The Robert's family had a great time in our yard last night! We dug up potatoes and picked strawberries, tomatoes, peaches, and apples.

I learned about planting potatoes in barrels from my friend "Grace" over at www.lifeunderablueroof.blogspot.com. We planted the potatoes in early May and added layers of dirt as the plants grew. Once the barrels were full, we just let them sit and grow.... it was probably the easiest thing I have ever grown in our garden. So, yesterd ay we pulled the dead plants out and started sifting through the dirt for potatoes. IT WAS FUN!!! I felt like we were searching for burried treasures! Elijah LOVED playing in the dirt and every time he saw a potato he would shout "another one" and then take it and put it in our bucket. We did 3 barrels of potatoes (russet, yukon gold, and banana potatoes). We got about 15-20 potatoes out of each barrell. I need to find more barrels for next year because the potatoes should keep for a while. I loved that we got to harvest our potatoes together as a family... I would like this to become one of our family traditions. When Eli is a grown-up I would love for him to tell his kids about picking potatoes with his mom and dad. We are going to eat some of our potatoes for dinner tonight so I will let you know how they are.

We also discovered a peach tree next to our garden. It is a curious thing.... in June I saw these little round fuzzy green things growing on a "bush" in our woods and I commented that it looked like peaches but it couldn't be peaches because peaches grow on trees. Well, it turns out that it is a peach tree but it is covered in grapevines and other overgrown trees so it isn't growing very well. We are going to clear out around it so that it will grow. The peaches are small and spotted but I am going to use them to make peach jam. Very fun!

Our apple tree also has huge trees growing around it so it is not thriving either. We are going to clear out around it also. We did get about 8 apples off of it and they are good! I picked Eli up to pick an apple and he picked it, took a bite, and said "yummy mama". He then ate the entire thing (really.... the entire thing... core, seeds, everything.... oops!)

I can not fully express how much I love where we live and I love that my son will grow up knowing where his food comes from and being an active participant in growing it! Sure, it is educational but we also really had alot of fun together last night!

We put the cold frame in the garden last night and will be planting lettuce in it for a November harvest. I am excited to see if it works, I have never tried this before. I'll let you know!



Well, it has been quite a while since I last posted. Actually, my last blog was the week before summer staff training started. So much has happened since then, here are some of the highlights:

We had a wonderful summer at Lutherlyn. The staff did an excellent job and our camper numbers were up from last year (yeaaaaa)! Summer at camp is a TON of work for me but I absolutely love it! I love training the staff and then watching them make a difference in the lives of their campers. I love watching the staff grow in their own faith and maturity. I love seeing campers grow as they come back year after year. I love the noise of lots of happy kids running around camp. I love running around with Elijah as he enjoys the excitement of camp. I love being outside for much of the day. There are so many things that I love about summer at Lutherlyn. It is always hard when it all ends. I feel a little bit of relief from the fast-pace and "urgency" of everything that needs to be done in the summer but, mostly, I feel sad that everyone is gone.

My baby boy turned 2 on August 1st. I can't believe it! Elijah melts my heart on a daily basis.... he is hillarious and tons of fun! Eli loves summer at camp too. When he sees kids playing a game in the field he runs towards them while repeating; "play, play, play, play". Ocasionally he joins in but usually we do our best to simulate that game right next to where the kids are playing so he doesn't ruin their game. Frisbee and camoflage where his favorites this summer. He often runs behind a tree and starts counting. He has also mastered "hands-up, mouth-closed". When somone puts their hand up in the dining hall for everyone to get quiet, Eli puts his hand up too and waits for the announcement. He loves singing graces too (the superman grace and Johnny Appleseed are his favorites). Elijah loves the summer staff and the campers... when we got home from vacation he noticed that they were all gone... that made me even more sad.

Another big change for Elijah is that Jon (Eli's "manny" for the last year) left in the beginning of August. Jon is going to seminary to be a Lutheran pastor. We miss him alot. At least once a day Eli asks me "Where Jon?" We are going to visit Jon and Laura this coming weekend. Erica started watching Eli last week and she is wonderful! Eli has not fussed at all with this transition and he is having a great time with Erica. Jeff and I are so happy to have these wonderful people spend time with our son and become a part of his life. It is so hard when the come and go but we think it is great for Elijah to develop these relationships with other Christian adults who care for him.

