Saturday, April 30, 2011

Convention

We decided at the last minute to go to the homeschool convention in the city, or at least the vendor hall part of it. So we loaded up the fam and headed in.

I pretty much knew what to expect and why I was going. You have to pay money just to get in to the vendor hall but it’s worth it because you get to pick books up and actually thumb through them, as opposed to just reading reviews of them online. The other big draw for me is that there are a ton of booths representing local venues offering stuff for your kids that you had no idea was available in your area until now. Things like homeschool choirs and tuba lessons and rowing teams.

The vendor hall is huge and by the time we had gone up and down every aisle I was plumb wore out. I was in such a daze that it was hard to stop and think carefully about what I wanted most to take a close look at and seriously consider buying. However, nothing I was considering was on any kind of huge “convention only special,” so I could always buy it later on the internet. So in the end I spent very little money, which is quite an accomplishment at one of these things.

I bought a couple of books from Todd Wilson-- “The Familyman.” I was well-familiar with him from The Old Schoolhouse magazine and emails, so it was kind of fun to see him in person. One of the things he does is homeschool cartoons that are extremely funny to a homeschooling mom right in the thick of it. Like the one where it shows a dad coming home from work and finding his wife hiding in her closet curled up in a ball—I sure have had days like that!

They also had the author of the “Hank the Cowdog” books there. My boys are Hank fans, so I bought them each a paperback and we had the author sign them. I’m glad the boys had the experience of meeting an author of books they enjoy.

A couple of other things to mention about the convention: I just like going to homeschool conventions because there is such a good feeling there. The people there are good people. The place is just bursting with happy families and it’s nice to be in the company of so many people who believe in the same things you do. Or maybe it’s just that you don’t feel quite as crazy when you see you’re not the only one!

Also, they had a section for homeschooled kids to set up booths to promote their own little businesses. They were selling things like homemade hair bows, tomato plants in pots that they grew from seed, duct tape wallets, and such. I was so impressed with these kids. They had well-set-up displays, they were polite and knowledgeable, and one girl I talked to was only eleven. It just made me think that maybe my kids are going to turn out okay after all.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I Make Them Play Soccer

It wears them out!

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Alas, Poor SuperPeep

Our chicks are growing so fast. Some of them are getting feathers already. It’s so fun to watch.

We did lose one chick. Of course it had to be the one out of 34 that the kids had named. When the chicks arrived there was one that was a unique grey color and it was smaller than all the others. Fish named it SuperPeep and really latched on to it. Well, after a couple days it was clear that Superpeep just was not thriving for some reason and though I did my best to help him out he finally succumbed.

They haven’t named any more chicks since then. I’ve been naming some of them though. Names like Reginald and Roderick and Frederick Arbuthnot.

The ducks are driving us nuts. They’re cute as anything, but they make the hugest mess out of their brooder box and it stinks beyond belief. They and we will be much happier when we can get them out of the brooder and into a pen of some sort with a wading pool. I am glad we got them for the kids and for the experience, but I doubt we’ll do it again. So we’ll just enjoy them this one time.

The goats and chickens are fantastic though!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Testimony

I had an interesting experience on Sunday at church that I would like to share.

I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting. As the meeting began there was such a wonderful spirit in the room. I felt the fire of my testimony burning inside and I was looking forward to my turn to speak. I wanted to get up there and open my mouth and let it all out. I couldn't wait to express the beautiful feelings I had inside.

When I did get up to speak, I had such a hard time finding words to express my feelings. My heart was so full and there just didn't seem to be any way to convey it into words. Just saying "Jesus Christ is our Savior and He loves us" didn't seem to even begin to describe the way that knowledge was burning inside of me.

I felt like I floundered through my talk. After me, it was the choir's turn. I got up to sing with them. Our piece was "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."

As I sang, even though now I was only one voice of many, I felt like I was finally doing justice to my feelings. Those words of testimony coming out of me in song were far more powerful than the words I had spoken a few minutes before. It was such a joy and a relief to be able to sing with my whole heart "Oh sweet the joy this sentence gives / I know that my Redeemer lives!"

