Category Archives: “New” home remodel

I was going to…. (and then, I did)

…actually write a blog post today.  But, I’ve decided to use my rare time on the actual desktop computer to look for plans for a chicken tractor, instead.  (OK, I wrote a blog post.)

I will briefly update to say:

This is blurry. I need more pictures of Ethan. This is on his first day of pre-university freshman camp, where he was hesitant to go, but where he forged some really close friendships. Ethan is dear.

This is blurry. I need more pictures of Ethan. This is with my husband on Ethan’s first day of pre-university freshman camp, where he was hesitant to go, but where he forged some really close friendships. Ethan is dear.

1. My oldest son, Ethan, is doing great at Arizona State.  He is getting all As, and one of his professors loves his writing so much that he is keeping all of Ethan’s writing assignments to use as examples in current and future classes.  While this is a particular win for Ethan (and for me, because — yay!  I didn’t really suck as a teacher!), it’s a win for homeschooling, in general.  Because what does this professor want?  Analysis.  Synthesis.  Excellent grammar.  Thoughtful, insightful writing.  An understanding of the topic at hand.  As a homeschooling mom, this is what I want, too!  I’m not just looking for my children to regurgitate information;  I want them to understand and to think.  Apparently, professors enjoy having students who can do this.

Grant at his last CAP promotion with his almost-girlfriend and another CAP friend.

Grant at his last CAP promotion with his almost-girlfriend and another CAP friend.

2.  My 16 year-old, Grant, is still mostly homeschooling in the traditional way.  He is, however, taking two classes at a local two-day-a-week co-op.  Honestly, he isn’t killin’ it like I thought he would;  it’s a struggle for him.  But, that’s a good thing to figure out NOW, as a junior, rather than in his freshman year of college.  He still has the Air Force Academy as his goal, and is killin’ it in Civil Air Patrol Cadets, where he is a Staff Sergeant.

Wesley on his 14th birthday, nearly a month ago.

Wesley on his 14th birthday, nearly a month ago.

3.  My son, Wesley, is a freshman at a small, conservative, tuition-free charter school.  I have been extremely pleased with the school itself, and shocked, frankly, with how well Wesley has integrated into “the system”.  There is one class in which he isn’t doing well — French II — and it’s mostly because of conflict with the teacher, who is pretty hard-nosed.  But, I’m fine with that.  I’ve told Wesley that, a) it’s an elective, and he’s still actually learning to speak French quite beautifully.  And, b) for his whole life, he will encounter people who don’t “get” him, or are otherwise challenging, and learning to adapt and have healthy relationship is at least as important as learning particular subjects.  So, overall:  he’s doing very well.

My girls at a friend's house, doing crafts. Fiala has the blue headband, and Audrey is in the background, top left.

My girls at a friend’s house, doing crafts. Fiala has the blue headband, and Audrey is in the background, top left.

4.  Audrey is in 4th grade and Fiala is in 2nd.  They are both doing excellently in school.  Audrey is doing 6th grade math.  Fiala can spell as well as a 4th grader.  It was my aim for them to have FUN this year;  to have a rich, full educational experience.  That is happening.  Because I couldn’t find a group in my area which was relaxed and social with no fees and no “statement of faith” to sign, I started a homeschool support group.  We’re up to 95 families, which is crazy.  Not everyone participates in every event, of course, but I organize a weekly park day, a weekly mom’s night grade-and-chat at a local coffee shop, and usually 1-3 additional events weekly.  So, we’re busy, but it’s fun-busy.  We’ve been to museums and on day trips and to art classes and more.  This is exactly the sort of school year I envisioned for them, even if it means that we’re making really slow progress through the structured curriculum we’re doing (old Sonlight Core 2).

Jeanie at the park (after a visit to the splash pad). Funny and happy -- not disturbed. :)

Jeanie at the park (after a visit to the splash pad). Funny and happy — not disturbed. 🙂

5.  Jeanie is two years old and absolutely crazy.  She is fun, chubby, happy, very active, doesn’t nap well, and has a thing for playing with her poop, which drives me absolutely batty.  Yesterday, when I thought she was napping, she actually sculpted a faux hawk for herself with her poop.  Yes, it was as gross as it sounds.  “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!??” I admit I yelled.  Holy crap.  Literally.  It’s one of those things where my previous judgements have come back, in God’s humorous way, to bite me in the butt.  Truthfully, when I had previously heard about other toddlers playing with their poop — since none of my kids had ever done that — that there must be something deeply wrong with the family, or with the child, emotionally.  Or something.  Playing with poop is clearly wrong and disturbed.  Well, Jeanie is about the furthest a child could be from “disturbed”.  But, she still plays with her poop.

6.  Jeanie has been going to the home of a dear friend of mine for two hours, four days a week, and in exchange, I tutor my friend’s great-granddaughter for Kindergarten.  She also goes to weekly park day with us, and on field trips.  This is the first time I’ve taught a child other than my own.  In the past, I’ve declined such requests, because they’re mostly along the lines of, “Hey, since you’re already home and teaching your own children, and public schools stink and private schools are too expensive, why don’t I bring my child over and you can teach her/him for free!”  Which I decline.  However, this particular plan is going quite well!  I’m paid AND my friend keeps Jean, which really makes the whole thing possible.  I had intended for Audrey and Fiala to be doing their seatwork (math, grammar/phonics, handwriting, and journal) while I work with our Kindergarten-friend.  However, we’re doing Five in a Row (plus Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Handwriting Without Tears).  And, apparently, even though my older daughters are nine and seven years old, they still enjoy FIAR books and activities, which, frankly, I didn’t do enough of, with either of them.  So, they are reliving kindergarten, and having a blast.  (Reminder:  Audrey is doing sixth grade math and can spell as well as a 7th grader, and is on-track with her other subjects;  doing K won’t damage her education, thankyouverymuch.)

My new (unplanted) garden bed with most of the summer stuff in the far garden bed pulled -- except for the giant okra bushes.

My new (unplanted) garden bed with most of the summer stuff in the far garden bed pulled — except for the giant okra bushes.

7.  My garden is doing fab.  The past summer, in my first — 8′ x 12′ — bed, the most successful things I grew were:  Clemson Spineless okra — which is actually still growing, here in late October.  My okra bushes — five of them — are nearly six feet tall, and still producing, though more slowly, as it has cooled a bit.  I also grew Lemon Queen sunflowers, which were amazing — a good 7-8 feet tall.  Armenian cucumbers grew wonderfully and were extremely productive.  The next-most successful plant was Fonzy Melons, which I grew from saved seed from an organic melon I had purchased early this year.  And flowers — Sulphur Cosmos.  They made lovely cut flowers all summer and are self-seeding in actually a rather invasive way.  It’s a nice problem to have, actually.  Oh!  And a volunteer spaghetti squash was quite productive.  Less successful were banana squash, Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and a musk melon.  I had a number of tomato plants come up volunteer — which I’m still growing — as well as a tomatillo plant which grew humungous and was covered in flowers, but never fruited.  Dumb waste of space.  I yanked it.  In the places where I have pulled out and re-prepped the soil in this bed, I have planted Atomic Red carrots, Greyzini summer squash (which will grow here in the winter!), Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach, Super Sugar snap peas, white sweet Spanish onions, and zinnias, all from Pinetree Garden Seeds (which, yes, I know their test gardens are in Maine.  But, I’m a sucker for small, family-owned seed companies).  I have had a heck of a time getting the carrots and spinach to germinate, but the Greyzini has its first tiny fruit already growing!  I have prepared a larger, 12′ x 12′ bed “next door” to my first bed.  That sucker took ALL SUMMER AND FALL for me to prepare, as a) bermudagrass is so, so, so, so horridly invasive;  b) our clay soil is hard and heavy;  c) I worked on it in my “spare” time.  The bed is now waiting for me to till in all the amendments.  I haven’t done that because a) it has rained so much in the last week that the ground is too wet! and, b) I bought a rototiller and a friend from high school fixed it for me, but our schedules haven’t allowed us to meet up for him to return it!  And, I don’t want to till 12′ x 12′ of heavy clay soil by shovel.  In the new bed, I’ll be sowing more sugar snaps, Harris parsnips, Ching Chang bok choy, more carrots, Top Bunch collards, a leaf lettuce mix, Cardinal chard, Homemade Pickles cucumbers, more onions, Red Cloud beets, Gaillardia, and nasturtiums.  Although I haven’t actually planned out the space exactly to see if I can fit all that into the bed…  I might have to pull the okra, which I was considering trying to overwinter.

