Saturday, August 30, 2014


My kids watched a lot more movies than usual this summer.  I typically try to really limit their screen time, but when I am pregnant and exhausted movies are often the solution.  

We don't have a TV, so we just put our DVDs on the computer.  (I got rid of our TV in 2007 and the only time I miss it is during the Olympics.)  

My kids tend to like to watch the same movies over and over again.  It occurred to me the other day what an odd assortment of movies we have in our repertoire.  I think it is pretty atypical for American youngsters in the 21st century, so I thought I would record it for posterity or something.  

One of the favorite movies this summer, especially with the Rabbit and Peanut, was Harvey, an old black and white Jimmy Stewart flick about a man who has an invisible rabbit for a friend.  It's a great film, even though it moves pretty slowly.  I have to say that I feel a little proud that in this age of glitzy, flashy, colorful kid movies my 6- and 3-year-olds kept wanting to watch Harvey.  

Here are some other films my children have been watching a lot lately here at the Birrd's Nest:

The Shop Around the Corner (another great black and white Jimmy Stewart... Fish loves this one)
The Slipper and the Rose (Live action musical production of Cinderella)
Chariots of Fire (this was Fish's favorite movie when he was a really little kid and it's still popular)
Anne of Green Gables and the first sequel (I am a purist and a huge fan of the books.  I like the first movie a lot but the sequel bugged me at first because it is not as faithful to the books.  But the Badger liked it and kept watching it, and I have come to appreciate it as a conglomeration of events from several of the books.  However, the third movie in the series does not appear to follow the books at all, and I refuse to have anything to do with it.)  
Little Women (the version from the 1990s with Winona Ryder etc.)
The King and I
The Secret of Roan Inish (this is a fantastic film though it is also slow-moving, but it is VERY popular around here.  It might just be the Badger's most favorite movie and all the kids love it too.)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
The Music Man
Fly Away Home
Soul Surfer (the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who got her arm bit off by a shark.  It's very inspirational but I think watching it over and over has given my little girls a slightly warped perception of both sharks and amputees... hopefully no permanent damage done.) 
Second Chances (a really cute movie about an injured girl and an injured horse... Peanut's favorite)
Mary Poppins (the Rabbit bought this with her own money and all the kids love to sing the songs)
The Gnome Mobile (has the same two kids in it that are in Mary Poppins.  Kind of a silly movie, but fun for the kids.)
The Pirates of Penzance

We're not really huge on animated movies, not that I necessarily think they're bad, but we just don't like many of them enough to own them.  I think all we have is Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book, and Finding Nemo.  Prince Charming loves Winnie the Pooh.  He also loves Milo and Otis,which has long been a stand-by around here.  

I have read all these articles about how very small children should watch little or no TV and I tend to agree with them.   Over the summer, Prince Charming has come to LOVE movies.  This bothers me a bit, despite how cute it is when he gets excited about a movie.  But we live in an imperfect world, and this summer has been such a struggle.  At least he has mostly been watching Milo and Otis and not so many of the things a lot of toddlers are watching.  

Now that school is back in session and I am feeling somewhat more functional, our screen time will be cut way back.  The Rabbit is having some difficultly being weaned from the TV addiction.  She comes home from school begging to watch a movie every day.  I've been telling her that unless there are extenuating circumstances we will only be watching movies on weekends now.  I am glad my kids will be exhibiting fewer zombie symptoms, but I am also glad that their memories of this summer will include lots of movies which for the most part are uplifting classics.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Home Decor

We have now lived in this house for a year, and most of the walls are still bare.

Art on the walls is very important to me.  So important, in fact, that I get a little obsessive about it being just right.  When we moved in here I thought that lots of my old wall hanging standards were a little tired, or outdated (especially family pictures.)  So I hung a few things and set the rest aside, intending to freshen things up a little before I hung them up.  I also have all these big dreams of wall art I would like to acquire or put together: like a big wall with individual pictures of ancestors arranged in pedigree chart fashion.

