Friday, September 27, 2013

Bike Fail

The boys had a bike ride today.  Actually, it was a biking/camping excursion.  They were supposed to bike 17 miles up the canyon, camp out and have a rootin-tootin good old boy time, and then ride back.  It was a father-son event as well.  So much the better.

Ben told me about it first - a week ago.  Chris seconded the motion when it was brought up at dinnertime.  David said he had a flyer about it, but couldn't find it.  It didn't get any more details about the campout until 3:30 this afternoon.  They were to meet at 4:45 and take off.

We hurriedly looked over our compilation of old, hand-me-down bikes, bikes bought at garage sales, and thrift-store bikes.  They were all "special," and a "good deal."  I want my boys to have bikes because I have this dream of going on family bike rides.  We used to... ten years ago or so.  And I wanna do it again.

And I guess those old bikes aren't all that much of a great deal now.  Ben's bike doesn't work.  Chris's bike doesn't work.  David grabbed his bike and started out, but only made it a couple of miles before I got a call to come pick him up... him and his bike.

I'm thinking of collecting all our "special" bikes and doing something special with them.  Something like this.

And then maybe we ought to get some new ones.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weather Change

No drive.

No motivation.

No oomph.

All I want to do is wrap up in a fuzzy sweater and watch a movie.  Or read a book.  Or just sit in front of the fireplace.  Alas.  I don't own a fuzzy sweater.  And I don't have the mental reserve to start a movie when I know I'll have to clean up the messes that were made while I was an absentee parent.  And I don't have any novels I'm wanting to read right now.  And the fireplace has been shut down due to a gas leak.

Guess I'll just read the newspaper online, and then do my housework.  Or not.  Maybe I'll just sit.

Must be a change in the weather.  It just makes me feel antsy and blah all at the same time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learning About Eggs

We have eggs.  Baby eggs and medium eggs and a few whoppers with double yolks.  As I understand it, new laying hens take a little while for the systems to start working properly, and regularly.

I also learned that we have a chicken that lays blue eggs.  And that the brown on brown eggs is only on the outside.  It's white on the inside, just like the (bleached!) eggs you get at the store.  Fresh eggs are tougher than store eggs, so we sometimes make a bit of a mess cracking them open.  On the other hand, when the twins bring in an egg and accidentally drop it, the shell cracks.  But it doesn't always break all the way through.  Good thing, because they love bringing in eggs.  Oh the excitement!  Checking for eggs is the high point of Angel's day, and she'll go skipping off to the coop with a basket over her arm.  I did not know that gathering eggs would be so fun for them.

And I have learned that fresh eggs do not need to be refrigerated.  We keep them in a basket on the counter.  Eggs on the counter, however, tend to get cooked up faster for breakfast than if they are hiding in the fridge.

Right now, this basket is empty.  But we'll be getting more tomorrow!  We like fresh eggs.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fixing The Blue Jean Gap

Nope.  Not talking about the store.  I'm talking about the breeze that blows down my back whenever I so much as lean forward in a pair of jeans.  And if I bend over, it's downright chilly.  When I sit, I have to be careful that that anyone behind me doesn't get an unintentional view.  And then when I stand back up, I have to hike up the front of the jeans, since the gap magically crept around and wiggled my belly up further than the jeans were.  And at the end of the day, I have saggy butt because those same old jeans now ride lower on my hips than they's supposed to.  You know the gap I'm talking about now?

It happens when your waist is thinner, or your booty is bigger or your thighs are wider than "they" think they should be, because "they" don't make nice jeans for your shape.  That's why, when I went jeans shopping for my birthday, I bought two dresses instead.  And man, I have loved those dresses this summer.  Lived in them.

But now, the nip of fall is in the air, and easy breezy skirty is a bit too chilly.  So I put on the jeans, and remember about the drafty back.

Fortunately, for me and other afflicted women the world over, I have, just now, discovered the fix.  It's not this:

or this:

Although I suppose both would work.  No, my solution, although it takes a bit longer, is much more pleasant.

It involves a box of ice cream, two pizzas, a Costco bag of trail mix, and three packages of cookies.  Eat slowly and enjoy.  Or scarf it all down.  Whatever.  Just wipe your mouth when you are done.  Oh, and sit around a lot.  No exercising needed.  When you are done, your new and improved muffin top will fill out those jeans perfectly!  No more back gap.