8.  We’re still plugging away at our home remodel.  I’m kind of weary of it, so I won’t say much about it, except to admit that it’s still in process.

9.  We are still at Vineyard Phoenix and absolutely are in love with our local representation of the Body of Christ.  (If you click the link, that is my hubby in the video on the front page.)  God is good and moving mightily by His Spirit.  People are getting saved and healed.  It’s really an amazing church, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.  I’m leading worship again at a small home group, which I greatly enjoy.  I also am teaching the 4s and 5s Sunday morning preschool class once a month and singing on the worship team usually about twice a month.  Our head pastor — whom I’ve known since I was 15 (I’m 42) — stepped down to a semi-decreased, semi-retired role in July, which gives him greater liberty to immerse himself in missions and apostolic ministry.  As I type this, he’s in Zambia.  My hubby’s best friend, Doug Scott, is now our head pastor.  I adore Doug.  I’m biased, but…. seriously….  I feel like God has given me absolutely GOLD with the church in which I get to participate.

10.  As I mentioned at the beginning….  I’ve been given the go-ahead to start my chicken flock!!  I’m super-excited.  I just need to go now and get that figured out.  🙂

11.  My husband is awesome, and I’m very grateful for him.  NOTE:  Awesome doesn’t mean perfect, nor does it mean that we don’t work, work, work, work on our relationship.  We do.  We have ups and downs.  But, this November, we’ll celebrate 21 years of marriage that has been profoundly blessed and is the result of two people loving Jesus and not giving up on each other.  HALF OF MY LIFE will be with that man, and it has been an honor.

My love and blessings to each of you who have read through this.

This is me in my new glasses. I'm aiming for a haircut, if I can get to the salon sometime in the near future. Someone who recently met me for the first time -- but who had seen this picture -- said to me,

This is me in my new glasses. I’m aiming for a haircut, if I can get to the salon sometime in the near future. Someone who recently met me for the first time — but who had seen this picture — said to me, “You don’t look like your Facebook profile pic,” and not in a good way. LOL! I do like this picture, perhaps because it doesn’t actually look like me.

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A crazy-busy season has passed, and a regular-busy season is here!

I truly still love writing.  I’ve just been insanely busy.  My load right now is somewhat lighter, which allows me the luxury of reflecting, here in my neglected blog.  (Note:  I have no idea why the sizes of fonts change throughout this post.  Rather than taking the time to figure it out, I’m leaving it.  Sorry-not-sorry.)  Edited to add a few more things about Fiala, and to note that you may click on each picture to enlarge it, if you care to.

  • obscuredMy oldest son, Ethan, did receive the scholarship he was hoping for, to attend Arizona State University.  I am part of a couple different groups where homeschooling parents support each other, especially where prep-for-college is concerned.  I’m struck again and again how, as a homeschooling mom of a senior, it seems like the college admissions process is WAY more about how prepared and organized **I** have been as my child’s mother/teacher, and much less about how well-educated my son is.  I’m happy to report that, even though I have discovered, in retrospect, that there are a hundred things I could have done better or differently, what Ethan and I did, together, was exactly right for what he needed.  I’m feeling the mercy of God on that one, because truly, I’m not kidding about those “hundred things”.  Ethan turns 18 this month.  He isn’t altogether eager to transition to adulthood;  it’s challenging for all of us, to be frank.  I have told him, “We’ve never parented an adult before, please bear with us.”  We’re all learning.  It’s funny, because I have often urged him to DO HIS OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, because, even though I’m complimented by the fact that he still likes the things I choose for him — it makes me feel like I really know him — it’s healthier for him to be at least a little more independent than where he’s comfortable.  So, in light of this, I turned over to him the plans for his birthday party.  And, whaddya know?  He has planned it for a day when I’m going to be out of town.  Not purposefully;  that’s just the date that works best with his friends, who are hosting.  However, it’s kind of good news/bad news, “You took charge?  GREAT!  But you left me out of it completely??  Sad face.”  LOL!
  • Grant is the second face from the right.

    Grant is the second face from the right.

    Grant is my son who will be 16 later this summer.  I don’t think I’ve blogged about this, but what I’m going to write about here, about Grant, is kind of a big deal to me.  Grant is the opposite of Ethan;  he has known for YEARS where he’d like his future to be, what he’d like to do, where he’d like to go to university…  He really can’t wait to get on with his adult life.  A big part of that includes his plans to attend the United States Air Force Academy.  To be completely honest, up until nine months ago or so, I kind of blew that off.  It’s hard to get into the USAFA.  Really hard.  It’s even harder for homeschoolers.  And, they don’t just look at academics; they look at the whole person.  I had decided, in my own mind, that the chances of Grant getting into the AFA were incredibly slim.  However, early last fall, I started to feel convicted.  I remember having dreams while in high school, and feeling like no one wanted to help me achieve them.  I remember what it felt like to be blown off.  So, I started checking things out, what I could do to help Grant gain ground on his goals.  I decided that I didn’t want to be an impediment to his hopes;  I wanted to assist him in every way possible.  So, I signed him up for the Future Falcons at the USAFA website — which is kind of a Big Deal, as it is super-official;  you need the child’s Social Security number, even!  I downloaded the 21-page “Instructions to Precandidates” pdf and we mapped out his sophomore to senior years of high school accordingly.  And, I looked into getting Grant involved in an Air Force-related program.  I first thought of Junior ROTC…  But, then, I heard about Civil Air Patrol Cadets from some other homeschooling moms.  Long story short, Grant has only been in CAP Cadets for a little over six months, but he is excelling.  He’s actually at a week-long semi-boot-camp experience called “Encampment” at Fort Huachuca as I type this.  Grant still has a long way to go, and many smaller goals to achieve before we can even apply to the Academy.  But, all of us feel pretty good about his chances, which is 180° from where we were, about a year ago.  In this coming school year, Grant’s junior year, he will be taking two classes at KEYS — a two-day homeschool co-op — and the rest at home.  Grant will be taking Honors Chemistry and College Lit and Composition.  Frankly, these are two teaching-intensive classes, and I was looking to outsource the most mom-dependent classes for Grant.  Additionally, we’re looking at having Grant take all of his classes for his senior year at a local community college, and we wanted to ease his transition.  Other than American History, Grant won’t need much from me in the coming school year;  his other subjects — French, Economics, Algebra II, and a couple of others, won’t need a lot of input from me.  I’m totally OK with that.

