What is my blog about? It's about Torah family living. It's about letting Torah affect our daily lives, from mealtime to bedtime, homeschooling to farm chores.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Outdoor Hour - Challenge #2

This week's challenge was to focus on what we could hear, see, and feel.  Thanks to Daddy coming along and acting as photographer, we have a few extra photos this week.  :-)

Overall, it was very quiet during our nature hike, but we definitely could hear lots of snapping branches.  There is lots of deadwood where we took our walk.

We saw something very interesting, goldenrod in three different stages, all within a few feet of each other.

goldenrod in full bloom

goldenrod forming seed heads

goldenrod seeds ready to take off

We also felt some things, one of which was very cold wind on our faces lol!
We also felt some spongy, fuzzy moss.

We hope you enjoy each of your hikes into creation.  There's always something new to learn, because our Creator has infinite creative juices flowing!

To enjoy The Outdoor Hour in your family, go here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Positive Reflections

My Mom and I were talking about the power of our positive words.  When we speak goodness, truth, positive words, particularly Torah, the whole universe is knit together.  However, when we speak negative, hurtful words, we actually bring violence to the earth.  Storms, hurricanes, volcanoes, are the earth violently responding to the curse and our negative words.  Words are powerful.  I believe it is Brad Scott who teaches more on this subject.  Well, this thought has really stuck with me the last few days.  What is my speech bringing to the environment around me?  What is it bringing to my family?  What is it bringing to me and the little baby inside me?  I have tried to be very mindful of my speech the last few days, and I encourage you to do the same.  I have failed miserably, but I'm trying and growing.

Here are some positive thoughts to get us all going.  They are quotes from the Amidah.  Doug pointed out to me that each prayer ends with "Blessed are you, YHVH..."  So, here they are.

Blessed are you, YHVH, the shield of Abraham.

Blessed are you, YHVH, who resurrects the dead.

Blessed are you, YHVH, the holy Elohim.

Blessed are you, YHVH, gracious giver of wisdom.

Blessed are you, YHVH, who desires repentance.

Blessed are you, YHVH, the gracious one who pardons abundantly.

Blessed are you, YHVH, the Redeemer of Israel.

Blessed are you, YHVH, who heals the sick of His people, Israel.

Blessed are you, YHVH, who blesses the years.

Blessed are you, YHVH, who gathers in the dispersed of His people of Israel.

Blessed are you, YHVH, the King who loves righteousness and judgment.

Blessed are you, YHVH, who breaks enemies and humbles sinners.

Blessed are you, YHVH, mainstay and assurance of the righteous.

Blessed are you, YHVH, the builder of Yerushaliym.

Blessed are you, YHVH, Who causes the pride of salvation to flourish.

Blessed are you, YHVH, Who hears prayers.

Blessed are you, YHVH, Who restores His presence to T'zion.

Blessed are you, YHVH, Your name is the Beneficient One and to You it is fitting to give praise.

Blessed are you, YHVH, who blesses His people with shalom.

Shabbat Shalom, everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's here! Jonathan's Story

Feeling a bit dreary and cold outside?  Try celebrating Chanukah in a whole new way.  Focus on the true story of the Maccabees and do some great activities as you go along.  I have written a family friendly version of their story which I call "Jonathan's Story."

"Jonathan's Story" is finished and ready for you to download.  There are eight parts to the story, one for each day of Chanukah.  Be sure to check out the activities before Chanukah.  Some are spontaneous, but some may require you to gather some materials ahead of time.

Download:  "Jonathan's Story"

Please take the time to share your Maccabee based Chanukah celebration with us, so we can all get more ideas for next year.  Post a link to your blog post below.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

The womb

Why are you having a sixth baby? How will you take care of them all? How will you feed them? How will you pay for their education? How will you give each one individual time? Are you crazy? Don’t you have any self control?

Yes, I’ve heard all of these questions, many legitimate. What is my answer to why I’d have another baby?

Simply put:

I have been counted among the blessed.

