26 December 2011

Had Ourselves A Merry Little Christmas

Jack and I are pretty fortunate (and equally cursed) that 98% of our families live in Lincoln, so when we come back for a holiday, we get to see just about everyone (That's also the curse--not being able to stay in one place too long because parties always overlap, causing us to move along to another's residence before the previous affair has ended).
The festivities started Christmas eve.  In the middle of last minute wrapping and gift making, an old neighbor and friend from our days on T street (or as the ghetto folk refer to it: T Town) called and asked us over.  It was by far the most eclectic holiday shindig I've ever attended.  Between us, we spoke English, Spanish, French, Ukrainian, Russian and Vietnamese, along with snippets from other dialects.  We couldn't stay long due to bedtime restrictions but it was certainly a memorable evening.
Fortunately, we had all recovered from ear infections, the stomach flu, fevers, pink eye and general lethargy (well, mostly).
With the girls tucked in bed, Santa's helpers placed packages under the tree and stuffed stockings and finished knitting an adorable sweater for Clay's friend, Lucy.  I humiliated Clay by making him model it to check the fit.  Not bad for my first dog sweater, I think.
The next 24 hours were filled with church, flurries of shredding wrapping paper, a few scuffs (nobody gets between my girls and new toys, not even their beloved cousins), deliriously tired children, great abdominal workouts via laughing and hearty portions of calories.

The girls were smothered with so much princess apparel and hodgepodge that I'm feeling the need to go play with bugs or get soil under our nails or something.
Not that there's anything wrong with pretty and pink, I just don't want them to become squealing girls afraid of getting dirty.
There are still a few get-togethers to go and luckily, despite the myriad of illnesses, we had ourselves a merry little Christmas.

23 December 2011

The Rehomesteaders' 2012 Goals

I know I'm jumping the gun a bit on goals for the new year, but I like being prepared.  While some are short term, most are certain to take a year or more so I'm anxious to start them as soon as possible.  I figure writing and posting them will help me be more organized, accountable and better able to track my progress.  After all, I do love lists.
The Rehomesteaders Goals

Personal (mostly just for fun!)

  • Donate blood
  • Donate breast milk
  • Sew a quilt
  • Have a year of food storage
  • Be able to do the splits....
  • Prepare a six generation family history chart

Home Improvements
  • (This list is certain to be added upon)
  • Complete kitchen
  • Repaint, hang trim, finish cabinets, seal tile, etc upstairs bathroom
  • Repaint, carpet, finish trim in master bedroom  Dare I Say It? 25 July 2012
  • Complete downstairs bathroom (hang drywall, putty, paint, finish cabinets and floor, etc)
  • Putty, sand, paint, trim and carpet downstairs bedroom Oh yeah! 16 Oct 2012 Bunk Bed Room
  • Complete front entry
  • Complete living room  One of my favorite spaces! The Living Room 21 Nov 2012
  • Complete back entry
  • Complete stairwell
  • Hang gutters
  • Fix stairs to cellar and remove cellar door
  • Put in central air Thank goodness (this was the summer to do it!) Chicken Claws and Kitty Paws 27 June 2012
  • Build shutters Yay! 11 Oct 2012 Shutter Factory
  • When the time comes, sell the house (hopefully for a profit!)

Farm Life
  • Get a goat! Well, we got two and they've already taught us a lot 12 Aug 2012 A Lesson In Faith
  • Start a honey beehive
  • Teach Stoney and Dancer to pull a cart or carriage
  • Get Kune Kune pigs
  • Breed Dancer
  • Learn how to make cheese

Health, Fitness and Sports
  • Run a 5k
  • Run a 10k
  • Run a half marathon
  • Run a full marathon
  • Complete a triathlon
  • Take Dancer to a show
  • Compete in a dressage show
  • Compete in a jumping show (either show jumping or hunter classes)
  • Compete in a two day horse trial
  • Compete in a three day horse trial
  • Compete internationally (a girl can always dream...)

