s not in a group class of some sort, playing violin can be an “isolating” experience, and I’d recommend a class, workshop, etc. so she can develop camaraderie with other young musicians.  Also, help her find ways to use her violin playing as a ministry – at church, at nursing homes, etc. (Bethany even “sold songs” at a church bazaar to help with the fundraiser.) Using her talent may be key to maintaining interest.
  3. It’s difficult to think of an 11-year-old going through hormonal changes, but the fact of the matter is, a girl that age is changing internally, and whether or not you can see the transformation just yet, her endocrine system is cranking up and can cause mood swings that may make her act like she’s “miserable” one minute and perfectly chipper the next.
  4. It’s difficult to know whether God was speaking about your daughter’s entire life, but she’s now had 5 or 6 years to gain a valuable musical education and all that goes with that (fine motor skills, listening skills, brain development, poise, etc.).  Just like riding a bicycle, IF she did take a break from violin, she has already benefited from the training and she could pick it up again without having lost too much – although again, sometimes we just have to plug away and maintain.
Let me share my own experience. As an 8-year old, I wanted to learn the guitar.  I was so small, and my parents unable to afford much, so they bought me a ukelele – which doesn’t sound much like a guitar.  However, I taught myself a number of chords and still desired to learn the guitar.  At age 13, I was almost tall enough to handle my aunt’s guitar, which we borrowed. But it was just a difficult age at which to start. I wanted to go out with friends, and for other reasons, I stopped lessons after only a few months.  “Life got in the way,” but in the back of my mind I still desired to learn to play the guitar, even while I learned the violin alongside my daughter (as you may know, part of the Suzuki Method is that a parent learn along with the child).  Anyway, to make a long story short, I always WISHED I had persevered with the guitar back when I was a teen, and finally, about 2 years ago – at age 60, I again took up the instrument.  I’m never going to be a “Chet Atkins,” but I sure have fun with it.  I always wonder, though, how accomplished I could be now IF I had plugged away when I began at 13.  But those chords I learned on the ukelele and during my 3 months of guitar lessons stayed with me and gave a little jumpstart.

I sure hope your daughter will hang in there – not necessarily to become a professional (that was not our goal with Bethany – just that music would be beneficial to her overall development) – but to have a skill she can enjoy throughout her whole life – and use to the Glory of God on many occasions.

Best wishes to you both!
Barbara Daniel

Special Delivery

Greetings! I just wanted to pop in with a quick update. We are in the middle of a two-day retreat to a fabulous all-inclusive destination… Its not Jamaica or Costa Rica, but it does include several different flavors of jello, the largest underwear you’ve ever seen, and a self-serve “Sonic”-style ice machine.

(You know, basically the most perfect form of ice on the planet.)

Introducing our new baby boy:

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8lbs 9oz, 22 inches long, quick delivery, good health, happy as long as he’s tightly swaddled.

We’re all in love of course, especially the big brother.

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Paleo Whole30 Italian Dressing

Well, after a couple of life and death posts this week, I think its high time we return to our usual blog fare.  (Also PS, no baby yet.) So here is one where I try to out-Paleo Bethany and her Paleo pot roast recipe.

Disclaimer: You should know that my household is absolutely not paleo or anything resembling paleo these days.  I bought a large size bottle of chocolate ice cream syrup last weekend, feeling very strongly that Baby Johnson #2 shouldn’t be born into a household without that staple.  But, when I saw her recipe calling for a packet of italian dressing mix, I thought it might be nice to try to paleo-ify that choice a little bit, you know, in the spirit of legalism.

Actually I’ve had good luck making spice mixes – taco seasoning, fajita seasoning – as well as several different vinaigrette type salad dressings.  They are so easy to whip up and we get more variety this way, compared to using store-bought bottles. If you have a well-stocked spice rack, you probably already have what you need.  And making this stuff from scratch, you can be {more} assured that there aren’t any weird fillers or preservatives or MSG that you don’t know about.  More importantly, you may be able to avoid a trip to the grocery store in a pinch, which is honestly a bigger motivator in my case than the clean eating stuff.

So, here is how I made up some paleo-friendly italian dressing mix.  This recipe is even Whole30 friendly (that 30-day cleanse thing I did for 25 days last year).  The actual Italian dressing from it is also approved on both diets.

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Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried celery flakes

Before you proclaim me a genius, I should point out that I adapted this recipe from this Allrecipes version. By “adapted” I basically mean, “I left out the sugar”.

1 tablespoon of salt is plenty for if you are using this to cook with.  For the dressing, I’d start with 1 and increase to your taste.  2 tablespoons was a little too salty for us.

Use about 2 tablespoons of the mix to be equivalent to one store-bought packet – that’s what I put in the roast and still had plenty left to make salad dressing with.  I did it last week, worked out great.

If you are missing one or two of the minor ingredients (eg. celery flakes), I say go for it anyway.  These kinds of recipes are forgiving.

To make salad dressing, just combine the following ingredients in a container with a lid and shake well:

  • 2 tablespoons of the above mix
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

PS. I think the dressing would be awesome with a little honey mixed in but I didn’t try it.

 

39 1/2 Weeks

Here we are on the way to preschool this morning – 39 and a half weeks pregnant.