The day after summer camp ended we hopped on a plane and flew to Flordia where we boarded the "Disney Wonder" for a 5 night cruise of the Bahamas. PARADISE!!!! We all loved the cruise! It was very relaxing and there was tons for all three of us to do. Elijah LOVED the Disney characters and gave lots of hugs to Mickey and Goofy. We saw shows, Eli saw his first movie in a movie theater (there is a movie theater right on the ship... we saw Toy Story 3.... I cried), we played at the pool, I got a pedicure, Jeff got a massage, we all played in the sand and the water on Castaway Cay (Disney's private island), we had great food. It was a wonderful vacation! There was even an awesome nursery that Eli spent 2 hours a day at. Eli LOVED playing there with the excellent staff and Jeff and I got to spend 2 hours each day together! We also went to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot for 2 days after the cruise. I wouldn't call that relaxing but it sure was fun! Elijah loved the parks and did great the whole time! We were very lucky, we never waited in a line for more than 10 minutes. It was a great vacation!

I wrote a bit about my garden back in the spring. It has been somewhat successful and somewhat frustrating. We enjoyed some squash and zucchini (before the groundhog ate the leaves and killed the plants), lots of tomatoes, 3 peppers, some strawberries, basil, and oregano. Watermellon are still growing, potatoes are ready to harvest, and we planted lettuce late so it should be ready late-September. The groundhog and/or rabbit(s) ate all of my broccoli, beans, peppers (except for the 1 plant that I had growing in a pot), eggplant, cucumbers, and asparagus. We had a suicidal groundhog living in our yard this year... he must have got into our garden one day and couldn't find his way out. He somehow managed to chew through the fence but while climbing out through the hole that he chewed in the fence he slit his throat on the chicken wire. We found the dead groundhog in our yard. Should I feel bad about that?

I am most excited to harvest our potatoes. We grew them in barrels this year after learning about this technique from a friend. I will post the results later this week, hopefully we will start to dig them up this evening. I am also starting to dry herbs for the rest of the year in my dehydrator. I will dry enough basil, oregano, and dill to last until next summer.

Some of you may remember the "real food challenge" from March that I wrote alot about. I have to admit, it was very difficult for me to keep up with it over the summer (we eat most of our meals in the dining hall at camp). So, I am getting back on track with that. I was really hoping to grow enough veggies to can and freeze for the winter but that didn't work out like I had planned so I have been buying veggies from local farmers and freezing them for the winter. Corn and green beans are what I am freezing this week. We are also getting ready to order a local, chemical/hormone-free, grass-fed cow to split with some friends and freeze for the winter. The rest of it is just getting back in the habit of doing the things I was doing in the spring. I am dehydrating apples right now (our favorite snack), I just got the stuff I needed to make granola and yogurt, I have been making our bread since we got back from vacation, and we have been trying to eat "in season" so our food is fresh and recently/locally picked. Baby-steps. Elijah has not been eating well since we got home from vacation, I think he needs to get back in the habit of eating at home too. He has been very picky and wants to live off of fruit, cheese, and bread. The fruit and cheese part isn't terrible but he is refusing veggies (even the things that were his favorites over the summer). We are working on that.

In the midst of all of the chaos and craziness of the summer, we managed to see all of our immediate family (each of our siblings, nieces, nephew, and parents) over the summer, most of my extended family, and all of our God Children also. We had a great family reunion at camp with my mom's siblings and their families.

Jeff, Eli, and I squeezed in lots of family fun too. We have been to Idlewild Park, Soak Zone, the Zoo, Living Treasures, a Pirates Game, the Big Butler Fair, Moraine State Park, lots of trips to the playground, and tons of fun running around outside!

As you can see, we have been busy. I love summer but I also welcome the slower pace of fall. It is nice to settle back into a routine and spend more time with Jeff and Eli and less time at work. Thanks for checking in with us! I hope to have a potato post coming soon!


