Friday, April 29, 2016

Bye Bye, Birdies

I think we can both agree the birds shown above are not chicks. They are chickens.

With the onslaught of exciting new job tasks that did not come with an increase of hours per day, we've been behind on coop building. We decided the new batch of birds would get a smaller, grow-out coop before we integrated everyone, but it appears they did their growing out in my kitchen. Regardless, Jonathan and his helpers worked hard to get this thing built and there are now zero birds in my house. The only poop you'll smell when you visit is coming from my daughter and I don't think Nora's ready for coop training yet.

Armed with a truck full of wood, a head full of plans, and a pajama-clad son, Jonathan set to work. Obviously he still needs to provide a chicken exit and ramp combo. I'll give you a full tour when it's done, but for now they are locked inside. This teaches them where to go when the sun sets or when danger approaches {we need them smarter than their deceased predecessors}. Plus, it's roomier than the cardboard box of shame and IT'S NOT IN MY HOUSE.

These girls will be eight weeks old on Sunday. Let the record show this is entirely too long for chickens to be in one's home. The Buff Orpingtons are a bright shade of gold and fluff up to twice their size when the warm sunlight hits them. The three Wyandottes have proven to be the silver-laced variety, not the gold I ordered. They will be beautiful, though, so I don't mind the mix-up. As for the big girls, they are oblivious. The most confrontation I've seen is a slight cock of the head and a return to strawberry stealing. All is well with our feathered friends, and I like the new crew better now that they've been evicted. My heart will grow fonder when they start laying eggs. Pets work around here, y'all.

The moral of this post is: Praise the Lord, there aren't any chickens in my house. However, I put the chick warmer somewhere safe and I've been eyeing these gorgeous Lavender Orpingtons. When I enter Chick Mode 2017, please remind me of two things: order less and kick 'em out early. Have a great weekend!

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Third Grade Day

Nathan gasped the other day when I told him he only had a month left at primary school.

Since the tender age of five, Nathan's been strolling the same halls, eating cheeseburgers in the same cafeteria, and standing in line for the same swings. However, he will soon leave it all behind him. Fourth-grade moves up to elementary school in this town, and Nathan says he's chomping at the bit to get away from his baby days. While I can't exactly tell you what third grade is like for my son, he is willing to enlighten us all. Before he graduates to greener pastures, let's hear from Nathan about his final primary days.

What do you think about when you first walk into the classroom?
I wonder if we will have fun that day and what we are going to be doing.

What do you see first thing in the morning?
I see my teacher's desk and her computer. She usually has a cup of markers and a bunch of papers. I also notice what my friends are doing.

What's the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk?
Read books, whichever ones we want. There's a big basket and we pick out one. I just read a little bit of this book called The Great Kapok Tree. There was this man who found a tree in the middle of the forest with lots of animals living in it. He was going to chop it down, but decided not to because there was so much life in it.

What is your favorite thing about mornings?
We don't have to do that much work. We used to do morning math, like word problems and multiplication, but not anymore. We do have science in the morning and I love learning about animal classifications.

What is your favorite activity to go to and why?
Music because I love learning about music in other countries and seeing instruments from other countries.

What is your favorite thing to eat at lunch?
This is hard! Popcorn chicken with French fries, apple or pear, and the chocolate chip cookies are really good. I get chocolate milk and a water.

What do you see and hear in the cafeteria?
I see ladies at counters, a bunch of people sitting down at the tables, teachers telling people to be quiet, and kids whispering to each other. Me and my friends talk about life, what's going on at home or what happened in the morning.

How would you describe a good day at recess?
I like when it's sunny and we can go out. A good day is when no one wants to swing because I love the swings.

Who do you play with and what do you play?
I play with Gabby a lot and we play hide and seek. My favorite hiding place is under the playground equipment, but she always finds me. She's pretty good at it.

