Saturday, July 20, 2013

Enjoying Summer?

We sure are!

Amazing views, wonderful families, happy together.  Not without hitches, to be sure, but this is how life is happy.

Love this.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chicken Coop Update

This is a case when a project (although it would be nice to just have it done already!) becomes an opportunity to get other things done.

Like remembering that you have to build on a solid foundation.

Like listening to each other and learning to appreciate other people's experience.

Like remembering the childish delight of figuring out how things work.

Like feeling that satisfaction of making progress, rather than waiting for completion to be happy.

Ben, with Chris assisting

Chris and Ben

Ben and Alec

Like watching the boys learn to work together, and just buckle down to get a job done.

 Like growing enough faith that someone else knows how to steady themselves, and not worrying.

We put the chicks in when it was this much finished.  The windows were framed but not cut out - the door was cut out but propped back in place with boards and heavy bricks.  Good enough for now.  

 Like figuring out when things are "good enough" to work for a while and take a break.

 Ben took a chance to try out par kour, climbing on and jumping off the roof.

Right now we've got the roof on, the painting done, most of the finish trim up, the run fenced, and the window screens in.  And our chickens are happy.  Still have some work on the inside to do (permanent roosting bars, nesting boxes, shelving, and a sick chicken hospital), but we'll get there.  I think we've learned a lot in the process, even though we're not done yet.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Take The Kids To The Movie

Already.  They've been wanting to go to the movie, you know.  But you're too hot and too sluggish.  Ben finally took them yesterday, but they had to walk the mile-and-a-half back, sweaty and dejected because the show sold out.  But I think they are still wanting to go.  They even "spilled cans of paint" on the driveway to spell it out.  Maybe you should take them?

Friday, July 12, 2013

One Last See Ya Later

I just found this picture and it made me all mother-heart happy.  The Monday before Alec left for boot camp, we all went to an outdoor ampitheater to listen to Ben sing with his a cappella group.

Alec had come from a meeting, so he drove back home in a separate car.  I stopped and watched him walk away, thinking that I'd best get good at watching him leave.

But I liked the thought of him going into the light - to new horizons and exciting challenges.  It's fun, in a heart-wrenching way, to watch your kids grow up.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Big Families, Big Pans

I thought I'd write a note about cooking for a family of ten.  Already our family is starting to shrink, with Alec at boot camp and Chris spending the summer as a scout camp counselor.  Trent works most evenings, so I don't have to cook for him, either.  And if Ben is gone galavanting, the house feels so empty that I wonder if it is worth making dinner at all!  Keep in mind that when these four are gone, we "only" have six mouths to feed, but the rest of us eat less than the man and the teenaged boys do!

So I shall remind myself what it is like to cook a large meal.  I will need this information again, because Alec will be home for Christmas, and I'll have all ten again.  Hooray!

Potatoes - my mother taught me to cook a medium potato for eat person, plus a couple.  This rule of thumb works pretty well for us, even considering that the youngest three might split one potato between them.  Leftover baked potatoes not bad to have around.  If I am making mashed potatoes, however, I should use five potatoes just for Chris.  Extra mashed potatoes can easily be made into potato patties for breakfast, or used to thicken a soup.  As if we ever had leftover mashed potatoes!

Pasta - two pounds are good for a meal with a salad.  And about that much sauce.  I rarely measure - I just make it until the pasta is moist but not soggy.

Meat - we don't eat much meat as a solo entree.  We do use meat in other dishes, though.  For a barbecue, the bigger boys will easily eat three burgers a piece.  Total burgers = 18 to 20.  For the meat we use in a dish such as tacos, 2-3 pounds is a bare minimum.  Trent likes to stretch the meat by adding oatmeal, beans, rice, or corn (or whatever else he finds in the fridge), which gets lukewarm reviews.

Cereal -  a big bag for breakfast, if we are in a hurry.  Cold cereal is our Sunday morning go-to breakfast, because it is quick ans self-serve.  If we are having a slower breakfast, it may be closer to two bags.  For hot cereal, we usually use about 5-6 cups of dry oatmeal/farina (which is cooked with a 1:2 ratio with water) or 4-5 cups of cracked wheat/six grain/steel cut oats (cooked with a 1:3 ratio with water).  Yeah, it goes in the big pot.  If we are having eggs and hot cereal, then use half that amount.