  • Wes and Jeanie

    Wes and Jeanie

    My son Wesley will be in 9th grade in the fall, which hardly seems possible.  He’s the youngest of our three sons, and it is a challenge for me to not think of him as “little”.  He has had a massive growth spurt this past year, and his voice has dramatically deepened.  Whether I’m ready or not, Wesley is no longer little.  He is an excellent big brother to our toddler, Jeanie.  He’s in the teen youth group at church.  It just feels odd to me, still.  Through much thought and research and prayer, we have decided to try Wesley at an “brick and mortar” school for this coming fall.  None of our kids have ever gone to a “real” school before.  But…  I have long felt that I just don’t quite speak Wesley’s educational language.  He hasn’t suffered under my instruction, and testing shows he is on course or ahead for his grade level.  However, I don’t feel like I’m best-suited to maximize his potential, since his potential is in areas where I’m not strong.  There is a charter school (publicly funded, privately run) less than a mile from us;  I have checked them out before, and I like their literature-based, liberal arts approach.  It’s a small school:  this coming year, they’ll very likely have less than 150 students, only 9th – 11th graders.  Most kids bring their own lunches (which seems trivial, but with Wesley’s celiac disease, dairy allergy, and peanut allergy, I didn’t want him to feel like he’s the odd man out, bringing his own lunch every day).  And then, a good friend of ours took a job as the English teacher there.  This man is everything you’d hope for in a teacher:  brilliant, kind, patient, thoughtful, a good leader….  I do believe he’d be an excellent teacher for Wesley for English, which has long been Wes’ poorest subject.  The daughter of that teacher, as well as another friend of Wesley’s, will also be attending the school.  My husband Martin and I have discussed, toured the school together, talked on the phone with the principal, e-mailed back and forth with staff, read every click on the school’s website, and PRAYED.  However, neither of us have felt any strong inclination or direction from God.  We both feel like He’s saying, “All right.  It’s up to you.  You can give it a shot.”  I’d feel a thousand times better if I had heard something more specific than that.  But…  It’ll do, for now.  This next week, I’ll be enrolling Wes.

  • Artsy, funky, fun, LOUD Audrey

    Artsy, funky, fun, LOUD Audrey

    This past year was our busiest ever, for school.  With Ethan as a senior, Grant as a sophomore, and Wes in 8th grade, there were far too many days when Audrey (who just finished 3rd grade) and Fiala (who just finished 1st) would just do seat work — phonics, math, journal, and a couple of other subjects where they can work largely independently, with little help from me.  In other words:  the bare minimum.  I have no doubt that the girls’ educational skills are up to par, or perhaps beyond their typical peers.  However, I want a richer, more robust school experience for them.  With Ethan at college, Grant working mostly-independently, and Wesley enrolled in a charter school, I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to a hands-on school year for the two “big” girls:  art projects, science experiments, field trips, actually READING THE READ-ALOUDS in our curriculum!  It should be a wonderful year.  As stated in the caption of the pic at left, Audrey — who turned nine years old a couple of months ago — is artsy, funky, fun, and LOUD.  All the boys did Rosetta Stone French this year, and Audrey joined in, as well.  I am tickled to hear her lovely little French accent.  It’s charming.  Fiala, who is six years old, is loving, thoughtful, intense, unique, and can be petulant and impulsive.  She loves swimming, loves playing dress up and changing her clothes in general — her clean, folded laundry stack is ALWAYS taller than anyone else’s.  She loves waking up earlier than any of the other children and coming into my bed to “snug” with me.  It doesn’t usually happen like that, but it’s a good day for Fi when it does.  All in all, she is a delight of a child, my little green-eyes-freckle-nose, as I often call her.  If Fiala was in a public school, she would have been in Kindergarten this last year, as she has a late-fall birthday.  That seems crazy to me, as she was well-ready for first grade work.

  • Fiala, me, Jean

    Fiala, me, Jean

    Jean will be two years old next week, which also seems crazy.  I tell her that if it wasn’t for her screeching in restaurants and playing with her poop, she’d be a perfect child.  Seriously:  up until now, my sixth child, I have had NO children interested in their poop.  Jean, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand what “gross” means.  So, when she takes a nap, I have to put this ONE outfit on her, every time — it’s a BabyGap long-legged, button-up, one-piece, short-sleeved cotton romper.  It’s the only thing that doesn’t allow access to her diaper area.  Actually, “Pull-Up area”, as she is nearly completely potty-trained.  We went from cloth diapers to early potty training in December, and I rejoiced, but it has taken her A Very Long Time to be serious about it.  She just isn’t serious.  She is a joyous little bundle of… everything.  She’s still chubby and overall large for her age.  She has a passion for Bubble Guppies, swimming, and dancing.  She is bossy.  Charmingly bossy.  “Hum!” she will demand, which is Jeanie-speak for, “Come!”  She will pull on your hand and do everything she can to make you comply.  Or, “Hi!  Hi!” she will insist, patting the seat next to her.  For unknown reasons, “Hi!  Hi!” means, “You sit HERE, NOW!”  Or, “Tiss!!” meaing, “Kiss!”  Then, “O’er side!!”  Meaning, “I want a kiss on the other cheek, as well!”  We all adore Jean.

  •   This past spring just about did me in.  I always felt like families who couldn’t eat dinner together were doing something wrong.  Well, guess what?  We became that family in 2015.  Sunday nights, Martin often has events at church to attend.  Monday nights, I take Grant to CAP Cadets and usually sit in a nearby coffee shop, grading papers for the 2.5 hrs of CAP.  Tuesday nights, Martin led worship at a weekly small group.  I was leading worship just on Wednesday nights, until a group got too big and needed to multiply, but didn’t have a worship leader.  I agreed — just for the spring — to lead worship in that group, as well.  So, from the end of February to the beginning of June, I was gone both Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Additionally, I started hosting a CSA/farm share again for a local organic farmer, every Wednesday.  I had kind of taken an six-month hiatus, but started up again in April.  And, Ethan works three nights a week at Sprouts.  Martin has a fairly long commute, and often isn’t home until 6:00 or so…  It became like passing the baton, and the 30 minutes we’d have together before one of us needed to head back out the door was usually not at the dinner table.  When you have a family of eight, dinner is loud and usually fun, but it really isn’t the place for Martin and I to connect.  I’d have dinner made, but we usually didn’t sit down together.  Homeschooling, church, CAP Cadets, three weekly small groups, the CSA, Martin’s commute, Ethan’s work…  Lordy, I was stretched.  But, small groups take a break for the summer and school is DONE, so my load is infinitely lighter.  I feel much freer!!
  • My other big things for the spring are:  my garden — which is a scaled-down version of my original vision.  I have one 8′ x 12′ bed in, and it’s growing wonderfully.  I’m working daily (or nearly so) to put in a walk around the bed, and hope to have a second bed ready for mid-August planting.  It is so hot here (yesterday hit 115°!!!!) that there is little that will grow in the heat of mid-summer.  The bed that is growing, I planted in late April.  I can’t really sow anything else until there is hope for cooler temperatures.  I have sunflowers, two kinds of melon, Armenian cucumbers, okra, two kinds of heat-tolerant green beans, summer squash, and a winter squash growing, plus a variety of flowers.  I also have way too many volunteer tomato plants, whose seed came from my compost, I suppose.  I have transplanted as many as possible, replanting and giving away about 20 tomato plants.  There are still far too many tomato plants growing in the garden — growing too closely with the other plants.  It’s not really the right time to grow tomatoes here — ideally, I would have had them in by January or February.  But, I can’t bear to yank them.  We’ll see what happens.  My garden gives me joy, exercise, and a sense of fulfillment.  It keeps me sane.  To me, gardening really is a kind of therapy.0618151352Of course, all of this is barely scratching the surface.  There is much more happening in our home…  An upcoming camping trip, me traveling to the Portland area for a girlfriends’ weekend, sewing projects, lots of canning, Bible studies, small and large challenges and triumphs, a continuing home remodel, birthdays — including my own, baseball, me going low-carb again to lose weight, books to read, and more.  But, I will call it a day and go swimming with my kids.Blessings to you and yours.