Also, when we moved in the landlord said the house needed painting and we were welcome to paint the interior walls to suit our tastes.  Now, is that awesome for a rental, or what?  I have picked out paint chips for the master bedroom and bathrooms, but that's as far as I've gone.  All last winter I was focused on organizing so many boxes of things that we have hauled through all our moves for years and mostly needed to be tossed.  I got a lot done there and I am so pleased with that.  Then when it was time to think seriously about painting I found out I was expecting.

So here we are a year later and the walls are still white and mostly bare.  There is a big picture of a waterfall above the couch because it came with the house-- it covers up a hole from a projector for a home theater system.  It looks fine so I left it there.  But the walls above the piano, dining room table, and shoe rack in the foyer are still sadly empty.  The upstairs hallway has a ton of possibility, but it also is blank.  Oh, and the girls' room is almost completely undecorated.  I can't make up my mind there: pale green with flowers and fairies or pink and white with a chair rail, or....

Meanwhile, Peanut and Prince Charming are incurable wall scribblers.  We have never had any of the other houses we lived in so well-decorated with pencil and crayon and marker.  I don't know what it is.  When Bean and Fish were small it was easy to keep the coloring implements out of reach, so perhaps that was why the walls in our early houses remained clear.  In Kansas we had a little trouble, mostly from an incident when we had some friends over and all the kids together decided to get artistic on the downstairs walls.  That was tough because the rental had flat wall paint, which is hard to clean marks off of.  Our landlord was a little unhappy when we moved out, but that's what they get for painting the walls with flat paint, says I.  But I just don't remember a lot of marks on the walls in Oklahoma, even though we had a billion little kids running around and pencils and crayons left lying everywhere by the older kids.

So I think it's just a personality thing with Peanut and Prince Charming.  I think they just really like to draw, and they see all this white space everywhere...

And they fill it up.  There are scribble marks everywhere.  And it's flat paint so I can't just magic-eraser it away.  But, I have leave to repaint at any time and if I don't the landlord will do it when we move out.  So no one is going to be upset about this.

And really, I think it's kind of cute in a way.

But I hope I get a bout of nesty-ness and energy at some point during this pregnancy and get some more painting and picture-hanging done.

An Easy Solution

There is a malady called Restless Leg Syndrome that runs in my family.  I suffer from it when I am pregnant.  It is a very odd and very obnoxious thing: when you are trying to fall asleep at night your legs feel all twitchy and like they just want to move.  It sounds really strange unless you've experienced it, but if you have you know it's pretty hard to fall asleep when this is going on.

I researched it on the internet when I was pregnant with either Bean or Fish.  There is no one cure: from all the differing sources I read I found that what helps one person doesn't do anything for someone else.  In fact,  it seems that sometimes the thing that makes it a lot worse for one person is what cures it for another.

When I was pregnant with Fish, my friend clued me in to a natural remedy for those horrible painful leg cramps I also sometimes get when I am pregnant.  I started taking it and discovered that not only did the leg cramps completely stop but the restless leg syndrome disappeared as well.

It's called A to B Calm and it's basically calcium and magnesium in a format that is assimilated by your body very quickly.  You mix the powder with boiling water.  Once it's dissolved I cool it down with ice cubes and add a little juice.  I make it up at bedtime and if I forget and go to bed without it and can't sleep because of the RLS, I go make myself a cup and I'm asleep in minutes.  

I bought this jar when I was pregnant with Fish and it's only now almost gone.  Yeah, it lasted me awhile.  

Calcium/magnesium really seems to be the ticket for me with RLS.  I have discovered in more recent years that if I am diligent in taking a good cal/mag supplement daily I don't get the RLS and I don't need to make a cup of Calm at bedtime.  But I often forget, or run out, or whatever, and my jar of Calm is always there to help me out.  

There are so many discomforts of pregnancy and so many times it is hard to find a solution that even eases the discomfort, let alone takes it away entirely.  I am so grateful that this malady is so easily cured in my case.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Dream Car

I started writing this post before the Badger lost his job.  In the whirlwind of the last few weeks buying a new van has dropped completely off my radar screen (and as long as we're unemployed we can't even qualify for an auto loan so there's no point in even thinking about it.)  But I was looking at my posts today and saw this draft, which was longer and more detailed than I remembered. And I decided to finish it up and post it.  So here you go:

 I think most of us look around at the cars on the road and pick out a few favorites that we would love to drive.  I am not a big car person, but I am incredibly sensitive to how things look and so I have definite preferences when it comes to everything, including cars.  Over the years I have looked at them a lot.  I remember when I was really young I wanted to drive a (blue) Ford Probe.  As a teenager I liked the look of the several of the SUVs that were popular, including the Isuzu Rodeo (if I could have it in blue.)  I had kind of strange tastes when I was young.  

