Friday, May 30, 2008

Can you smell the peach cobbler?

Mmmm. The peaches on my mom's tree are finally ripening. The boys went out this morning and picked two small baskets worth so I could make cobbler for our friends tonight. It's in the oven now, and I'm just waiting for that delicious smell to fill my house.

I love spending the afternoon baking while someone else is making dinner! Plus, in between peeling the peaches and assembling the topping, I had my first sewing lesson! My mom had some quilting pieces left for me to practice on, so I got to put together a doll-sized flannel quilt while learning to use the machine. I'm not sure why it took me so long to do this, but I'm so excited about it.

My mother made that wedding dress, by the way. I guess I'm going to have to share the story of my wedding soon! But it's not going to happen tonight or tomorrow. I've already missed a couple days in my 30-day blogging spree, and I'm afraid I'm to miss some more. This weekend is already booked. UberDad will be gone again in the morning, and then I'm leaving the boys with my mom and heading to Fresno for my friend Michelle's ordination to the deaconate in the Anglican church.

I'll be gone about six hours, the longest my baby has ever been without me. But I think he'll do fine. Naptime might be a little rough, but he adores my mom, so they'll figure it out. I can't believe he'll be 2 in less than two weeks. More to write about later...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A good meme

I've been tagged by Emily!

1. My joys
-Curling up on the couch to cuddle with my kids and/or hubby.
-Watching my chickens be silly and my garden growing.
-Moments when God reminds me how blessed and loved I am.

2. My fears
-Losing someone I love.
-That too many people won't be prepared as our economy, climate and lifestyles change.
-That my sisters might not find their way back to Christ.

3. My goals
-To raise happy, healthy, kind and generous sons who love the Lord.
-For my marriage to get stronger and better every year.
-To be fully Present, cherishing each moment and appreciating each day as a gift.

4. My current obsessions/collections
-Learning skills that will make my family less dependent on the system, and more able to give to others who are.
-My garden and chickens.
-Photos on my harddrive, stacks of laundry on my couch!

5. Random surprising facts about me
-I got dressed for my wedding in the bathroom of a grocery store.
-I'm 6' tall and wear size 11 shoe. (Only surprising if you haven't met me.)
-I laughed out loud during much of my labor with my third baby.

Now I'm going to tag... Bobbi, Marlene (but only if you want to!), Mary, Cassandra, and whoever else actually wants to do it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fun for days

Whew! It's been a busy, fun few days. Just to share some highlights...

On Friday we almost got caught in the rain while blueberry picking -- not that we minded. It hasn't really rained in several months, so we needed it. I was so excited, I had to take pictures.

Our 3.5-month-old chickens had never seen rain in their short lives.

The downpour (only here would we call it that!) didn't begin until we arrived home with 8 pints of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. It was the perfect day for baking! Plus, we were headed to the Swanlunds for Wii Knit and dinner, so we had friends to share the cobbler with.

UberDad left for Fresno Friday night, so Saturday the boys and I took care of picking up our CSA produce and grocery shopping. Then we headed to the Bowmans for a bbq lunch! The weather was perfect -- the rain had cleaned the air, and it wasn't broiling hot like the weekend before. It was great to catch up with our friends, and the kids played really nicely. After that, I got busy decluttering with my mom.

Our Sunday School had its 2nd annual children's service and picnic this weekend at our local history museum. Our church held a service just for the kids and their families in a 120-year-old chapel that was our parish's first building, and is now preserved at the museum. We sang songs the children knew, the priest explained the meaning of each part of the service, and the sermon was nice and short. Afterward we headed into the old hotel building for lunch, since it was oddly too cold and wet for a picnic. Unfortunately I didn't get any great photos, despite the beauty of the museum campus and old buildings. Maybe next year.

Monday was our home improvement co-op's work day at the Swanlunds.

While the guys tackled making sun- and pet-resistant screens for all the windows, the moms washed and repaired curtains, cleaned windows, cupboards and shower tile -- and nursed toddlers, of course. The big kids played outside, watched movies, and even offered to help on occasion.

We finished off with spaghetti for dinner at our house, and everyone got to see how much our pullets have grown since they were here to help build the chicken coop.

