Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pepper Love - A Boy & His Dog

Some of you may remember a few years ago the joy our family experienced in being able to bring a dog into our family for Christopher, who had dreamed and hoped to have one since he could say the word "dog". Due to Christopher's pet allergies it was not something we could consider for many years, and because of his simple hope and strong faith we began to work with his (and our) diets and doing as many things as we could to prepare his immune system to be able to handle a dog. For many months we looked at and planned to adopt a greyhound, or another short haired dog. We lived in Moorhead at the time and could not even consider an outside type dog and had a small house, so we needed something small, or at least lazy. God as always, had other plans for us though...

Our very dear friend is a strong animal advocate and volunteers much of her time to the organization "Adopt A Pet". She often fosters various dogs and shares stories with us about her experiences, so my kids would often view the Adopt-A-Pet website to see the animals up for adoption and be able to converse with her about them - but we did not plan to adopt from them. One day, for some reason I cannot recall I decided to take a peak at the site for fun and saw a photo and brief description of a sheltie mix named Pepper, I cannot explain why, but I knew that this dog was THE dog. When these experiences happen to me, I can only attribute them to God's leading.. which this certainly was.

When we learned about Pepper, she sounded like the perfect personality we needed, but what about all that hair... and dander?? When we met her we all agreed she was wonderful and she was perfect, except for..all that hair... and dander? When we had her come stay with us things started off well, but slowly Christopher's allergies began to creep up on him until Mike and I were very concerned that this was not going to work out and that the trial period would be just that...a trial period that would end with a broken hearted little boy, a risk we had been hesitant to take. I remember praying for my little boy, whom I would find sleeping beside his new best friend on the linoleum floor in the kitchen in the middle of the night - he had already come to love her so. How could we take her away after he had waited for so long for her?

We tried it all, special shampoos, sprays, the list was long and none of it very effective. Then my dear friend on a whim ran into a woman who treats animals naturally and also worked with their owners for the very type of problems we were experiencing. We decided to make an appointment. To make a long story short, her work was nothing but miraculous and after a week of treatment Christopher was able to coexist with HIS dog w/o problems and was remarkably improved around other animals for short periods. Pepper was with us to stay, and it was an answer to Christopher's longest, dearest prayer.

Now Pepper has been a member of our family for almost three years and it is hard to imagine life without her. She has become an outside dog since our move to Brainerd and now thinks she's a wolf... continually patrolling our property and scaring the pants off of anyone who dares step foot on our borders (human or animal). She has become a second mother to the children and escorts them on all their bike rides and hikes, making certain they are safe. Her favorite game is Pepper- soccer, in which she is the star and doesn't like to share the ball. Her current naughty habit is "haul the shoes and boots out of the garage & into the yard and hide them from the owner"... we all just love that!??

As for Christopher, I am always proud of him and admire his tender care of her; daily changing her water - 3-4 times in the cold months due to freezing, feeding her happily, checking for and removing ticks, taking time to play with her even in nasty cold weather, and always and forever being her advocate. His loyalty and love for her is paralleled only by hers for him. They are truly... a match made in heaven. God hears the prayers of even the youngest who come to him in faith.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving with My My Knee Immobilizer

November 16th held a most unexpected event for me. It began as any other Friday in which our family gets Mike off to work, then my nephews off on the bus, then the remaining six of us dart off to our homeschool co-op for the day, except this day would be different. During the P.E class in which I am a co-teacher, we are teaching the children the game of volleyball... one of my all-time favorites! Volleyball is MY game and always has been since 8th grade - I was co-captain of my varsity team senior year and was involved in the college program at MSU. I was enjoying focusing on it in the P.E.class for the homeschool group... until that day. It's amazing how everything can change in one simple movement that does not even take up a minute of time in your life, but can affect the rest of your life thereafter. Quite simply, I jumped in the air, I landed on my feet and my knee exploded leaving me to collapse onto the floor feeling intense pain that I had not recalled since i had broken the same leg in 3 places in elementary school decades previously. All pain, not able to see anything but blackness and stars, and feeling nauseated I focused on the deep breathing techniques I have used in labor and taught for years in the childbirth classes Mike & I present. I could do nothing more.. except pray - which I did repeatedly for pain relief and repeatedly that my leg was not broken or seriously damaged. Although people were talking to me, I had great difficulty responding with more than a head nod or shake and then I was alone and in prayer again... suddenly there was a incredibly substantial decrease in the pain and I was able to retain composure and open my eyes and actually see again; what I saw moved my heart and I understood instantly why my pain had so suddenly subsided. I looked upon the entire student group and the teachers halted from the volleyball activities and joined in prayer on my behalf... it is a moment I will not ever forget and a permanent testimony to the power of prayer that will remain in my mind forever.

