Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beauty Parlor-- Roo

We are so thrilled to have my nephew and his wife visiting us for a few days. We're amazed that they wanted to drive all the way out here to Oklahoma in this heat just to spend time with us. Kara is going to beauty school and today she gave Roo and Rabbit makeovers. They loved it so much! She did an awesome job on their haircuts and then went on to introduce them to the girly world of sparkly fingernails and curling irons. Their mother has left this aspect of their education sadly lacking. But when I saw how much they loved it and how adorable they were when Kara was done with them, I thought perhaps I'd better work on my beauty skills. Maybe I'll even buy me a curling iron.

Red Sky at Morning

The other morning we woke up to this:

Bean went out and took pictures for me. And, true to the "sailor take warning" folklore, we had rain a little while later. But not enough rain. Oh, definitely not enough.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Thought

I had one of those "a-ha!" parenting moments this weekend and I thought I'd share.

My Rabbit has been having potty issues for a few weeks now. I got her completely potty trained at the first of the year and she stayed that way for several weeks. Then all the sudden she started having accidents ten times a day.

I am an impatient person and I get frustrated when I know my kids know what they're supposed to be doing and yet they won't or don't do it. It's really maddening to think "You understand this! Why can't you DO it?" And it happens a lot: the Rabbit's potty issues are only one example. Roo picking up her toys, the boys following their morning routine... I'll train them well and they seem to understand. Once I've seen them do it successfully on their own once I tend to make the mistake of assuming they will continue to do it successfully on their own from now on. And then I get frustrated when they don't and I have to take time out of my busy life to go back and help them do something they should be able to do on their own.

So here was the "aha." The Badger and I were talking about our own personal development and how sometimes we know intellectually exactly what we're supposed to be doing but our actions just haven't caught up and we're just not perfect. One example would be eating. I know what's healthy to eat and what's not. I understand why. But do I always eat healthy? No. And then there's the Gospel. I know what the commandments are. I've read the scriptures. But I am so definitely not living perfectly, even though I'm trying awfully hard.

And so it dawned on me that it's the same way with my kids. It's so obvious I don't know why I didn't clue in until now. Just because they understand in their mind how and why they should do something doesn't mean they are ready to always perform that task perfectly. First we have to learn it in our minds and then we have to learn it in our actions. Both take time, especially the latter. If I understand that, I won't get frustrated with my kids for not cleaning the bathroom sink correctly or not putting away their Sunday clothes.

Just another lesson learned in my personal patience workshop.

Y'all Bring Your Laundry on Over...

...Oklahoma has been like one big huge clothes dryer all month. HOT and windy. Anything I hang outside to dry is done in half an hour or less.

I have to say I'm not handling the heat too well. When the first part of June was hot I thought surely it couldn't last, but it has. At this point I am facing the possibility that it could be this way until September. So I am planning on hiding in my house as much as possible.

Air conditioning really is a marvelous, marvelous thing. I am so grateful for it. Especially after all the times our water has been off and on over the last few days. That was an inconvenience that would have been a nightmare if we didn't have A/C.

About the water: the Badger has begun the long process of Improving Toad Hall. He has worked harder than I think I have ever seen him work before (and in this heat, too!) and has done some absolutely amazing things. The first step in our grand plan was to put a water and electric line out to the stable. It was supposed to be a relatively simple and inexpensive endeavor. It was neither of those things, but it was worth it.

Here you can see where the trench for the lines was dug and filled in:

But look! Now there are lights in the stable! And outlets! We'll be able to put a fridge out there for the goat milk when our goats become milkable next spring.

In the meantime, it's just helpful to have light out there. There's even this fabulous spotlight that illuminates the chicken yard.

So that was Step One, and it involved playing with the plumbing, which led to Step Two. That was rearranging the various fixtures (pressure tank, water heater, water softener, washer, dryer, deep freeze) in the garage and it ended up being a huge deal. In the middle of the process, our water heater died. We had been just about to move it to the other side of the garage anyway, so now when we bought our new one the Badger had to install it in the new location. He and our superhero neighbor Bob spent two very long days getting that taken care of (during which time the dishes in my kitchen piled up to the ceiling and we had to take baths with water heated from the stove.)