My muddy, noisy, rambunctious, sweet, intelligent children with large appetites are truly a blessing to me. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Sure, it’s a challenge to manage a large household where every recipe is tripled. Occasionally the dirty laundry pile ought to have its own summit. It’s hard work to raise animals and butcher them so I know my children are getting plenty of good quality meat. I work hard to make sure my children are well schooled, not just in the 3 R’s, but in the very foundation of life, the Scriptures. I pass out hugs and lap time liberally and do my best to know what’s going on in each of my children’s minds, often a challenge. Sometimes I think I’m crazy, but that’s because I got sloppy and let things get ahead of me. As for self control, that could be worthy of its own post. But let’s suffice it to say, when you look up self control in the dictionary, you will find our picture.

So life isn’t perfect at our house. We face challenges. We have problems. We sometimes mess up. But last I checked, we were all living outside the garden. (Even outside the garden, the scenery can be beautiful, and the walks to the mailbox with little helpers can be very refreshing.) So why does YHVH choose to give children to parents who are bound to mess some things up?

Because YHVH intended for us to give life (torah) to our children. Our children would give life (torah) to their children. They would give life (torah) to their children. And as this continues, all the world is blessed. The beautiful irony of it all is that children themselves are called a blessing.

Now I’d like you to read some of the many Scriptures that beautifully show just how important the fruit of the womb is to YHVH. To have a child wrap their arms around you and say, “I love you mommy,” is to see the heart of YHVH.

When YHVH saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.

                                                                        (Gen 29:31)

He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.

                                                                          (Deu 7:13)

Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.

                                                                          (Psa 71:6)

Behold, children are a heritage from YHVH, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

                                                                        (Psa 127:3-5)

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

                                                                           (Ecc 11:5)

Thus says YHVH who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

                                                                             (Isa 44:2)

Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: "I am YHVH, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

                                                                             (Isa 44:24)

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

                                                                         (Psa 128:3)

The voice of YHVH makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

                                                                          (Psa 29:9)

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise YHVH!

                                                                         (Psa 113:9)

But Yahshua said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

                                                                        (Mat 19:14)

So these are a few of my thoughts, and many thoughts from our Heavenly Father. Ever think about how big a family He has?

For those of you moms out there, with one child or nineteen, I salute you. May your children rise up and call you blessed. YHVH already has. Shalom to you all. I shall now return to my anxious wait for that first kick.  :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A teeny tiny sneak peek

Forgive me ladies!  I couldn't resist posting just a little snippet.  We have to keep those appetites whetted until the PDF comes out, after all.  Enjoy, the rest will be following very shortly.

We had no woman in our household to help us prepare for Shabbat, so Eleazar made the extra bread and set aside some special dried fruit he had grabbed when we fled Modin. We were anxious to rest since it had been a very long week. We had no torah to read or synagogue to meet in, but we each had memorized many sections of torah, and Simeon would recite the portion for us. As the sun went down, we did our best to lay our cares aside and rest in YHVH’s wonderful love. The cave was damp and smelled funny, but I preferred it to Modin, where the soldiers had taken over every house.

As the sun appeared on the eastern horizon, Simeon awoke us all with beautiful Hebrew phrases. The story of Phineas rolled off his tongue as we rose from our slumber. Phineas was so brave and did what was right. I hoped I could be that brave.

As the sun rose the next day, a man came running toward the opening of our cave. He was a friend, a man that had been hiding several miles from our cave. He nearly tripped in his hurry to reach us. My Father met him outside and spoke quietly with him. He brought the man inside and gave him some bread and water. Then he looked up at us and said, “We will choose life. Our brothers have just been killed, one thousand of them, because they would not fight on the Sabbath. But YHVH wants us to live! We will fight and we will live and we will give torah to our children’s children. Those wicked men will not wipe us off the face of the earth!”

Chanukah - Jonathan's Story

Thank you, everyone, for your very positive response to "Jonathan's Story."  I plan to have it completed in the next few days, and it will be available in PDF for your convenience.  (Thank you, Pam!)