22 Months!!

Hard to believe that Elijah is 22 months old already! We have had a very eventful month! Some of our highlights:

* Early in May Eli's friend Cassandra spent the night with us and we went to the Animal park. We all had a great time!
* Elijah hiked in Lutherlyn's hike-a-thon early in the month. He raised over $300 for the campership fund and he LOVED hiking around camp (it was more like running... we did over 1 mile and he never slowed down).
* Eli has started to sing. His favorites include "This little light of mine", "Elmo's Song", "Ring around the Rosies", "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", and "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes".
* Aunt Rita, Uncle Dan, and cousin Antonio are visiting! Rita and Antonio are staying with us for 2 weeks and Dan is around on the weekends (between work conferences). Antonio is just 2 weeks younger that Elijah so it is so exciting to have them here! They live in Budapest so we don't get to see them very often. About 3 days after they arrived, Antonio and Eli were hugging and kissing each other. They are so cute! Aunt Rita taught Eli an Italian song and Elijah LOVES it! Antonio walks around the house singing "Happy Birthday". We are really enjoying our time together.
* We visited the zoo and Elijah LOVES the fish. For 3 days now he keeps saying "fishy, shark, penguin, ZOOOOOOO".
* The whole Roberts family was here for a picnic over Memorial Day weekend. We all had a great time. It was so much fun to have all 4 cousins together! Elijah and Antonio loved playing with Emily and Sarah.
* Jon has done an awesome job working with Eli and teaching him to clean up. Eli sings a little "clean-up" song and helps put his toys away.

Those are the big events of our month. Elijah continues to talk and understand more and more. He is so much fun! Summer Staff training starts this Sunday so all of Eli's staff friends will arrive shortly.

We hope you are all doing well. Take care!
Deb, Jeff, and Elijah


Garden Started!!!

Our garden is well on it's way! I have been thinking about our garden for awhile now; trying to plan it all out so that we get most of our veggies after summer camp is over (since we eat in the dining hall most of the summer). The thing that I was not particularly excited about was cleaning out all of the weeds and crap that accumulated in the garden since last fall. Well, my WONDERFUL dad, who retired recently, came to our house twice and did a TON of work! The garden is now all dug up, weeds gone, nice dirt mounds, and rocks raked out. Jeff and I got the first row of garden cloth down on Monday night and I got some things planted this evening. I am hoping to finish the garden cloth tomorrow night after Eli goes to bed. I have to say, gardening is much more fun and relaxing when the really hard work is already done! THANK YOU DAD!!! My hope is that we will be able to eat from the garden in the late summer and early fall and that I will be able to freeze and can enough that we have good veggies through the winter.
My next garden project is potatoes in barrels. I first read about this from my friend over at Life Under a Blue Roof and I was curious and interested. I started looking through our garage to see if we had anything that I could use for the potatoes. It turns out that camp had some of the same blue barrels that "Grace" used for hers. So, I have those and will be working on that next. Photos to come when I get that project going.... time is limited, I can usually get about 60-90 minutes in the garden after Eli goes to bed. So, things are started! I will keep you posted!


21 months old!

Hello Friends!

Elijah is 21 months old today! He is doing great! He is growing so fast and learning do much! Highlight of our month:

- Easter was wonderful! My dad came home from the hospital on Good Friday and Dawn flew home for the long weekend. WE enjoyed a nice relaxing family weekend together. Eli was not very interested in his Easter Basket or Easter eggs but he loved just running around the yard.

- We went to Erie last weekend for a long weekend away together. We had a great time and Elijah did wonderfully! For the first time in his life he slept through the night ALL THREE NIGHTS in his Pack & Play. He has always been a great sleeper at home but not so great anywhere else. We were so happy and it really alleviated alot of stress that I usually feel when we are away because of the constant fear of not getting a good night sleep. We went to the zoo, the Children's Museum, Presque Isle, swam at the hotel pool, ate out, shopped, and visited Pymatuning to feed the fish on the way home. We all loved being away together!

- Elijah is now "binky free"! He has napped without it for the last week and this is his second night without it. I really thought it would be a difficult battle but he didn't fuss at all. We did our regular bedtime routine, just without the binky. He asked for it, we said no and put him in his crib. He fell asleep just like any other night... no tears or anything. YEA!

