Friday, January 27, 2006

It's NOT the Milk

I have had several people ask me if we pasteurize our milk. No, we do not. The next question is whether or not we think this could be why we've been hit so hard by illness. Could it be the milk?

Claire was the first to get sick. She got sick Dec 20 and had a high fever (around 103) for several days. She got better, then got sick again, then got better, then got sick again. The second time she again had a high fever for several days. This time it's staying around 99 and keeping her grouchy. She is STILL sick today. She barely drinks any milk at all. Just one glass at dinner time. Sometimes she takes seconds, but when she does she never drinks it. This has been a big issue between her and I, that she shouldn't waste it.

Roger and Clark both got sick within days after Claire did. Clark drinks a bit more milk than Claire, but not much. He takes milk with each meal and never finishes it. I know this because again, it's a big issue about not wasting. He was better within a couple days and has not been sick again. Roger, on the other hand, doesn't drink milk at all. He discovered that he does like Isabella's milk, but it doesn't like him. So he quit drinking it. He drinks none at all and he was hit hardest by this virus.

Stephen and I drink the most. Samuel is right up there with us. Sam drinks less, but he's also a lot smaller. The three of us drink more than is necessary, but we love it and don't have problems from drinking it. None of us were sick for more than a day or two. None of us ever ran a fever even as high as 100.

Mitchell and Faith both drink a fair amount of milk. It varies from day to day, but mostly they drink what they need and that's about it. They both got sick once and were better within a few days. They did run the higher fevers and had to stay in bed longer than us milk gluttons.

That just leaves Grace and Joy. They both drink milk, but not a lot. They both got sick several times and it stuck around for longer than it should. Joy, like Claire, is still sick.

So if the milk is responsible for anything, it's for keeping some of us healthy.

Just wanted to defend our cow. She is a good, healthy cow. We keep our milk clean and filtered and cold. We just don't heat it to kill germs which also kills enzymes that are good for you.

And since I'm talking about our cow, I thought I'd mention an incident that happened this morning. We were looking out the window to see if Isabella had come around to be milked yet. I believe Roger mentioned the neighbor's lease and that their cows are here now. Grace, our cow lover, the one who is happy that we are eating venison instead of beef lately, was looking out the window and saw a field full of cows. She stared for a while and then just whispered, "beautiful." It sounded like something someone would say when seeing a sunset or sunrise or the Grand Canyon or something. But she was just commenting on our pasture being full of cows. I thought it was cute.

Melissa

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

We're mostly all well now. Claire and Joy are still running fevers, but staying under 100. Had a bit of a scare when Stephen was playing with the thermometer and it said his temp was over 99. It turned out we needed a new battery. I guess the thermometer's gotten a lot of use this month. Roger wore boots to work today which was a really big deal. He's walking pretty normally now. Either that or I've gotten used to the odd limp.

The other night we had spaghetti for dinner. I'd made a huge batch and froze 3 nights worth. That turned out to be a big blessing since I was sick. Faith was able to just thaw it, cook noodles, and dinner was served. It turns out she's great at making noodles. Mine always stick together but hers were perfect. Anyway, we were eating when suddenly there was something crunchy in my sauce followed by a very bitter taste. I spit it out immediately, nevermind the bad manners example. It was a ladybug! They are all over our house, inside and out. We know this will be good come gardening season, but yuck! We all had a good laugh though. Except for Faith who was afraid to eat after that.

I'm working on my haircutting skills these days. Tonight's experiments were Roger and Stephen. Stephen's hair was almost as long as mine. It's just below his ears now. I can't tell if he likes it or not. He just says it's colder now. Roger has to wash his before we'll know, but hey, for a first time it isn't too bad. Up until now I've mostly just done buzz cuts on the boys that like those. Oh, and little Sammy got a trim too. I cut off his curls. As you'd expect with an 18 month old, he didn't sit still, but I didn't cut much. He's still a little cutie!

I've also been experimenting with yogurt. I've discovered some easier ways to make it, but the hardest one, of course, makes it the best. Oh well. At least I used some of our surplus milk!

Well, I had more to say, but I guess that pregnancy brain is getting to me. I forget everything. I learned once that it's because of a hormone that's supposed to help you forget the pain of childbirth so you'll have another baby. I don't think my hormones have it quite right. I forget everything else, but remember that 4 months from now I'm gonna hurt a lot. Fortunately I also remember the great joy that follows that pain so it's worth it. And that joy continues on and on.

Melissa

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Rain!

