I am wife to a magnificent man and mother to five wonderful children. Three of my children were born in the Northwest and two were born thousands of miles away in Liberia, West Africa. Birthplace is no matter, all of my children were born in my heart. This is our journey.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You say potato, I say potata.

We love potatoes at our house. We decided to remove a whole row of roses and convert the bed to a potato patch. Roses are very pretty but they don't fill our bellies. We passed the roses on to two seperate rose lovers who were thrilled to replant them at their homes.

Half will be Yukon Golds and half will be reds.

Lij was in charge of picking out weed barrier plastic pieces that made their way to the top when the area was tilled.

I originally intended to grow the potatoes in round containers making better use of space but the cost of the containers made me re-think that. So we are using the hole method.

We dug holes about 8 inches deep and added the sprouting potatoes. We then covered them in dirt but not filling in the hole completely.

As they send up plants we will add dirt around the plants and then more dirt the taller they get. Bring on the potatoes!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back to normal

After almost two weeks off from having surgery, Steve went back to work this morning. It's bittersweet. While we are enjoying being back in our normal routine, we really miss him this morning.

Lots of this could be seen while he was home. Reading comic books together and working on I Spy books.

As much as I enjoy managing things around here during the day, I sure miss him this morning.

He got clearance to use his arm a little to start stretching out the not used much lately muscles. He cracks me up. Me? I use a bread knife. Not my husband. Get out the electric knife for slicing the homemade bread. This guy was made to work, let me tell you. Sitting around for two weeks is not his style. Late last week, when he started to feel better, he made a loaf of cheese onion bread to pass the time and oh my it was good. Granted the bread maker did the kneading for him and then there was the electric knife to make easy work of the slicing but it was so good. We'll be making that again.

Can an electric knife be considered a power tool?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring has sprung.

And that means that it is time for spring cleaning. We always do the normal jobs you would expect fairly regularly. Bathrooms, kitchen, floors etc. Toilets are reserved for me, not because the kids can't do them but more because I feel better knowing that they are really clean.

But those things like light fixtures and behind the fridge...well they wait for spring and sometimes never.

Embarrassing but true.

Every once in a while like spring, fall or company is coming we have a family day of cleaning. We go for it. Top to bottom the house gets done. I am usually on the decluttering crew as hubby mobilizes the kids and gets the majority of the normal cleaning started. Then it's on to things like windows, closets, the garbage can scrubbings and sweeping off the roof.

I do have some favorite everyday things we use to clean though that makes double duty of everyday items you already have around the house. Grocery store plastic bags work fabulously for garbage can liners. Dryer sheets do a great job on the TV screens. Little ones do a great job with an old toothbrush, rag and little cup of water on the baseboards.

It's a family affair around here and I like it that way. We all work together and get it done! Then it's time for fun.

This post was written for Parent Bloggers for a Blog Blast sponsored by How I Clean Now and Pledge. Head on over to their site to see how they can help you clean things up!

Thank goodness for Grandpa.

Several years ago the grandparents on both sides and an aunt and uncle made a contribution to the play structure fund. The summer after the fund was open, when the structure was to be built, we felt that we were to sell our house and move into a travel trailer while we looked for a house in a neighboring community. We lived in the trailer for eight months and then when we found this place we had a lot of work to do. The yard was a blank canvas for us and we wanted to set it up in a way that would work best for a growing family. Anyone who knows Steve and I well knows that we both have strong opinions so coming up with a plan we both could live with? Well, that took some time, but a really great plan it is. Great things are worth waiting for right? I think so.

Here is the spot before with most of the cedar chips layed down.

Then the work began. Steve just had shoulder surgery last week so building it now that the ground is ready was not an option for him. My dad is a busy man being a pastor but he and Steve came up with a trade. Computer work for physical work. Perfect! Steve was able to help my dad find parts and stablilize the structure with his left arm some.

My dad is a very talented guy which is what I am sure drew me to my husband. I am very blessed to have two such talented guys in my life. It took six hours plus of work to get thing built.

These guys decided to pass the time trying to start a small blaze using leaves and a magnifying glass. They could get some good smoke but were never able to get a good fire going. They lucked out though. Their dad enjoys a good fire and helped them get things going the next morning.

When it was all said and done it was dark. Dad loves riding his motorcycle though and it had been a warm day, so off he went.

I'd like to say that he rode off in the sunset but it was too late for that.

There it is in all it's glory. The finished structure. They have been on it every day since and there have been lots of squeals and giggles coming from the backyard lately.

Thanks Grandpa!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Preschoolers and Homeschooling

Keeping younger ones busy while homeschooling older children is not easy. But there are activities out there that are cheap and lots of fun.

Here our resident four year old is practicing his numbers in shaving cream. It's a little easier than holding a pencil for thos tricky numbers at this age and it's fun!

