Archive for December, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. It details the most popular posts, as well as how many countries were home to visitors of this blog, among other things.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


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I managed to read sixty-three books this year, for a cumulative 15,920 pages. It’s a bit shy of the 19,652 pages that I managed to read in 2012, but when I take into consideration that my younger son was born exactly a year ago (happy birthday, Squishy!), I think that’s a pretty decent amount, don’t you? My goal for the year was sixty, so I surpassed that… in fact, I just realized that I read sixty-three books in 2012, too.

Huh. That’s a little obscure.

Anyway. I’m thinking I’ll set the bar a little higher this next year… say, seventy-five books? Or 20,000 pages. Maybe I’ll set the bar with pages, instead, since I’ve still got that unread, unabridged copy of Les Miserables sitting on my shelf. Eh-heh. I digress. On to the list!

Grace Based
Parenting by Tim Kimmel
My copy bears a ridiculous amount of underlining and highlighting. (Yes, I’m one of those people.) I loved this book. Loved it. In fact, I’m getting ready to re-read it (as well as Give Them Grace, another book on the topic that I purchased a year ago). Kimmel discusses the most common “road maps” that we follow as parents: fear-based parenting, evangelical behavior-modification parenting, image-control parenting, high-control parenting, herd-mentality parenting, duct-tape parenting, and life support of 911 parenting. He breaks each of these down and then moves on to outline grace-based parenting.

Grace certainly has its share of enemies. There are those enemies who want to camp on the truth of the Bible and say that life is black and white with little nuance. Parents like Tom assume that to show grace is to go soft on moral standards. They get a lot of fuel for this skewed opinion of grace from the parents who use grace  as their excuse for not enforcing rules. A family without clearly defined rules and standards could never be a grace-based family. It’s too busy being a nightmare to live in.
-p. 34

Grace often contradicts parenting plans that want to distill roles down into checklists. Grace-based parenting is a heart-activated plan that takes its cues from a daily walk with Jesus Christ. Because of this, grace and strict parenting textbooks will never find themselves in agreement.
– p. 101

I’m sitting here thumbing through the book, trying to figure out which highlighted and underlined sections to share with you, but if I listed all of the parts that inspired me or struck my heart, well… I’d have half of the book transcribed, and that wouldn’t do the author any favors. 😉

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
This one was fascinating. It’s a partially-fictional memoir, if such a thing were to exist. The author has taken the story and memories of her eccentric grandmother and brought them to life on the page. Floods, the Great Depression, ranching, teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, living in the city … her life encompasses many circles and many adventures, and the book is filled with little tidbits about historical life. For example, did you know that they specifically didn’t wash their Levis, because over time they would develop a coating of dirt, oil, and other, ah, miscellaneous things, that served to protect the wearer? Basically, they were Carhartts before there were Carhartts. 😉 If you like history and lives lived with grit, I recommend Half Broke Horses.

The Moonlit Mind: A Tale of
Suspense by Dean Koontz
I read this one on my mother’s Kindle shortly after my younger son was born, and I’m going to have to chalk it up as one of Koontz’ best works, right up there with The Taking and Odd Thomas. I was disappointed by Odd Apocalypse, the most recent installment in the Odd Thomas series, but this little tale served to restore my faith in Koontz and his writing ability.

Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues by Lindsey Biel, MA, OTR/L, and Nancy Peske
I mentioned this book in my introduction to sensory processing post, so I won’t discuss it too deeply here, but suffice to say that this is the book that finally confirmed those niggling suspicions in the back of my mind for me, and pushed me to have him evaluated for a speech delay and sensory processing concerns.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci/neurology, MMedSci/nutrition
After hearing anecdote after anecdote from acquaintances online about how the GAPS diet helped their (or their child’s) IBS / food allergies / chronic fatigue / eczema / autism / allergies / sensory issues / et cetera, I finally got around to ordering the book this autumn. Having been told upon a diagnosis of non-celiac gluten intolerance that it’s genetic and will never go away, I was intrigued that I might one day be able to consume gluten without giving myself migraines and gastrointestinal upset. I’m looking forward to incorporating it into our lives once we are settled into our new home, and seeing if it helps heal our food intolerances and lessen my son’s sensory processing issues. I will keep you posted, but I am optimistic.

Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation by Sharon Astyk
I read Sharon’s blog, so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of this book from my local library system. She touches on how to start storing food on a very negligible budget, what the different ways of storing food are (think beyond the freezer and canner!), capturing water, medicines in emergencies, and more.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that in her section on “special diets,” the only consideration she really gives is that of pregnant women and infants, which is a little short-sighted in my opinion. But then, I have food intolerances, and my body has already proven to me that if I were to try to subsist on a diet of stored wheat, I’d be wasting away in no time. So there’s that. But, a lot of what she has to say could be utilized for gluten-free grains and other foods that are naturally free of gluten as well, so I suppose it’s not as big of a deal as it could be. Perspective comes in handy.

I especially love the portion where she discusses the “theory of anyway” … the idea that even if particular issues (such as peak oil or climate change) are resolved (or if you’re like me and don’t believe in man-made climate change, or are still slightly skeptical on the peak oil front), there are still plenty of good reasons to think about food storage and living sustainably, because there are other problems. And if we fixed those problems, it’s still a good idea because of <insert the next step here> and so on and so forth, all boiling down to this:

… if you told me that … I didn’t have to worry anymore, would I then stop gardening?