- Elijah is talking a ton! It is so cool to hear what he has to say! He counts to 5 (although he skips 4 sometime). We have a "Letter Factory" DVD with songs about the sounds that letters make. It came with flashcards with pictures of each letter. When we hold them up, for about 1/2 of them, he makes the correct sound for that letter. Jeff and I are completely shocked! He has only watched the DVD 4 or 5 times in the last 2 weeks. I can't believe how much he remembers.

- We are working on the meaning of and appropriate response to the words "no" and "stop". It is pretty clear that he knows what those words mean because he looks up, smiles, and then goes ahead and does what we told him not to do. He has had quite a few time-outs. He is very independent and, when he is in a familiar place, he isn't very good at listening. We "tested" him at camp this past week. We told him to walk with us, then we just started walking. We were really hoping that eventually he would follow us. He didn't. He totally outwitted us. We walked one way and he walked the other until we chickened out and ran to get him. I am happy that he is comfortable at camp but I really wish he would notice and care that he is getting farther and farther away from us.

- Eli will be hiking in the Hike-a-Thon at Lutherlyn tomorrow! I will have pictures next month. He has raised almost $300 for the campership fund! Thank you to everyone who has sponsored him.

We hope you are all doing well! Take care!

Deb, Jeff, and Elijah

*Oh yeah, Elijah is also mastering the fine art of the "evil eye". He has just started doing this when he doesn't like what is going on. Jeff and I usually laugh about it so he knows that it isn't effective (and it really is funny).


Baby Smiles!

I entered my favorite baby picture of Eli on a "Photo of the week" blog. Eli was almost 3 months when this picture was taken:Here is a link to the site:


20 Months!

Elijah is 20 months old today! Another great month full of "firsts" and great adventures!

Elijah is talking a ton. Some of his new words/phrases:

- When he is on the swing we count to three before we push him. As soon as we say "one" he then says "two" ("two" is followed by "five" but he is only 1 year old so I am forgiving of the fact that he is skipping 3 & 4 and just excited that he recognizes that we are counting and he knows some numbers).

- He is great with animal noises. We ask, "what does a chicken/cow/dog/owl/snake/bee/lion/sheep/etc. say?" and he makes the appropriate noise. Now we can also ask "what does a pirate say" and he answers "arrrrghhhh". It is very cute!

- "Phone" is his favorite word right now. He picks up pretty much anything that is rectangular and hold it up to his face and says "hello?" Then he babbles like he is having a very serious conversation.

This past week I was upstairs and Jeff and Eli were in the kitchen. I came downstairs and Elijah was standing on the dining room table. I said to Jeff, "Did you not know that our son is standing on the dining room table?" He looked up from the dishwasher and I gave him a "why-aren't-you-watching-our-son-more-closely" look. The next morning Eli and I were playing in the living room. I got up to go to the bathroom so I closed the gate that keeps him confined to the living room. I was gone for less than 1 minute and when I walked back in the room he had climbed onto the back of the recliner (see the picture) reaching for the computer and the remote controls. HE IS FAST!!! I swear the day before that he couldn't even get himself onto the chair. He looked at me, smiled, and said "HI MAMA!"

For those of you who don't know, my dad went into the hospital last Friday. He has a blood clot in his lung and in his leg. He is on 2 different blood thinners right now and just waiting for the meds to be regulated so he can come home (it sounds like Saturday is the earliest that he will be coming home). It was very scary for all of us (him especially) but he seems to be doing much better now. So, we have been back and forth to the hospital in Pittsburgh alot. Elijah has been a total trooper! He cheers his pap up so much and he has been so good with the car rides and sitting int he hospital room (he is a little grabby and we try to keep him in his stroller but we can't expect our 20 month old to sit still for that long). Prayers are greatly appreciated!
Dawn is flying home for Easter so she can see my dad. Eli says "Dawn" sometimes when we show him her picture... I am really hoping he will say it to her!

We hope you are all doing well! Happy Easter!

Deb, Jeff, and Elijah


A U.F.O. just became a C.P.