We are blessed beyond measure to have good friends!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A definition of unschooling

A new reader of this blog asked me to explain unschooling, and this is what I came up with...

Unschooling, very simply, is living life without school. It's different from traditional homeschooling in that many homeschoolers try to replicate the classroom to some extent. Unschoolers don't. We just live our lives, following our interests, providing plenty of resources to explore, and letting children do what they do best -- learn. It's based on the ideas of late educator John Holt.

Unschooling philosophy basically says that children are learning what they need to know from the moment they're born, at their own pace, and in their own style. There is no magical age when this ability suddenly disappears and children need to be told what to learn, when to learn it, or how to learn it. That said, there is also research that shows how most children gradually lose their interest and/or initiative in learning after spending a few years in the typical school environment. Instead of learning for the joy of it, they need to be cajoled, rewarded, and punished into doing the work that teachers set out for them. Teachers spend an extraordinary amount of time studying ways to "motivate kids to learn." (This is confirmed by my schoolteacher husband.) Unschooled children don't seem to experience that loss of interest or initiative. They may not be interested in everything the typical schoolchild is supposed to learn at each "grade level." But they usually develop interests of their own that lead to real learning about the real world in ways that apply to their real lives.

There are lots of great unschooling blogs out there.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Closet: before and after

We did make it berry-picking yesterday, and had a lovely time. But first I have to show you my organized closet! (It's all about priorities...)

My mom came over again this afternoon to see what I needed help with. (I definitely needed help. Despite the transformation you're about to see, I have much transforming left to do in the parts of the house that will actually be SEEN by Monday night's company.) Apparently my clean fridge had inspired her to do some organizing at home, and she was on a roll. I was happy to be in her path. :)

Here's the before:

Somehow everything had gotten completely mixed up since the last time I did this. Swimming suits were hiding among skeins of yarn and toilet paper, and I couldn't even get the doors closed all the way. Blankets were scattered around the living room because I couldn't squish them in. And outdoor toys and totes were piling up in the corner behind the door on the right.

And then, as if by magic...!

Isn't it beautiful? On Thursday I sorted yarn and craft supplies into separate tubs, put all the swimming stuff together, all the camping stuff together, and gave the toilet paper and baby wipes their own tub. Today we refolded all the blankets, sheets and towels, and pulled out six Trader Joe's bags worth of stuff to donate to Goodwill. That was the hard part for me -- deciding what to part with. My mom was my objective perspective!

Have I mentioned that I really like order and organization? Even if I'm not so good at maintaining it!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Yes, you're at the right blog.

As cute as my old design was, it was almost 3 years old, and just not working for me anymore. I'm still awaiting a new design from the designer who did my first one, but until then, I'll be tinkering with this basic look. I kind of like the simplicity, honestly.

The cleaning fairy came!

Oh, my sweetest of mothers! After I spent much of the day cleaning out the closet (and only getting halfway done), my mother came over and helped me fold laundry while we watched Oprah. Then she held Baby for an hour when he woke up cranky from his nap so I could cook dinner.

And while UberDad, the boys and I rushed my oldest to his kung fu promotion, and then to Target for things I forgot the day before, my mother completely cleaned my kitchen --right down the to dirty floor I still hadn't gotten to.

It's so nice to have you back, Mom.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Time for a day at home

We had planned to go strawberry and blueberry picking at the local farm (about a 20 minute drive) today. I've only been trying to do that for, oh, four weeks. And again, I think I'm going to put it off one more day. We've been out of the house every morning this week, and I really want to get caught up on laundry and mop my dirty kitchen floor. Plus I bought some tubs yesterday to organize the linen closet, which is so overstuffed with towels, sheets, blankets, camping equipment, yarn, and who knows what else, that everything's falling off the shelves and I can barely close the doors.

UberDad's going out of town this weekend, and I'd hoped to spend some time at my mom's getting my first sewing lesson (while the boys continue to work on their knitting!). Which means I better get the house in order first, or it'll fall apart while I'm playing, and it's our turn to host dinner for our home improvement co-op after we work at the Swanlunds on Monday.

So, clean and organize today.... attempt berry picking tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reptiles and knitting

A quick photo post after a fun day seeing a reptile/animal show at the park with our homeschool group...

My oldest volunteered to have a tarantula put on his head.

