Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Irises

Remember my iris from yesterday? By early evening, it had opened up to this!

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Today it opened all the way!

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This one on the other side of the sidewalk will probably be open by tomorrow.

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As we were checking the rest of the stems, we found six more on the side with the fully bloomed iris developing nicely. They should open up in the next few days. The other side is slower, but there are at least three more making progress.

I have such a black thumb when it comes to growing things unless they require little care. These tough irises are perfect for me! Beautiful and EASY!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, April 29, 2013

In the great outdoors...It’s actually starting to feel like late April, with today’s high creeping up close to 80. While it is a gorgeous day, I’m definitely NOT going to complain about the fact that it has not felt much like April this month. I’ll take the cool as long as I can get it!

Within our four walls...open windows, but not quite the cross-draft we like to enjoy. We seem to have misplaced the tension rod for the screen that we hang inside our front door to allow us to leave it open for an extra breeze. We’re trying to brainstorm where it might have run off to. It’s a bit stuffy in this room right now because we can’t open these windows, but it still isn’t  uncomfortable. It hasn’t made me get up and turn on the fan yet.

A heart of thanksgiving...for a slow mosquito season. They’re out there, but the kids have played outside a lot the past few weeks, and they really have not suffered many bites. Such a blessing!

A heart of prayer...for schedule wisdom. Doug and I are both about to hit summer schedule time and we need to make some adjustments.

Random observations...my to-do list for this week is out-growing its sticky note. Perhaps I should find a safe spot for it anyway.

My silly children...are getting super excited about the pool now that they can wear shorts and sundresses in the afternoon. I can only say, “Remember those nights in the 40’s and days in the 50’s and 60’s we’ve had lately? Yeah, the water remembers too!”

Thoughts from the kitchen...spaghetti today, accompanied by homemade banana pudding that did not set. Believe it or not, it’s the first time I’ve ever made banana pudding, and I’m not sure what I did wrong. It was still good though.

Anyone have a banana pudding recipe that they just love?

On my bookshelf...(well, they’re not actually on my bookshelf yet – I just rotated the picture to make it look like they’re standing upright!)

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They actually represent something really awesome. This week I start a short-term editing job with Home Educating Family! The first two are part of my reference material for the job and the last one is more of a guide or training material. Yes, I’m incredibly intimidated, but I’m also exceedingly excited!

Projects...I’m working on a knit shrug now, and this pattern is SO much easier than the crochet pattern!

Sounds of the moment...the computer humming and Doug talking on the phone in the next room.

Last week we learned...that the glass insert of a thermos will explode under the right circumstances. I was preheating the thermos so I could put Choffy in it to take with us for a day of school at the church with Doug. All of the sudden it literally exploded! Not shattered – exploded. Fortunately, the plastic outer portion of the thermos held most of the blast, but some shards did fly up and out, landing halfway across the kitchen or on top of the freezer. Fortunately, none of them got me, and the kids were safely playing in the back of the house (where they DID hear the explosion). And yes, once my heart stopped beating out of my chest, I thought it was really, really cool!

Two favorite things from last week...my new job and “tent school.”

The planner...school (only three weeks left, two of which are not full weeks!), my training begins on Wednesday, and hopefully a field trip on Friday.

Because visuals are fun...my irises are finally blooming! The kids noticed this morning and came in to tell me. I’m not a flower person, really, but I love irises. My favorite is the black iris, but these were much cheaper and still promised a gorgeous color. I’ll get pictures with the better camera once they bloom a little more.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Signs of Life

How I love watching things grow!! I really don’t have much of a green thumb, and I’m not a huge outdoors person. But, planting trees and bushes and then watching them grow and bloom is amazing!

As promised, here are a few pictures. I showed one of the blueberry bushes yesterday. We have two more tiny bushes that didn’t do well last year, but they seem to be trying this year. I know they won’t produce this year.

And, the strawberries and peanuts didn’t make it. They flooded out. So, we’re on the lookout for some straw bales in hopes we can plant more strawberries in the bales to keep them from flooding out again. We’ve yet to decide what to do about the peanuts.

So, for today’s pictures, we’ll start with the grapes. A couple of weeks ago, even as the weather couldn’t decide between hot and frigid, we began to see the first signs of life on our grape vines. This one turned green first, and we wondered if the other one was even still alive.

