Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Morsel of Chicken Wisdom

Today I learned that it's really not the best idea to wear Birkenstocks into the chicken run. It really hurts when they peck your toes.
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Looking for Eggs

The kids love to go out and look for eggs. Our coop is well-designed. All they need to do is lift up the flap on the side, which as you see even the Rabbit can do easily.

Inside are three nesting boxes made of old plastic milk crates. For some strange reason, all our chickens always lay in the box on the right.

And we are getting at least half a dozen eggs a day. And they are delicious!
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Country Girls

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Friendly Ladies

Our chickens are friendlier than I expected them to be. Anytime we come over near their pen they run over to say Hi. I think it's because they grew up in a backyard with five kids where they were in the middle of all the action and now they're kind of tucked back away behind the stable.

Either that or they're just hungry and they want us to feed them.

But either way, I couldn't be more pleased. They're such pretty, friendly, jolly things.

This one is our rooster. He's a nice rooster, and a very attractive one too, I think!

Hooray for our chickens!
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I Have a Clothesline!

I used to hang my diapers and sheets on the chain-link dog run fence. When we pulled that out, I had to start using the pipe fencing. It wasn't working too well-- I was starting to get little holes in my diaper covers from the barbed wire. I was wondering what I was going to do and when the Badger would ever have time to put up a clothesline for me and where we would put it and when he would even be caught up enough on everything for me to even feel like I could ask him to do it. Then one day I went outside and he said "look what I made you!" He just strung a wire along where our pasture fence makes a little bend. It's near the house, it's sunny, and it's unobtrusive and out of the way. It's perfect! Thank you, my clever Badger!

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A New Look

The Rabbit and I were both feeling a little under the weather this morning, so I decided we would stay home from church. The Rabbit LOVES church more than anything in the world, so she wasn't very happy when I told her she couldn't go. Watching Roo get ready and have her hair done made her very sad, so I figured out a way to cheer her up:

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chickens in the Rain

Partway through Fish's soccer practice this evening it started to pour. After a few minutes the coach pulled the plug and sent everyone home. On the way home in the car we had a discussion about whether the chickens would be all huddled in their coop because of the rain or whether they would be out pecking around for all the fresh worms and things that would appear.

It's still raining out there and our chickens out bopping around their yard pecking at things. So that's one more thing I've learned about chickens.

There is still so much I don't know, but so far the chickens are still alive and laying eggs. I apparently have the basics down. Or actually Bean does-- we appointed him "chicken captain" and he's been doing all the work.

Several people have asked what breed I've got. I actually have no idea-- I really need to find out. The chickens belonged to a woman who was living with her mother and it was the mother who was there when we picked them up and she didn't know. I do know that seven of the hens are brown and lay brown eggs and one hen and the rooster are a different breed that's very slightly darker brown and is supposed to lay blue eggs (maybe these are Ameraucanas?) I haven't seen any blue eggs yet though.

My mother said "what are you going to do with 7 to 9 eggs every day?" I just laughed. We can definitely eat that many. In fact, I would like to get a few more than that. The Badger eats three eggs every morning by himself and the boys would too if I'd let them-- we could probably eat at least 12 eggs every day at this house.

Eventually we intend to have a bigger flock, but what we have right now is perfect for starting out.

It's Back!

Those of you who have been with me for a long time know about the Family Store that we started as a reward system in February of 2009. It went strong for the rest of the time we lived in Kansas at which point the rubbermaid tub it was kept in got put in our storage unit for the duration of the time we lived in Utah.

Once we got here to Oklahoma, the kids started bugging me about the family store. It took awhile to find it in the mess in the garage, but once I did the kids were over the moon. I hadn't realized just how much it meant to them.

We began trying to have it open on Monday nights like we used to, after Family Home Evening, but that just wasn't working out. With my pregnancy I was so tired by that time of day that setting it up was the last thing I wanted to do. Plus, at that time of night, usually the entire house was a total mess and the kids were totally ignoring me when I asked for some help in cleaning it up. It just didn't seem right to open the family store for rewards when they weren't willing to help me tidy things up a bit first. I would say "if the house is clean by 8:00 we'll do the family store before you go to bed" but it wouldn't happen. So we didn't do it for quite a few weeks.