  • Pay off credit cards
  • Pay off Rachael's student loans
  • Pay off Jack's student loans
  • Build a $1000 emergency fund
  • Build a one month emergency fund
  • Build a six month emergency fund
  • Pay off mortgage
  • Pay for next vehicle with cash

  • Reach 10,000 blog reads Thank you all! 4 April 2012 A Milestone!
  • Reach 25,000 blog reads Reached September 2012
  • Reach 50,000 blog reads
  • Guest blog
  • Have a guest blogger
  • Interview an author for a blog post Yay! Dustin Kuhlman's WarnedShayla Danielson 12 Sept 2012
  • Publish an article online or in a magazine
  • Write a book proposal for The Rehomesteaders Memoir
  • Publish The Rehomesteaders Memoir
  • Write a children's picture book
  • Publish a children's picture book
  • Write a young reader chapter book
  • Publish a young reader chapter book
  • Write a young adult novel
  • Publish a young adult novel
  • Write an adult fiction novel
  • Publish an adult fiction novel
This list will is lofty and ambitious and will therefore be ongoing and ever changing.  If you have suggestions, encouragement or want to let me know I'm crazy, speak up!

22 December 2011

Under The Mulberry Tree

Since coming back to Lincoln, I've been trying to emotionally prepare myself for the imminent demise of my greyhound, Clay.  All of it was useless when we received the crushing news that our sweet grey tabby, RJ, was found dead at home.

His caretaker said there were no signs of trauma so the cause of his death is questionable at best: Was he struck by a car?  Did he get into rat poison?  Did a visitor's car leak antifreeze?  It is a mystery that I'll ponder for a long while.  What is most tragic is that he was a youngster--barely into the prime of his life. I've already wept until I had a headache and tears still rim my eyelids unexpectedly when I think about him.  Even my brother-in-law, who is deathly allergic to cats, affirmed that RJ was admirable even to people not fond of kitties.  Though I worry about his siblings and have wondered what life would be like without my darling felines should they all unexpectedly find their end, I have been lucky so far to have such affectionate pets.

As I've mentioned before, animals fill some very particular roles for me from entertainment to rodent control to free and very effective therapy.  He'll be buried under one of our mulberry trees, along side Magnus' twin brother, Cardigan.  My number one mole catcher will be sorely missed but we're happy to have had him and enjoyed his company as long as we did.

The Silver Lining

Happy Birthday to me!  There's my wonderful kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Maas.
Anyone who has moved knows it can be a stressful, sleep-depriving, anxious experience, doubled when children and/or pets are involved.  I must have been begging for an ulcer with our last move.  We survived, but it was tense.

The few days following, I felt a bit off.  I chalked it up to the flurry of activity we'd been experiencing but by Tuesday, the real problem was evident: a double ear infection.  I'll spare the details of my eardrums going from mildly bothersome to painfully throbbing and suffice it to say, I found myself with in the urgent care clinic with my mother.

I asked how long it was going to take and the receptionist got an apologetic look on her face.  "An hour or more."  I nodded and proceeded to bawl my way back to my chair.  I kept thinking I might as well just jab my eardrum with my mom's knitting needle--at least then the pressure would be relieved and I could go home and sleep away the torturous pain.

Half an hour later, they rolled one of the patients out that was taking longer than usual, keeping the rest of us waiting.  I'd know her laugh anywhere:  Mrs. Maas, my fabulous kindergarten teacher.
Not many teachers bring ponies, chickens, sheep, and rabbits for their classes to enjoy, but Mrs. Maas did!
I suspect most people don't remember their kindergarten teacher but 20+ years later, she is still one of my favorite people and she made me feel like I was one of hers.  It turns out she was chopping wood and had stumbled and broken a foot.  True to her nature, she was laughing about the whole thing which made me momentarily forget my own agony.

We chatted briefly and exchanged quick family histories, reviewing things like how many children and grandchildren we had and what we had been doing the past few years since we last saw one another.
One of our annual family outings to the Maas farm where at least once a year, my craving for horses was satiated.
My turn came around at the clinic and they prescribed heavenly drops to dull the rhythmic pain.  My eardrum still ended up rupturing so now I have a constant ringing that will last a few weeks.  It prevents me from hearing properly so I feel like an old woman, yelling, "What?  What did you say?" to everyone.  Pink eye made another appearance and two teeth are simultaneously pushing through Claire's gums so sleep is a fleeting luxury.  Though it wasn't the ideal way to bump into her, Mrs. Maas was the silver lining to an otherwise galling evening.

