Sunday, December 29, 2013


Tonight after all the kids were in bed, I was tidying up. When I got to the play room, it looked like I had a week's worth of work to do, and started sorting and tossing, and collecting as I started with clearing a pathway through the main walking area. About 4 feet into the room, I ran across a piece of paper that was mostly crumpled. I unfolded it to see if it was somebody's treasure, or just another piece of trash. This is what I found and it made me melt inside.

I turned it over and at first I wasn't sure if it was missing parts or not, but even if it is, what was left was lovely.

Of course, now another hour has slipped past and I probably don't have time to finish cleaning the play room really. I should have gone to bed before I got started on that, but it's little things like these, that make the long days worth every minute of frustration and exhaustion. It's little things like these, which are the windows that peek in at my real treasures. It's little things like these, that make me feel very inadequate as a mother because little things like these shouldn't be such a surprise to discover. And it's little things like these, that inspire me to try harder to understand and appreciate these fast growing, ever changing, not so little any more, precious children that I have been honored with the job of raising!

She's almost NINE!

Friday, December 13, 2013


"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."
Psalm 19:1

(April 18th, 2013)

"From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord's name is to be praised."
Psalm 113:3

'Thinking of my Grandma today. Some things don't need words. Sometimes words just get in the way. And sometimes words can be too late. Words can be a gift, and they can be passed down from generation to generation too. But there are no words that can take the place of love.

"Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."
Ecclesiastes 7:8

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Checks and Chore Dollars

When there are many bodies in constant motion, it is easy to fly under the radar. A while back, I decided it was time to re-introduce CHORES to my children as we'd mostly gotten our feet back underneath us after moving. Anyway, I'd assign a job and get a lot of "But I did that yesterday!" or "How come I ALWAYS have to do this?!? or in some cases nothing said... and nothing done - you know, the 'make-yourself-scarce-and-hope-you're-forgotten' kind of thing. As a result, I came up with an Accountability Chart. I wanted the helpful kids to see that their efforts were noticed and I wanted the not so helpful kids to see their own lack of effort as well.

It just so happened when we moved in, that there was a giant white board already hanging on the wall of the barn. It was exactly the thing I needed so I moved it to the dining room, and the rest kindof worked itself out as I went.

I started by putting the weekly memory verse across the top of the board. Having it in the dining room makes a huge difference when it comes to remembering to practice the verse. Then I made a simple chart (list of chores on the left, days of the week across the top). The plan was simple. If you did a chore (assigned or not), you got a mark in the box for that chore on that day's column.

After more than two months, I HAD to fix the lines. They were starting to dive me crazy.

And since I had a rainbow assortment of white board markers, I assigned a different color to each kid so I could avoid having to use initials (that doesn't work very well at our house). Plus making a check mark is faster than writing most letters of the alphabet anyway. This idea has worked brilliantly, and to keep it from getting old, I switch up the colors every week.

Next, I divided the house up into 10 zones. And assigned a pair of zones to each child. All they had to do was tidy the zone. If they could get the top layer cleared, it would make the actual cleaning part a lot easier for me. Over time, I've assigned different levels of 'tidying'. For example, it's OK if Ricka just picks everything up off of the floor and makes a pile in the corner of the room. For the other kids, that's not an option - everything must be put away. When Butler gets a bathroom zone, I don't expect him to sweep the floor or scrub the toilet and tub, but I do ask that of Dolly or PC, and I expect Emma to sweep the floor and wipe the counters even if she doesn't have to scrub the toilet.

Some zones are fun or very easy - how messy can a hallway get? And who doesn't love playing with the in-house vacuum? And some zones are NOT easy or fun in the least bit - the playroom?!? But I DIDN'T make that mess! Cleaning toilets? Gross. But this variety is good too, because I can adjust the workloads weekly and give incentives for good attitudes and disciplined effort. If you shirk your zone all week, you may end up being assigned to it again or even be given a harder zone. On the other hand, if you work hard even though you had a more unpleasant zone, you may be rewarded with a fun or easy zone the next week.

The problem with all of the above was almost immediately obvious. What was to be done about the 'So? I don't care if I get a check mark. I don't want to do the work' responses? The solution was that we had to create an incentive program based on the number of check marks earned during the week. For every 2 check marks, I would pay a 'chore dollar', which is pretty much homemade monopoly money from $1 to $10 bills. Each chore dollar has a real value of 10 cents and can be exchanged for real money. This was special because we don't pay allowances, and it made a way for the children to earn their own spending money. But chore dollars can be exchanged for other privileges too. Computer time, candy, or even a one-on-one date with Mommy.