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In case you don’t know or remember this, pregnancy due dates are at 40 weeks.  So basically, we are ALMOST THERE.  I really can’t complain.  This pregnancy has passed at the speed of light.  I feel great: not tired, no back ache, feet are still basically normal sized, I can even paint my toenails.  I do heartily recommend April babies over September ones, like Ransom.  It was 90 degrees inside our {un-air-conditioned} house at this stage of my last pregnancy, and that was not so fun.

On the other hand, I am basically down to one uniform to wear (see photo) and even it requires constant adjustment.  Things try to ride up or down constantly, as the case may be.  And, my general presence seems to make people nervous.  Either because they are nervous about me causing an embarrassing medical scene (i.e. baby delivery in the fellowship hall at church) or maybe because that’s just what you say to really pregnant women.  You know, as in “Oh my goodness I can’t believe you’re still up and about!” etc.

Meanwhile, the house is moderately clean.  The baby things are sort of in order, although not entirely.  I have stocked the freezer with several frozen meals.  We have a few baby names picked out.  So, there’s nothing left to do but wait.  And drink more water.

Spring Chickens

I know we’ve had a lot of chicken posts recently, but I needed to add one more.   For those of you who have been tracking with the Saga of Sylvia the Sick Chicken, I have sad news….Sylvia went to that big chicken coop in the sky last Wednesday.  She’d rallied there for a little bit…and then just started getting, well, slower.  She’d stop in the middle of the yard to nap.  She stopped eating.  She wasn’t really pooping (sorry, but she wasn’t).  She stopped getting excited about seeing us.  And she barely weighed anything.  So Wednesday morning I decided to spend some quality time with her.  I wrapped her up in a towel and put her on my lap while I got some work done on my computer.  She napped most of the day.  She didn’t seem in pain, just content to sleep on my lap.

That afternoon I had to run to a meeting and about 10 minutes after I left Keith sent me a text message: “I think Sylvia just died.” it read.  Then, about 15 seconds later, “Yep.  She’s definitely dead.  She just laid over on her side and went to sleep.”  We were sad to see our girl go, but happy she went in peace.  If you’re wanting to reminisce her short life (like I did) then you can check out this video from last August when she laid her first egg.

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Sylvia snuggled up on my lap napping. She passed away about 30 minutes after this photo was taken.

 

Yesterday was nice weather and Spring seems to have finally sprung, well sort of…so Keith and I decided that it would be a good time to do a “Spring cleaning” in the coop and de-winterize all the little cold weather tweaks that we’d made.  You might remember that we added a heat lamp and a made a few other temporary changes.  So Sunday we shoveled out the pine shavings from the coop floor, removed the heated waterer, heat lamp and indoor roost, rehung the outdoor roosts and gave everything a good cleaning.  The girls seemed really happy with their tidy home and hopped around the backyard eating as many earthworms as they could find.

Although I’m super thankful that we brought Beverly Clucky home to replace our first chicken casualty, Gertude, (who had a brain tumor,) we’re not rushing into getting a new girl this time.  I know it’s Spring and all the co-ops are starting to put out all those cute little chicks and it’s so tempting to bring home a new little critter.  Please, before you do….read all about my experience adding a new girl to the flock.  It’s not all fun and games and cute little feathered friends.  It’s a slow and painstaking process, one that for us worked out well despite my doing everything wrong, but one that I’m not sure I’m up for repeating anytime soon.  So for now, we’re going to hang on to our three amigas and be thankful that everyone else is healthy and happy for the time being.

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L to R: Louisa, Jane and Beverly Clucky. Our little flock of remaining hens.

Paleo Pepper Pot Roast

I’ve actually been making this dish since before I even know what Paelo was.  In fact, it was the first “grown up” dish that I learned how to cook.  It’s a crock-pot recipe so that’s not exactly saying a whole lot, but it was a big deal to me to say that I could cook something.  It was also the first dinner I ever cooked for Keith, way back before we were even officially dating….and it’s been a staple for us since.

So as I was looking for a simple yet tasty dinner to put together for tonight, I remembered we hadn’t had this particular recipe in a while.  And then I realized that it was totally in line with the Paleo diet, so I immediately headed out to the grocery store.  And I thought you guys might like it too…it’s got a little bit of a kick.  So here ya go.  Pot roast anyone?

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Paleo Pepper Pot Roast

Ingredients
  1. 1 chuck roast (mine was about 2 pounds.)
  2. 1 jar peperoncini peppers
  3. celery – chopped
  4. diced or sliced white onion
  5. carrots -chopped into 1 inch chunks, or, 1 package baby carrots
  6. one packet Kroger brand (or comparable)  “Salad Magic Zesty Italian” salad dressing mix (**note….this is just a seasoning packet to make your own salad dressing….not actual liquid salad dressing.)
Instructions
  1. Put half the carrots, celery, onion and jar of peperoncini peppers into a crock pot.
  2. Pour half the salad dressing mix packet mix on top of the veggies and pour in half the pepper juice.
  3. Add the chuck roast, then add the rest of veggies on top along with the rest of the seasoning packet and pepper juice.
  4. Turn crock pot on low setting and cook for 8 hours.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

*Note:  Although it renders the recipe “non-paleo” it’s also really yummy to cook red new potatoes in with the roast.

 

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