Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gratituesday: I have bad pre-conference karma.

Okay, obviously I'm kidding. Just stay with me for a minute...

Three days before we were supposed to start driving to Oregon for the LIFE is Good unschooling conference last April, my littlest boy bounced himself off the couch onto the hardwood floor and cracked his skull.

It was ugly. Very scary. He was 10 months old at the time, and the guilt and worry were nauseating. After spending all day between doctor and lab appointments, we ended up in the ER until midnight waiting to find out what was going on underneath the enormous bump on my poor baby's head.

And hoping Child Protective Services wasn't going to show up to take him away from me.

Fortunately, it was nothing that warranted hospital admittance (or CPS), and my baby appears to be as just as brilliant as he might have been if I hadn't left him sitting on the couch while tying my 4yo's rollerskates.

We also didn't have to cancel our trip.

Unfortunately, several people insisted on calling him "Lumpy" for a long time afterward. The bump on the side of his head (which was simply protective fluid covering the hairline fracture) stayed that size for over a month.

So, what does this have to do with karma? Well, nothing. But when we walked outside this morning to discover that our car was missing from the driveway, it did make me wonder if someone was deliberately trying to keep us from another homeschooling conference.

Because we're supposed to leave for California Homeschool Network's 2008 Family Expo on Thursday. And we weren't planning to fly.

Having our car stolen isn't going to keep us home, however. It just slowed down my packing a bit this morning. We'll find a car to rent, trust our excellent neighbors with our chickens, cat, and the garden, and pray that the car will be found and God will be glorified even in this.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God... according to His purpose."
--Romans 8:28

We know we are blessed to have a car in the first place. (Actually, we had two, we just don't all fit in the second one.) And we have car insurance, so this will work out somehow, even if it's a little complicated along the way.

We have so much to be thankful for, despite the empty driveway. My baby's round head, for instance. The fact that my husband is on vacation and could make the necessary phone calls while I fed the kids breakfast.

The fact that we can actually afford to attend this conference right now, and that not even having our car stolen is going to stop us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BEFORE and AFTER: The bedroom closet.

This is what I accomplished yesterday (with my mom's help):

BEFORE: The messy closet we could barely get into:

BEFORE: My bed covered with all the clothes that needed sorting:

AFTER: The closet emptied and carpet removed, ready for Scott to install new hardwoord flooring:

AFTER: The bed made, after we went organized all the clothes.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Family camp weekend

Fresh mountain air, giant evergreen trees, cold stream water splashing over rocky falls into shallow wading pools...

Hide-and-go-seek, archery practice, tetherball, volleyball, and basketball...

Playing Rock Band, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, watching butterflies, finding caterpillars...

These were the pleasures of our church's annual Family Camp in the Sequioas this year. We're never ready for camp to end, but the weekend felt especially short this year because we had only a two-day weekend instead of our usual Labor Day extended camp.

We savored every moment.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Chore Wars

I was looking around my messy house this morning trying to think of what actually works for me that I could share. I'm sure there are things I take for granted, but I was feeling pretty much dysfunctional. Then I remembered -- Chore Wars!

In case you're new around here, my husband and our 7yo and 5yo boys have been playing World of Warcraft obsessively for the last year. Some brilliant mother (I'm assuming!) realized the potential for a similar fantasy character-based system for getting stuff done around the house!

I'd avoided reward-based systems for most things (you know us crazy radical unschoolers), but the boys actually seemed interested in this. So, of course, how could I deny them the pleasure of unloading the dishwasher for "eXperience Points" and pretend gold?

Now, it does take some discipline on my part to actually sit down and enter their points on occasion (like, immediately after each thing they do because they're bugging me about it). But, when I'm willing to do it, it definitely works!

We started using it in January, and haven't been completely consistent, but even so, it has helped created new habits and encouraged them to be more helpful and aware of all that Mommy does to keep our home running. They unload the dishwasher nearly every day, put away their own laundry, help pick up their baby brother's toys, take kitchen scraps to the chickens and the compost bin, dust (when I remember to ask!), fold laundry (when they feel like it), and work on their own room.

Go check out some more awesome tips at Rocks in My Dryer's Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Silly chicken.

Do you see the little bit of red on black inside the feed bucket? That would be Jackie Blackie looking for a private, cozy spot to lay an egg. Silly chicken!

We've been finding eggs everywhere but in the three $10 nesting boxes I installed last month. After discovering Jackie's latest spot, I put a pie tin over the top of the feed canister so she wouldn't try that again.

Mystery, our Rhode Island Red, started laying this week, too! And I think one of the Barred Rocks is close. The Buff Orpingtons are older than Mystery and the Rockettes (as we call them), but they might be the last to lay.

In other news... We picked the last of the peaches off my mom's second tree on Sunday, and finished off the last cobbler of the summer yesterday. I canned six jars of peaches, so we'll save those for wintertime, when we actually NEED the extra calories. Now I have to go on a diet so I can fit back into my summer clothes! Apparently I've been enjoying my own cooking a little too much lately.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Menu plan Monday?

P.S. No, I haven't planned my menu for the week, but it's probably going to look a lot like the last one!