You're welcome.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Missives

It's a little harder to write a weekly wrap-up from Alec's letters because there haven't been any letters.  It's not that he's a bad son, really.  It's just that this training is a little more laid-back than basic training was, and he gets to call home.  In the evenings.  Whenever he wants to.  Oh, I love hearing his voice.  And I love being able to hold a conversation with him, instead of asking a question and waiting a week or two for the answer.

The downside to this is that he usually calls when I am crazy trying to make dinner.  Not to self:  be less crazy during dinner-making time, which you should be anyway, and a phone call won't be a problem.  And also that after I get off the phone I don't remember as much of what we said.  And sometimes it's hard to hear what he is saying so we do a lot of "what?" and "say that again" which I'm sure gets very annoying.


He's settling into his new place quite well.  He was chosen to be a leader of his platoon.  I think it's called a PG.  Or a GP.  Patrol Goon?  Maybe Patrol Guard.  That sounds about right.  He does have an aptitude for leadership, and I would imagine that the sergeants, having done this so many times, are pretty quick to pick that up.  So my boy is the boss.  Which could be good, except that he hated it.  He and his fellow PG - a gal who can't shout - would get the orders from the sergeants and relay them to their platoon.  But no one listened.  They have 60-plus soldiers to keep in line, and it wasn't working for them.  He was very frustrated about it, to the point of trying to figure out how to get out of the leadership position without outright quitting.  But it worked out (I think a dressing-down from the sergeants did the trick) and everything is peachy again.

He's learning how to be a quartermaster.  Read: cook.  He's enlisted in the National Guard, and this was the job in his unit with the shortest training time.  You can always do more training and change jobs later.  Besides, he doesn't mind cooking.  And I'm ok with that.  He's done a bunch of class work, as well as hands-on in the kitchen.  They like cleaning up at the end of the day (eating whatever they made.).  The other day, it was meatloaf.  He said it makes the dinner time better, to have already eaten and then get to eat more.  They also learned how to use knives.  I'm imagining something like this scene:  

Yeah, I'm sure he will be awesome like that.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I made laundry detergent today.  By myself.  At home.  I feel so green!

I used the directions from this website, and it was just as easy as she said it would be.  I can handle a recipe with only four ingredients: a bar of soap, washing soda (which was something new, but wasn't too hard to find), borax (I usually have this on hand anyway), and water.  I bought the washing soda a while ago.  It may have even been more than a year ago.

I decided that today would be a great time to try something new.  I finished bottling peaches yesterday, and my kitchen was newly clean.  Besides, I needed to do laundry and I was out of detergent.  Like, I really needed to do laundry.  We've been having some potty accidents lately.  A little one wet the bed last night.  And we were out of toddler underwear.  O.U.T.  Out enough that I had two kids running commando today.  I really needed to do laundry.

So I grated the soap and simmered everything until smooth.  I even put in some citrus-y essential oil to make it smell nice.  Poured it into bottles and it makes a nice gel.  Then I loaded the less-than-lovely bedding into the washing machine... and found an old bottle of laundry soap hiding in the cabinet.

So I haven't tried it out yet, but at least the little ones have clean things to wear again.  I'll let you know how it works as soon as the old bottle of detergent is done.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

27 Days

It's nearly October, so that means that the Nester's annual 31-Day writing challenge is nearly upon us again.  The idea is that we pick one topic to write on throughout the month.  Hence the 31 Days moniker.  It is a challenge to write every day.  And on the same topic, too!  I'm afraid I am too easily bored, and I too often have such varied thoughts running through my head that it's hard to just stick to one line of thought.  But I did it last year, with my Happy Mom series.  Being a Mom is such a supremely wonderful part of my life, and it does make me happy.  I don't write on Sundays, so it turned out to be 27 days for me.

I've been thinking in all 5 minutes of my spare time lately.  And wondering what I could write about this year.  It has to be something at least somewhat interesting so I don't put anyone to sleep.  But it has to be at least a little bit of a challenge, because I want to learn something as I go along.

The biggest challenge I've had in the past while is being happy. I have a family history of depression, and it's just easier sometimes to wallow in the blues and the blahs than to feel upbeat and joyful.  I don't require bubbly of myself, because that would be too hard, and too fake for me.  But satisfied with my life, I can do.  Content, yes.  Happy, yes.  And even joyful.

