Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Peanut!

One-year-olds don't really have a clue, but Peanut seemed to enjoy her birthday. Her daddy helped her open her presents:

She got some clothes...

And she got a Wahoo. I was really excited to spend the evening playing with the Wahoo, but it turned out to be defective. I contacted the company and they're sending us a new one (Timberdoodle's customer service is excellent!) I know it's going to be a real hit once we get it up and running.

Part of me is just aching because Peanut is now one. Those sweet, sweet days of her tiny infancy are behind us now. I enjoyed them so thoroughly. Of course I still enjoy her, but she is bigger now and there's a very different dynamic: instead of a sweet swaddled sleeping cuddly bundle you've got a wiggling grabbing giggling babbling little friend to interact with. I don't want to sound at all ungrateful that my baby is growing and developing normally (because trust me I am very thankful for that!) but there is a wistful sense of loss that those precious early days are over. Along with that, though, there is gratitude that she came through them safely. She reached her first birthday with no serious trauma or difficulty and so tiny Baby Peanut is safe forever. We mothers face uncertainty with our children every day but I can say that whatever the future holds Peanut's first year was just about perfect. I am so grateful for that, and so grateful for the privilege of having this little girl in my life. I thank Heavenly Father for her and for each of my children every single day. Being a mother is the most wonderful thing that I have ever done.

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Lights! Cabinets! Action!!!

And (hopefully) tomorrow... countertops and a SINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The Goats Are Back!!!

Our goats are home from their breeding vacation. It was so good to see them again! They are such sweet animals. Plus they do a good job protecting our chickens. And it's fun to feed them chard from my garden.

Anyway, I can't help but wonder how they feel. I know how I feel when I'm expecting. Do animals get morning sick? Well, they don't throw up so they must not feel really bad, but do they feel a little strange, a little "off"? Do they crave certain foods or enjoy certain foods more? I don't know, but I feel very sympathetic towards them right now. And I'm very excited to think about having baby goats in about six months!!!

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Sunday, November 27, 2011


My sweet Peanut is one. I've been trying to think of some poignant things to say on this great milestone, but there is a lot of chaos around here this evening. Perhaps I will have some time later, but if I don't, here at least are some pictures of the little birthday girl. I have such happy memories of this time a year ago. And every day since then this little sweetheart has lifted my spirits and filled my heart to overflowing with love.

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Toad Hall Thanksgiving 2011

While we've had some unique Thanksgivings over the years (eating pumpking pie on the beach in 2007 and me in labor in 2010 come to mind) this one was the oddest. Right now, this is my kitchen:

Dazzled? Want another look?

We talked about postponing our turkey dinner a week or two and just pretending Thanksgiving wasn't happening last Thursday, but as I was talking to my family in Utah getting ready for their awesome traditional feast I felt wistful. It dawned on me that we could have roast beef in the crockpot with very little trouble. So here is our Thanksgiving joint of meat for 2011:

And here is my plate. I made yams in the other crockpot and mashed potatoes in my little electric kettle. The roast was REALLY good.

A very very VERY wonderful friend brought by pies and a loaf of bread and my sweet visiting teacher stopped by with some cookies, so we ended up with quite a nice feast despite our circumstances. We were very very grateful for it, that's for sure!

I'm planning a big dinner once we get the kitchen done. Maybe a feast of St. Nicholas on December 5th? We'll see how it goes!
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Closer.... Closer..... Closer....

When we started this project a month ago I thought we would be done a week or so before Thanksgiving. Everyone always tells you it will take longer, so I thought, well, surely it will be done at least by Thanksgiving. Even until up to about the 19th I thought we would have it done by Thanksgiving. It wasn't, but I would rather be way behind schedule than way over budget!

Thanksgiving morning the Badger textured.

Friday he put up a coat of primer on the kitchen. Yesterday morning we finished prepping (we have to paint the dining room too since it flows into the kitchen.) There was a lot of stuff to move out of the dining room and then we had to fill wall holes, scrub the floor and then plastic/tape (it takes way longer getting ready to paint than actually painting!)

Last night we put movies on for the kids and had a priming the dining room/painting the kitchen date. It was sooooo romantic! (Actually, while not exactly romantic, it's really fun to work together on a project like this!)

I was amazed that we agreed on a paint color so fast. I got a brochure of paint inspiriations from the store and it showed a cheerful yellow kitchen with blue and white plates hanging on the wall. The blue and white just popped against the yellow background. I have a lot of blue and white plates, so we just said "give us that color!" and we were on our way.

Tomorrow's project: Birrd paints the dining room while the Badger installs the recessed can lighting after which Birrd weeps tears of joy. And then it's cabinets, counter tops, and sink! We ordered the appliances yesterday too (yay for Thanksgiving Weekend sales!) and let me tell you, I AM EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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I think three is the funniest age. They are always catching you off guard doing strange and random things. They are off in their own little world that is almost, but not quite, in the family groove.

