Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sampson


I don't think I've ever mentioned Sampson on my blog, though I've meant to many times. Sampson lives at my neighbor's house, but she says he's not exactly her dog. She found him one day a couple of years ago out on a back country road, starving and miserable. She brought him home and fed him. Since then, he has stayed around her property. He turned out to be a really sweet dog as well as a really beautiful one. He has one blue eye and one brown eye, which is a common trait in Siberian Huskies, but he doesn't really have the personality of a Husky (they're supposed to be very energetic and mischievious) so he might be part something else. Or maybe he's just had a really tough life.

When we moved in, he quickly befriended us. He has always been very gentle to our kids. It wasn't long before he started following us on walks. It is so fun to go on a walk down the road with a big ol' dog walking beside you. I've enjoyed having Sampson around because it's been like having a dog without having to have a dog.

One neighbor told us that one night he was coming home at 1 AM and saw Sampson taking down a coyote in our pasture. There has been other evidence that he has kept predators off our property and away from our animals. Our neighbor who looks after him thought that he was the one responsible for killing our ducks and chicks last summer, but I've looked at the evidence and I really believe it was a different dog. We've had issues with a lot of dogs in this neighborhood, but not with Sampson. He seems to be the Police Chief for the neighborhood animal community.

The photo above is remarkable because it was the first time Roo touched Sampson. For a long time now Roo has SCREAMED HYSTERICALLY every time any dog (even a tiny one) came near her. But she's growing up, and recently she decided that dogs can be friends. So when Sampson came on our last walk instead of cowering in the stroller, she went up to him and started touching his back, saying with great delight and newfound confidence "I'm petting Sampson! I'm petting Sampson!"

I have heard many stories throughout my life of animals who seem to have been placed providentially in people's lives to be a blessing to them in remarkable ways. I really think that Sampson came here under divine guidance, partly to be a blessing to us. He is the first dog in my life I have ever had strong feelings of affection and appreciation for.
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A Little Girl and Her Doll


My girls play with their dolls more and more and I love to watch them. They love to mother them and coo over them and snuggle them. They love to change their clothes and put barrettes in their hair. I sure enjoy having small girls around the house.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

...And Still Crawling!


Really fast, I might add! I know this picture is blurry, but the little bottom scooting out the door is such a part of my life right now that I had to keep it (and post it!) I was trying to get some good pictures of her, but she was very much on the move. That's why I took her outdoors and set her in the leaves-- I figured she'd be so surprised she'd hold still for a minute. (It worked-- see the following post!)
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Fourteen Months





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Comments?

It has come to my attention that people are having trouble leaving comments on my blog. It might not just be my blog-- one reader thinks it's a blogosphere epidemic. In any case, I am trying something: I took off the word verification for comments. I am still requiring an ID for comments-- no anonymous comments. And I still have to approve the comments. I hope this makes it easier without making it so I get all kinds of crazy stuff on here. Help me test it out by trying to leave a comment below!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rabbit Art

Love it love it love it!




You know, it fascinates me how each of my children's early art has been similar, but strikingly unique. The Rabbit's people are much more geometric than any of my other kids'. And she's drawing earlier than they did, but that's probably because she copies everything they do.

I think about how everyone sees the world differently and how I think everyone has a desire to create and/or be around beautiful art and music because of all our divine nature. We are children of God and He is a great Creator. I think we all yearn for that, on some level. And then I think how kids love to draw but most grown ups say "I can't draw" and I think that's because they decided at some point during their growing up years that their art didn't look "good." It wasn't just like their art teacher's or some other kid made fun of it, or something. And so they quit trying. But it's still there inside all of us-- the passion to create and an absolutely unique perspective on the world. Luckily, most of us transpose our creative urges from drawing to something else like writing or woodworking or sewing or growing flowers. But I also think it would be good for us if we all did a little bit more drawing.
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oklahoma Biscuits

I love cookie cutters. My kids love cookie cutters. But I have this problem with sugar addiction, so I try not to make sugar cookies very often (because I will eat two dozen of them during the making process). I think I make them about every two years. That makes my cookie cutters very sad. So I try to find other ways to involve them in our family.