What do you do in your classroom in the afternoons?
We do independent work, like word studies, language sheets, math, and quick reads. Quick reads is where you read with your teacher in the morning and you put a sticky note on where you stopped. In the afternoons we answer questions about what we were able to read. I'm pretty good at that, I usually get really far. One time I got 206 words because I read the entire passage two times. A word study is where we have these words we cut out and then we sort them into categories. The categories would be like E Drop or Second or Third Syllable Stressed.

What is it like to go to the car line?
We pack up at the end of the day and get our things ready to go home. We get in a line by the door and walk out through the office door to go to the benches. I always talk to my friends when I'm waiting. I like when you get there early, but sometimes you're a little late.

What makes a school day great?
When all we have to do is just a few worksheets.

What makes a school day hard?
When the teacher gives us a million things to do.

What will you miss most about third grade?
My best teacher ever! She's been my favorite because she's very nice to me and helps me a lot.

Why are you excited about elementary school?

A lot of people say it's going to be really fun. I hope we get to go to one class and do some work and then go to a different class and do some work.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day Encouragement

Today is a great day to start that vegetable garden you've been thinking about.

It's Earth Day, the official high-five for the planet that does a stellar job of keeping us alive. Around this magical date each year, my bunch picks out the plants that grow our summer groceries. We save money, we get fresh food, and it's good family fun. We may make that trip this weekend {stay tuned}, but for now I'm here to help you start.

We moved to the southwest corner of Arkansas for a better career and a slower lifestyle in fall 2009. I inherited a much bigger yard, away from people and closer to cows. Sometime after the big move, I caught a TV show featuring Michelle Obama in the White House garden. That was the day I ordered seed catalogs, sketched plans, and spent hours glued to the search bar and gardening forums. Since then I've learned countless lessons on how to make food in my yard. Today I am sharing a few steps to get any newbie going.

Step One: Have a plan before you grab a shovel. Pick a spot in your yard that gets full sun, away from tree roots. Know whether you want to do raised beds, rows, or containers. I started with two 4x8 raised bed frames and it was a great first garden. We dug out the grass, then filled in with compost and garden soil.

Step Two: Know what you want to grow. In my {non-expert} experience, the easiest crops in my early years were tomatoes, cucumbers, bush beans, summer squash, and okra. All of these can go in the garden now. I'll do summer planting in May, but if you live near me, you are ready to roll. Do check labels, packets, and Google to be educated on what grows when. Don't plant radishes tomorrow.

Step Three: Shop! The plants I buy at the local nursery are tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, eggplants, and any herbs I want to try. Everything else does better for me starting as seeds.

Step Four: Get those babies in the ground. To avoid transplant shock, let the plants you buy get sunlight a few hours a day for several days before planting. Again, read your labels for spacing and seed thinning. Personal experience: It's hard to get tomatoes out of a jungle. Companion planting is smart, too. Plant the buddies together.

Step Five: Worry. It's inevitable. You will dream about whether you planted your tomatoes right {PS: plant your tomatoes deep, with the bottom leaves underground}. You'll stare at the forecast and Lord help you if a thunderstorm rolls in. Horn worms, squash bugs, and that damn rabbit will keep you on edge. Maybe this is just me, though. Forget I said anything.

Congratulations! You've planted a vegetable garden. Now grab a glass of tea and enjoy your handiwork. Water daily for at least a week, but once the plants are established they don't need much. Standard is an inch a week and Mother Nature usually takes care of that around here. Watch for bugs and signs of disease and spray/fertilize if you wish. Pull up weeds and make sure the soil around the plants stays loose.

Then watch 'em grow, wait 'til they're ready, pick 'em, and eat 'em.

Google will fill in the rest of the details, but the moral of this post is if I can do this, anyone can. I guarantee the produce that comes out of your yard will be an improvement over the shriveled zucchini at the bottom of your cart. Do it, then thank me later. Happy Earth Day!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nora Today

My little Nora is a creature of habit.

Each day when the sun is peeking through the eastern treeline, I carefully open Nora's bedroom door. With a freshly popped waffle in hand, my first step is to open her blinds and let the light find mounds of toys and discarded dresses. I peer into the crib that holds four fake babies and one real one. When the smile spreads across her face and her blanket covers the rest of it, I know it's showtime.