I always knew I wanted a big family, so I figured someday I would be a minivan mom and I was okay with that.  There are a lot of really nice minivans out there.  Plenty of good options.  I would love to drive a (blue) Chrysler Town & Country, for example.  Or a (blue) Honda Odyssey. 

We are now moving beyond the realm of minivans.  With twins coming, even a 9-seat Suburban isn't an option.  I have been dreading this aspect of our growing family for a long time, for two reasons.  

The first and most valid reason is that I am really uncomfortable driving large vehicles.  I am constantly worried that I am going to hit something, especially when backing up or parking.  I have been driving our van since 2007 and I am still not totally comfortable with it.  And last summer I dinged someone with my tow hitch while trying to parallel park, so now I am even more skittish about hitting things.  Trying to maneuver a mammoth van scares the socks off me.  

The second reason is silly, really.  I just don't like that my two options now are either a 12-passenger or a 15-passenger van.  For the most part, they all look pretty much the same: big and blocky.  And they're usually white with grey interiors.  They're very utilitarian: no sunroofs or anything fun like that.  Booooooring.  I'm just not excited about owning one and driving one.  Petty, I know.  Yes, I am grateful they exist and that I have the option of having something that my whole family can fit in.  Grateful, yes.  Excited, no.  

They're also expensive, unless you get a really old one.  But we will need a car loan regardless of the age of our selection.  This will be a little hard to swallow after nearly five years of owning both our vehicles outright.  (Our vehicles may be totally ghetto by now, but they're ours-- and one of them is blue!)  Also, the gas mileage these things get makes me cringe.  It's just going to cost us in many ways, that can't be helped.  

The Badger wants a 15-passenger.  He has wanted a 15-passenger van for years.  They fit so much stuff!  They have so much muscle!  He has no problem driving something the size of Long Island.  He can't wait.  

I want a 12-passenger because it's a lot shorter and less scary.   And it would fit in the garage, which is kind of a big deal when you have a bunch of little tiny kids (including infant twins) and you have to go places during the winter when it's 30 below and/or there is a foot of snow on the ground.  It would be nice to have a vehicle that makes my life easier, not harder.  But the problem with a 12-passenger is that behind that last row of seats there is virtually no cargo space.  Where do you put the $1200 worth of stuff from Costco that your big family needs?  And what about when you're going on a big trip?  No room for luggage, let alone camping gear.  That's why the Badger wants a 15-passenger.  We could even take out the last row of seats and have a huge space for cargo.  

I have recently become aware of a vehicle that would solve a lot of my problems.  It's called the Nissan NV and it is not your typical 12-passenger van.  The seats are divided up so they can be reconfigured a zillion different ways, so even though there's not much room behind the last row of seats we could take out half the back row and have room for 10 passengers plus some cargo.  Or we could take out two seats in the middle in order to get people (including two infant twins) in and out more easily.  It has a back-up camera, which would ease my mind considerably.  And it gets better gas mileage than most big vans.  

The problem with the NV is that it has only been out a couple of years.  They are insanely expensive new and the used ones (which are very hard to find) have only dropped down in price a little bit.  I haven't seen one for less than 25k.  

So for now the NV will remain the car of my dreams.  But it makes me happy to even have a car to wish for, that there even is something out there big enough for my family that I would be excited about driving.  And you just never know.  Our future is so up in the air right now and I believe in the power of positive thinking.  Someday I may have this dream car of mine. It even comes in blue.   

Back to School 2014

Here they are, ready to pursue learning in one setting or another:

And they wanted me to take a silly picture too, of course:

Here is Fish in his 5th grade classroom.  I am glad he looks so happy.  I have mixed feelings about it still.  