No. Nurturing and preserving my small slice of the planet would still be the right thing to do. Doing things with no more waste than is absolutely necessary woudl still be the right thing to do. The creation of a fertile, sustainable, lasting place of beauty would still be my right work in the world. I would still be a Jew, obligated by my faith, to “the repair of the world.” I would still be obligated to live in a way that prevented wildlife from being run to extinction and poisons from contaminating the earth. I would still be obligated to reduce my needs so they represent a fair share of what the earth has to offer. I would still be obligated to treat poor people as my brothers and sisters, and you do not live comfortably when your siblings suffer. I am obligated to live rightly, in part because of what living rightly gives me – integrity, honor, joy, a better relationship with my deity of choice, peace.
– p. 16

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers
by Harvey Ussery
The man basically takes the pasture-based approach of Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profit$and scales it down for the backyard. That sounds simple, but it’s truly a beautiful piece of homestead literature. He discusses rotational “grazing,” getting creative with mixing and/or growing your own feed, breeding your poultry, basic care, butchering, deep-litter management, starting your flock, and so much more. This book would be worth the price for the appendices alone, where he offers photographs and step-by-step directions for building things like dust boxes, trap nests, and mobile frames, as well as nutritional information and enormous lists of resources. If you only get one book on poultry, make it this one. (I plan to.)

How about you? What were your top books of 2013? Do you have any books you’d like to recommend to me for 2014? Let me know in the comments!

Also linked up to Semicolon Blog’s Saturday Review of Books.

Want to know what I’m looking forward to reading in the New Year? Well, I can help you out with that.

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Well, there is at least one bright spot in healthcare “reform,” and that’s the number of new members in Samaritan Ministries, a healthcare sharing group that our family has been members of since May 2011. Members of Samaritan are exempt from the requirement to partake of health insurance or pay the penalty, and with the loss of previous coverage and/or rising costs for many families, many are turning to Samaritan to take the place of “traditional” health insurance.

I just received the following graph in an e-mail update from the office:


I would say that’s a bit of a growth compared to last year’s monthly increases in membership!

So, what’s the cost? Well, the current monthly share is $165 for singles, $315 for couples, $230 for a single-parent family, and $370 for a two-parent family. The cost is discounted when one or both of the heads of household are ages 25 or under, which brings the cost down to $125 for singles, $235 for couples, $180 for a single-parent family, and $320 for a two-parent family.

Like I said, we’ve been members since May 2011, and it has been a real blessing for us. The cost is lower than the insurance plan that was available to us through my husband’s place of employment, and we’ve found that much more ends up covered when all is said and done. For example, when we were on my husband’s insurance, we ended up with $2k+ out of pocket after insurance for my older son’s birth and delivery, whereas with our younger son, we ended up paying … $0. Yes, you read that right. Maternity needs are no different than other medical needs through Samaritan; you are responsible for the initial $300, but any discounts to your bill are applied first to the $300, then to the remaining bill. Through a combination of being labeled ‘self-pay’ patients (as all Samaritan members are), as well as being a single-income family, we received a discount on our prenatal and delivery that was greater than $300. This meant that we paid nothing out of pocket for the pregnancy and delivery of our younger son. What a blessing, compared to what we were left with even with insurance when our first son was born.

Want to know more about what’s covered and how to become a member? You can download an information packet, or visit the rest of their website to learn more about their accountability, endorsements, history, and more.

Just one more thing … when you refer new members, you can receive a one-time referral discount on your monthly share, but only if the new member mentions that you referred them! If you decide to pursue membership with Samaritan Ministries, would you mind mentioning that member #34517 sent you their way? Thank you!

So how about you? Are you considering membership with Samaritan, and have questions about our experience? Are you already a member, and want to share about the blessings it has provided? Please feel free to ask questions and share stories in the comments under this post. I’ll do my best to answer them!

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I’m sure a few parents out there can relate…

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A good reminder for us “crunchy folk” during the Christmas season is that Real Food Is NOT A Savior (GNOWFGLINS). A short but thought-provoking post from one of my favorite “real food” websites. (Have you seen her recipe database? I’m drooling just thinking about it.)

The 38 Most Haunting Abandoned Places on Earth (Distractify) has some beautiful images of man-made structures around the world that have been abandoned. I was familiar with Pripyat, the city that was abandoned after the Chernobyl debacle, having read the book Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places and watched the History Channel special Life After People (History Channel). There were many other places of intrigue, though, such as the abandoned diamond mine in Siberia, an overgrown section of the Great Wall of China, and an abandoned mental hospital.

How Y’All, Youse, and You Guys Talk (NY Times) was simply fascinating; answer a variety of questions about the terms and pronunciations that they use, and they’ll tell you what region of the United States you find your linguistic roots. They managed to pinpoint fairly close to my location; the cities that they mentioned were in western NY, and I’m from central NY, but I suppose to most people that’s a toh-may-to / toh-mah-to question. Which, as a matter of fact, is one word they didn’t involve in their query.

I’d also like to direct you to a special edition of the Saturday Review of Books (Semicolon). This week, instead of a general book review link-up, it’s a link-up for book lists. Best books read in 2013, most anticipated books of 2014, favorite read-alouds, et cetera. I haven’t had a chance to read through it myself, what with new home preparations and Christmas chaos, but I’m looking forward to it!

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Whether you’ve got a restricted diet yourself, or you hosted someone recently who does… I thought you could use a laugh. 🙂

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…that we’re closing on our new home today? That we’re going to be… homeowners? That the time this post is scheduled to go live, we’ll be signing the paperwork?

I wasted an epic amount of time on Tumblr in order to locate the perfect GIFs to communicate how I currently feel about this. In no particular order:




Lather, rinse, repeat.

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