Rain came last night and this morning and for the first time in four months we have mud in the house. It is a chilly, cloudy, Sunday afternoon and we are all just laying around and relaxing. We have to if we are to ever get better. Claire, the first one to get sick over a month ago, is sick again with a low grade fever. Melissa is now on the getting sell side of this cold, whatever it is, as is Grace. We will all be better, it is just gonna take some more time.

The folks that have a grazing lease on our property brought their cattle by yesterday. I took Bella out to the pasture this morning after milking her and for once she was happy to go. Seems there is a bull in the herd Jerry brought over. This is a whole lot cheaper artificial insemination. We won’t end up with a Jersey, but a Jersey/Angus cross. No big deal since we will just be eating it anyway.

Mitchell’s birthday went well. He had to make his own ice cream as Melissa chose the 20th to get sick. He took it well as he is a trooper. We still have not played any chess ot monopoly as he spent the whole of his birthday whipping Claire, his seven year old sister, at chess. Mitchell likes to play games. He likes to win games even more…

On Saturday Mitchell, Stephen, Claire and I worked hard getting the corral and the calf’s little shelter cleaned out. We had almost a whole pick-up bed full of manure/hay/grass/dirt that we moved to the site of this summer’s garden. It was the first really hard work that I have done since walking again and while I hurt last night, I woke up in better shape this morning.

I’m just happy to get some rain. The Live Oaks in the front yard are green again, instead of a whitish green, which they have been for the last month. It is also nice to have at least a touch of humidity in the air.

Roger

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cows and chickens, but no cards

It has been three days now that I am milking and all is going well. Okay, not all is going well as she is still trying to test me a bit. I fell the other day when she made and unexpected move as I was leading her and that was a frightening moment as 800 pounds of unruly Jersey came toward me. Thankfully, I did not fall further than my knees and was able to stare her away. Interesting thing about prey animals, they do not like to be stared at and even though she could have trampled me, she turned away from the direct gaze.

This afternoon was a watershed at the farm as Melissa took command of the chicken crop. I had been paying less attention to them seeing as how I was trying to get back on my feet with the cows and the kids were just paying less attention to them, period. Melissa went out there and walked each of the kids through the whole process and program and made it clear that we were no longer just raising chickens, we were farming them. She explained that these chickens represent our food and one of our products and the kids will either be sharing in the fruits of our labors or they will just keep on being poor. Of all of their options, they liked not poor the best.

Tomorrow I have a couple of three phone calls to make for my job and after that I am pretty much off. It will be a day of running to the feed store and doing some light work around the house. It will also be a day of celebration: tomorrow is Mitchell’s 14th birthday. He is a heck of a kid. He and I went to Brownwood today to eat at CiCi’s and do a Wal-Mart run and to look at what he might want for his birthday. He ended up wanting a set of carving knives/chisels. Of all the kids, he has always been the one I identified with the most and he with me. It is a something of a small joke between the two of us. Anyway, I enjoyed my day with Mitch and will be off tomorrow to give him grief and play whatever board game he chooses. Monopoly is the most likely game.

Sadly, it will be board games. Tonight was poker night back in Grapevine and of all the things we have given up, it is the one that I absolutely miss the most. The guys were fun, the stakes were manageable and still exciting. I would not give up the farm for a poker night, but if I had the right hand I would be willing to bet the farm.

Roger

Monday, January 16, 2006

Got Walk?

I am back, sort of. After almost a full month of doing pretty much nothing other than run a fever and crawl around the house I am happy to announce that I am out of bed and limping! The secondary infection that kicked my behind brought with it a case of junk going into my feet. I have had infectious arthritis before, just not for so long. I think it is a combination of the arthritis and some atrophy taking hold in my muscles. I lost 18 pounds. Heck of a diet.

This morning I took my first walk around the farm. The chicken tractors are in need of some up keep and the cows are in need of some attention. The kids did their best to keep it all going and it is, in fact, still all going because of them. Without their work we would have had a bunch of dead chickens and cows. It is just time for Dad to get out there and pay some more attention. “Tonight, tonight, won’t be like any other night, tonight I am going to milk!” You do remember that song from West Side of the Barn Story, don’t you? I am looking forward to milking and getting back in the groove. I still walk like Fred Sanford, but that is better than walking like Ironside.

To those of you that were praying for us, thank you and don’t stop, yet. We still have sick folks at the house with Stephen coming down with this junk this morning and Mitchell and Faith still fighting it off. Joy and Sam are also sick and running Melissa a bit ragged. So, please keep us in your prayers for health and recovery. Thank you so very much.

Roger

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The attic and the diapers

Okay, it's been a couple days since this happened, but I've been busy and haven't blogged it yet.