This experience really stood out to me as yet another example of the power of music. I don't fully understand music because I know that there is far more to it than we are aware of. It does things to us on a spiritual plane that we cannot sense, and it is a far more powerful method of conveying a message than words alone. Just why that is and how it works is a fascinating thing to think about. And what messages we and our children are getting in this extra-powerful way through the music we choose and what that is doing to us is a sobering thing to think about.

Easter 2011

We had a very marvelous Easter this year. We have been making a real effort to keep the focus on Jesus Christ and I'm pleased with how that's going. For the last few years we've done all the fun stuff on Saturday and I'm liking that tradition. This year we did a church egg hunt with plastic eggs and tons of candy in the morning and then a family egg hunt in the evening with dyed hard-boiled eggs. I didn't have to buy any candy because they got plenty at the church party.

Our property is a great place for an egg hunt! Plenty of space and lots of great places to hide. I think there's still one out there somewhere that we missed.... Anyway, here we are all lined up to begin, and you can even see me in the picture!


There was an egg hidden in that piece of hollow log and the Rabbit found it right away!



It's funny how such a simple thing as a hunt for colored eggs can get kids so incredibly excited, even older kids.





On Sunday morning we had a special family devotional before church where we talked about the Resurrection. Then we gave each of the children a gift that will help them draw closer to their Savior. Bean got a new Bible, Fish and Roo got picture books on gospel subjects, and the Rabbit and Peanut got music CDs on a religious theme. I gave the Badger the DVD series of Truman G. Madsen in the Holy Land and he was so excited. We've started watching them and they're awesome.

The weekend was fun, but more importantly we all felt closer to Christ, and that to me is the indication that Easter was properly observed.
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A Gush From My Inner Weather-Geek

Isn't this just the coolest example of mammatus clouds you've ever seen?????


(Toad Hall finally got rained on this weekend-- hooray!)
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Memo to Rabbit


Dear Rabbit,

I know that the things that you do make perfect sense to your three-year-old mind, but the rest of us are sometimes a little mystified and would like a little bit of clarification. Therefore, I have a few issues I would like to address.

I am really curious as to why you placed a partially-peeled onion in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

Please stop locking yourself in your father's office. You may have a brilliant new organizational plan in mind for his bookshelves, but trust me when I say that no one messes with the Badger's book collection.

I am sorry, but I do not know where your “ga-ga shoes” are. I have no idea what “ga-ga shoes” are, actually, and that makes it hard for me to locate them.

I truly appreciate your concern for the welfare of our cats, but cats do not eat bananas.

It would be really helpful if you would return my toothpaste, the cheese slicer, and the kitchen timer from wherever it is you have them stashed.

If you can enlighten me on any of these issues, I would appreciate it. But please remember that when you talk to me you need to remove your baby sister’s binky from your mouth so that I can understand what you are saying.

Love, Mom
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Look What I Found!

Take a look at this shirt I just found for Peanut! Is it perfect, or what?

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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Oklahoma Land Rush

Today marks the anniversary of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. For those of you rusty on your history, I'll give you a brief summary of what Bean and I have been learning from the books we checked out from the library.

Oklahoma was actually part of the Louisiana Purchase, but for a long time it was designated by the government as "Indian Territory." They eventually drove a lot of Native Americans from other regions into the area (the famous Trail of Tears ended in Oklahoma.) Then the government decided to open up part of the area for white settlement so they bought a bunch of land from the Indians and divided it up into plots that they would give free to homesteaders in a very unique way.

The deal was that at noon on April 22, 1889 a cannon would be fired. At that point people could rush out and claim one of these plots. Thousands of people flocked to take advantage of this pretty awesome deal. Many people on the low end of society (such as freed slaves) saw it as their only chance to ever get ahead, so they sold everything they had and traveled to the starting line to participate in this crazy land grab.

When I moved here I wondered what a "Sooner" was-- I kept hearing that word everywhere. Turns out Sooners were the people who snuck over the line to stake their claims early. If they were caught they were disqualified and sent packing, but not all of them were caught. Now the Sooners are not only the mascot of the University of Oklahoma but they seem to be the unoficial mascot of all of Oklahoma too.