To encourage effort, I award 'bonus' checks. Bonus checks are different from regular checks in that they cannot be revoked for bad behaviour. For example, there are certain chores that are not an option, like brushing teeth, or setting out clothes for the next day. If those things have to be done for you, you get a negative check mark which means instead of earning a point, you lose one. Say, the entryway is ignored and it gets bad enough, that it's nearly dangerous to navigate through the room. If Mama has to tidy it to make it safe to travel, the kid who was assigned that zone would get a negative check mark.

But a bonus check mark is a guaranteed point that cannot be revoked. I award them for things like making the effort to be ready to leave so that we do not arrive at our destination late, for getting up and ready to go when the alarms go off - thus reducing the amount of Mama nagging/dragging/scolding kids out of bed in the mornings, going to bed on time and STAYING in bed at bedtime, for performing over and above expectations in a particular thing, and for making the greatest effort during the week, thus getting the highest number of check marks earned. I may start assigning bonus checks for a personal record too... we'll see.

The best part is that this system is really working for us. The kids are learning responsibility, discipline, thoroughness, initiative, and flexibility. The house is staying much tidier and I'm not constantly frustrated and exhausted from doing everything myself. And I love the busywork that makes it function... adjusting the daily totals, writing up new chore money, calculating weekly payrolls. It makes the general mundane normals... Fun.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Fiesta Feast

Actually, it was just dinner tonight. However, if you have a small army to feed, it does feel like you're preparing a feast whenever it comes time to 'start on dinner'. I love that this meal is so simple. The hardest part was dicing the meat up, which could be done ahead of time if you're not like me and actually think of practical things like that. Anyway, I need to have this somewhere that I can find it in a hurry, which means it gets posted here. Enjoy!

Pork & Hominy Stew
Serves 12-16
  • 4 lbs Pork (½" cubes)
  • 4 cups canned Hominy
  • 2 Onions (diced)
  • 2 Tbs Cumin
  • 1 Tbs Salt
  • ½tsp Pepper (ground, black)
  • 1 Tbs minced Garlic
  • 1 bunch Cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 3 cups shredded Cabbage
  • 8 cups Water
Cook pork with cumin and pepper in a saucepan with about a tablespoon of oil on medium-hi until meat is evenly browned. Add salt and dump into a large stock pot with the hominy and water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for one hour. While your pot is coming to a boil, saute the onions and garlic and add them to your stew. Chop cilantro and cabbage and set aside. When your stew has simmered for an hour, remove from heat, stir in cilantro and cabbage and serve with garnishes of sour cream, salsa and corn chips!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dream Job...

For a little boy who lives to see if 'it' can be broken - this is heaven!

Now he wants to trade in all his chore money to buy more 'cause I told him $4 a bag (that I'm pretty sure was less than a pound) was just too expensive for me to provide him with a full time job of hammering.

Mr. Nutcracker.

'Makes me wish, for a minute, I was little again... sitting on the fireplace hearth with a 50lb feed sack full of walnuts to crack... persimmon cookies (made with the mushy persimmons that no one in the stores around here has ever heard of)... So many pomegranates you could juice them and make cases of jelly (instead of choking at the thought of shelling out over $1 each!). Rain at last... grass turning green...mud boots... new calves... fresh milk... waiting for somebody else to get up and build a fire before getting out of bed and making a mad dash to get dressed in front of the fire... walnut pie... churning butter... dancing by the light of a single gas lamp, on the braided floor rug... walking on pineapple juice cans. Yes, the memories of Fall - they could be a post by itself!

Monday, November 25, 2013

So Fun While it Lasted!

Last week it was cold! Some of the days never got above freezing even in the afternoon sunshine, but it was pretty. And fun. Today I looked out the office window just in time to see PC's feet go whooshing out from underneath him as he attempted a spectacular slide across the driveway on what was left of the barnyard ice rink. So I grabbed my camera, pretended I didn't notice his sopping wet pantleg, and asked him to show me what he could do on the shrinking patch of ice between the house and the barn. He didn't need me to ask twice!

The running start...

Side Slide!

Back for more...

Front slide.

Homemade hockey stick.

Happy boy!

On Wednesday, while the big kids were at school, I took the little gang out to explore the wonders of ice. Hal, all bundled in blankets, observed from his stroller as Ricka and Butler had a blast slipping, sliding and crashing across on the ice. The pictures I took of PC on the ice today, show about a quarter of what was frozen before the temperatures returned to normal. Butler would have stayed out all day if I'd have let him. There was ice to whack, ice to stomp, ice to try eating, ice to throw, ice to slide and ice to slide on. I doubt he could have been much happier. After that, he tried every possible reason to need to go outside every single day. I would have taken pictures if I didn't have to be continually picking a child (or myself a few times) up off the ice. Actually, I don't think the camera would have survived that day, so I'm going to let myself off the hook this time.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Learning the Ropes

"You missed a spot here, Mom."