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But it was! Here you can see a picture from this past weekend of them side by side. The slower one (on the right) is working hard to catch up!

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Then we have our clippings. When we pruned the vines this winter, Doug stuck a couple of the clippings in the ground to see what they would do. Sure enough, they’re turning green too! Here’s one – you can see the green leaf, but there are also several more buds trying to pop up.

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Next we have the apple trees. One is huge and flourishing nicely, two more much smaller ones are beginning to bud, and a fourth one that we thought was dead is actually showing signs of life. Aren’t these blossoms gorgeous?

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I don’t know if we’ll have any fruit this year from the apples or grapes, but the growth has been beautiful to watch, just the same.

The peach trees, on the other hand…

These gorgeous blossoms popped up everywhere on the peach trees.

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And now just about every blossom on both trees has given way to this:

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On the bigger of the two trees, there are at least 15 dozen little peaches, and probably around ten dozen on the smaller tree! The trees are still babies, so I have no idea how many of these peaches they can carry to maturity. Last year we had a couple dozen baby peaches between the two trees, and only one peach made it to maturity. We’ll see this year!

Just posting these pictures makes me want to go out and look at everything again. So much changes in just a few days!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, April 22, 2013

In the great outdoors...a gorgeous day of sunshine. A yard desperately in need of mowing before the next rain. Lots of fruit growth. I was going to stick just a picture or two in here, but there are so many beautiful pictures of blossoms and new fruit! So, I’ll post those tomorrow. Here’s a sneak peek, though – our first blueberries!

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Within our four walls...quiet as the children have already finished working and are outside (well, Olivia’s not quite done – she’s just waiting for the computer so she can finish). It’s also comfortable. No heat. No A/C. A few windows open, probably to increase as the day wears on.

A heart of thanksgiving...the sunshine and a yard where my kids can play. Prayer support. The  blessing of being a reviewer. Friendship. Connection with people I cannot see face to face.

A heart of prayer...several friends in times of great struggle, salvation, daily discipline and focus on doing all for God’s glory.

Random observations...I have orders ready for most of the kids’ school stuff for next year. Now I get to shop for supplements! Angela needs a lot because she is working with Steven for one more year, and their core is definitely too easy for her. So, I have a ready-made excuse to start shopping for some of those books that I’ve really wanted but haven’t been able to get as review resources. Fun!!

My silly children...found great delight in working together this morning. I kept hearing Olivia talking and the other two laughing, and I was afraid that meant no school work was being done. I discovered, though, that Olivia was doing her school work out loud (another blessing of homeschooling – talking her work out helps her TREMENDOUSLY) and the other two (who have always been able to focus even amid distraction) were pretending she was telling funny math stories. All three were finished with their work in record time!

Thoughts from the kitchen...finally, a menu plan, at least for this week! The crock pots will be used heavily. That makes me smile. Today, however, we will be pulling a ready-made meal straight from the freezer. That makes me smile, too. Methinks I need to do one of my massive cooking sprees before it gets too hot so I’ll have a good number of pre-cooked meals in the freezer and ready to go. I’m feeling motivated! Hopefully that motivation will last through getting it planned, doing the shopping, and getting the cooking done.

On my bookshelf...continuing Beautiful Battlefields and starting Shattered, my next scheduled fiction review. Also reading Desperate with a group of friends. (If any of you moms want to join us as we read and discuss, let me know! We’ve got a blog and a weekly conference call for discussion purposes.)

Projects...I finished Olivia’s shrug! (pictures to come) YAY! Really not happy with that pattern, but the end result was cute. Then I found an adorable knit shrug pattern that I want to make for myself, so I’m going to give it a go. It looks pretty straightforward, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll also get to the sewing machine this week. Hopefully.

Sounds of the moment...still quiet. Except for the occasional ring of the phone. We have a telemarketer who will not leave us alone, so we’ve started ignoring that number. They try at least twice a day.

Last week we learned...that a tent with a screen “porch” works perfectly for spending time outdoors in mosquito country. Yay for the restoration of outdoor school! Even the “room” of this tent is nice and airy when the top cover is off, thanks to the netting in the roof, the large windows, and the vent in the back.

