Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pie Cherries

First of all, look at Roo's missing top front tooth!  She was pretty excited about losing it on Sunday. 

Some friends gave us some pie cherries off their tree.  Roo helped me to pit them, using drinking straws (works great!)  I cooked them with some sugar and constarch to make cherry pie filling and then I made cherry crisp for Family Home Evening last night.  Yes, some weeks I am on the ball and we have FHE complete with a lesson and a treat!  Some weeks...

I enjoyed this project a lot.  Back when we lived in Idaho, between 2003 and 2006, I did a LOT of stuff like this.  I'd get huge quantities of fruits or vegetables and I would process them in various ways.  Here is one of many similar pictures from 2006-- this is plum sauce made from plums picked from my neighbor's tree:

At the time I figured this was going to be my way of life, that I was learning these skills because they would be a blessing to my large family over time.  And it gave me a lovely, pioneer-y, provident-living-y self-satisfied feeling.  But then my family got larger and for the last few years I rarely have time to do things like can anymore.  When I do, I get so excited about it that I take pictures and wax nostalgic.  I think, though, that more of this is in my future.  First of all, we've moved back to a place where stuff actually grows (I love you, Oklahoma, but, really!)  Secondly, my kids are getting old enough to help.  And that's fun.  Roo would poke the straw in a cherry and push the pit partway out and say "it's an Angry Bird!"  And we would laugh together.  Good times. 

I really believe it's good for kids to know where their food comes from and to help in its production from the early stages of raw ingredients to the final steps of cooking something yummy.  I want them to really think about what they're eating and appreciate it. 
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My Kitchen

This is my current kitchen. 

It's pretty budget.  Bottom-of-the-line everything, and not near enough space for someone cooking for a large family.  It was a shock at first, coming from the lovely kitchen we built in our house in Oklahoma.  But I've gotten used to it, and for the most part it has been just fine.  When I first saw the sink and faucet I told the Badger to go to Home Depot NOW and buy me at least a better faucet.  But he was busy and a few days went by and you get used to things after a few days.  At that point we didn't want to spend any money on a temporary rental house, so I've just been making do.  But I will be really glad for the sink in my new house (pictures coming soon!) 

I am grateful though, for this kitchen.  I am grateful for hot and cold running water.  Dishwashers are awesome.  So are electric stoves and refrigerators.  I appreciate these blessings every day.  This kitchen really is OK, but my new kitchen is going to be a real thrill. 
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Cattail Creations

Bean learned a lot about cattails at science camp this summer.  He told me, "Mom, if you're lost in the wilderness and you come across a bunch of cattails, you've just found Walmart.  Seriously." 

There is a gully behind our property and if you follow it down yonder a bit you come to a patch of cattails.  Bean likes to go down there and cut an armful, then bring them home and make things out of them.  It's pretty amazing all the different things he can make out of them as he braids and weaves and wraps.

On both sides of the family tree there are many individuals who loved the outdoors: forest rangers and pioneers and professors of zoology and such.  There is a great tradition in both our families of spending time in the wilderness camping and hiking and fishing and such.  This is coming out full force in Bean and it's so fun to watch.  I know that the outdoors is going to play a large part in his life, so I'm glad he knows what to do with cattails!
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Girl Legos

My boys have loved Legos for years.  Now it's fun watching my girls begin to love them just as much.  I sure did when I was a kid.  However, they use them a little differently.  For one thing, they like pink and purple Legos.  And flower Legos.  And instead of the space ships and guns my boys build they build cute cottages for their princesses complete with horse stables and cute little bridges over streams. 

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Floor Creatures

Prince Charming is all over the floor these days.  He scoots, pulls himself up to things, and climbs stairs and boxes and stuff.  As he chugs around, he finds all sorts of tasty morsels to sample, no matter how thoroughly I sweep the floor.  The front of his shirt is always so dirty and gross from being dragged across the floor. 

And I think to myself, "how did we ever survive this stage with the other kids?"

