Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Hate Summer Vacation

It's day 2 of summer vacation and the kids are going stir crazy.  They have no idea what to do with themselves.  The rain outside really isn't helping matters.  I probably need to step up my game and come up with some things for them to do.   I hate coming up with things for them to do because I think that's their job.  They're kids, and they need to play with the wild imagination God has given them.  The arguing between David and Silje has been so constant.  We've had so many sit down discussions about loving one another, and considering others interests, and what interests means.  We've been having lots of talks of bearing one another's burdens.  Helping our neighbor.  I'm doing my best not to throw these Scriptures at them, but sit down and talk to them and do some activities to help them understand.  I've been coming up with riddles for them to solve, going off the example of what Jesus does in the Bible.  "This person says this but does this.  This person says this but does this.  Which one is loving his brother?"  The like the riddles, but so far after having these talks with them multiple, MULTIPLE times a day I still find them screaming at each other.

This morning they actually kept busy with puzzles.  I've separated them to work in different rooms so I don't have to break up an argument while Solveig naps.  David was very happy to finish a 100 piece puzzle, which I'm not sure he's done on his own before.  He wanted me to take a picture.

Silje lost 12 pieces of her 100 piece puzzle, and somehow it's all Elias' fault, although I'm pretty sure she was the one who left it out for him.

I really need to get to "the big city" to get a few items for a project we're working on, but there was such a big storm last night that I think I'll wait until all the debris is out of the way before I venture out.  I don't like running errands with 4 kids in the rain either.  So I guess I'll have to try being patient too.

I hear them wrestling on the ground in the other room again.  I suppose it has been 5 minutes.  I better go save them from each other. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chicken Update

 Here's our chicken coop.  Maybe I should say: this is what will be our chicken coop.  It still needs some work.  The building is no longer tipping over, and it's been emptied out for the most part. 
 It still needs some work, but the little chicks aren't ready for it yet anyway.  Knut's been spending every waking hour he's not at work, finishing up the fireplace mantel.  I think he's more nervous about that job because we he kinda has to get it right the first time, and doesn't want to stare at some mistake of his for years to come.  If he does a job on this coop where it works but isn't pretty, the only ones who will stare at it is the chickens.  Everyone knows chickens aren't judgmental about these kinds of things.
 19 of them are getting big.  Little "Celina" as Silje calls her, is still so small.  I can't tell you how many times I go out there wondering if she is still alive.  For awhile, (sorry I'm not so eloquent with this description) she had poop stuck to her butt, and the poop just kept getting bigger and bigger.  We were wondering if her pooping issue was preventing her from growing.  Last Monday I soaked her bum in warm water and took an old rag and scrubbed it all off.  She didn't fight me a bit, and felt so weak between my fingers.  Everytime I go out there, I just see her standing, taking long blinks and not eating or drinking.

"Queenie" the largest of the chicks will push her to water and food, but she didn't move.  When I reach in to handle a bird, Queenie will pull Celina under her breast to protect her.  Now, even though she's still tiny, she's running and leaping like the rest of them, and I've even seen her eat.  I cannot believe she's made it through the week and keeps trudging on. 
Knut said they're finally getting to their "ugly" adolescent age, but I still think they're kind of pretty.  I like to see their feathers come in, as it's becoming easier to tell them apart.  I like watching them clean and primp up their new feathers and take care of themselves.  Whenever I put down new bedding, they all spend a good amount of time scratching it around.  All except Celina.  She doesn't scratch, but she does clean her feathers.  As you can see from this pictures she's at least half the size of the other hamburgs now.  With every day, I'm more and more surprised that she is still here, which gives me glimmers of hope that she'll make it.  I'm not sure what kind of chicken she will be, but so far I'd say she's a surprising one.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Our Dear Lena

Our dear Lena got sick this last week.  On Thursday we spent most of the day outside planting.  Since she always insists on being wherever we are, she was outside too.  She likes to run around when we're outside, and since we've trained her on her boundaries on the property, to protect her from cars, we just let her run out all her pent up energy.

We all came inside, and I saw Lena was drooling like crazy, to the point of having a foamy mouth.  Concerned, I made sure she had some water, but I didn't have to give it to her, since her bowl was still full.  I moved her over to the rug by the door so she wouldn't drool in the kitchen anymore.  She looked so tired.

As I was running and bustling around, I just kept half an eye on her, and I could tell she looked very uncomfortable.  Her eyes were looking more and more glazed over.  Despite her getting water and rest, the drooling and foam by her mouth grew worse.  She was shaking from nose to tail.  I called her over to me, and she tried to obey, but she wasn't walking straight, and I was wondering if she was trying not to put weight on one of her front paws, or if she was just dizzy.  I couldn't quite tell.

Knut was having lunch with the guys on the farm that day, and I tried to call him, but I guess he left his phone in the truck.  So I called the vet, and they said they were booked, but they would squeeze her in somewhere if I could get her there.  So I loaded up all 4 kids just before nap time for the 2 youngest, and even though I gave Lena the command to get in the van, she looked at me meekly with her tail weakly wagging.  I then realized she couldn't hop in...something our 2.5 year old puppy has never had a problem with. 

I tried lifting her, but she started flailing and I was worried if I touched the part of her that was hurting, she may bite me out of instinct.  I called Knut's aunt who lives about a mile down the road.  She suggested I try to get Lena in a box and lift the box.  Lena couldn't even lift a paw into the cardboard box.  So Aunt Sue came on over and helped me wrap Lena in a rug and lifted her into the trunk of the van.

So we dropped her off at the animal hospital/vet, signed her in and went home for naps.  Naps did not go very well as they were late and overexcited.  It just put me further behind in my quest to catch up from being gone last weekend, but what could I do?  Priorities are priorities. 

It was difficult, and I felt like a jerk, but when I dropped her off, I told the vet that I didn't want them to do anything that cost a lot of money without calling me first.  I could not just drop her off and pick her up with an easy $300 bill from whatever tests they think up to run.  Let me explain, even though it might be very controversial.

