Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In Summer.

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!

And a mantle, too, of the skies' soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.


And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air's soft hands,

With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

(Excerpt from In Summer by Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1899)

Summer, yay.

Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tragedy and Joy.

As most of you know, storms ripped across our state over the past two days, causing several tornadoes, two of which were large, and violent. Today as the search and rescue efforts continue in the town of Moore, we are heartsick for the families who have lost loved ones. Especially, children.

This morning, I sat on the edge of the tub in our bathroom and started to pray. I started to cry and could not keep the tears from coming. My heart is so heavy, so sad. My husband suddenly burst through the bathroom door and said, "They found one hundred people ALIVE last night! Through the night!" and my tears turned to tears of joy. 

I think this is how today will be--devastating tragedy intermingled with unspeakable joy.

I wiped my eyes and took a deep breath to try and calm down. Today is Cub's last day of Pre-3 and he is so excited--life keeps rolling forward. As he wandered into the bathroom after his Dad, I smiled at how much he has grown over this past year. I am so proud of my big boy--and so thankful that he is mine to hold yet again this morning.

Our prayers are with you in Moore. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summer Bucket List!

Caleb's two-day three-year old program officially has its last day on Tuesday, so we're marking that as the beginning of SUMMER! Yay! To keep boredom at bay, I've come up with a list of activities for us to do this summer. A summer bucket list, if you will. 

I've seen some of these floating around Pinterest and I love the concept. I sat down and brainstormed ideas, researching points of interest in our state. Some we've done before, some we haven't! I chose to print each goal on its own piece of paper, so we could attach a photo beneath each item as it is completed. And I'm going to make myself use my actual camera, instead of my phone, to document, ha! I attached each piece of paper to cardstock to give it some weight, and then used mini clothespins to attach it to jute rope. Some of the activities are simple, like eating sno cones and making s'mores. Others will require a bit of planning, like traveling to Pops on Route 66 and the Oklahoma City Zoo. All of them are kid-friendly. And, I'm not going to lie...I'm pretty excited, too. Bluebell Creamery Tour? SIGN ME UP.

(Thanks for helping us knock the first item off our list, Erin!)

The list is obviously quite large, taking up an entire wall of our playroom. I did this on purpose ... if I walk by the list every day and am therefore forced to look at it, I am more likely to complete it, you know?

There you have it! Our Summer Bucket List.

What are YOUR plans this summer?

Have a lovely day!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sisters, Rocks, and George the Cat.

When I was but a few weeks away from delivering Lydia, Naomi's arm got caught on my camera strap and sent it crashing from the desk to the tile floor in our butler pantry. Thankfully, the camera was fine, but the lens was not. It was my favorite lens--a 50mm set lens with 1.8 aperature, blah blah blah--and I was so, so sad to see it shattered in pieces on the floor. Thankfully, my much larger and more expensive lens was tucked away safely in my camera bag ... but, I'm not going to lie, I like my smaller, cheaper lens better! Lydia was born, life got nutty, and finally, last week, I ordered a new lens. When it came, I actually wiped a tear from my eye. For reals.

While big brother was at school the next day, I took the girls to the pond to throw some rocks. I brought my camera along and may or may not have kissed the lens after capturing these sweet moments with my girlies. It was a perfect morning! We fill our wagon with rocks, drag it down the the pond, and the fun commences. This is Lydia's first time to join in the fun and she giggled and squealed the whole time. And the humidity brings out Naomi's curls, squee!

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Last Questions!

Let's talk about exercise! You seem to be working out a lot lately, is there a goal in sight? Are you training for something? 

Thank you for all of the questions, Sarah!

When she says I have been working out a lot lately, she is referring to her poor Instagram feed that is blown up with pictures of me in the wee hours of the morning at the gym. The pictures serve as a bit of accountability between my friends and myself, saying, "I'M HERE. I'M MISERABLE. BUT I'M HERE. WHERE ARE YOU."

(Note: I look scary in the mornings.)

(Double Note: I am trying to not allow social media to be all-consuming, so I am posting much less ... thusly, the gym posts are going away. And all of the angels rejoiced, ha!)

I've gotten in the habit of going to the gym five to six times a week. I know, it sounds nutty, so let me clarify: I work hard three mornings a week and spend my "rest" days in between doing light cardio. Just to sweat a little before the day begins. I go at 5:00am, so to keep the early morning habit up, frequency is key.