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A favorite thing from last week...flexibility.

The planner...a pretty normal week. School. Church. That’s about it. I like weeks like these. Soaking them up before summer’s busyness begins.

Because visuals are fun...Well, I’ve shared a couple of pictures already, but here’s one more: Taking Thea for a ride.2013-04-19 18.50.41

Friday, April 19, 2013

Blue

How I love this child…

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Steven and Angela can dig in the dirt, paint, cook, or do any number of other things and come out with hardly a spot on them. They do get dirty, but it takes effort.

Olivia, on the other hand, attracts mess. She will step outside for five minutes and come in needing a full shower.

All she needed to do earlier this week was put a second coat of paint on her Lego table (pictures of all the Lego tables coming as soon as they’re all done!). She was using a sponge paint brush, and didn’t realize that we considered the brushes disposable. She tried to clean hers. The result? Blue hands! As in, it looked like she was wearing blue gloves.

This picture was taken after she had scrubbed her hands for a good five minutes!

She still has blue on her hands, four days later. I just can’t help but chuckle. Yep, I love this child!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Sigh and Some Praise

I thought I finished Olivia’s shrug this afternoon. I put in the last stitches of the bodice as she read aloud to me, and we decided that she needed to try it on to see if she still wanted sleeves. It looked so cute without them, but we wanted to see if the look worked with the dress it was being made to be worn over.

When we finished the “just us” reading (her last read-aloud for this core is The Hobbit, and Steven and Angie have decided to join us for that one), I sent her to try the shrug on before calling the other two in for read-aloud.

It didn’t fit. Too big. Can I tell you how many times I stopped and measured and adjusted the pattern and measured again? Yeah. Didn’t matter. The back is far too wide for her, and by the time it reaches the shoulders, it just hangs off of her. I almost cried. It’s not like a sewing project where I can just refigure some seams or make adjustments in other ways. This has to be totally taken apart and redone.

With some measuring, I realized the front (the harder part), is right, and the base of the back will work. It just needs to be progressively narrowed up the back. Fortunately, the back is stitched separately. So, I have started taking out the stitches in the back and have a plan for making this work. Hopefully.

It frustrated me. A lot. But then I remembered a few things.

  • People’s lives were unexpectedly turned upside down yesterday in Boston.
  • A precious friend struggles with back pain that kept her from leaving on a long-anticipated mission trip last week.
  • Two friends struggle with sudden news about serious health problems with their parents.
  • My own father is learning first-hand the struggles of being a care-giver.
  • Several parents I know are heartbroken over issues with their children.

This list goes on and on and on.

Yet, in the middle of praying over all of those needs, I also lifted up a prayer for something as insignificant as fixing a problem with a crochet project. And you know what? After I prayed, the correction idea popped into my head. For the record, I’m not taking credit for the idea, especially if it actually works! But I’m rejoicing in the fact that even as I pray for the big struggles of life, the little things that pop up can be prayed over as well. And as God quickly answers those little things, He reminds me that He’s just as able to answer the big ones – and He will.

What a reason to rejoice…and keep praying!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, April 15, 2013

In the great outdoors...sun trying valiantly to break through the clouds. It’s taking a little longer to warm up than we expected. No, we are not complaining. The high is supposed to be in the mid-80’s. Slow to warm up means the house stays comfortable longer with windows open and A/C off, especially on humid days like today. I’m just now starting to feel the tinge of heat.

Within our four walls...peace, calm, and quiet.

A heart of thanksgiving...for open windows, people who love our children, and flexibility that allows Doug to work from home some days.

A heart of prayer...for a productive few hours; for the farmers as they work hard to get some planting done before the next big bout of rain.

Random observations...I think it’s time to mess with my thought starters again. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go back to something old or concoct a new starter stream.

My silly children...are being silly at JoJo’s house today. They even agreed to doubling up on some school work later this week so they could have a day at her house! Works for me!

Thoughts from the kitchen...Doug made some shrimp biscuits as a “just the two of us, unexpected extra date day” lunch. Yum!!

On my bookshelf...Beautiful Battlegrounds, a book about suffering that promises to be challenging. Fortunately, I have some light fiction reading to go alongside it.

Projects...same old stuff. Still need to finish the shrug so I can head to the sewing machine. I also need to get my cold-weather clothes put away so I can stop digging through tubs to find my sundresses and other warm-weather clothes. 

Sounds of the moment...the dishwasher, tapping of keyboards, and some music in the background.

Last week we learned...that we can plant strawberries in…straw! Hmmm…wonder if that’s where the name comes from?

A favorite thing from last week...a beautiful weekend outside. We started painting the kids’ Lego tables, checked on the progress of the grapes, blueberries, apples, and peaches, finished reinforcing our trellises with stakes, and pumped bike tires for some extra time outside.

The planner...a normal week. Birthday party this weekend. Possibly a trip to Arkansas Post for a colonial event on Saturday, but we haven’t decided if we’re doing that or not. We might not decide until Saturday morning.

Because visuals are fun...Facebook has become very, very dangerous. People keep posting these pictures of decadent desserts, and I want to try them all! I resisted until recently. I had to try this one because it was too easy. Cookie dough pressed down for the bottom layer, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups next (we used minis), and then brownie batter on top. Yeah.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Random Thoughts on Country Life

I know it’s not the best picture…it’s hard to get aerial flight captured with a camera phone, but Doug tried anyway. I was too mesmerized to go inside for the real camera until shortly before the bird flew away.

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We walked outside around lunchtime, and the kids noticed a bird of prey flying in circles over the field just across the street. They asked if it was an eagle; thinking the bird we were watching was a high-flying bird, Doug and I both quickly answered by saying that it was probably just a hawk. Immediately, we doubted our answer. Sure enough, as the bird turned, we realized it was flying much lower than we’d previously thought. Which meant it was much bigger than we’d normally thought. Then it turned again, and we saw the white head and tail. Oh how breathtakingly glorious! A bald eagle, flying right over our town, right over our neighbor’s house and yard! We watched for several minutes as the eagle circled looking for prey before flying off to the northeast. Wow.

Sometimes it can be annoying living so far away from a “real” city, but then we have days like today.

To enjoy the sunshine, we take family walks through town, fanning out across the road until a car comes by. We take turns kicking at a stone down the road, seeing how far we can kick a single stone before it disappears into the grass.

Bikes with fresh air in the tires can be ridden up and down the gravel road by our house.

The perfect climbing tree that’s planted just on the edge of the neighbor’s yard can be freely climbed.

We can’t walk to the general store or post office without running into someone to talk to, whether we know them or not.

It’s okay to walk through town in our yard or paint clothes on a nice afternoon because nine times out of ten, everyone we meet will be wearing theirs, too.

We actually can enjoy a nice Saturday afternoon at home because it’s a big deal to get anywhere else. It takes intentionality, and it’s easier to intentionally stay home.

And then there’s that eagle.

Yes, today was a nice day to live in a small town.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Easter Pictures

Once upon a time, I spent a great deal of time and effort on pictures. I don’t do that so much these days, now that I get to write so much more (which I love even more!), but every now and then it’s fun to go back to it.

Easter Sunday we had nearly two hours to fill between our sunrise service and Sunday school, so we took pictures! Here are my favorites.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, April 8, 2013

In the great outdoors...spring! A freshly mown lawn (with several ruts from the lawn mower since it was still quite swampy when we worked out there on Saturday), signs of growth all around, the standard, stout, 10-15 mph breeze that is typical of a prairie spring (it’ll progress from a breeze to wind when it gets back above 20 mph tomorrow), temps just into the 70’s, and even some sunshine peeking through the clouds. Oh yes, and children! How desperately they needed to go out today! They were pinging!

Within our four walls...quiet for the moment. School clutter lying all around me.

A heart of thanksgiving...for tasks completed midday Friday so that we could truly rest and enjoy some peace last weekend. We needed that.

A heart of prayer...for so many friends, especially many of my  ministry friends. Health problems, family struggles, church issues, and so many other things seem to be hammering hard right now. So thankful for prayer support!

Random observations...I have a lot of pictures to sort. A whole lot. I believe that will be my first project when we switch to our summer school schedule.

My silly children...wear themselves out quickly the first day they get to play outside after being stuck indoors for a while. Mean ole Mommy makes them stay out there, though, instead of letting them come in and play on the Wii or just read. It’ll be too wet or too hot again soon enough. STAY OUTSIDE!!