"Is there a little princess in here??" I ask. "I could have sworn I left a princess in this bed last night. Penguin, where did she go? Naked Baby, have you seen her?!"

I've had years of practice so I lay it on thick until Nora jumps out of hiding. Then it's clean diaper, breakfast, and a big morning kiss. If you know my daughter, you'll know she doesn't settle for any peck on the cheek.

I've only been the mother of a daughter for a couple of years now, but we are finding a groove. Lord knows I'm in for hairpin turns and drops that will leave us hanging on for dear life, but I really like where we are now. Knowing that can change in a moment's notice, I thought I'd document Nora today.

Sure, there are hourlong crying spells and arguments where neither hardheaded girl will back down, but when she grabs my hand on the couch and asks if I know who her best friend is, my heart has a way of melting. She likes to put on her shoes by herself, but asks me to help with her bow. She'll stand in front of the living room TV belting out a 24-letter version of the alphabet with her eyes fixed on my hands, waiting for applause. She asks what's wrong if I'm upset. She kisses me when I least expect it. She lives in pajamas, craves puffy Cheetos, and is obsessed with the color pink. She fawns over the tiny pea and strawberry plants in her garden and leads me to check on them daily. She sees things in me I don't see in myself. We continue to complement each other in new ways.

I have written about what I want for Nora in the future, but Nora right now has it together. The superhero stage is quick, though, and I remind myself often not to miss it. Unless fate has something else in mind, Nora's boo-boos will be the last ones I can kiss away. Two will soon be three and three jumps to eight. I have to keep my eyes open.

When the day is done and the sun slips behind the oaks and pines that lie to the west, Nora notices. "The sun is gone!" she'll announce and begin to bribe us for more time. Eventually she zeroes in for a right-on-the-lips kiss. She'll hold our heads in her small hands and kiss us like she means it. She does. Once she's tucked from neck to toe, she shouts goodnight to all four of us and awaits reply. Satisfied and safe, she curls up and drifts away.

Nora brings so much to my day from the moment those blue eyes first blink into the sunlight. She's growing up, and I want to see all I can.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Lazy Weekend

Our weekend ended up being one worth documenting.

No, we didn't explore a new place or tackle any crazy adventures. We stayed home.

I spent my weekend changing out of pajama pants into yoga pants and I'm pretty sure Nora stayed in the same purple nightgown. {You're lucky Owen is wearing any pants.} We had donuts for breakfast, pizza for dinner, and nightcaps galore. I can't remember the last Saturday morning where neither parent had a place to be and it was so nice.

We slept in, then lounged on the couch as long as we could get away with it. I think we made it until the first dirty diaper. Once we pried ourselves out of the living room, we did a little work, naturally. Laundry is all caught up and Sunday afternoon was spent mowing and tilling the garden to get it ready for those tomato plants. The forecast calls for a long, rainy week so we used the dry weekend hours to play outside. We let the baby chicks roam free {well, within the confines of their little fence} and made plans to get them a permanent home set up this week.

I did not leave my house one time this weekend other than the trip up the highway to grab those pizzas and it was more than okay. It's hard to find time to slow down so when I see it, I grab it. Call me lazy, but this time at home is sacred. From sitting outside watching my kids chase each other across the grass to counting stars in the hot tub, time together is my favorite. I love when I'm given a little extra.

How was your weekend?

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Don't Apologize

Today I'm here with a handful of parenting advice you didn't ask for. You're welcome.

Don't push that red X in the corner just yet, though. I'm not touting the miracles of breast/bottle feeding or ticking off a list of ways you've probably screwed up your kid. I'm here to do the opposite. I have a simple message I've been led to share after perusing my Facebook news feed: please don't apologize.