21 December 2011

Until Then

We got our first dog, Andy, when I was three.  I don't remember him as a puppy but I don't remember not having him around.  Honestly, who could say no to a sweet face like that?
He stuck around until I was in middle school when his ailments finally caught up with him.  It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to him.
Clay's racing tattoos
Clay didn't come along until I was well into high school.  We didn't get the pleasure of knowing him as a puppy because he was raised to race.  After an unsuccessful career, he was sent to be a part of an inmate program in which each dog was assigned to a prisoner who was responsible for teaching their greyhound some basic house manners.  Clay, like all race dogs, had lived his life in a kennel.  His inmate was in charge of teaching him to potty outside, sit, stay, lay under the table at mealtime, speak on command and walk on a leash, among other things.
When Clay joined our clan, we received a letter from his previous caretaker, along with a denim coat he'd stitched himself out of old jeans.  The hardened biker that trained Clay cried when he was adopted.  Clay is that special.
Clay is still in good spirits though his cancer is starting to catch up to him.  His lymph nodes have swollen and he has some mild edema under his jowls, so much so that he's starting not to look like himself.  Still, he gulps down his food and races around the backyard, then comes in and sleeps on his chair.
One of my defining characteristics is my love of animals.  I've always been intrigued by them and am forever enjoying their companionship.  While no animal replaces any human relationship I've had, they all fulfill a specific and important role for me.  When the time comes, Clay will be sorely missed.  Until then, we just keep growing more attached to our sweet dog.

19 December 2011

The Magic Of Orange Peels

There isn't a spot in my mom's house that she doesn't clean, disinfect, tidy or otherwise sanitize.  The sink drain is no exception.  Sometimes, it can be the source of unpleasant odors but there's only so far you can reach in with a scrub brush.
If you've got a garbage disposal in working order, you're in luck.  The next time you eat an orange, you can ward off scurvy and give your sink a light citrus scent.  Toss the peel down the drain and run the disposal with hot water for about thirty seconds.  It'll be one less mystery smell to rid from your house using an au naturel source.

Keep Your Extension Cords Connected

I can't tell you how many times I've run several extension cords together, out to an electric tool or the heater in the horse's water tank only to discover that I had no power.  99% of the time it was because my cords came unplugged (the other 1% was that one of my cords was actually broken or that too many things were running off of one breaker and it'd end up tripping.  Grrr!).  Annoying to say the least until someone showed me an ingenious little trick to keep the cords plugged together, no matter how hard I tug on them.

Cross the two ends of the cords over one another . . .
. . . twist around again . . .
. . . loop and plug together.
Simple as that!

18 December 2011


Yesterday was unprecedented.  We began the beginning stages of Jack's exciting internship with SpaceX and while it was chaotic and mildly (okay, extremely) stressful, I am happy to say, we survived!

Of course both sets of parents and most siblings have come to visit for various reasons: to help with home repairs and improvements, to meet new grandbabies, to bring Stoney to his new home.  It was a rare treat, however, to have both sides of the family there at once.  Even some dedicated friends stopped by to help and wish us well, vocally disapproving of our leaving them.
They helped us pack, clean and load up our vehicles so we could spend the Christmas holiday together.  I know I sometimes grumble about forever feeling like a student's wife but one of the perks is the vacation time.  There's no boss or company counting Jack's vacation hours when he takes off for a holiday.  We get to spend almost two weeks of bliss with our families before we abandon them for five months.  I'm sure that's how they feel anyway.

I snapped at my mom frequently yesterday but she always had a wisecrack comeback.  She did raise me after all.  I know she'll forgive me with an apology, a hug, cleaning out her cat's litter boxes a few dozen times and expertly wrapping all of her Christmas gifts.  It's a just sentence.
With all of our things loaded, we hurried to beat the sunset to Lincoln even though we knew we were destined fail.  The horses were the last to step on the trailer.  Stoney leaped on--he enjoys a good, fast ride down the interstate but Dancer was stubbornly hesitant.  After wrapping a rope around her hindquarters, calling her a mule and pushing her with a strong shove, she got on.  Thank goodness she finds comfort in Stoney's presence, otherwise her ride would have been completely unenjoyably.

If you've ever seen or watched Black Beauty, you know the horses are visibly upset when someone they have been pastured with leaves.  It's not an anthropomorphism in the least.  The mares left behind galloped to the end of the field and whinnied their hearts out while Stoney and Dancer cried from the trailer.  Of all sad events of the day, that broke my heart the most.

We caravaned back to Nebraska, occasionally breaking for diaper changes, fuel or dinner.  Despite hauling over a ton of horse and two truckloads of our earthly possessions, we made good time.  The horses were turned out on my in-law's pasture and immediately forgot their worries when they realized how much green grass is there for them.  The girls got a bath and tuckered out without much resistance because they were sapped of energy while my headache dissipated thanks to a warm shower and dinner.

I haven't cried yet but I'm guessing it will happen sooner or later.  Either way, the whole thing was destined to produce tears, had Jack left to intern while we stayed to tend the farm or the girls and I joining him and therefore leaving behind our home and pets.  It was a tough, prayerful decision but a family being together is just good, common sense.  For me, my family is the cornerstone of home.