My 2-year-in-the-making U.F.O. (unfinished object) just became a C.P. (competed project)! FINALLY!
I started this quilt over 2 years ago. It was the Mystery Quilt for Lutherlyn's Mystery Quilt Retreat in 2008. I started it that January because I was testing the pattern to make sure everything was correct before we passed it out to all of the participants. It was my first quilt ever so I finished the top and then I didn't know how to do the borders, the backing, or the binding. So, I put it away for a while, worked on other projects, and learned more quilting techniques.

I have been working on it again lately. I promised myself that I would not start another Mystery Quilt (we do this retreat annually) until I finished this one. I finished the backing and binding in January but I didn't feel like it was compete. It is hard to tell from the picture but the dark green fabric has dragonflies on it. So, the last step to completion (and the most time consuming) was hand sewing dragonfly outlines into the big blocks: Honestly, if I knew how long it was going to take I probably would not have done it. But, I am happy with how it turned out so I am glad that I took the time to add the dragonflies.

This past weekend was the 2010 Mystery Quilt Retreat. I started this year's Mystery Quilt after I completed this one. I can't take 2 years for this one, it is going to be a baby/baptism gift for a friend very soon.

Lutherlyn hosts 4 quilting/crafting retreats each year along with a quilt show in October and a Quilt Auction in July. I absolutely LOVE the retreat weekends. The women who come to these retreat weekends are some of the kindest and most fun women I have every spent time with. This past weekend there were 65 women ranging in age from early 20s to early 80s and we all had a wonderful time together! Just another thing that I LOVE about my job and about the ever-growing Lutherlyn family!


Breakfast of Champions!

Just a quick post....

I made yogurt for the first time ever and I could not believe how easy it was! So, for breakfast every day I have been eating yogurt with a little bit of jam or apple butter mixed in it for some fruity flavor and some granola added for a little crunch. All things that I made! It is yummy and it feels great to know that I know exactly what is in it because I made every part of it. Just another step in the "real food" challenge.


Reel Food Challenge Update

Here is my weekly update on the eat-real-food challenge:

Things are going great for us, I have learned alot, tried some new recipes, done some research about local groceries, and adapted the way that I grocery shop.

I made granola for the first time this week. My friend at Life Under a Blue Roof gave me some that she made a few weeks ago and it was great. So, I found a recipe on the internet, found the organic ingredients that I needed (thanks to a special trip to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in Pittsburgh), and went to work. The first batch burnt (I think because I left out about 2 cups worth of nuts making the volume much less that the recipe intended). The second batch was perfect! We all love it. I have been mixing it in yogurt each morning for breakfast.

I also made strawberry jam and apple butter (that might have been last week). I omitted about 1/2 of the sugar called for in each recipe and they are both still sweet and very good. I am also mixing that into plain yogurt with the granola. I learned how to can when I made the jam.

I dehydrated bananas for the first time this week. We dehydrate apples as a regular snack weekly but I had never tried bananas before. Jeff and Eli like them. I am not crazy about them, I prefer the apples.

My next task is to try to make my own yogurt. As soon as the current bowl of yogurt is almost gone, I will give that a try. I like the plain yogurt with a little bit of fruit jam and granola added. I have always thought that store bought fruit yogurt was too sweet. Jeff, however, does not like it. He thinks the yogurt is too bitter/not sweet enough.

I realized this morning when Eli and I were in the grocery store getting some fresh fruit and veggies that I have not been in many other isles of the grocery store for a while. I have eliminated the few processed/boxed foods that we used to eat. I have been making our own bread so I have eliminated that from the grocery list. I got organic rice, pasta, and baking supplies in bulk from Frankferd Farms (a local organic farm/store) a while back and we are still using that. The produce department and the milk/eggs/cheese section is about all we shop at.

I did have an unfortunate run-in with a local girl scout at the Butler Farm Market last weekend. There was a troop of girl scouts selling cookies by the entrance of the store. They had a sign up that said "Sorry, we are out of Thin Mints". So, when they asked me if I wanted to buy any cookies I said, "No Thanks! Thin Mints are my favorite". Well, while we were shopping this girl came and found me in the store to tell me that one of the moms showed up with a new case of Thin Mints, "How many boxes should I put aside for you?" This girl has a promising future in sales.... I did manage to get away with just 1 box of thin mints.