Here is the Rabbit ready to conquer the world:

And here we are at home:

I think it's going to be a good year.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Love My Husband

Isn't that a beautiful sight?  I took these out of the oven at 10 am, shortly after he left for the day.  He started them around 8 am.  I thought I had gotten pretty good at making bread over the years, but I haven't yet got to the level where I can churn out four huge loaves in two hours.  I am so grateful for his skills!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

My mom recently compiled all her recipes in a book and gave a copy to each of her children.  She called it "Linda's Healthy Recipes" and to me it is a priceless treasure.  It contains the instructions for pretty much everything she fed me as a child... talk about memories!  My mom cooked everything from scratch and we always had meals together around the dining room table.  She used whole foods and she tried to make things as healthy as possible, which for her meant whole grains and going easy on meat, refined sugar, fat, and dairy.  Her repertoire of dishes quite literally became a part of who I am today, so to have them all written down in one place is incredibly meaningful to me.  Thanks, Mom!  

So, at this "I came home from church with a bagful of giant zucchini" time of year, I thought of my mom's recipe for chocolate zucchini cake.  To tell you the truth, it wasn't my most favorite cake recipe when I was a kid-- I always thought it was a little dry.  But I liked the chocolate chips on top and it was nostalgic, so I got out the recipe and looked at it.  I discovered that she had modified the original recipe shared with her by cutting the fat in half in the interest of her family's health.  Ah.  That would explain the dryness.  

Dear mother, I must confess that we have been making the full-fat version of this cake and loving every last crumb of it.  I have been using coconut oil though, which my research says is very good for you.  So I haven't been feeling at all guilty about doubling the fat.  I do feel guilty about the amount of chocolate chips I have been putting on top, which is also probably double what my mother uses.  But only just a little guilty.  

I thought I would share the recipe on my blog today.  First I will back up a little and show you what's behind the scenes in the cake picture-- one of my favorite cooking helpers:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1 C coconut oil (original recipe calls for 1/2 C butter and 1/2 C oil, so feel free to be flexible with the fat)
1 3/4 C sugar or 1 C honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C flour (I betcha my mother used whole wheat, or at least half white/half wheat)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 C sour milk (add 1 T vinegar or lemon juice to fresh milk, I bet buttermilk would be good too)
2 C peeled, shredded zucchini (I always forget to peel it, no biggie)
1 C or more chocolate chips (those are her words, I definitely go with the "more")

Cream together oil and sugar.  Add vanilla,  Add eggs and beat.  Sift together the dry ingredients and stir in, together with the sour milk.  Stir in the shredded zucchini.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes.  No need to frost this cake.

Enjoy zucchini season, everyone!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Little Things to Remember Years From Now

The way they're always saying "take a picture of me!" at odd times and then pulling silly faces.  Especially Peanut at this age.

The way we always bought enormous five pound blocks of cheese.  And how the kids liked to help grate it.  (Do you see Prince Charming in this picture?)  And we will look back at the stuff in our house-- "I remember that old cheese grater and how it was broken on one side!"  "There's that beat-up old high chair we all sat in as babies."  "I remember how Dad made us that table and benches for our dining room in that house."  

And the messes and piles of clutter that always seem to be everywhere when you have a lot of little kids. Rarely was that dining table clear during this period of our life. Cheese could not be grated without getting bits of it all over the counter.  There were always, always things on the floor.  (Including and especially cute toddlers!)

What else will we see when we look at these pictures years from now?  Only time will tell, I suppose.  Right now this is our reality, but someday life will be very very different and this will be our nostalgia.  

Start 'em Young

Good literature is very important in our family, even for the babies.  

Homemade Ice Cream Happiness

I grew up on homemade ice cream.  It was one of our most beloved summertime treats.  We had one of those old-fashioned freezers that you had to crank by hand and I remember summer evenings on the back deck sitting on top of the contraption to hold it steady while other members of the family took turns cranking (remember I was the youngest.) Our freezer made a ton of ice cream and my mom had the best recipe. She usually made "plain" vanilla (though it was anything but plain,) and she often sweetened it solely with honey.  We called this glorious substance "am-kee" because that was how one of my sisters had pronounced "ice cream" as a toddler.  That gave it a special distinction: ice cream was from the store, am-kee was from heaven by way of mom's kitchen. 

