At the end of last week, we got together with our newly formed Orthodox homeschool group.  There are six families with a total of seventeen kids.  (The majority of the kids are my boys’ age.  Some older, some younger but the majority their age.  Although out of the 17 kids, 5 of them are boys.  Of which three of them are mine.  The girls definitely out number the boys!  I’m not used to this.)  😉  Nice size group though and fantastic kids (and parents)!  Between all of us, we attend 3 different parishes in our area.  We are in the process of visiting each other’s parish – just cuz.  Not everyone has seen each other’s church and it also helps to bring us closer as a group.  I like it!

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I wrote a lesson/activity on Secret Agents for Christ and an Orthodox children’s book was released simultaneously called “Special Agents for Christ”.  I immediately ordered it and thought I would use it with the lesson/activity I created for my boys.  After getting it in the mail, that evening I curled up in bed with the book and a cup of tea.  I started reading it and was thinking how I could use it with my boys.  I got to chapter 2 before I put it down and was compelled to look up more about this author.  (This is not a normal thing for me.)  This book was speaking to me and the current needs of my family.  I’ve never had that happen before especially with a children’s book.  I did some searching online and found an author description for Annalisa on Amazon.  Yeah…there are moments in my life where God is not whispering, he’s shouting to make sure I heard him.  This would be one of those times.  Her bio says she has 13 chickens, lives on the same amount of land as I do, her interests are all the books I currently have on my nightstand AND she fostered over 20 children and adopted 3 of them!  It became blatantly obvious why I was connecting to this book so quickly.  I did a little more searching and emailed her.  An instant friendship was born!!!  I’ve been emailing her this past week.  To say I was giddy when I read her response to my initial email – is an understatement.  It was 6:30am, I was smiling (and chuckling with glee), and talking Les’ ear off.  No coffee.  No shower to wake me up.  This is monumental for me at that time of the morning.  I can’t even put to words how thankful I am and know that God has given me exactly what I needed when I needed it most.

I’ve decided, for the time being, that Zach and I are working through the book together.  I’ve been letting him stay up after his brothers go to bed to read it with me.  The difference it has made for Zach is HUGE and a definite blessing!!!  The other night, I brought up an end table that wasn’t being used and put it next to his bed.  We hung his three icons above it (previously they sat on his dresser which is pretty high up) and I placed a prayer book and prayer rope in the drawer for him.  I taught him how to use the prayer rope (similar to a rosary) and he was beaming.  The next morning when I dragged myself out of bed and walked down the hallway to check on the boys, I found that Chris had taken all his stuff off his dresser and arranged his icons nicely on it to copy Zach.  Justin had done the same.  Wow.

Dad did math and reading with the boys while I got to do the “fun” schoolwork.  (In their opinion)

I learned I can preserve our crabapples and decided to try making jelly using a recipe from my book “Forgotten Skills of Cooking”.  I made a small batch the first time around since a) I’ve never made jelly before  b) I wanted to see how it tasted.  I was leery of  how it would turn out especially since, with all things, I tweaked the recipe by using different spices than the author.  But…I was pleasantly surprised. It is probably the best jelly I’ve ever tasted!  Seriously.

The boys were thrilled to FINALLY be allowed to pick the crabapples.  To date, we’ve picked 15 bowls of crabapples and only a third of the tree has been picked.  The thrill is starting to wear off and become a chore.  But…it’s been a fun week doing this together as a family.  We’re contemplating making cider with the rest of them using Les’ beer brewing supplies he hasn’t used…well, in years. Apparently, cider was first made out of crabapples (or wild apples as some call them) and has fallen out of practice.  My guess is because they are so small and you have to pick a lot of them to make anything.

We have 20 small jars of jelly now and I have a feeling some will be making their way into Christmas packages this year.  I have named the jelly:  Autumn Wild Apple Jelly.  And…it’s delicious!

The visual-spatial me adores Pinterest.  Adores.  The above picture is based off of a photo I pinned on Pinterest.  It’s a “pumpkin soup” for chickens that supposedly is a natural de-wormer.  I have no idea if it works or not – according to several blog posts I’ve read, people don’t have problems with worms with their chickens and they attribute it to this soup.  The recipe is essentially yogurt, the pulp of the pumpkin, molasses, lots of raw garlic, and oatmeal.

To say our family is smitten with the chickens is probably an understatement.  We find them fascinating and calming to go and watch them forage, play, and chase each other.  Everyone stopped what they were doing and came to watch the chickens eat their pumpkin soup when I brought it out to them. Smitten.

The results of our first (trial) batch of jelly.  Needless to say, we had PB&J for lunch that day.  Yummy!

For the most part the chickens have not wandered off from the area surrounding their coop.  That all changed yesterday.  Justin had finished his school work so I let him go outside and play by himself.  For whatever reason, because they’ve NEVER done this before, they attached to Justin.  They ran over to him and followed him around the yard for the rest of the time he was out there.  Every time I went on the deck to check on him, they were by his side.  Too funny!  Especially since we stopped letting him pick up chickens because he’s so rough with them.  He was calm as can be with them when he was out there without his brothers.  Interesting.

I scared off the rest of the chickens when I unintentionally slammed the door behind me.  Owl stayed behind though.  My stubborn, stubborn bird.

Then Pratt (who is one of the explorers of the group along with Whitney) decided to venture up to me on the deck.  There were about six birds coming up to greet me.  As soon as Zach came out to see them, they all went back down the stairs.  We’re probably going to regret the birds being comfortable with exploring the whole yard now.  I make sure the boys keep the grass clear of any small things the birds shouldn’t eat.  Justin and I had to pick up under the deck really quick when they came up this close to the house.