And then freaked out just a little.

My middle son petting the albino python.

While the other children lined up and took turns petting the tortoise, my youngest wouldn't leave its side. He was totally enamoured.

More craft obsession by osmosis! The older boys suddenly decided they wanted to knit tonight. I taught my 5yo the knit stitch last summer, but we haven't worked on it in forever. Tonight my 7yo decided he wanted to learn -- NOW. So, we spent the evening getting him started, and helping his brother get the hang of it again.

Maybe I'll finally get a new project going, too...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Crafty goodness

Aha! You thought I was going to miss Day 4 on my 30-day blogging spree, didn't you? But the boys are finally asleep, and here I am.

We had a lovely day. Breakfast on the patio again. A visit with my parents after their weekend in Las Vegas. Storytime at the library with friends. Afternoon at home visiting with Mom some more, who's been gone in Germany for the last month, while Baby napped and the boys played outside. And little too much time putting off dinner to read crafty blogs...

Yes, I've been obsessing. I'll blame my friend Melinda, since she's been at the beach and isn't around to defend herself. :P It started when she sent me a link to SouleMama's blog. I asked for her new book, "The Creative Family," for my birthday. I love it. So many wonderful ideas, so enjoyably written.

Since then, I've found several more craft blogs I've been perusing for inspiration. And there's no end in sight. If you haven't noticed already, there's an endless supply of creative moms in the blogosphere. I'm only a wannabe, but you can stay and see what we make anyhow.

I don't have the craftiest of kids. Well, I say that, but the younger two love to paint, and all three are continuously creating new things with Legos. But traditional crafts? Well, I haven't been the best about making resources available.

And then, tonight, after two chapters of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," after baths and before-bed-snacks, and just before teeth brushing and kisses goodnight, my oldest suddenly noticed the bag of pipe cleaners on the homeschool resource shelf by the computer. I'd forgotten they were even there.

Bedtime was postponed, because suddenly they were twisting and turning, declaring bits of colored fuzz and wire "frog on a tree branch," "snail on a stick," and "moose antlers," and shoving their creations at my nose with pride.

Apparently craftiness can be encouraged in one's children simply by obsessing over other mama's craft blogs. Though I wouldn't really recommend that approach.

And, lest anyone be tempted by too many delicious craft ideas in the above links -- read this honest reality check post at HomeWork about the endless possibilities for overplanning fun for our kids. Because it's always more fun when they come up with stuff themselves. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Joyful Boys post

There's a new post up at Joyful Boys! Let me know if you'd like an invitation.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Because you're just dying to see the inside of my fridge.

Saturday is CSA day. That is, our morning routine revolves around picking up our produce and organic goods (eggs, oats and chicken, mainly) from the Abundant Harvest drop-off, then putting everything away and figuring out what I'm going to cook this week.

While UberDad took out the recycling and picked up our stuff, I cleaned and reorganized the fridge, which I'd ignored for too long. How I ended up with three tubs of vegan "buttery spread," I don't know. Nor do I know how long the hummus carton had been puffy, or when the cup of beaten eggs spilled over in the back of the fridge. Yuck.

But it looks so much better now, I just had to share. :)

Plus, we got cherries this week! And peaches and nectarines! So, my fridge is full of fruit that I really hope we can eat. Or else I'm going to have to make a cobbler or something. Yes, have to. Haven't you ever heard of a moral imperative to bake?! (Good thing I lost a couple pounds during that flu.) Apologies to my friends following Emily's Sugar Attack posts. Anyone have a recipe for sugar-free cobbler?

Turning the spinach into pesto won't be quite so guilt-ridden. But I'm not sure what to do with all the spring onions. I'm going to save the beets and potatoes to roast with a chicken next week - it's supposed to cool down to the 80s again soon. Phew!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Early summer fun.

(Um, yeah... I really did try to blog yesterday.)

I haven't met my pre-7 a.m. wake-up goal yet. But we did eat breakfast outside on the patio yesterday morning. We sat under the Chinese elm, where it was a nice 77 degrees or so in the shade, but already warmer in the sun than the boys wanted. We ate our oatmeal together, and then they played and I did some cleaning up.

