Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Toad Hall Happenings

I'm so excited that today is the last day of August! Our first few days of September are still going to be really hot, but then it just might cool down a tiny bit. The 10-day forecast has been changing a lot but if it does cool down we might see a nighttime low next week in the low sixties, which sounds positively arctic. I just might freeze to death.

Our air conditioner has finally decided it has had it with this running 24/7 for weeks on end business. At the moment it is barely working. I think I should advertise spa treatments at my house and charge admission because every time I go upstairs I sweat so much I think I must be doing a really awesome cleanse. We've got a technician working on the problem but it's not fixed yet. The Badger put a window unit in downstairs so our living room is quite pleasant, but it tends to make the contrast between upstairs and down even more pronounced.

On a more pleasant note, our white leghorn hens have started laying. We were all so excited when we found our first white egg.

I have been called to serve in the Primary presidency at church, which means I am a counselor to the woman who is in charge of the children's organization. I am happy to do this, though I am going to miss teaching my class of 11-year-olds tremendously. One of my new responsibilities is overseeing the Cub Scout program for our ward. So I got to go to Scouts this evening with my boys. The more experience I have with Cub Scouts the more I love it. It is such a great program. I love working on scout stuff with my boys. Bean is now in Webelos, which overwhelmed me at first but now that I am getting all the different activity badges and requirements sorted out I am getting really excited about it. And Fish is a Wolf, which is just a really fun program. Looking through the Wolf book I want to do everything in it with him-- wouldn't it be cool to do all the elective activities? I can't stand it that as Fish finishes each stage I will not have another boy to look forward to doing those things with. I hope I have another son someday and when I do I will be counting the days until he is old enough to be in Scouts!

We are again thinking about and working on healthier eating, which seems to be something that constantly needs addressing at our house. It is amazing how deep food habits are entrenched and how hard it can be to change them. It scares me to see the bad habits my kids are developing. So we keep trying to do better. The problem I've had lately is that I have been so focused on homeschooling that when it comes time to think about dinner I am so out of gas that I just throw together something easy, which usually involves a number of very unhealthy items. Menu planning just keeps eluding me, but I am finally realizing that I NEED to make it a priority. I have a hard time processing new recipes right now, but when I went back through my recipe files I was surprised to find several healthy dinners that I used to make often and had somehow forgotten about. That will be a good start.

Another problem I have with cooking is that we still haven't done anything to remodel the kitchen and my kitchen is not an environment that draws me, to put it mildly. Looking on the bright side, this helps with weight loss: I never want to go bake desserts or treats because I have no desire to spend any more time in my kitchen than absolutely necessary. But the remodel has been slow in coming because we can't make up our mind what to do. The faucet leaks and needs to be replaced asap because it's dripping down into the cabinet below, causing the development of highly interesting life forms. But if we're going to replace the faucet we also need to replace the sink, which is only 5 inches deep. The Badger promised me a new sink when we bought the house and that's pretty doable. Only thing is, the counters are warped and falling apart. They really ought to be replaced at the same time as the sink-- I just can't see attaching a new sink to these nasty old counters. But then there's the cabinets themselves: grimy and grungy, with drawers that stick. If we put in new counters they're going to look even worse. New cabinets would definitely not be out of line, but if we put in new cabinets we would have to knock out the light ceiling, which was the thing to put in your kitchen 35 years ago but which I dislike because fluorescent light makes me depressed. Basically, the whole kitchen needs to be gutted and rebuilt, but even if we had the money for it I don't know if I could handle the stress of it right now with five young children and a homeschool. Meanwhile, our faucet keeps leaking. Makes me think about that poem: "all for the want of a horseshoe nail..."

I was asked if our piano practice system is still working. Well, yes and no. As you may recall, we have been paying the boys to practice for the last year. My hope with this was that they would take the initiative to do it without being constantly reminded and nagged. That hasn't happened: I still have to remind and nag, which frustrates me. But the money is a good incentive: they will do it when nagged, whereas if they weren't being paid I think it would be an all-out war with frequent tears, at least for Bean. Which would be a shame because Bean is turning out to be a very good piano player. His interest level at this point is low to middle, but the monetary incentive keeps him going. The thing we have found is that if they don't practice first thing in the morning then it becomes a big nasty issue the rest of the day. So I try to get them to practice before breakfast. They are so hard to get up and get focused in the morning though! Anyway, it's not going as smoothly as I'd like but it is going and my boys can read notes on the staff and that makes me happy.