I have to admit that before I moved to Oklahoma I didn't know much about it. In my mind, it was a big stretch of hot dusty prairie, dotted with a few cows and oil wells, just filling space between more interesting places. Nothing had ever happened there of note besides the Murrah Federal Building bombing.

I'm glad to discover that I was wrong. Oklahoma actually has an incredibly fascinating history along with its surprisingly diverse landscape. And today as we worked on various projects on our property I felt absolutely thrilled to be living on a small piece of it. It's definitely not Eden, but it's really growing on me.

I spent the morning working on my garden beds and trying to get the kids to help me:


The Badger decided the ducks should spend the day in the chicken tractor (they seemed to like it.) He then spent the day building a bigger enclosure for our goats, who are not big enough yet to be contained by the horse fencing that surrounds our pasture.



And just for fun, here's another shot of my beautiful beautiful tree. I'm still not sure what kind of tree it is, but it makes me so happy every time I look at it.



At noon today, we did a small re-creation of the land rush. It was kind of a last-minute thing we threw together. Bean took some bright orange stakes and stuck them in the ground in various locations all over our pasture. A few minutes before noon we all went outside and lined up at the gate. The girls got in our little red wagon so they could be pulled to their "claim" by Bean. Then at noon, Fish fired his BB pistol into the air and we all made a mad dash for the orange stake of our choice. Then we all said "yay" and went back into the house to eat our pancakes.

I wonder who claimed the land we're on now in 1889. I wonder what they did with it and how it worked out for them. I wonder how they felt about this crazy place called Oklahoma.
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Small Goat Keeper

The Rabbit really enjoys our animals. She has a special relationship with our cats-- even Little Miss White Socks lets the Rabbit love on her. And now she's bonding with our goats too.

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Bale of Fun

Yesterday we bought a big round bale of hay for our goats. Or maybe we bought it for our children, I'm not sure....







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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Garden Update

Yesterday I went out and really took a close look at my garden bed to see what was growing and what wasn't. The peas pretty much just didn't happen at all (been too hot for them, I think) but most of the rest is doing well. Got some lettuce and some spinach and lots of chard. My onions are growing like gangbusters (love fresh green onions from the garden!) The carrots are only barely starting to pop out, but I think they're going to do great.

I did some experiments where when I planted two squares of something I added commercial fertilizer to one square and not the other. I didn't know if it would make too big a difference since there is already a lot of manure in the bed, but the results were quite surprising. The biggest difference it seems to have made is in germination. Take the broccoli, for instance. I planted seeds such that I ought to have had four plants growing in each of two squares. That is what I have in the fertilized square. In the non-fertilized square, I have only one plant growing and it's a lot smaller than the others.



Anyway, I went through and replanted a bunch of stuff in areas where nothing was growing. Sometimes I planted more of what's already working and sometimes I started some new experiments.

I pulled out a bunch of weeds and threw them to the chickens. They went insane with joy. The chickens, I mean, not the weeds.

I have to say again how much I like these square foot beds. They make the garden so manageable. It's not overwhelming and it doesn't take that long to work the whole thing over-- weeding and replanting and fertilizing and everything.

And that makes is easier for the kids to work in their garden too. They are actually caring for their bed fairly well. In fact, Bean does a better job watering his than I do mine, which may be why he actually has some peas and I don't. Even his peas are struggling though. I don't think peas like 90 degrees in April.


I've got two more boxes set up and this week I'll be filling them with dirt and planting them with SUMMER crops!!!

Excitement Around Here...

...is when the one of the hens lays a really big egg...



(Poor hen!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Squeaky Box of Fuzzy Cuteness


At 7:04 this morning the phone rang. It was the post office. I quickly loaded up the kids and drove over there. They handed me this:


It was definitely the squeakiest package I've ever gotten in the mail. We took it home and opened it and found this:


More than 30 chicks are now happily in our brooder box (and our ducks are feeling displaced!)


