Thursday, January 26, 2012

pretty, happy, funny, real

{pretty, happy, funny, real}
capturing the context of everyday life ~ most Thursdays, here at Aspen Springs

Our very own fresh eggs!  Yay!  Hurrah!  Our hens began laying this week!  We have some blue/green egg layers in the flock as well, but those particular birds must be a little behind schedule.
putting all our eggs in one basket :)

If you've read more than a couple posts on this blog, you know that we live in the country.  Mark travels a lot for work, so he gets the benefit of being out and about, but coming home to peace.  (Believe me, I realize that business travel is not all fun and games - but it is true that he gets a change of scenery pretty often.)  On the other hand, I am at home a lot.  I'm a home schooling Mom; in order for our kids to get an education, I need to stay home!  But last week I had a getaway and met up with Mark in a large city that is *somewhat* close to us.  It was a great couple of days.  Mark was working, so I had time to myself during the day, but got to spend evenings with him.  This was one of my destinations...

An old favorite haunt of mine that I happily strolled through without any interruptions!  I also got to meet my FAVORITE aunt and cousin (are you both reading this?) for lunch, which was a great treat.  I'm sure the entire restaurant heard us laughing.

Our youngest child noticed the deer crossing signs near our home this week.  According to her, the sign means:
"Attention!  If you are traveling on this road at night, deer will be jumping over your car."

Ahhh, yes, if only they would just jump over the car...

We moved into this house the first week of September - right at the start of the school year. There's so much to do after a move that - honestly - the school room was not high on the priority list.  We got our books on a shelf and the computers set up, but that was about it for a couple months.  I still haven't "decorated" in the school room - and we could use a few key pieces of furniture to help the flow of the day - but I did at least get some maps on the wall this week.
Our main book shelf in the school room.  Each of the girls has a shelf for her books.

So, there it is: a little bit of everyday life from the last week.  Remember to visit Like Mother Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We have an egg!

After nearly 21 weeks of chicken ownership, we have an egg!  Just one at the moment, but there should be more in the near future.  This is so exciting we can hardly stand it.  To those who don't keep chickens - or can't imagine ever doing so - this level of excitement might seem odd.  But we really are thrilled.  We'd been thinking about raising chickens - for eggs - for a while before we actually took the plunge, so this one little egg has been a long time coming.  The chickens have also been a whole family project, so to reap the benefits of our collective work is satisfying.  This one lone egg also confirms that we have been doing a good job with our chickens.  Many hens stop laying in the winter, but we have made a serious effort to keep their living conditions and food/water supply just what they need them to be - and it's paid off!  And perhaps best of all, I can very soon STOP buying eggs at the grocery store.

We don't know which of the hens is responsible for this first egg.  It is brown.  And 11 of our hens are brown egg layers, so that part is a bit of a mystery.  Hopefully, she'll be encouraging her coop-mates to follow her lead very soon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An update from the hen house...

Our hens are 20 weeks old today.  It does feel strange to count their age in weeks -- like one would do for a baby... Rest assured we have not lost our marbles and gotten all strange about our chickens.  In the near future we will stop keeping careful track of their age.  But, up until now it's been important for a few reasons:

  • In the early weeks - up to 9, I think - we had to be sure they stayed warm enough...
  • Up to a certain age, they needed special feed...
  • And, finally, the reason the hens are here to begin with - they begin laying around 20-22 weeks!

Though we find the chickens entertaining and have even given them names (maybe not a good idea?) we fully realize and remember that the chickens are not pets.  They are egg producers.
This is "Pat".
Pat is the mystery chick that the hatchery sent us as a bonus.  We named  her Pat because, in the beginning, there was no way (for us) to tell if she was male or female.  We're glad Pat isn't a rooster.  We've also had to figure out Pat's breed; the thinking this week is that she's an Ameraucana, which means she'll lay colored (blue/green) eggs!

So, a few days ago, Mark and our "chicken girl" - aka, oldest daughter - spent some time in the coop getting it ready for the hens to start laying: snazzy nest boxes and more room to roost.
Coop Interior.
Nest boxes (where they lay eggs) on the right wall, Roosting bars (where they sleep)on the left - only one is visible in the photo, but there is another bar above that one, and food & water hanging from the ceiling in the middle.

We've learned a lot about chickens in the last 20+ weeks... things like roosting, molting, nesting, pecking order, etc.
We have 6 different breeds in our little flock.  All the breeds are represented in this "group photo".  