It's so funny how fast they go from this precious little bundle that you carry everywhere in your arms and keep so clean and sanitary to this little bottom-feeder that is exposed to the grossest environment your house has to offer.  With this baby it seemed to happen overnight, right when he turned six months.  Now, almost two months later, it doesn't seem quite so weird to have him down there anymore, but it still kind of grosses me out. 
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Still Life with Cookies and Peaches

Lately, I've found myself making a lot of oatmeal raisin cookies. 

When my kids have some activity or camp or something where they need to take a lunch, it is much more cost-effective to throw together a batch of these than to buy granola bars or little bags of crackers or fruit snacks or whatever.  It doesn't take that long:  I've gotten to where I can even do it the morning of.  And while they're not exactly healthy, I'd say they're healthier than purchased snacks.  They have a higher ratio of fat and sugar, but there are no preservatives or weird chemicals or tortured fats.

I read a book awhile back on coconut oil, entitled The Coconut Oil Miracle I had been aware for some time that coconut oil was good for you because I knew that everyone I knew in health-food land was using it, but I didn't exactly know why until I read this book. 

Turns out, coconut oil is way more amazing than my wildest dreams.  So amazing that as I was reading the book, every time I put it down I would go in the kitchen and eat a big spoonful of coconut oil.  Plain.  It's good for your heart, your immune system, your skin and hair, and your metabolism, and that's just the beginning.  I know it sounds cliche, but it really is a miracle food.

After everything I read about fat in that book, which built on everything I'd learned before, I've made a decision that the only fats I want to use in my family's diet, as much as possible, are olive oil, coconut or palm oil, and real butter.  I try to use coconut oil the most and I buy both the kind that tastes like coconut and the kind that doesn't so I have whatever I need for any given occasion.  I buy it either from Bountiful Baskets or Costco, so while it's kind of expensive it's not ridiculous like if you buy it from the health food store.

So, therefore, here is the recipe for my absolutely perfect and scrumptioius oatmeal raisin cookies, which I am typing from memory:

Beat together (I use a kitchenaid, but it's not essential):

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup unscented coconut oil
If you are sugar-sensitive like me, 1 1/3 cups raw organic cane sugar
If not, use 2/3 cup brown sugar and 2/3 cup granulated sugar

Add two eggs and beat well at a fast speed until well-mixed

1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon (use top-quality if you can)
1 tsp vanilla extract (please, for the love of Pete, use REAL vanilla and not artificial, which is made from industrial by-products..)
1/2 tsp baking powder (I use Rumford aluminum-free-- who wants brain-damaging aluminum in their cookies?)
1/2 salt (I use sea salt)
1 1/2 cups flour of your choice  (I usually use whole wheat because in this recipe the ratio of flour is so low that you don't really notice the rougher texture that sometimes makes whole wheat undesirable.  Also, this is where my recipe differs from Betty Crocker's... I find that with the coconut oil being a little more soft than shortening a little more flour is necessary)

Mix this all really well. 

Finally, stir in

3 cups oats (I like old-fashioned, but it doesn't really matter)
2 cups raisins
1 cup or so of walnuts

Place spoonfuls on a stoneware baking sheet (if you don't have one, you really ought to) and bake on the middle rack of your oven at 375 degrees farenheit for 10-12 minutes or so.  I like to underbake my cookies slightly so they are chewy when cooled.  I pull them out when they are just barely starting to get the tiniest bit brown on the top.  And with the stoneware they are never too dark and hard on the bottom, except for the time I forgot I didn't have a convection oven anymore and put a pan in on the bottom rack of the oven. 

These really are a great high-energy snack for pcked lunches or a day on the go with the kids.  I find that I do eat these cookies somewhat addictively, but they don't give me a bad sugar hangover the next day.  Unless I make them with chocolate chips.  Or butterscotch chips.  But I'm trying really hard not to think about those things....

Let's think about peaches instead.  Here, look at that picture again:

Aren't those gorgeous peaches?  They came in my organic Bountiful Basket this last week.  They are huge and they are so, so, so sweet.  They make my heart sing.  Thank you, God, for peaches.  And for cookies. 
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

On the Subject of Sugar

Oh, sugar...