Lena is entrusted in my care.  God gave her to us to rule over, and that means that it is our job to take care of her.  I know some people who never take their dog to the vet because they feel they are not worth it.  I know others who spend more on their pet's health bill more than their own food bill.  Knut and I had some very serious talks about the value of a dog before we got one.  Having a correct value on a dog, in our house, is taking care of the dog's basic needs.  She has toys, training, food, companionship, shots, tick treatments.  We give her baths and clip her nails.  It's our job.

However, Lena is not a human.  She was not made in the image of God, and equating her to humans, is bad on 2 fronts.  First, it is not good for her to be treated like a human, because she is a dog.  Dog have their own set of unique needs that God has given them.  Recognizing their needs as unique is good for them.  Second, elevating them to a place of a human has a strange evolutionary vibe to it, in my mind.  I do not believe that we came from monkeys, and I do not believe that humans are simply evolved animals.  Humans were made in the image of God.  Dogs were not.  I try to run from any conversation that says "we're really just the same," or "we need to treat them as we would treat our children" or "there is really no difference between humans and animals."  I love animals, but in order to love them as God wants me to love them, I need to love them for who they are.  They are part of creation God made for humans to govern.

I'm not about to give the "Do Dogs Go to Heaven" speech, but as much as Lena is my companion, and I love her, and I don't want her to die, I cannot put my family in a difficult position for her.  I cannot spend more on her than we spend on missions.  I cannot spend thousands of dollars to save her, when I don't spend thousands of dollars to save humans.  I would mortgage the farm to save one of my children.  Lena is not one of them.  I will not say that animals and humans are the same, and humans are evolved animals.  The only things that made us family is God made us all.  She's as much my family as the mice who live in our basement. 

She's not a pest (most of the time;) ) and we welcome her into our home and lives, and she lives to serve us.  She loves to please us.  She adores the kids, and I think would lay down her life for any one of us without hesitation.  Her devotion and love she showers on us are something we treasure.  When we got her, though, Knut and I set a monetary limit for how much we would spend on her healthcare, should she get sick.  It wasn't a matter of how much we could afford, it was a matter of moral ethics.  We did not want to look back on our lives and say we put all of our treasure towards things of this earth (like our dog) and not to things in heaven. 

So I was worried that the rubber would have to meet the road with this whole "ethics talk" and something bad was happening to Lena, and it might cost more than the threshold that we set before she came to our house.  We weren't going to spend more on her than missions.  We weren't going to spend more on her than starving children.  We weren't going to put her value above those made in God's image.  In the same breath, we wanted to make sure she wasn't in pain, and could have simple health problems fixed.  She's our dog and we love her.  Bringing her into our home did not mean that we would unnaturally prolong her life as long as possible, but we would help her stay healthy as long as her natural life was supposed to be.

The vet said that she most likely ate something toxic, but just in case it was something neurological, she wanted to keep her overnight for observation.  They gave her something to stop her shaking and help her sleep. 

Fortunately, she was fine, and got sent home the following morning.  She's energetic and happy.  It's almost like it never happened.  We're supposed to look out for if her liver or kidney might possibly have some kind of damage from this, so we're keeping a close eye on her.  We don't want to lose her, and we don't want her to be in pain.  We've gone over each and every plant in our yard to see if any of them might have been toxic, and the only 2 that we presented to the vet, she said Lena would have had to eat her weight in order to be in the state she was in.  We have not sprayed our yard or the fields at this point, so she had no access to anything chemical like that.  She does frequent our compost pile, I know, so maybe something from there?  I'm not sure.  At any rate, we'll try to keep her closer.  We'll continue to love her for who she is...a dog.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Homeschool Friday...the finale

(picture used with permission from The Family Man.)

Well, this isn't the end of me blogging about homeschooling, because I have some surprises in store for this summer.  This does mark the end of our family's official year of homeschooling.  While I recognize now more than ever that learning is something that happens all day long at home, we are finished with the work and learning we set out to do last fall.  It's so important, I think, to stop and mark the accomplishments that Silje has made.  It would be so easy for me to go on and on about how great of a success the year was, and credit myself for that.  Silje is the one who did most of the work, and I will not rob her of that distinction.  I'm so proud, and spoiled to have her for a student.

We took a field trip to a nursery to pick up the remaining plants for our garden.  All the kids were a great help.  Even Elias!  Silje learned about annuals and perennials, and different varieties of each plant.  (I picked up 2 raspberry plants completely on a whim.  I now have to figure out where to put them.)

In searching for some good books for her at the end of this year, I took the recommendation of another homeschool mom at the library and got Silje the first Nancy Drew book.  She loves mysteries, and she loves this book so far.  I can easily see how this may turn into her summer reading.

Silje seems so excited to be done for the summer.  She talks about it about as much as she begs me to let her read all of her 2nd grade books on the shelf.  They're just sitting there, taunting her.

We had a little bit of history time line to catch up.  It didn't take too long.  The kids are planning a party for the end of the school year, and why not, I ask?  They think that school will be replaced with play, and it will be for a some of the time.  However, school in the morning is about to be replaced with gardening in the morning.  There are more chores in the summer, and even more so now that we have chickens.  Soon we'll be picking and shelling peas every morning, picking and snapping beans for the freezer, weeding, weeding, and weeding.  I don't think I'll break that to them just yet...I'll wait until after the party.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yarn Along

I'm so happy to be a part of the Yarn Along again this week.  I haven't been knitting as much lately, so when I got a few quicky projects done, I'm happy to be able to party along with the others again this week!  Thank you, Ginny for hosting all of the Yarning Along blogs.  You can click on her link to see more posts like this on other blogs.