He does have a workbook where he is learning his letter sounds but activities like this keep learning fun and little hands busy.

When he was done with his numbers we let him get a couple of his cars to play with in the shaving cream. He was making roads and pretending to give baths to the toys.

He also spends time "reading" books while the others do their seatwork. I belive it is good to give preshoolers times of structure. It teaches them consideration for others and builds their ability to sit still for periods of time. If you know this boy, being able to sit still (if only for a time) is a good thing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friends come and go but siblings...

will always be related. That never changes and, for two of my children, when the ink on the adoption decree was dry it was set in stone for a new family connection.

One of the reasons that we do what we do is that we want to foster a deep friendship and respect amongst our children. Things like homeschooling, watching the kids sports events as a family, having a family day where we only do things together as a family rather than play out front with friends. Friends are important and we foster that too but there is something more long term about family. I do have a few friends that I have had for decades and they are important to me but my family relationships go deeper. We have the history of almost two decades living together and sharing experiences. Our perspectives of the same experiences are as varied as people in the world and that fascinates me. Those perspectives are shaped by personalities and individual experiences.

We also have adopted children in our immediate and extended families. I think it takes even more time and effort to solidify those relationships. They don't have the "blood connection" that seems to provide the instant bond that exists for a lot of families. We work hard at making opportunities for highlighting the importance of our family relationships.

I know there are a lot of people out there who have broken relationships with their families and experience the most hurt from those people. I would venture to say that the hurt is so deep because the connection is so deep. Families are not perfect because people are not perfect. Our Father created the family, however, for a reason. You will hear many things around here that you would hear in lots of families. Things like...

"You have his nose."

"You have my eyes."

"Her hair is fine and brown like mine."

"She'll probably be tall like her daddy."

For our adopted kids we do point out similarities in pictures to their biological family and that is needed. A funny thing happened when the twins were four years old. We had a new baby in the house and were talking about who she looked like. Lil looked at Bub and told him that he has daddy's nose. I absolutely loved it. They were too young to understand genes but I loved how they knew they belonged. Physical differences aside, I also believe that it is important, in the here and now, to point out the manneristic similarites to the family they have been placed in and given. Connections run deep and the family connection is a highly valuable and essential one in the security, bond and attachment that our children feel and experience.

So in our house you will also hear things that are said around here with intention for those not related to us by blood. Things like...

"You do that just like I do!"

"You and I are so much alike when we..."

"Wow, God knew what he was doing when he put us in the same family."

"We are so much alike that if I didn't know better I would say that we have the same genes."

It is important for us as parents to nurture connection for both our biological and our adopted children. It can be subtle or obvious but it needs to be there. It is by no mistake that my adopted children are in this family and they know it.

"God setteth the solitary in families..." Psalms 68:6

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where I get a little random.

It's been a busy week so far. The scene above may be found here often as Steve recovers from surgery. The following is a random pictorial of the last week. Nothing really relates but it's my blog right? Of course we started out the week with Easter which was a really nice. It was a relaxing weekend.

We took a mini vacation of sorts, spending the weekend in my hometown and visiting with my side of the family. We colored eggs, went to my parents church, had a large family lunch and did lots of great visiting. We stayed at a hotel and we swam with the kids.
Steve had surgery yesterday and it went really well. His recovery is going better than expected and he slept really well last night. It is so nice to have him at the breakfast table mid-week.

The pinecone above was decorated by our six year. I thought it was beautiful and she gave it to my mom for her table. We were watching my brother in his Rugby game and so the kids found something to do to occupy themselves.

Lil taught the youngers how to make daisy chains.

I love watching my kids run to see their grandparents. We don't see them very often so they get very excited. We took the kids to one of the best parks and play structures I have ever seen. Mom and Dad came and met us there while the kids played.

The yard is coming along. This view is from one of the upstairs bathrooms. The yard is tilled and has been seeded. We are now waiting for the little shoots to appear. Maybe sometime this week? My next outdoor project is to work on the garden area. You can see in the upper right hand corner that Steve and Bub have set in the cherry ties so the play area is ready to be built. Since Steve won't be building anything for awhile he and my dad came up with a trade. My dad should be coming in the next few weeks to get that started. Thanks Dad!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

4 year old humor

4 year old: "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Me: "I don't know, why?"

4 year old: "To get to the Chicken Wal-Mart where he works."

Makes sense to me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Unexpected weather

These last few days have brought fantastic weather. The entire area where we will plant grass has been tilled once and I plan to turn it over one more time today. Enjoy the picture below, it may be the only time you see anything like it. That tiller is a beast. There may or may not have been an event where it took off dragging me behind it but I'll never tell. I am thinking my husband not having a blog is a good thing.
Truth be told. It is really hard for Steve to watch all of us work on the yard this year. He loves doing these kinds of projects. Yesterday while he was at work, the kids and I spread two more yards of gravel for the picnic table area.