Like so many "hobbies", chicken-keeping is actually very interesting once you get involved. We are still very new at this, but it's been enjoyable thus far (and we haven't even gotten the first egg) so we can imagine chickens being a part of the family routine from here on out.  The thought of keeping hens for eggs had NEVER occurred to us before we moved here and met people who consider it "normal".  Just another benefit, we think, of making a life change that put us out of our zone of familiarity - in many ways.

The chickens are used to her - she brings them food and water.

Stay tuned for news of the first egg(s)!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

pretty, happy, funny, real

Capturing the context of everyday life ~ most Thursdays ;)

Well, if this doesn't qualify as finding contentment in everyday life, I don't know what does.  I almost can't believe I'm posting a picture of potatoes under the heading "pretty".  But, then again - look - they are pretty.  The purple ones are especially fetching.  I also have to admit that I find my vintage (aka: so-old-the-color-has-come-back) Le Crueset pot a rather pretty item.  It's probably the most loved item in our kitchen.

Ice skating!  Our local parks & recreation department puts up a skating rink every winter.  It's great fun for skaters and hockey players alike.  The best part for us is that they schedule home school skating sessions.  We could go anytime, but the home school session is usually from noon to 2:00, so we don't have to fight the "after school" crowd.

The girls got to meet the Miss USA contestant from our state.  They thought it was quite a brush with fame.  The only down-side was that the Miss USA contender didn't know she'd be running into 3 little girls that day, so she wasn't wearing her sash or her crown.

Do you do the Epiphany blessing for your home?  It's a beautiful tradition, but sadly, we didn't know of it until about 6 years ago.  The prayers and more information can be found here.
The final prayer of the blessing:
Leader: Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home is sprinkled with Epiphany water and incensed. The initials of the Magi are inscribed upon the doors with the blessed chalk. (The initials, C, M, B, can also be interpreted as the Latin phrase "Christus mansionem benedicat" which means "Christ bless this house".)
Example: 20 + C + M + B + 12

Find more {p,h,f,r} this week - and every week - at Like Mother Like Daughter!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Birthday Season Begins!

Our 3 daughters celebrate their birthdays in the next 6 weeks.  It’s kind of nice in late winter to have a reason to eat cake and ice cream every couple weeks.  We start the birthday season with the youngest member of our family – who turns 6 tomorrow, so this post is more or less all about her…

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” 
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

This line very well describes our “baby”.  She started out on the small side at a whopping 6 pounds and has stayed a petite girl to this day.  We were happy when she finally made it onto the height/weight chart that the pediatrician always referenced.  Not that we worried about her size, but the pediatrician seemed to come close to making it an issue a couple times. 
Daddy's girl -then and now

Her “fierceness” is obvious – she never lets her older sisters push her around and she doesn’t hesitate to make her opinions known.  She has a temper that can flare up almost out of nowhere, but then again, she is also the most contrite once she calms down.  Her apologies are very sincere and detailed.  Never a general, “I’m sorry for what I did.”, but rather, a very specific description of her mistakes.
the fierce face then
the fierce face now

Having an (almost) 6 year old youngest child has made us realize that the craziness of baby and toddler years is -sadly- behind us. 

(Unless there are more children in our future, which, of course, is not impossible.  Check your Bible if you don’t believe it.  It’s happened to people even older than us.) 

I see now that what my Mom told me back then is true: while you are in the midst of those years it can sometimes seem that an individual day – or trip to the grocery store – will never end, but then suddenly you realize that you made it – that phase is over – and you can’t quite recall when exactly it ended.  But ended it has: No one here naps anymore; we don’t have to pack a bag (diapers, snacks, toys) just to run errands; we can go to the store without ABSOLUTELY NEEDING the special cart that holds more than one child; There are no gates in our house; we’ve never been in the cry room at our parish (we’ve lived here 2.5 years!); We don’t have outlet covers or cabinet locks; and finally, I don’t get panicky around 4:00 when I realize that there are still 2 - or more – hours until Mark gets home from work.
2 & 3 year old sisters
3 & 4 year old sisters
5 & 6 year old sisters
Our 2 youngest girls are a mere 11 months apart, so tomorrow we will have two six-year-olds.  And one of their favorite things about being so close in age happens: they become twins.  Yes, that’s right: twins.  It makes sense to them.  They are sisters and they are the same age.  In their minds, it helps if they dress alike, but it's not absolutely necessary.  
Thinking about their close ages also brings back memories of the amazing weeks and months around the time of both their births.
1 year old