Sugar is an addiction for me and I mean that in the full sense of the word.  I've been battling it my entire adult life.

For months now I've been doing really good with it.  Starting in January I went "off sugar" and because of the principles I learned in the addiction prevention/recovery class I think I had my best No Sugar period yet.  For awhile I allowed myself occasional "Sugar Days," so that if there were a birthday or a special occasion I could indulge a little.  Being so good most of the time though, I really noticed the difference when I had eaten it.  I was sure to have depression, fatigue, and headaches the next couple of days. 

I was also frustrated by my weight loss not moving along like I had hoped.  So round about May I decided that I was going to go completely off sugar for my next set of 28-day goals (so after completing all my goals for 28 consecutive days I could re-evaluate and determine what to do next.)  28 days didn't sound like very long. 

But I kept having little hiccups here and there with missing some of my goals, and what was supposed to be an easy 28 days turned into two months.  I finally achieved 28 days a couple weeks ago.  I did stay off refined sugar during that time.  There are some sweeteners my body handles much better than sugar: honey, for one, and real maple syrup in moderation.  I can also handle a little bit of raw cane sugar in something like, say, a muffin.  There's a fine line sometimes, but I managed to stay on the right side of it for many weeks.  The Badger bought me that ice cream maker for my birthday and I made several batches of homemade ice cream sweetened entirely with honey and that helped a lot (though I also realized I'm just as addicted to dairy as I am to sugar, it just doesn't give me the same emotional crash that sugar does.  But that's a subject for another post.) 

After awhile of enjoying this lovely even-keel sugar-free existence, what I call my "sugar demon" started talking to me a lot.  "Are you really going to go all summer without eating sugar?" he'd say.  "Don't you think that's a little unfair?  I mean, not even going to the famous town ice cream stand once the whole summer?  That's just cruel.  What about the boys' birthdays?  You know you make a chocolate cake like no other.  You've been doing so well for so long.  You've really got this under control.  Other people can go enjoy an ice cream cone at the ice cream stand and say 'that was yummy!' and move on without it train wrecking their lives.  Surely you can do that.  You're almost done with your 28 days.  Then why don't you have a little bit of enjoyment for a couple of days before going back on the wagon?  It's not like eating sugar is a sin.

Okay, I thought.  I will give it a couple of days.  I will eat sugar at the ward social, the boys' birthday, and one trip to the ice cream stand.  That will be my fun.  Then I will go back on the wagon, suffer a couple days of detox/withdrawal, and then be back to my healthy self. 

First there was the ward social. It was funny:  I was very picky about what I ate and actually didn't end up eating very much of it.  That's not normal for me: normally a potluck supper is the perfect place for me to go wild and eat everything sweet I can get my hands on.  But at this one I did good.  I was telling myself, "see, you can be like everyone else and moderate your sugar intake and be just fine." 

Nope.  I went home and ate two enormous bowls of ice cream that night after the kids went to bed.  It was Tillamook.  Marionberry pie.  I only eat the best. 

The next day I struggled through church... I felt rotten.  That evening I ate three enormous pieces of chocolate cake.  I loved every bite of it.  I would have polished off the ice cream that night after the kids went to bed (do you see a pattern here?) but someone else beat me to it. 

Monday I realized, by contrast, just how good I have been feeling all summer when I've been off sugar.  Wow.    All day Monday I dragged.  I had no interest in engaging with the kids in anything.  I just wanted to lay around and read books.  The idea of going to the Y and working out was completely intolerable.  I had a headache all afternoon and I cried when I thought I wasn't going to get a nap because someone had woken up the baby.  I made Fish come into my room and sit and read a book while keeping an eye on the baby, crawling around on the childproofed floor, so I could take a nap.  Peanut was asleep and I put a movie on for everyone else. 

Oh, I was crabby with the kids.  So crabby.  And withdrawn.  And depressed.  More sugar would have got me out of it, but that would start the cycle all over again.  And over time I would gain a terrifying amount of weight and develop serious health problems. 