Why this mom of six is hardly blogging.

When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children.  Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week!  But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever.  Here’s why:

  1. Time and priorities.  I love writing.  But, I also love reading.  I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook.  I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share).  I just can’t do everything, sadly.  Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out.  I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to.  So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging.  I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing.  So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
  2. The current culture of blogging.  When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”.  I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading.  In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing.  I wasn’t careful at all.  I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion.  I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words.  In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes.  However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming.  And THEN, you add Pinterest.  If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture.  So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own.  Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
  3. My mind is blank.  JUST KIDDING.  Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share…  Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!

Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:

  • We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating.  Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical.  That’s why the process is slow:  if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster.  But, we both care.   Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room.  It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.  Living Room
  • We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment.  Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand.  Oh, wait!  I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid.  It was new in the box…  So, I guess that counts as a new purchase.  So, purchase #2:  a highchair.  I can’t wait until it arrives;  baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap.  That is becoming increasingly messy.  I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive.  I struck out.  So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.   
  • Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so.  I have a few current authors that I follow;  I read everything they write.  Those tend to be dependable authors;  I like their craft of storytelling.  However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile.  I am enriched by having read that.”  Not that they’re trash;  they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound.  The book I recently finished?  Profound.  I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems.  But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction.  Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky?  Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information).  But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum.  When he finished, he handed it to me.  “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I think you’d like it.”  Which made me love him all the more…  And he was right;  I did like it.  I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling.  However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.”  It’s rather annoying.  I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction.  I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine.  And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch.  I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
  • And…  This little sweetie.  How I adore her.  She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep.  Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all.  You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned.  She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family.  Everyone is smitten, still.  She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle.  So, so perfect.  Except the sleep thing.  I’m tired.   baby Jean, in arms

Things around my home (NOT baby-related — mostly) this last week.

  • When I roast beets, I don’t trim them quite as much as the linked-to instructions. I trim the roots just a bit, and leave 1/2″ of the tops on. I put about 1/2″ water in the dish, and cover tightly with aluminum foil, then roast at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes, and leave in the oven for about another hour. Then, I cool them at room temperature, and slip the skins off under running tap water.

    When I make a dish for the family to eat, it’s always my hope that EVERYONE will like it.  Something that all seven people at the dinner table will adore has proven rather elusive, however.  I now see this as a good thing, mostly.  For instance:  I made sauerkraut earlier this week, and it is done fermenting today.  My 13-year-old son has been highly anticipating its readiness, and is already preparing his sandwich in his mind.  He mentioned that he wishes we had ham, but we don’t.  So, he’ll have turkey, mustard, and sauerkraut.  Not everyone else is so excited.  🙂 But, other family members are expectant of different foods.  I am roasting six bunches of small beets right now.  My three youngest children are REALLY excited about that.  I have received beets a number of times these last few months from our CSA and only ONCE have the beets actually made it into a dish.  The rest of the time, after I roast the beets, peeling them becomes somewhat of a party, with everyone popping cooled, newly-peeled baby beets into their mouths, just like candy.  I can’t say that I’m disappointed that not everyone feels this way about beets.  My husband can’t stand them.  My older two boys are rather ambivalent.  The rest of us ADORE beets.

  • Martin in the insulation suitOur new home is an older one, and it is an endless project.  We knew it needed more insulation, as some of it was missing in wide swaths, some was thin and compacted, and some of it had shrunk away from ceiling joists and the outer walls.  When we got our electricity bill for the time spanning from mid-April to mid-May, and the stinkin’ thing was north of $350 (and that is with our air conditioner thermostat set at 80-81°), that was a wake-up call.  Last weekend, my husband Martin, after quite a bit of research (wet-blown cellulose?  dry-blown fiberglass?  fiberglass batts?  do-it-yourself?  or hire it out??) he decided to do dry-blown fiberglass, which requires a big machine.  The blowing machine is rentable from Home Depot, or free with the purchase of enough packages of insulation.  It was quite an undertaking.  He purchased a head-to-toe coverall, and with goggles, mask, and gloves, ventured up into the attic.  Actually, we have two attics, as part of our home is single-level, and part of it has two stories.  It was hours of work.  Our oldest son, Ethan, stayed at the ladder and fed the tube up into the attic as needed, and relayed hollered messages to our next-oldest son, Grant, who was feeding the batts into the blowing machine and turning it off and on as needed.  At Home Depot, they supplied a cardboard measurement stick, telling us how deeply the insulation needed to be to supply a certain R-value.  “How deep does it need to be again to reach R-38?” he asked Grant.  “Thirteen inches,” Grant replied.  “Good.  We have about R-100 in most places,” Martin announced with satisfaction.
  • The one we have is the 2011 model of this same washer — very similar. We purchased it in July 2012 at a place which sells “new-old stock” and I’m *REALLY* pleased that we decided to purchase from there, as it came with the manufacturer’s warranty, rather than the scratch-and-dent place we’d been considering, which was less expensive, but with no warranty.

    In the above pic, you can see a bit of the washing machine, with which I have a love-hate relationship.  It is an LG, and when it works, it works WONDERFULLY.  However, yesterday, we had the LG repairman out for the SEVENTH TIME in less than a year.  Seven times.  Granted, his visit on Friday was a follow-up from Tuesday’s assessment, and he was installing the parts that he had ordered on Tuesday.  And two of the previous visits were — umm… — due to user error, as a quarter coin had slipped into the wash undetected, and had lodged in such a way that it was keeping the drum from agitating.  BUT, this washing machine was the most expensive purchase my husband and I had ever made, barring cars and houses, in our 18 years of marriage, and frankly, I didn’t expect the thing to be a lemon.  Or, I don’t know if it’s a lemon, exactly, but it just doesn’t seem that such a high-tech and expensive item should continually require repairs.  So now, we are considering purchasing an extended warranty.  I have kind of a moral objection to extended warranties.  My thoughts are, “BUILD IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AN EXTENDED WARRANTY ISN’T NECESSARY!!!”  And yes, this is said while shouting.  I’m also kind of upset, because, before purchasing this unit, I did a lot of research to find the right product for our lots-o’-laundry family.  This washer had glowing reviews and was universally touted as a heavy-duty, GIANT-capacity washer with few problems, certainly less problematic than a front-loader.  However, the LG guy has been refreshingly honest with some information that I wish I had access to before I purchased.  He has mentioned that, while the unit is power- and water-efficient, it actually runs better on the cycles which use more water (mostly the “Bulky/Bedding” setting).  Also, the heating element in the washing machine, which allows the water to heat up super-hot (in the “Sanitary” cycle) especially for whites and cloth diapers, isn’t particularly powerful, and it takes a LONG time to actually heat the water.  In the meantime, as I had observed, the washer just slowly spins, waiting and waiting and waiting for the water to heat, automatically adding MORE time to a cycle that is already THREE HOURS long.  I guess I’m not the only LG customer who feels rather crabby about this, because just last night, I saw an ad for a new LG washer that heats up super-hot, but has an incredibly short cycle time.  Hmph.