They kept bugging me about it though, and I kept thinking about how I could make it work. I'd also been thinking about ways to incorporate other balls I was dropping into a better morning routine. Finally I figured it all out. I listed everything I wanted to have us do in the mornings, which was about ten things, and carefully chose pairs for each day. Knowing what a treat the family store was for them, I paired it with the most disagreeable thing on the list: our weekly house cleaning chores (like bathrooms and windows.)

Thursday was the appointed day, so this morning I wrote a chore list for each person on the white board in the school room. I told them if it was all done before lunch I would open the family store. It worked pretty well. They still got a little bogged down about halfway through all the cleaning but they did get it done in time and we did have the family store. And they were happy and so was I.

Consistency is so important with my children. If I am going to implement any system I have to be absolutely consistent or they come totally unglued and the whole thing flops. I therefore have to be very careful what systems I do introduce to them and make sure I can follow through on it before I start. This summer was so hard for me because I lacked the energy and health for any kind of consistency whatsoever and my boys particularly were pretty much unglued all summer. I am so happy that these last 2 or 3 weeks I have been able to hold things together-- I am still not feeling particularly well, but I am feeling so much better than I was and I am so grateful for that.

I've even been able to implement a very cool new system for piano practice, but I'll blog about that later.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Unexpected Botany Lesson

So, there are these bushes growing along the bottom fence of our property that have just produced masses of beautiful blue-black berries. I never really paid much attention to them before, but I now know that they are called Pokeberries and that they are poisonous to humans.

I learned this courtesy of the Rabbit, who ate some a few days ago.

You know, the people at Poison Control really are so nice and helpful. I've been on the phone with them several times in my career as a parent-- always before it was something very minor that I just wanted to make sure and it always turned out okay. This was the first time I actually ended up going to the ER as a result of calling them. They told me that if she had eaten enough of them to have a reaction (which would have been a night of violent vomiting, diarrhea, and possible convulsions) we could stop it before it started by taking her to the ER and having them give her some activated charcoal. So we did that. And she never got sick. And I'm very, very glad.

But those pokeberry bushes are coming OUT as soon as possible. I don't want to repeat the experience.
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We Have Chickens!

We are now the very proud owners of eight young hens and a rooster! Some friends of a friend had built a coop and got chicks this spring and then had to move this month to a place where they couldn't take them along. They gave us everything we needed: a coop, feeders, sacks of feed, bales of straw, etc. It was perfect for a bunch of novices like us. We went and picked them up this morning. The portable pen just barely fit on our trailer! We'll have to make a second trip for the actual coop.

The Badger had the chicken yard all ready and they love it back there. Plenty of things to peck at!

They just started laying and they've been extremely well looked after. She said she's already getting between 7 and 9 eggs a day, which is perfect for our family at this point.We're so excited! We're real country folk now!
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fish's Hole

Fish has been working really hard digging this hole over by the stable for several days now. He comes in and tells me how much he is building his muscles working on it. I'll bet-- I've dug around a little bit in this Oklahoma clay and it's really hard!

You know, this is exactly the reason we always wanted to live in the country-- so our kids could do stuff like this. I remember when the boys did this in Oregon I had to stop them because we had a small backyard and we were renting the house. The house was on a sand dune so it was really easy and fun to dig down and I hated telling them "no" but I had to. It's great to be able to say "yes" this time.
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Yard Projects

A couple weeks ago our neighbor came over with his Bobcat and helped the Badger rip out the chain-link dog run that took up a good chunk of our backyard. I had mixed feelings about them doing this because I thought the fenced-off area might come in handy for something at some point (plus it was where I hung my laundry). But I was amazed at how our yard opened up when it was gone. The space really is much more usable now.