Without going into the whole story (maybe some other time) it is relevant to know that our first and second daughters are adopted and that our youngest came to us *in the usual way*.  We had been married for nearly 7 years before the birth and adoption of our first child.  Then we had another 5 year wait before the birth and adoption of our second child.  Let us tell you that after that many years, a couple like us feels pretty darn confirmed in the fact that a pregnancy just isn’t going to happen.  That isn't meant to sound like we were defeated or had no hope.  Rather, after that many years, lots of good doctors, etc. and on top of that – 2 adoptions – we just thought of ourselves as “people who adopt” - and we were perfectly at peace with being an adoptive family.  So, when we realized – pretty much out of nowhere – that I was pregnant, we were shocked beyond shocked.  There are levels of surprise in the world, you know?  It’s possible to be surprised about something that you knew was possible, but just didn’t think would happen.  But this was a case of being utterly dumbfounded because the idea that it was possible had gone away YEARS before.
1 day old

So anyway, it is with great fondness that we think back to the days of having a 5 year old, a newborn and being pregnant for the first time.  It was such a neat time.  And, then, our third daughter was born.  And, of course, she adds something to our family that only she can.  She’s very bright.  And super-cute.  Oh, and did we mention fierce?  She loves her sisters, but she’s always valued her own quiet personal time – she’s the only one of the 3 who seems to need time on her own to play quietly and in her own way.  Mark jokes that she got a little bit of his only-child-gene and that's why she wants to be alone sometimes.  When she was little she was a definite wanderer; just when no one was looking she'd wander out of the room and away from the group to explore - or find mischief - on her own.
3 years old

I assume that we do “baby” her a bit.  We still let her climb into our bed if she has a bad dream (a benefit of being petite – she still fits) and we have to remind ourselves that her chore list can be as “heavy” as her next older sister.  I'm sure the other 2 girls could give plenty more examples of our babying her, but let's not ask :)
She’s a kindergartener this year.  And doing a great job.  She’s a whiz at math, really enjoys stories from history, and has mastered phonics to the point that she is reading - which is such a milestone.  The reading thing isn’t really that big of a deal to her though, she just wants to have a loose tooth – oh, and long hair.
Christmas 2011
Happy 6th birthday, eenie!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oh, deer!

How do you feel about deer in your yard?  Right now, I am enjoying the abundance of deer on our property.  It's neat.  Not that I hadn't seen a deer before, but never so many, so close - and on a daily basis.

Our little town just might possibly have a higher deer population than people population, so they do tend to be everywhere.  But our old house had a tiny yard - and a very big fence around most of what yard there was - so we just didn't see them each and every day.  Now?  Well, the deer are pretty much always here.  Most of the time if I look out the window and start counting I get to double digits before I start really looking.  They blend in to their surroundings very well, so I'm sure that most of the time there are more in the yard than I realize.

Sometimes we still get a little surprised when one gets really close.  Our basement is a walk-out and the windows down there are right at ground level, if that makes sense.  So if a deer comes close to a basement window when someone is down there, it can be a face-to-face event.  This happened recently when the girls had some friends over.  There was a lot of squealing, let me tell you.  I think that when they come so close to the house, I'm mostly startled by how large they are. Normally they sit 20 or 30 feet from the house and seem the size of a large dog, but when a full-grown buck walks up to the kitchen window while I'm doing dishes, I get to see just how huge he is.

The girls have grown accustomed to the deer.  One of them may take notice when there is a large group right outside her bedroom window, but mostly, the excitement is over.  When we first moved in, however, the two little girls were out daily trying to catch one so they could ride it.  It was a great game for them.  And we were never terribly concerned about them actually catching one.

Mark doesn't find the deer as sweet as I do.  He's probably wise.  Right now, in the dead of Winter, they aren't harming anything.  But I won't be so charmed by them in the Spring and Summer if they show up to eat my flowers and vegetables.  Good thing they generally head back up into the mountains when Spring arrives.

Monday, January 9, 2012

CFCA Sponsorship Update

Last month we shared a post about an organization called CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children and Aging) and our several years of sponsorship of a little boy, called Rony, in El Salvador.  Long story short: Rony's parents determined that he didn't need sponsorship help any longer and so they stepped out of the program.  I'm still so touched by that.  I would guess that they could have gone on receiving the sponsorship for a little "extra help", but they were honest and stepped away when they felt they could.

Anyway, we firmly believe in the good work of CFCA's sponsorship program, so we chose to be paired with a new "friend".  Our first letter from Sharon - a 9 year old girl in Uganda - came yesterday.  So exciting!  Our oldest daughter is 11, so she already feels a connection and sees Sharon as a new pen-pal.  A return letter has been written already and should get into the mail today.  We're looking forward to our relationship with Sharon.  Her letter tells us that she hopes to be a nurse someday and that she is thankful for our help to pursue that goal.

CFCA's Hope for a Family sponsorship program is making a real difference in the world - one person at a time.  The website is