Speaking of reading, I am so happy that Bean is has finally caught the bookworm bug. He is really reading independently now and it's so fun to see him reading chapter books for pleasure and getting excited about the awesome stories he's reading. He begs me for frequent trips to the library for more reading fodder. This makes me so happy, though him having his nose stuck in a book is what is often the cause of me needing to nag him to practice the piano.

Well, my friends, it's time for me to go to bed. I was going to write about homeschool and what we've been doing there lately, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Goodnight!

Monday, August 29, 2011

One More Thing About Peaches

We went to the County Fair a few days ago. We had a fun time because we went in the morning before the thermometer went over 100 for the gazillionth time this summer. It wasn't a huge fair, but there were plenty of things to see. There were lots of animals, crafts, quilts, and baked goods. However, there were very few fresh produce entries. It made me feel a lot better about my gardening failures this year.

There were two entries for peaches, each a plate with about five peaches on it. One had a blue ribbon on it, one a red. ALL of the peaches were only slightly larger than golf ball size. They had blemishes on the skins and they certainly didn't look like premium fruit. Or even like anything I would want to take the time to can.

And those are blue ribbon peaches for my county this year.

You Utah/Idaho/Oregon folks all enjoy your fruit now, y'hear?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rabbit, Fish and Peanut








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About the Peaches

When my parents arrived here they walked in the door with a big box of fresh Utah peaches. Big and round and fuzzy and yellow-and-red and smelling like they were just now getting perfectly ripe. Heaven in a box.

When I saw those beautiful peaches I threw myself against my Dad's shoulder and sobbed.

I didn't realize until that moment how hard the garden/orchard situation here in Oklahoma has been on me. Nearly everything that I take for granted as part of a summer garden experience slipped through my fingers this year: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, and fresh fruit, just to name a few.

Fresh peaches have always been a part of my August and they are my favorite food in the entire world. When I moved to Kansas I was dismayed at the size and quality of the peaches, but they were around. I heard rumors that you could go down to Texas somewhere and get good peaches, but I've never figured that out and anyway this year Texas got fried.

No, grocery store peaches do not cut it, even this time of year. They are okay, but they are expensive and not as good.

What I am talking about is when you have an entire box of local picked-ripe fruit and you can just stand there at the sink and schlurp down one after another.

It was my second good cry of the day. That morning the Badger had mowed over my watermelon patch. I had told him he could since the watermelons were turning black and the weeds were out of control, but after he did it I flopped down on the bed and howled. I had thought that I could at least grow watermelon, for Pete's sake! It's one thing that's supposed to be fairly trouble-free in Oklahoma.

Those peaches arrived at just the right time and they meant the world to me.

I didn't think anyone could possibly understand how I felt at that moment about those peaches until later that evening when my Mom told me a story about the time she cried over peaches.

Shortly after she married my dad, they moved to Boston so he could go to graduate school. She had been born and raised in Salt Lake City so this was her first time living away from her home and family. I had never thought before how hard that must have been for her.

Well, come that next summer my grandpa decided to mail her a box of peaches off his tree-- the tree she ate peaches off of every summer during her childhood. He wrapped each one carefully and packed them as securely as he could. They still arrived all beat-up, but they were peaches from home!!!!! And my mother cried.

I felt even more bonded to my mom after she told me that story.

I'm not usually one to cry much and so I was really surprised that something as simple as a box of fruit could bring on such a strong emotional reaction. This was not something I had ever experienced before. And this new empathy that I developed made me think back over what I know of human experience through the ages and see people going through hardship in a whole new light. I know about so many people who go through much more severe trials than just having to live through the worst summer in Oklahoma in 30 years and now I imagine them crying over their "peaches," whatever small simple thing that would mean the most to them after a long ordeal. How would I feel about a tub of butter after living through World War Two in England? For that matter, how would I cry over a son returned home from that war?

And then I think about the people out there right now who are suffering tremendously, such as the starving people in Somalia. I wonder what their personal peaches are, and I wish I could bring them some. What about the homeless people right here in America? What about the forgotten elderly in nursing homes? Isn't what Jesus would have us do is bring peaches to each other? Life is hard for all of us. But there are so many small, simple things we can do to reach out and lift and bless and bring a bit of heaven to our brothers and sisters here on this earth. And I don't know about you, but when I have done that I have been just as blessed or more so as the people I have served.

So I continue to think about this, and I think about how I can get my children to catch this vision of service. It's something we're going to make a part of our homeschool this year, somehow.