To make a long story short, I was diagnosed with damaging/tearing my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in the middle back of my knee and put in a knee immobilizer to prevent further damage in the area during healing. This monstrosity was quite something to wear and while probably helping my injured knee, was sure taking it's toll on my good knee and hip due to the fact I had to walk around like Quazimoto.

Now with Thanksgiving soon approaching and me being "Gimpy" as my dear Brainerd friend newly adorned me, with doctor's orders to elevate and ice the owie many times daily, I was wondering how I was going to plan the holiday and cook. I had no choice but to call in.. "the gang". I had them get the best cookbooks off the shelf and we made our menu of regular family favorite food items and then I set them to work finding recipes for the items that we experiment a bit with each year, then we formed the shopping list - this is where Mike came in! We also had fun sitting and making place cards for everyone and reading some holiday stories and poems.

Thanksgiving day turned out to be very lovely. I had plenty of help in the kitchen, and with the cleaning; then we had a quiet day together which included a short Thanksgiving worship service here at home after our delicious feast! In the evening we broke out the Christmas movie collection and got off to a good start viewing favorites.

Interestingly, during the week leading up to Thanksgiving in our evening family worship time I came across something I was reading to the kids that struck me as quite profound. Ann Hibbard in her book Family Celebrations: Meeting Christ in Your Holidays and Special Occasions says the following: "Yet we don't always feel thankful.... When hardship comes, the natural reaction is one of anger, resentment, and complaining. Thanksgiving seems absurd at such a time. God's word, however does not command us to feel thankful, rather to give thanks. Thanksgiving is something one can do, whether one feels like it or not. It is a discipline, like prayer. Someone once said 'Pray when you feel like it, pray when you don't feel like it, and pray until you feel like it.' The same can be said about thanksgiving. It is an act of will, a recognition of God's goodness and provision in our lives. Thanksgiving is to take place in our solitary prayer, in corporate worship, in casual conversation, and in our thought life as we go about our day. Emotions sometimes accompany thanksgiving. More often they follow the act of giving thanks. Many times the feelings simply are not there at all - the business of giving thanks is a mere act of obedience, nothing more, nothing less."
I found that this passage hit me over the head like a 2'x4' because it had been that very day that I had been at the doctor, received the knee brace, and was told that surgery was probably necessary if I wished to play sports or be active again with my children... or quite simply, be able to do anything where I needed to jump. My half hour drive home from the clinic was one of many emotions - not very many thankful ones (but a few). That night when further contemplating what I had read, I realized that once again God was forcing me to have a stopover. I simply had not been doing it enough (or ever) on my own - so here I was physically forced to. What required my full attention so much? Many things, but mostly, just me I think. In all my years of sports and lifetime of physical activeness I had never sustained an injury until now... was it because I am just getting old (that nasty b-day creeping up again in December ya know) or was there something more to it?

My knee continues to heal and I abandoned the knee immobilizer early before I crippled my good leg... but the doctor forgave me! I have more appointments set up for MRI's, evaluations and physical therapy. I continue to be "Gimpy" and have discomfort, but I continue to try to find reasons to thank God for this situation and pray for his healing hand on me and guidance in the choices that lie before me.

