Once a Quitter…

I have a long lists of things I have quit over the years. Sticker collecting, crocheting, knitting, piano lessons, ballet lessons, oboe lessons (no one was sad about that), diets, running (thanks again, knees)…In fact, the things I haven’t quit is significantly shorter: being married, being a mom, cooking….that’s really about it. Quitting is just something that just comes naturally to me…which is really, really depressing to say aloud…

As I was saying, it should come as no surprise that I have thought long and hard about quitting this whole no running water or electricity thing. See, it was fun at first. But after about four days (yes, I know, my perseverance is utterly inspiring), I was on the brink of throwing in the towel. What broke this camel’s back? Who knows? It could be my inability to cook out here. Or having to take a shotgun with me to take the girls potty lest a coyote show up again. Or having to take little girls outside to go potty in sub-freezing temperatures at 1:23 am, and 1:30 am…and again at 2:20am…in the same night. It could be the cold. It could be trying to make sandwiches (again) by lantern for dinner with a baby on my hip because it’s the only place she’s happy in the near-dark. It could be having to drive an hour to my sweet mother-in-laws to take a shower. The list is long, and some of the reasons are much more valid than many of my past excuses for quitting various things.

The thing is I can’t quit. Not that I won’t let myself, because I’m sure it’s quite apparent that I would. I can’t quit because it’s already done. We’re here. And that’s actually a good thing. I can’t count the number of times I have regretted quitting something. And I know that, while this is admittedly very challenging, it is the right path for our family. It is the path that leads to a change in our lifestyle, to a permanent home, to a deeper sense of gratitude. I am glad we’re doing this. That doesn’t mean I don’t hate it at certain points or that I don’t casually look into hotel prices from time to time.
But if you think about it, if you don’t want to quit at some point, you probably aren’t being challenged. At least that’s how it is for me. So I’m glad I have felt like giving up at some points. It means I have neared the end of my strength. And not quitting must mean I have pushed through and discovered that I am stronger than I had believed.

The past week has been full of trials. There have been long, grueling days and sleepless nights. And we haven’t accomplished half of what I had hoped we would. But there have been moments of sunshine, too. And if I’m honest, the good moments have definitely outweighed the…not-so-great ones.
There is always a mountain of work to do, but the lack of light during the evenings really forces you to slow down. And with only so much light to go around, the family always ends up in the same spot, doing things together. We’ve enjoyed hot cocoa around the fire, played riddle games, done puzzles, read stories, and gazed at the beautiful night sky that is often hidden in town, together as a family. The kids have spent so much time playing outside, digging tunnels, collecting acorns, and polishing their campfire building skills.

The kids playing Play-doh by Dewalt flashlight.

No one is fighting over who gets to pick which tv show we watch. No one is bored. No one “needs” new toys. I have even learned how to consistently cook without a stove, which makes me deliriously happy. (More on that soon.)

It kind of makes me wonder if we really need electricity. But don’t tell the boys I said that – they are definitely ready to play Minecraft again.


Oh, Riiight…It’s Almost Winter

We awoke to a cold house this morning. And I mean really cold. Our breath was easily visible and all you could think when you got out of bed is how much you wanted to get back under the warm covers.

While we have been using a small propane heater to warm the house, I have my concerns about leaving it on overnight even with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in place.

Mr. Heater

So temperatures inside the house drop throughout the night. My amazing husband is the first to brave the cold in the morning. (I am ever becoming a cold sissy since moving away from Canada.) He turns the heater on, so that by the time the kids are awake the temperature inside has dramatically increased. The house is still never quite toasty, about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s certainly an improvement.

Clearly, this plan will have to be improved upon before it gets any colder. In order to be moved, much of the old insulation under the trailer had to be pulled off. The icy chill on my feet is a regular reminder that it needs to be replaced. And the skirting around the bottom has yet to be put up which makes a tremedous difference in our home’s ability to hold heat. Air ducts need to be properly sealed and I think the addition of weather stripping around the doors is in order. Our trailer is at least 30 years old, but fortunately we have made many improvements. New windows have made a drastic difference in heat exchange and I am so grateful for them. Still, I see a weekend of home repairs in the immediate future.