  • Another thing I had wanted to add to our home is a clothesline.  In our last home, the HOA forbade them.  Even in the back yard.  This house has no HOA and plenty of space.  However, my husband wants to do the clothesline “right”, on its own separate poles, sunk in concrete, on the side of the yard, out of sight.  But… that has been added to the very long list of to-dos, here in the house, and we have now been here ten months with no clothesline.  So, last weekend, I procured four eye bolts and screwed them right into two trees in our back yard, and strung up some perfect nylon rope, handily left in the shed by the previous occupants.  Voila!  Clothesline.  So, for a little more than a week now, I have been hanging up about 95% of our family’s laundry — everything except my husband’s clothes and the bath towels.  Our handy new LG dryer (with which we have had no problems) has a great moisture sensor, and the few items from each load that go into the dryer are completed in about 20-25 minutes, instead of the 50-60 minutes each load was previously taking.  A friend on Facebook (well, she’s a friend in real life, but she mentioned this on Facebook) said that she finds hanging clothes to be “meditative.”  I didn’t quite understand her at the time, but now I do.  I bring out a glass of ice water, put my basket of wet clothes on a chair, and actually enjoy the quiet efficiency of hanging clothes.  I’m outside (which I love anyway); the sun is shining on me; it’s a gentle form of manual labor; I feel like I’m…. benefiting our family by saving money on power that would otherwise be spent on the electric dryer; it feels satisfying to provide my family with freshly sun-warmed and sanitized laundry; and it just feels RIGHT to be using the plentiful solar energy here in the desert to dry my clothes.  Even when the day is hot (though I typically hang the clothes in the morning or evening), I have my ice water, and when I stand between the lines of damp clothes, the breeze cools and refreshes me…  It is, indeed, a meditative activity.

    My clothesline

     

  • This week's produce.  We had a selection of summer squash, Armenian cucumber, red potatoes, Swiss chard, arugula, baby sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, and beets!

    This week’s produce. We had a selection of summer squash, Armenian cucumber, red potatoes, Swiss chard, arugula, baby sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, and beets!

    With the Crooked Sky Farms CSA I host, I feel like we have a good plan for what’s going to happen when the baby comes.  The sixth week of the summer season is on Wednesday, June 26, and the baby is due on the 27th.  And… the baby could come at any time, really.  I’ve been anywhere from 11 days early (twice!) to eight days past my estimated due date.  While there have been a number of people offer to help, the most promising person is, ironically, a woman with seven kids.  She hosts a raw milk pick-up (where I am a customer), so she is rather familiar with the ordeal of people coming to her house over the course of an afternoon and picking stuff up.  🙂  Also, she’s a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose oldest is 16.  Just like me!  She said that she would be happy to either come to my home and host the CSA for a day, or to even have it at her house.  So, the plan is that, if I have the baby on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, she will have the CSA in her home.  If I have the baby Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I’ll probably just tuck myself upstairs with the baby and she will stay here for the afternoon, with my kids helping her.  If I have the baby on a Sunday, it could go either way.  That’s at least the plan.  Another woman, who participated in the spring CSA season, sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that she would like to help around the time the baby comes, if need be.  I was quite touched by her thoughtfulness.  She isn’t participating during the summer because she has her own garden which is being very productive right now — no need to pay $20 for organic veggies if you grow an abundance of your own!  I sent her a reply sketching out the basic plan, and asked if she’d like to be back-up, or perhaps be the host (as her home is much closer to mine, and would be less of a deviation from the regular plan for the other CSA members).  Anyway.  It just feels nice to know that things are taken care of, and that people are kindly offering to help out.  🙂  I feel surrounded by wonderful folks.

  • We’re almost done with school.  Kind of.  Three of my kids will be finished on June 7th, in less than a week!  My oldest, who is a sophomore, won’t be done.  He got himself behind and will likely be playing catch-up until the end of June.  I’m rather displeased with that because, as a homeschooling mom, if he isn’t done, that means that I am not done!  But, as he is a sophomore, we can’t just say, “Ah, well.  We’ll come back ’round to it in the fall.”  There aren’t really any do-overs once you’re in high school.  So, he’ll keep working until he’s finished with the year’s curriculum…  I will admit that I am very ready for summertime, and I’m very ready to focus on the baby.  Two weeks ago, I told my middle boys (8th grade and 6th grade) that they will finish the last three weeks of school primarily on their own.  Normally, I do about 60% of their work with them — reading to them, discussing assignments in depth, having conversations about the topics at hand, reviewing their work, etc.  But, in order to help me be able to have time to prep for the baby, I was straight-up with them:  “Listen, I know and you know that you learn better when we do school together.  Having an actual teacher helps you glean so much more out of the material than if you just cover it yourself.  However, you will be doing virtually all your remaining work for the year on your own, reading to yourself or reading to each other, because it’s either that or nothing.”  That is one of the benefits of homeschooling:  You can make it be flexible when you need to.  They would learn more if I was more highly involved, so I feel kind of badly.  But, three weeks of independent work within a 35-week school year won’t kill ’em, I guess.  It’s better than just stopping school.  That sounds like I’m setting the bar rather low.  Perhaps I am…  But, that’s what is necessary for these last few weeks of school.  🙂

A good day. Mostly.

It’s not quite two p.m. as I type this, but today has been one of the sorts of days that I hope for, but rarely occur.  To me, a “good day” is one in which I get things done in the home, outside, with the kids’ school, and that something pleasant happens for me, too.  It has a nice pace:  Filled, but not frenetic.  I hate busy, deadline-driven days.  I hate days where I feel like I’m doing stuff all the livelong day but nothing gets accomplished.  I hate days in which there is an abundance of strife amongst the children.  Today has been good, full of the things I like, and with little to none of the things I don’t.  So, I thought I’d document it, if for no other reason, than to encourage myself.

  1. Let the day begin!  The day started just as I prefer:  On the back patio, with a cool breeze blowing, coffee mug in hand, reading the Bible.  I have an odd (?) affinity for Old Testament prophets, and was reading from Zechariah.  Then, my four-year-old, Fiala, came outdoors, sleepy-headed, and crawled up into my lap.  It was just right.  What started as a bright and breezy morning has turned into an all-out windy, dusty day, but that’s OK.  It’s keeping the temps down to the high 70s, which is fine with me.
  2. Gardening.  I am out of large and medium pots, now!  In what I semi-affectionately call my “fake garden”, I now have 10 medium or large pots filled with plants and seeds, in addition to my two, 2′ x 4′ planting boxes.  Today, after creating a mix of native “soil” (clay, really), compost (from a bag;  my homemade stuff isn’t ready yet), and vermiculite in a wheelbarrow, I transferred two large heirloom tomato starts into my last two medium pots.  I planted cilantro seed around one and cumin seed around the other.  I also transferred three small tomato starts (not ready to plant outside) into larger containers.  In related news…  I thought that with such a small garden, that there was NO WAY I’d forget what I had planted.  Wrong.  I have three different kinds of squash (I think) plus a few cantaloupe plants and a couple of cucumber plants, and they all look identical.  I have no remembrance about what is planted, exactly, and where.  Around each larger plant, I also planted smaller things like chard, scallions, various herbs, and flowers.  Some things are pretty easy to tell:  Chard, for one.  Scallions, too, are pretty apparent.  But the various herbs and flowers???  I have no idea.  AFTER I had planted cilantro seed around one tomato plant today, I noticed that some seedlings in another pot were getting real leaves.  “That looks like cilantro!” I thought, “Or is it parsley??”  I sampled it.  Cilantro.  From now on, I am making markers for each pot.
  3. I found the one I’m using, in perfect, nearly-unused condition in the shed. It is identical to one that my family had, while growing up. If I had realized it was “vintage” and could sell for $20 on Etsy, maybe I’d have sold it instead of using it…. Maybe not. I like it.