While we're on the subject of chickens, some of you have probably been snickering about this for months, but we really actually do have nine hens and not eight hens and a rooster. The people who sold us the chickens explained how the one with the slightly larger tail was the rooster and we just trusted that they knew what they were talking about. I thought, well, maybe not all roosters have huge tails. What did I know? Anyway, it wasn't until this spring when we were researching chicken breeds and looking at pictures that it finally dawned on me. Those two darker chickens were Rhode Island Reds and there definitely ISN'T a Rhode Island Red rooster in our flock. Because they are very striking-looking birds with very large tails.

But we will have roosters now, with this new batch here. Probably lots of them. And I might even learn to tell them apart from the hens! :)

I did not grow up on a farm and so all this is very new to me. I knew getting into this that I was probably going to make some pretty silly mistakes, but that's all part of the fun.

Poem Located!

Astute reader Laney found the poem for me that I referenced in my last post:

Starting Out

Edgar A. Guest

They’re planning to get married, and I’m rather glad they are, Although the road ahead today seems difficult and far. They’ve very little money, and I’m rather pleased at that. They’ll know the joy of striving in an inexpensive flat.
They’re launching out together with high hopes and courage great. They’ve dreamed of having riches, but they’ve chosen not to wait, And they’re starting out with little—just his salary every week— And they’ll have to save and struggle now for every gain they seek.

Their bills will give them trouble, and they’ll sigh for things in vain. She’s going to do the cooking, and I fancy ‘twill be plain. He’ll help her in the kitchen and he’ll dry the dishes, too, and learn a lot of duties that he’d never thought he’d do.
But every chair they purchase will be laden with delight;
Every trinket toiled and saved for, will with joy be doubly bright.
So I’m not the least bit sorry, but am positively glad,
For they’ll know the fun of striving which their dads and mothers had.


How funny to read this poem again after more than a decade and hear it describe exactly what we've experienced over the years! (Thanks, Laney!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Joy of Striving

My parents have a quaint and charming custom of sending homemade cards for birthdays/anniversaries/etc. My dad, a talented amateur photographer, will select a beautiful photo he has taken of flowers or scenery or wildlife and print it on cardstock. He then selects a poem that relates to the occasion, probably from The Best Loved Poems of the American People, and prints it on the inside of the card. My mother then handwrites a personal message. The result is something to treasure.

When the Badger and I got married they gave us a card just as I have described. I wish I could find it. They included a poem in it that I had never read before or since, but all through the last 11-plus years of marriage one idea from it has stuck with me. I tried to find the poem so I could share the whole thing on this blog, but it wasn't in any of my poetry books and even a Google search was fruitless.

It was written about a young couple getting married: the first line was "They're planning to get married (and we're rather glad they are!)" and that's all I remember except for the last bit. It said "...they will learn the joy of striving..."

That phrase, "the joy of striving," has been bouncing around in my head ever since. From the very beginning of our marriage things did not come easy for us financially. We lived in a converted farm shed that was 340 square feet. We counted every penny and we never had any extra. Every luxury we finally acquired came after a long time of going without and after much striving. This was a bit of a change for me after having grown up in a fiscally comfortable situation, but it was a situation I accepted readily with a great sense of adventure.

Every small step up we took from that humble beginning was so sweet and with each gain I would think again about that idea of the joy of striving. I could see how it really was a joy to have to work so hard to move forward because it made us so much more grateful than we would have been if the money had flowed in easily and abundantly. Even our setbacks (and we've had some big ones!) just made the gains all that much more precious.

That simple poem was one of the best wedding presents we received. When there were times that I felt discouraged by some aspect of our situation that phrase would pop into my head again and help bring things back into perspective.

We had a dream from the very beginning that someday we would live in the country on acres with animals and a garden and room for the kids to romp. For years it seemed completely impossible as we had to focus on just getting our finances stable or keeping them that way.

I was just scrolling through my last few blog entries and it suddenly really hit me again that we're finally living our dream. Now that we've got goats it finally feels like we're real country people. Our daily vernacular includes words like "stable" and "pasture" and "chicken coop." Oh, it's wonderful!