Bread - if everyone is home, we can easily polish off three loaves of bread daily: one for breakfast toast and two loaves for lunch sandwiches.  If we are hungry, add another loaf.  If the bread is fresh and hot, coming right out of the oven, subtract an entire loaf with butter and jam right there!  Trent usually makes a 4-loaf batch of bread about every three days.

Eggs - 18 for breakfast, as long as we have other things with the eggs, like sausage and toast.

Condiments - a big (big!) bottle of salsa will last us for a month.  A bottle of mayo is gone in a week.  Ditto with peanut butter and barbecue sauce.  A pound of butter might last a week, unless we make cookies or other nummy things.  A quart of jam will last a couple of weeks, though.

Drinks - we can guzzle a gallon of juice (slightly less of milk) at a meal, so usually we just have water.  Tastes great, and is less filling.

Ice cream - evaporates around here.  Just always have one of those big gallon tubs on hand.  Or two or three, because we can easily eat a whole tub for dessert.  Especially if it's strawberry and Ben is home.

Produce - a dozen apples will do us for lunch.  An entire head of lettuce makes a nice dinner salad, with a quarter head of cabbage, some cukes or tomatoes, and three or four good carrots thrown in.  Plan on a dozen bananas for breakfast.  I'll use two bags (2 pounds) of frozen veggies for a dinner.  Medium-sized fruit (apples, peaches, oranges, etc.) go one per person.  A medium watermelon will work for a dinner and lunch the next day - unless we are thirsty or outside - and then we'll eat it all up!

Containers - two 9x13 pans are required for casseroles.  For German pancakes or something fluffy, we need three 9x13 pans.  One 9x13 for cake (and we'll polish it off).  I love the big bowls my sister-in-law got for us!  They are big enough for a large salad - and I don't have to serve pasta out of the pan.

Cooking for a big group doesn't really take much more time - you just need bigger dishes and bigger sizes and a bigger table and a bigger mindset!  Cleaning up, however, is a different story.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Addition!

We have a new critter at our house!  We almost had a duck, because the neighbors found the cutest little fuzzy duckling wandering around in the street.  But I guess they decided to keep it.  Darn.

No, our newest critter is much bigger.

This isn't a photo from our house, but it tells the same story.

And less wanted.  A mama raccoon has been bringing her four babies to our porch every night to eat all our cat food.  At first it was cute, then not so cute, then expensive to feed all of them and our cats.  And now the mama raccoon is starting to get a little snippy with our pets.  We're afraid that if we don't put out the food, she'll go after our chickens.  It's wildlife extortion, that's what it is.

So we're looking for a nice way to subtract our additions.  Our local animal control doesn't do wildlife, so Trent has been watching coon trapping videos on YouTube.  We'll see how it goes.  Hope it doesn't get nasty!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Itty Bitty Vacation

Angel has been wanting to go to the beach.  That's a day and a half drive away, my dear.  So we went to the lake instead.  Hey, that counts as a beach, right?  We spent the afternoon and it was glorious to just relax and be together.

And no one got sunburned.  Bonus.

These are the memories childhood is made of.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Auf Wiedersehen

I won't say goodbye.  And I won't say I am completely happy about this.  What mother wants her boy to go?  Not this one.  I'm happy to see them progress and grow, but my mother-heart wants to keep them close and love them here.

Alec and Ben just before Alec left for basic training.  What great boys!

But I got my first letter from Alec in basic training.  It did me good to hear from him.  He says send stamps.  Yessir.  And I'm ok with the situation now.  It's not like I can do anything about it.  I worried and worried until I couldn't sleep.  That is a terrible way to live.  So I got a blessing and prayed a lot, and the Lord soothed my poor stressed-out heart.  I can be happy again.  Love my boys!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hot, Hot

It's summer.  Oh so summer - my recent end of school year pictures notwithstanding.  It's hot.

We're running out of water, too.  We just had watering restrictions put into place.  We can water our yard on three specific days each week, from 6 pm until 10 am.  If we had an automatic watering system, this would be easy.  However, our 40-year-old sprinklers broke this spring.  Unlike every other spring we have lived here, the annual Great Sprinkler Break was not one that we could fix with a lot of digging, a lot of new sprinkler heads, and a lot of money at the home improvement store.  So now I water the grass in our large yard by dragging around a hose.  It's not all that hard, but in temperatures topping 100, I can't seem to manage to keep the grass green.  It looks pretty dry and hot.