I hope everyone has a very meaningful and powerful Chanukah this year!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chanukah - my contribution

There has been much talk of Chanukah lately, especially with it only two weeks away.  Parents want to teach their children truth rather than fairy tales, but still maintain the fun and build memories.  I humbly offer my contribution.  I propose a dramatic retelling of the Maccabees story, with a cliffhanger at the end of each day.  I have also included a few fun activities to follow each day's part of the story.  I have posted part 1 below, to be read on the first day of Chanukah.  If you like it and think it would be helpful to your family, please, please leave a comment.  Then I will post the other seven parts of the story.  I hope you enjoy it.

Jonathan’s story part 1

My name is Jonathan. When I was young, terrible times came to our people. We were told we could no longer obey the precious torah of our fathers. A strong and mighty, but desperately wicked king named Antiochus Epiphanes rose to power. I remember it like it was yesterday…

My brother Judas burst through the door.

“Father, have you heard the news? The beautiful lamp stand and all the wonderful things in the temple are gone!”

“Yes, Judas. I heard.” Mattithias, my father, looked up and I could see that he was weeping.

“I fear terrible times are about to visit our people. Many have not been faithful. YHVH promised to curse us if we do not obey. If only they could see that the precious commandments bring life and happiness. They teach us how to love each other and worship our Creator.”

I began to cry too, to see my father so upset.

As the days passed, news came that Antiochus had reversed all the laws of torah and set up false gods, idols, and pagan practices throughout the land of Israel. The family down the street had a little baby boy named Caleb. They circumcised him on the eighth day, just as torah commands. But soldiers came for them. My father did not hear in time to help them.

He gathered my brothers and I together and we did not eat. I was hungry, but I knew there were more important things than food. We prayed, and confessed, and pleaded with YHVH to save our people. When we finally got up from our fast and began to eat bread, I saw a look on my father’s face. I shall never forget it. He was determined, his face in stone, and he simply said, “Boys, we will obey YHVH no matter what.”

The next day, I helped load food on the donkeys. Dried fruit and cakes and wine in a goatskin were loaded, along with blankets. We began our trip to Jerusalem. I was worried. Wouldn’t there be trouble there? Hadn’t they already sacrificed a pig on the altar? I shuddered at the thought. What was my father thinking?

As we saw Jerusalem rise up ahead of us on the horizon, my father began proudly singing the songs of ascent.

“Praise ye YHVH! Praise, oh ye servants of YHVH! Praise the name of YHVH! Blessed is the name of YHVH from this time forth and forevermore.”

My brothers and I all lifted our voices together. It seemed as though the rocks sang out with us, relieved to hear a familiar song.

And then the gate loomed up ahead of us, and I wondered what lied ahead.


Activities: Read the Psalms of Ascent - Psalm 113-118. Use tambourines, drums, whistles etc. and pretend to march up to Jerusalem while reading the psalms. Even in troubled times, the Maccabees held their heads high, determined to obey YHVH.
A beautiful cd with the Psalms 120-134 sung in hebrew is available here.

The scriptures tell us that even the stones want to cry out and praise YHVH. Paint some rocks with pictures of YHVH’s beautiful creation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Outdoor Hour - Challenge #1

I know I'm a bit late in the game, but I was pleased to discover The Outdoor Hour last week.  I have the book "Handbook of Nature Study," but it had been sitting on a shelf.  We are not new to the idea of nature study however.  I have been teaching my children flower names and looking for spider webs, etc. for years.  I have fond memories of walking the yard with my Dad, while he checked on all the trees he had planted.  He loved to show me the new growth on the pine trees and name the wildflowers that he knew.  I used to joke that any tree that was shorter than me was only a stick in the ground.  Perhaps this fed his desire to check for growth literally every day.  At any rate, he gave me a love for nature and walking around looking for details.  Thanks, Dad!