As for whether or not I have a goal, my goal is to maintain where I am. I think it's safe to say that before I had kids, any weight loss goal I set typically focused on the end goal rather than on the means I would be taking to get there. Admittedly, my means have not always been the healthiest, by way of weird dieting and such. But, after Lydia was born, I started working with a personal trainer twice a week. No cutting calories, no cardio. Just doing strength-training twice a week. I continued doing that for a few months and then started adding cardio once my half-marathon training began. And I still ate whatever I wanted--Lydia was still nursing, and burning 700 calories on my long-run days meant that I needed to eat enough for the both of us. She weaned shortly after the half-marathon and I started monitoring my food intake. I dropped the last ten pounds (probably thanks in large part to her weaning) and made it back to my wedding day weight! Yay! I have more energy and I think there is even a muscle somewhere in my arms.


I worked my behind off to get there.

It took hard work to get there and it will take hard work to stay there. So, all that to say, self-discipline and consistency are my goals. I just want to keep on going, keeping up good habits. So! That's that!

I hope that made sense.

Do you guys still have a dog? 

No, we do not have a dog. We had dogs four years ago but they found other homes after Cub was born. :)

Do your kiddos do chores yet? If so, how did you implement that?

The kids are in charge of George the Cat's food and water. Every morning, Naomi lugs the bag of cat food out of the cabinet while Caleb fills George's water dish. Once the chickens start laying, they will collect the eggs, too. They are also responsible for scraping their food scraps into the trash can after meals and for putting their dishes in the sink. Kind of like clearing the table, except they don't touch Mommy and Daddy's breakable plates, ha! Beyond those things and small other things (like picking up their rooms), they do not have set "chores" like vacuuming or sweeping. There wasn't much of an implementation process because we haven't really determined what that will look like. We want the kids to do chores without getting paid for them, simply because they are a part of our family and we all contribute to the household. But, they will get paid for doing things that are above and beyond their "normal" chores ... we just haven't delved into that yet! When we do, I will let you know. :)

Great questions!

Have a lovely day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chicken Questions.

 I've received several questions concerning the proper care and feeding of les poulets.

Ahhh, the chickens.

If you're looking for the best and most perfect way to be a chicken keeper, I suggest you Google it.

If you're looking for a narration of the personal experience of a very inexperienced wannabe country girl, then read on! You're in luck!

Let me firstly say, I went into chicken-keeping with some pretty idealistic expectations. We bought our first flock? grouping? gaggle? herd? of chicks from a somewhat eccentric farmer lady out in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Oklahoma. We thought her rogue-ness made her legit, so, from her we purchased our coop and our chicks. She said she was very much opposed to "sexling", which basically means she would not guarantee the gender of the chicks she was giving us. Meaning, there could be some roosters amongst the hens. We nodded as though we understood perfectly what she was alluding to, and headed home with a coop in the bed of our truck and a box full of chicks in Cub's lap.

First lesson learned: You don't have to purchase chicks from a rogue farmer lady. While the experience may seem more ... organic? authentic? we ended up getting a few roosters in the mix. Our subsequent chick purchases have come with a hen-only guarantee, once from a farmer and once from Southern Agriculture (a farm store). I suggest going that route, unless you want roosters. We did not want a rooster. The rooster we had was a bit of a rogue himself, and, after attacking Naomi last summer, Dadda took him behind the shed and, uh, handled it.

Hens will lay eggs without a rooster. They are simply unfertilized. If you just want eggs, stick with hens. If you want the whole experience and appreciate the usefulness of a rooster, whatever that may be, get a rooster. However, a rooster is not necessary to, um, warm the hens up to the idea of laying eggs (turning them on? gross?).

Tossing a few golf balls in the nesting boxes works just fine.

Please note that I have hinted at the fact that we've gone through a few sets of chickens. This brings me to my second lesson learned: Free range means free range. Sometimes the range is sweet, sometimes the range is unforgiving.

In my mind, I imagined my hens (and, uh, rogue rooster) running through the yard in sunshine-y bliss, soaking up Vitamin D, appreciating the vastness of the land at their feet, relishing in the beauty of their freedom! FREEDOM!

What I did not imagine were the slew of skunks and chicken hawks that were also relishing in that freedom.