So, here's my picture, and here is my crazy lady story (me being the crazy lady).
So, we were packing to go to the wedding I blogged about on Monday.  We were having patches of rain, and I was trying to pick a dress for Solveig to wear to the wedding.  All of her cute summer-y ones had no sleeves, but I was worried that there would be a slight chill and if I didn't have a little sweater, little old ladies would come up to me telling me how cold she looked and she would be wrapped in a blanket the whole time.  Anyway, normal mothers would just pack a long sleeved dress.  A normal mother might even hop over to a store and buy a little sweater.  This crazy-lady-mother thought that the best thing to do would be look through her stash for a cotton worsted weight yarn (which I had on hand...adding to the crazy yarn lady status).  Then this crazy mother would log into Ravelry, do a search for a free pattern for a baby shrug using worsted weight yarn for speed, print out the pattern, cast on, and make a quick little shrug for the wedding...which was the following day. 

I had to do a little knitting during our 4 hour drive, but Knut was so tired from planting this last week that he made me do most of the driving, and I only got about 30 minutes of knitting squeezed in when he drove.  I had to weave in the ends when we got to the hotel to change for the big event, and voila:
I used this pattern and loved it.  I want to make 10 more.  Here is it from the back:
Since the knitting bug never bites me just once at a time, when we got home I immediately cast on and finished a simple garter stitch cowl for my store this fall over the last few days.  It's using Debbie Bliss Como which is 10% cashmere, 90% merino wool in super bulky.  I just need to finish weaving it together so it's seamless, and weaving in the ends.  In other words, who knows when it will be done.

As far as reading, I'm still on Chesterton's Orthodoxy, so I threw in some new books which are on my reading list that I'm hoping to attack and review soon, so you won't be bored.  Loving the Little Years is a book that was given to the mother-to-be at the shower I just threw for my friend.  It looked so good, and was so cheap that I ordered it with my swagbucks.  The author has 5 kids ages 5 and under and loves "color, fabric, yarn to knit with, kids to laugh at, and laundry (not so much)."  It's recommended by Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child's Heart, R.C. Sproul Jr., and Nancy Wilson.  

The back of this book has this caption:
"I know this is a hard job, because I am right here in the middle of it.  I know you need encouragement because I do too.  This is not a tender reminiscence.  At the time of writing this, I have three children in diapers, and I can recognize the sound of hundreds of toothpicks being dumped out in the hall.  Excuse me for a moment, won't you..."

In other words, this woman sounds like someone I want to be my best friend, and I can't wait to read it.

I also have a highly recommended book on the queue: The Read-Aloud Handbook.  It's been recommended to me by so many homeschoolers, and has a 5 star rating on amazon, so I guess a lot of people think it's great.  I'm trying to figure out how you could write a whole book on this, but maybe it's like one of those eye opening books like "How to Win Friends and Influence People" that looks like a pretty basic self-help book, but really is very revolutionary.  I'm going to read it for my preparation for next year's school year, and I'm looking forward to it.

Lastly, I got this book as part of my birthday present from my in-laws, but I have yet to crack it open and am just dying to do so.  When the Wind Is in the South and Other Stories is by the author of "Giants in the Earth" which is one of my favorite all time books.  This is his short story collection and it's nearly eating me alive that I haven't even read one short story yet.

Chesterton's book isn't being read very quickly.  I'd say about 5 pages a week.  He's so deep, and so so so funny!  I need to get through it faster so I can get onto the other books, but you just can't speed through his writing!  If you have made it all the way through this long post, I'll leave you with a few Chesterton quotes to brighten your day:
"I believe in getting into hot water, it keeps you clean."

"The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all."  (I could have used that one awhile back...)

"There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read."

"If there were no God, there would be no Atheists."

"The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums."

"Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously."

"Marriage is an adventure.  Like going to war."

"When we really worship anything, we love not only its clearness but its obscurity.  We exult it in its very invisibility."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Battle Scars, and Adoption

I've been thinking lately about my old battle wounds.  It surprises me more than ever that I still have them.  The battles now seem an age ago.  So much so, that I often wonder if I just imagined them.

I'm talking about spiritual battles of course.  Those deep dark places in our lives when you feel helpless and alone.  I'm not in that place anymore, but I have not yet met a Christian who has never been there.

The most difficult, and painful I believe, are the battles with other believers.  One does not expect to be hurt by a fellow soldier.  Perhaps even someone who was supposed to look out for us.  Not only does it make a person not feel like there is anywhere to turn, but that there is no one to talk to.

I think that when Satan attacks a believer, it is with the purpose of rendering him/her useless.  Our salvation is not within Satan's power to take.  However, his desire is to destroy our effectiveness, our ministries, our hope, our confidence...our lives, basically.  I sense from so many of my friends, and in my own life, a forgetfulness of the battle waging on.  And it's not against the Democrats, liberals, and secular media.

There is a battle for our attention.  Satan's classic tactic is to make us unaware or uninterested.

In this "year that I turned 30" I'm in deep reflection mode.  As I look back on the last 30 years, I see a string of attacks that Satan has waged, and now I sit here on our farm in peace.  Well, that's not entirely true.  We had a blatant demonic attack right here in our house a few years ago which I will never forget involving Silje.  I won't get into the details, but when it finally dawned on me what was happening, I told Knut, and we confidently went to prayer in Jesus' name and the attack stopped.  Immediately.  As in, that very second.  Normally, it's not that unhidden.

It was a time, though, when I realized that Satan wasn't just after me anymore.  He's after my kids.  I don't want my kids to grow up sheltered.  A sheltered person is unaware of the enemies tactics, the horror of the battle, or even the battle at all.  When I hear of kids growing up and walking away from their faith, I'm terrified that I'll lose one of my kids.  I cannot imagine the pain of not being able to worship together with one of my children.  I feel so called to protect my kids, while making them aware of the battle.  It's silly, really, because as I sit back and reflect, it's God who has been protecting them.  It's God who can claim their hearts, not me.  As I'm writing this, I see Solveig and Elias playing together, and it is so sweet.  I want so badly to be able to guarantee their future, and spare them from the battle.  They will not be spared from battle, though.  However, I know God will not leave them.  My faith has to rely on him, and not my ability to shelter them.  My job as a parent is to disciple them, which is the hardest job I have ever, EVER had.

