31 January 2016

Slow Down

Everyone resting up.
I woke up yesterday with big plans. The weather was going to be gorgeous, especially for mid-winter. I was hoping to chop and stack a little more wood that I hadn't gotten to before Henry was born, wanted to play outside with the girls, had a run scheduled, needed to push another round bale in for the horses and toyed with the idea of riding. So, I hopped out of bed, got my chores done and was on the way to the kitchen, carrying our big baby boy upstairs (turns out there is a risk of having colossal children, haha) when I didn't quite get my foot on the tread right and managed to tear my calf muscle with a nasty sounding pop.

Well, there went my plans.
Jack got me one of those extendo-grabby things so I can play with the girls without even getting off the couch!
After making sure I didn't land on Henry (which I didn't--a mother's protective instinct is amazing!), I did a personal inventory and made sure I wasn't dying. With Jack's help, I crawled back to bed, cried about my misfortune and got myself dressed so I could go to Urgent Care where they could tell me what I already knew: I was hurt and I'd have to keep off my feet for a while.
Thank goodness for darling, doting Jack and four fantastic children. Though an injury is never ideal (why couldn't it have been an arm???), the timing was somewhat reasonable. Jack has taken charge of running the household while I lay on the couch, about as useful as a sack of potatoes. He's been cooking, changing diapers, breaking up fights, drawing baths, getting the girls to do their chores and they've all been waiting on me hand and foot. Though he doesn't do it the way I would--Henry's been dressed backwards with the shoes on the wrong feet or the dishwasher hasn't been loaded the way I do--I am grateful to have a break so I can heal. On top of my wonderful family, many, many friends have offered to serve and have laughed with me about the ridiculous way in which I got hurt (why couldn't it have been a cool story about riding a horse instead of being a klutz on the stairs?). There are so many who are willing to keep hoein' and goin' for me when I can't.

In a round about and strange way, being injured reminds me that I am a lucky girl.
At least Henry's a happy boy! Anyone want a hug?
I already feel myself getting restless, but I have plans to work on those items on my list that I might otherwise be overlooked because I don't slow down often enough to do them. Perhaps I'll pen a card to a faraway friend, teach my daughters to cross stitch or finish editing the next novel.

Maybe this won't be as bad as I think.

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30 January 2016

Accomplished

All that's left!
Of all the things that could make me feel accomplished, having only a few inches of wasted trim after starting out with ten feet really makes me proud. Especially since there were multiple corners. Which means cutting lots of angles. On an electric miter saw. And I didn't lose any fingers.

It's the little things...

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28 January 2016

Sweet Potato Muffins

A muffin pan of deliciousness!
We had some leftover sweet potatoes that we needed to use up and gave these muffins a try. Like our zucchini bread, they were a hit with the kids, even knowing full well that they were made with veggies! We put a little sweetened oat mixture on top to make it special, but they're yummy without, too. Have extras? Just freeze them until you're ready to eat, thaw and you've got a super quick side.

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup oil
1 cup mashed, baked sweet potato
1 cup brown sugar plus 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup oats

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a muffin pan with liners. Mash the baked sweet potato until smooth/no large chunks. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sour cream, vanilla and brown sugar (save the 1/4 cup), until well combined. Add the sweet potato until incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients (save the oats, butter and extra 1/4 cup brown sugar for the top) and mix into the wet. Divide batter into the muffin tin. Stir together the oats, brown sugar and butter and sprinkle on top. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Enjoy!
Thanks to Will Cook for Smiles for the recipe inspiration!

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27 January 2016

Painting Buddies

Keepin' busy with toys and boxes from Christmas.
Every day, I try to do a little painting. Heaven knows, this big house needs it--from top to bottom. Consequently, the children have all become my painting buddies. Wherever I set up the ladder or crack open a can of paint, they're sure to be there, playing, watching, asking a million questions, occasionally at each other's throats, but mostly, keeping me in good company. An otherwise tedious task is kept unceasingly interesting.
Testing the new ladder.