I discovered awhile back that cookie cutters are very happy in biscuit dough. I need to remember this more often. I did remember it tonight, though, and when I went looking for cookie cutters in my cupboards I found one shaped like Oklahoma and one shaped like a cowboy hat.



Look how cute!!!


My kids were so happy helping me make Oklahoma biscuits.



Oh, my beautiful new convection oven, I love you so much!



I wondered if they would cook unevenly-- crunchy panhandles and doughy through the red bed plains, but they were perfect.



What do you use your cookie cutters for?

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Bean and His Raccoons

I don't know if I have ever mentioned how much Bean loves raccoons. Two of his favorite audiobooks are Where the Red Fern Grows and Rascal and I think that's why raccoons are right up there with armadillos in his book (though how armadillos got right up there in his book I am not really sure...)






We got the puppet at a national park on our trip last fall and I gave him the hat for Christmas. Then the other day I was at Gymboree combining their gymbucks promotion with their clearance rack (getting Gymboree clothes for thrift store prices is my new obsession in life) and I found that shirt. I paid $2.49 for it. It was so fun to give it to him because he went bananas with joy. I love it that even though he is really growing up he still has a lot of boy left in him.
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Sew Organized

I have been really into sewing lately. I only have teeny tiny chunks of time here and there to devote to it, which was frustrating me, especially since when I did have a minute I didn't know where to start. I decided I just needed to get more organized.

Because my sewing takes place in a small corner of my bedroom, all of my sewing stuff has been stored in big plastic tubs stacked in the very corner of the room. This keeps everything contained and out of the way, but when you do decide to work on something you spend a lot of time digging through tubs trying to find stuff. And then ten minutes later when you finally found what you need someone throws up on the carpet and you don't get anything done.

So I commandeered this plastic cart and I went through all my tubs and re-organized.


The top drawer is projects I am currently working on: fabric, patterns, and everything else I need. That way, when I have ten minutes to sew all I have to do is open the drawer and grab something and get going. Then I at least get something done before I hear "MOMMM!!!!" The middle drawer is my quilting scraps. The bottom drawer is for my diaper sewing project, which takes up so much room it needs its own drawer.

I am so pleased that I can now get to everything I need easily. I still haven't figured out exactly where this cart is going to live so that it's not in the way (if I put it next to the bed Peanut climbs on it!) but that's a small problem compared to the way this has enabled me to actually make progress on things.

I have a lot of small, easy projects I've been working on, which are nice with my limited time. It feels so good to have less fabric in your stash and something useful in its place. Like these colored pencil rolls. My friend Julie gave us one awhile back and it has worked so well I decided we needed some more for our new colored pencils.



See, you can roll it up and tie it and throw it in your church bag or wherever. Love it!



Okay, and then the aprons for the boys... I bought this space fabric two years ago to make them aprons and I just didn't get around to it. I would see it in my fabric tub and think "now, where is my apron pattern?" But since I just went through absolutely all my sewing stuff I located my apron pattern and it was pretty fast and easy to whip these things out. I made them really really simple with no pockets or anything, but I just wanted to get them done. And at least they are reversible with a coordinating fabric on the other side.



Here's how my girls fell asleep on my bed while I was sewing the other night....



Bean talks about memories of the comforting feeling of falling asleep to the whirring of my sewing machine, so, there you go. I think that's going to be a frequent occurence around here.

Next up: doll clothes and Roo's birthday present (which was supposed to be her Christmas present but I never got it done!)
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Monday, January 16, 2012

On the Subject of Diapers

(I know some of my readers will want to skip this post, and I'm not offended...)

I'm sitting here in bed with a bad cold, not feeling like doing much, and watching my house get rapidly ripped to shreds. But isn't it wonderful that I have a laptop and I can entertain myself by writing long, rambling blog entries? About stuff like diapers? A silver lining, indeed.

I haven't said anything about cloth diapers for a long time. In case you haven't been with me long, I will give you some background information: I used disposable diapers for the first seven years of my parenting career. I have only been using cloth for the last 3 1/2 years. I finally made the switch because I was sick of pouring money down the drain.