First a quick health update: Roger is still unable to walk although he's working on it. His fever comes and goes still but he's mostly fever free now. Mitchell came home from a lock-in this morning with a sore throat. The older 3 kids went to a lock-in for our youth group last night and I was worried about them staying up all night with sickness floating around us, but how could I say no? They even suggested I should pick them up early this morning so they could be home in time to milk. But so far Stephen has stayed healthy. We could use continued prayers.

Okay, the story. I have a little thing about heights. I'm fine until I look down and then I get this queasy stomach and light head. I've avoided going in the attic for years. I'm not sure I've been in an attic since I was 10 yrs old. But after breakfast a couple days ago the phone rang. It was an odd ring and there was only static on the other end. It continued to do this over and over every minute or so. We called the phone company and an automated recording said we had to check at the box first. So I got dressed and took a screwdriver and phone outside. Bad news. There was a dial tone out there, but not in the house (just that crazy ringing and static). So the problem was on our end and Roger couldn't fix it.

I had to go up in the attic and follow the line to find where it was messed up. My brother-in-law, Fred, had told me over the phone (my cell of course) that it sounded like it was grounded somewhere and I would have to find it. He said it was usually caused by rodents, usually squirrels. Well, we have not seen any squirrels here, but we've caught several mice now. So up to the attic I went. It was not fun. Thankfully, Stephen went with me and did most of the crawling around up there. We checked everything at the two ends and just had the middle to check left. We had to find Roger's little headlight thingy first though. He couldn't tell us where it was, nor could he just walk to it. So we searched, found it, and checked the line in the middle of the attic. Nothing. Then I started re-checking the connecting points where lines were joined together. I noticed a place where there were 3 cords connected and couldn't explain more than two. I checked with Roger and found one went to a dead jack that was completely disconnected. The other end of that wire was dangling outside! I knew that had to be it. So we disconnected the 3 and removed the dead line. Sure enough, the line was fine after that!

Okay, to some of you that may sound like no big deal, but *I* figured it out and Stephen and I fixed it. We actually did it! And in the attic no less! I was very proud of myself.

Another exciting thing for me was some math I did this week. I've been using cloth diapers to try to save money. Then I would get frustrated with how behind I got on laundry. Well, our water bill came and it was pretty high. I'm giving God the credit here because I'd been praying about how busy I am and overwhelmed I often feel and He had reminded me of the lilies of the field and how they don't have to work hard and yet He provides for them, but I couldn't figure out what I could give up and asked Him to show me. So I think He planted the thought in my head to do the math. So I did. I calculated how much it is costing us to wash diapers per week and then figured out how much it costs us to buy a week's worth of diapers at the store. It varies some depending on how often I change diapers and how often I'd be washing the cloth ones. But it came out to a savings of just under $1 per week. Yet I'm spending at least an extra 30 minutes washing diapers. I could sew more and have more to offer on SewManyChildren.com if I had that 30 minutes! And I LIKE to sew, but I don't like washing diapers. So I'm back to disposable and it feels so good! Sam may not think so, but if he doesn't like it he can start using the potty. He can talk enough to ask to go, but he hasn't had a success yet. That's okay, he's not quite 18 mos old yet (not till Tuesday). I'm just glad to not have to touch those wet smelly things anymore. There's something about the smell of Pampers that reminds me of when I first had my first baby. It's a pleasant memory for me. Not like the ammonia smell in the diaper pail. PLUS, Sam kept hiding things in the diaper pail. I was washing the last load of diapers when I found his missing shoe! And all those cloth diapers can now get packed up and stored in the far barn. It'll be nice to have the drawer space back! Sorry if I'm disappointing all of my organic, all-natural friends. I still think cloth is good for baby, but it wasn't good for me. And I'll re-do the math when I have two in diapers. Hmm. Maybe I should rush that potty training. . .

Melissa

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thank you all!

God is so good! He has heard our prayers and we are doing remarkably better today. I want to thank everyone who prayed and ask you to please continue!

I woke up without any signs of illness today. I felt great! I actually got some things done around the house other than caring for sick people. I got some prep work done to get us ready for a new unit in school and got some much needed cleaning done. It amazes me how quickly my house goes from clean to trashed. But with 10 people here messing it up all the time. . .

Roger is doing better too. He has laughed and played with the kids today--all from bed of course. He even ate nachos for lunch! This is exceptionally remarkable to me because he's been struggling with swallowing water for days now. And he went most of the day without fever AND mostly without painkillers. He did need some ibuprofen in the afternoon, but what a great improvement! Roger even joined us at the table for dinner with the help of crutches. I think that was probably a bad idea, but it was nice to have him there at the table. And nice to not have to fix soup for him.