Amick Thanksgiving Menu

Vegetarian Turkey Slices in Vegan Gravy
Mashed Potatoes with Vegan Chicken Gravy
Sue's Super Stuffing (adapted from Grandma Julie's recipe)
Fruited Wild Rice Salad
Spiced Sweet Potato & Sliced Tart Apple Bake
Herbed Bread
Cranberry Relish (our Amick family recipe tradition)
Sparkling Pomegranate Juice
Egg Nog Pumpkin Pie (Sue's recipe)
Pecan Pie (Grandma Helen's secret blue ribbon prize winning recipe)
Homemade Whipped Topping

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Peek-A-Boo in the Woods

A Blessing for the Woods
by Michael S. Glaser

Before I leave, almost without noticing, before I cross the road and head toward what I have intentionally postponed—
Let me stop to say a blessing for these woods: for crows barking and squirrels scampering, for trees and fungus and multi-colored leaves,
for the way sunlight laces with shadows through each branch and leaf of tree, for these paths that take me in, for these paths that lead me out.
Autumn Apple Tree
by: Christopher
Twice a year we
Reap your
Everlasting harvest and
Enjoy it.

Wonderful Tree
by: Gabriella
Tree, Tree
Wonderful Tree,
I like You.

Tree Songs

by: Elliot

Tap - Tap says the woodpecker in the tree

Robins sing beautiful songs

Everyday, every night
Every bird tries to do their best to make the world bright.
Contemplating Trees
by: Susan
Tickling me as sunlight glits through your leaves and branches
Rewarding me with the fruits of your labor
Every season endured, yet continuing to grow strong
Elevating me to remember your creator and mine.

Visiting the Local Fire Station by Gabriella

In October Dad took us to the fire station and we had a lot of fun! We got balloons and we got to spray the big fire house, and go inside a large fire truck. It was too bad that Mom and MJ had to stay home because MJ was sick.

I learned that when you hear a fire or see smoke you should only roll on the floor and touch the door and if it is hot, open the window and jump out and you and your family should meet at the end of the driveway.

I learned firefighters wear a big red suit, boots, oxygen mask, and big hat, and they use a huge hose to spray the house until the fire is out. They need the fire truck because the hose is hooked onto it and a long, long ladder to climb on to rescue people.

My favorite part of the visit was spraying the fire hose!

Homeschool Fieldtrip to the Science Museum - A Day in Pompeii - told by Elliot

Near the end of September our entire family went to the Science Museum in Minneapolis for a fieldtrip. We went there because we will be studying Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome in our homeschool this year and the main exhibit on display at the museum was A Day in Pompeii along with an omnitheater film on Greece.
We began the day with the film about Greece. There is a huge, huge theater in the museum that is bigger than a regular movie theater, this is where we saw the film. It was all about Greece and how they found the homes and remains of people from ancient times. The movie had many images of volcanoes erupting. Being in this theater is kind of strange at first because it seems like you are moving when you are not because the screen is so big.
Next we went to the Pompeii exhibit where we saw a whole bunch old, old dishes, coins with pictures of ancient leaders from Greece and Rome, & a huge balance they used for weighing things at the market. There were loaves of bread, olives and other food that had been preserved in the ruins. There was a movie you could watch about life in Pompeii and how the volcano erupted. At the very end there were body casts of humans and animals that were discovered. Before going to the exhibit, we watched a movie at home on Pompeii and we were able to see some of the casts that we saw in the movie. Lastly we looked at a display about the different volcanoes in the world today and where they are located on the world map.

Before leaving the museum, we took Paster Hiner (a friend who met us there), and Justin, MJ, and Fawn to see some of our favorite things in the rest of the museum, including the dinosaur area, the tugboat, the giant fish scale and more.

After we left the science museum we went with Pastor Hiner to a really good pizza place that even had vegan pizza with vegan cheese. We were sure to try the Greek pizza (to keep with the theme of the day), as well as a BBQ, a vegan cheese w/olives, and another one I can't remember!

A Modern Day Saint Nick Story by Christopher

The following is a story Christopher wrote for his writing class. It was a lesson on how to create a story from a set of three minimally sketched drawings. The pictures he had to work with were 1) A person snorkeling in water, 2) A law officer beckoning the person towards him, and 3) The officer leading the person away in the background of the drawing with a water fountain in the foreground. He came up with the following story to turn in, and for fun we searched the Internet for pictures to post here to accompany it... we came up with some very interesting images indeed... but decided to use the one you see here.