We also hope to move the hot tub off of the deck down under the window on the right. There is a hardworking young man in that picture. I have really great kids if I haven't mentioned it before.

We planted the strawberry crowns just under the dirt on Saturday afternoon. By Monday afternoon this is what a lot of them look like. It was a nice surprise to see them so happy already. Below you will find a picture of part of our backyard when we purchased our house. Nice, eh? The following pictures are really for my benefit more than anyone else's. It's what keep me going when I think I might collapse from all the tilling.

See that nice brown/yellow color and the old brown windows? The scrap wood in the yard is a nice touch also. It's what drew us to the place, ha! Really we saw a lot of potential in the place.

Here is where we are now. A few less trees and a lot more gravel. But don't we think we don't like grass. It's coming. (Please forgive the photography, the sun was competing with me this morning.)

If you look below you will see some of the tilled up area (getting prepared for grass) with the play structure area to the left. We are using cherry ties to outline the area which are loosely laying around over there. Then the area under the play structure will be filled with cedar chips.

When my energy starts to wane, my vision fails and it feels like we aren't getting anywhere, it helps to look at the before and afters to gain some perspective. It's been three years this month since we purchased this property and we may actually have a really fun backyard this year. We could have paid to have it done the first year but why spend that much? Also, I think there is something to be said for the memories that are made by doing it together as a family.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A game named after a fruit

We have a new learning game at our house. We love bananas at our house so it seemed like a fitting game. I had heard about it on two homeschooling blogs that I read and so decided to purchase it and give it a try. It's like scrabble only different. Ha! You can play alone or with others making it perfect whether you have one child or five.

The idea is to take out 21 tiles. You then have to make a crossword using all of your tiles. If you are playing with other people you try to beat them. When a child is done then the adult checks to see if all of the words are spelled correctly. If they aren't then all of that child's tiles are put back into the "bunch" and they have to start over with new tiles.

It is great spelling and vocabulary practice. Can you see the deep thought?

All ages can play. Emma's words were shorter for the most part than those of the older kids.

Bub didn't want me to look at his until we was COMPLETELY done.

Hmmm, someone spelled square in their crossword backwards. Is that legal?
I love that all of the tiles store in the pouch and it's easily portable. We took it on our recent coast trip and it hardly took up any room. You can purchase it on Amazon and it was reasonably priced at less than $15. This is not an official review, we just really like the game.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Comfort Food Recipe

We have been battling sickness here and have had our share of homemade chicken soup a lot lately. But last week we made a comfort food dish that was very good. Homemade macaroni and cheese with chicken. I threw in the chicken because I had some leftover from another meal. Yum! Plus this recipe is easy, easy, easy.

Here is my recipe but you could cut it in half depending on your family size. This was one heavy pan of mac and it fed my family of seven for dinner and then the six of us for lunch the next day when Steve was at work.
2 12 oz boxes of macaroni noodles
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 - 2 cups shredded or cubed up chicken
1/2 cup diced onion(you can use more but my kids don't care for it)
3 TBSP butter
1TBSP olive oil
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook macaroni until al dente and drain. Leave in collander.
Place butter, olive oil and onion in the pan you used to cook the macaroni. Saute until onion is tender. Add macaroni back into the pan along with cheese, sour cream, chicken, salt, pepper and milk. Mix well. Pour mixture into large baking dish and spread some extra shredded cheese on top. Cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Of rock and strawberry beds

We have been working on this yard since we moved in almost three years ago. We have removed approximately 8 trees to allow sun to shine on the yard and garden area leaving still almost a dozen trees on the property. The back fence on the property is lined with trees on the other side so we didn't lose all of the shade completely. We love trees but some of the ones that we removed were blocking valuable sunlight and we want to get the most of our property including lawn to play on and veggies and fruit of our own. Some of you may remember the tree falling incident from one year ago yesterday. If not, you can read about that here.

The area above is our "party and entertaining" area. A benefit of taking three years to work on a yard is that we have taken the time to see how we will use each area. This has kept us from doing anything permanent that we would want to change later. The big bed on the left is where the strawberry crowns will be planted when it stops sprinking long enough for me to get out there. The area beyond that is the fire pit area for roasting marshmellows and visiting with friends in the the late hours. We have used the area for this but until last weekend it was mostly dirt. The rocks make the area look so much cleaner.

Here is a view from the other side. As soon as Steve has recovered from surgery he plans to build a step the entire length of the deck he built two summers ago for more seating for family and friends. We have 19 nieces and nephews on both sides combined plus our five kiddos so this type of seating will come in very handy. Just beyond Lil and the black doghouse is where the play structure will be built. We started with one side of the yard and are working our way around to the larger area of yard on the side. I heard somewhere that Rome wasn't built in a day so I am trying to not to expect our yard to be finished that quickly either. Not that my yard is a large city or anything. Just sayin'.