We had a pretty bad massacre with our first go-round of chickens. This happened because I forgot to close the coop one night. We let the chickens out during the day and they always returned to the coop at night. One night, a skunk got hungry. And the next day, I cried for three hours while my husband had to collect what was left of the chickens, strewn about the yard. All that survived was the rooster. After the time of mourning had come to an end, we purchased our next load of chickens.

And every night, like a good farmer/country girl/whatever, I locked the coop.

And every single one of those chickens got eaten or taken away by a chicken hawk.

After, of course, they pooped all over my patio furniture.

Is free-range bad? No. But, you have to approach it realistically. I live in the country, in Oklahoma. That means there are not a lot of trees and there is lots and LOTS of sky. Wide open sky. Wide open fields. Chicken hawks with wide open beaks. Freedom on the range can come with a bit of a cost, whether it be loss of life or desecration of beloved patio furniture. A lot of our neighbors have chickens. Some roam around freely, others are in a pen or coop. Our next-door neighbor recently lost all of his to a chicken hawk. Location, location, location, apparently.

We were, once again, chicken-less. Until a few months ago. We purchased our current collection of hens from Southern Agriculture and brought them home. We think we've maybe figured it out by now.

The chicks lived under a heat lamp in a large tupperware bin for the first several weeks of their lives. We filled the bin with shavings and kept it in our laundry room. Keeping George the Cat out of the laundry room was quite an eventful task. We checked their food and water every day and changed out their shavings every few days.

Once the chicks began to sporadically grow feathers and reached what we lovingly referred to as their "awkward adolescence" (read: UGLY) phase, we moved them into the coop. With their tupperware and their heat lamp. The nights were still chilly and the heat lamp was necessary to keep their body temperature warm. We kept a thermometer in the bin and made sure it stayed around 80 degrees. But, let's be honest: The stench seeping from the laundry room was the biggest indicator it was time for them to go outside.

Third lesson learned: Chickens stink. They STINK. Our acreage allows for the smell to waft away, but if you plan on keeping chickens in a smaller yard or condensed space, you have been warned. They smell. 

It was when the chickens were moved to the coop that Cub came up with names for them: Mama, Dadda, Caleb, Naomi, and Lydia. Five hens with fantastic names, I'd say.

This is our coop. There are a few things I would like for you to notice. One: The grassy area underneath the coop. Surrounded by heavy-duty chicken wire, this little yard allows for adequate grass and bug time. Two: The wheels. This coop is mobile. Every few days, we roll it to a new place in the yard. The chickens get fresh grass and we get a fertilized yard. The second floor of the coop contains their feeding trough, nesting boxes, and the shelf where they roost at night. 

For now, the chickens stay in the coop. But, we know the heat of summer isn't too far away, and we're brainstorming a way for the chickens to get more fresh air than just their little pen. But honestly, this will basically require building an immobile coop with a chicken wire roof. We have some plans and if they come to fruition, I'll let you know. 

There you have it! I hope this was somewhat helpful. :)

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Playing Catch-Up!

Y'all, life has been one big whirlwind lately. But, really, when isn't it?? We've had some fun stuff going on here, so I thought I'd share it in pictures, before jumping back in and answering your questions! 

Cub started tee-ball. Sniffle. So fun. Well, kind of so fun. He cried through the first game (except when he was at-bat), only cried a little through the second game (his feet hurt? it's too hot? it's too cold?), and had a blast through the third game. Little buddy, getting all big and stuff.

We were honored and blessed to host missionaries in our home for the first time! When we bought this house, we prayed for God to use it as a means to bless others, and intentionally kept a guest room (our girls share a room instead of having their own) for that purpose. He answered our prayer in a wonderful way and we were grateful for the opportunity to open up this room for our guests. 

A large group of us participated in the Color Run and ran (walked?) in memory of precious Aunt Pam. It was moving to see such a large group come together (and get completely filthy) in her honor! We have good people.

Y'all, I turned thirty. I received such sweet gifts from my friends and have pics of a few ... my bestie gifted me with some adorable bow earrings and I love them.

My hubby gifted me with a cruise. He told me about it in February and I think I cried and passed out. We've traveled since having kids, but the kids are usually with us, or I'm pregnant, or I'm nursing (nothing screams "romantic" like the words, "Wait, honey, I have to pump first"). ;) The experience could be a blog post all its own, but I will sum it up thusly:

1) Lots of laughing and flirting and realizing we will grow old together splendidly.