A Modern Day Saint Nick
by Christopher Amick

One night in New York City, an Italian man named Giovanni was snorkeling in a public fountain because he was stealing coins that people had tossed in. He happened to look up and saw a police officer beckoning to him with one hand, and with the other he held a pistol pointed directly at him! Hopelessly Giovanni just stared at the officer dumbfoundedly until the law enforcer fired his pistol causing a bullet to zip by just two tiny inches from his face! It was so alarmingly close that it actually hit his snorkel tube causing Giovanni to to have water fill his mouth. Energetically he spat his water in the policeman's face. Giovanni was confused; he could not figure what he had done wrong since he swam in the fountains in Italy often.

The angry officer kept his gun raised while Giovanni asked his pardon, but before he could do anything else the officer had him by the scruff of his neck and was dragging him along when suddenly Giovanni howled "Wait! I need my hat!" Then he quickly snatched up a Santa Claus hat that was lying beside the fountain. Next the law man put Giovanni in the back of his car and drove him off to police headquarters. Upon arrival he was taken to a room to be searched - even though he was only wearing swimming trunks?????? They discovered coins from the fountain hidden in his speedos (which had a secret hip pocket sewn into them)! After this he was taken to jail until the time of his trial, sadly his orange prisoner suit did not match his Santa hat.

A few weeks later at his trial he explained that each year on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) he honors the memory of this special man by placing gold coins in the shoes of poor children just as St. Nicholas had done. Since he was from Italy and only had coins from there, he realized at the last minute they'd be useless to American children, so he desperately began trying to gather American coins. Noticing the fountain and all that it held he decided to collect them to distribute. The judge was so deeply touched by the man's kind intentions that he set him free from bondage to follow in the footsteps of the great Saint Nick.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Painting Nudes or Painting in the Nude?

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
--Pablo Picasso
Tonight we whipped up the paint and the kids began a holiday gift project for special loved ones. They were painting a wooden family tree photo frame into which we will place an assortment of the photos we took on our official family photo shoot back in October. Since we did not have paint shirts for all involved it was time to just strip down and follow-up with baths and showers for those who needed it.

All the kids enjoyed the activity, but I'd have to say Ruby did most of all. This little girl just loves to paint and will do so for very lengthy amounts of time. There is not a week that passes when someone from homeschool co-op does not approach me and share with me how amazed they are with her artistic tendencies as well as her attention to detail and level of focus/patience during her classes. Ahh, the wonder child? Future Artist? Who knows.. but she sure does love it!

This evening, even though she had painted her entire tree completely (ALONE and better than several of the other kids) she continued to paint and touch-up for another 30 minutes after the rest of the kids were long gone from the scene. We finally had to drag her away for Pj's & storytime. Below is a short video of Ruby during this evening's family project... enjoy.

Here is a video of: Ruby The Artist!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Amick "Nog" Creation

Are you an egg nog fan? I most certainly am, and Mike and I have a history of nog drinks being a part of our relationship since our first year of dating. It all began when my roommate and I were hosting a Christmas party for friends and co-workers and coming up with a menu. Mike and I decided to try our hand at making homemade egg nog (w/o the alcohol) and it turned out so yummy and was such a hit that a tradition was born!

For several years we used that traditional recipe that took over a dozen eggs, and all the other usual ingredients with some rum flavoring, and it continued to be enjoyed at the yearly holiday parties and gatherings that we regularly took huge batches of it too.

As years passed, and children came along, we weren't so interested in giving our kids a drink so full of raw eggs so we began buying some of the egg nogs sold at the store. These were okay and the kids enjoyed them as part of winter traditions. Soon, with the elimination of milk from our diets, we converted to the Silk brand "Soy Nog" which we have been enjoying for the past several years; but yet, Mike and I were still mourning our original nog recipe that was far superior to anything store bought.