I will now tell you my brutally honest feelings about my cloth diapers. They are a lot of work. Sometimes they are really yucky. I have had to struggle through difficulties with leaks and smell build-up and yeast rashes on Baby's bottom. And countless times I have thought "WHY am I doing this?" And then I go to the store to buy disposables and I look at the prices and I say "ACK!" and think "why should I spent money on diapers when I have everything I need to diaper the baby already with almost no cost?" And so I don't buy them. And I go on using the cloth.

On the flip side, I love the feel of the cloth. I love the satisfaction of reusing them-- taking them out of the wash or off the line all clean and ready to go. I love how dang cute they are, and they get cuter all the time as the cloth-diapering movement grows.

I was reminded when we went on vacation how disposables are pretty gross too. They're squishy. Ew ew ew. And they smell weird. And when those yucky gel beads get out... ugh. Not to mention the blowouts. Cleaning up a disposable diaper poop blowout is WORSE than washing a poopy cloth diaper in the toilet. I have only ever had poop escape from a cloth diaper once in all these years (and that was because someone had inadvertently put fabric softener on my diapers), versus several times just in the three weeks we were on vacation with disposables. Wetness leaks are another story-- that is a big issue with cloth and almost a non-issue with disposables. My youngest is what they call a heavy wetter, which means we have gone through lots and lots of outfit changes with her (sometimes right after we had just changed her!) But with those at least you just throw the clothes in the wash and forget about it. I don't know how many of Roo's cute little outfits I scrubbed and scrubbed with Carbona stain soap to get the poop stains out. Not an issue with cloth.

Fact is, diapering is just gross. No matter how you do it. You can't avoid the yuck factor.

So I'm sticking with cloth. And I'm making plans to acquire some new diapers.

I haven't bought any diapers at all for at least two years (with the exception of a couple of tiny newborn-sized fitteds that I picked up and used for a couple of months last year for Peanut.) So my stash is getting old and worn. I'm still using all the ones I got originally, which are more than 3 years old. Overall the longevity is impressive, but it's time to start getting some new fluff and phasing out a few things.

My plan is to actually make some new diapers. So far I have purchased some PUL (waterproof fabric) and a diaper pattern and some fold-over elastic. (Have you seen the new line of diaper-making supplies at Hobby Lobby?) I already had some fleece for pocket diaper inners and some flannel for fitteds. I have cut out enough of each of these fabrics to try making several different combinations and see which I like. But I haven't sewn anything yet. I still need to buy polyester thread and snaps and those are kind of essential for any next step. And then I need to decide if I'm going to use microfiber or bamboo or what for the soaker pads.

All my sewing projects just go agonizingly slow these days and I really am needing new diapers, so I find myself looking at diapers for sale online. Since I started using cloth there is even more variety, especially of cute printed fabrics instead of just solid colors. And then if you get on etsy and look at the handmade one-of-a-kind stuff you'll really get excited (LOOK AT THIS!!!) But I have to keep reminding myself that I've already paid money for the PUL and other supplies and it would be better to invest in a few more supplies for making my own. I know it will save me a ton of money in the long run.

And that was what this whole business was about to begin with, anyway....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Salad

I went out to the garden a couple days ago and collected lettuce, broccoli, and green onions and made a salad! I added store-bought spinach and cauliflower, but for the most part it was from our own garden.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Looks Like We've Got a Climber

So, I'm washing dishes in the kitchen last night and I hear bass notes banging on the piano. This is very normal at our house because Peanut loves to reach up and play the piano, so I didn't think anything of it. Then Bean went into the living room and called out "Mom, come here quick!"





One of the kids had picked her up and set her on the couch. From there she had climbed right up onto the piano. Boy, was she pleased with herself! I knew I needed to get her down right away, but I had to take a picture.... you know how it is. So we spotted her while I grabbed the camera and snapped a couple of shots. Then it was back to the floor.

And kids, NO MORE putting Peanut on the couch! You hear?

Bean was a notable climber. In fact, I have a picture of him at about this age climbing up the books next to our computer... let's see if I can find it. Oh, look, here it is!

You can't really see that he's climbing, but he has the same "I'm so clever-- ha ha!" face that Peanut has.

Anyway, it's been awhile since I've had to deal with a baby who really likes to climb.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Garden

I spent a couple hours one mild afternoon last week working in my garden.