Yummy pasta recipe

I made this tonight and the boys loved it. (Well, okay, my 2yo ate a few strands of pasta and two bites of carrot, but he doesn't count.) The tomatoes and basil were from our garden, of course. I spent all afternoon canning tomatoes, so I needed something quick for dinner. This was truly one of those "start the water boiling, and it's ready when the pasta's cooked" Giada-type recipes. And I made it up myself!

Spaghetti with shrimp and veggies in a white wine garlic sauce.

1 lb pasta
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4 in rounds and halves
2 summer squash, cut into 1/4 in rounds and halves
3 tomatoes, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 cups shrimp, peeled and deveined
handful of basil leaves, torn or sliced/shredded
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes (optional if the kiddos don't like it spicy)
Freshly grated parmesan

Start heating the pasta water. Peel and devein shrimp if needed. Cut up veggies. When water's fully boiling, add salt, and throw in the spaghetti. Stir until the boil returns. Heat skillet with olive oil and butter. Add onion. Stir. Add carrot. Add salt and pepper and stir for one minute. Add garlic. Stir. Add squash. Stir. Add tomatoes. Stir. Add wine and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Add shrimp, stir and cover. While shrimp is cooking, drain pasta. Add pasta to veggies when shrimp turns pink. Toss, top with basil and red pepper flakes, and toss again. Add parmesan at the table and serve immediately. Feeds 4-5.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Carol's kids

This is the kind of mother I would like to be. I have a long way to go.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Indoor Fun: Playdough recipe

Some places have rainy days. Some have snow days or storm days. Here in central California, we have "Bad Air Days." Most of the time, I don't worry about it too much, and we go out if we need to. But who wants to go out when it's 107 outside with 40 percent humidity, and the sunlight is orange from all the smoke in the sky? We can see all too clearly the far-reaching effects of all the recent fires around the state.

So, we watch more movies and read more books in July (and January, actually) than any other time of the year. Last week it was time to make some new playdough, too. I hadn't made any in months because of my mixer being out of sorts.

The bug parts came as a kit from Insectlore.com a few Christmases ago. I'm not sure if they still have them or not, but they have been a favorite around here for a long time.

Here's my recipe:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 packets favorite color of Koolaid
1 Tbs Cream of tartar
3 Tbs cooking oil
1 1/4 cups very hot water

Boil some water. Mix dry ingredients. Add oil. Add water. Mix until dough peels away from sides or is cool enough to knead by hand. Keeps for a month in a Ziploc if put away immediately after playing.

What's your favorite indoor activity to set up for the kids?

Monday, July 07, 2008

At work and play in the garden

It's supposed to be over 100 degrees all week, so we headed out back this morning to give everything a good soak, let the chickens graze in the shade, and see if Jackie had another egg for us. She didn't yet, so we watched her go in and out of the henhouse, listened to her scratch around in the bedding, and waited for that proud SQUAWK!

While the other chickens found their happy places in the shade...

...the boys built towers out of outdoor toys, and attempted to set a world record on longest swinging time. ("Has it been an hour yet?!")

I watered the vegetables, and harvested eggplant and tomatoes. LOTS and LOTS of tomatoes!

And finally, Jackie layed her morning egg!

The tomatoes in the bowl are from yesterday, the ones on the counter are all from this morning! Two dozen large and small Romas, and one round Italian heirloom. I have to figure out the name of it, because the stick is buried in the mud under the plants somewhere.

Scrambled eggs with salsa, anyone?

(Sorry no Menu Plan Monday today. You were right, of course, Mrs. Ballinger. The plan is a starting point, but it's no guarantee of what we'll end up eating! We ended up with enough leftovers that I have two day's menus left from last week.)

We have eggs!!

A few times in the last week, I'd heard Jackie Blackie squawking out in the chicken coop, and commented on how noisy she was. I knew it was her, because she's always been the noisiest of our seven chickens. Black Australorps have a tendency toward loudness, I've read at least once.

She's also our biggest pullet (young female chicken), and I knew she was close to beginning to lay. (We actually wondered if Jackie Blackie might end up being our only rooster because she was so big and noisy from the beginning!)

I put the nesting boxes in the coop a few weeks ago, and meant to stick some plastic Easter eggs in them to show the girls where to lay when they were ready. But I've been tired and busy this week, and while I checked the coop from the egg collecting door a couple of times, I didn't do a thorough search. Friends had stopped asking about eggs, for the most part, although I'd been telling everyone a month ago we should have some by the end of June.

Last night we had friends over for dinner, so we were out in the back, barbecuing and watching the kids swim, and letting the chickens out to forage. My oldest was checking the nesting boxes, when he noticed a tiny round brown thing on the other side of the coop under the sleeping perches. Our first egg!

I was so excited, I forgot for the moment that I was supposed to be heading inside to fix the veggies. And that I was wearing a white skirt and knit top -- not exactly attire for climbing into a chicken coop. Actually, I didn't care. And thankfully, my arms were long enough that I only had to go in from the waist up to reach in and collect, not just one, but EIGHT eggs!

Apparently, Jackie had been laying all week, and hid her little clutch of eggs in a spot under the window. The single egg we saw from the collecting door was separate from the clutch.

So, there we have it! At least one laying hen! I'm assuming they're all Jackie Blackie's because they're all the same pretty shade of coffee-with-cream brown, and the same sweet, medium size.

I'm in love.
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