Faith was able to milk this morning, but probably shouldn't have. She ended up with a fever again this afternoon and was sent back to bed. She and Roger played cards after that and that helped lift both their spirits. They both would rather have been milking the cow--and Stephen and Mitchell agreed.

Joy seems to be mostly fever free now, but continues to point to her throat and say, "in there" if I ask her if anything is "owee." But she seems to not be too bad.

Well, that's the update on our health. I really want to emphasize that I know this quick change after all this time of illness has to be from God. I so appreciate your prayers and so does Roger. Hopefully he'll be back to blogging soon. I know his posts are much more fun to read. So keep praying for him!

Thanks,
Melissa

Monday, January 02, 2006

Several Prayer Requests

Roger has continued to be ill. His tonsils were really swollen. Through prayer he is finally recovering (Praise God!). He can talk again! That may seem like no big deal, but it gets really lonely out here with just the kids to talk to. I can talk to him, but it's hard, even for me, to do all the talking without any response from Roger. And the kids were kind of scared of him when all he could do was grunt. Last night I told the kids we all needed to act like we're two or three year olds and just pester God with the request that he heal their dad. They knew what I was talking about since we have a 3 yr old. After you hear the same request over and over and over it's hard to not just give in. So we all pestered God last night and Roger was much much better this morning. Praise God for that! Otherwise I would have had to take him to the doctor--if one was in the office being the day after New Year's Day. I wasn't sure how I'd manage that since he can't walk. Can you just picture me, 20 weeks pregnant, trying to carry this man over my shoulders through the parking lot? Ha! I'm no where near that strong. So that's the reason we had to pester God last night. I was desperate to not need a doctor for him!!

And then today I took 6 of the kids to Brownwood to do a little shopping and visit the library. It was so great to get out of the house! I'd been to the grocery store over the last couple weeks, but somehow this was different. Maybe because it was a beautiful sunny day. Maybe because we were blessed with several compliments on our large family and well-behaved children (Joy, the 3 yr old, stayed home). Maybe it was just that I wasn't worried about Roger anymore.

But if anyone reading this wants to pray for us, Roger is still pretty sick. He still has to be in bed which means we have to take care of him. And while most of the kids are feeling better now (Again, Thank You, God!), I have had a sore throat today. I thought it was just dry air and smoke from the nearby grass fires, but I looked at the back of my throat and it's got the same clear little blisters everyone else has had. I can't be sick! I just absolutely cannot. So I could use some prayer. On the bright side, we know my tonsils won't swell because I have none. By the way, that was another sign that Roger was feeling better. He got his sense of humor back this evening. He was telling Faith some story about me being bitter and jealous of all of them because they have tonsils and I don't. Yep. I'm terribly bitter and resentful that I don't have a huge golf ball in the back of my throat making it difficult and painful to swallow. Funny thing is, what they have had is called tonsilitis. So how can I catch it? I guess we just have to call it something else for me. When I was younger and "tonsilitis" was going around, the doctor would tell me I had "pharyngitis." Like they're some real diseases or something rather than just names for symptoms. Oh well.

Another prayer request/worry I've had lately is that my prenatal blood work came back "equivocal" for rubella. Supposedly at the time I had the blood drawn, I had rubella. I am to be re-tested next week. My midwife is wonderful about keeping me calm about this, but with weird things going through the family (some of the kids broke out with a light rash on their faces after being sick) I can't help but worry. Now, I HAD rubella as a child and for the last eight pregnancies my blood test has shown an immunity. So there's probably nothing to worry about. But it is possible to lose that immunity (10% do, but more than that do if they were immunized rather than had the disease fyi) and so I worry. So if you'd like to pray for yet another thing for my family, pray that I remain calm. I prayed about it the other day and felt God was reassuring me that no matter what I will love and enjoy this baby. That's good enough for me, most of the time.

And since I'm asking for prayer, I wanted to share a couple of praises. Isabella is over her mastitis. Stephen and Mitchell have become pretty good at milking, although they are anxious for Roger and Faith to be recovered enough to get back to the job. But they've all gotten good at milking and handling the cow which is a very good thing. Praise God that when Grace left the gate open last night, the cows just hung out together in the stanchion instead of wandering off somewhere like the highway or railroad tracks. Stephen and Mitchell were especially thankful that Sarah did most of the milking for them and it only took a few minutes to finish this morning.

Have a happy and blessed new year!!
Melissa