If we could level this area out a little bit (and the Badger plans to) we could have Fish's soccer team practice here instead of me having to drive him 8 miles each way to soccer practice.

You can see too how we moved the little white shed the last owner used as a dog house-- it used to be right next to the house where you can see the brown spot by the AC unit and now you can see it back by the other outbuildings.

The area behind the two sheds and the stable is a perfect size for keeping small animals such as goats or chickens. It is nicely fenced with horse fencing and the Badger has been working on lining it with something more suitable for said small animals which will work themselves into our lives when the time is right.

Bean and Fish have been helping him. They do a great job and they're very proud of their work. It does look really nice.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Even More Cat Therapy

It's the craziest thing how these cats can absorb Badger-stress. I love it!

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Tackling Tackle

In July, when it was so hot that the kids couldn't play outside much and they were bouncing around the house making me nuts, I started thinking about fall sports. Last fall Bean played flag football and Fish played soccer, both at the YMCA. We really liked YMCA sports-- they were low-key. However, there is not a YMCA within reasonable driving distance of where we now live. So I started sniffing around.

There is a thriving youth soccer league in the area, so Fish was all set. But football-- the only thing I could find out about was a local tackle league. The Badger and I agreed that tackle football was more time and commitment and FAR more money than we were really up to. It was really a very logical decision to put Bean in soccer along with Fish, and Bean said he was fine with that.

However, I just couldn't get football out of my mind. It seemed somehow that Bean and football were being drawn to each other like magnets. I was very clearly getting the inspiration that Bean needed to play tackle football and every time I tried to reason it away with all my extremely valid excuses I'd just get this sick feeling. At the very last minute we decided to take the plunge.

We jumped into a deeper pool than I even realized. Suddenly we were going to practices three times a week for two hours in July when it was 104. I was given a ballpark figure of what the total monetary cost was going to be and then I was quite pleased with myself for finding some good used gear and saving us a wad of cash and then... you want HOW much for his uniform jersey????? Come August they're talking about pre-season tournaments? I show up at the first game and they want me to pay three bucks just to go watch my son play. The game was at 8:00 and the field was all lit-up and there was a real scoreboard and a concession stand. I just never imagined anything this serious for kids who are only 7, 8, and 9 years old.

Now I'm finding out that the team we're on is actually more laid-back than most. Other teams practice four or five times a week. Other teams have colored helmets with fancy decals and custom-colored pants as well as custom jerseys. Other leagues in other towns charge three times as much of a participation fee and other fields charge spectators five or six bucks to get in. It turns out we got off easy.

When Bean started I was so clueless about football that I didn't know an end zone from a tight end. I'm still a bit confused, but I've learned a lot about how the game works. One thing I see is that it's a very complex game and if you're going to play it well you really need six or more hours of practice a week. The pre-season scrimmage tournament was an extremely helpful experience to get them ready to play real games. And my three bucks goes to help pay the refs, who have a pretty complex job. As for the uniforms-- they sure look good!

Bean loves football. He is on the old edge of his age bracket so he is just about the biggest kid on his team. They have him playing guard and it looks to me like he's doing a pretty good job.

However, his team is not doing well. They have played four games at this point and lost every one. In three of the games they haven't even scored at all. Today's game was the worst-- 31 to nothing. Bean the thick-skinned optimist doesn't mind, but some of the kids on his team are getting discouraged. Some of the dads are getting upset and that's just making everything worse.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's wrong. I don't see any major deficiencies in their coaches-- I really like the coaches actually. The kids are all trying hard and none of them are obviously awful players. Maybe we should have been practicing five times a week, but I don't think that's the biggest problem. From where I'm sitting, I'm not seeing a lot of team unity and I'm not seeing enough confidence on the field. I think the two are linked together. I also think they're tied to the fact that the parents of the kids aren't really very friendly with each other. Many of them seem to be so into their own boy and what he's doing that they mostly ignore everyone else. I'm not an extrovert by any means, but I often try to chat with the other parents a little bit and I usually don't feel very welcome.