But now we have hot and cold running water again (huzzah!) and I am told the softener will be hooked up again tomorrow so I will soon have dishes and clothes that actually get clean again (double huzzah!) And then I think the Badger should take a bit of a break from all this home improvement until this heat wave is over.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Good Neighbors

We ended up with AMAZING neighbors here in Oklahoma. It is such a blessing. A few days ago our neighbors on one side decided their granddaughter had outgrown her little pink playhouse, so they gave it to us for our girls!

And then, last night, our neighbors on the other side brought over this wagon for the kids. It will get good use, to be sure!

I just hope we can be good neighbors in return.
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Latter-day Homeschooling

Someone wonderful just directed me to a website called "Latter-day Homeschooling." I've only started to explore it, but I'm really liking what I'm seeing so far. Sometimes during my homeschool journey I have felt isolated and wished I had more support. A site like this was what I was wanting and now I have it. Hooray!

All From My Garden

(First cucumber and tomatoes, last of the lettuce.)

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Peanut of Joy

We've had our Peanut in our family for more than half a year now and there hasn't been a single day that I haven't just been absolutely thrilled and grateful. Having her around is liking having a small gap in the curtain that covers up heaven.

(In that bottom picture she looks JUST like Roo at that age!)

As you can see, she's sitting up quite well now, though she still does best with a bit of support. She's nowhere near crawling yet, but my kids are typically late on all that. She still just has those two teeth she got at three months. She has a unique habit of twirling her feet around and around whenever she's sitting in her car seat. I've never seen anything like it and it's adorable. She's happy most of the time, she eats well, she sleeps well, and the entire family dotes on her.

Everywhere we go, her magnetic field of happiness draws everyone in. She is especially popular among boys ages 8-12. They just fawn over her. I think the fact that we call her "Peanut" is a large factor in this.

Getting her here was probably the hardest thing I've ever done, but every day I am again rewarded a million-fold for my decision to bring her into our family.
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Father's Day 2011

How in the world do you adequately express your appreciation on Father's Day when you have a husband and father as absolutely marvelous and wonderful as our Badger?

I spent all day in the kitchen cooking for him (and washing piles of dishes!) We had a really tasty dinner, followed by an extraordinary apple pie.

And of course we read our traditional Father's Day book: I Love My Daddy by Sebastien Braun.

We're so grateful for our Badger!
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Friday, June 17, 2011

No Tears, Really

The boys wanted to learn cursive. I'd been debating whether or not it was really necessary for my kids to learn it (I've been told many schools aren't even teaching it anymore) but when they said they wanted to I thought that was a good enough reason to spend the time running through a cursive workbook with them.

So, the question was, which workbook to use?

In the past, I used the A Reason for Handwriting series. I was drawn to them for two reasons. One was that I figured if my kids had to do copywork it might as well be scripture they were copying. The other reason was that they could work through the book independently. The lessons were short, but the boys still groaned and complained (though they groaned and complained about everything school-related back then.) They didn't care a fig about the whole scripture border sheets concept. When we got to the end of their books they had pretty decent handwriting so I decided to just drop the subject. There were some technique issues on the way they formed the letters, but their handwriting was legible and that was all I really needed.

I went over to the education supply store to see about buying the cursive A Reason For Handwriting book. Overall, it's really a good series. But I decided to pick up and glance through the other handwriting options they had there. One of the ones I grabbed was Handwriting Without Tears.

I'd seen HWT before, even back when I was just starting Bean on handwriting. I think I wrote it off as something that needed too much parent prep and involvement. I don't know what I was thinking. But as I flipped through it there in the store I realized that it is a fabulous program for reluctant learners and kids who can't sit still. I looked at their cursive book and thought "The boys are really going to like this!"

And they do. They are both totally loving learning cursive.

So I decided to start Roo on the HWT Kindergarten book. She loves it! We started out by learning the "frog jump capitals." I love how the series engages the kids with imaginative ways of looking at handwriting. My very imaginative children really latch onto this.