So we got back in the habit this week, and went for a nature hike along one of our property lines.  My kids were very excited to go for a walk with mommy, but were a bit skeptical when I told them to try to find something new and special.  Holly told me, "Mom, there is no way we are going to find something new.  We've seen everything out here."  At first, I was tempted to believe her.  We have seen these trees, and grass, even the remains from squirrels eating up in the tree.  But YHVH is not limited by trees and grass.  He gave us some wonderful new things to see.

First, they noticed that the grass and weeds were changing color, just like the leaves on the trees.  We found red strawberry leaves, and orange fern.  Some seagulls flew overhead.  Then, as the kids ran ahead a little, I looked down and saw a rather surprising thing, a piece of birch bark.  I didn't know we had any birch trees.  So I showed the kids the unique bark and challenged them to find the tree it came from.  A search commenced, and soon we found a lone birch tree that even I couldn't get my arms around.  What a delight, especially since this is one of my favorite trees.  We talked about birch bark canoes, and how I used to write notes on the pieces of bark. 

We also discovered some lovely green moss on the ground.  The kids enjoyed feeling the fuzzy texture.  We, of course had to see if we could find some on the trees.  We found about three varieties.  By the way, moss does not just grow on the north side of trees, as I had always heard.  So, if you're expecting to use moss to get you out of the woods, think again!

Our other very cool discovery was a fallen tree branch that was bigger than the tree it snapped from.  It must have come down in our recent nasty wind storm.  I was able to nonchalantly point out that the wood turns gray as it is exposed to the weather.

An old bottle, a wayward corn husk, and the always essential pinecones made their way into our collection.

What did we learn from challenge #1?
Even my seven year old tree climbing genius has not discovered everything in YHVH's wonderful world!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

We Stand with Israel

Israel, our Jewish brothers, we want you to know we stand with you.

We are Ephraim, your brother.
We may look different, but we serve the same Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
We read the same torah portion to our children.
We are learning the same Hebrew language.
We eat kosher.
We celebrate the same holy feasts as you.
We keep the seventh day Shabbat.
We wear the same tzitziyot.
We pray the same Amidah.
We teach our children the Shema.

We love you and we support you.

When you are blessed, we are blessed.  When you are cursed, we are cursed.
We pray for you, we speak in your defense, and we will fight for you.

Shema Yisrael, YHVH Eloheinu.  YHVH Echad.

We are one.  It is time to stand together and see the salvation of YHVH!

(Those who count themselves as Israel are encouraged to post this wherever they can.  Please link back to this post.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Praying the Amidah

I have been blessed to begin praying the Amidah every night before I go to bed.  In case you are unaware, the Amidah is a collection of 18 prayers that Jews around the world pray three times a day.  When you see people at the wailing wall, they are praying the Amidah.  I was surprised to find out the Yahshua and even Daniel were probably praying the Amidah.

It is beautiful and so relevant.  I would like to share some of my favorite parts. 

"You sustain the living with kindness, resurrect the dead with abundant mercy, support the fallen, heal the sick, release the confined, and maintain the faith of those who sleep in the dust."

I love the idea that even when His people are dead and gone, He maintains their faith and promises to resurrect them when the time comes.

"Forgive us our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have willfully sinned; for You pardon and forgive.  Blessed are You, YHVH, the gracious one who pardons abundantly."

This is something we should certainly be praying three times a day.  To be quick to confess is to find forgiveness quickly.

"Sound the shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles and gather us together from the four corners of the earth."

I feel like this is our call home, and Judah prays it every day!  Some day soon, they will recognize their brother Ephraim and we will all live together in the land with Yahshua at our head.  Praise YHVH.

"We shall thank You and relate your praise - for our lives, which are committed to Your power and for our souls that are entrusted to You."

This is something I have been trying to pray from the bottom of my heart.  The idea of resting myself in YHVH's hands can be scary and also is the only thing that brings real peace.  But as I read the Psalms and even the prayers in the Amidah, YHVH is a God that can be trusted.  He shows great kindness to His people and never forsakes them.  His compassion never ceases.