At Bean's game this morning there was very little mixing between supporters on our side. There was some cheering and encouraging, but not a lot, especially once they started losing again. Then it was just a downward spiral.

We went straight from that to Fish's first soccer game. It was a huge contrast. As I set up my camp chair the woman next to me leaned over and said "Hi I'm Kathy and my son's Adam. Which one's your son?" Then the guy on the other side of my leaned over and said "I'm Drew and I'm Benjamin's dad. It's nice to meet you." (Wow, maybe I'm not the three-headed woman from Neptune after all!) We all started talking about which boy was which and by the end of the first quarter everyone supporting our team knew the names of each boy and was constantly cheering for them. When my Fish had the ball there were twenty people yelling "Go Fish!" When someone did something good everyone cheered and yelled "Good job!" and when someone totally flubbed it there was a groan and then a call of "Good try! It's okay!" The boys were confident and working together. And they were having a blast. Yes, it helped that they scored a lot of goals and that they ended up winning 8-5, but which is cause and which is effect? What are all the elements that make a cohesive, confident, winning team? It's been interesting to think about as I've compared my two game experiences today.

Today's game was a wonderful experience for Fish with his middle-child issues. I'm so glad he's on this soccer team. I'm also extremely glad that Bean is playing football and that he is on the team he is on. He is learning so much. I really feel that even these discouraging losses are beneficial for his learning and growth-- I have this feeling that he's going to learn some truths that will be vital for his development as a future leader. I'm not sorry at all we put him in football and that he ended up on this team, but I would like to see them pull out of their slump.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Inside Peek

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting. As is custom I took a couple minutes at the beginning to introduce our family. I stated that we had four children and were having another one around Thanksgiving time. Since then quite a few people from the ward have come up to me and said "I had no idea you were even pregnant!" Yep, that's me-- I never look pregnant until the last month, I just look like a size 18. If they knew me six months ago when I was a size 10 they might have figured it out. Well, maybe not-- maybe they just would have thought that I was a bit too enthusiastic about Braum's ice cream, the regional specialty. And that would have been correct too.

Every time I get pregnant I swear to myself that this time I will NOT gain 50 pounds like I always have before. And then the hormones kick in and it's all over. I see-saw back and forth between an attitude of "just give in, eat your heart out, and enjoy how good everything tastes" and a feeling of discouragement as I remember just how difficult it is to fight off every single pound after the baby comes.

But at least after the baby comes my hormones calm down and eating healthy actually sounds good. So does exercise, which I absolutely cannot handle during most of my pregnancy. It's just so strange to me that the one time of my life when I really need to be extra healthy I cannot stomach any of the things that I know are good for me. My health, as a result, goes downhill very rapidly and I struggle with fatigue and asthma and irregular heartbeat and all kinds of things that aren't really an issue when I'm not pregnant.

But every time I go to the midwife and say "the way I feel I really must be dying" they check me over and say "everything looks absolutely perfect."

Such was the case with the ultrasound that I had a month or so ago. There is another little girl in there and she looks absolutely perfect.

She also looks to me like another mini-replica of the Badger:

And she has darling feet and toes:

It was really good to see her. This has by far been my most difficult pregnancy, so getting to take a peek at my new daughter really did a lot for me psychologically. I needed to get her into focus-- I was so bogged down with how absolutely awful I've been feeling and how much is on my plate that it was hard for me to remember how wonderful and amazing what I am doing is.

And it is wonderful. And it is amazing. And I am so glad I am doing this. And I love her so much. And I only have another 10 weeks to endure before I get to kiss that nose and squeeze those toes and go back to eating bales of salad.

So pass me another bowl of ice cream!
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Last Friday we took a day trip to Chickasaw National Recreation Area near Sulpher, Oklahoma. The kids were amused at the name, which the Rabbit pronounced "Chicken Saw." However you say it, it is a beautiful place-- heavily wooded, so I hope we can go back again in a few weeks and see some nice fall color. There is a gorgeous big lake which looks really fun to boat in, but the boat rental places were pretty much closed up since it was past Labor Day. So we went over to the area of the park where they have the cold springs and ended up having a blast swimming in the river. It is as perfect of a natural swimming hole as it gets.