In October I accidentally created a recipe that has revolutionized our family's "Nog Experience". It has become such a favorite with ALL SEVEN CHILDREN, as well as Mike & I that we felt we must share it in case any of you are searching for a more satisfying, delicious, and healthy nog option that will knock your socks off! I have been told it is "THE BEST NOG" that any of them have ever had AND they request it several times a week for dessert, therefore I gladly make it... when you see the ingredients you'll know why!

It began when one day I cooked up a big batch of butternut squash and then decided not to serve it with the meal, so needed to find a use for it the next day. Somehow a smoothie recipe popped into my mind that I had made over a year ago that called for sweet potatoes and I thought I would find the recipe and see what I could possibly do with the squash instead. When I looked over the recipe I decided to give it a try and make a few changes - and of course since I was preparing enough for 9 people, I do not measure and just dump and add stuff until I think it tastes good. When I did this, what I created was incredibly different from what we originally had the year prior, and to my astonishment it tasted like... egg nog!??? I said nothing about the ingredients and served it up to see what kind of response I might get from the gang, (I did not even mention that I thought it tasted like egg nog). The feedback I received was one of overwhelming delight. Everyone loved it (Mike too) and declared it the "Best nog ever!"

We continue to make it and they do not grow tired of it... maybe we'll try it out on guests during the holidays to see how others may like it. I also shared it with my childbirth students who were struggling to get their orange veggies into their diets. This is a fabulously healthy, yet super yummy concoction. Don't be put off by the ingredients... the final product is surprising!

Below is the original recipe, accompanied by my changes. I do not follow the measurements and add way more squash than called for. I also add more ice when I want to make it cold and frosty (the best!). Throw it all in your vita-mix or blender and enjoy! Make it your desired thickness.

Amick Nog

1 medium sweet potato, cooked peeled, and cooled (I have used butternut or delacata squash thus far, but plan to experiment with pumpkin and sweet potatoes)

1/2 cup milk (I use Silk brand Soymilk with DHA added)

1 banana (I use FROZEN bananas)

1/2 -1 apple (core removed)

1/8 tsp nutmeg (I use freshly ground or good quality pre-ground, and add extra to taste)

1 Tbs honey or other sweetener to taste (I use raw honey)

1 tsp Vanilla extract

2 cups ice cubes

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Christopher's Report on Cephalopods (If You Don't Know What They Are - You'd Better Read it!)

What Makes Cephalopods Unique?
By: Christopher Amick

Octupi, squids, cuttlefish, and nautiluses... these are the creatures who make up the species known as cephalopods. Amazingly cephalopods can quickly change their color, texture and shape, as well as defend themselves using ink that their bodies create,or by squeezing through minuscule spaces! They have three hearts and blue blood making them very different from other species such as mammals. Zipping along the ocean floor they can propel themselves at a tremendous speed! Regarding location, cephalopods can live in all oceans, no matter how yawning, or in any temperature of water. Cephalopods are more intelligent than their variety of cousins the oysters, clams, and garden slugs; yet their senses rival ours. Many sagas and epics have been inspired because of cephalopods since recorded history, including the classic story 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea which stars a giant squid. Cephalopods are indeed a unique group of creatures.

The year has turned its circle, The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in and chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures, The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway- Thanksgiving comes again!

I cannot believe we are already this far into November! The days pass by so quickly as an adult, unlike childhood when time seemed to crawl along at a painstakingly miserable pace.

The calender has been filled with classes, teacher conferences, appointments and events. Last weekend we took in the fall festival at our church and happily returned home cake walk winners (we sorta loaded the wheel up with all of us - how could we not win?) as well as the owners of many prizes. Mike was in Utah on a business trip for several days, therefore missing this fun, but thankfully arrived home safe and sound with many funny stories to share... including seeing entertainment such as "The Dancing Grannies" and "The Cowboy Poet" - entertainment meant to be taken seriously, but was actually hilarious.. if you know what I mean?

Looking ahead to the Thanksgiving meal.... what to make? We'll be having Mike's mom join us which will be nice. We haven't seen her for some time now.

I am so looking forward to the end of November this year because we will be on break from teaching childbirth classes and from our homeschool co-op until January. This will free up two days of our week for the month of December... Yippee!

Well... on to the school work.