December 2012


After a torturous month of waiting, the children were so excited that Christmas Day has finally arrived!  As has become tradition, we gathered around the tree after dinner on Christmas eve, enjoyed some family time, and opened one little gift each.  This morning, we got up at the crack of dawn, thoroughly enjoyed torturing the kiddos for a few more minutes as we made them wait upstairs while we did a few things, and then let everyone make their way downstairs to the tree.  As is tradition for us, we started with Daddy reading the Christmas story out of the Bible, so we can remember the true meaning and point of celebrating on this day.  Then, we set Uncle D up on Skype so he could be a part of our Christmas.  He currently lives in Korea teach English and serving as a missionary, so the kids only really get to see him on Skype.  Finally, we moved on to the gifts.

Of course, I didn’t get photos of everything, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  S made me a homemade cutting board out of Red Oak, to replace my 3 that are all falling apart.  He also gave me a much-needed external hard-drive for the computer.   I gave him a much-needed cordless drill and impact driver set–something we will no doubt need around the farm.

The children enjoyed their gifts as well.  M and S are both old enough and earn enough that we expect them to buy a gift that costs at least $10 for one of their siblings.  This year, they both chose gifts that could be shared by several siblings, which we found very thoughtful.  S actually went above and beyond, and spent a bit more money than we required.  In fact, when we were at the store buying, an associate asked him why he was buying a gift for himself when it was almost Christmas.  He tried to politely explain that he was buying for his brothers, but it was clear the associate didn’t believe him.  I found it sad that she couldn’t conceive of a child using his own money to buy something for someone else.  Oh well. In addition, they both handmade gifts for almost everyone else in the family that they didn’t buy for.  Those consisted of miscellaneous crafts, colorings, or cards, but all were very thoughtful and appreciated nonetheless.

N opening a gift from M

N opening a gift from M

M opening her new cowgirl costume set.  She loves to play dress-up!

M opening her new cowgirl costume set. She loves to play dress-up!

M trying on her costume.  Daddy actually bought it on the small side so R could grow into quickly, and M has another one, a princess dress, that's bigger.  I just didn't get a photo of that one.

M trying on her costume. Daddy actually bought it on the small side so R could grow into quickly, and M has another one, a princess dress, that’s bigger. I just didn’t get a photo of that one.

M opening a home-made gift from M.

M opening a home-made gift from M.

Even Will got a gift.  His one passion in life is playing Frisbee every evening with Dad.  We buy the light-up Frisbee's since they often have to play at night.

Even Will got a gift. His one passion in life is playing Frisbee every evening with Dad. We buy the light-up Frisbee’s since they often have to play at night.

We saved the best and biggest for last–a Grand Finale of sorts this year.

I tried to capture their faces as they walked into the room where the BIG gifts were hidden.

I tried to capture their faces as they walked into the room where the BIG gifts were hidden.

R got a new tricycle.  We had a nice little red one, but Daddy accidentally ran over it with the van this past summer.  OOPS!

R got a new tricycle. We had a nice little red one, but Daddy accidentally ran over it with the van this past summer. OOPS!

Most kids eventually wish for a kitten, puppy, or pony.  Mine have wanted a pet bird for several years.  Thanks to Craigslist, I found this awesome, like-new, heavy-duty bird cage for a STEAL.

Most kids eventually wish for a kitten, puppy, or pony. Mine have wanted a pet bird for several years. Thanks to Craigslist, I found this awesome, like-new, heavy-duty bird cage for a STEAL.

Last, but not least, also thanks to Craigslist, we found two, name-brand sleds in like-new condition, but for both, we paid half the price we would have paid for one brand new.

Last, but not least, also thanks to Craigslist, we found two, name-brand sleds in like-new condition, but for both, we paid half the price we would have paid for one brand new.