I am not doing all the hands-on activities and things the book dictates (though if I ever have another highly-kinesthetic Bean-type learner I definitely would.) And, bad me, I did not even buy the Teacher's Guide. But I am going through the book with them this time to make sure they don't get any bad habits.

Now, Roo is the kind of kid that would have worked through even a very dull handwriting workbook with a happy smile on her face. But I am sticking with the Handwriting Without Tears series from now on. They're fun. And if I ever do have another child who struggles with schoolwork these are going to make things a lot easier.

Bermuda Grass 101

Remember our field that the Badger leveled in March? He scraped most of the grass off in the process.

This is what it looks like now:

I'd say that's a pretty good illustration of how fast Bermuda grass spreads. I'd never heard of Bermuda grass before I moved to Kansas, but it seems to be ubiquitous in both Kansas and Oklahoma. It inhabits just about all the lawns and parks. It's not as soft, thick, and lush as Kentucky bluegrass or some of the other varieties that you think of when you think "lawn." In fact, it's kind of scratchy. But it seems to be able to survive just about anything, which is essential in this part of the country. And it's unbelievably tenacious. It spreads by both roots (which go deep and travel far) and runners, which you can see in the photo below:

It's not a fun thing to battle in your garden, which is why raised beds are such a good idea here (doesn't eliminate it but vastly reduces it.) If your traditional in-ground garden is surrounded by Bermuda grass lawn, you are going to be fighting it back all season long.

About a month ago I decided to plant some pumpkins and melons in the part of the yard that didn't seem to be filling in very quickly from the March bulldozing. The area was mostly bare dirt. Well. This is what I have now:

Interesting stuff, Bermuda grass. I can't say it's a favorite of mine, but I do appreciate its ability to fill in a bare area quickly. And it's nice to not have to water the lawn.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fish Writes

Fish had an assignment to write a sentence....

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A Little Overwhelmed

Often lately I have found myself wishing that life would slow down just a tiny bit. I keep thinking that I have just a little too much on my plate and that I might be able to stay on top of things if only I could get rid of one or two things I have to do. Like laundry. Or cooking. Can't we just eat cold cereal three times a day?

I've always thought I was very good at juggling a lot of balls, but it seems lately that even I can't keep everything in the air. I really hate dropping balls. I often think wistfully of the time years ago when the boys were small and I could get my cute little house totally clean in two hours and then get all the bills paid and a nice meal cooked, served, and cleaned up and then have the rest of the evening to sew or read a book or visit with a friend. I totally could get it all done in a day with time to spare and that was extremely satisfying.

I was grieving a little for that sense of satisfaction the other night as I struggled against the tide of chaos and filth, knowing full well I could only get about 75% of it taken care of before I fell exhausted into bed. But then it hit me once again:

I am living exactly the life I have always wanted.

This was exactly what I've been planning for, working for, and hoping for all these years. A large family with lots of happy, busy children. A rich learning environment for those children and the ability to mentor each one of them and help them discover their strengths. A place in the country where we can grow and raise our own food and enjoy a little elbow room. A gradual process of returning to more natural, self-reliant ways of living.

When I started to think about my blessings, it was a little overwhelming. I watched my children chase fireflies in the pasture as the full moon rose above the trees and thought that even though I can't do it all I'm so lucky to be doing what I love.


First there was the blight, then the Colorado potato beetles, and my potato plants started slowly dying off. So I sprayed for the fungus (it sort of worked) and I sprayed for the beetles (worked great) and when I found a totally dead plant I'd just dig up the potatoes and eat them.
Every day I was finding 2 or 3 more totally dead plants and I thought "what is UP with this?" until finally it dawned on me that they were probably dying off naturally because they were done. I knew this would happen eventually but I didn't know it would happen so soon. The first few times I dug up a dead plant the potatoes were really small, but then I started noticing that I was mostly digging up the Yukon Golds and they were good-sized. The blues were coming up too, though they're not as good-sized. But after all, they are novelty potatoes and you don't really expect high yields. Especially in Oklahoma.