All these weighty thoughts from a simple box of fruit. Well, as we very well know from the scriptures, fruit can change the world.

It's Roo!!


I have been having trouble with Picasa's "Blog This!" feature for the last few days, which has made adding photos to my blog a lot more time-consuming. I keep trying to see if it's going to behave for me, so I keep selecting random photos and hitting "Blog This!" and after many many times of having it blank out on me this one actually worked! So, hello Roo! I hope I can get the others to work too, because this picture is part of a wonderful photo shoot I had with the kids in the pasture the other day.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

One More

Okay, one more post and then I'll go to bed, I promise. Here's my sweet parents in my pasture right before they left. It was such a blessing to be able to have them here. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for everything, and especially for the peaches.



Oh, yeah, I was going to blog about the peaches. But I think I'd better do it tomorrow.


The One Groupon I've Bought

When I first saw ads for Groupon I dismissed them, thinking the coupons offered would be just a bunch of stuff for microdermabrasion and pedicures and restaurants I would never eat at. But then one day I ended up on their site for some reason and I found that they were offering discount passes to a really nifty cowboy museum. I said "well, if that's how it's going to be..." and I signed up on the spot.

Since then I've gotten daily emails from Groupon offering discounts on microdermabrasion and pedicures and restaurants I would never eat at.

But I'm glad I got the museum passes. We had a year to use them and my plan was to wait until it cooled down this fall because it was going to be a bit of a drive and I was imagining making a very pleasant day trip out of it.

I guess I just got tired of waiting for it to cool down. We had I think three days where there temperature was believable and where we got some rain, but then we got back under that heat bubble and we've been stuck there ever since.

This last Monday we were looking for something fun to do as a family that wasn't too expensive and I thought of my Groupon passes. So off we went. It was a pleasant day trip, despite the heat, which we're all sort of getting used to. It was a great museum-- they have a LOT of great museums in Oklahoma, I'm finding. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun. I hope Groupon will do more stuff like this in the future.








The Other Wanted Posters

I posted that picture of the Rabbit the other day, but I thought you'd like to see the others as well. May I present Blue-Eyed Bart:


Slewfoot Roo:


Liberty Badger:


And Fish Cassidy:


Feeding Peanut

Feeding Peanut is a popular job around here.



Roo is particularly fond of it, which makes me remember days gone by when she used to feed the Rabbit.

A Walking Work of Art

I told you I had a lot of blogging to catch up on!!!!

Our history lesson this week from our Stories of the World book was about the ancient Israelites, so we read first about Abraham and then about Joseph and his coat of many colors. After we were done reading I laid the Rabbit down on a big piece of paper and traced around her. Then I turned on the soundtrack to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, gave the kids some markers, and let them go to town. They had a ball. This is what they ended up with, all by themselves:



Joseph sings "I look handsome, I look smart. I am a walking work of art...."

On a more serious note: I hadn't listened to Joseph...etc. in awhile and one thing that stood out to me this time was where they sing "Don't give up, Joseph, fight 'til you drop. We've read the book, and you come out on top." This song, one of the bounciest on the CD, is sung while he's in prison, and as you know he's there for a crime he didn't commit and he has no hope of ever being released. It's been on my mind, and what I really believe is that in the story of Joseph God is giving us a pattern for our lives that before we ascend we must descend. I have seen this pattern played out again and again in my life and the lives of others. What we need to remember is that when we are down at the bottom in despair, our Heavenly Father, who sees the end from the beginning, is up there saying "don't give up, you're going to come out on top in the end." To me that's a comforting thought.

Carlos

Now I get to tell you something really exciting. The Badger's work just hired a new guy named Carlos. It turns out that Carlos is really big into horses and he was looking for a place here in the area where he could board a couple of horses... OH, REALLY????????

So this last weekend Carlos arrived at our place with Buddy and Capriccio, who are absolutely gorgeous and who are now happily living in the Toad Hall pasture.





Do we get to ride them? Well, that's part of the deal! In exchange for the boarding, Carlos has agreed to teach the Badger all about horses and let him ride with him while he's working on training the horses.



Oh, my goodness, my husband looks handsome on a horse!!!!!


The boys get to learn to ride too. Could this be any more perfect?



We are so thrilled!!!! We get to have horses without having to own horses! I had thought about the idea of boarding horses before but I wasn't feeling comfortable with just putting out an ad to the general public for several reasons. But when it's someone we know, it's a different story. And it's a good story. A very good story!