Being happy isn't something you can concentrate on too much, however, or you end up getting discouraged that you aren't more happy.  Stupid, I know.  Or maybe I'm the only one who does that.  So I think I'll focus on what I can do to be happy for 15 minutes at a time.  Need to ruminate on that a bit more and see what comes of it.  But be looking, because I'll be writing about something next month.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Ben had homecoming last week, so I made another corsage.  I'm getting half-decent at this flower thing.  And I'm learning good things, too.  Like how to wrap green florist tape so it actually sticks.  And how to make a wire stem for a rose.  This time I learned that although the bunches of flowers you can get at the supermarket are cheaper than the little roses you can get at the florist, don't get the supermarket variety to make corsages.  They are too long from base to tip, and the corsage ends up kind of bulky.  Now I know.  But it sure turned out pretty.  In a big sort of way.

I'm flattered that they asked me to take pictures for them - their official pictures!  When I was in high school, we paid 15 to 20 smackeroos (a lot of my spare change back then!) for a single pose, all packaged up in a fancy black folder.  We waited in a ridiculously long line for half the dance, tried to come up with a decent pose, smiled our best, and hoped it turned out decently.

My corsage here had a gardenia - the most wonderful flower I've ever had.  I was so happy that my friend lent me that pretty dress to wear.  I never owned a formal until - oh about two years ago.  Too bad I haven't worn it yet!  Must find adult fancy dance to go to.

We waited a few weeks, and then lined up to pick our pictures off the long cafeteria tables where all the portraits were laid out.

Fast forward twenty-five years...  the kids pulled into our driveway and the picture-taking is not so simple.  We got pictures of each couple, of the group, of the girls, of the boys, of the missionaries who wandered by, and pictures of their shoes.  I really enjoyed myself, and it looked like the kids did, too.

I'm no photographer, but these shots turned out at least as good as the professional ones from way back then.  Thanks, new camera.

And you're welcome, kids.  I guess they didn't mind the non-professional tradeoff for the free price.  Thanks for inviting me to be part of your special evening.  I loved watching these awesome teens.  I think cameras aren't the only thing that is better this generation than last.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Angel

Angel is 5.  It's hard to believe that my little sweetie is so big.  She missed the school deadline by this much, so I get to keep her at home for another year.

We celebrated her birthday before we left on her trip.  And during.  And after.  She got a new bedroom, with a longer bed since she way does not fit on her toddler bed any more.  She loves it and puts herself to bed every night.

I think her most favorite thing to play with might have been the crickets.  She was constantly picking them up in the restrooms and "helping them" get outside where they could "get back with their families."  What a cutie.  Happy birthday, my dear.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Missives

And this, THIS is the reason we spent all that time on the road.  It sure wasn't because we wanted to sit in the van and eat hot dogs together.

This is the awkward hug when you both turn your faces the same way.  But I was too happy to see him to care.  Late on the fourth day after we left home (after the family reunion), we finally pulled into the campground on the military base.  It was very, very late at night, and the gate guards looked scary to me.  But we got in, found our campsite, set up the tent trailer, and sacked out.  First thing the next morning, we rolled out of bed and ate a hearty breakfast.

OK, I fess up.  It was cold cereal, one of the fastest breakfasts in the West.  We found Alec's building and waited for the "Family Day" program to start.

Not sure what dance David is doing there, but it's cute.  The drill sergeants gave us a brief explanation of all the things they had been teaching in basic training, and then the soldiers lined up and marched in.

Of all the spots on the bleachers, we had picked out the exact right place to sit.  When they marched in and turned to face us, Alec was right smack in front of us.  I couldn't help it.  I waved frantically like a little girl.  Still a little bit embarrassed about that.

They did some drills, to show us how regimented they are now.  They were sharp.  Except when they, from the drill sergeant's orders, drew in a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly while whispering, "I really wanna kill somebody."  That was chilling, and I am still pondering the morality of training the human-ness out of a soldier so they would be able to fire at the enemy.  But then they gave them leave to go, and we got Alec for the rest of the day.  Booyah!

The Family Day program was one morning, and graduation was the next morning.  But through both days, we got to keep Alec until his 8 pm formation check-in.  It was lovely to have my family all together again.

We wanted to go to a lake and rent waverunners for the afternoon, but I guess they don't believe in that there.  We could find no rentals of anything.  Not waverunners, not Jet-skis, not boats or kayaks or even a measly canoe.  It was a major bummer.

I wanted to have some fun family things to do, but Alec just wanted to hang out with us.  With us?  Really?  Delighted.  So we hung out and played games in the tent trailer while I tried to get over a gut-cramping case of heat exhaustion.  It was hot there.  Hot.  And we were in a tent trailer with no air conditioning.

We spent time at the mall, shopping together (where Angel got lost and we got the page to come find her), eating out, and going to a movie.  Alec took us on tours of the base.  We celebrated Angel's birthday.  And my boy graduated from basic training.