My friend Meg says that people trying to control their undesirable behaviors are either abstainers or moderators.  Some people can moderate themselves with sweets.  I have been kicking and shouting for years now how unfair it is that I can't moderate this like other people can.  Like my dad, who used to keep a package of Oreos hidden in his closet sometimes.  He'd get it out once a week or so and eat two, give one or two to each of us kids, then put it away again.  I cannot do that, no matter how hard I try.  If I buy Oreos I eat the entire package that day.  So I just can't buy them. 

Anyway, now I am struggling with getting back on the wagon.  I have not been horrible this week with sugar, but I'm not back off it again.  I made chocolate chip pancakes for dinner last night and today I am having a headache and other withdrawal symptoms.  And there's another half gallon of Tillamook (huckleberry) in the freezer calling to me.  And I haven't been to the ice cream stand yet....

But I hate how I feel.  I hate how cranky I am with the kids.  I hate how hard it is to get myself to stay on top of the housework.  I simply cannot be the mother I need to be and eat this way.  One has to go, and as much as I love homemade caramel brownies and blueberry cinnamon rolls and Nutela cheesecake dip, I love my children more. 

I am writing this to help snap me out of this.  To help me put it all in words in front of me to help me see what direction I need to go from here.  I need to stay strong.  I need to go though detox again.  I need to get back down to the Y.  I need to take the very best care of these cute little people that I can.  And I know I can do this!

Monday, July 22, 2013


This year I made one cake and made the boys share it.  Mean old me.  Hang on, I think I did that last year too.  I must be getting lazier as they get older. 

My round cake pans are in storage, so this cake didn't look fancy.  But it tasted incredible.  Which would you rather have: a clever and creative cake that looks amazing and tastes OK, or a sloppy undecorated cake in a casserole pan that tastes like the celestial kingdom?  Yeah, me too. 

First, I baked up my famous Fudgy Chocolate Cake recipe.  Then I poked holes all over the top of it and poured chocolate pudding all over it.  After church, when it was thoroughly chilled, I made chocolate whipped cream for the final layer.  I firmly believe in the power of real whipped cream. 

Then, as I was putting on the candles, Fish came down with his entire batch of Lego Hobbit characters and marched them around the edge of the cake.  An unexpected journey.  See?  There's no need to fuss over cake decorating.  They're happier when they decorate the cakes themselves. 

So, we put ten candles on for Fish and then after he blew them out we added two more and re-lit for Bean. 

It was SO yummy.  Sorry I didn't get a picture to torture you with.  I was busy eating.  I ate three pieces.  Then I packed up the rest and took it to some friends who live a few blocks over.  Because if I hadn't I would have sat up after the kids went to bed and eaten the entire rest of the pan.  It was chocolate paradise!
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Random Silly Picture of Peanut

You're welcome.
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Oh, man, we LOVE pizza around here!  We did Papa Murphy's for the boys' birthday dinner this year.  We do Papa Murphy's for birthdays a LOT.  It makes everyone happy as long as there is plenty for everyone.  We tend to get a little territorial about our pizza.

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It's always so fun feeding a baby baby food for the first time.  Especially when there are a bunch of older kids who are so excited to help and watch. 

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Coming Into Focus

Here we are at the midpoint of our summer, and we're finally starting to be able to make some decisions and plans.  It sure feels good after all those weeks of feeling like everything was totally up in the air after August.  We had no idea where we would be living, what our budget would be like with a higher house payment, and whether the kids would be in school or not.  Now, we have a much better idea. 

We have been blessed with the opportunity to rent a very nice house for a very reasonable price.  It is about a mile from our current location, in a very family-friendly neighborhood of nice newer homes (like, ten years old).  It is also very close to the school the kids went to last spring. 

The decision we have made is that Roo, Rabbit, and Fish are going to go to the elementary school this fall.  Bean, who would be in junior high, is going to homeschool, except he will go to the school for band. 