The Badger bought me an ice cream maker for my birthday in 2003.  It was small: it only made a little over a quart.  But that was fine because our family was small. It was fun to try to make my own homemade ice cream, though I didn't feel I could call it am-kee because instead of my mom's recipe I always only used the recipes that came with the ice cream maker that were proportioned to its small size.  But I learned the difference between ice cream made with a cooked custard and ice cream made the easy way (just mixing milk and cream and sugar together.)  I decided if I was going to bother with homemade ice cream then I was going to bother with the cooked custard because it makes such a difference.   I just learned to pour the eggs reeeeeeeaaaaaaaallllly slowly so I didn't end up with egg drop soup ice cream. 

After a few years the little ice cream maker died.  Last year for my birthday the Badger bought me a new one sized to the needs of our current family: it makes a gallon at a time.  Thank goodness for Costco-sized cartons of whipping cream!    

We do not use it often, but when we do it's a real treat we enjoy thoroughly.  And now with Pinterest, I am branching out recipe-wise. 

And I have learned something from the internet that I am very happy about.  This is totally "duh," I know, but I'm excited about it.  Homemade ice cream right as it comes out of the maker is very soft--barely frozen enough--  and will melt very quickly.  For me that's part of my memories of the entire festive ice cream making experience.   You scoop a bowl right out of the canister as soon as the cranking has finished (because you can't wait a minute longer) and then hurry and eat it before it turns to soup in your bowl.  And then you put any leftovers in your freezer and they freeze totally solid... rock hard and icy, and even if you let it thaw quite awhile (more torture for the impatient) the texture is never quite the same. 

Well, here's the "duh:"  once the ice cream in the machine is done you put it in your freezer for about 3 hours.   This is long enough to give it a firm texture but not too long for it to turn hard and icy.  Your ice cream will be absolutely perfect, and if you got the custard right you are in for an eating experience so glorious it seems like it should be illegal. 

It was impatience that kept me from figuring out this simple trick before now.  I already had to wait while the custard cooled and then while the ice cream froze.  I wasn't going to wait another 3 hours on top of that. But now that I know what I am waiting for I will plan ahead for those extra hours. 

I made chocolate ice cream a couple of days ago.  I carefully made a custard with the gourmet cocoa I buy (because I don't often indulge in chocolate so when I do I want it to be the good stuff!)  The recipe took an entire cup of cocoa powder.  Then I added vanilla extract and cream.  After this concoction had been properly frozen it was the most decadent and delicious chocolate ice cream I have ever had in my life.   (And we had a whole gallon of it! Oh boy!) 

I am not a food blogger so this low-budget picture is all I have to offer, which is a shame because this stuff was life-changing.

Now I have homemade ice cream on the brain and I have some really amazing ideas running through my head, as well as a bunch of that cream from Costco.  We shall see what wonders unfold over the next few days.  Please don't bring this up in November or January when I am complaining about how much weight I gained with this pregnancy.  And go and make yourself some ice cream in whatever way suits you because it's August and it's important.  Thank you. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting Ready for School

All the shiny new homeschool books have arrived in the mail.  I am very excited about them.  There's just nothing better than piles of new homeschool books.  I was also able to pull out some old books from boxes in the basement and get excited about them again too-- some old favorites and some that we have never used until now.  I have been putting together weekly task sheets for Bean and Roo so that they know exactly what to do every day... the hope being that even if I have a bad day they can still get most everything done on their own.   

Bean has started football at the junior high.   I still can't stop chuckling about the idea of a child of ours playing football.  Who'd have thought he'd be out there with all those kids who grew up i homes where football was taken very seriously and was religiously watched on TV?   It's right for him though and I am excited to watch him play.  He is one of the tallest on the team, though there are several that weigh more than him.  And he is 5'8" and 177 pounds in 7th grade! 

Bean and I were also able to meet with the fantastic counselor at the junior high to get his schedule set up.  He will be there for three periods this year: math, band, and one other elective that will change each quarter.  He will have the chance to learn some guitar and some woodworking and some other things.  I am feeling very optimistic right now about school for him this fall.... I hope I am not setting us up for a huge disastrous crash.  However,  lately I have been making sure he gets his supplements (vitamins,  Omega 3's) every day lately and I am noticing a difference.   His brain is "on" more.  I hope this means he will be able to handle those task sheets I am making for him.  