Hal has moved up in the Janitorial Ranks around here from Master Floor Sweeper (he does a better job than my kitchen broom) to Chief Dishwasher Inspector. He even tries to help out by making sure all dishes in his jurisdiction have been licked clean- I have such helpful sons!

Speaking of sons... PC got lost in the barnyard before school this morning (he was 'checking on the chickens'). He almost got left behind and all he had to say for himself was, "I forgot it was a school day!" This was slightly alarming as yesterday he almost missed breakfast before school. Instead, he barely made it back from the barn with enough time to wolf down his waffles before it was time to go. He's been banned from the barnyard before school for a while now...

And Butler learned today, that when gathering eggs, one must not 'clink' them together on one's way back to the house, regardless of how exciting it is to be the egg-finder of the day. Some chickens lay more fragile-shelled eggs than others and some eggs will not survive 'clinking'. I'm not sure if anyone will break his 13 broken eggs record anytime soon! :)

Telling me all about it!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Butler's Other Life

So, we were having breakfast this morning after Sir and the big kids left, and Butler started this rambling narrative without even pausing for my interaction. I did interrupt him a couple of times to clear up a point I didn't understand or to establish that maybe he was telling me about a dream he had (which he firmly denied because "dreams aren't real, and this weally did happen!"). After the first two sentences or so, I knew I needed to grab my pencil and paper and do some serious short hand. This is what I got:

"Mommy, once upon a time, a cougar catched me. When I was in a tree." (I interrupted him here to ask what the cougar did with him when it caught him.) He continued, "Actually, it was a nice cougar. I was falling down and it catched me. I was hanging in a tree - like a monkey! I did NOT climb the tree" (I wanted to ask him how he got into the tree at this point, but he was already moving on). "It was when I was a little boy. When I didn't have a daddy and mommy or kids. I just had a friend. I mean, I had another brother." (I had to ask about this other brother - "What was your brother's name?") "His name was John, I think. Maybe it was Shiloh... or something." Then as if he remembered something really important, he exclaimed, "EVEN - it was when we could drive a Ye-Haul truck or a car- I mean a truck! When I got catched by a cougar. And then we played soccer-ball. And then, we came in the house and eat." Then he finished his last bite of cereal, asked me if he looked messy, cleared his place and went off to wash his hands and face.

He's always been my Lions, and Tigers, and Sharks, and Whales and Collapsing bridges, tall tales boy, but now it looks like Cougars have joined the ranks. I love it!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ten Words!

No power for six hours equals... dinner in the dark!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nine Words:

So this is what it's really like being SIX!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Eight Words:

Can you find the twenty-four people visible here?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seven Words:

!WARNING! Highly mobile baby on the premises!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Six Words:

When the moon came up tonight!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Five Words:

Seeing double in Merritt, BC.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Four Words:

Before they all broke.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Three Words:

Farm Life Wonders.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two Words:

Walking Home.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

One Word:


Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Place to Grow Up...

Yep, we're moving to the country! Yesterday we signed the rental agreement and the move in date is in 3 weeks. The top picture is the west half of the new place. The rest of it is a 2½ acre field behind the barn. I took a couple pictures, but the kids were having too much fun exploring and I was too busy being on the lookout for wasp nests to take any more.

The Front Yard.
This is the area directly west (top left corner in the overhead view) of the house. It's fenced off so there will be no wandering children meeting the small pond north of the driveway. There is a small deck off the dining room that these pictures were taken from.

South of the Driveway
This sight (which is what you see from the front door) literally took my breath away when we first viewed the house. The big pond is beyond the willow trees, and right now it's mostly dry. I think there's some sort of blockage in the creek that feeds it, to blame for that. It would also explain why the small field south of the barn is slightly soggy and happily growing cattails.

The Barn
With Emma racing to catch up with Dolly, PC and Butler who had already headed for the back field. I was standing next to the chicken coop to take this picture, but I forgot to take a picture of the coop itself. Maybe I didn't think of it because there are blackberry bushes trying to take over the chicken yard. Speaking of blackberries, the kids had a blast picking and eating as many as they could reach. As I helped Ricka pick her very first berries, I said to her, "Careful! Don't pick the green ones, Ricka. Be careful, you don't want to get snagged by the prickles" and I guided her tiny hand through the brambles. She was so excited to be able to pick the berries just like the big kids, that as we wandered back toward the house, she said to me, "I pick da prickles all by myself! I pick some more prickles?" Apparently, in stressing the dangers of the thorns and prickles, I didn't use the word 'berry' or 'berries' enough!