That's what's going on with the eat-real-food challenge this week. My goal for next week is to make yogurt, plant some of my starter seeds for the garden, and do a little more planning for our garden (I just found out about a "cold frame", we are looking into that for lettuce and some other greens).


Update on our Eat Real Food Challenge

Here is an update on the "Eat Real Food" challenge:

I have learned alot this week and I feel great about the steps that we are taking towards healthy, more responsible eating habits.

I have made 2 loaves of bread in our new bread maker (wheat and french). They both turned out great and have been a great replacement for store bought bread. It does get stale much faster so we have a container in the freezer for any remnants (not that there is left over bread very often). I will make stuffing or croutons out of the leftovers some day. My husband likes fresh bread so much that I can experiment with pretty much any meals with any "earthy" ingredients that I want to. As long as there is fresh bread on his plate or the smell of bread baking in the air, life is good!

Elijah LOVES the bread maker. This is how he spends his time when the bread machine is mixing the dough (if you can't tell, there is a window on top of the machine that he is looking through):
*DISCLAIMER: At no point during the bread making process was my 19 month old left unattended standing on the kitchen counter.

Right now, my very first batch of jam is cooking (in the bread machine). STRAWBERRY! I have talked about learning how to can ever since we have had a garden but I just haven't done it. I am off of work this week with Eli so I got some canning stuff this morning, I have done a little research, and I am hoping to can some jam this evening. My primary goal in learning how to can is so that we can eat from our garden all year round. Last year I didn't plan our planting very well so everything was ready to harvest at the same time and it was ready so early that we were still eating most of our meals in the dining hall at camp when our veggies were fresh. So, I am making a plan for the garden so that the harvest is later and more spread out. Then I will can whatever I can so we can eat our garden veggies next winter.

Still looking for local options for organic chicken. I have found several farmers who sell it fresh in July-October but have not found any local options for frozen organic chicken. I am going to call a meat shop later today that I know has organic beef and bison, they might have chicken. The organic meat part seems to be the most expensive and difficult to find right now. So, I will keep looking. In the mean time, I will make a trip to "Trader Joe's" in Pittsburgh next week with Eli to get some organic meat and a wider variety of fruit & veggies (although not local).

So, that is where we are so far. Oh, one more thing. I took it upon myself to finish the Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies so that temptation has been removed from the house.... a sacrifice I was willing to make for my family! ;-)


The "Get-Real-Food-Challenge" - Who's In?

I finally have some follow-up to my "Food, Inc." blog from a few weeks ago. Check out the "Get Real Food Challenge" link on the right of this page. It will explain what the challenge is. One of my friends had a link to this challenge on her blog and it fits in perfectly with the things that I have been thinking about lately.

So, here are the steps that I have taken and the things that I have committed to doing so far. I still have lots of steps to take but it's a start:

1. I quit using/buying "fake" butter (I can't believe it's not butter). I don't use butter very often so I decided that I would rather have more calories instead of more artificial ingredients and chemicals. There are over 25 ingredients in fake butter spreads and most of them are long, hard-to-pronounce, artificial ingredients. So, I started buying real butter.

2. I got a bread machine and I made my first loaf of fresh bread last night. It turned out great and was very easy to do. For some reason I have always had a fear of baking with yeast.... it just seemed so difficult and easy to mess up. Well, this was super simple and the bread is great. I am using organic ingredients and eliminating bread that was baked in mass quantities weeks ago from my weekly grocery list.

3. I have completely eliminated artificial sweeteners from my diet. This wasn't a really big deal for me right now, I gave up caffine and pop years ago but I still put 1 packet of "Sweet n' Low" in my decaf tea every morning and I still get diet peach iced tea from time to time. I now have packets of "Sugar in the Raw" that go in my tea (it has a little different flavor than refined sugar). I only use 1 packet a day so I am okay with the small amount of extra sugar in my diet. As my sister would say, "It's better than brain foam" (she heard somewhere a long time ago that artificial sweeteners don't have a way of leaving your body so they create foam on your brain. I don't think it is very accurate but they still are not good for you).