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24 January 2016

Impression

Welcome to our perfect life. Rrrrright.
Sometimes, I think I give the wrong impression.

When I write about what project we're in the middle of or what animal or child did what funny/cute/intelligent act or what delicious meal we just ate, I may inadvertently make people think that everything at the farmstead is all sunshine and rainbows and happy, fluffy animals and cheerful, polite, helpful children.
A tree from our forest fell onto the road. Yay.
It's not.
Oh, Dancer. You fat, pushy mare...
(Just being authentic. That's the thing nowadays, isn't it?).

A lot of times, it's mud, poo, crying, messes and hard work.
The horses and I wondering why there's a lake in the pasture instead of green grass.
LOTS of mud.
That is a wheelbarrow full of soiled straw from the chickens.
LOTS of poo.
Like our great room floor? Abstract painted concrete.
LOTS of crying, messes and hard work.

Occasionally, I imagine what Noah must've thought as he was riding the waves with a boatful of animals--I doubt he loved every second of it and may have occasionally thought of pushing a few of them off the ship to keep his sanity (Hey, I know you felt, Noah). I am an animal lover at heart--always have been, and I'm assuming always will be, but sometimes they drive me bonkers. Like when I caught the dog clobbering a hen for the fun of it because she couldn't find her soccer ball and settled on the barred rock minding her own business in the backyard (Whoops--she apologized for that one). Or how the horses become nippy and greedy and pushy during the coldest months, when I'm not exactly excited about being outside either, hauling water over the frozen tundra or divvying up grain, only to have them shove me out of the way instead of saying thank you. The chickens who are so incredibly messy, it's almost impossible to believe a bird so small is capable of such mayhem and the rooster, who is sure he's doing his job and protecting the hens from children, spreads his neck feathers like he's a dilophosaurus right before he spurs an unsuspecting someone from behind. The cats? Let's just say their goal in life is to be the bane of our neighbor's existence by decimating the chipmunk population, then bringing the evidence of their slaughter to the back door, so when we walk outside, we're shocked just long enough that they sneak inside, choosing of all places to clean off after their bloody massacre, someone's pillow. And those are just our animals--don't get me started on the woodpeckers who systematically drilling holes in our house, the wasps that I'm sure are pure evil, the greedy foxes who eat ALL the chickens in one sitting, or the mice who welcome themselves into our kitchen to chew on the kids' crumbs and poop wherever they feel like it. So. Rude. And gross.
On the right, our beautiful new bathroom floor! On the left, the subflooring in our bedroom that we've been living with for three years! I dream of carpet...someday...
And that's just the animals. We haven't even gotten to the house. On top of trying to keep the day to day operations of homemaking running smoothly, there's always a project to paint or build or trim or demolish. That also means I'll probably also be sporting paint in my hair, dirty, broken nails, bumps and scratches and bruises from said projects. It means cleaning is pretty much futile (no one notices I dusted when the're staring at the pool of paint or stain I didn't bother cleaning because we'll be replacing the flooring) and a lot of income, instead of going to cruises and fine dining, goes to the local home improvement store or if it's been a particularly rough day, urgent care.
Everybody loves Henry!
Despite the challenges being a wife and mother with a gaggle of kids, a house to flip and a whole herd of ornery animals, I love it. I LOVE IT.
The girls taking a friend for a spin on Stoney.
Have you ever seen a child's face the first time they climb on a horse? I have. Many times. It brings back the feelings I had as a child whenever I was lucky enough to ride and I love it every time.

Keeping a garden is constant, backbreaking work--almost like having another child to take care of. But, like children, the reward is great. All year long, we enjoy the fruits of our labors and they are delicious.