    Yard work.  I am happily transforming our back yard.  Our home, into which we moved in July 2012, needs some serious work to the back yard.  The front, too.  But, the back is where the living and the gardening takes place.  We have plans to seriously overhaul the back yard, but one bad thing about this being a larger property (almost 1/2 acre) is that the bigger the yard, the more it costs to re-do.  We need a pool fence, a completely redone drip irrigation and sprinkler system.  We need more trees.  We need to install my REAL garden (which, blessedly, my husband does consider a high priority!!).  We need to re-do at least some of the landscaping so that grass is not growing right next to the swimming pool.  The cool-decking needs redone.  We need gutters.  The whole yard needs to be Roto-tilled, as the clay soil is VERY compacted.  The list goes on.  But for now, we’re doing small things.  For instance, every Monday, I’ve been moving a sprinkler around the yard.  I let it soak a spot for an hour, then move the sprinkler.  It has very much greened-up the yard.  Regrettably, a good half of what’s growing is weeds.  But, when the collection of grass and weeds are mown, as my 15yo son did on Saturday, the yard is looking quite nicely.  There are a number of bare dirt patches, still, though.  I decided today to start aerating them, to see if that will encourage the grass to spread.  Today, I only did a maybe 5′ x 20′ section with an aerator we already had.  It’s just a four-prong step-on device.

  4. Homeschooling.  In spite of the above, I still got school done with my four school-age children.  Actually, I’m sitting at the dining room table with my son Ethan (who is a sophomore) while he works on science reading and questions…  I read in several subjects to my 11 and 13-year-old sons, and gave them instructions for further self-directed work.  For my first-grader, Audrey, well…  I should have done more with her.  I only had her do her workbook items (phonics and math) and then let her play with her new Play-Doh contraption all morning.  That’s fine motor skills and creativity, right??  (It was her birthday on Saturday…  Can’t believe she is seven!!)
  5. Laundry.  I also washed, dried, and folded a giant double-load of laundry, and loaded the machine with a new load to start tonight, after the electricity rates go back down for the evening…
  6. Food, etc.  I noticed that some red oak leaf lettuce, obtained from the CSA on Wednesday, was looking decidedly water-logged this morning.  So, I sorted through that, as well as some CSA spinach, and started a small salad for my lunch, and a large salad for our family’s dinner tonight.  And I used up the rest of the Red Russian Kale I had on hand, too, though that went on top my eggs this morning.  It feels good to use something completely.  I also harvested ten small-to-medium-sized Red Rhubarb Chard leaves this morning to add to the salads.  It was the first chard harvest of this spring…  I love my organic CSA veggies, but there is nothing better than plucking something from the back garden, which you’ve grown from seed, and nurtured into maturity.
  7. from Wikipedia

    Birds!  I finally positively identified a hummingbird that has been flitting around our back yard for the last couple of weeks.  It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird.  I got to get quite close.  “Male, medium-small, short beak, red gorget, throat, and head, green back, wingtips not quite as long as the tail…  Think it’s an Anna’s.”  Then, I went back inside and checked my Sibley guide.  It was an Anna’s.  Those are fairly uncommon here — I usually see Black-Chinned or Costa’s hummers.  It wasn’t quite as satisfying as ID’ing a new-to-me species, but still very nice.

  8. Pain.  The ONE bad thing about this pregnancy — I am now 28 weeks — is that I have a mass of varicose veins running up the back of my right leg, from my knee area up into my rear.  It sucks.  It is often incredibly painful.  I am WAITING AND WAITING on a stupid, expensive, girdle-looking “pregnancy support garment” that I purchased about two weeks ago.  I hope it works miracles.  I do take Horse Chestnut Seed extract for leg vein support and pain, as well as cod liver oil to thin my blood.  That worked brilliantly until about six weeks ago…  Some days are better than others, and today, even though I’ve been on my feet for much of the day, has been good.
  9. The one bad thing about today:  Last week, we took my truck — I call it The Land Barge — in to get fixed, as the RPMs were revving with little corresponding power to the engine.  The shop found a cracked gasket somewhere that was letting air into the system.  Problem fixed.  Except that it wasn’t.  On my way to the zoo on Friday (a 25 mile trip), the truck started to lose power and we had to pray it into the zoo parking lot.  My husband came to our rescue and traded out vehicles.  (Originally, all five children were going to go to the zoo with me, but my husband said that Ethan, our 15yo, needed to stay home and work on school.  I wasn’t quite in agreement, but did go along with it.  Well, if Ethan HAD been with us, we wouldn’t all have fit into my hubby’s small commuter car!  As it was, myself and the four kids fit snugly but fine…)  The truck completely broke when my hubby was driving it, and he had to get AAA to tow it back to the shop, which is closed on the weekend.  (I don’t mind single-owner, small businesses that close on the weekend and give themselves and their employees a break.)  Today, we heard from the shop that they had to take it out for a spin for a good 20 minutes to get the truck to repeat the problem, as no codes were showing up on the computer diagnostic system they use.  The good news, I guess, is that the truck DID lose power and they DID determine the source.  The bad news is that we need an entire new transmission for the truck.  That’s an expensive fix!  😦  One good thing, though, about being 39 and gaining the perspective of years, is that I have seen provide for us NO MATTER WHAT, and I wasn’t worried.  No, I don’t know where the money will come from — we’ve been saving money for a tax bill and the midwife — but that’s OK.  God still provides, He still takes care of us, and I found myself saying, “At least it broke down now, not on some big, long summer trip.”
  10. Now, I’m blogging, which I’ve been working at, off-and-on (mostly “on”) for the last hour and 20 minutes…  I’m always happy when time allows for that.
  11. Next, I will sort through Sunday’s coupons and plan my four-store grocery trip, which will be this evening, after my husband comes home from work with the car, instead of this afternoon…

No matter what happens the rest of the day (it is now 4:00), I can look back and say, “Today was a good day.”

Domestic bliss didn’t last… but that is (almost) OK.

I keep waiting for life to return to normal.

I used to think that “a rut” was the worst thing that could happen to one’s life.

I now have turned 180° — or at least 160° or so — and have discovered that there is a reason it is called “Domestic Bliss.”  That is because when home life is wonderful, it REALLY IS wonderful.  Philosophers can devise witty sayings about how boring healthy families are, but when it comes down to it, if you have one, it really is lovely.

This past spring and summer was perhaps my most wonderful ever in my 39 years.  Well, I was 38, back then.  Everything was just right.  Parenting was going great.  I thought my husband was fabulous.  I had the garden of my dreams.  I had enough “spare” time to sneak in novel about once every 2-3 weeks, which, in my experience and for my personality is just right;  more reading than that means I’m not getting enough done in my home and family;  less reading than that means I’m stretched too thinly and stressed out.  We had just sold our house for more than we thought possible and had found the exact right place — right size house, right size lot, right location — for an amazing price.  I had lost about 20 pounds and was feeling great, and down to the same size I was before I had my first child, 15 years prior.  Other family relationships and friendships were sailing along at a beautiful clip.  Friends even purchased tickets for our family’s first-ever Disneyland trip.  Can you get much better than that?

I don’t think I’m a pessimist — truly — but I am enough of a realist to realize, even in the midst of all this amazingness, that it would probably not last forever.  It was one of those seasons where my prayer was, “God, please don’t let me forget this lovely season, especially if You’re gearing me up for hard times.”

And hard times have, indeed, come.  But, not exactly in the way that I had envisioned.

The good news is that I still think my husband is fabulous.  I have, in fact, grown in love and appreciation for him in the last couple of months.