The big gifts this year was kind of a new thing.  Hopefully the kiddos don’t come to expect it.  We have been wanting to get some really good sleds for a couple years now, but the good ones are just too expensive.  I found a sled advertised on Craigslist for a great price, and even though we wanted two, S figured he’d go look at it.  When he arrived, not only was it EXACTLY what he was wanting quality-wise, but the guy had TWO he was selling!  I love the way God answers prayers, sometimes before we even ask!

As far as the cage, I’m sure buying such a monstrosity right before a big move wasn’t my brightest moment, but I totally couldn’t pass up the price.  I got it for about the same price as a new, small parakeet cage because the guy just wanted to get rid of it (memories of an old girlfriend apparently).  In any case, one of our hold-ups on letting the kids get a pet bird is that we hate to see any animal tightly confined.  We just didn’t want to see a bird confined to a tiny little cage.  When I saw this, I pictured a smaller-sized bird with so much more room to flap his wings and have lots of room to play–and eventually even a buddy or two to play with.  The top of the cage opens, and we can add a perch (S has to cut several) to give him a play area outside the cage.

As a side note, I could use a little help….We have decided to use the cage/bird as a great homeschool supplementary exercise, as well as another lesson in responsibility.  We gave the cage to the kids this morning, but explained that we can’t get the bird until after we move.  They are responsible for researching domesticated pet birds (their first research project), agreeing to the final decision, saving the money to buy what they want, and using their money and time to care for the bird.  We’ll see how it works out.  In the mean time, if any of you happen to know someone in the mid-west area who breeds birds (I’m thinking cockatiel, lovebird, or other small parrot; any smaller  will be too small for the bars on the cage, and any bigger will be too big for the kids to handle) and raises them to be hand-tame and friendly, please pass on my blog info, or let me know who they are.  I have no idea where we will be able to find a bird the kids can afford.  We will be praying about this, and hoping to find someone who might be interested in helping us to fulfill our children’s wish.  JR, in particular, has more than proven to be responsible caring for his bunnies, so this seems the next natural step.  As an FYI, they would love a type of bird capable of whistling and talking, but it definitely isn’t a requirement.  They will be looking to buy starting in June of 2013 (about 6 months from now).  Any help would be greatly appreciated, and if it makes the seller feel any better, of course I will be looking over their shoulders at all times as they learn!!  I had a few pet birds in the past (mostly cockatiels and parakeets), and really enjoyed them.  Now that S is retiring, we are finally settling down somewhere long enough to enjoy a bird with a long life.  This will be fun for me getting back into birds, and I have no doubt the kids will really enjoy this!

Oh, the aftermath of Christmas morning...

Oh, the aftermath of Christmas morning…

I promised a post about a surprise I planned for S during his Thanksgiving trip to  Red Gate, so here goes…

Prior to S leaving, I arranged with a friend to come do some tile work for us.  It wasn’t a big job, only about 80 square feet, but it was enough that it was a real burden on S.  We didn’t have any of the tools for tile work, and we didn’t have a whole lot of time to focus on such a project.

The same day I dropped S at the airport, the remaining 4 children and I went to Home Depot to pick up the list of supplies my friend had sent me.  That evening, I planted the kids down in front of Netflix, and I learned how to rip out carpet.  I then cleaned the concrete floor as best I could, and finally painted it with a sealant to fill the cracks and seal all pores (it was a basement room).

DSCF1293

The next morning, I baked a triple batch of muffins, and not just one friend came, but 5!  All had done a good bit of tile work in the past, so half started ripping off the trim that was in the way, while the other half started laying out tile, measuring, and coming up with a plan for a more complicated part of the project.

Friends measuring the tile.

Friends measuring the tile and laying it over my beautiful red concrete sealant.

By the time they left that evening, all the tiles were cut, spaced, and mortered to the concrete, and we had a good start on the more complicated part. Three days later, the one friend and his wife returned, and with some help from A, he grouted all the tile while we women fellowshipped and let our girls spend some time playing together.