We've had letters in the mail from both Fish's and Rabbit's teachers at the school introducing themselves.  Fish will have the same 5th grade teacher Bean had and I like her a lot.  She is very technology-oriented and I know Fish will enjoy learning those skills.  I had wanted my Rabbit to have the same 1st grade teacher Roo had... Mrs. R meant a lot to me as we transitioned into the public schools that year.  However, the Rabbit has been assigned to Mrs. S.  I am hearing the most amazing things about Mrs. S.  I think she will be just what the Rabbit needs to continue to thrive and be challenged and love learning.  I am very excited about this.  I actually can't wait for the Rabbit to go back to school because she needs that stimulation.   And I just can't keep up with her at home. 

One of the hardest things for me this summer while I have been so ill has been that both the Badger and I have been more reactive than proactive in our parenting.  This is because we have both been so mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted that we have not done as good as we would like at directing the kids postively, actively teaching them, and following through with things.  For the most part, our parenting has consisted of responding to problems as they arise, and not always with soft, kind voices either.  I am hoping that school starting will help with this.  The ones going to public school will get a lot of needed structure.  The ones home with me will get more structure than they've had lately because I will commit to spending my mornings schooling them and they won't be able to just run off and do whatever they want like they have been all summer. 

I am glad they had so much time this summer for unstructured imaginative play.  I think that was a wonderful thing for them.  But now I think we are all ready for some structure and some formal learning. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Kids' Gardens

Gardens are just the best thing for kids.  So many life lessons to learn, and they get so excited when they can pick and eat something from their garden.  My kids may not have a long list of fun activities they did this summer, but they can say they grew a garden, and what's better than that?  

If I had been feeling well this summer, I probably would have hovered over them a little too much and made sure they did everything "right."  I would have gotten them to do more weeding (or probably done most of it for them.)  As it was, I couldn't do that, and that was probably the best thing.  Their gardens could have been more successful with my tutelage (micromanaging?) but this way it's theirs and they learned a lot from any mistakes they may have made.  

Here's Roo's.  She has had a hard time keeping up with the weeds, but she has had more to contend with than most of the kids.  Still, she has lettuce and zinnias and she should be getting cucumbers soon.  

Next over is the Rabbit's.  It's small, but she really packed stuff in there.  She has been able to pick peas, radishes, and chard so far.  She loves chard.  I love that about her.  I hated chard when I was a kid and now I love it, so I find a young child who eats it with gusto quite refreshing.  

Fish's garden.  He takes very good care of it.  He even remembers to water.  His cucumber plants are the only ones currently producing, and we have had many radishes from his plot.  And I can't wait to see what that tomato plant does.  It got quite a late start (end of June?) but it is thriving.  

And finally, Bean's.  I have been trying to get him to weed, since this is a Boy Scout project.  However, he doesn't get up early enough in the morning so he can work when it's cool (teenagers...)  He has been chipping away at it here and there and the parts he has weeded look really great.  He also has learned that taking the time to put in a little fertilizer when you plant makes a big difference.  Next year he will probably use more fertilizer.  However, he had great success with his peas, he has a bumper crop of lettuce, and we are all enjoying the cherry tomatoes from his plant.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

22 Weeks

I had a long conversation at church a few weeks back with a woman who had twins a few years ago.  At one point during the conversation she put her hand on my knee, leaned in close, and said in a dark and serious tone, "are you prepared for how big your belly is going to get?" 

How can I be prepared for that?  How can anyone be prepared for that?

I have never had a huge belly, even at 9 months pregnant.  So while I know I won't get as big as some women, obviously I am going to get bigger than anything I have experienced before.   I am sure it's going to be very interesting.   I already feel like I am almost as big now as I was full term with Peanut (who was by far my smallest baby.) 

I switched to maternity clothes more than a month ago, way sooner than I normally do.  People who see me around town definitely can tell that I'm pregnant.  