The garden produce, not the children. Just to clarify.
Though it sometimes means extra baths or scratched knees or running out of carrots, the kids can go play outside without fear, to run and climb and play and feed the horses treats whenever they feel like it. We can light up a campfire whenever we feel like it and take hikes in our own yard, the moon and stars are never impeded and there is a never ending supply of nature to observe. Every time, it's a memorable experience.
Farm TV.
Though home improvements often leave us weary, tired and tests our patience and skill, we have already redeemed one house from nearly uninhabitable to quaint and cheerful and are now working on our second. It is satisfying to literally stand back and see our own handiwork. It makes rest more enjoyable and drums up a sense of satisfaction when projects are completed.
Thank goodness for a large mud room, where we can hang dry clothes when the dryer goes kaput.
All these experiences masterfully teach us too: patience when we have to redo a post a horse broke, gratitude for a large enough room to hang up the laundry when the dryer breaks, happiness despite possessions (or lack thereof), wonder at small miracles, like hens laying fresh eggs, joy in our children, satisfaction when overlooking the horses while washing dishes, perspective when we could (and have had to) be living in an apartment or in town, recognition of God's hand in all things. This is the life we've chosen and we love it.
Everyone getting along. So sweet.
Just living the dream.

(Most days).

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20 January 2016

Kitty Throne

A perfect perch as far as Hercules is concerned.
Don't bend over at our house: you may become a kitty throne.

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18 January 2016

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Somethin' a little different than a typical chocolate chip cookie
These are the cookies we enjoyed for our "Parisian" picnic to celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary. They're soft, chewy, peanut buttery and sweet...we'll definitely be making them again!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 325F. In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt together the butter and peanut butter. Add the sugars to the peanut butter mixture and stir. Let cool a few minutes before adding the egg and yolk (can place in the freezer for a few minutes to speed it up). Mix, and add the vanilla extract. Add the flour, oats and baking soda and stir. Fold in the chocolate and peanut butter chips. Place golf ball sized cookies on to a cookie sheet, about two inches apart. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, cool slightly and place on a cooling rack.
Enjoy!
Thanks to Averie Cooks for the recipe inspiration!

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14 January 2016

Number Nine

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and we celebrated number nine!
Married f-o-r-e-v-e-r! Hooray!
The day started out like most: I woke up early to get the fire started, trudged through sub-freezing temperatures to slop the animals, collected more firewood, slipped and knocked over the log cart and temporarily pinning myself underneath until I could push enough wood off myself to get up (that doesn't happen every day at least...), then headed inside to get everyone else ready for the day. It was a flurry of baths and diaper changes and preparing lunches and fixing hair. Jack went to work, we dropped off Evelyn at school and hours in between them coming home were as normal as always. Just livin' the dream!
Jack made many-a-girls' hearts pitter-patter with that 'fro.
I do admit to reminiscing whenever there's a special occasion, celebration or holiday (there's not a lot of brain power required when painting trim or cleaning a bathroom, so I've got time to ponder). We've only been married nine years, but Jack and I have known each other for about sixteen. He was a scrawny fifteen year old when we first crossed paths at church, were each others' first dates (though he was so embarrassed about hitting the same car twice while parking that he didn't talk to me for almost a year between our first and second date) and we grew together through the teenage years, until he was a scrawny high school senior with a very polarizing 'fro (it was a love/hate issue for EVERYONE).
My prom date.
We went to his senior prom together and had a fantastic time--I still have the cheesy photo taken of couples sitting on a shelf in our living room (Jack always did look good in a tux). I even managed to convince him it was time to tame his locks and we said goodbye to the 'fro, which doubled as a birthday present and second "official" date.
Look at those baby faces!
Then, we went our separate ways for two and a half years, which only made our hearts grow fonder. As missionaries, Jack lived in Mexico and I in Montreal and communicated only by letters, emails and the occasional package from each other. It was quite the adventure but when we both returned home (and in a twist of fate, he had to wait for me), we decided we weren't too weird for each other and were married three months later.