And I thought, that is a first for me in January!

There was quite a bit to do. I had to go through and pull out all the plants that died back in November when we had a hard frost (now that the kitchen remodel and Christmas were over I could think about such things!) Then I had to go through and pull all the weeds that have been growing during all the mild days since then. There were a lot!

There are still quite a few things growing in my garden. We have had temperatures as low as 9 degrees F but it has never gone more than a couple of days so far without coming up above freezing. And most days have been in the 40s and 50s. So I have lettuce and onions and, well, let me show you. Here's a view of the whole garden:



Here's Roo with what she has been calling her "secret plant" all summer: chives. They are frostbitten, but still hanging on.


This broccoli plant looks absolutely awful but parts of it are still growing....

...and producing actual broccoli!


Here's my lettuce bed, behind the chard bed. I really need to remember to go out and pick and eat and enjoy. I'm just not used to thinking about going out to harvest from the garden in January.



Also, you can see that there's still quite a bit chard hanging on. The big outer leaves all died, but when I pulled them out I found much underneath that was still growing.

I've been getting lots of seed catalogs in the mail. I used to pour over seed catalogs all through snowy January and February-- when I lived in Idaho. I'm having a tough time getting excited about them here. It's not as much fun to fantasize about next summer's garden when the last two summer's gardens have been 80% destroyed by heat and insects. All those pretty tomatoes and cucumbers and squash on the glossy pages just seem to be laughing at me.

But I have had some success, and I need to start perusing the seed catalogs and thinking about my game plan for this year. After all, it's nearly time to start my tomatoes from seed, and in just over a month I can put in my spring crops!

Man, that still just seems weird to me.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Ah, London!

I'm sitting here with my kids listening to the audio of Mary Poppins (quite different than the movie!) and I'm remembering a conversation I had with Fish probably a year ago.

As you know, I did a Study Abroad in London during college, so I have a tremendous fondness for the city. One day I pulled up my old London neighborhood on Google Maps and started remembering the various streets in the area: Palace Court, Bayswater Road, Queensway, Moscow Road... I was having quite the reverie.

Fish came in and started asking questions. "What's that, Mom?"

"London."

He pointed to a green area on the screen. "What's that?"

"Oh, Fish, you wouldn't know. It's a park in London." I was a little bit annoyed-- I get very self-absorbed when I'm on the computer.

"Which one?" He wasn't giving up.

"It's Kensington Gardens!" I replied with a little bit of exasperation.

"Oh yes, Kensington! That's in Peter Pan!"

Okay, so he did know Kensington.

"And what's that?"

"Regent's Park."

"Oh, yes, that's where Pongo and Missis lived."

All the sudden it dawned on me that he really did know something about London. I wasn't annoyed anymore, I was very amused.

"And what's that there?"

"St. John's Wood."

"Oh, that's where the Splendid Vet lives!"

I just laughed. At that point I was happy to let Fish into my little London walk. We had a jolly time together.

I started thinking and I realized how many of Fish's beloved stories on CD take place in London or in England. Peter Pan, 101 Dalmations, Mary Poppins, Robin Hood, The Wind in the Willows, and the Narnia books start out in England. All of these are read on the CDs with a British accent, which Fish can replicate quite well. He seems to pick up on the geographical essence of the stories more than the other kids do.

I hope he has the chance to go to London someday.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Resolving

I have always liked New Year's Resolutions. Many people give them a bad rap, but they've always been good for me. Maybe because I always keep them short and simple and realistic, or maybe because I am always striving to improve myself anyway.

My aim for the last while has been to try to bring more beauty, peace, and order into my life. Homeschooling can be chaotic and can also cause you to neglect little things. My constant striving to be more patient and more grateful helps, but here are some specific things I am going to do this year:

Window treatments. I want to make my home more pretty and that's a good general goal, but curtains is the one specific thing I can think of right now that I know I can handle this year. Somehow I am going to get curtains on the windows.