A helping with the tile cutting.  (Actually, our pro convinced A he needed him to draw a plan on a scrap piece of lumber while the pro cut the tile....but don't tell A!!)

A helping with the tile cutting. (Actually, our pro convinced A he needed him to draw a plan on a scrap piece of lumber while the pro cut the tile….but don’t tell A!!)

A helping nail-gun some trim work around the hearth.  He really did nail, but only with LOTS of help!

A helping nail-gun some trim work around the hearth. He really did nail, but only with LOTS of help!

Later that week, I cleaned the tile, sealed the grout, and replaced the trim work.  My friend and his wife came back one more time to do what they could on the more complicated hearth portion.  That afternoon, I took the trim work he had created, sanded it, stained and sealed it, and temporarily attached it to the hearth, just so S could see the “look” we were going for. Then, time was up.  The next morning, I picked my guys up at the airport.

I didn’t say a word to S, but he walked in and noticed immediately!  He LOVED it! He isn’t very emotional normally, so I’m pretty sure his reaction was sincere.  He will soon finish up the final stage of that last, unfinished area (mainly just grout and sealant), and we’ll call it done.

The hearth, still needing a bit of grout and sealant, but otherwise finished.

The hearth, still needing a bit of grout and sealant, but otherwise finished.

The finished mudroom.  SOOOO MUCH BETTER!!

The finished mudroom. SOOOO MUCH BETTER!!

Do you ever have “one of those days?”  Particularly as a parent?  You know, the kind of day where you are thankful for your children, but you can’t quite remember why they are considered a blessing?  Yeah, that was my day today, as I continually reminded myself how I couldn’t possibly live without them.  However, the day was supported on each end by some really cool events!

It all started about 48 hours ago, when S asked me to check his e-mail for something.  One seemed a typical phishing e-mail–the type that tries to get you to click a link and get your personal info.  It said we had a check they were trying to send us, but they needed to confirm info.  I almost deleted it, but then noticed that the e-mail did NOT contain a link to click, but did contain a good bit of personal info about us already, which got my attention and made me nervous.  The signature line included the name and contact information for someone supposedly from the Attorney General’s Office of CO.  Rather than responding directly to the e-mail, I decided to investigate.  I googled the CO AG’s office, called that number, spoke to the operator, and asked her if a person by the name listed in our e-mail worked there.  They did, so I left a message on their voicemail.  She called a couple hours later, and turns out it was totally legit!  Two years ago, a debt collector trying to find someone else, called our house at 5:30 in the morning, waking us up, and putting S in a REALLY bad mood.  Later that day, he filed a complaint with the AG’s office per CO instructions.  We never heard another word about it, and totally forgot about it until this person reminded me.  Apparently, a few others had done the same, and the AG began an investigation.  Recently, the investigation was closed, and the debt collection company was fined a significant sum for breaking CO laws regarding when and who they were allowed to call.  Now, the AG office was trying to track down the “victims” of those calls, and send them their portion of the fines.  Now, we are expecting a nice, unexpected Christmas bonus!!

Then, yesterday morning started out pretty typical, but after breakfast, R began vomiting.  My day’s plans were shot, though I rather enjoyed spending a few hours just laying on the couch with her, bucket handy of course.  She slept a few hours, then seemed to improve around lunch time.  I kept her on the BRAT diet for most of the day until I was confident she would keep food down.

First thing this morning my little “biggest” rebel, N, who just can’t seem to resist any sort of temptation, snuck a lollipop, gobbled it up, and when I caught him, he flat out lied about it.  Of course, the “Very Berry” flavored breath was a dead give-away.  As a part of his discipline, I told him he would not be allowed any yummy treats that we were making.  Later, the other kids and I made Monkey Bread, and I specifically instructed N not to touch it, and had a discussion with him to ensure he understood what he had done wrong.  We fed him a non-sweet snack to at least help him not be hungry.  Yet, no sooner did I turn my back, he snuck into the kitchen, and ate the treat.  Let’s just say that was his last fun moment of the day, as it got REALLY boring after that.