So here is the Rabbit sucking on her sister's binky and wearing her other sister's nightgown (and it's not bedtime). Then she's got a party hat on her head but she's scowling at me. She makes me laugh every day!
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Badger Cake

Knowing about our kitchen situation, an incredibly kind friend volunteered to bake the Badger his favorite kind of cake this year for his birthday. I added the badger figure but otherwise I cannot take any credit for this wonderful cake.

He was very pleased with it. I think he had a good birthday, despite all the chaos around here.

The kitchen won't be done for Thanksgiving, but it is coming along and looking really good so far.
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Moving the Chicks

About a month ago we got a new batch of a couple dozen chicks. We've been brooding them in the stable in the brooding box the Badger built last spring, but they were getting too big for it. This afternoon the boys went out and moved the brooding setup to the inside of the green chicken coop, which the rest of our flock has hardly been using lately.

You can see the boys are getting to be good chicken handlers. I thought this was a cute picture:

They all kind of huddled in the corner when they were first deposited in their new home. I hope they're now enjoying the space.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

End of Season-- Lessons Learned

Our fall sports season has come to an end. Our last soccer game was Saturday. I finally remembered to bring the camera and snap some pictures of Fish on the field:

He said he enjoyed the season very much and he liked his teammates. I'm glad he could have a good experience.

Football ended a couple of weeks ago. In the end, Bean says it was worth it and he wants to play again next year. I am glad he feels that way because he did not have an easy time at the beginning of the season. Those 6 am conditioning practices were the hardest thing he has ever done and there were times when he wanted to quit. But he is a lot stronger now.

Football was a very different experience this year than last year. Last year he was the biggest kid on his team (because his birthday is right near the cutoff and he was one of the oldest on the team.) At the end of the season they were down to 11 players and so Bean played every minute of every game. This year I signed him up for this great team that a friend's son was on and didn't realize until after we got going that I was actually playing him up a year. I figured it wouldn't matter much because he is right on the border and because he was very comparable in size to the other kids. But there was a big difference to him in the size of the kids he was going up against on the line and that was an adjustment for him. Also, the older kids had so much more experience with football that it was a big jump up for him. Football is a complex game and every year they gain a ton of understanding of plays and positions, etc. So he was a little behind the curve even though he had played last year.

Being the new kid on the team and not quite up to speed meant that he was definitely not one of their first string players. Instead of playing constantly like last year he spent most of the time on the sidelines, only doing kickoff return and a few plays in the second half. That was a change.It was discouraging at first, for both of us. It wasn't what he expected (though it is normal for new players) and for me, having loaded up five kids and all their gear to come watch my son's game only to see him sitting on the sidelines was a little frustrating.

I remember one game in particular, probably 4 or 5 games into the season. I was sitting there on the bleachers watching all these parents cheering like crazy as their sons did great stuff on the field and I was thinking "WHY are we here??? Why did we feel so strongly we needed to sign up for this? All this time, all this money, and he's just sitting there. Why do we even need to bother to come to these games anyway?" You know how once these negative thoughts start they can spiral down deeper and deeper. Pretty soon you're thinking really negative stuff like "maybe my son is really bad at football and I just didn't clue in to that fact before now. Maybe the coaches wish he wasn't on the team because he's so awful." Etc.

I really was on the edge of quitting, and with the discouraged look I saw on Bean's face I don't think he would have objected. I decided I needed to talk to his coach and see what he said and then I'd decide what to do. I sat there and thought what would be the best way to approach the coach.

After the game as we were walking to the car the coach came walking past us. "Hey, good job out there, tonight, buddy," he said to Bean. "Coach?" I asked. "Is there something we can be doing with Bean at home to help him get to be a better player so he can get more time on the field?" I figured this would be a good way to open up a positive conversation about Bean's skills or lack thereof and that I would be able to tell a lot from the way he responded to it.

Boy, was I right, only it wasn't at all what I was expecting.

"Bean's doing great," he said. "He's got the makings of a really awesome football player. The only thing you could do at home is just keep working on conditioning, building those muscles and getting stronger." I can't remember everything he said, I just remember how incredibly encouraging, positive and supportive he was. It was clear that instead of seeing Bean as behind the rest of the team he saw him as the football player he could be and would be with time and training. It was also clear that he was looking at Bean long-term and that although this season he felt he and the other new players weren’t ready for a lot of playing time he was building them up and getting ready for bigger and better things next year and beyond. I had wondered if he saw Bean as a failure, but I found out that he saw him as the team’s future.

I left that short conversation feeling completely different than I had just a couple of minutes before. I felt supported and encouraged by just a few simple words. Bean felt better too. I also felt great admiration for the character of this coach and his ability to lift up the boys. I was tremendously grateful for the way he very quickly swept away all those negative discouraging thoughts I’d been having.

It really got me thinking about the ability we have to build people up or tear them down with just a few words. Bean’s coach didn’t know how downhearted I was and he had no idea that Bean’s continued participation in football was on the line. How many times do we talk to someone without knowing that it’s all on the line for them in some way and what we say will decide their future course?