By early October, my mother was sick, in the hospital, and appeared near death.

We were also in the throes of a remodel — a MAJOR remodel of about 40% of our “new” home — which I envisioned would take us about five weeks.

We also had a serious issue surface with one of our children…  Really serious, the sort of thing where it is just a deep, hard ache in a mother’s heart.

Then our dog got sick, a resurgence of Valley Fever.

Then my computer broke (I’m typing on my husband’s laptop), on which my children do about 1/3 of their schooling.

And… other things compounded my various challenges — like a dear friend (whose two sons are the best friends of two of my sons) moving out of state.  And a few other dear, long-time friends feeling led by God to become involved in various other ministries — leading them OUT of “my” church.  This put a hole in my heart, as well as made things logistically difficult, as I am now the lone worship leader for the 6-12 year-olds at church;  no one with whom to share that responsibility…

AND THEN, I found out I was pregnant with our sixth child.  And while that has been a huge joy — theoretically — I feel like crap, 24/7, and that just makes everything… extra-challenging.

And my mother did die, on October 18th.  That was hard.  It still is, especially when my four-year-old, Fiala, pipes up at lunch, scowl ensconced firmly on her face, “I don’t want Grandma to live with Jesus any more.  I want her to be here.”

We are still remodeling, nearing our 11th week of that massive project.  The good news is that I have a working kitchen.  I still don’t have a back splash, there is still some touch-up to do, I still don’t have a working sink in our powder room, and the legs of our built-in breakfast table (envision a bar, only larger and more rectangular) still need to be trimmed and stained.  AND, as I was dreaming — again — of the massive yard sale I’d have to enable the purchase of new furniture, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my Furniture Money would probably have to become Pay the Midwife Money.  Maybe that’s stupid, but it was one of those reality checks that made me groan, “Aw, man…”

Crappy picture taken with my phone, that shows evidence of my girls watching TV as I blog, and my home rather untidy, but about 97% remodeled.

My child with the “issue” is now in counseling, and though we’ve just begun, I think that will be really helpful.  Sometimes, it helps a child to hear truth from a different, non-parent source.  My husband and I are fighting — and winning, I think — not to feel like Giant Failures in Parenting.  Still, it’s been a blow to my confidence as a mother to have to call in the experts…

Our dog is still ill, but at least she hasn’t died.  The vet said that he rarely sees dogs with her blood titer level, because, “Usually a dog doesn’t get to that level;  they die before then.”  But, she’s on antifungals.  Sweet pup.  We’re not out of the woods, and it was hard to admit to my husband that I didn’t ask the vet to call in a three months’ supply of meds, which we could have done, and which is less expensive than buying it month-to-month, because I’m still not sure she’ll make it three months…  We’ll see.

My computer is still broken, which is making me feel like a bad homeschooling mom, because my kids haven’t done math nor typed anything in about a month.  Grant and Wesley also read from the encyclopedia on my computer…

The Sunday before I had the spate of friends become displaced from my life, in early August, the presence of God fell on me very powerfully during worship, and I felt God calling me to serve Him, and Him alone, for His sake — not for what I get out of my relationship with Him or out of my Christianity;  not simply because I was following my pastor (though I have a wonderful pastor — two of them, actually — absolutely amazing men of God who are excellent teachers and amazing leaders…)  I just felt Him calling me to Himself, no matter who does what, and when, nor what goes on around me.

I have really been clinging to that, and thankful to Him for preparing me.

I’m 11 weeks pregnant, and I still need to actually TALK WITH and MEET WITH my midwife, rather than exchanging phone messages.  I don’t know why, but I think I’m kind of dragging my feet about that.  It’s just one more thing that will go on the plate…  Know what I mean?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining.

And I keep reminding myself how LOADS of people — billions of them — have it worse than I do.  In many ways, things really aren’t bad at all!  They’re just challenging, and I don’t enjoy being challenged.  I really don’t.

So!  That’s where I’m at.

Thanks for reading.  I wish I had something clever with which to tidily wrap up this post, but my stomach hurts too much to think of what that might be.  I think I’ll go make myself a piece of toast.

 

Events

 

  1. This is my kitchen, right now, as I type:
  2. We moved into this house in July with a plan to remodel about 40% of it as soon as possible.  “ASAP” has come upon us, much to my satisfaction.  People have been asking me, “Are you settled in?” and I have answered, “No, and I don’t want to be!  I can’t wait until the remodel starts!!”  I’m very pleased that I got to swing a sledge hammer and kick in drywall.  😀  Very cathartic.  I’m also crazy-excited about the finished product, which won’t be completed for another three weeks or so.
  3. You might be thinking, “How is she making dinner?”  The answer:  Crockpot, grill, and pre-cooked chickens from Costco.  I’m awfully impressed with myself that in 11 days of demolition and construction, we’ve eaten out exactly two meals.  My family is less than impressed, especially my kids.  They don’t see Costco roasted chicken and carrots with hummus (also both from Costco — the cilantro jalapeno hummus is all natural and VERY tasty!) as a real meal.
  4. To facilitate above-mentioned demo and construction, my father-in-law came to stay with us for six days, as he is a general contractor and pretty much overseeing the project.  He is a wonderful man, very easy-going, doesn’t expect me to cook for him, is totally fine with sleeping on my 11yo’s lower, twin bunk bed (though we tried to give him the master bed, and at least my son’s bed has a new mattress).  On a night when my husband was away at his Bible study, and the kids were all in bed, he looked at me and said, “I think we both deserve a Blizzard,” and off he went to Dairy Queen.  🙂  Hard not to love a man like that.  Hahahaha!!  However, even a house guest that is stellar company is still somewhat wearing, eventually, for a girl who tends to need some alone-time before bed each night, to maintain sanity.  He went back to Prescott for the weekend+, and is due to arrive again tomorrow.
  5. My mother is in the hospital.  She was admitted on the 27th of September, and is still there.  Long-time readers might remember that my mom has long had health difficulty.  Truly, I am SO VERY GLAD that she is still with us, in spite of a number of doctors’ very negative prognostications.  But, she averages a trip to the hospital around once every six months.  She is in ill health, indeed.  Even before her admittance, my sister and I were stepping up our involvement in our mom’s daily life, as she was frequently “getting into trouble”, so to speak, during the five hours that my step-dad is away from home at his part-time job.  It made me extra-glad that we moved close by my mom;  that is one of the reasons we picked this house.  She suffered a stroke, though it took a couple of days in the hospital for the doctors to come to a definitive diagnosis.  It doesn’t appear that it was a severe stroke.  However, we’re theorizing that this wasn’t the first one, as starting in February, after a surgery, she had difficulty recalling words.  Her health has never quite recovered from that surgery, and it has continued to decline markedly;  we’ve been in a search to find out what was causing it — her heart?  Oxygen depletion?  Early-onset dementia?  Conflict with medication?  Too many meds?  Not enough?  Is she just exhausted?  It still could be any or all of those, but the fact that she has had at least one stroke, and likely more than one, is now apparent.  The very good news is that she is already recovering mobility on her right side, and is no longer speaking gibberish, and is more aware of life and people.  There is light back in her eyes.  She is still in the hospital, but that is turning out to be a good thing, as the doctors are discovering things that are actually helping her… and her appetite, which has been gone for a couple of years, is returning.
  6. One of my dear friends just moved to the Pacific Northwest.  Their two boys are also some of my three boys’ dearest friends, and the whole thing has been wearing on me, emotionally.  I’m happy for them.  Heck, I would gladly move to Portland!!!  But, there is a hole of sadness in my heart, both for myself, and my boys.  They were some of my few homeschooling friends, locally, and we went to the same church.  I miss them.
  7. On Sunday night, two precious friends, who are also birders, went with me to a local birding hot spot.  There were reports of a Roseate Spoonbill there.  I had seen one, once, in 2004, on the Gulf of Mexico, in Texas.  They’re not supposed to be in the Phoenix area;  this one was clearly lost.  However, I’m glad that this particular Roseate Spoonbill made friends with a bunch of egrets and decided to travel with them, because the little trip to view him was such a precious time to me.  Spending time with friends who share a passion, just hanging out…  Talking about deep things and not-so-deep things…  Those two hours were a much-needed respite, and I thank God for good friends.