After my lecture to N, I stood up and turned around to find R drinking out of the dog bowl.

Shortly after, JR reported to me (for the second day in a row) that one of his school books was lost.  I threatened him with consequences if he didn’t find it.  He eventually found it, but only after half-emptying his school bookshelf all over the floor, crying about it a bit, and insisting it had to be his brothers that misplaced it (it wasn’t).  Then, he had trouble with his math, and his entire school day took him over 9 hours with a few breaks in the middle (it should take 3-4).  That was followed by an incredibly sore throat that left him unable to eat dinner or speak this evening.

M and A have both suffered a bit of discipline over the last two days due to their seeming inability to listen and follow instruction of late.  She was better today, but still had her fair share of arguments with her brothers.  A and N have both begun whining a lot, which drives me batty.  “Talk like a big boy” has become a common phrase around this house.

As if that wasn’t enough, R, who has been potty training for the last 2 weeks (and doing extremely well), came into the room where I was to see what I was doing.  A sudden and unexpected bought of diarrhea hit her, and the next thing I knew, I had stinky mush on my carpet.  Got that cleaned up, took a deep breath, and said, “I think I can, I think I can….”

Nap time finally arrived, and I got online to do some Christmas shopping.  Shopping for the children when the children haven’t exactly been on their best behavior can be a good thing, actually.  I have a feeling it SAVED me quite a bit of money!  I did however find a great gift on Craigslist.  I contacted S and he arranged to pick the gift up on his way home.  We really needed two, but one would suffice for now.  He arrived at the persons house, only to find out that they had TWO!!  For slightly less than retail price for one, we got TWO awesome gifts for the kids this winter!

S got home, took over the kiddos before my head exploded, and I went and cooked dinner.  I read a book to the children for a little while, we ate dinner, and then S put the kids to bed while I went for a jog.  I can’t even remember the last time I did that!!!  I think it was about the time the number of children outgrew the number of seats in the jogging stroller!  Yeah, I really needed to blow off some steam so I could focus on hubby for once today!!

Oh, this is my life.  The good, the bad, the exhilirating, the exhausting, and the downright ugly.  I guess I need days like this sometimes to keep me humble and remind me that I am NOTHING without Christ.  So, despite days like this, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

As is becoming typical for us, we have been busy.  I didn’t even realize it’s been almost a month again since I blogged.  I have seriously considered giving it up, as all the people I originally began blogging for (family) rarely if ever read it.  Then, a night like tonight rolls around and I get a hankering to sit down and blog about our happenings, the biggest of which lately was our Thanksgiving.

It all started about 9 months ago, after I bought my plane ticket to Red Gate.  JR was very upset that I wasn’t taking him along.  So, I half jokingly told my 7-year-old, “Plane tickets are expensive.  If you want to fly, then earn some money and buy your own!”  I have since learned to never challenge JR when it comes to his finances.  He asked how he would go about saving the amount he needed, so we sat down and discussed how many extra, money-earning chores he would have to do, and how many rabbits he would have to sell to make the needed money.  It was amazing how many extra chores were suddenly being accomplished.   When his dad saw how serious he was, S told him he would meet him dollar for dollar, meaning he only had to earn about $150 (after tithes and required gifts savings).  I don’t think that child spent a single cent for the next 4 months, but he reached his goal.  The next planned trip was over Thanksgiving holiday, when S was scheduled to go work on animal-related projects in preparation for our move.  JR was going to get to tag along.

As the date approached, JR and S were looking forward to a week at the farm, together, doing manly work and having a bit of relaxing fun.  I, on the other hand, admit I was a bit nervous.  I have actually never been home alone with the 4 younger children for any extended period of time.  I knew I was capable physically, but mentally, trying to deal with A and N’s issues and antics can be absolutely exhausting.  I felt like this was going to be a good trial period for me, before I have a longer period next year.  I also had a surprise planned for S which I will post about tomorrow.