Inside the barn there are 3 stalls, a work bench/shop area and small feed room. There's another room that you can only get to from the woodshed area on the left (or north side) of the barn, and a fully insulated loft accessible via the outside stairs or a ladder and trapdoor inside.

The back field from the barn.
Here the older kids were heading out to see if there were more blackberry bushes along the back fence. Ricka saw me pull out the camera and smiled for the shot and I'm not sure why Emma was just standing there. Maybe she was already heading back since it looked like it was going to be a long run to catch the other three kids.

The kids still haven't seen the inside of the house, and I didn't take any pictures of it yet, but I think they'll love the inside as much as all the room to run outside! But for now I have to get busy packing!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tea for Two

Once Upon A Time...

On Wednesday, Dolly and I got a rare chance for a special Mommy/Daughter time at home. I've wanted to somehow arrange some one-on-one time with each of my kids for a while now. Ideally, I'd like to take one of them out for the day and do some window shopping or fun shopping or lunch alone or some adventure with just the two of us. But I haven't figured out a system that will work yet.

This week, it seemed like 3 hours just plopped out of the sky for Dolly and me to have a special afternoon. PC was at a friend's house and was still gone for the afternoon, Grandma C. stopped by and took Emma out for some special Grandma&Me time and Butler, Ricka and Hal were down and out for naps(you know you haven't blogged about your infant much when you have to go look up the blog name you picked out for him way back when! Because you couldn't remember it on your own after three days of pondering it!). Suddenly Dolly and I found ourselves with no distractions and a long, lazy afternoon stretched out in front of us.

So, we decided to have Tea for Two outside on the deck.

We even dressed up for the occasion. And posed for pictures.

Dolly took this one.

And I never realized how hard it was to take a picture of yourself! Centered? What's that? 3 Chins? I was pretty sure there's only supposed to be two of them. Look at the camera? We were - why does it look like we're looking over our shoulders again! Eventually we figured it out.

The challenges of Biscotti and Gloves!

It really was a lot of fun. I loved to see Dolly so excited and it was wonderful not having a million interruptions intruding on us. When I first realized that it would just be Dolly and me for the afternoon, I asked her if she wanted to have a cup of tea with me. Once I got her attention away from the book she had settled down with on the couch, she jumped at the idea. She had been asking me for a cup of tea on and off for a few days. It's just been so warm out that a hot cup of tea didn't exactly sound appealing to me.

I got to surprise her over and over again; first by having her choose some pretty tea cups out of the dish hutch (we usually just use plain old coffee mugs at the dining room table). I got to surprise her again by setting up the table outside. Once the table was set, I surprised her a third time by adding snacks to our tea menu. And finally, she was surprised that we were going to dress up all the way to necklaces and perfume just for tea by ourselves. She chattered the whole time, and we each had at least 3 cups of tea before the clock stuck twelve and we had to start putting everything back the way it usually is. But even the cleanup was a thrill for Dolly, because we didn't want to disappoint the other kids by having them see the evidence of our afternoon and the realization of what they missed out on. It was especially heart-racing since Butler woke up before the last of the table outside was cleared. He was still waking up though, so he didn't notice Dolly's suspicious behavior as she darted in the house with a wad of table cloths behind her back or sidled past him with the empty teapot disguised by a dishtowel draped over it.

And then the fairy tale ended and we had to return to Real Life where we all lived Normally-Ever-After.
The End.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Little Bird

Dear Emma,

I was thinking of you while I took my shower today. I was thinking of how you're my Little Bird – you know, that's what I often call you in my mind. You flit all over the place. Actually, your feet rarely ever both stay on the ground at the same time for more than a few seconds. Sometimes this constant motion bothers me, but you are very agile because of it. You love life and it shows in every single thing you do. Last week you started to fly in the word world. I bought a book for you, and you fell in love. Now you're trying to read everything you see. Did you know, that at this time, a year ago, you didn't even know 5 letters of the alphabet? And of those letters, you didn't even know all of their sounds. I love that I can watch you spread your little wings and soar. There really isn't a way to describe the joy and excitement I feel when I watch my little ones learn how to read.

But it's not just your new discovery of reading that I was thinking about this afternoon. I was thinking about your little phrases and how I love your originality. Like when you ask me for an after school snack by saying, “Can I please have a good afternoon snack?” Or when you would like me to get to you and you want me to know you're happy to wait patiently, you say, “Mommy, when you get in a minute can you...” I was thinking of how you let so many negative things just roll right off of you as if you don't even see or hear or feel them. But I know you must notice some of them – sometimes I don't understand how you can continue on so cheerfully as if those negative thoughts or words never even happened.