It was so hard to decide this and I went round and round about it in my head for so long.  Then one day I remembered that day last August after we'd gotten the report back from the neuropsychologist about Bean's learning disability.  We now understood what was going on in his brain and what we needed to do about it.  What he needed was LOTS of one-on-one time.  And I was completely at a loss as to how I could give it to him with so many other demands on my time.  I prayed, "how can I do this for Bean?"  And I realized that this is the answer to my prayer: moving to a place that has an excellent school that even I feel comfortable sending my other kids to so that I can focus on Bean. 

It's going to be so weird and so cool to just have him to teach.  And only two little monkeys to disrupt us!  I'm looking forward to it.  So is he.  He really wants to keep homeschooling.  The girls want desperately to go to school.  Fish had a little harder time deciding and I would have been cool either way with him, but it was his decision to go back to public school and I think a lot of good will come of it for him. 

I'm very much looking forward to the new house.  I can't even tell you.  There are so many features it has that I am just going to thoroughly enjoy, especially after our time here (it's more than double the size of this place!)  It is the nicest house we have had in years.  It has a foyer, people!  The living room is not in the traffic pattern, which is something that has driven us crazy in just about every house we've ever lived in (let's see... I think this will be residence number twelve since we got married!)  It has a good-sized pantry, which I haven't had since Idaho.  The laundry room is on the main floor and it has cabinets and a utility sink!  We will have an attached master bath for the first time since Oregon.  It has a full basement, a huge back patio, and a good-sized yard.  Plus, the kitchen is almost as good as our remodeled kitchen in Oklahoma.  It even has a pull-out sprayer faucet on the sink! 

Oh, and there's central air.  Central air is a very helpful thing.

Life is good!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Growing Up

Bean and Fish are in the midst of having birthdays.  Bean is now twelve and Fish is now ten. 

I've been watching them become more independent lately.  Now that we're living in town, there's a different sort of dynamic than when we lived out yonder back in Oklahoma.  They can ask to be dropped off at the library or at the YMCA to play racquetball or swim and I let them.  They can walk from the library to the YMCA even, if I need them to meet me there.  Or from either of those places to the park.  (All of those places are within a couple of blocks of each other.)  They also ride their bikes around our neighborhood freely.  They have a tracfone (cheap cellphone with prepaid minutes) I let them take when they're off like this and they use it very responsibly.  It's both happy and sad for me to see this.  I'm glad to can trust them to behave responsibly on their own in public, but I'm also realizing that the day is coming when they'll be gone altogether and that's not a happy thought. 

Little signs they are growing up: wanting electronics for their birthdays (thanks for giving us your old iPod, Aunt Crocodile!)  Going to the ward picnic and Bean saying he had a great time because he sat and talked with the men about wild animals and stuff and not because he played on the playground.  Fish's emerging desire to have everything neat and in order in his room.  Both of them reading their scriptures each day all on their own without me bugging them.  Both of them wearing deodorant. 

Tomorrow Bean will be ordained a deacon at church, as is custom for LDS young men when they turn twelve.  He will then have the responsibility of passing the Sacrament to the congregation each week.  He is ready for this.  I am not at all freaked out about it because he is so ready.  I am so proud of him and his faith and his good decisions and his loving heart. 

I remember four years ago when he was baptized.  I had this sense that we had come a long way to arrive at that point (eight years is a long time!) but I also had the sense that the journey was just beginning.  I feel that way now too, with his ordination.  We have reached the crest of a big hill and there's a great view, but there are more peaks to climb beyond this.  Ahead are the teenage years: Wednesday nights at the church for Mutual, scout camp, Temple trips... in a couple more years there will be dances and youth conferences.  I don't even want to think beyond that to car keys and beyond.  That's still a ways out.  But not that far. 

This is uncharted territory for me, this world of Junior High and the Young Men's program at church.  It's funny how it makes me feel old and yet scared and inexperienced at the same time. 