2) Lots of reading and sleeping (I read THREE books, y'all. Three. It was amazing.).

3) Eggs Benedict. Every morning. Every. Morning. Mmmm. My favorite breakfast of all time. With coffee, of course.

And lastly, a gift from some sweet friends. On the tote they pinned a label that said, "Happy Birthday, You Old Bag". Hilarious. They filled the bag with thirty trinkets appropriate for a thirty year old. Such a thoughtful and fun gift!!

There you go! A quick peek into my life. Next post: CHICKENS.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Apples and Oranges.

How do you parent multiple kids without getting into the comparison game??

The kids and I have this great tradition going. Every Friday morning, we go to the kids' great-grandparents' house, where their great-grandfather, PawPaw, makes us pancakes. I love PawPaw. I love that he loves to make us pancakes every Friday morning.

I distinctly remember one particular visit, after Naomi was born. She was a wee one, fussy as could be, and as I sat on PawPaw's couch, trying to calm her while tying Cub's shoes, PawPaw shook his head and said, "Well goodness, Caleb wasn't nearly this fussy when he was a baby."

Oh. My. Word.

With my postpartum hormones blazing full speed ahead, I burst into tears and began blubbering a nonsensical defense for Naomi's fussiness, giving every excuse under the sun, then abruptly feeling guilty for feeling the need to come up with a nonsensical defense for Naomi's fussiness, and then feeling overwhelmed that my poor second-born simply did not stand a chance in life, always existing under the enormous shadow of her older brother.

It's safe to say I've worked through those emotions.

Some thoughts:

1) All of my children are different.
2) Different is good.
3) Observational comparison is not a bad thing (refer back to the first point).

Remarking on an obvious difference between children might be nothing more than the statement of a fact. Example:

By the time Caleb was two, he knew all of his letters, could read two letter words, and could count to twenty.

Naomi is almost three and does not know all of her letters, does not read small words, and ... well, she can count to twenty.

These are simply facts. Observational comparisons are fine.

The danger lies in the dumb conclusions you might try to draw from them. Does it mean Naomi is less intelligent than Cub? Nope. They are simply two different kids who learn ... differently.

And a greater danger lies in trying to parent each child as though they were all the same. If I were to try and shove Naomi into the proverbial box in which Caleb exists, she would freak out. Caleb's box is clean, with clearly defined edges. Naomi's "box" would be more of a free-form octagon, covered in hot pink puff paint with a pile of purple glitter on the floor. Her personality is her own and we respond to her accordingly. She is so incredibly right-brained and Caleb is so incredibly left-brained. It's so funny. They are little copies of my husband and myself. Caleb typically obeys right away. Naomi's obedience is better achieved through a little motivation. Incentive, if you will.

And Lydia is a third personality in the mix. She's a fast learner, but with a strong will. Kind of a perfect blend of her older siblings, actually! We're beginning the process of teaching her commands as she learns to talk and we will have to figure out what makes her tick, too.

Did you ever read Max Lucado's "You Are Special?" I love that book. And I refer to it when I think about the differences in my kids. Because, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter at all who jumps the highest, runs the fastest, knows the most ... what matters is whether or not we are communicating to them that their value comes from the fact that they were made, intentionally and lovingly, by the Creator. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, unique as can be. And the "dots" ... the comparisons people might make or the standards they might set, that tarnish their view of themselves ... only stick if they let them. Their worth comes from a far greater Source than any expectation someone else might set for them. We have to approach parenting with that mindset--that each of our children are different, and that different is good. Different is evidence of a creative, multi-faceted God, who cared too much to create us all the same.

So. Did PawPaw's comment bother me? Sure it did (obviously). I tend to get defensive if I feel that my kids are being short-changed. But did he mean anything by it? No. It was a tiny example of comparison, but it was the first time my kids were ever compared, so it stuck with me. And, since then, I've learned to love the differences in my kids. Are there times I wish that maybe Cub would chill out a little and be more easygoing, like Naomi? Sometimes, ha! It's true. But, good grief, I wouldn't change a thing about him. We're going to naturally compare our kids because they are different. We just have to look past what we think they should be and embrace who they actually are.

Straight edges, pink puff paint, and all.

Have a lovely day.