Yesterday, I picked up some footed pajamas for the kids which sent my oldest two girls into uncontrollable giggling. (If nothing else, that in itself justified the purchase.)


I am now on the hunt for a wood burning stove. As they can be a little pricey, it may seem silly to invest in one right now. But we intend to use it in our new house as well, so I feel confident we’ll get our money’s worth out of it. Plus, it will be fantastic to be able to use it to make hot meals and spiced apple cider.

With all that said, I am so thankful to be living in Texas. It is becoming abundantly clear how insurmountable this journey would seem in a more northern climate. I have tremendous respect for those homesteaders on Alaska: The Last Frontier. Hats off to those guys.

Day 1

Today marks our first day out on our land, living without running water or electricity.
So far, it hasn’t really been all that different, aside from the fact that the house is full of boxes and the day has been mostly devoted to unpacking. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure the girls have noticed any change. Their day is still mostly comprised of tea parties and doctoring up stuffed animals that have been attacked by coyotes and hyenas…allegedly.

The girls are suffering greatly, as seen here.

The boys are more aware of the change, but spirits are high throughout the home. Probably because, really, life hasn’t changed that much. We sleep in our old beds. The kids are playing with the same toys. It looks the same. But it sounds a little different. There is no electrical hum in the background, no sounds of dishwashers, washing machines, or Dora the Explorer. Instead, the familiar chatter of two princesses serving tea and the self-made sound effects of two knights fighting some imaginary battle break the otherwise silence. It is slower out here, more peaceful.

Dinner was very simple: sandwiches and fruit. Currently we have no way to cook and I didn’t have time to build a fire with all the unpacking. The solar lanterns aren’t working as well as I’d like tonight as certain little girls decided to move them out of the window and leave them switched on. Oh well. Challenges, both predicted and unexpected, are what transform our everyday life into an adventure.

Tomorrow’s task will be to tackle dishes and laundry. And oddly enough, I’m kind of looking forward to it.

If You Could Take One Item with You…

…into the middle of nowhere (or a deserted island, if you prefer) to start homesteading, what would it be?

My choice would be this book.


This copy was given to me at a time when I had little appreciation for it. I was still a young thing that had notions of being a chef in some fancy, high end restaurant. I loved the city and being right in the very heart of it. The idea of country living could not have held less appeal to me. All the same, my mother-in-law handed it to me and said, “Pretty much anything you’d ever want to know is in here.” I thanked her, secretly certain I would never so much as crack it open.

But of course, I used the word never. And I don’t know about you, but every time I say, “Never,” I have guaranteed myself that I will be eating my own words at some point in the future.

Over the past decade, I have referenced this book regularly and still have not gleaned all the information from its pages. It covers everything from gardening to animal care to food preparation and storage to basic home doctoring. There’s even a section on keeping your house warm in very cold temperatures without conventional heating systems. I should probably read that.

What’s more, this book serves as a reminder to me that God (and most often parents) knows what we need before we know it ourselves. The life I live now, the one I am deliriously happy in spite of my bad days, is nearly the exact opposite of what I thought I wanted. I am so grateful that God has not always given me the things I want, and instead opted for what He knew would be best for me.
It’s a little bit like my two year old begging me to eat cupcakes for dinner. She is certain they will make her happy and life will only be good if she can have them precisely when she wants them.


But of course, she has little to no understanding of nutrition and what is best for her. I could give her what she wants, but my job is to give her what she needs.
Ahh…that’s me sometimes, isn’t it? Duly noted, God.

Missing: All of Last Week

I can’t believe it’s Thursday again.

As one might expect in a short-notice move with five children, this past week has been a whirlwind. And a lot of things have gone wrong. We’ve had some weird, uncooperative weather. An unattended puppy got into the chicken coop. We ran out of time before the movers arrived and were in a mad scramble to finish up. Our trailer got stuck before it even left the property and took more than five hours to get unstuck. The main water line sprung a leak due to some very cold temperatures. My car died…twice.

But then again, a lot of things have been wonderful. The kids and I have spent much more time with Caleb, and with my amazing mother-in-law. A good friend dropped her busy schedule to come rescue us while we were stranded in a parking lot. Despite my many doubts, the trailer survived the move relatively unscathed. Dominos have become the new favorite past time for our children, and hearing their excitement over the game has been heart-melting. And the weather has returned to a normal Texan fall, complete with beautiful, sunshiny days.

See? We found the found the sun again.

It’s taken me far too many years to figure out that life is like that. No matter how bad things can get, they will always be good again. And in many cases, they were never that bad to begin with. More often than not, all I really needed was to step back and take a deep breath (and possibly grab a sandwich and/or a nap). The problem is rarely the situation and almost always my perspective on the matter.

Feel free to remind me of that often.

At any rate, we have survived moving. Now the real adventure begins…

Courage, Men…err…Girls

“Quick, Mary! It could still be alive!” Maya called after her younger sister as the girls came up the stairs. “Mommy, there’s a snake in the basement!”

Gulp. I hate snakes. And I mean, I really hate snakes. They make me so irrational, I often forget how to speak my native language in their presence. No word of a lie. Fortunately, every time I’ve encountered one, someone else has been there to save the day.

Until now.

Barely keeping the ever surmounting terror at bay, I asked my eldest daughter where she saw a snake. She informed me of its last known whereabouts in the basement and, aware of my responsibility to protect my children, I swallowed hard and cautiously tiptoed down the stairs.

Maya, who hasn’t inherited the same tendency toward snake-induced mania, followed me (much less cautiously) and explained that she had smashed the foul serpent with a toy. I wasn’t sure if I should commend her for bravery or scold her for foolishness. All I could whisper was, “Okay.”

As we neared the dreaded beast’s lair, I struggled to stay between my little girl and the horror that lay just yonder, as I was travelling at a much more trepidatious speed.

“There,” she pointed. “That’s the toy I used to smash it. The one with the balls and the knobs.”

Now my heart was really racing. Here was the toy, but the snake was nowhere to be seen. Heroically (ahem, if I do say so myself), I picked up the toy to look for clues of the hunted vermin’s location. Suddenly, Maya pointed and cried, “There! There it is!”

And there it was. Right where the toy I now held had rested, it writhed ominously.

It was a freaking centipede.


It’s been an unusual kind of day.
It misted.
It rained.
It hailed.
It rained some more.
And then it snowed.
In Texas. In the middle of November. How ’bout that.

And you know that sound packing tape makes while you’re closing up boxes? Kind of like, “Scrrrriiiitch!!”? That is the sound I’ve had in my ears all day.

The house is getting close to being packed up, thanks to some serious teamwork and some help from our very sweet in-laws. I must say, I’m more than a little ashamed at how much of our “necessary” stuff is either in the trash or in a pile to give away because no one has touched it in months. We’re talking more than 8 cubic yards of stuff. WOW. What’s even more surprising is how much freer my mind feels with less stuff in the house. And though there are almost no toys in our house right now, the girls still found everything they needed to pretend they were puppies with their own little puppy homes.

A couple of boxes were all that the girls needed.

We actually had a great night together as a family. With nearly nothing in the house.

Huh. Caleb’s been saying forever how we have too much stuff and how we become a slave to maintaining things. I sort of hate when my husband’s right, mostly because I know he usually is and that I would save myself a lot of time and trouble if I would just listen to him the first time. Fortunately for me, I married a very patient man. 🙂

Last Minute Prep

I’m not quite sure when it happened. Somehow, we went from,
“It sure would be great to move out here, if it wouldn’t be so hard without power.”
“Maybe we could make it work.”
…and eventually to…
“We’re moving next week.”

At any rate, I don’t feel like we’ve had much time to prepare for this lifestyle shift. That, of course, does not sit especially well with me. You see, I like detailed plans, lists, timelines, charts, risk assessments, contingency plans, all of it. And while there hasn’t been time for any of that, there are a few things I’ve had a chance to see to.

1. The Pantry – The recent Ebola scare in Dallas really made me consider the importance of long term storage foods. I have six people depending on me daily to prepare nutritious meals for them. What if there was some sort of disaster that prevented grocery store trips? Or what if there was no food in the grocery stores? Anyone remember that ice storm last year that prevented delivery trucks from making their drops for 3-4 days? Grocery stores shelves were almost completely empty! Situations like these have pushed me to make more of an effort to keep long lasting foods that will provide a range of nutrients. (Which means I didn’t stock up on Twinkies. Wait, can you still buy Twinkies?) And without refrigeration, long term storage will be extremely important.

2. Winter Clothes – Of course, it’s that time of year anyway. But because we won’t have a standard heating system, I went overboard this year. In Texas, we can often get by simply with a winter coat. But as it has been forecasted to be a rough winter, I’ve ordered snowpants for the kids and even a snowsuit for the baby. Everyone has also been stocked with two pair of thermal long underwear, and plenty of hats, mittens, and scarves.

3. Solar Lamps – Battery powered flashlights are fantastic, and we definitely keep an ample supply of them around our house. But I was looking for something that would light up an entire room. Plus, my girls have a terrible habit of leaving flashlights on, usually in weird places so the batteries are completely dead by the time they’re located. I found these lanterns on Amazon and, so far, I really like them. They seem to charge easily in the kitchen windows and really brighten up a dark room. We’ll see how they hold up over time.

4. Solar Charger – For cell phones. I consider having a phone very important. I really value keeping in touch with family and friends as we are so spread out. And despite keeping a well-stocked first aid kit and never having needed to call 911 (though Titus sure did when he was little), it gives me great piece of mind to be able to call for help in the event of an emergency. We also have internet on our phones, which is fantastic. However, to keep conserve data usage, I MAY have to give up spending hours on Pinterest and  watching clips of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon while putting the baby to bed. It’s tragic, I know.

Other than that, we’ve picked up a couple of warm blankets. And I am strongly considering ordering one of these fancy cast iron Dutch ovens and a cooking tripod. It’s just hard to know if I would actually make good use of it, or if I secretly hope owning it will magically make me a rustic pioneer woman. By the way, I’m on the hunt for good campfire recipes if you’ve got one.

What things would you want if you were going to be without electricity for an undetermined length of time?


We are about to do something a little crazy.

A year ago this week, my gorgeous husband and I bought a piece of property that we had just fallen in love with. We had always dreamed of one day having our own little piece of the world. After a great deal of searching and deliberating, we finally found our Texas paradise. Suddenly, we were grown ups, envisioning where we would pick fruit from our orchard, where our grandchildren would come visit us for the weekend, where we might put our tactical shooting range. (You can guess who came up with the last idea.)


And so, we began planning. Going through draft after revision after entirely new draft, Caleb and I finally decided on a house plan. (Probably. Okay, so it will most likely change seven or eight more times.) We have been gathering all of the necessary materials, but the thing we are still really lacking is time. And it’s not for lack of trying. My husband is a major over-achiever. He’s currently building a shop and relocating his business to a front acre of our new property. It has become increasingly clear that trying to build a house while living an hour away could take nearly forever.

And so we’ve decided to move.

We’re relocating our just-under-1000-square-foot mobile home out to our property so we can be right next to the site of our future house. Of course, none of this sounds like a particularly wild adventure. That is, not until you factor in the lack of electrical service out there.
Our goal is to eventually live entirely off the grid, using solar power and geothermal heating and cooling. Currently, neither of those things are in place. In fact, the closest thing to a modern convenience out there is a well we had drilled that can be run with a generator.
And so our adventure will be to live without so many of the things that I at least take for granted every day. A dishwasher, a washer and dryer, computers, tvs, video games, even hot showers or refrigeration. One by one, we will find solutions to everyday obstacles and perhaps discover what “necessities” we can live without.
We believe this will be a valuable learning experience for our children. Not only do we hope to impart some basic survival skills (many of which I have yet to learn), but we also hope to foster a sense of appreciation for the  abundance of luxuries we are blessed with here in North America and a spirit of compassion for those who are less fortunate. Even while living without electricity, we will still be much better off than a good many people on this planet.

With the right attitude, I pray this journey will lead us to be closer as a family and more aware of everything we have to be grateful for. And if it helps us get this new house built, that would be a pretty great perk, too.