My potato bed looks like this now:

The Yukons and the blues were planted on the right side in that first row and then the russets went in the middle and finally the Kennebecs on the left. You can see which variety grows the best in Oklahoma. The Kennebecs have had the most problem with blight and beetles. Those russets don't seem to be bothered much by anything.

Digging potatoes turns out to be one of the funnest garden chores ever. It's a treasure hunt. You never know what you're going to discover when you stick that shovel in the ground. The kids LOVE to pull the potatoes out as soon as I loosen the dirt but I kind of like to do it when they're not around sometimes because I really enjoy pulling out the potatoes myself!

We've been feasting on homegrown potatoes-- I need to get better at cooking with potatoes because we're not eating them fast enough! The Yukon Golds are buttery, melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious and the Kennebecs are lovely too. The blues are just fun.

I am glad we went ahead and planted this potato bed even though it was a pain. And I want to do it again next year!
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Animal Update

Remember the chicks we got on April 18? This is what they look like now:

This is what the broiler/fryers we got then look like now:

And of the ten broiler/fryers we got, we are down to four. Between predators and sickness, we have lost over half of them. Honestly, we are not very impressed with them. Because they are bred to grow really big really fast, they seem like compromised creatures. They seem very unhealthy and sickly and too large and cumbersome to really defend themselves. Their clucking seems weak and feeble. We have not really enjoyed having them around much and we are definitely not going to make raising chickens for meat a regular part of our life.

However, the goats are a different story. I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy these sweet goats. They are intelligent and playful and fun. So far they haven't gotten into any really big mischief like those stories you hear. They're just plain wonderful to have around.

And then I thought I'd just throw in this shot of Little Miss White Socks playing with one of my cucumber plants (must've been an interesting bug on it.) We love our three cats too!

A year ago, I'd had very little experience owning animals and had never cared for anything bigger than a gerbil. This is one change in my life I've really enjoyed. They've certainly added a rich new dimension to our family culture.
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Dress Makeover

Last night I finally tried something I've been meaning to do for a long time now. A lady at church a couple years ago came up to me and told me how she appreciated that my daughters were always dressed modestly. A lot of the hand-me-down dresses I have gotten for my little girls are sleeveless and I just don't do sleeveless, so I always have them wear a white t-shirt underneath. This woman gave me a really neat suggestion. Toddler-sized dresses usually come with a little bloomer to put over their diaper that's made out of the same fabric as the dress. There is enough fabric in those bloomers to make sleeves for the dress.

I loved the idea and so at one point I set aside this cute little blue dress to be so altered. It sat and sat and sat in my mending basket for the longest time. But lately I am on a sewing roll and now I have a serger which makes stuff like this much easier, so last night I dove in and got it done.

It was definitely a learning experience and I made a lot of mistakes that I won't make again, but in the end it worked out, as long as you don't look too close. I was excited for the Rabbit to wear it to church today until it was all done and I realized that it was actually a size 2, but this morning she found it and wanted to put it on. Because it's kind of small on her it makes the sleeves look quite uneven. They are a little uneven but when it is worn by a child of the proper size I don't think anyone will even notice.

I look forward to Peanut wearing it in awhile and I also look forward to many similar dress makeovers!

And if you haven't seen this video yet, you should.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Today in My Herb Garden

My little herb garden is turning out to be such a delightful corner of my world. It makes me happy every time I spend time there. The many flowers I planted amongst the herbs are probably the main cause of that, but also the smell of the herbs is incredibly uplifting (aromatherapy!)

I especially like this little corner (notice my nicotiana is coming back!):

I hope that sad pepper plant on the far right finds it as cheerful a place as I do. I transplanted it there this morning because it wasn't getting enough sun where it was at.

Look at these cute little purple guys-- I'd never seen this plant before I discovered it at the greenhouse last month, but I'm definitely sold on it.

And I'm going to get zinnia any minute now!

And it's definitely time to make pesto!

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Four Little Monkeys

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Country Baby

I think Peanut likes growing up in the country.

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