The joy of striving. Yes, definitely. And not just because of the joy you get in at last achieving your goal. I have learned that there is a joy in the reaching for it and waiting for it and dreaming about it.

Which is good, because we're still striving. We still have much to do to fix up this place. The house needs some major and minor remodels done. The yard is still a work in progress. And the ultimate pinnacle of our farm experience will be when we finally own a horse.

But I'm happy now just being here. I'm sure there will be setbacks and challenges ahead, but there will also be much joy in the striving.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Swimming Lessons

Our little duckies have been making a big mess with their water supply, trying to swim in it. So we decided to let them go swimming today.



Yes, in the bathtub. And yes, it made a mess. But it was a huge amount of fun! They were so happy in there.

Thanks, Mom and Dad...

I've been spending a lot of time lately pondering on how I can give my children the best possible education and childhood experiences and one thought keeps coming to me again and again:

I had an amazing childhood.

It wasn't perfect, and I've wasted some time grousing about the difficulties I faced in my youth. I did have some challenges, and perhaps some things could have been better. But my parents did so much to try to maximize my talents, expose me to the good and beautiful things of the world, and give me the best education they possibly could. And they did a phenomenally good job.

So now that I am a mother, I want my children to have what I had. It seemed a given to me that my children should be able to have everything good I ever had as a child until I started adding it all up and realized that my parents tied themselves into knots to give me all those experiences. And I now know how much it all costs and how much a parent has to sacrifice in time and money.

When you finally understand, it's staggering: how much did they spend for all those years of piano lessons? Ballet lessons? Girl scout activities/uniforms/camps? Even just the little things like play or concert tickets add up. And then there's all the vacations and travel they shelled out for, culminating in a study abroad to London during college. Which Dad just paid for.

I always thought my parents were tightwads, and I never felt spoiled. They didn't spend much on my clothes and Christmases were usually fairly simple. I didn't get near as much spending money as my peers and they didn't buy me much "stuff." There was always this looooooong list of things I wanted that they weren't getting for me (probably every kid feels that way.) But I see now that they were holding back on all those things so that they could direct their resources toward developing my mind and my talents. And it just blows my mind when I think about all the ways they supported me-- whatever I wanted to do academically they were 100% behind. Choirs, plays, speech, Science Olympiad, the list goes on.

The other thing I understand now that I have children is why they did it. I love being able to give my kids enriching opportunities whenever I can, even if the cost is a sacrifice. It is such a joy to put things in their path which enable them to experience all the amazing things this world has to offer. Any time I become aware of any opportunity for them I want so badly to have them participate, even if it will exhaust me or make me go broke. Of course there are far more wonderful things out there than we could possible ever do, and sometimes I feel sad that we can't do more.

But when I sit down and tally up all the neat things my kids have done in their lives it's a pretty respectable list. It helps that we've moved all over the country, but they've been to a lot of wonderful museums, zoos, events, and outdoor locations. They've played quite a few sports and taken several different kinds of lessons. And we've read zillions and zillions of books aloud at home on all kinds of subjects.

I'm sure at this point my kids don't appreciate this. But I expect that someday they will realize, just like I have, that their mom and dad did everything they possibly could for them. And I hope that then they too will say that they had an amazing childhood.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thumbs Up!

(Just HAD to buy fresh raspberries at the store today!!)

Drumroll, Please...

The goats have been named. The Badger and I had another long conversation this morning about names where we laughed and laughed and laughed (I laugh far more now that I have animals in my life!) One of my favorite suggestions was Orangejello and Lemonjello (pronounced or-ON-juh-low and lem-ON-juh-lo), but when it really came down to it we agreed that they had to be really out-of-fashion girl's names like Ethel and Wanda and Helga. And so after we'd explored that avenue for awhile we ended up with...


Mabel (on the right) and Idabel (on the left.) We decided that for Roo's sake one of them had to be Mabel (in case you don't know, she's obsessed with The Pirates of Penzance and Mabel is the lead female) and so we were throwing around a bunch of names that paired up with Mabel. We almost went with Mabel and Maude, but then I threw out Idabel, which is the name of a town in Oklahoma that the Badger travels to quite frequently for work. And we decided we liked the sound of Mabel and Idabel. So there you go.