He shipped out the next morning at 1 am.  He's off to his next set of training.  As I was looking at these pictures, Angel came and leaned on my arm.  "I love Alec," she volunteered.  "Do you miss him, Mom?"  Yeah, I guess I do.

But at the same time, I'm so proud of my strong, handsome boy.  May the Lord continue to bless you, Buddy.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Where in the World?

Man, we went all over the place.

In almost 2500 miles, we crossed 10 state lines.  We probably spent 50 hours on the road.  But we made it to Paris.

And Garden City and Green River (in two different states).  Gould and Moriarty.  Opal, Diamondville, Groom, and Mead.  Kirtland, Monticello, Jamestown, and Memphis.  Trinidad!

Cheyenne, Las Vegas, Denver, Albuquerque, Amarillo, and Salt Lake.  We drove the Oregon Trail, Route 66, and the Lincoln Highway.

We saw Rocky Ridge, Mesa Verde, Arches, Castle Rock, Pike's Peak, Signal Mountain, and the Rocky Mountains.  Shamrock, Price, Cache, and Helper.  Victory.  Three Air Force bases, several Army outposts, and a half dozen Indian reservations.  And we visited Sinclair (the town and the gas station).

I love looking at the names of places and wondering how they got them.  History - the real what-happened-to-people-here history, not the names-and-dates-of-rulers-and-wars history fascinates me.  I loved looking at the ghost towns, the deserted homes in the middle of the prairie, the old pioneer trail tracks.  I like to think of who would have wanted to live there.  What were they like?  How did they live?  The empty villages depress Trent.  He thinks I'm crazy that I'd like to camp in one.

Mostly, I loved seeing a different part of the earth.  Mountains, mesas, plains, and flatlands so flat I felt we'd fall off in a few more miles.  Loved it all.

We wrote down a list of "Family Choice Awards" as we went along.

Best Rest Stops: Texas.  Hands down.  I could spend a day just there.
Most Unique Snack: Garden City, ID - pickle sicles
Best Free Stuff: our British neighbors in the Fort Collins, CO campground who had spent weeks touring America in an RV and were giving away all the stuff they bought before they flew home.  Toaster!  Chairs!
Biggest Bug Party: crickets at the Texas rest stop at night.  There were everywhere!
Biggest Bug Party runner-up: flies in our van.  Always.
Best Windmills: Wyoming

Best Roadside Snack: fresh frybread made by a Navajo lady at a garage sale.  Yes, she taught Trent how.  Score!
Worst Breakdown: tent trailer latches failing on the freeway in WY, making our pop-up pop up.  So glad I married a handy-man who can fix just about anything!

Worst Breakdown runner-up: tent trailer door slowly swinging itself open in the middle of the night and freaking Mom out.
Most Heart-Happy Sight: (besides our home at the end, and besides seeing Alec!) watching Trent sing-sign songs in American Sign Language. Makes my heart melt every time.

Least Favorite Food: the dozens and dozens of hot dogs we had left over from the family reunion - and ATE.  All of them.
Best Establishment Names: "Suds UR Duds", a coin-op laundry; "It'll Do Motel", and the "Cotton Pickin' Festival" in Hollis, OK.
Most Interesting Comment: "These past two days of driving have been WAY more interesting than those first three hours were!"

Friday, September 13, 2013

Driving, Driving, Driving

How do you keep eight kids entertained and happy during a long road trip?  I'm still not sure, but we did it somehow.  I did pack a busy bag for the preschoolers, and that helped.  I kept it between the two front seats, so it was easily accessible to retrieve a new toy or to stow an old one.  For them, I think variety was the key.  I had notebooks and pens and stickers, Matchbox cars, new wooden airplanes from the dollar store, favorite little toys from home, a package of sunglasses... you get the idea.

I did not bring any small toys that required batteries or made noise.  That helped the sanity of the other campers.  Unfortunately, they came with their own noise.  We had a few meltdowns, but much less then I was worried for.  In fact, the most noise we heard from the twins was, "A-B-C-D-E-F-G..."  They sang the alphabet song.  Incessantly.  But here are the rules of the game:  one twin has to sing the song - the entire song - correctly.  If there is a mistake, or even a serious hesitation, he must go back and start again.  After successfully finishes, the other twin takes a turn.  Everyone else must clap and cheer at the end of each song.  After one round, the first twin has the option (usually taken) to begin another round.  And the the second twin has to have his turn as well.  After four complete songs, Mother can declare enough.  After a short while, they would start up again.  We all got pretty tired of the alphabet song.  But at least they can sing it better now than when we started!  (sigh)

Good snacks are important on a long trip.  I have learned that we all get grumpy if we eat too much junk.  So we had grapes, apples, and bananas, as well as crackers and pretzels.  And water.  Lots of water.  The dry scenery we drove through made us all very, very thirsty.   I was afraid that we would have potty issues, but apart from a few stops in the middle of nowhere to water the sagebrush, they all did great.