All the stories and quotes I’ve heard over the years about the importance of encouraging youth came sharply into focus. I thought back to times I may have said something less than encouraging to someone, especially a young person. I felt pretty terrible about a couple of instances. I thought back to the times as a youth when a grownup said something encouraging to me and it made me feel wonderful. I vowed that I would find ways to lift other people up whenever I could, especially young people.

Especially my own children! As a homeschooling mother, maybe I have not fully appreciated the effect my words have on my children. When I get frustrated with them for poor school performance the things I say could be of a far bigger impact than I realize. You never know when your kids are at one of those turning points.

If that was the only thing we learned from this season of football, then it was worth it for that alone.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011


When I was a student at BYU I attended a play at the Pardoe Theater entitled "Quilters." It was about the pioneer women on the prairie and the challenges they faced. The one thing that has stuck with me about the play was how they said that during the long cold prairie winters the women had to quilt or they would go insane.

The statement intrigued me, since I wasn't a quilter at the time and could only partially understand it. I'm still not a pioneer woman stuck in a log cabin all winter but I do fancy myself something of a quilter at this point and therefore can understand a little bit what they meant. Quilting is very soothing. It puts your creative muse to work, which is always very satisfying. The geometry of it is good for your brain and it creates a sense of order in your life that is very calming, especially when things are a little chaotic in your world (like, say, your kitchen is ripped up and you're trying to keep meals on the table for a family of seven without a sink or a place to prepare anything!) The repetition of sewing each of the little squares is also very reassuring. All the sewing is in straight lines, so it's not usually as stressful as sewing clothing.

I've been itching to make a quilt for awhile now. I adore looking at quilt patterns and, even more than that, looking at quilt fabrics. I love thinking about how to combine colors and shapes. I've had a few projects simmering in my brain for months now.

Last week I had the rare chance to get up into the city and go to the quilt shop with only a couple of my kids in tow. I just thought I'd run in and quick pick something out for a Christmas quilt really quick, you know. I had a pattern in my mind and all I needed was three or four coordinating fabrics. Should be easy, right?

Well, I was in there for two hours. It was a fun two hours, but it was kind of maddening. The problem was that there were too many options and I was trying to put them all into a quilt pattern in my mind and decide if they would look good and that's HARD for me to do. I love high-quality quilting fabric but it is expensive and so if I am going to spend money on it I want to make sure it is exactly perfect before I cut and buy. So I agonize. I always agonize about purchases anyway, but it's even worse in a quilt shop. One of the things I've learned about quilting is that in order to like the finished quilt you almost have to put in a fabric or two that you don't really like by itself but that adds to the harmony of the design. This is hard for me when I have the tendency to want to passionately love every fabric I spend precious money on.

It's also hard for me to try and juggle more than 3 or 4 fabrics in my mental patterns. So what I ended up doing, since I didn't like any of the specifically Christmas prints, was choosing a red and green that I adored and a nice white to go with it and sticking with a simple pattern that only takes three fabrics. I got it off the "pattern playground" on a free quilt patterns website.

I'm really really happy with how it's turning out. Here is one of the blocks:

(And I know I'm not perfect at matching up my points etc.)

It's so wonderful to be piecing a quilt again. It's been a long time since I've done one (I still haven't even made one for Peanut, but I'm waiting for just the right fabric and pattern for that one!) Working on it really does make me feel like I'm bringing a sense of order into my life, and it's much more productive than doing Sudoku puzzles!
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Our Current Flock

Remember, we started out with nine brown hens. Last spring we got about three dozen assorted chickens, most of whom have not survived. Now we have probably about 16-18 various birds, two of whom are roosters. The brown ladies are molting, which means they don't lay much, so we're getting roughly 7 eggs a day. A new batch of chicks is brooding in the stable. They are very securely locked up because we lost most of the last batch during the brooding stage due to predators. So far so good with them and they are all hens so in a few months our egg production should be up a bit.

Anyway, this is what I get when I go out to the pasture with treats. This isn't everyone, but it's a good sampling. The two very large black and white chickens are named Mr. and Mrs. Wong. The other rooster is named Leppy. The rest of the hens have never been named because they're too hard to tell apart.

We love our chickens, we love our eggs, we love living in the country!

P.S.-- Did I mention our goats are on vacation right now? They are visiting another farm where there is a boy goat. Come next May we shall have kids!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life With Small Children

I am really glad they have such cute little feet.

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Bouncing Roo

Lately Roo has been getting more daring and more skilled at jumping on the trampoline. She learns things at gymnastics class and then she comes home and practices them. It's fun to watch her.

All my kids love the trampoline. It is in nearly constant use. Sometimes that is frustrating as it tends to distract kids from doing things I need them to do. Also, a trampoline makes it so that your kids go through way more pairs of socks (they take off their shoes to jump and then go running around the yard in their socks and then leave the socks outside somewhere, where you find them muddy and cruddy days later.) But despite these downers, I really am glad they have it. I know how badly I wanted one when I was a kid and it makes me happy to watch them enjoy it so much.
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Tough Call

I can't decide whether I like autumn color better on cloudy days....

...sunny days...

...or a day that's a little bit of both!!

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