The Badger is just nuts about these goats. I don't think I've ever seen the guy so happy.


They now have their own stall in the stable, lined with goat fencing. The Badger built them a little shelter in the corner where they can get out of the wind (it's cooooold today!!!) They are still quite skittish (especially Mabel) but they are warming up to the Badger very nicely.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two More Kids

As of this afternoon, I have seven kids. Here are my two new ones:



Aren't they darling? They are sisters and they are good friends, as sisters should be:


They are a cross between New Zealand Kikos, known for excellent meat, and Nubians, known for excellent milk. We'll breed them this fall and then next spring after they kid we can milk them. The goat farmer sent us home with samples of milk and cheese and it's all delicious. I don't know why I've heard my whole life that goat milk is nasty. I'm looking forward to having it be a part of my daily life.

We spent the whole drive home discussing name options and laughing our heads off, but we haven't settled on anything yet. My favorites are Daisy and Delilah, but Roo really really wants Mabel and the Badger is awfully fond of LaFawnduh, a la Napoleon Dynamite.

They're pretty traumatized from their move, so when they recover and we get to know their personalities we'll find names that suit them.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hard Work

I spent yesterday morning playing in my potato bed. It's time to start hilling up the plants so the potatoes have more room to grow. Well, some of the plants at least. I'd say at this point that about 1/3 of my potato plants are as big as I'd expect them to be. Most of the rest are just barely popping out of the ground. A few haven't even showed up yet.


These little guys are having to work very very hard to break their way out of this hard, dry clay soil, but they are doing a good job:



So I went around and added some extra dirt to all the ones that were ready for it. Then I decided to dig some irrigation channels and water the bed that way. This served several purposes: it got rid of the majority of the weeds, hilled up the plants further, gave me a really awesome workout, and gave the kids a chance to play in the mud. We all had a good time.


I would still like to see these plants have more room to set their spuds, which means it would be good if we could haul in extremely large amounts of dirt and then fill in around each plant individually. That would be a ton of work and then if some Oklahoma Potato Plague showed up and I lost the whole crop I'd be pretty dismayed. So I think it's best to just try to hill things up the best we can and then see how it goes this year. If potato growing is a big success here then we'll do it again next year. If the spring of 2012 isn't so dry then we'll be able to get the seed pieces in a lot deeper and have much bigger yields.

I'm also contemplating covering the whole bed with a thick layer of straw (did you know that Scandinavians have been growing their potatoes in sacks of straw for centuries?) but I don't know if these crazy Oklahoma winds will just blow it all away.

First Harvest

Yesterday the kids picked radishes out of their garden. They were so excited!



In general, things are growing quite well out there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beep Beep Beep

Bean calls our ducklings "the beep-beeps" because that's the noise they make. They are so adorable!


Yesterday the Badger opened the garage door and when I went out a few minutes later to work on the laundry there were two cats, Flinch and Peter, next to the brooder. They sort of jumped when they saw me, gave me a guilty look (really they did!), and then ran away. Luckily, they were still only in the plotting stages of their meal and the ducklings were unharmed. But that's why the Badger put that wire screen over the top of them....

The Living Room Makeover, Part 2

The next thing I had envisioned for my living room was more bookshelves, mostly for the kids' books. I want to make my living room a comfortable place to curl up with a book. It's working...



I found the bookshelves at Target. They are good quality and very attractive. They match the armoire and the tall bookshelf in the other corner that you can't see. They also match the rug and the couch.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have things that match.

Two more steps to this projects: lamps and a big comfy overstuffed chair for the corner where the rocking chair is in the above picture. The right chair is proving quite difficult to find, but the rocking chair will be just great in the mean time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hug Me

Her shirt says "Hug Me," so I do. As often as I possibly can.









Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pippin and Merry

The Badger and the boys went to Tractor Supply this afternoon to look at goat fencing. They came home with two adorable ducklings!!