Here's a sampling of the recent apologies I've seen mothers post to Facebook: they ordered pizza for dinner instead of cooking, their newborn baby cried in Walmart, and they rocked their pajamas in the car line. Every time I see these mothers, new and not-so-new, asking for forgiveness for raising their children, it makes me a little sad. I get the feeling they don't think they're doing it right. I want to take this opportunity to let them know they are.

I'm going to be real honest with you for a paragraph {don't worry, I'm honest most of the time}, I have a lot of insecurity and self-esteem issues, mostly involving what I see in the mirror. I try hard every day to improve my health and my attitude, but it can get hard to actually live this post I wrote about postpartum bodies. To get to the point, with all the insecurities I have floating in my busy brain, not a single one of them has to do with what other people think about my parenting. I do often worry whether I'm an adequate mother. That has to be common {right?!}, but when it comes to other people's opinions on the ways I have carried, birthed, and raised this bunch, it just doesn't matter.

The true friends, the people you need to surround yourself with, won't judge you on Facebook.

If you feel the need to add #dontjudge or #badmom to your social media because there's someone reading it who you feel you owe an explanation, that person is likely unnecessary. Sure, I love self-deprecating humor as much as the next mom who's struggling to keep her head above water, but if you are apologizing because you feel pressured to, do me a favor and take a step back. Read through the following checklist:

1. Is your child safe?
2. Is your child fed?
3. Is your child loved?

High-fives, you're doing it right. All other details are up to you. Parenting is hard, but it comes with a healthy dose of grace. Don't let anyone take that from you. Some days are high, some days are low, and some days you send your kid to school with the night's drool in his hair. This parenting gig is all yours, though. Now, I'll meet you in the car line in stained yoga pants with a toddler not wearing any. Don't worry about the Happy Meal bags littering the backseat.

Hold your messy hair high. You're doing a good job.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Happy Hump Day, y'all!

We made it to Wednesday, which is two days after Monday and just two more 'til the weekend. At this point in my week, I have avoided long post office lines, not felt the desire to bash in my work computer, and kept the screaming at my children to a minimum. Pretty good stats for a Wednesday. It seems like a good time to stop folding clothes and share a little. Indulge me? This overtired mama is currently...

Waiting on... VACATION. This summer marks our tenth wedding anniversary and we are celebrating with a responsibility-free week on the beach. And the days are dragging. My husband makes it even worse by letting me know exactly how long is left on his countdown. There's only one month, 22 days, 14 hours, 17 minutes, and 31 seconds until I stick my toes in the sand and let the fruity drinks start flowing. But who's counting, really?

Researching... I should offer a prize for guessing because this one is easy. Chickens. I am researching chickens. Today's Google entry has been "when can baby chicks move outside?" I've done this before, but I'm worried about integrating the little chickens with the big chickens. I don't want to have simply raised a free meal for the past five weeks. I've also been researching the growth of potatoes. Riveting stuff.

Watching... Modern Family. That is the show of the moment for this couple that doesn't do much TV outside of Nick Jr. I know I'm several years behind the times, but Phil Dunphy is the man. I used to think Marshall Erickson was the best character ever created for television, but Phil is edging him out.

Hearing... Nora scream bloody murder for the waffle that is a foot away from her. I'd post a picture, but the internet doesn't want to see that. I wish I couldn't see that.

Wearing... This new top from Old Navy I found on a Texarkana run Last Friday. I love spring/summer clothes. Everything is so bright and fresh and airy. I showed restraint, however, as I'm holding off for a vacation shopping spree.

Thankful for... My husband. I don't normally get gushy on the blog {anniversary-related posts withheld}, but this guy has been my rock, especially lately. He's going to be busier at work in the coming weeks, and this particular week our evening schedules haven't matched. However, on this very Wednesday we have many hours to spend together. I am beyond ready for him to be home! *heart-eyes emoji* {maybe three}

Have an awesome day, friends. I'm off to retrieve a waffle.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Chicken Check-In

Someone on the radio said it's National Pet Day, so I think it's time to trot out my house chickens.