I am very very grateful that I have an ample maternity wardrobe.  It has been such a blessing.  This is thanks to a kind reader of this blog who mailed me two huge boxes of maternity clothes during my last pregnancy.   Laney, I don't know if you are still reading my blog, but I want to thank you again.  Those clothes were and are a lifesaver. 

I am not big enough yet to be terribly uncomfortable, so I am grateful for that,  as long as it lasts.  However, I still get nauseated often and I am frequently exhausted to the point of incapacitation.  I spend at least half of every day lying down.  At this point I don't expect things are going to get much better.  This is just going to be hard, and it may get a lot harder.  

But medically, so far everything is fine and that is a blessing I do not take for granted.  I am very grateful to be able to carry these babies.  I know a lot of people would love to be in my shoes and would gladly take on my challenges if they could only have this blessing.  So I am trying to take my challenges on gladly too.  Some days I do better than others.  On those not-so-good days I just tell myself "you're more than halfway." 

August Garden

It's time for another look at my garden.  Overall, I am so amazed at how it's doing.  It is far better than any garden I ever had in Oklahoma, and almost as good as my Idaho gardens.  Almost.  Probably the reason it's not is that although my garden has received a disproportionately large share of my energy I still have not had it in me to give it everything it needs.   Proper watering has been the biggest issue. 

My little herb garden really shows this.  While the plants are all still alive and growing a little bit, they are not thriving like they would if I had watered them enough.  

June was so cool and rainy that watering wasn't necessary, but in July I dropped the ball.  Now I am trying to make up for that.  Some plants, like the beans, immediately responded very favorably.  Others, like the corn, are permanently stunted.  And even my zucchini plant isn't quite everything it should be.  (I made sure I only planted ONE zucchini.  One is plenty.)

I have had the best lettuce patch I think I have ever had.  It has been so prolific that I haven't been able to eat it all fast enough and now it's starting to bolt.  And kale-- I have never been able to grow kale successfully before, and this year I have a great patch of kale.  

My bean tower is just as charming and useful as I dreamed it would be when I bought it back in Oklahoma.  (Things that are both beautiful and functional make me so happy!)  Oklahoma and my bean tower did not get along, but here things have worked out exactly as they were supposed to.  Any day now I will be drowning in green beans (and I will post my favorite way to eat them.)  

My tomato plants are gorgeous: thick, jungle-y, overgrown, and covered with large tomatoes.  (I could have done a better job training and pruning the vines, but oh well!)  Most of the fruit is still green, but today we found four small red tomatoes, which the Rabbit picked with great glee.  

Here's what we picked this morning: four tomatoes, two zucchini (I watch that plant like a hawk so I can pick them when they're small!), one smallish green pepper, and a handful of kale.  And Peanut, of course, is loving on it all.  I think I was wise to give her a vegetable nickname rather than an animal one: I have never met anyone else who likes to cuddle produce like she does.  Some friends gave us a huge zucchini the other day and she has been wrapping it up in a baby blanket and mothering it.  Kids are so awesome.  

I am excited for what the next month will bring.  We are just beginning to reap the bountiful harvest that we have worked and waited for.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Finishing Sixth Grade

Bean got summer break early (when I started to feel too gross to do school) with the understanding that toward the end of the summer when I was feeling better he would finish everything we had mapped out for him for 6th grade.  So now we're working on that.  We had just a couple chapters of history, which we breezed through, several spelling and grammar lessons, quite a bit of Old Testament stuff, and a few chapters in our science book.  

The science we've been studying is anatomy and physiology.  Last week the chapter was on the integumentary system.  As we talked about the different aspects of our skin and hair, something came to my mind: Zorb.  

I bough Zorb a couple years ago for homeschool enrichment.  Zorb is a digital microscope shaped like a cute little egg.  You hook it up to your computer and then you can look at stuff on your computer screen magnified 53 times.  It's a bit limited compared to a traditional microscope, but it's really cool for things like bird feathers and clothing fibers and.... skin.  

But of course you give it to a 13-year-old boy and tell him to look at his skin and after he looks at his fingerprints and recent wounds he's looking at other things like his teeth and his nasal passages....