And yesterday our air conditioning just failed.  Last night it was 90 degrees.  In our kitchen.  At dinnertime.  Needless to say, there was no cooking of dinner going on in there.  We bailed out, got pizza, and took it up the canyon.  So glad we have a canyon nearby where it is so much cooler.  We ate our pizza in a beautiful spot in a forest in the mountains.  It was so peaceful and shady - no one wanted to come back to our hot house.

So when we got home, we set up the tent in the backyard.  The tent held six of the kids.  No, five.  No, four.  Now five again. And six... and five.  The tent doesn't really hold the children very well.  But those who were in it thought it was great fun to camp in the backyard.  A couple more tried to sleep on a mattress on the ground, or in a hammock.

When Trent got home from work around 10 pm (yeah, that's pretty normal.  And sometimes early for him.), he inflated a big air mattress for the parent-people-who-are-too-old-to-sleep-on-the-ground.  I thought sleeping outside meant that we would be turning in early, or at least when it gets good and dark.  I was wrong.

We got all settled in around midnight.  And then I swatted bugs for a while.  It was still hot, although much better than inside.  A breeze kicked up which was more pleasant still.  And then the neighbors came home.  I listened to them talk, then yell, then set off fireworks.  Real fireworks, the kind that fly up into the air and explode.  At 1 am.  Trent bolted up, delirious from sleep, thinking that we were being shot at.  I'm glad he had been able to sleep to that point.

At 2 am, I finally gave up and went inside.  I figured that with the breeze and our windows open, the house would have cooled off somewhat, and I could take a cold shower and get my hair wet if I needed more cooling.  I laid in bed and watched the electric storm - close enough to see good flashes of lightening, but too far away to hear more than a faint murmur of thunder.

At 3 am, everyone else came in, too.  The gentle breeze had given way to a 25 mile an hour wind, with gusts getting close to 40 mph.  The tent came down, all the bedding piled up, and everyone rushed in.  We hurried around, battening down the hatches.  All the windows in the house were wide open to take advantage of the 74 degree wind, but we had to prop all the doors open and tie down anything that could blow away.  All the kids were tucked back in, either to their own beds, or to the rec room floor.

Weary now, I stumbled back into bed at 4 am.  And slept.  Until the phone rang at 6.  When I finally woke up again, it was past 9.  Blazes!  The sun was high, all the windows were still open, and the house had heated up again.  "At least it's a dry heat."  Yeah.  A dry heat wicks away every bit of moisture from your skin, your eyes, and your lips.  And it's still hot.

At 1 in the afternoon, the kitchen is only 82 degrees.  Maybe I should go clean it up.  The boys are in the somewhat-cooler basement.  No one wants to move.  We're all a little short-tempered.  Angel and Georgie are laying on the floor, claiming they are not tired.  Everything is a mess.  And poor Freddie has a fever.

Hot. Welcome to summer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

God Bless America

Well, I did it.  I packed up my boy and shipped him off.  He's halfway across the country now, in basic training.  I suppose I shouldn't say that I packed him up because he did it all by himself.  But it was harder to watch him pack than it ever has been for me to actually pack anything.

His last week here was a delight.  He went to the temple, accompanied by three of my four fabulous brothers - and a sister-in-law and my dad.  We celebrated afterwards by going out to lunch.  We laughed and talked politics and tried to disintegrate the inside of our mouths by trying all of the hot sauces they had - mixed together. Ay, yi, yi.

I tried to savor the last moments with my boy.  I won't see this again for a while.  Makes me want to pick him up, cradle him in my arms, and tuck him into bed.

Won't see this again for a while, either.  I've loved hearing him pound out "Armies of Helaman" when he thought I wasn't listening.

He got all caught up on his screen time, which is good because he won't have any at all for a long time.

Alec has been helping my dad work on his model train these past months.  Strike that.  Alec has been helping my dad with his model train for years.  Playing with trains is something they both enjoy so much.  And that they can do it together is a total bonus.  Love to see the love of these two.

My dad told some fun stories about when he was in the army.  He knows a lot better than we do what Alec is in for.  