My little Blue Bird – that's what you are really. With your bluest blue beautiful eyes. You may have brown hair, but if you ever hold still long enough for someone to SEE your eyes... well, that's all they will see – those dazzling blue eyes with little flecks of ice sparkling in them. The other day you asked me if I liked your smile 'because it's so cute' and you screwed up your face into what you were sure was the loveliest of smiles. I told you I thought your smile was beautiful, but I didn't tell you that I was thinking of your spontaneous smile rather than the posed one you were demonstrating just then. I love how you're so confident of yourself. You know who you are, you love how you are, and you leave it at that and look to see what you can love about someone else. Don't ever lose that, Little Bird.

You're athletic, and I have rarely seen you wear yourself out even though you seem to never stop moving. I think it's actually impossible for you to really hold still. But it's not just your body that is always going. You are always thinking, scheming, planning, organizing, dictating, executing, demonstrating, talking, singing, debating, challenging. Your mind is always going and it's one of the strongest things about you, and you are a very strong little girl. You have a will of iron too. Maybe steel would be a better word choice. You can move mountains if that's what you want. My challenge is channeling that will of yours. But once you've made up your mind, there's no easy swaying of it either, and that can be a good thing too. You never hold a grudge, you are quick to forgive, and you do so unreservedly.

You love to create your outfits, and you have a definite talent for color coordination. New clothes make you bubble with excitement. And you love lotions and perfumes and *gasp* nail polish! I think you like anything sparkly – but so do I, so I can't hold any judgment there. I love that you appreciate other peoples' outfits and say so. I just need to remember that your noticing, probably means you long for others to notice yours too – and say so. Actually, I think that what I love, is how you manage to make everyone you know, feel special and important. You make everyone you meet, feel like they matter - and that, is a special talent.You have figured out a way for each person that you meet, to matter and be important to you.

Well my little bird, tomorrow will be a busy day for us, and I should have gone to bed long ago so I can enjoy it with you. I just wanted to write this before it got pushed away into the back of my mind and forgotten forever. I love you, Emma. I love you from your wispy brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes all the way to the bruises and scabs that cover you from head to toe – tribute to your constant motion. I love you from your stubborn will to your sweet forgiveness. I love that you remind me how much there is to love about everything around me. And maybe tomorrow, I will remember to tell you a little bit of how much you brighten my life!

~ Mama

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's TWO's Day!

Today Ricka turned 2! Before the older kids left for school, all the kids gave Ricka the gifts they'd picked out for her. I didn't get any good pictures, but I put them here anyway. After the school/work drop-offs, we came home had breakfast, did some dishes and then got ready for birthday pictures. Ricka did pretty good... even if it did take most of the visit for her to finally believe that the crazy photographer was worth smiling at instead of scowling at. I think we got a decent shot eventually.

The Benefactors

The Birthday girl.

And I was going to put up some random shots of Ricka over the last two years, but it's already dinner time and this is as far as I've made it, so those aren't joining this post. Right now I have a Super Cyclone to supervise and dinner to make.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What do YOU keep in your Pockets?

"I spy a gas cap that is black... Two sets of keys and one gray sock."

After we drove Sir to work this morning afternoon, I stopped to get something for the kids to eat before we headed home. I didn't want them falling asleep without eating lunch, and long car rides tend to lull children to sleep. Especially, when it's close to sleep times.

So, we piled out of the car and I noticed that Ricka's hair elastic was on the floor with her socks and shoes. I put the elastic in my pocket, put her socks and shoes on her feet and took the three littles inside. Once we were settled at a table, I reached into my jacket pocket to get the elastic so I could fix Ricka's hair. Except, I couldn't find it. Finally after fishing around in my pockets with no success, I emptied all of the contents onto the table and found all sorts of stuff. Here's the complete list:

  • one gas cap (I've been looking for that for two weeks now)
  • two sets of van keys - from swapping van seats this morning.
  • two soothers/pacifiers/whatever you call them to calm your infant
  • my cell phone
  • a noteworthy wad of crumpled tissues - you'd think I had kids or something.
  • one dime
  • a mis-matched sock (I found that in the door of the van beside Ricka's seat when I cleaned it out yesterday)
  • a hair clip
  • a broken plastic knife Butler was using on play dough a few days ago.
  • half package of Hall's cough drops
  • one McDonald's salt packet
  • Emma's blue rubber flower ring
  • and the hair elastic I was looking for.

    And now it's time to go swap the van seats again before we have to go pick the other kids up.