16 December 2011

What Am I Doing?

It's finally hitting:  today is our last full day here for almost six months and honestly, it's not sitting well with me.

"What am I doing?!" keeps popping into my head.  I'm not opposed to traveling or seeing new places but the thought of giving up my home and livestock to be a displaced vagabond is unnerving.  We're taking only essentials so luxuries like couches, dressers and a dining table are all out.  They won't fit in the truck so they're staying here for our rental family.  It's hard to make a place feel like a home without some of our belongings.  I have no doubt we'll find temporary replacements though through the generosity of others.

I am having the same sentiments I had when I left to serve an 18 month mission for my church.  It was overwhelming and scary at the commencement but then I remember how eventually, Montreal felt familiar and comfortable.  It was a great adventure that helped me learn and stretch in ways I never could had I not been transplanted.

We'll be back before we know it.  Things here have miraculously fallen into place and life will continue on wherever we are.  There will be countryside to explore, sunsets to see, escapades to experience and season us and people to meet.  When I think of it, it seems more and more like an adventure accompanied by a great story, patiently waiting to be told.

14 December 2011

One Giant Leap

At the end of October, I started hearing people complaining about the perpetually nice weather.  Seriously?  What was there to whine about?  The trees were aglow with fiery leaves and the mornings were crisp, warming up quickly with the rising sun.  I suppose some people like a gloomy, sulky fall days to stroll around in their bulky sweaters and boots.  Don't get me wrong--I do too.  However, I couldn't have been more grateful for a beautifully tepid season than this past one.
So much of the work I'd been doing since returning from our out-of-town internship were outdoor jobs.  I finally decided to dig in and take care of all of the house's black eyes, as my mother cleverly called them (when replacing the windows, Jack smeared tar around them as an effective means of weatherproofing).
By the third week in October, I started gingerly pulling siding off the west.  I still had a good portion of the east to do, but I was tired of clinging on a ladder and decided to give my wobbly  legs a break and work from the ground a while.
Being grounded only lasted a day before the height of the siding required me to drag over the ladder.  I really started getting the hang of vinyl siding and I was surprised how fast it went.
What took me weeks on the other side merely took a few days on the other because I finally got the hang of siding.

The only setback I suffered was on a particularly drafty day.  I clung to the fiberglass ladder for dear life while it swayed with the wind.  My desire to make progress trumped my fear and I continued to press on.
I made it to the top window peering from Evelyn's room when I needed to cut a piece of trim.  I put up one, went back down to get another and with a blast of wind, the giant ladder slid down into the trim, splintering it to bits.
I knew I couldn't trust ladders.  But, being mad at inanimate objects only gets me so far so I tried to be forgiving.  At least the window wasn't shattered.
The peak of the siding proved incredibly daunting.  I didn't have the  nerve to do it on the east side so I sweetly asked Jack to do it for me.  Thankfully, he conceded.
That sunny afternoon, however, he was nowhere to be found.  He was in class and with the girls sleeping soundly, I couldn't leave one piece unfinished because I was afraid.
I think the last section took me three times as long as any lower piece.  Not only was it high up, it was also at an angle that made it difficult to swing a hammer comfortably.  I got to know that peak better than what I wanted.
It's surreal to think that I was the one atop the ladder, especially with my history of crying when I gain too much altitude.  I'm just glad the ladders and I are grounded again and that my fear paid off.  And now, the house is one giant leap closer to being finished!

Today, We Were In Washington

The weather this late in autumn has been bizarre to say the least.  Last week we had a cold snap that came on so quick and was so ferocious that it froze our water spigot and the ground solid overnight.  The horses were grumpy, the cats huddled by the door begging to come in, and the sheep couldn't care less.
When I woke up, it was twenty degrees warmer than it should be in the middle of December and the slow, steady rain was actually warm.  It made an awful mess of mud but I was happy that the horses weren't shivering when I threw them hay, although they were already drenched to the bone.  All that water thawed the mushy soil enough that I hurried and planted a few trees that have been waiting patiently to have their roots buried.

Today, it was like we were in Washington.  The humid rain produced a thick fog that wasn't about to budge, raindrops clung to the blackberry's dormant tangle of branches and the lichen on the trees was vividly verdant against the dark, soaked bark.

I've never actually been to the state of Washington but I imagine the clime was a pretty close replica.  We didn't even have to go anywhere.


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