At the place where we got in it was fairly shallow and there were places for Roo and the Rabbit to splash and play. The boys went upstream a bit and found all sorts of interesting things including a deep swimming hole and a place where they could see a bunch of fish lurking. I sat on the edge with my feet in the water and played with the horsetail grass. I also took a few pictures, but the lighting was bad and they didn't turn out very well. Still, they give you the idea that we were having a very fun time!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Rabbit Speaks Out

Yesterday in Sacrament Meeting our last speaker was from the stake High Council. He was an older gentleman with many visible signs of venerable years. When he stood up to speak my Rabbit took one look at him and then stood up on the pew with excitement and exclaimed "YODA!!! IT'S YODA!!!!!"

Oh, what would we do without two-year-olds?

The Perfect Camping Spot

I'm still trying to catch up on everything that happened during my internet famine. Then I can tell you what's going on now. Like, I realized last night as I looked at ultrasound pictures I have hung on my bedroom wall that I never posted the flavor of baby I'm having. I'll get to that soon, I promise. Anyway, Bean got this tent for his birthday.

The Badger is a hard-core camper and I'm a happy camper but ever since Roo was born we haven't been camping as a family. The more tiny kids you have the more work it is and then when you have a very sensitive young child that's terrified of bugs followed a couple years later by a young child that is a total stick of dynamite the idea of camping is not very appealing. For the last four years I've just sent the Badger off with the boys whenever he gets the camping itch.

Anyway, as I was saying, Bean got this tent for his birthday and so of course we had to set it up ASAP in the backyard. And then we realized that while backyard camping is really lame when you live in suburbia it's a totally different story when you live in the country. As a matter of fact, our backyard is the perfect camping spot. No RVs parked 10 feet away from you blaring rock music until 1 am and other such annoyances.

So we slept outside a couple of nights. Okay, I will confess and rephrase that-- THEY slept outside a couple of nights. This bag of pregnant bones stayed on her indoor mattress. But Roo actually slept out in the tent the second night and that's a first for her. She loved it and so did the boys.

But wait! You can't have a real campout without a campfire! Well, thanks to the Badger, that wasn't a problem. One of the first projects he completed around here was a fire pit in the backyard. It's kind of funny-shaped because he made it entirely of rocks that were already on the property (clever Badger!) but it functions perfectly.

Even when we haven't had the tent up we've had several jolly family evenings around the campfire in the backyard this summer. We cook tasty things and we sing songs and we make great memories. All the kids look forward to our next fire night, including the Rabbit. And I do join in on these events. (How can you not join in when there's s'mores?)

As the kids get older I'm sure we'll explore more of what Oklahoma has to offer in terms of camping but for now this is ideal-- quiet, close to home, and with flushing toilets and electricity.
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Loving September

The second half of July and all of August was incredibly hot and dry around here. The worst thing about it for me was how dried up and forlorn the world looked.

When September hit we started getting rain again. Man, that grass greened up FAST! Once we had a really good soak it only took three or four days for our lawn to look like this again:

Now the days are warm but not hot and there are plenty of clouds and rain showers to break up the monotony. It's a lot more humid than it was during the dry spell but with the clouds and breezes I am not minding that much.

And my garden is loving it, at least the part that is still alive:

And as I mentioned my chard is utterly thrilled. I can't believe the change in it. It struggled all summer while everything else was thriving and now that everything else is shriveling and dying it's going bananas. It cheers me up to look at it.

Really, this is my favorite time of year. As soon as the heat breaks I am one content little Birrd. The days are so pleasant and there is so much to look forward to. I love the harvest and the feeling of gathering in as the days shorten and the weather cools. Once everything is dead and the weather has turned nasty cold it's still okay because it's the holidays. And this year I have a new baby to look forward to as well.

Happy September!
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