4. I am being more intentional about planning meals that do not have meat in them. We didn't eat meat every day before but it wasn't an intentional decission... more just a function of what we had in the fridge and what meal I could make from it. So, I am now planning our menu a little more intentionally with less meat. We are having spinich and mushroom quiche for dinner tonight... should be good!

So, that is what I have come up with so far. I will keep you posted on our progress! I hope you will consider the real food challenge too!


19 Months!

Elijah is 19 months old today! Another wonderful month for the Roberts' family! Eli is growing and learning so fast. Some of this month's excitement:

- Elijah is talking up a storm and signing "more", "all done", "please", "apple", "eat", "drink", "ball", and "milk" (he says the words too so the sign is totally un-necessary but it is very cool to see how much he has learned and how much he is making the effort to communicate).

- We put a toddler potty in each of the bathrooms. Eli is nowhere near ready for potty training but we want him to get used to it being there and start to understand what it is for. I don't think he gets it yet. The extent of which he has acknowledged the potty is that he picks up the "bowl" (you know, the part that he will actually pee and poop in) and he does one of three things.... 1) he puts it on his head and says "hat" or 2) he puts it up to his mouth and says "cup" or 3) he puts crackers in it and stirs it with a spoon. Any way... BAD NEWS!

- When we say "smile for the camera" he squints his eyes and makes a sour face. It is very funny but not so great for photo taking:

- Eli goes to toddler story time at the Butler Library every Tuesday. I went with him the first time (and I will be going with him several times in March) and he goes with Jon every week. He loves it! They do puppets, songs, stories, dances, and coloring. His favorite song is "shake your silly out" and he loves to dance in front of the whole group (even where there is no music playing).

Just a small sampling of our month. We hope you are all doing well! We are ready to start playing outside again!

Deb, Jeff, and Elijah


Food, Inc.

Ever since Elijah started eating solid foods I have really tried to be knowledgeable about what we are eating and to teach him healthy eating habits. I have struggled with my weight my whole life and I don't want him to have to fight that battle, but, it isn't just about weight. I don't want my sons little innocent body to be full of chemicals. Actually, I don't want mine, or Jeff's, or Eli's or anyone else's body to be full of chemicals either. I buy organic when possible (not always the easiest thing in Butler, PA), I try to feed my family whole foods, and, when we do eat "packages" foods I look for as few ingredients as possible with no high fructose corn syrup or ingredients that I can't pronounce. Don't get me wrong; we have the occasional junk, usually when Elijah is sleeping. I am great at eating healthy.... it's the "extras" that come after the healthy foods that are bad for me!
So, last night Jeff and I watched "Food, Inc.". A very disturbing but excellent documentary that is trying to encourage people to know where their food comes from. It was very eye opening about alot of things but, for me, especially about where our meat comes from and the process that it goes through from being a baby animal to being my dinner. We don't eat very much beef but we eat chicken very frequently. I usually purchase frozen chicken breasts that have no added hormones. Apparently, that isn't enough. I am now faced with some questions that I am really trying to think through....
  • How much am I willing to pay for local, healthy, "properly" fed and butchered meat? ("Sorry your college fund isn't bigger Eli, hope you enjoyed the expensive chicken and beef.")
  • How much additional time, effort, energy am I willing to spend to get better meat products over just buying fresh or frozen at the grocery store?
  • Do I think it is that important or am I going to be satisfied with the efforts that we already make and not worry about it.
  • Do I need to put more emphasis on finding meats that meet the standards that I think I am looking for or more emphasis on reducing the amount of meat in our diet?
  • Where can I find local chicken that has not gone through a processing plant (I have found several local places for grass-fed beef but no luck with chicken)?
Lots to think about! I don't really know what I think about these questions yet. I do know that it is something that I feel like I have to consider as a responsible consumer and as a responsible parent. I know that sometime in Elijah's life, someone will take him to McDonalds and let him get whatever he wants. I know that we eat most of our meals at camp in the summer (where organic isn't financially realistic), I know that we will still go out to restaurants or be in situations where someone else is preparing our food. I feel like I need to do everything that I can when I am the one responsible for feeding my family so that there is a healthy balance to the occasions when I am not in complete control of our food.