"For Your miracles that are with us every day and for Your wonders and favors in every season - evening, morning, and afternoon."

I want to be watching so I can see the miracles and favors.  He is so good and His kindness is shown even in the things that seem hard to us.  May I recognize His hands even when the road seems rough.

If you are interested in learning more about the Amidah, I found an excellent article with the full Amidah at the end, found here

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reading Readiness

How do I know if my child is ready to learn to read?  Is three too young?  Is six too late?  I tortured myself over this with my first and have since learned ways to watch an individual child to see if they can handle learning to read.  I would like to share a little trick that I came across a few years ago.  It really seems to hold true, so here it is.

Does your child draw people in their pictures?  If they do, what do the people look like?  Are they big circles with a face?  Do they have arms and legs?  Being able to draw a person and put the parts in the right place seems to match up with the brain's ability to put letters together to form words.  Let me show you what I mean.

Notice that the people are primarily heads.  The "legs and arms" are simply lines that are tacked on after, but not really in the right spot.  There is also no body.  This is a first stage person.  Sadie drew this the other day.  She is 3 and a half.  I can also say that she is no where near being ready to tackle even the alphabet, let alone beginning reading lessons.  I am teaching her to write her name, but she can only trace over mine at this point.  I will continue to watch her pictures, and I also play copy games with her to let her try to write letters.  I point out letters in books, etc.  I'll continue to watch for comprehension.

This drawing has all the parts in the right place.  We have a head with face and hair.  The body is proportionate.  The arms and legs come out at about the right place and we even see hands and fingers.  No, those aren't bunny ears, silly!  This is an indian with feathers.  I would call this a stage two person.  Not a lot of detail yet, but everything is in the right place.  This child would definitely be ready to tackle an actual reading program.  This is Isaac's drawing from the other day.  He is five, and on lesson 17 in "How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons."  He is reading 3 and 4 letter words, and can write his name as well as copy anything I put in front of him.  He also can write letters from dictation.  He is probably my most advanced student for his age.

This picture has no stick person elements.  There is also a refreshing presence of clothing!  I would call this stage three.  Many grownups are too lazy to go to this effort lol!  We like stick people.  As I said before, stage two is usually a good indication of reading readiness.  This stage is just a great bonus.  This is Holly's drawing.  She just turned seven.  She is a little bit ahead of her little brother in reading ability.  Why is she not farther along?  Well, I didn't watch closely enough.  I spent months trying to teach her the alphabet, and ending up boring her to death and making zero progress.  I finally wised up and put her in "100 easy lessons."  They have the child reading actual words by about lesson 7 or 8.  She just took off at that point because she had a reason for learning.  She is now reading sentences and doing quite well.

Do I think "100 easy lessons is the only acceptable reading program?  Absolutely not.  I started Naomi in it and took her out.  She learned to read through a combination of several sources.  The whole point is to watch closely.  Are they ready?  Are they progressing?  Is the method I'm using slow enough, or, more likely, is it fast enough?  Do they enjoy learning to read?  I can't stress enough that if what you're using isn't working, try something else.

May your journey with your child down the road to reading be a happy one!  And may all their drawings be fully clothed!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Homeschool philosophy - my roots

First, I must admit that I did spend some time in public school.  But when my mom found out that homeschooling was legal, those years became a distant memory.  She went to a homeschool conference and came home with our books on order.  She sent a letter to the superintendent to pull us out of school.  I was about to enter 10th grade, and my little sister was starting 6th.  The first year, we used a packaged christian curriculum.  I remember filling out pages of schoolwork that we sent in to be corrected.  We soon learned that it drove me crazy to answer meaningless science questions, but I could talk for hours about what I was learning.  My little sister, however, would hide in a corner and read for hours, secretly despising my need to talk through every assignment.  (Love you, my dear sister!  We are such good friends now.)  We would later find out that I was an audio learner and she was a visual learner.