L'oiseau Ecrit


Whenever my sister visits I get to be on the other side of the camera lens. This can be disconcerting, but this time around she got a few pictures of me that I really liked, such as this one of my writing in Fish's baptism book.

And for Bean


Aunt Crocodile didn't forget Bean when she shopped for presents. She bought him a Schleich knight to add to his collection. I've mentioned before how much my kids love Schleich figures. I used to think people were nuts to pay so much for simple plastic figures but when you see the quality and the detail you understand. Bean adores these and doesn't seem to be getting anywhere near too old for them yet.

The Perfect Tea Set










Aunt Crocodile also brought something wonderful for my girls: an absolutely adorable little tea set with a set of adorable plush petit fours. They've pretty much been playing tea party constantly since then. Thank you, Aunt Crocky, for all these wonderful gifts! You really hit the nail right on the head.

Citiblocs

When Aunt Crocodile came to visit us, she brought gifts for the kids. Fish's gift was something he'd been wanting very badly for a very long time, as it is a big draw when we visit friends. It is the simplest toy in the world: wooden blocks that are all the same size and shape. But they have dug their way deep into Fish's creative heart and he was completely bananas with joy when he opened them. He looks kind of mad in this picture but he's not: he's so happy he can't stand it.


He does amazing things with these blocks.


I even enjoy playing with them.


I highly recommend Citiblocs if you've got creative builders in your family.

Pastoral Scenes Involving Goats

More photos from my sister. This one makes my property look really really pretty:




Friday, August 26, 2011

Rabbit!!!



Grooming by Grandpa

My dad likes things neat and orderly. There was plenty for him to do while he was here, as there is always any amount of noses to be wiped, hair to be combed, or ties to be straightened here at Toad Hall. Thanks Dad, for your help in my efforts to get the ideas of cleanliness and dignity through several sweet messy little heads.






Come Into the Water

One of the highlights of the baptism for me was a musical number we performed as a family.


Last spring for Easter I bought each of the children a gospel-related gift. My Rabbit's was a CD called Stories of Jesus by Roger and Melanie Hoffman: a collection of very sweet, kid-friendly songs about the life of the Savior. The kids have listened to it over and over and over again. One of the songs is about Christ's baptism and is called Come Into the Water. It was a particular favorite.

Fish had been very excited about the idea of getting baptized for a long time-- except for one thing. He was nervous about going under the water. Really nervous. Like, we were talking about postponing the baptism nervous. Well, one day he came to me and told me that he had been listening to this song a lot and that when he heard it he felt calm and not afraid to go in the water and be baptized. Of course I was touched and grateful.

I decided to see if I could get sheet music for it. And I could! I downloaded it for a dollar. The piano accompaniment was simple and the kids already knew the song really well, so it was the perfect thing to sing at the baptism.

I gave Bean, Fish, and Roo each a solo, with the song starting with Roo. The Badger and my mom joined in on the choruses and I am told that the Rabbit joined in on the choruses and sang everything just right, even though I never heard her during rehearsal.

It couldn't have gone better and it really added a sweet element to an already rich and beautiful baptismal service.

A Day to Treasure

Last Saturday my sweet younger son was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know this is a decision he thought a lot about and was well prepared for. He has seen the fruits of the Spirit in his life and has felt the love of his Savior for him. As he came up out of the water his face broke into an enormously shiny smile. Now he begins on the fulfilling path of discipleship and I am so excited and humbled to be able to walk at his side, teach him, and be taught by him.

Here he is with his dad, who baptized him:


All in all, there were more than two dozen people in attendance. I was so touched by all the family and friends who took time out of a busy Saturday to be there.


Here he is later that evening reading his very own copy of the Book of Mormon, given to him by Grandma and Grandpa.


This boy has always been such a joy to me. I know the Lord has a very special job for him to do here on earth and I pray every night that I will be able to raise him to be able to fulfill those tasks.

Grandma

I had the best mother in the entire world. One of my greatest joys now is watching my children forming bonds with the best grandmother in the entire world. She is always happy to read them yet another story or just snuggle the baby.




I wish they could see her more often, but I'm so very glad she was able to come out and visit us last weekend for Fish's baptism.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Goat Rider


It's a wild life!

In the Chicken Yard





I am finally starting to process all the photos from my wonderful weekend. There are TONS of photos because my sister Crocodile was here visiting and she photographs everything (love it!). So you'll actually see pictures of me. These are all pictures she took of the kids in the chicken yard.