A few months ago, Silje asked me what an alcoholic was.  She's almost 7 years old.  It's only upon reflection that I realize, that question would not have occurred to me when I was 7.  By 7 years old, my family had been torn by alcoholism, my dad had left, my grandparents were just finishing their 2 year stay with us to help my mom finish college, and we were about to be on our own.  (My mom, older brother, older sister, and me.)  When I was 7 years old, I nearly defined my life as one affected by alcoholism.   For a long time, I saw that as my identity.  It's only as an adult that I see how God has replaced that heritage with a new one.  When the depth of what being adopted by God actually means, and how far our heavenly Father is willing to take us.

It wasn't always that way, though.  As the story goes, at least.  My dad was the casualty of a battle, and he and his whole family still bare the scars.  I go through day to day, forgetting that they are there.  It's when a baby is born, like Solveig, and there is a gaping whole in the family.  It's during those times when family gathers together when you notice who is missing.  It's when you realize what year it is...and it's the year you've been waiting more than half your life to come.

I have a half brother who was given up for adoption when I was 12 years old.  He turns 18 in exactly one month.  I remember feeling such relief knowing he had been placed in a family.  I remember praying for him all the time.  I would pray that his family would teach him about Jesus.  I prayed he would be shown unconditional love.  I used to write him letters when I was supposed to be doing math.  The letters were never sent, but I think writing them was a good way for me to process it all.  It made him remain real to me, and not just some dream I had a long time ago.

I remember watching other boys his age growing up and thinking, "I bet he's doing something like this now."  So next month he turns 18.  I've built it up to such a climax in my thoughts that the reality that it won't be the day I've been dreaming of is sinking in.  All of the childhood fantasies are giving way to grown up reality of what this birthday will mean for him.

As my siblings and I are gathering information and trying to sign up for registries, I think that we have a common goal.  I don't think we mean to charge in and claim him as ours.  I think we all recognize the family that raised him as "his real family."  We do not want to cause him stress or pull him from people who he loves.  I think all we want is to let him know we are here...that we exist.  I want him to know that we've been praying for him his whole life, and have never forgotten him.  In my own highest dream, I would like to meet him.  I would like us to all be together: my brother and sister from both my parents, my sister from my dad's second marriage, and him. 

When my heart dreams, we'll have a tearful meeting, and have lots of hugs.  He will be a loving man who loves the Lord, and will feel grace wash all over him when he sees how God has been working in his life from the beginning.  We won't have him for things like Christmas, as that should be with his family.  We'll exchange Christmas cards, and be there for him if he should ever need us.  If he should ever want information, or just need to process, like we are still processing.

The reality sinks in that he may not want to meet us, and while the child in me would weep, I think the adult in me would completely understand.  The reality is maybe he would spite us.  Maybe he's afraid of hurting his parents by pursuing us.  Maybe he would ignore us.  The reality is sinking in that June 24th will likely come and pass with no fanfare.  Maybe any contact is still years away, when he is ready.  Maybe it will never happen.

It won't pass without remembrance, though.  When you reflect upon old battle scars, it's inevitable that you come to a place where you reflect on God's mercy on your life.  You sit and reflect and see God's hand clearly moving and working in a family...breaking patterns of sin that we have come to expect.  So as this day approaches, I'm spending a lot of time remembering where God has brought me.  I think about the life God has prepared for me here, and every person he put in my life to bring me here.  I'm still in awe that the God of all creation, cared enough for me.  He cared enough for my family.  I can rejoice for the family he gave my brother out of love.  He gave me a new name, and a new identity.  He's still trying to get hard lessons through my thick head.  He never gives up or stops teaching me.  I can't help but let the tears fall when I reflect on this.  How great is our God!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Getaway

This last weekend we headed down the road about 4 hours to a wedding of one of Knut's cousins.  We probably should have been more organized, but an overnight stay seems to have a "throw stuff in the car" feel more than a meticulously planned trip.  I guess I had not thought about it, but the kids have never stayed in a hotel before.  Well, I remember staying in a hotel with Silje when she was 4 weeks old, but I guess we normally stay with friends and family when we go places.

They thought it was the coolest thing in the world!  Of course they loved the wedding, but I'll be honest, they were just being good so they could get on our good side and have a shot at playing at this fancy place they spotted next to the church.  I was a little hesitant to let the kids go and play before the reception because I knew that #1: they wouldn't leave the playground easily, and #2: they were wearing their nicest clothes and I didn't want them ruined.  But when Knut and the kids are giving me puppy eyes, I have to give in.
Of course, it had rained earlier, and as we left to go to the reception, David informed us that his pants were soaked.  He had gone down a slide, which had a pool of water at the bottom that he flew through.  I had packed one extra pair of dress pants back at the hotel which worked in case of emergencies, but was a little short.  I am the mother of boys, you know, so there has to be at least one spare outfit for about any occasion!
Actually, I shouldn't say boys are always the ones who are messiest, because this girl can get messy just as quickly as the rest.  She actually kept her dress clothes clean, though!  
This little girl had a new little shrug/sweater that I'll share about on Wednesday since I actually have some knitting to share this week.  She's so in love with her daddy, and loves to touch his face, especially his beard!  When he is in the room, I might as well be invisible.
I didn't take pictures at the reception because it was darker and I couldn't get many to turn out. The kids had a blast at the dance, and Silje and David are so much fun to watch!  We were laughing until the tears came down our face.  It was so much fun!  Being around a disco ball, strobe light, and pop dance music is not part of their normal experiences, and they would have gone way late until the night if we had let them.  Elias fell apart about an hour after their bedtime, so we thought it was time to call it a night.
It took the kids almost an hour to fall asleep, and Solveig even longer.  She was so overstimulated from the wedding and following reception that she stayed awake until almost midnight.  She was wide awake and staring at us, and would scream like her life depended on it the moment that we laid her down.  I nursed her to sleep 3 times in an hour and she still screamed the moment I moved her.  I simply could not feed her anymore as I was sore and shaky from her sucking every calorie from my body.  Knut kept getting me food and water to try to keep me from getting too shaky and able to nurse her more.  We gave her Tylenol in case her teeth were hurting, but all she wanted was to nurse all night long and not leave my arms and I got so tired.  We knew our neighbors in the hotel could probably hear her crying, and tried our best, but we heard in the morning that many had heard her, which we felt terrible about, but what do you do?  Everyone was very understanding, though.  Like I said, around midnight she gave in and we were able to fall over finally.
The next morning we headed to the pool, and had a blast.  Well, almost everyone did...
This guy didn't know what to think, and was so tired from the night before.   He didn't know what to think of the water, and wanted to do something, but he didn't know what.
He has been a whining machine lately, and we're not sure what to do about that, except wait until he's 3...or 4. 
The other kids had fun, though, and I was reminded that I need to sign them up for swimming lessons ASAP!
On the way home I somehow talked Knut into stopping by one of his least favorite places--the Mall of America.  This is Silje standing by some artwork at the Lego store.  Yes, these are made out of Legos, as were the huge sculptures on top of the store.  David went bonkers looking at all the Legos.  Silje got to go to the American Girl Doll store and we saw so many fun things including the doll salon.  Did you know, that for $20, you can get your doll's hair done?  They have several braids and ponytails to choose from.  They have these little doll salon chairs, and at least 4 of them were filled and getting their hair done while we were there.  Silje was kicking herself that she left her "Jenny" (her faux American Girl) in the car.  We assured her that had Jenny been with us, we weren't paying $20 to have her hair done.  Wow.  We can braid her hair for free, thank you very much.  It is good to know, that if being a vet doesn't pan out for Silje as she hopes it will, she can always have a job waiting for her at the Mall of America being a doll hair stylist.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mud Pies

Since Knut was attempting to take a quick nap inside a few mornings ago during Solveig's nap, I quickly realized I needed to get the older 3 inside so that the house would be quiet enough to sleep in.  Since we had school done, we headed outside where I was hoping to finish weeding the strawberry patch (a job I've been working on for way too many days just to get it under control).  Last year I tried dried grass as a weed cover, and it didn't work as well as I had hoped.  Some say there are seeds in the grass, and perhaps that was the case.  Also, it's too windy of a spot in our yard for the grass to stay put.  At any rate, I'm trying to find a way to buy some time in the weeding war.
So this year I'm trying some wood chip mulch in the strawberry area.  It will still need weeding, but this area needs to be weeded by hand anyway.  The hoe won't fit in between the plants.  Hopefully this will make a difference this year.
I've been having them use their own halo hoe and go over the side of the garden set aside for the squash vine for when it will hopefully get huge.  They've been doing a good job of curbing weeds there.  Today I must have lost my mind because I let them get a pail full of water and make some mud pies to keep them busy after they finished their weeding area..
Never mind that 2 of them are still in their pajamas.  Who's going to know?  O, yeah.  I just just posted this on the internet.  Well, in my defense, Solveig was sleeping so the clock was ticking.  I couldn't waste the precious gardening window on silly things like changing clothes.  
They got quite immersed in their little project.
Solveig eventually woke up and needed some attention, and they still played on.  I pushed back lunch by a whole hour, and they still came in to eat in a screaming fit as they were torn from their play.  That and the cold well water from the garden well I made them wash off their hands.  I don't think they'll be bugging me to run in the sprinklers again anytime soon.
I love that in a child's eyes, they don't see just a garden.  Because who wants a garden...
When you can have a mud pit.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Homeschool Friday

We had a very laid back week.  I don't even feel a little bit guilty about it.  We've gotten the necessary basics done.  I finally got new headphones for Silje, so that she can do Chinese again.  It took her about one day of lower scores to catch up, and now she's flying through once again.

I was so thankful that I got to go to "Mom's Night Out" with our homeschool group last night.  Knut's mom was willing to stay with the kids and it was so nice to get out at the end of this busy week.  We had a discussion on how we view success in homeschooling.  It's the end of the year for most of us, and how on earth do you feel done?  Sometimes it's as simple as just finishing a book.  In all reality, it takes more judgment than that.

Yesterday after school, Silje asked me if she could read her history book just for fun.  (She has to ask permission to read "school books" during non school time.  I made this rule because I need to be sure that these books last for other years and other kids.)  She spent an hour curled up in a chair, reviewing her ancient history lessons from the year.  To me, not only giving her knowledge, but a love of knowledge is success.  I've also had the rule that she's not allowed to read a school book on her own time until we have read it in school.  Next year's curriculum is already on the shelf waiting for me to go over it this summer.  It's driving her nuts just staring at in and not being able to devour the books.  So instead, she's going through and reading her books from this year all over again.  She's asking to do this on her own time!

I look back on all the deep conversations we had together.  I see how she knows more about grammar now than I did going into high school.  I think of all the times we butted heads.  She struggles with reading comprehension, and won't recognize that.  I probably quiz her too much after reading a schoolbook, although Knut doesn't think I quiz her enough.  Anyway, I started asking her the usual questions about her reading assignment and she rolled her eyes at me and said, "Mommy, if you're so interested in the book why don't you read it?"

We're spending a lot of time outdoors these days.  We're doing the garden together.  Some days she is my right hand, and others she's a floppy, silly girl.  I think a good 6 year old has a bit of both, although her silly days drive me nuts sometimes.  Then on days when she is so helpful I feel guilty that I lean on that help.  In my heart, though, I know that everything I ask her to do has value.  Learning to care for others, how to serve, how to clean...are at least as important as "school work" in my opinion.

Like Silje, I feel myself worrying less about this year and already have my eyes set on next year.  She's so excited about her new books, that she spends time every afternoon looking over each one again and again.  She reads the backs of them, which is all I've allowed so far.  I wonder how different it will be bringing boys into our school day more and more.

For one thing, there might be more "superhero days" that the kids have declared this morning.  Nothing to do with our studies, but for some reason, they wanted to pull out the clearance Halloween costumes from last year.  (I always wait until after Halloween and the costumes are at least 75% off, and then I buy bunches of costumes for their dress up box.)

It's the end of the year...can you tell?  Don't worry, we'll get to math.  We always do.  This is our "socialization" time.  ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chickens Update

Well, the chickens have graduated to the garage.  I was thinking they'd be in the house for the week, but they were just too smelly for me.  I changed their bedding twice a day, and on the last day, 3 times.  I just couldn't take their poop smell.  O well.  They're getting bigger so fast, but not yet at the "ugly stage" that everyone tells me about who has had chickens.  They say their cute little chicks, and then they suddenly get really ugly, and then they're nice looking chickens.  So far, their little chicks, but they are getting bigger!

I try to spend 15-20 minutes holding and handling them when I check their water and food twice a day.
It's amazing to me not only how much they change every day, but how different each breed is!  The temperament of the Ameraucana chicks (or the Speckled Sussex.  I can't tell those 2 breed apart very well yet) are curious, and always the first to break from the bunch and eat some food from my hand.  They also seem to be the largest of the bunch.  (They're the brownish ones.)  There's one bigger one that I've started calling "Queenie" because she's seems to be the leader of the pack, and checks everything out before they all settle down.  They don't give me much chase at all yet, and I've almost got "Queenie" to just walk into my hand when I lay it down.  She will half heartily put up a fuss when I do hold her, but that's just to save face in front of the other chicks.  Really, I think she likes it.

The Blue Hamburgs are so much smaller than the other chicks, but I guess on reading more, hamburgs are just smaller.  There's one hamburg that is so much smaller than the other ones, and I worry that she's getting picked on.  Well, I guess I assume that because she's the smallest that she's getting picked on.  She seems to be thriving and growing like the rest, still, and I have no evidence of mistreatment from the other birds.  I've seen her eat and drink without a problem as well.  These ones are Silje's favorites (she has names for them...I'll have to find out more specifics there).  They are yellow and downy like traditional chicks I've always thought of, and they are so tiny compared to the rest.  These will be our white egg laying birds, and are supposedly the most prolific.

The Dominiques (or cuckoo marans.  Again, I can't tell the 2 apart well) are lovely, but give me the most chase when I want to hold them.  They are David's favorite because they're black and beautiful.  Next to the Ameraucana chicks, they are the second ones to investigate a hand in the box, and they are very calm once they're in my hands.

I saved up some swagbucks and bought the Keeping Chickens book that I checked out at the library awhile back and thought to be the most helpful reference that I'd like to have on hand.  It has such down to earth information, much of which I think we'll use as Knut works on the coop soon.  It also talks about feed, troubleshooting problems, broodiness, etc.  All the other chicken books dealt with chickens on a large commercial scale, and this one directly addresses backyard flocks.  With a resource this complete, I wanted it to have on hand all the time.  And Knut and I are book junkies.  I'm not gonna lie.

Speaking of Knut, please keep him and the rest of the guys on the farm in your prayers this week!  Knut came got to bed about 5:30 this morning, and I got up at 6:30.  It's almost like we're in college again!  I remember those days well those first months of marriage when we worked opposite shifts because we only had one car and he came home at 4am and I had to get up at 6am for an early class.  Like ships passing in the night.  From what I gather, if things continue going well, planting will get done on Friday.  Rain is expected sometime Friday and through the weekend, so it would be great to wrap up this stage before the rain comes.

Anyway, I also took a picture of my new work boots that will be great for cleaning out chicken stuff.  I'm finding it's nice for working in the garden too.  I cannot believe I've managed living here without work boots before!  I'm using them constantly now!  They're so pretty too.  That makes me smile.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spring Planting Confessions

It's that time of year when Knut is in the fields pretty much all the time.  Yesterday the kids got to walk out to our vegetable garden and hop in the tractor as he drove by, so we do see him.  Last night he got to come home to sleep between 8pm and 1am.  So before I went to bed I stuck an egg bake in the oven so that it would be done by the time he woke up.  I think he loved that!

Although I think my house is looking pretty clean since a baby shower I threw last week, and I'm actually staying on top of the dishes and laundry for once.  We even have homemade cookies in the house.  (However, the basement/playroom, my bedroom and the upstairs hallway and bathroom are a mess.  I've come to find out it is impossible for my whole house to be clean at the same time.)

Yesterday we ran errands in town and I came home feeling like I had lifted weights for 3 hours.  (Why is running errands so exhausting?  I'll give you 4 reasons...)  So what does a farm wife do when there is no one here when I'm home all day to curb me in?

Today,
-I have no intention of changing out of my p.j.s
-I ate peanut butter cookies for breakfast
-I may turn on the television and park the boys for school today. (Still debating this one)  Seriously, I need a break.
-I'm going to watch some Netflix movie during naptime today instead of doing something farm-wifey.
-I'm going to let the kids make an even bigger mess of the basement by making some castle or something. 
-We're going to paint some pictures for "Daddy's office."
-I want to actually clean the upstairs rooms that are dirty.  (OK, that isn't a luxury or wild depending how you look at it.  If you saw how bad it was, you'd understand how good it's going to feel to have it clean.)
-Work on Silje's quilt some more...maybe during Netflix time.
-I will only be enticed into my garden today if it gets nice and warm.   O wait, that will require that I change out of p.j.s.  Never mind.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Frugal Homemaking

I'm of the opinion that we are a culture who will believe an infomercial over our grandmother.  We will believe a company, making money on us, over a friend.

We believe that cloth diapering is complicated origami and unhygienic.  A lot of work and dirty.  If we didn't believe that, an entire industry would go down the drain.

We believe that feeding our baby either food or milk is complicated and time consuming.  If we didn't believe that, another industry would fail.  When we get it through our brains that baby food is as complicated as taking the vegetable from your plate and mashing it with your fork, life actually gets more simple...not more complicated.  If you're like me and don't have many hands to spare during a meal to mash a vegetable, it's pretty simple to do ahead of time in bulk as well!

If you ever wonder why the cost of having kids is so high, look into what you actually need for your kids.  Knut continually shakes his head at how cheap having kids has actually been for us.  Sure, things have to be done differently in bigger numbers than small.  It's cheaper for us to drive than fly now.  They certainly aren't free, and now that they do eat food, they are eating lots of it.  The older they get, the more expensive they are getting.  However, a baby's needs are more simple than our materialistic society seems to tell us.

It's not like you get one big bill when you have a child.  It's dollars here and dollars there.  Most people don't realize that they spend over $600 on disposable diapers in a year.  Depending on when you potty train your child, you're looking at over $1000 easily, and let's get real...probably closer to $1500...if you use generic.  $300 for cloth may look expensive because you don't buy it in $15 increments like disposables.  In all reality, it's cheaper.

Baby food doesn't look expensive when you see the little $.80 price tag on it.  When you realize that making your own would cost $.10 or less, though...it's pretty expensive.

The cost of living is so expensive because we are a culture saturated with the message that everything is hard.

Let me enlighten you that hard is easy over 90% of the time.  As in, it takes you 1.2 minutes to do instead of 1 minute.  Sometimes, the same exact amount of time.

Here are things I do because I find them fun, not easier/cost effective/faster:
knitting
sewing clothes from scratch (not mending)

Here are things I do because they are as easy/take as much time/EXTREMELY cost effective and I can make fun because I'm saving so much money, and the end product often tastes better/is healthier/is more valuable:

cloth diapering
cooking from scratch- including homemade stock/broth, using my bread machine, etc.
making baby food
breastfeeding
gardening (OK, this one takes a lot of time in my opinion, but the taste can't be beat and I'm hooked)
and...
making homemade laundry detergent

What's that?  Yep, I'm converted to the homemade laundry detergent crowd now.  Well, at least I'm about to give it a try.  In all honesty, with my track record it was just a matter of time.  When I heard of other homemakers cutting their laundry cost by 80%, I perked up.  If I complain about laundry, it's usually the work, not the cost. 

Looking into making my own detergent led me to a number of sites where people got into these huge arguments over ingredients and whether or not their recipe works with cloth diapers, and with sensitive skin.  One thing they all agreed on were that store bought detergents have fillers to make it look pretty, dyes, fragrances, and chemicals that are the scum of the earth (in their opinion).  So basically, any recipe you find is an improvement from that.  So while I'm sure you could find something better than mine, or something that would work better with your water and your washer, here's what I'm trying.

Here is the recipe that I'm using (#1) although I'll be doubling it and putting it in a 5 gallon bucket.  Here's my breakdown of costs:

Fels Naptha bar soap= $.97
Washing Soda = $2.77
Borax = $2.98
total: $ 6.72

I got all those things in the laundry aisle at Walmart, so pretty easy to obtain.

Plus a 5 gallon bucket with lid = $3ish (I paid an extra dollar to get a simple white bucket instead bright orange Home Depot one that was cheaper.  Call me vain but I couldn't stand the idea of the ugly orange thing in my sewing room that has to accommodate laundry as well!  Walmart had 5 gallon buckets cheap but not a single employee there could find the lids to go with them!) 

The detergent I used before was $4.74 for 32 loads.  That's $.14/load

A double batch should stretch 128 loads, which will almost fill my new bucket.  That makes $.05 a load for the first bucket.  Although for the next double batch I'll need to buy another laundry bar soap (as a double batch uses 2/3 bar).  I have plenty of leftover of the other 2 ingredients for several more batches. So the next time I fill up the 5 gallon pail, I'll have to spend another $.97 for more bar soap and that will cover my supplies for the next 2 bucket fulls.  So if you average the cost of filling the 5 gallon pail 3 times, it will average out to about $.02 a load for laundry soap.  That's an incredible drop from $.14 don't you think!  We do roughly 10-14 loads of laundry a week including diapers.  So one pail of this should last me at least 10 weeks.  Savings for one year I estimate to be over $80.  That's not an enormous amount, but for so little work, I think it will be worth it.  It will just take a few minutes over the stove every 3 months or so.  From the recipe, it sounds easier and faster than a batch of no bake cookies, and I make those all the time on a whim.

There are easier recipes out there for powder laundry soap, but I have a front loader and I've had a tough time using powdered soap.  For some reason anything powdered makes it not drain very well.

From my google research, it seems as though some cloth diaper people don't like recipes with the bar soap, as the oils in it can clog diapers, and other people say they have no problem with it at all.  Still others say if they notice a drop in absorption, they simply add some vinegar to the rinse cycle to strip out any residue.  That's my current plan.  Plus I picked a recipe that had a smaller ratio of the bar soap than others, hoping that will help as well.  Homemade laundry soap is supposed to be better for sensitive skin, waaaay better for the wallet and easy on the clothes.  We shall see!  I'm hoping to whip up a big batch tonight.  Then I'll probably make some cookies to reward myself for being so cheap frugal.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Buster and Star

When Knut was in high school, his dad got some horses for them to enjoy.  Then came college, graduation parties and lots of family weddings.  By the time we moved back to the farm, his parents simply didn't have the time to enjoy the horses, who were leisurely living their life in the pasture.  When we bought the house, they asked if we wanted to keep them on the property.  We (mostly me, I think) said no, we couldn't possibly have time to take care of horses properly, and encouraged them to find a new home for Buster and Star.

A family from our church offered to take them, and the horses live in luxury there.  They are combed, fed, ridden all the time by the parents and teenage/young adults in the family who care for them.  As a perk, we get to come and visit whenever we like.  Although sadly, this was our first time for such a visit.
(This is neither Buster nor Star.  The family I guess has taken in 2 other horses as well.)
First thing was to give the horses some oats, and let the kids and them get to know one another a little better.

Then the kids got to brush each horse.  (This is Paul, the dad of the family.)
Even Elias got to help comb the "nay-nays" tail.
This is Conrad, one of the "kids" (who is no longer a kid).  He's our friend who we got our chicks with.  He's a regular chick magnet.  He loves the chicks.  I could go on.  Oh yes, I could go on.  I'm sure he could easily be a 'professional' biathlon racer like his brother, but he enjoys farming...even though they don't live on a farm, but he helps out at this one.  Now who would want to hang out with a guy who likes to farm, but still is crazy good at cross country skiing?  Now you know why we're friends.  When he and Knut go skiing together, Knut always comes back really, really, really tired.

Back to the horses.

David got to go on Buster first, and was a bit nervous.  Any sudden movement that the horse made caused David to jump, and there were a few times David screamed, but Buster was nice and gentle with him.  Knut ran alongside them getting him to trot and David just squealed with delight.


 This little lady got to ride on Star, and she waited patiently until Star was saddled, even though David and Knut were already doing laps around the yard.  Silje told me in the van as we were driving there, "Mommy, this is one of my dreams coming true!"

 When Silje got on Star, she was completely relaxed.  As always, she was a natural with the animal.  Seriously, this girl has a touch with any animal she comes in contact with.  She loves them, and I've yet to meet one that doesn't like her.  She's always polite and asks owners before petting dogs, and all of that.  Still, it's like she gets them on a level I don't even get, but I completely see.
 Silje put up with being lead around, but what she really wanted was to take the reigns herself and go for a trot.  She asked me if she could have riding lessons officially 4 times while she was on the horse, and that was not counting the times she asked on the way to, and way back from this trip.  I really need to find a way to get her to visit Buster and Star more often, I guess.  I know nothing about horses, and would know even less about teaching her how to ride.  I'm afraid to even look into the cost of riding lessons, so for now maybe visiting these guys more might make do for awhile...I hope.
 Elias had to wait his turn, and he was sad about that.  He kept trying to follow the riding posse, but they were just walking too fast and he couldn't keep up.  Solveig slept most of the time, and I don't think she cared much.
At last, Knut put him up with David, which David did not like one bit.  He didn't like not being able to hold onto the horn of the saddle.  (Is that what it's called, that little nubby thing?  Like I said, I am ignorant in this area.)

So Knut moved him onto the horse with Silje instead, and although I didn't get a good picture of that, she did well with him there.  Elias on the other hand, who had put up with this all during his usual nap time was done, and we decided to hit the road at that point.

It was a beautiful day.  I don't remember seeing so many people outside in so long!  I think everyone in the state was outside.  It's on days like today, when I'm so so thankful that we live on one of the few farms that still take Sundays off...even during busy planting season.  If they did not, our family would have missed this whole day.  I feel so unbelievably blessed.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chicks!

We ordered chicks with our friend Conrad, whose family have been taking care of  the horses that used to be my in-laws.  I love horses, and would not be opposed to having some someday, but when we moved into Knut's parent's house, we literally did not have the time the horses deserved to get.  This family takes impeccable care of them, and they get ridden and brushed and loved all the time.  More on our time with the horses in my post tomorrow...



But onto our chicks!  Conrad was going to order another round of chicks and wondered if we wanted to go in on it with them, since the survival rate of chicks in the mail tends to be better in bigger batches (cheaper too!).  We wanted to get some of the Ameraucana breed, but we let him pick the rest of the mix we got.

I'm going to forget some of the breeds, but here is a list of our layers:
Ameraucana
Blue Hamburg
Dominiques
Cuckoo Marans
Speckled Sussex

I 'think' I have those right.  I'll double check with him.  We're not doing meat chickens at this point, but I would not rule it out in the future.  At this point, this is what I want.  I wish we didn't have to wait months for them to mature so we can get some fresh eggs, and I hope our patience will be worth the wait!
(The guy from 'The Country Store' where we got our supplies in town told us to cover the pine bedding with newspaper for the first few days to be sure they're eating their food and not the pine in those first days when they're weak.  Knut said that with "The Wallstreet Journal" as their bedding, they should be the smartest chicks in the neighborhood.  In some sort of ironic way it's kind of cool to respond to the inflated food prices in our economy with chicken poop on 'The Wallstreet Journal.')

Anyway, Contrad was not pleased with the hatchery he went through this year, as he ordered nearly 70 birds and 11 didn't make it through the first 2 days.  The hatchery is refunding him his money for the birds that don't last 48 hours, but he lost still another when we went to pick up the birds this afternoon.  He sent us home with our lot of 20, and said he'd take the refund from the company and get more if he wants them.  Needless to say, since we've gotten home, we all start wringing our hands when a little chick decides to take a nap, but so far they have all woken up, and they are all eating and drinking lots!

We were told by several people to be sure to have the kids wash their hands after handling them.  That ended up being so many handwashes as the kids would play with them, then want to do something else, then go back, etc.  We want them to be handled often as chicks so that the kids and the chicks know how to handle each other.  So I think next time I'm in town I'll get a little hand sanitizer pump container and have the kids "pump in" and "pump out" as they play with the little chicks...who should not stay little for long!
 Right now they are in a big box in our front entry way.  I'm not sure how long they'll be in the house before we move them into the garage.  We thought for the first little bit, it would be easier to keep an eye on them when they're close by.  Plus...
We're hoping to acclimate Lena to the chickens so she slowly gets the idea that she's not supposed to kill and eat them.  We're hoping that our dog that is bred to hunt birds will leave these birds alone and not stir them up.  She's definitely pacing back and forth by the box and isn't left alone by it, but so far neither kind of animal has terribly upset the other.

It will be a good month before they'll be big enough to be out in the coop, which Knut will have to get to soon.  (Though not this week!  If this weather holds, they're hoping to finish planting this next week!!)  So far, he and his dad have corrected the walls from the sharp lean and the old, unused shed is now flush and stable.  It still needs to have drafts contained and get some nesting boxes and perches.

I cannot believe we own 20 chickens now.  To a 'city girl' like me, this just feels so wild!