Aprons. I am going to get or make some aprons that I like and wear them in the kitchen. I have been noticing how I am always wiping my hands on my pants or shirt while working in the kitchen and since I have been trying to wear nicer clothes lately (read: not scrounge around in my sweats all the time) aprons would be practical. I also read something recently where a woman talked about how when she wears an apron her kids see her as the Mom Authority-- the uniform effect. This idea intrigued me and I kind of want to see if it works. In any case, there is a wide variety of apron styles available these days and I think it's going to be fun finding styles and fabrics that I like.

No more late nights on the computer. I have long used K9 web protection software for safer surfing, but I have now employed another feature it has: it will shut my internet down during certain hours of the day. So, from now on, at midnight this computer turns into a pumpkin.

Finally, I have devised a system to help me spend time with the kids on Sundays. I am always remembering that "Oh yeah, I am supposed to help the boys work on their Faith in God award" and "I should help the kids write in their journals" and "the little girls should draw pictures and mail them to Great Uncle Such and Such in the nursing home" but there are so many things to do and Sunday ends up slipping by and nothing got done. So I am getting organized. I have set aside one Sunday each month for each kid. My Rabbit gets fast Sundays because her needs are the simplest and then we go on down from there. I take some time Sunday afternoon to sit down with the kid of the week and work on whatever it is they need or want to work on. That way I don't have to do everything for everyone every week but gradually things get done. I am really looking forward to this.

And I am really looking forward to this year. I know it is going to fly by, but I plan to see the beauty in it even as it is rushing by me.

Bob Does It Again

Our neighbor Bob has done so many incredibly kind things for our family in the months since we moved here. He's always been on hand to help the Badger out with various home improvement projects and he has many times come over and said "I was cleaning out my house and we don't need this anymore... could you use it?" He's the one who gave us the trampoline, which Bean has been living on for the last year, and I didn't think he could possibly do anything nicer for us. Until he gave us this:


Now, I've been wanting to learn how to play the organ and it's really been on my mind lately. All of the sudden, here's an organ! Wow! It's in perfect condition. We've been enjoying it so much, and I know we will for years to come. The kids love to experiment with all the different sounds it can make. The Rabbit especially likes to play with it.

But it was this gift of Bob's that forever won the Rabbit's heart:





Yes, a Hello Kitty waffle iron. It makes really cute little Hello Kitty shaped waffles. And you know, I'm not much into most media characters, but I kind of like Hello Kitty. And my Rabbit loves her. So we have been enjoying this waffle iron.

Thank you, Bob. Having neighbors like you and Sue really makes me want to be a kinder, more helpful person.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back in the Saddle

We're back to our normal life routine after living it up in December and totally letting things slide. It feels good to be back to "normal" and I'm looking forward to the things that we can get done during the winter months ahead.

I used to have some trouble with seasonal depression at this time of year. One thing that helped me was to try to live with the rhythm of the seasons. I try to have a list of things that I set aside during the rest of the year and only do during the winter months, so that I look forward to this time. Sewing and quilting projects, books to read-- especially aloud-- and that kind of thing. I hope for this to be a really productive time for homeschool and I'm excited about some of the things we can be working on during this time when there's so little else going on.

I'm also getting back to normal eating-wise. I deliberately chose to throw all dietary caution out the window and just totally enjoy whatever food came my way during December. It was great, it really was. We decided not to actually purchase any candy or sweets and we didn't, but we were still given enough treats to satisfy my hankerings. And the handful of Christmas parties I attended during the month were a gourmand's paradise.

I knew there would be repercussions to this eating binge, but I was surprised at how I would wake up every morning just aching all over. Once I got up and got going I was okay, but I definitely had less energy than normal and I did let a lot of things slide that I wanted to get done. And then there was the weight gain...

Well, I knew I would gain weight, but I also knew that I am really good at switching gears on January First and going back off sugar again, so I knew I wouldn't do too much damage. And now the damage reports are in: I am ten pounds above my target weight. Going into December I was three or four pounds above, so that means I gained six or seven pounds. Which is bad. But ten pounds can be lost in two months. Much less daunting than last year when I was facing a forty pound loss that was going to take me all the way to the end of swimsuit season to achieve.

So that's New Year's Resolution Number 1. The others I will tell you about later, with the exception of Number 2, which is to not stay up late on the computer anymore. And it's getting late. So, later!