I discovered that the public school had never heard of infinitives and gerunds.  World history was another topic I knew little about.  My mom, who loves history, made timeline notebooks for us with the years going across the top of each page in a binder.  We added maps, dates, illustrations.  It is still a cherished possession that I hope to add to along with my children.  I already have two timeline notebooks on the shelf (made by Marme, as we call my mom) waiting for them to get a little older.

We started having Bible study together as a family in the evening.  My Dad would quiz us for tests.  I loved having a dad that really tried to be involved where he could.  He tried to help me with my physics workbook, but it didn't end well, for the book.  (Mental note that later became a guiding principle:  Workbooks are not always the best option.)  We played educational games like Muggins and AC DC, dad's personal favorite.

The next year, my mom got very brave and chose all her own curriculum.  Before the days of the internet, she drove hours to book fairs, and conferences.  She had to buy some things blind and hope that they would work.  Later she would confess, "How did I buy that many books?"  Well, mom, it was completely necessary.  How else would I have all these books to homeschool my kids?  The historical novel became a staple in our educational diet.  Cultural literacy became a household phrase.  "Far above Rubies" was used extensively.  My mom also became the matriarch of homeschooling for several counties at about this time.  Anyone interested in homeschooling came to her.

Did I miss school?  NOO!  I loved being at home with my family, and never missed the shallow and irrresponsible kids my age.  I much preferred the company of adults.  By the way, what about driving, etc?  My dad taught me how to drive, and I took my test at 19.  I still took private flute lessons, and traveled teaching Bible clubs every summer. 

When I graduated, I homeschooled college, too.  I took correspondence courses until I met Doug.  I managed to get 34 credits and was happy to set that aside and take up home life again in a different home.

Well, I could say much more.  Those years were very full and happy.  But I will refer to them more as I look at specific topics.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Homeschool philosophy - intro

I am a second generation homeschooler, meaning I was homeschooled and now I am homeschooling my own children.  My mom and I have spent many hours discussing this and that aspect of education.  Then we went to the trenches and tried it out.  Perhaps some of you homeschooling for the first time would appreciate a little insight from someone who's been there, from both sides of the desk, as it were.  (ok, kitchen table)

If you find my well organized ramblings helpful, great!  I have fulfilled my destiny.  :)
If you think I'm crazy, well, that's ok too.  I fully respect your use of the circular file.  (trash bin)
If anything, I get to write down all my ideas and insights and experience.
I hope you enjoy it.

My next installment will be titled:  My Roots.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My week in two words

I love how people do posts with two words, so I thought I'd give it a try.  So here's my week in two words.

sheep butchering
(obviously no picture here)

bye-bye flu
(again, an obvious lack of picture)

hello schedule
(perhaps there will be pictures of the benefits forthcoming)

new friend
(okay, I'm really bombing on pics here)

tomato sauce
(how'd that get in here?  tomato sauce tastes terrible to me right now!)

Pagoo grows

see, there's a picture

fur hat

blog ideas
(these will be appearing soon, particularly in my new tabs at the top)

So, there you have it! And for my two final words:

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Really good soup

Sunday we butchered a sheep, and cooked down as many bones as we could fit in our pots.  Today I was feeling much better after my little visit from a friendly little flu bug.  (Okay, he was really mean, and beat me up and left me for dead.)  So I made some soup from the broth. 

I strained out the bones and yucky stuff, and removed the fat.  Then I added enough water to give me about 5 quarts.  I added boullion.  Gramma chopped up lots of carrots, celery and onion.  Then we let it simmer for awhile.  I added about 1 1/2 c of lentils and some sage, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  Doug helped me refine the seasoning a bit at this point.  I throw in things from an herbalist point of view.  He throws things in from a culinary point of view.  He added some garlic (how did I forget how healthy garlic is?).  Last came a whole bunch of vegetable rotini. 

Everyone loved it.  It even set well on my not so settled tummy.  We served it with fresh warm bread with lots of butter.  Yummy!

By the way, Mom, I have a couple quarts of broth in the freezer for you, too.  :)

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