It makes me sad that we have gotten to this point, who decided that grocery stores full of mostly "fake" foods is best for us? Why does fake food taste so good (I am ashamed to admit that I am a big fan of artificial cheese flavored things)? I feel blessed that Jeff and I can afford to spend a little more on groceries for more healthy food but upset that money has to be a consideration when it comes to our health.

I'll keep you posted... don't really have any answers right now.


A great place to live

I love where we live, and not just because it comes with my job and costs us nothing. I love the charm of our old farm house. I love that it has character. I love that it has new windows and insulation in the attic so I am not freezing my butt off this winter! Mostly, I love feeling good about where we are raising our son! Every now and then I miss living in a neighborhood... Last night Jeff and I were reminiscing about playing in the snow with our childhood friends. I was starting to feel a little bad that Eli can't just go outside and all of a sudden have a neighborhood worth of kids come out too but then we went out to play in the snow today and I loved that we didn't see another car the whole time that we were outside. He could run around wherever he wanted because everywhere that he could walk was "ours" (camp is 660 acres... he would have to go pretty far to be going in someone else's yard). We will just have to make sure we are very intentional about invite his friends over when he is older. We have something better than a neighborhood.... we live in a community! The Lutherlyn community has been an important part of my life for a long time but now that Jeff and Elijah are a part of this "camp family" it is even better and more complete. I love that we can feel like we are completely alone on our little corner of the property yet we know that there are several other families that share this place and mission with us PLUS thousands of people who come and go throughout the year who we get to share this wonderful place with. It is so great to feel such a sense of purpose and belonging at a place that is my home, my work, my calling, my greatest memories, the source of most of my closest friends, and a blessing to so many people. Thank you God!


18 months old!

Elijah is 18 months old today (this was written on Feb. 1st)! Tomorrow he will be closer to 2 years old than he is to 1. UNBELIEVABLE!

We have had another wonderful month full of adventures! Elijah played in the snow for the first (and second and third) time this month. Jon and I got him all bundled up and headed outside. He wasn't sure at first but he warmed up to it quickly.... he just stood there and giggled!

I have been slightly concerned about Elijah's speech (or lack there of) but this month he turned into a little chatter box. One day he just started repeating everything, saying what he wants (and sometimes yelling it), and he started using baby sign! We were amazed... we gave up on the baby sign about 2 or 3 months ago because he was not responding, all of a sudden, last week, he started using the signs for "more", "all done", and "milk". It is so exciting to listen to his little voice and have a better understanding of what he wants (although we were getting pretty good at identifying what the various grunts and points meant).

Eli has always liked books but he has really started to pay attention and try to understand what is in the books. He will sit on the living room floor and thoroughly turn through the pages of every single book in his basket. When he gets up in the morning we read books together and he will point at pictures and say what they are or make the animal sounds.

Eli is also developing his sense of humor. When something makes us laugh, he really knows how to ham it up and keep doing it to keep us laughing! I love his laugh... it makes me laugh every single time I hear it!

We hope you are all doing well! We are loving life with an 18 month old!

Deb, Jeff, and Elijah


Well, I did it. I have been a "blog creeper" for a while now (Life Under a Blue Roof, KoskerIdlewild, Kasch, Anything Can Happen...., Hippie, etc.). I love to read my friends' blogs but, more importantly, I have learned things from my friends blogs. Lots of great tips and ideas from people that I know and trust. So, as I was pre-washing my flannel fabric to make washcloths for Eli's hands (instead of using wipes) and handkerchiefs (thank you Shayne), I thought to myself, "I think I would like to blog too". I don't expect to be quiet as educational or exciting as some of my friends but I would like to share some of my thoughts and, to be completely honest with you, I want to brag about my amazing son! So, here goes. I will include my monthly Eli updates that get e-mailed out to our families but I don't really know what else I will include. At least I won't feel like such a creeper when I read other people's blogs!