Hey, everyone saw it coming, and it worked out great. Obviously.
Always one for fun.
Not much has changed about Jack since we first met, but in nine years of closely observing him, I have become more and more struck by how incredible of a person he is. I honestly can't think of a time he's ever become flustered or overwhelmed (except maybe when he was playing Zelda on our old Super Nintendo and kept losing to one of the level monsters). One of his top priorities is to be a good husband and father and to help me feel like a successful mother and homemaker. He lets me take the lead when it comes to deciding how many children to have and never makes me feel like my current lack of monetary contribution to the marriage makes me any less valuable. In fact, he's constantly telling me what a wonderful job I'm doing, when it feels like all I've done all day is break up fights and change dirty diapers.
Evelyn's first carousel ride!
A lot of people think Jack is all solemn and serious, and he certainly knows when to be but he often is so easy going and lighthearted that he can make anyone laugh and any chore is made fun when he's in charge. He's a deep thinker, who after many hours of quietly pondering, always has wise, honest counsel to give. And speaking of honesty, Jack is exactly honest. Though women gush about being spoiled (and I'm one of them!), Jack's also pushes me to be my best--whether it's mentioning I should really caulk the ceiling trim when I ask his opinion and secretly hope he'll say it looks fine (even though he knows I hate caulking and working on the ceiling) or that yes, there is a character trait I need to improve upon. He doesn't hold back, and I'm grateful for that. Usually. But, he also is my biggest cheerleader. He is full of compliments too--in our many years of friendship and our relationship in it's many forms, he makes me feel beautiful and feminine, whether I'm rail thin or curvy or hugely pregnant and everything on the scale. Jack's also incredibly tenderhearted and a tear or two will slip from his eyes at the most unexpected times. Like watching movies. Interstellar? He choked up. Star Wars? Misty-eyed. Star Trek? Outright cried (maybe it's the combination of sci fi and a good plot? Whatever it is, it's endearing). And, of course, whenever he catches me looking at him, he still winks, like he's been doing since I first met him. Makes me feel like I'm reliving the best parts of being sixteen again.
Teaching the girls the meaning of work. We were building their rock wall, after all!
I'm not trying to claim he's perfect (I know he's the one wadding up his socks and leaving them two feet from the laundry chute) but, by golly, he's pretty close. He's a mischievous boy at heart who was never afraid of growing up and I can only hope I in some ways mirror and complement him.
Celebrating our anniversary is a family event--this year, a picnic in the great room next to a warm fire.
I sometimes envision us celebrating our winter wedding anniversary by sunning myself on a faraway beach, but for now (I've always told myself that I would for our tenth anniversary, but let's be realistic, I've got little kids to take care of! Maybe we'll shoot for the fifteenth...), we celebrate close to home because it's a family affair--we really do enjoy spending special moments together. Yesterday, Jack's gift to me was a cute little picnic basket, a simple, yummy dinner of cheeses, breads, berries, dips, cookies and sparkling grape juice and listening to corny Parisian accordion music, so we could all pretend we'd escaped to France (is that close enough to cross off my goals??). He always has a surprise up his sleeve.

My idea of celebrating.
Happy Number Nine to us!

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12 January 2016

The Unlucky One

While waiting for Evelyn to get off the bus, I walked out in our new winter wonderland to get the mail and saw this poor little girl frozen on the driveway. No doubt the bees are a little confused about what time of year it really is, after an unseasonably warm December. This bee was the unlucky one who was sent out to scout in the cold.

Poor girl.

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10 January 2016

Winter's Arrived!

Moseying over to visit the neighbors.
It was only a few days ago that we were outside, enjoying the warmer-than-normal weather by climbing the rock wall and visiting the horses...
Hi Stoney!
...but we should've known that winter can't be put off forever.
Everyone having a good time outside.
It had been a little too good to be true lately. The wood stove has been keeping us warm enough that the furnace hasn't even turned on for a few weeks, I can go outside with Henry without worrying if he'll freeze and the animals were all pretty content.
So glad I blanketed the horses before the storm.
But, after a wet Saturday, the temperature dropped and the mud and water quickly turned to ice and snow and overnight, everything was beautiful and white.

Goodbye warm weather! Winter's arrived!

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