The other day I sent Fish off to a birthday party where I was a little worried about some choices that might be presented to him.  I realized that my boys are now old enough to have significant opportunities to choose right or wrong and that I will no longer be there holding their hand and nudging them to choose the right.  It's scary realizing this and wondering if I've taught them enough, prepared them enough.  Will they make the right choices?  What if they don't?  My inner mother bear wants to protect them always, but I realized that I do believe in the principle of repentance.  They won't always make perfect choices.  Hopefully their missteps will be small, but big or small, there is always a way back to the path of happiness.  Always. 

Looking back, I feel really good about what I've done with them so far, for the most part.  I've loved them the best I could and given them the best education and opportunities I could.  I've taught them the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as much fervency as I could and both of them are coming to know their Savior.  I haven't been perfect, and we've had some personality clashes and struggles, but right now I like the people they are and the goals they have for the future.  Right now there's a lot to look forward to. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Family Campfire

We had another great family outing up in the mountains last week.  We had hamburgers and hotdogs over a fire.  Then we told stories around the fire until it got dark and we had to head home.  (I tell the Badger that I truly do like camping, but NOT with babies and toddlers!) 

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Reading

At the beginning of the summer I made a big list of all the books I wanted the kids to read over the summer. 

As usual, I overdid it. 

However, as I heard Donny Osmond say once, it's better to shoot for the stars and only hit the moon than it is to shoot for the moon and not get out of the atmosphere.  Or something like that. 

Anyway, Donny Osmond aside, I'm pleased overall with the reading happening around here lately as we fill out our library summer reading logs. 

Bean reads voraciously.  It's hard to believe after all the years I struggled with helping him learn to read or even just focus on a book long enough to do any good.  When the light finally went on, it went on bright.  Channeling his reading is my challenge now.  He loves fantasy and if it were up to him he would read stuff like Brian Jacques all day every day.  However, all those years of playing classics on audio while he played with his blocks have paid off.  I really think that was the best thing I ever did for his education.  He loves classics too and if it's one he's heard before on audio he's eager to read it.  One of his favorites is Tom Sawyer.  He's read it more than once now and he's been branching out into other works by Twain.  How my kid went from not really reading at all to reading Mark Twain within the space of a few months is one of those baffling delights of my life. 

I've been trying to check out other books for him... classics, Newberry Award winners, my old favorites... but Bean is one dang stubborn kid and I was getting really frustrated with him not reading the stuff I checked out for him and reading piles of Redwall novels instead.  I finally figured out a system that works.  When we go to the library he can check out two or three books.  Then I check out two or three for him.  Then I simply refuse to take him back to the library until he has finished my selections.  He adores the library and he's always begging me to go there, so if I say "you can go as soon as you finish Call it Courage, you can bet he'll be over there in the corner with Call it Courage, reading like mad until he finishes it.  Sometimes he complains about a book I check out.  He didn't want to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond because it was about a girl.  All I have to do in that case is read the first few chapters aloud.  Once he's hooked on the story he'll pick it up on his own and finish it.  I got him with A Girl of the Limberlost that way a couple of days ago.  Victory! 

We're still not going to get to the entire grandiose list I made at the beginning of the summer, but in addition to the ones listed above he has read Hatchet, The Good Master, and The Phantom Tollbooth. 

Fish is reading chapter books on his own now, which is a huge step for him.  I'm talking about stuff like the Magic Treehouse series.  He also likes the A to Z Mysteries and some other series I found for him where all the books are mysteries that take place in Washington D.C.  It's so great to see him reading happily and independently. 

Roo's reading still amazes me because I was not the one that taught her everything.  With the boys, I pretty much taught them everything.  They're not really reading any better now than they did before they went to public school.  But Roo learned a lot of reading skills in public school and now it surprises me to see her reading things like Henry and Mudge because in my mind she's still on a Margaret Hillert level.  She goes to the school once a week during the summer and they give her a bag of books just on her level to take home and read.  There's stuff in there like Danny and the Dinosaur and I'm like, "wow!"  And she sits and does it all on her own without anyone coaxing or nagging, which makes my life easier.

I'm trying to continue to instill a love of the classics in my younger children as I did so well with Bean.  I checked out Heidi and started reading it to them.  The ones most interested are Roo and Rabbit (yay!), but Bean and Fish like it too.  The only problem is that it's hard to find the time to read aloud in the summer when everyone wants to play outside until way past bedtime.  So we are not finished with Heidi yet.  But I count it as a parenting success that they are so interested in it when we do read. 

I have been indulging in some pleasure reading myself.  I usually prefer children's or young adult literature.  I've checked out several Newberry Award winners that I hadn't read before.  I liked The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Getting Near to Baby was well-written and insightful but sad.  Hope was Here was fabulous: I love Joan Bauer and when she writes about delicious food it pretty much doesn't get any better than that.  Then there was Miracles on Maple Hill, an old book, but one I hadn't read before.  I tend to like the older Newberrys better.  Sometimes the writing isn't as dazzling as the newer stuff, but the underlying values in the story are often more solid. 

I love books.  Did you know that?  My dream home has bookshelves on every single wall.  Full bookshelves. 

I'm so glad to see my kids developing a love of books too.  In addition to my three hungry readers, Rabbit and Peanut can often be found looking at picture books and Prince Charming can often be found snacking on the pages of one they left on the floor.  We love summer reading!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stroller Makeover

When we lived in Kansas four or five years ago I needed a new double stroller.  After much deliberation and polling of my friends, I bought a Joovy Caboose.  I loved it so much, and double strollers are expensive, so I took good care of it. Having a reliable, useful, versatile, and well-designed double stroller is very important when you're a mom of many little ones.  Here's the Rabbit in the stroller on a blackberry picking expedition in July of 2009:

But then for some dumb reason when we moved to Oklahoma I stopped taking care of my Joovy.  It sat outside for long periods of time and became a favorite hang-out place for the cat.  By the time we got here, it was dirty and sun-faded to the point where it was embarrassing to be seen with it.  The front seat was broken too, so the thing was pretty much useless unless we put a piece of cardboard under it, which only sort of worked and made it look even worse. 

I felt really bad... upset at myself for letting this awesome stroller go to pot.  But it was pretty trashed, so I was going to throw it away.  As I was looking at it, I noticed how the frame was so sturdy and well-made that it was still in great shape.  It seemed a shame to throw something like that away. 

Then it dawned on me that maybe I could get some replacement parts.  I went to Joovy's website and happily discovered that ordering an entire new front seat assembly was a piece of cake.  I could also get a new sunshade and back seat.  All that would cost a lot less than a new stroller.  The hardest part was choosing a color. 

Everything arrived in the mail very quickly and I was amazed how easy it was to change everything out.  Here's a picture of the stroller stripped down to the frame:

A few simple snaps later, and look what I had!  Doesn't it look fabulous?  I couldn't decide between orange and green, so I chose the green because it's my sister Pineapple's favorite color and it makes me think of her. 

There was one tiny problem: the front seat was missing one snap on one side.  Not a huge deal, but it doesn't look good.  A quick call to Joovy's customer service line (answered by a real human on the first ring!) and three minutes later a new one is in the mail.  It should get here in a couple of days. 

I am just so pleased with this stroller and this company.  What a pleasure it is to do business with a company with such extremely well-designed products and such excellent customer service!  Thank you, Joovy! 

Joovy also recommended the Snuggin Go infant support that you see around Prince Charming in the above photo.  Young babies often flop over oddly in things like strollers, especially when they fall asleep.  This props him up so he is a lot more comfortable.  It was a little spendy, but I decided to give it a try and I'm glad I bought it.  Like I said, when you have a bunch of kids, having a quality stroller set-up is important.  Comfortable kids are happy kids on outings. 
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Evening in an Alpine Meadow

What could be better than a romp through an alpine meadow when the sun is westering?

Hello, Rabbit! 

Hello, pine trees!

Hello, Roo!

Oh, look!  It's a Badger!  With a Peanut!  And a Rabbit!

Childhood magic...

Oh, my goodness!  It's me!  Wearing a cute baby!

Hello, wildflowers!

More childhood magic...

Hello, Fish!

Hello, Mountains!

Yup, Bean, that's how I feel about this too!
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