The older boys all had their homework, and they worked on it very well.  We kept them out of school for a week, but they managed to not get too far behind.  Oh yeah, and there was a lot of this running around:

And this:

At first I was really unhappy with the amount of screen time they were all getting between two ipods and two cell phones.  This was a family trip, after all!  I didn't want them hiding in their own universes.  But then they agreed to do this:

And they all played the same game, together, through the whole trip.  They had a great time working together (and occasionally against each other), and we heard lots of laughter from them.  They had a great time together, and I guess that's much of what a family trip is all about, anyway.  Yes, we had no-electronics times.  And yes, we had homework time.  And I'm happy that they enjoyed themselves and got along so well.

We did watch some movies as we drove.  Two of them.  In the last few hours before we (finally) got home.  But that's was it.

And we napped.  And we made them get out at the rest stops to stretch.  And it was fun.  Really!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Got Photos

I found some pictures on Trent's phone.  I had to nab them and stick them up here before I lose them again!

We tent folded the cards in front of each dish for the hot dog bar, then had to go back and tape them all on to the table because it was a bit windy.  Whatever works!

Bad picture of some good people.  Some of the best folks I know!  I wish the lights showed up better - there were strings of party lights all above this charming balcony.  It made for such a fun place to eat!

And a few pictures of Alec in his... dormitory?  Barracks?  Sleeping quarters?  Whatever the right term is for "the place where my boy sleeps."  I think he called it a "bay."  After the first meeting for the families, where they showed and explained some of what basic training had been all about, we got to see his... digs.

The irony:  Trent takes a bad picture of me holding the camera that takes nice pictures.  Alec's bed was this one on the bottom bunk.  The boy knows how to make his bed now, I see.

You can't see it very well, but in Alec's locker is a picture of our family!  Made my mother-heart happy.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vacation Planning

I love planning.  I could think and dream and research and plan all day.  Unfortunately, it doesn't do me any good unless I get up and actually do something.  (sigh)

Alec is graduating from Army basic training, and evidently, it's a big deal.  So we decided that we would go.  All of us.  We'd drive for, maybe forever, in our big white van towing our tent trailer.  And we'd eat fun travel food and play fun family games and never get upset with each other and have no potty accidents and see the country and make great family memories.  What a great plan.

I like the planning, but the actual prep work is so not my favorite.  NOT.  AT.  ALL.  It makes me grumpy on a good day, and nearly unbearable by the end of a bad one.  It's a fault of mine, I know.  So I worked really hard - prayed lots, took lots of deep breaths - to not get stressed out about this one.  Challenging, because besides just getting kids on a trip (doing laundry, finding luggage, making sure that everyone is packed), I always want to leave our house presentable (cleaning!  Yes!).  And our critters need to be cared for while we're gone (finish building the chicken feeder, hiring a neighbor girl, making an egg-collection door into the nesting box).  Add in the family reunion (lunch for 50, a presentation in the family genealogy program), and the details of camping (coolers, food, bedding, cooking utensils), and you get a perfect storm of stress for the mom-person.  Oh yeah, and the man had to work overtime the week before we left, so he couldn't help.  Yikes.

So I made lists.  That way, I could 1) not forget anything, 2) feel some sense of accomplishment as I crossed items off the list, and 3) I could give lists to the older boys and they could help.  They were a great help, and we made it on our way without any meltdowns.  No big ones, anyway.  :-)

It actually looks like this on our trip.  Blue skies, puffy clouds, unending ribbons of road.  Maybe one day I'll figure out how to get pictures off my camera.

We started the trip by going on a family reunion.  Two nights and two days of hanging out with some of the neatest people on the planet.  I loved it.  The only drawback was that the kids didn't get to play on the lake.  They rented waverunners, and my boys were so excited... but it didn't work out.  Major bummer.  We'll have to rent some when we have some time with Alec.  That will be fun.

As we finally got off and driving, we had plenty of time to think.  I thought of my lists and felt satisfied that I got most of the biggest things done.  I think.