And now Alec's room is empty.  All his things are packed up, ready to be stored away so David can move in.  There is an emptiness, not just in his room, but in my heart.  He left last fall, too - to go to college.  But this is so much bigger.  I can't call or email.  He won't come home for the weekend.  And when he does comes back, months from now, he'll be different.  Grown up.  His own man.  Not my boy anymore.

God bless America.  Keep her safe and free from calamity.  Bless the lives of those who dedicate their lives to her protection.  And bring my boy home again.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gray and Yellow

My beautiful niece had a baby recently.  It is always an amazing process to get a new bundle of love from Heaven to here.  But this one was especially special.

They had a hard time getting this sweet baby here.  Last year, the new parents were so thrilled to announce their pending addition.  We all cheered.  But there was a miscarriage late in the pregnancy and we cried for her.  After the tears dried, they tried again.  Another pregnancy, and we were happy for them.  

Cautious, careful.  It is hard to rejoice when you are afraid to lose again.  The pain of a previous loss dampens, makes it harder to be happy.  The baby threatened to come early, too early.  Hospitalizations and worry finally ended in the safe arrival of a tiny baby.  She was too anxious to get to this life, to meet her sweet mother and loving daddy.  Her life was tentative, supported by teams of hospital workers.  We prayed and hoped for them.

At long last, the sweet baby could go home.  She was strong and healthy and ready to get on with living.  I made her a soft afghan to wrap up in to remind her that some days feel gray, but others are bright and sunshiny.  We all have ups and downs, but neither direction stops our progression.  Through the middles of our downs and ups, our grays and yellows, we find the white of peace.  The white of  feeling love in the heart of a storm or in the midst of joy.  That's the love that comes from Heaven to sustain us.  That's the sweet white love this new baby comes from, and brought with her.  

Welcome, Maylee.  We love you.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

End of School

Ach!  I found some pictures of the end of school.  So we're a little bit behind, but here we go.

David did a splendid job in his first Shakespearian play.  I forget which one it was, but the sixth graders did an impressive job.  What I like the most was how David, looking over the script, decisively picked out his favorite character.  He practiced and worked on the lines for tryouts and landed the role.  After that, he kept studying until he had the whole thing down, backwards and forwards.  I'm a dud on stage, so this is especially impressive to me.  Way to go, buddy!

Isn't he handsome?  I'm sure I'm not biased a bit.  This is Ben's "Mom I've got to go, my Prom date is waiting.  You really have to take a picture?" pose.  I was proud of him for wanting to make his own corsage.  He helped design and shop for all the parts, so patiently.  Ultimately, we ran out of time so Mom did most of the work on it.  I'm happy to help out, though.  Glad you had a great time!

And a few shots from the elementary school's dance festival.  Evidently, David felt victorious about how well he did.

I like watching Eddie's enthusiasm.

They always have a "everybody come out and dance" number at the end, which the little ones love.  Trent is a fabulous dancer, by the way.  Just saying.

And it wasn't too hot this year.  I think that's a first.  I'm gonna miss this dance festival tradition.  It's our last year at our favorite elementary school, and I'll miss it already.

Ben and David both went to end-of-school parties which had a chalk throw.  They toss colored chalk up in the air and get colorful as it lands all over you.  Just looking at them makes it a trifle hard for me to breathe, thinking of all the dust in the air.  But it's fun to see them afterwards.  We have learned to brush off as much as the chalk as possible before you shower, so it doesn't stain.

There.  Now we can do summer.  {as if we weren't sweating from the heat already}

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sleeping Angels

I'm in love.  Because I think my little tykes are adorable when they are sleeping.

And funny, too.  They might remind me of Charlie's Angels.

Except that they are my angels.  Sweet little spirits sent to my straight from Heaven.

Oh, and they are quiet, too.  Nice.

Freddie has a special gift of sleep that enables him to roll onto the floor and not wake up.  I wish I could sleep that soundly sometimes.

I love that they all like to snuggle up together.  Angel doesn't always like to sleep with the twins - they are getting to an age difference where they can drive each other crazy... especially when they are tired and need to sleep.  But I often find them curled up around each other.  Especially the twins.  Except for their first week, when Freddie was in NICU, they have never slept apart.  And they don't like to be apart.

I understand.  I love to be together with them, too.  Thanks, Heaven.  Love my tots.