Spider webs had already overtaken the patio furniture and playhouse, so Grouper helped me sweep and hose those off. I let the chickens out and watered the veggies, then went next door to my parents' mini-orchard to move the hose from the apple to the pear tree, while the big boys climbed the fig tree.

By 10 o'clock the boys wanted to go inside, so I stayed out just long enough to refill the chickens' water and get them back in the coop.

Supposedly it was 100 degrees out by lunchtime. Thankfully we had plans to go swimming and bbq with friends at 6, so I didn't have to cook dinner and we could lounge around the house (and I could fold laundry) all afternoon. (Despite my concern about our carbon footprint, I did turn on the A/C.) After I got Baby down for his nap, the big boys and I played a game together, read the latest issue of Your Big Backyard, and counted down the hours until we could go swimming.

By 3:30, though, they were ready to get back outside and play some more. And I still needed to clean the chicken coop and finish watering. So we lathered on the sunscreen and braved the heat, knowing we'd get to cool off in the Swanlunds' Grammy's pool soon.

It was SO nice getting to hang out with our friends last night after two weeks of being mostly isolated. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my bathing suit, so I didn't get to rinse off in the pool, but the boys had a great time freezing their bottoms off in the cold water in between gorges of watermelon and veggie dogs. Baby wasn't interested in the pool at all, but he happily played with the toys on the watertable for three hours.

It's a good life. :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's hot here.

The problem with not posting frequently is that I never know where to begin when I finally get a chance to catch up.

I'm thinking I should just commit to blogging every day for the next month, even if it's just something dumb, or only a single sentence. Since I do this mainly because I won't remember anything about my life if I don't, at least that'll be something. I know I'm not holding readers' attention at this point. I'm too inconsistent and my funny side seems to have disappeared along with most of the boys' underwear, Puffer's kung fu pants, and my ability to learn new computer software.

I don't remember what we were doing two weeks ago. Did I tell you we put up a tire swing for the boys? Oh, yes, I think I did. They've been playing on that, and jumping on the new trampoline that came a day too late for the birthday party. Haven't managed to take down the old one yet, so the chickens use it for afternoon shade while they're searching the yard for bugs.

Oh, and we got the (stomach) flu again. Baby first, then me, then the big boys. Puffer is the last one holding on a bit, but hopefully it'll be totally out of his system by the weekend. Man, it was a messy one. Knocked me out for three days. We spent a lovely Mother's Day trying to catch up on dishes and pick up all the toys I hadn't been able to bend over and pick up. And UberDad replaced our very leaky kitchen faucet, so that was my present. Oddly enough, I didn't mind. It's much prettier than the old one. I even cleaned the sink. (*sigh* I remember when I used to do that every day, ala FlyLady.)

Basically we spent the last week of really nice spring weather inside retching and stinking up the house. Isn't that lovely? And now that we're feeling better, and the garden needs weeding, and the fruit trees need thinning and pruning -- it's a friggin' 97 degrees outside. Fortunately I had plenty of laundry to do today while I waited for some late afternoon shade.

A lot of the bloggers I've been reading lately are just getting started on their planting, it's barely spring and the snow is finally melting. Here in central CA, summer has ARRIVED. My tomato plants are in bloom, my cilantro is doing FABULOUSLY, and even the pumpkin plants are blooming, which I'm not sure is good this early, but we'll see. The schoolkids have another two weeks of confinement, of course, but we've got the kiddie pool filled and are readjusting our daily routine around the heat.

My goal now is to drag myself out of bed before 7 a.m., so I can actually get some stuff done before I wilt. Despite growing up in this weather, I've never fully adjusted to it. Most summer vacations I spent lying on the sofa reading novels. I was not exactly an outdoorsy kid. Which is why some people who've known me a little too long sometimes look at me funny when I start talking about raising chickens, digging vegetable beds and pruning fruit trees. And then there's my plan to start canning...

Yes, I know people do this all the time, and I'm not starting some new trend. I know that despite my blog name, I'm not the crunchiest (or even the most "Christian," for that matter) mom around. Honestly, I would start a new blog with a different name, if I could just think of something I'll still like in another month.

Anyhow, I'm rambling, and you probably didn't expect to see a post here at all when you stopped by, so I'll spare you more babbling until tomorrow. (Be sure to leave me a comment to hold me accountable, okay?)
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