These seven little fuzzballs have been living in my house for about five weeks, and let me tell you, the charm is wearing off. They're still cute birds who will eventually pay me back in breakfast food, but things are different in Chicken Year Two. I've been giving more attention to the big girls who live outside, keep to themselves, and lay eggs without assistance. The house chickens are growing at record speed and pooping even faster. Keeping up with them is more involved than I remember, but this little squad will soon upgrade to the backyard.

As a matter of fact, we've already started introducing them. On a few warm afternoons in recent weeks, we have set up a chicken wire circle and let the babies do a little exploring. I can guarantee you they're much happier eating grass than hanging out in their cardboard kitchen prison.

The kids love watching them stretch their feathers and test their flying skills, and these babies can play a mean game of leap chicken. I will admit it's neat watching them grow so quickly {even if they do stink}. At this point they're roosting like pros, climbing on the feeder, and grabbing any opportunity for escape. It's becoming a common occurrence to hear, "Beyonce! What are you doing on there?!"

Maybe I do have a soft spot for some of these noisy creatures {looking at you, Lemon}, but for those of you eyeing the precious puff balls at your local farm store, why don't you take a peek at the following questionnaire to see whether you're up for becoming a chicken mama:

1. Are you okay with small chickens living in your house?
2. Are you okay with noises that range from angelic peeping to knock-down, drag-out scuffles in the pine shavings?
3. Are you okay with poop?
4. Are you okay with teaching your children not to eat chick food?

If you agree to at least 3/4 of the above list, congratulations, you have what it takes! For those of you who have already bitten the bullet this year, are your babies still inside or have you kicked them to the coop already? I'm waiting on warmer nights {and a bit more coop construction}, but hopefully these girls will join their bigger buddies before long.

Hope Monday is treating you well!

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Dear April

Welcome to the most skeptical day of the year!

The day kids spend their school hours planning elaborate schemes and parents don't eat anything they didn't prepare themselves. So far Nora has yet to pull one over on me, but I'm staying alert. The best joke she can come up with starts with knock-knock and ends with banana, so I think we'll be okay.

I could go on about how quickly the year is moving, but I'm just happy to see April. We're out of winter and soon we'll be throwing our jackets in the closet for good. The best part about April, however, is garden season. I'd say this post will go beyond spring planting, but who are we kidding? Today I'm going to tell you what's on the garden calendar this month.

PLANT I told you my fingernails met dirt for the first time this season, but I didn't stop there. Early in March I made my annual seed purchase and threw in some seed potatoes to try something new. After weeks of flash flooding, I finally found some workable sunshine. Jonathan tilled two rows in the back of the big garden and we planted a long-lasting spinach, a gourmet lettuce blend, and a butter crunch lettuce type. Behind that we let Nora drop two different types of potatoes {Yukon Gold and White Superior} into deep holes. We finished by filling the raised bed next to the strawberry patch with more Ozark Beauty strawberries.

WATCH While all that planting was technically done in March, April is the season of watching. Just this morning I noticed every sugar snap pea seed I pushed into place weeks ago has produced a tiny green shoot. I have never had success with peas and honestly the simple sprouts are my new record. I've been keeping an eye on the hungry chickens, though. I've decided I love my garden more than my girls and this season may signal an end to free ranging. Sorry, birds.

BUY As much fun as staring at dirt may sound, I do have a shopping list to make. Toward the end of the month, I will make one of my favorite stops. I'll head to the local nursery, grab a few flats, and fill them up with dozens of varieties of tomato and pepper plants. Oh, the sights, the smells, the feel of the tiny leaves on my fingertips! There's a chance this level of excitement may not be warranted, but it's me. Expect a full post.

Your turn, friends! What do you have growing? While it's not quite time to get your summer veggies in the ground, if you have ever wanted to start a vegetable garden, now is the time. Dig out a patch of grass, mix in some compost, toss a few spring seeds in the grounds if you want, and start planning space for your beautiful tomatoes.

While there is a bit of work involved, it's not too tough. It's basically watching dirt.
Have a great weekend, y'all!

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