    (c) TPWD

Mama’s got a (staple) gun. The mailman. And other tidbits.

  • I love having a mailman.  We are “recovering” from living for the last nearly-13 years in planned subdivisions whose mailboxes were in kiosks, not adjacent to our actual home.  Our mailman’s name is Tom, a slightly grizzled man with a ponytail who appears to be in his late 50s.  My six-year-old, Audrey, and I spent about ten minutes talking with him yesterday.  I found out that he retired from the Air Force in 1996, was stationed at Luke AFB, lives in Goodyear, and has a dim view of mail carriers who are contractors, instead of actual USPS employees.  We talked about me having five children, him having five dogs, me homeschooling, his misconceptions about homeschooling, and a bit about the folks who used to live in our home.  He also noticed straightaway that Audrey is a girly-girl and Fiala is a tomboy.  🙂  At one point, Audrey looked up at him with some confusion and asked, “Who delivers your mail?”  My fifteen-year-old Ethan removed and repainted our mailbox, and he can’t reinstall it until the second coat of glossy black dries… so I guess we’ll be seeing Tom at our door, come mail time.
  • The day before yesterday, I sewed four panels for the two five-foot windows in our family room which faces the street.  I decided to skimp, somewhat, on the fullness of the panels to allow for enough fabric to recover my dining room chairs, too.  That was a good choice, as the dining room chairs were only briefly ivory-colored.  I scrubbed them thoroughly every 3-6 months, but they were perpetually dingy.  Yesterday, after my ten-year-old, Wesley, removed the seats from the eight chairs, I recovered them, staple-gunning the fabric in place.  It makes such a huge difference.
  • Before and after. Quick! We need to have someone over for dinner while the seats still look nice! Seriously. They were previously in such bad condition it gave me pause, thinking about others having to sit on them.

    • While E and W were at their tasks yesterday, my nearly-thirteen-year-old son Grant was assembling a large, 5-shelf storage unit for my spacious (but unshelved) laundry room.  For each job, at some point, each boy needed my assistance, but by and large, they did the projects by themselves.  I keep thinking, “I knew this day would come…  Or, at least, I hoped this day would come!”  I mean… when your children are all small, and the day is spent investing and teaching and correcting and “helpers” are actually a subtraction to the process, it’s hard to envision a day when you can say, “Here.  Do this task,” and they can actually DO it, and accomplish it well.  I am really pleased to have sons who are at an age that they can REALLY help.  They are each making a significant difference in the repair and move-in process in our new home.
    • Lastly is a picture taken by Audrey this morning.  One of the things I love about homeschooling (not that we’re currently in the school year, as yet) is that our mornings are rarely hurried.  Virtually every morning, I spend a good 15-30 minutes “snugging” Fiala, and often, other children drift in and snug for a few minutes, as well.  Fiala is the best cuddler, though.  🙂  She always brings her green blanket, and usually an assortment of “buddies”.  And, yes, she is nearly four years old and still uses a binky.  Don’t judge.

      This morning, Wesley joined us for a bit… He got a bit rambunctious, though, and I had to shoo him away. Only Fiala has mastered the art of snuggling for closeness’ sake. I love every minute of it.

     

What I made yesterday

Confession:  If one claims to really detest Walmart, then moves about, oh, 1/3 mile away from a “Super Center”, one might find oneself there, oh, daily.

Seriously.  In my “normal” life, I go to Walmart maybe 3-4 times yearly, and then only for a specific item or two that can’t be found locally anywhere else.  It’s a black hole of plastic and other cheaply-made goods, full of surly employees, and altogether dingy.  I still feel like that.  But, darn it!  It sure is convenient to our our new home.

Speaking of, our new home — for those who didn’t see it on Facebook — is perfect in many regards.  It is a larger house (we moved up from 2111 s.f. to 2380 s.f.) on a much larger property (we moved from a lot size of 7,900 s.f. to 0.37 acres — more than double);  we are 0.9 miles from our church;  we are about 2.5 miles from my mom’s house;  there is an RV gate and a concrete pad where my mother-in-law can park her movable home and stay ALL WINTER, if she’d like (I’d surely like it);  the new home’s location cuts ten-fifteen minutes off of my hubby’s commute;  the house has a pool — which, when the water is finally clear, we will greatly enjoy.  (And, by the way, it is significantly less expensive than the home which we just sold.  So, in the “posh” factor, we’ve moved down.  But in every other regard, we’ve moved up.)

In addition to being 1/3 of a mile from Wally World, we’re about 1/4 mile away from my favorite grocery store, Sprouts.  (A fact that is really unconnected to the rest of this post, except to demonstrate how perfect it is.  My pastor’s wife was helping to clean the house, before we moved in, and she stopped, midway up a flight of stairs.  “You know what I was thinking?  The closest grocery store is Sprouts.  Is that God, or what?  How perfect is that?”  Agreed.  God shows His love, even in the proximity of beloved grocery stores.)

Structurally and mechanically, for a 38-year-old place, the home is in good condition.  The interior needs desperate help, which we are slowly and steadily providing.

One thing that the interior needs is CURTAINS.  Draperies.  Window coverings.  It came with none.  That’s right:  If you drive by our home in the evening, you can see right into our family room, because absolutely nothing is covering those windows.  Not yet, anyway.  I’m working on it.

I made curtains for the bedroom shared by my sons, Wesley and Grant.  I’m not taking any pictures of those yet because I need to add some rings to the top, which droops far too much.  That means taking the curtains back down and sewing 12 more button-holes, and adding rings to them.  I’m just not up for that, yet.

But, yesterday, I made these, with which I am inordinately pleased:

They go over the kitchen sink, which is very inconveniently located in the corner of the kitchen. There is something quite charming about washing dishes and looking out the front windows. Logistically, though, it’s difficult. And the sink basins are perhaps the smallest known to mankind, which really doesn’t work for a family of seven. In the kitchen remodel, the sink will NOT be here.  Hopefully, though, the curtains WILL be, because I love them.  I’m already dreaming of a sea-green, aqua, and chocolate tile backsplash, hoping that such a thing exists.  And light aqua paint for the wall.  In my nearly 17 years as a homeowner, I can safely say that I have never painted a room anywhere close to any shade of blue.

We can easily close them at night. 🙂

Close up of the tie-backs, where you can see that one doesn’t need to sew perfectly straight in order to make cute curtains. Screwed into the window frame is a hook-thingie where one would wind excess string from a Roman shade or something like that. On tie-backs, I sewed elastic loops that fit securely over the hooks. I made a large, fabric-covered button for each of the tie-backs, under which are Velcro closures. So, at night, we just pop open the Velcro and pull the curtain over a bit to close it completely.

I used a kit like this to make the buttons.  I would have preferred the buttons to be metal, but Joann Etc only had the nylon kind:

By the way…  From where did the really lovely, 54″, thickish, blue, green, and chocolate paisley home dec fabric come???

Walmart.

Don’t tell anyone.

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