Of course I had to take these pictures.  And of course I had to share them.  They were just too funny.  I also had to keep and share this picture I took of Bean and Prince Charming sharing a bowl of ice cream.  I think teenage boys are great!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

School is Around the Corner

It dawned on me the other day that school is starting again soon and I'd better get planning. 
For the public schoolers (Fish and Rabbit) there are supplies to buy, papers to fill out, calendar items to fill in, and clothing needs to assess and shop for. 
For the homeschoolers (Bean and Roo) there is curriculum to select and purchase, schedules and timelines to plan out, and  paperwork to fill out (regarding the limited relationship they will have with the public schools.) 
Meanwhile, my entire house is a disorganized clutter heap.  The homeschool stuff in particular has been scattered and buried.  
But I thrive on organizing and planning.   So although my energy is limited, I find this stuff exciting and not overwhelming as long as I do it in small chunks.  I worked this morning on straightening up the living room, including the homeschool shelves.  I made some lists.  (I love lists and I love checking things off lists.)  I sorted through some bags of hand-me-down girl's clothes that a kind neighbor dropped off (I don't need to buy jeans for Roo and Rabbit this fall!  Yay!) 
I also gave Roo a math placement test.  I am going to use Horizons math with her like I did with her in first grade.  She did great on the readiness test for the 3rd grade level and what's more, she worked very diligently and independently.   And then she begged to get started on homeschool today.
I thought long and hard about whether I should homeschool any of the kids this fall since I am low on energy, but with Roo all I will have to do is give her a list of stuff to get done each day and she will do it.  Bean will be more of a challenge but as I pray and ponder I feel clearly that he needs to continue to only go part-time to the junior high.  We have decided to have him on the school football team so that he has more structure and discipline in his life.  This will be our first experience with school sports and all that entails, such as traveling to away games.  It will be interesting,  I'm sure.
I am looking forward to the start of school, both the public school and our homeschool!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Up the Canyon

The Badger recently had a rare day when he was not on call.  Whenever this happens, he heads toward the mountains.  This time, we all went with him and we explored a canyon we had never been in before.  The scenery was beautiful, but we didn't find the picnic site we were looking for.  The canyon was too narrow for much development.  However, at the end of the road we found a little path down to the river and the kids spent a perfectly happy hour splashing and climbing on rocks.  This is the best kind of playground for kids!

Can you see the moon peeking out from behind the rocks?

Don't you love Bean's rock recliner?

This was cute.  Peanut had just gone potty and was getting dressed again.  Prince Charming handed her her pants.  How thoughtful of him!

At this point, the rocks were horsies.  

Peanut is so cute.  But when I take pictures of her they never look like her.  I took lots of pictures on this evening but I deleted most of them.  This one came pretty close so I kept it.

Fish obnoxiously pretended to pick his nose in many of the pictures.  

There's that cute little off-center hair point again.  

This is my favorite picture.  

Or maybe this one is.  

We haven't done much this summer, but we have had some good times.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Peanut's Haircut

It took awhile to get used to it, but by now we all totally love Peanut's pixie cut.  For one thing, her hair used to always be a total rat's nest in back and she always looked like a little wild thing.  These days it's pretty hard for her not to look well-groomed, which is very helpful with a three-year-old.

But my favorite thing about this haircut is the way it looks in back at the bottom of her neck.  I just adore the way her hair comes down to that little off-center point.  Sigh.  


We're enjoying the yummy things coming out of our garden right now.  We've been getting peas (just enough to snack on raw), lettuce (tons!), green onions, and baby kale (never successfully grown kale before, so this is exciting!).  We are starting to get zucchini.  We have lots of green tomatoes, so we're looking forward to that.

And then, my potato plants...  they haven't even flowered yet, but two of them just shriveled up and died.  As this was happening I kept thinking "I should do some research and find out what's going on so I can stop them before they are totally dead" but I didn't and so then they were totally dead.  And so we went out and dug them up to see if there was anything there.  Lo and behold, we had potatoes!  Decent-sized ones!  I have to say, digging up potatoes is the funnest garden chore ever.  It's like a treasure hunt.  It's hard to say who is more excited: me or the kids.  Here's Peanut showing off a potato prize: