Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holy Night: Christmas Eve 2011

It was a wonderful Christmas Eve, XiXi's first.

The evening started with our traditional big Subway sandwich

And the baking of Christmas cookies for Santa.

Then there came a decree from Cesar Augustus.

And angels made glad tidings to shepherds (and their sheep).

All came to worship the babe in Bethlehem.

Then the girls opened their Christmas Eve jammies....

...followed by the boys.

And it wouldn't be Christmas Eve without the traditional jammie pyramid....

with one extra this year...

...a fairly heavy extra....

.....who we're so thankful is HOME for Christmas!

Merry Christmas From our House to Yours

Monday, December 19, 2011

This is what I'm working with: Rose's Christmas List

Copied word for word
An interesting peek into the unique mind of our entertaining Rose

1. Kits (Hint: I love to smear, powderize, pour, ooze, creamerize, etc. with watery stuff.)
2. Make-up Kit (I can't have my OWN make-up, so I use face molds.)
3. A Chemistry Set (This, I hope, will cover the whole smear, pour......I won't continue.)
4. Art of Calligraphy (I've ALWAYS wanted to use ink and quill!)
5. A Nancy Drew Mystery Computer Game (The one I played was SOO fun!)
6. A Notebook (Going back to my old ways)
7. Barnes and Noble Giftcard (Keep the price low, or I'll never emerge from my books.  Hee Hee)
8. I-Pod (Lucy, do NOT say I won't get one!)
9. Geography Set (Please, I would prefer countries, because I know all my states.)
10. A marker set (to add to my collection)
11. Books (You can never say no to them.)
12. A doll (Cholita, stay back!  You have Rosalie!)
13. Nail polish (Lucy can tell you the colors I like, she knows.)
14. Nice chapstick (You know how my lips get)
15. Bruder's I-Pod (free present, right?)
16. Architeque (sorry, I'm bad at spelling!) set (see me for details)
17. A car (just kidding!)
18. A boxed book series (One I haven't read, please)
19. Mini American Girl Doll (The big ones are too expensive)
20. A happy family.

Dear Mom, Dad, Bruder, Lucy, Cholita, and XiXi,

I know this year people are short on money.  This list was only to give you a wide range of choices.  You know what I like, so don't worry about getting "pacific" (ha ha).  I've never been disappointed.   You guys are very creative.  If we don't have as much money, we can still have a good, happy Christmas.  I just wanted to give you an idea or two (or twenty) so you can feel a bit of direction with your shopping.  But really, I don't care.  You can get me a moldy sock (note the sarcasm.  Bruder, this means you.)  Just don't tell me what you got me (Cholita, this means you),  or say I'll never get it (Lucy), or open another person's gifts (XiXi).

Merry Christmas, Rose

Editor's Note: We are not destitute.  I think possibly we went overboard on the "let's not spend too much on Christmas this year" bit.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

And then there were two

Mrs. Howell has joined the laying club!  Cholita is a proud Mama.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Chicken Casa

I realize that I left you hanging with Lyle's work on Chickenville.   Thankfully the hens are not still residing in the front room, or even in the garage.

Back in the Spring, when the goats came home, Lyle was in the beginning stages of enclosing the overhang that had sheltered the horses, and was turning it into separate goat and chicken quarters.

He finished a few months ago, reusing some old windows.  He added the mullions to match the windows on the front of the barn.  The goats have their own little home on the right, which Lyle is bravely cleaning in the photo.  The left side and the whole upper portion is all for the chickens.  (Can you spot Franklin, checking things out?)

To keep the chickens safe from the many critters who frequent our property, Lyle built a run, burying chicken wire several feet into the ground.

The chickens can come and go as they please.  Even on rainy days, they prefer to stay outside, huddled under the hen house.

Lyle and my dad devised this watering system with tubing and PVC.  

I wish I had a better photo of it, but the blue that you see on the left is an adorable bird house that Lyle made which sits over a large water bucket.  From the bucket, you can see the tube which goes down to the chicken run.

Inside, there are 4 nesting boxes which you can access from the outside hatch or by walking into the coop through one of two doors.

We have three chicken breeds in our flock.  There are two Australorps--Ginger and Gabby.  In the light, their black feathers take on a pretty emerald tinge.

Our three Silverlaced Wyandottes, posing here for a group photo, look like they're wearing fancy ball gowns.  They are Annie, Mr. Beefy, and Chicken (XiXi's English wasn't so great 5 months ago when we asked him what he wanted to name his chicken.  "Ummm," he said, "Chicken!")

And last but not least are our two Buff Orpingtons--Clarkson (our only layer) and Cholita's hen Mrs. Howell.  

True, they can be a bit stinky, but being that these are our only pets willing to provide us with breakfast, I think they're keepers.
 It won't be long before we have 49 eggs a week.  
Omelette anyone?
over-easy or scrambled?
cholesterol-lowering medication?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

He...oh wait, I mean SHE....did it!!

Laid an egg, that is!!!  
A "he" is incapable of that feat, correct?
So the debate has ended. 
 Clarkson the chicken,
Clarkson the suspected rooster,
 is indeed a hen.

We'd kind of wondered, you see, since Clarkson's comb was bigger than the other chickens and because he (I mean she) walked with a bit of a manly swagger.  In our inexperience, this chicken looked rather rooster-ish.

Our chicks were supposed to reach egg-laying age at the end of October, but every day when we eagerly checked the nesting boxes, we came back empty-handed.  Apparently if chickens reach maturity during the dark winter months, sometimes they won't lay eggs until the Spring.  Dang it.  I wanted a Halloween egg but would have to wait until Easter.

Lyle built this handy-dandy egg collection door into the side of the hen house.  It opens right into the nesting boxes, the nesting boxes which the chickens showed no interest in.  So, I basically stopped checking.  Then, two days after Thanksgiving, I was out with the dog when I heard a mighty ruckus coming from the hen house.  I figured that Clarkson the rooster was finding his voice.

I opened the side door to the nesting boxes and there sat Clarkson, squawking to beat the band!  It felt like I'd walked in on someone using the bathroom, and quickly apologized and closed the door.  I ran up to the house to tell the kids an egg was on the way.  Much to our surprise, there wasn't just one egg, but THREE!  Clarkson had laid the first egg on Thanksgiving!  In all of the excitement, with kids carrying the eggs, only one of the three made it into the refrigerator intact.

No matter.  Clarkson is now consistent as Old Faithful, delivering one egg a day.

We all find it pretty amazing.
Miraculous, really....

........especially coming from a rooster.  
Way to go Clarkson.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

He Dreamed a Dream

No, Lyle is not Lehi, or Pharaoh, or (thank goodness) even Fantine from Les Miserables.  He did, however, dream a dream.

He woke up with a start at about 3:00 in the morning.   In the dream that roused him, he saw that our basement was flooding, our sump pump was broken, and water was lapping up near our raised, newly purchased, oh-so-pricey heater.  He was so troubled by the clarity of the dream that he knew he'd never get back to sleep if he didn't go investigate.

Our "basement" is really a glorified crawl space about 7 feet tall that you can access only by removing a heavy hatch which is set into the floorboards of our back porch.   In his robe, braving the cold, wet morning, he took off the hatch, shined his flashlight down the stairs, and saw the exact image of his dream......a completely flooded crawl space, a broken sump pump, and water rising dangerously close to our heating system.  It was a long, wet morning, but all is well and we are deeply grateful.

All of the children were impressed by Lyle's dream, but it was Cholita who shared the experience with her class, saying that she was thankful for Heavenly Father's help in saving our heater.  She also now looks at her father with a sense of awe and feels comforted that he will be warned in the event of family danger.   "Mom," she said very seriously while we were driving in the car, "If Dad ever dreams that a tiger is in our house, eating the kids, make sure he wakes up!"

 Will do.  But if he has a Lehi moment and dreams that our family should leave our house, travel in the wilderness and live in a tent?

 I'll tell him to go back to sleep.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If Franklin Could Talk

Do you want me to sit?  I'll do it!

Do you want me to lie down? No problem!

Do you want me to stay?   Got it!

Just tell me I'm a good dog.  Please, oh please, oh please tell me I'm a good dog.  

Because I love you!

You're beautiful!  Have I told you lately?  I only have eyes for you.  

Well, you and everyone else who wants to pet me.  Or feed me!

Your wish is my command.

Please, oh please, oh please let me do something for you.  Anything!

And then scratch my belly.  

Because I love you!

In case you can't tell, he's a pleaser.
At nearly 15 weeks, he knows sit, down, stay, leave it, and go potty.
He knows that he needs to sit and wait when we walk through doors.
He knows to sit quietly while we put on his leash or give him his food.
He knows not to jump up on people......mostly.
Little people are still too great a temptation.

At 15 weeks he does not know:
that everything in our home is not a chew toy and
that all manner of animal manure is not food.

Not bad for 15 weeks.
But seriously?
The ick factor of the manure eating nearly cancels out all of his great qualities.

We know he's a keeper.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Frankly Speaking: Life with a 12 week old puppy

As I type, Franklin is sitting on the floor next to me.  It's not the calm bonding moment that you might imagine, however.  The leash he's wearing is pinned to the floor by my foot because if given free reign,  I can't even image the scope of destruction. The word "catastrophic" comes to mind.

These past three weeks with Franklin have reminded me of the personal oath I'd made after raising each of our canine babies, an oath that obviously I'd forgotten.  "I will never get another puppy."  I picture Scarlett O'Hara with the sun setting behind her, a fist raised to the sky.  It's that type of oath.  And yet, here I am, yet again, raising a puppy.

Those people who raise guide dog puppies, only to send them off to formal training school once they've gotten through all the hard stuff?  There's a special place reserved for them in heaven, I'm sure.

And speaking of Heaven, it was the loss of Charlie's dear doggie brother, Olaf, that prompted the addition of Franklin.  Charlie just wasn't himself and he looked lonely and we just knew that he'd love a little puppy brother.  We were wrong.  Very wrong.  At his advanced age, he's like the grumpy 80 year-old man who yells at the neighbor kids to get off his lawn.   Right now, Charlie wants Franklin off his lawn.

I read somewhere that by 12 weeks a puppy should meet at least 100 people.  Since I'm a bit of a homebody, I've had to make a conscious effort to take Franklin somewhere every single day.  In our quest to find people of all ages and sizes, we've explored parks, visited schools, window shopped downtown, and blasted through many a scene of Autumn peace and tranquility.  And as tiring as it's been, I honestly can't remember a Fall that I've appreciated so fully.  Nothing says joy quite like a fat puppy rolling and romping through leaves.  I have no doubt that lurking within this bundle of fur are the makings of a great dog.

I just...

need the energy....

to get him there.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Birthday, An Explanation, and An Introduction

A Birthday

My oldest girl turned 15 this week!  What a gift our sweet Lucy has been to our family.  Even as a baby, she had this calm maturity about her.  When we moved from Iowa to Washington, eighteen-month-old Lucy carried her  backpack through the airport, leading the way, making sure we were always right behind her, checking to see that I had our tickets, and just keeping us on track for the big move.  She's always been like that.....organized, responsible, and dependable.   And now she's 15 and eligible to start driver's ed.  Surprisingly, she's not itching to get behind the wheel, unlike her older brother, but we can wait...for a while.  Driving Lucy to her many activities takes a large part of my day and on her 16th birthday I want her in line at the DMV.

An Explanation

It's been a long, long time since I've had a month-long lapse in blogging.  It's been busy around here, as usual, but it's gotten busier.  First, we've joined the YMCA and I've been trying to exercise every morning, and second.........

An Introduction

This guy.   Our 11 week-old golden retriever bundle of energy.   It's been nearly 7 years since we've had a puppy at home and holy cow.  Puppies are EXHAUSTING.   Even sweet, mellow, obedient puppies like this little guy are a whole ton of work.   His name, as I've mentioned, had to come from the Peanuts comic strip.   This left us with names like Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus, Rerun, etc.  None of those seemed right.  We all agreed that with his blond hair he kind of looked like Schroeder...

...but Schroeder didn't exactly roll off the tongue for me and you have to say a dog's name about a hundred times a day.   Finally, one seemed right.

Do you remember the name of this character?  Think about it while I indulge in puppy pictures.....

.......Because he gets bigger every day.

 And won't always have the same puppy energy.  (Dang it and thank goodness.)

And he'll loose the puppy fluff.  Don't you want to touch him?

And his first "sit" will always be special.

And puppy tummies are adorable while adult male dogs in this pose are a little obscene.

And Rose won't be able to carry him forever.   

We're thankful to welcome.....


to the family.

He's admirably following in some mighty big paw prints.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Half a Year Ago Today

We met one sad, scared little man.  

This passport photo was taken maybe thirty minutes after that traumatic first meeting.  I sat him on the stool in front of the white curtain, my arm on his back to make sure he didn't fall.  "Smile!" I said in a cheery sing-song voice.  Although an appropriate thing to say at a photo session, it was quite ridiculous under the circumstances, spoken to a child who didn't understand English and had just left everything he'd ever known.  "Smile!"  The poor boy.

What an amazing 6 months we've had together and what a truly amazing child.  Not only has he adjusted, he's thrived.  His teachers at church and at school give us nothing but glowing comments; they all adore him.  His English is incredible.  He certainly doesn't have the depth of vocabulary that some 4 year-olds have, but he's not very far off.   Not far off at all.  He speaks in full sentences--sentences filled with adjectives and adverbs, pronouns and possessives.   He still has a touch of an accent, but it's quickly fading and we'll miss it when it's gone. 

He is sweet and helpful, smart and funny.  Oh my, is he funny.  He makes us laugh every single day.  What a blessing to have that contagious smile in our home.  He lights up a room with his whole-face grin.   It's humbling to think how easy it would have been to miss out on XiXi, to have let that gift pass us by without ever knowing what we'd missed.  Over a year ago, when we saw his photo on a website, we were in no way ready for an adoption.   At least that's what we thought.  Heavenly Father obviously knew better.

Happy six months together, precious XiXi!  SMILE!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do Dogs Shed in Heaven?

If they don't, our Olaf has now officially achieved perfection.

It's just his family that's a absolute mess.

Olaf was, without a doubt, the world's cutest puppy.

I carried him home from the breeder's on my lap, a warm, wiggly, bear cub of a dog.

Would you check out the size of that paw?  Even as a baby, it was clear he would soon be shopping at the big and tall store.

His doggie brother Charlie, our labrador retriever, five years his senior, was named after Charlie Brown.   We wanted to stay in keeping with the Peanuts theme, but this dog was certainly no Snoopy.  Or Pigpen.  Or Linus.  Bruder piped up that Snoopy had a fat brother in a fur hat and that his name was Olaf.  Lightbulbs dinged over the heads of all family members and it was decided instantly.  He was Olaf.

When he was still a baby, we took a trip to the Oregon coast, but since we couldn't imagine leaving him in a kennel, we rented an RV and he came along for the ride.

He's always been so gentle that even toddler Rose could hold his leash.

We learned on that trip that Olaf detested water, wouldn't even step paw in it, but would happily run along the beach.  Basically anything with his people, he was game.

He grew at an alarming rate.  By 10 months he was pushing 100 pounds.

Here he is during his gangly teenage stage in the Olympic Mountains with the kids.  I've always loved mountain photos of Olaf.  Being a Bernese Mountain Dog, it just seemed fitting.  If we could put the kids in lederhosen and get them yodeling, the scene would be perfect.

I can't tell you how many times I heard, "Holy cow!  What a cool dog!"  Or, "Is that some type of Saint Bernard?"  Or my favorite, "Oh, I know what he is!  He's one of those Burmese Mountain Dogs, right?"  I always commended the proud individual on their canine knowledge, but inwardly laughed at the image of Olaf in his thick black coat, lounging on the tropical shores of Burma.

For almost seven years, Olaf has been such a huge part of our home and family.

Whether it's been welcoming trick or treaters on Halloween,

laughing with the kids on crazy dress day,

or sending off his boy on his first drive in his new car.

He's been there for landscaping and dirt moving projects,

bike rides and lawn games,

kid's birthday parties,

and of course, the Christmas Eve pyramid.  Oh, how he hated the Christmas Eve pyramid.  If he could wring his hands, assuming he had hands, this annual event would make him do it.  He was a bit of a worrier at heart.  More than once, he tried to hide behind me when some toy breed barked at him.   He also worried about our laminate floor.  Not the whole floor, just one particular section.  He'd stand there, hemming and hawing over what he should do, then he'd always turn around and throw it into reverse to slowly back into the carpeted family room.  Lyle added the BEEP, BEEP, BEEP sound of a truck in reverse.  People thought it was some trick we taught him, but no, it was just his own little brand of weirdness shining through.

   Olaf was always gentle and kindhearted.  Never once in his life did he show the slightest hint of aggression.  Our lab will growl, as most dogs would, if say, a raccoon saunters onto our porch, but never Olaf.  Not a single growl ever escaped his lips. 

He went on countless walks around our two mile loop.....not just with our family, with anyone.  He was positive that everyone adored him, and as far as I can tell, he was right.  He was beloved by the whole neighborhood and many walkers would get to our property and cup their hands around their mouths and yell, "OLAF!" and he'd join them for a jaunt.  When our neighbors heard he was sick, one brought him a cheeseburger, another a bone.  They shared Olaf stories and fought back tears.

Olaf loved the recent arrival of our goats.  In this photo, he was staring with rapt attention, along with the kids, as the goats were let into the pasture.  

He chased them with tail wagging glee and then sat outside their fence and stared at them.  He found them endlessly entertaining.

When visitors came to our home, Olaf gave them a little sniff, then promptly turned around, sat on their feet, and threw his head back at them in a big Berner grin.  I believe he had a 100% success rate in getting a pat.

He went on many scout campouts and was the ultimate tent warmer.  On a cold night, everyone wanted to sleep with Olaf.  He accompanied the boys on numerous hikes, 

almost all successful.

There was one notable exception when he laid down mid-trail and refused to take another step. 
 I've had hikes like that myself.

But when I picture Olaf, I won't see him on a trail or in the mountains or at the beach.  When I think of  him, I'll always see him on the hill above our house.

Without fail, when our car turned the final dusty, bumpy corner for home, he was there, waiting for us.  

Tonight, with the help of our neighbors, we buried our gentle giant on his hill.  Everyone agreed that that's where he should be.

As much as our hearts are breaking right now, I would bring home that furry bear cub bundle again in a  heartbeat.   I can see our children, years from now, with their children, sitting snuggled on their laps, and they're telling them,
"When I was a kid, we had the coolest dog....."  And then they'll smile.  
"His name was Olaf."