Thoughts from the kitchen...meat! Oh, how I love meat! (I’m sure I’ve never mentioned that before.) Doug thawed 5-6 pounds of ground deer and beef for me, and this morning I put it all in the food processor to get it well mixed. The beef was less lean than we are accustomed to, and the deer was too lean for a meatloaf. The combination worked beautifully for a nice, big, cheesy crockpot meatloaf. Oh it was so good! Another crockpot (so thankful for TWO!) browned the rest of the meat so I can refreeze it and have it ready for lasagna, spaghetti, tacos, and whatever else we come up with.

On my bookshelf...just finished Larkin’s Journal yesterday. I enjoyed it – I was just late getting it done. Now I need to speed read my next book, once I look to see what it is!

Projects...I got the writing project edited and done last Monday night. I didn’t get up the nerve to submit it until Tuesday morning, but it’s so nice to have both it and the blog re-launch done. The normalcy of just school and my weekly writing is refreshing – and it just might let me sit back down at the sewing machine again very, very soon. Meanwhile, I’ve made progress on Olivia’s shrug, and now I’m contemplating her birthday presents. Wonder what I can come up with…

Sounds of the moment...a banging door. Must be Steven heading back outside.

A favorite thing from last week...the weekend. Sunshine. Rest. Peace. Time outside. Very nice.

The planner...Doug has a couple of things this week, but it’s just back to school for the rest of us. Six weeks left. YAY!

Because visuals are fun...Li’l Doug in Daddy’s shoes.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

For Today...Monday, April 1, 2013

In the great outdoors...gnats! The buffalo gnats evidently got tired of waiting for spring and decided to go ahead and appear in full force while the temperatures were still in the 50’s. Yesterday I almost swallowed half a dozen just walking back and forth to church, and I’ve already suffered a bite. Ouch.

Today, though, we have the weather they were waiting for! Beautiful sunshine and temperatures forecasted to climb close to 70! I must say, I’m not disappointed it has waited this long to warm up. Heat will come soon enough…

Within our four walls...a little school and quite a few chores.

A heart of thanksgiving...for the sunshine, a good night’s sleep, no damage from the storms that started blowing through Sunday around 3:00 AM (which is why we really needed a good night’s sleep last night!), and the chance to visit with Grandpa Friday after our Tuesday trip was cancelled (he went into the hospital Monday night and was there until Wednesday).

A heart of prayer...stamina for my dad as he and his brother and sister take turns with round-the-clock care for Grandpa. Also for a friend who is dealing with her father’s sudden health crisis.

My silly children...have been deprived in their education. We all love Visual Latin, and they have a great April Fool’s joke. I will be honest, I really hate pranks, but this was one of those truly funny jokes. Unfortunately, despite my children’s love for Dwane Thomas and Visual Latin, they could not really enjoy the joke because we have yet to expose them to the wonders of Star Trek. Tragedy, I know.

Thoughts from the kitchen...shepherd’s pie today – perfect use of leftover potatoes and burgers!

On my bookshelf...a review book entitled Larkin’s Journal – YA fantasy fiction that the girls have already devoured. Trying to motivate myself to read it.

Projects...I’ve made a good bit of progress on Olivia’s crocheted shrug, even though I’ve had to drastically alter the pattern because my yarn is a size too big to match the gauge of the pattern. Hopefully it will look okay!

I have all the rough drafts written for my major writing project. Hopefully editing won’t take too long. It feels good to have that much done.

We did get the ministers’ wives blog launched! YAY! What an awesome team we have! Go to www.arminwives.com or click on the image to check it out…feel free to share it!

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Sounds of the moment...silence. No children noises. No music. No nothing except the normal hum of an electrified life. I wonder how many noises I would discover if I lived without electricity. No, I don’t really care to find out.

A favorite thing from last week...good trip to Judsonia.

The planner...light school week – math and language arts only – while I get the final six weeks planned. Bernina Club on Thursday and then yard work later this week, if the dry forecast holds.

Because visuals are fun...aren’t they handsome? This is Steven with Read, one of the younger boys at church. We finished Sunday school early, so they played for a few minutes. These two really enjoy each other’s company.

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