t h e m a y f i l e s is foremost a family blog, chronicling everyday life. Life including natural, healthy eating (with recipes thrown in at random), home educating (with ideas popping up sporadically), an attempt to homestead on .2 acres (with very meager yields), raising 3 of 4 children with a rare genetic disorder, and lots of highly personal family triumphs and failures. You may also find an eclectic array of musings on politics, exercise, sewing, emergency preparedness, backyard chickens, and religion. This blog isn't a campaign to glorify anyone or anything. Just simply a record.


New Years Eve Madness

In addition to the fabulous "Snowballs" on New Years Eve here are some of our other activities to fill the day and night....

Riding horses with Grandpa, Uncle Brock, and Daegen...
Feasting on fabulous fondue...
Piling into Grandma and Grandpas car because it was too cold to walk to the barn....
Listening to Callista say "pinahta" over and over again....
Having a raging dance party in the barn....
Watching the girls try to knock down "Mr. Sunshine"....

Callista missed...
My attempt...
Brock smashing the "Mr. Sunshine" into pieces....
The girls picking up their prizes from the ultra clean barn floor....
Trying to share a romantic kiss with my half-asleep husband and trying to document it with my own camera...instead we got a great nostril shot. yuck.
Happy New Years!!! And so 2009 comes to a conclusion. Full of love and joy and a few tears. May the new year be better than the last. Could we ever be so blessed?

Snowballs...A Family Tradition

I think one of my favorite family traditions are "Snowballs." This one stems from my mothers side of the family. In fact, she did it every Christmas with her family and cousins. Snowballs are serious business with serious rules. And there must be strict adherence by all parties! This year I happened to be in charge of making the snowballs so I did them the "Rebecca Way." Actually they were the most delicious we have ever had! Click for the recipe here.

Here is Brock explaining the rules....

In a nutshell...

1. The last person whose candle is lit, wins and gets their wish for the New Year.
2. You can't touch your candle with your fingers, only your spoon or fork.
3. You can't blow out anyone else's candle...but you can try to distract or get them to laugh hysterically thus putting out their own candle.
4. You have to keep eating your ice cream.
5. Keep a detailed historical record.

It takes a lot of concentration....
This year there was a showdown between Brent and my mother. I think the picture tells the story quite lucidly. Don't you?
Better luck next year Mom! Here is a picture of the winning candle. As you can see all that is left is a wick. I love this tradition.
Here are some excerpts from previous years notes...

"Bruce (7) blew out his candle for fear of spreading fire. This is too dangerous Grandma"

"Amy in a sudden fit of laughter exhaled a bit too strongly from her nose and out went her candle"


2009 in Review

Here were my New Years Resolutions from 2009...

March 21: Moab 1/2 Marathon...Goal: 1:30. Run fast. Run hard. Pray for good weather.
April 20: Boston Marathon...Goal: Complete with a smile, and enjoy a fabulous vacation.

July: Spudman Triathlon...Goal: Conquer my fear of Open Water and achieve a PR.

Live my Religion More Fully by following The Word of Wisdom.
This is a three-fold mission...eat meat sparingly, use the grains/crops of the field as our staff of life, use herbs more effectively.

So how did I do?

Moab 1/2 marathon I did in 1:35 which was a PR on the hardest 1/2 course I have done. This was a great accomplishment. 1:30 was a very aggressive goal. I still think I can make this pace but on a different course.

Boston...well we all know this sad story. I didn't sign up in time. So we ended up with a great vacation but no marathon. I ran the Ogden marathon instead and came out with a 4 minute PR at 3:27.

Spudman was mission accomplished. With a serious dedicated effort I conquered my open water fear. I also came out with an amazing time and smashed my personal record. This one will be hard to beat.

Eat meat sparingly...yep. Definitely.

Grains and plants...lots of them everyday.

Herbs, I haven't made as much progress on this as I hoped. Mostly all my medicinal herbs were eaten by my chickens. And I am not any better at identifying than I was a year ago. Maybe a little. This one I better work on.

It was a year of growth and change. I believe in all the right directions. We read books like crazy. Brent and I. The children and I. We started a homeschooling adventure, a backyard poultry experiment, a new baby on the way, Emmett finally has some boy toys...it was a good year.


An Afternoon at the Movies...

...And a huge reminder why this was the first movie my girls have been to and why we have eliminated mainstream media.

Here is my take on The Princess and the Frog.
Things started strong. The girls were on cloud nine. Going to a movie with Mom, Grandma and Aunt Amy. This was huge for them. The movie began with the main character as a little girl. Of course this was a huge hit. After 5 minutes she was grown, but that was okay. Then the main plot of the movie was introduced. The main characters would spend the entire movie not as prince and princess, or a pretty singing girl but as frogs.

How did they get that way? Black magic. Voodoo. An evil voodoo doctor sold his soul to the devil. This was so dark I was blown away. I couldn't fathom this was supposed to be a princess musical for little girls. Callista was petrified. Ellery sank in her seat, trying and wanting so hard to like it. But it was too scary. I started to gather the girls to walk out. My mom stopped us. Had I been with just my girls I would have left.

Here were my mistakes. I only read newspaper reviews. There was no mention of Satanic magic or that the princess was a frog the entire movie. I should have looked for independent parental reviews online. Second mistake, I should have gone with my gut and walked out.

I don't mind a villain. And villains can be scary, that's okay. I do take issue with a villain who has made a deal with the devil. And Satanism permeating the entire movie. Shame on Disney. Shame on me for not doing better homework.

(I never should have boughten the barbies for Callista for Christmas without previewing the movie!)


Pomegranate Juice Behind the Christmas Tree

This Christmas we received a wonderfully generous gift from Brent's Grandmother. (And an unexpected not so welcome one...more on that later.) Thanks to her magnanimous gift we were able to install a gas fireplace in our front room. We have a great front room but it is almost unbearable when the temperature drops below 30 outside. It is far too drafty to be comfortable. For 5 years, I have longed for a place to go and get warm in my house. Finally, thanks to Grandma I have it! We love you Great Grandma.
Now, we also invited something besides the cozy, warmth of fire into our house through this little addition. . . . About 30 minutes after the installers left they started to appear. Mice.

They must have had a snug little home behind our old firebox and now they were on free reign of the house. Our Christmas tree is next to the fireplace and became their first refuge. We spent several hours with lots of screaming (by myself), tennis racket whacking (by Brent, and he got 2 this way), and mouse-trap setting and snapping.
I think we killed 5 mice in 3 hours. Well we had a trap strategically placed behind the Christmas tree. Little Callista decided to do some exploring after the main mouse hulabaloo had subsided. In her words here is what happened.

"And so mom, I looked behind the Christmas tree and I saw some pomegranate juice everywhere. But I didn't know. So I kept looking and then I saw the bloody mouse. It wasn't pomegranate juice. I'm glad I didn't try some."

If that doesn't make your stomach turn you have a far stronger gut than me. We had a splattering of mouse blood eerily similar to the refreshing spray of juice as you crack open the pomegranate. Mmmmmm. Eat up!


Christmas Moments 2009

2009 Christmas Snapshots...
Traveling light to Grandma and Grandpas...
Christmas Eve Indian Food...
and tracking Santa on Uncle Derald's iphone...
All the cousins want the scoop...p.s. this cute guy is still single?!!
Live Nativity...see post...
Christmas Morning...while all the adults video skyped with Monica, I looked over the balcony and Emmett found "his" toy....

...and was riding it within minutes....
Found the stockings.... and then the oh-so-amazingly patient girls proceeded to wait almost an hour and a half to open their presents while we visited with Monica.
Cousin cuddles...

and more....

...and lost the camera for the rest of the day. Oops.

The conversation with Monica included a large amount of tears on all sides. For the first time she is experiencing Christmas away from home...with those who cooked everything they had to feed them a meager Christmas Eve meal. The words "it is so hard" must have sobbed out of her mouth more times than I can count...but quickly followed by "but it is wonderful." What a learning and growth experience for Monica. She will return with maturity and insight, and unselfishness beyond her years. We love you Monica and are praying for you everyday.


Live Nativity at the Full Circle Ranch

A wonderful Merry Christmas and a Sacred Live Nativity at the Full Circle Ranch

....final preparations before the guests arrive...
...keeping warm in the hay loft...
....Little Shepherds watching their flocks on their tractors...
...Goats and kids, escaping their fences...
...a luminary lights the way to the lowly stable...
...and she laid her baby in a manger
...and the smoke billowed around...oops!
...Little angles we heard...


Abundance, Scarcity, and a Cambodian Christmas Journey

Abundance and Scarcity

Ellery, Callista and Emmett live surrounded by abundance. An abundance of love. Family. Food. Friends. Security. Peace. Money. Shelter. The list continues.

In fact. Brent and I, on occasion, try to create a feeling of scarcity, so our children do not feel entitled or demanding. We adhere to a strict monthly budget and continually draw their attention to it. If it is the end of the month, it probably won't fit into the budget.

But we need to do better. I cringe inside when I hear one of my children demand something in an overindulged tone. We correct on spot but sometimes in their world of abundance it is difficult to fathom true scarcity. Real want. Persistent need.

We often speak of taking our family somewhere. Having a service experience for several years. So they can really understand. We hope to find that opportunity and are always looking.

Bigger than Yours...

Several weeks ago a new friend came to play with Ellery. When we dropped her off, just a few blocks away from our home, her house and street differed significantly from ours. Ellery commented. "Why is your house so small and old?" Immediately this sweet little girl began talking about how she was moving to a new, big house really soon. Ellery asked "Are you really." No, was the answer. I quickly intervened to salvage the self worth of her little friend as much as could. Commenting on the nice color of her house, and how lucky she was to live next door to her grandma. Ellery received a serious censure and discussion after this incident. It was unacceptable behavior. Of course she is still learning. It is a journey for all of us.

Avoiding the Christmas Give Me's

With the Christmas Season upon us, we were struggling to find the right place and way to give. One that would help our children understand the abundance they experience and the scarcity so many others live with each day.

We already keep our gifts simple. 3 presents from Mom and Dad. A want, a need, and something to read. One present from Santa. It became clear this year, with Brent's vision (of course he is always the one with vision) we would do something we never had. It blessed our little family and others half way around the world exponentially.

A Cambodian Christmas

How the Story Began...
In April of 2008 Brent spent a life altering 2 weeks in Hong Kong, China, and Cambodia. The trip origination was as an International experience at the completion of his Masters program. He became perturbed as the trip approached because it appeared to be materializing into tourism. If you know Brent you'll understand he had no desire to sight see. So he began to set up his own "trip" within the official trip. In both Hong Kong and China he set up meetings with his business suppliers. His suppliers often visit the US, but Brent had never been to their factories.
Cambodia proved to be more difficult. Brent had never done business there nor did he know anyone. Undeterred, he utilized the internet and made a contact within hours. Eng (pronounced "Ing") and Brent began to correspond. Eng lives outside Phnom Penh with his wife and two small children. They arranged to meet. From this experience a strong bond of friendship developed. Eng showed Brent around his country and helped him understand the unique situation of Cambodia.
Fresh from the Killing Fields...

Cambodia has a long a sordid history. In fact it wasn't until around 15 years ago this small country emerged from fierce fighting and genocide. The country became embroiled in the Vietnam war in the 1970's creating millions of refugees. This ushered in a reign of communist terror by Pol Pot. During his regime an estimated 2.2 million Cambodians were murdered. Most of them educated males. Cambodia became known for its infamous "killing fields" where hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered and buried in shallow graves by the government Khmer Rouge.

Current Cambodia....

Cambodia was finally freed by Vietnam and has been striving to shake off its past and emerge with a future. The population is young and eager. But there is very little industry and much scarcity. Scarcity of necessities and scarcity of opportunity. Case in point, Eng has a masters degree, and speaks fluent English, however he bounces around from job to job. He is educated with no where to go. Out of the slums but stuck in poverty. Brent and Eng embarked on a joint venture to import cars into Cambodia. However the timing was inopportune as the US economy tanked. Our cautious fiscal natures didn't allow us to invest anymore.

However the last 18 months Brent and Eng stay in contact and Brent searches for ways to help.

A Small Opportunity...
Eng began recently to work for a nonprofit organization set up to help educate young Cambodians living in the slums. It came to our attention none of these children would be receiving Christmas presents this year.
This seemed to us the perfect opportunity to make a small difference in a country which has captured Brent's heart and begins to capture mine. A monetary donation from our family provided Christmas gifts for over 400 students from Cambodia's most destitute slums.
When these pictures arrived the day after Christmas my heart was full. I couldn't help but become overwhelmed by my emotions (and this wasn't even pregancy motivated! thank goodness I am past the first trimester now).
I loved watching the girls faces as we poured over the pictures and talked about what it meant and how our little family had been a part of this. Ellery had donated $2 of her piano practicing money which really meant something to her.

Our contribution also provided gifts and food for Eng's family, neighbors, church members and missionaries.
A Step in the Right Direction...

This Christmas was a small step in the right direction for our family. I wish the children could have been more involved beyond the money and pictures. And so as a family our journey has begun. We are investigating with a lawyer how to begin our own Family Foundation.

We will keep you posted on how things progress and how friends, family, and kindred spirits can join with us to help use our abundance here to eliminate aching, chronic scarcity elsewhere.


Christmas Pageant Sing Along Page

I am putting together this little Christmas Nativity program for our family tonight, my parent usually have a big crowd with our live nativity in their barn. So I put together this little paper to hand out to all those watching.

Sing 1st v. only unless specified
Joy to the World
Away in a Manger
Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains
Angels We Have Heard on High (3rd v)
Children sing v 1...
Come to Bethlehem and see, him whose birth the angel s sing
Come adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord the newborn King
We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we've traveled so far.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain following yonder star.
Oh star of wonder, star of night. Star of royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.
Silent Night (All verses)
2....shepherds quake...
3....Son of God...

I ran it off 4 per page. Merry Christmas. Have a wonderful and sacred night!


On Big Day

One big day. Ready for Christmas. December 22.

Swimming at the Rec. Center...
Nice camera work by Pip....
Snowboarding at Sundance....the girls hit the "real slopes" for the first time...success!
Out to dinner (we never do this)... And the car ride home...
A fun time had by all...


Buckwheat and Black Bean Chili

Growing up we had this great tradition of chili and cornbread on Christmas Eve. Here is a yummy recipe I derived for a church chili cookoff. Admittedly it didn't win anything, but those people who appreciate meatless, healthy meal met this recipe with rave reviews. I wish my family loved chili, because I do. They don't. So I make this and eat it for a week. I can't make it too often!.

P.S. Thanks so much to all of you who have shared your vegan recipes with me! I can't wait to try them. Merry Christmas to all!

Buckwheat and Black Bean Chili

from the kitchen of Rebecca

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 large yellow bell pepper,chopped

1 large red bell pepper,chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

3 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon real salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 cups black beans

2 cups steamed buckwheat (cook as you would white rice, available at health food stores)

2 14-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cups water or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons real maple syrup (or to taste)

2 teaspoons molasses (or to taste)

2 cups steamed Wheat Berries (cook as you would brown rice)

Garnish with...

Juice of 1 lime

1 avocado, diced

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Saute the first five ingredients over medium heat. I put black beans, wheat and buckwheat in my pressure cooker and cook together for about 25 minutes. Or you make cook them separately on the stove top or in a rice cooker. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on high for 5 hours. Reduce to low and continue to simmer until ready to serve.


Backyard Chicken Update

The hens still are not laying eggs. But we opted against putting a light in the hen house. If you want them to lay through the winter, apparently they need a solid 12 hours of light. Since we barely eat eggs anymore, we are just letting them go au natural.

After 2 weeks solid of hiding out in their hen house (too cold and too much snow), they have begun to brave the outside world and forage around in patches of exposed earth.
Always sticking together. Thankfully a large blanket of snow separates my deck and the coop.
This is Miriam after she was chased onto the fence by Brim. The little trouble maker. I have never seen her fly so high!
I am having trouble keeping their water unfrozen. Miriam is looking a little skinny. But I specifically got cold weather birds so they could handle the cold.