The guys really enjoyed their farm trip.  The #1 priority was to get a chicken coop built.  We will be hauling about 10 of our layers back with us in the hopes they won’t go into molt and will supply us with eggs until we can raise a new batch.  Once we arrive though, we have to have a home to put them in when we unload them from the trailer.  With the help of S’s brother, Uncle M, the guys set to work.  At first, S had hoped to make a quonset-hut style coop, so he had an excuse to use his lumber mill to cut fresh, green wood he could shape accordingly.

The quonset hut coop attempt

Sadly, even though we really like the design, the lumber wound up not being good for the job, and he didn’t have the time to make it work.  So, he quickly re-designed the coop, trying to use materials he had on hand–including the dry, seasoned wood he had milled on previous trips.

He decided to try leaving space in the floor slats to help with cleaning.  We may have to change that later, but he wanted to try.

He decided to try leaving space in the floor slats to help with cleaning. We may have to change that later, but he wanted to try.

The framed coop with next boxes, and JR giving size reference.

The framed coop with next boxes, and JR giving size reference.

JR inside the unfinished nest boxes.

JR inside the unfinished nest boxes.

The almost finished coop

The almost finished coop

This is about as far as they got on the coop.  It is about 7.5 feet long x 4 feet high (at the peak) x 3 feet wide, not counting the next boxes.  If you measure the nest boxes, it is 68 inches wide at the base.  He used these dimensions for several reasons:

  • We needed 1 sq. ft. per bird, which essentially allows us to house 21 birds since they are pastured and outside all day.  They really only use the coop to eat, sleep, and lay.
  • The coop had to be sturdy, but portable.
  • It had to be narrow enough to fit through a standard 6 foot gate.
  • It had to be just tall enough to let the birds roost at night, to hang the feeder, and to let me clean it easily when needed, but not so high as to make it top heavy.

What you can’t see here is that the windows on each end will open for cleaning, and we will also have hardware-cloth screening for the hot days and nights of summer. The hen entrance/exit will be a drop-ramp in the floor, so on rainy days, they can comfortably huddle under the coop rather than cramming inside.  Finally, the entire coop will be set onto a set of wagon wheels we purchased to make it very easy to move from pasture to pasture. The top of the wheels will actually go up inside a section of the nest boxes on each side, so even though there is the room for and the faux appearance of about 6 nest boxes on each side, there will in fact only be 3-4 on each side.  Since we only need about 5-6 boxes total for the number of birds we plan, we will use one or two of the remaining for small storage items, supplements, and tools we might need.

The only purchase they made so far was for screws and hinges for the nest box doors.  When I go again in March, I will try to finish the roof, install roosts and hopefully paint it.  It won’t be completely finished when we move, but we hope to only have about a day’s worth of work on it left.

In addition to the coop, they cleaned the barn up, which meant totally re-arranging the front half to make room for milking equipment, hay we bring along, and miscellaneous supplies, as well as cleaning a bunch of miscellaneous old stuff that has been stored in one of the stalls.  Because our animals have never seen fresh green grass in their lives, at the time of year we are moving (in the midst of spring lush) they are very likely to founder just looking at it!  Therefore, I will have to house them in the barn for the first month or two, as I wean them slowly onto the incredible forage there.  Thus, the barn must be ready to house them the day we arrive.

A clean stall!

A clean stall!

The final project they worked on was a bit of clean up and leveling of the trailer-parking area we built during our last 2 trips there.  It has held up and settled very nicely, and looks quite professional, if I do say so–especially when you consider the whole thing was dug and installed by hand.  We aren’t yet sure if we will be purchasing a truck and trailer for the move, or hiring a hauler to move all the animals for us.  Either way, though, we are preparing for the latter so we are ready to unload and have accommodations available.

The retaining wall we built last summer.

The retaining wall we built last summer.

Oh, the countdown is almost here.  Just five and half months to go!