Friday, July 30, 2010

Ladybug Picnic

I saw something today that reminded me of Sesame Street.  Do you remember this song?
" 1,2,3   4,5,6    7,8,9    10,11,12
Twelve lady bugs, at the ladybug picnic.

It's been a long time, but some songs just stick in your head forever!  Anyway, here's why I thought of the song:
My bug loving son was catching crawdads in the pasture across the road and he ran in the house and said, "Mom, grab your camera!"

"Why?" I asked.

"Just do it" he said. "I've got something cool to show you."

So I did what every good mom does. I grabbed the camera and a pair of flip flops and followed my son out to the pond.
There I witnessed a ladybug infestation.  At first glance there were ten or twenty, but upon closer examination, there were thousands of them!
They were latched on to the fence post, and piled up in the surrounding grass.  If only I knew how to take better pictures, I could have shown you the massive quantities of them. I generally LOVE ladybugs, and they are a welcome gardening friend, but seeing them in droves like this was a little bit creepy.  In honor of today's pictures, I'm going to leave you with a cheesy ladybug poem:
"How brave a ladybug must be!
Each drop of rain is big as she.
Can you imagine what you'd do,
If raindrops fell as big as you?"
~Aileen Fisher


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Tragic Fish Story

It was my first semester in the 7th grade.  In our school district, 7th grade was the first year of Jr. High School. I said good bye to elementary school with all it's lame construction paper and crayola crafts, and hello to my first "serious" Jr. High Art Class.  The first medium we got to work with was clay...not play dough, but real clay that you make into ceramic stuff.  I was so totally stoked about this.  While everyone else in my class was making stupid little bowls for their parents to put spare change in, I was thinking outside the box.  I wanted to make something that both of my parents would love, but something a bit unusual.... something you wouldn't find at Walmart.  So I began to work the clay with my hands to see what secret masterpiece was waiting to take shape.  Then I had an "Ah Ha" moment, and here's what I came up with.
It was perfect.  My dad is an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish, and our guest bathroom was a lovely shade of blue at the time, so I thought my mom would love it if I made something to display in there for the guests to see.  A fish was something unexpected but least that's what I thought.

Here's a close up.  Just look at the detail of the scales.  I did that with my finger nail.  Impressive isn't it?  Notice how the Dorsal fin is a shade darker than the body of the fish.  Just like real life.

And the detail in the's exquisite! I captured the essence of fishiness in every detail. 

Needless to say, I got an A+ on it.  I've always marched to the beat of my own drummer, and it really paid off big this time.  I was sooooooo excited to take it home to show my folks.  I must say that they were a bit surprised, but I was sure they loved it.  I told my mom that we should put it on top of the toilet, but she put it inside the bathtub...with the shower curtain closed.  I wasn't sure why, but her decorating skills were far superior to mine at the time.

Fast forward 10 years.

When I got married, my parents started to turn my old bedroom into a guest room, and they began to bring me boxes with all of my treasured items in them.  Imagine my surprise when I found my fish in one of the boxes.

"Hey.... this isn't mine, I made this for you guys!"

"No, no, we were sure you'd want to keep it since you worked so hard on it." they said.

"I wouldn't dream of keeping it! I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into this fish with both of you in mind.  It's yours.  Keep it.  Really.  I made it for you." I urged.

I had the sneaking suspicion that they didn't like the fish.  They wanted it out of their house.  All those years had been a lie.  They never really liked the fish.  They didn't appreciate fine art.  In fact, I was starting to think that they wouldn't know A+ art if it looked them in the eyes.  I was insulted.

"What, you don't like my gift?" I smirked.

"We love the's just that we changed the color of the bathroom."

I saw right through their wicked deception.  Besides...I didn't want that ugly fish in my new place.  It didn't match anything we received for our wedding.  The next time I went to my parent's house, I brought the fish back and put it in it's rightful place....on top of the toilet.

This began 10 years of the fish traveling back and forth between homes.  My parent's caught on quick to my ploy to return it to it's rightful owner so it had to be sneaky.  I hid it in places where they wouldn't find it until after we were on our way home.  They returned the gesture.  Now my kids get in on it, and we sometimes give it back when my folks least expect it.  That fish has a lot of traveling miles under it's scales. Whenever we go for a visit, the covert operation goes the same way.

We get in the truck, and my husband looks at me. 

I turn to him and say, "The eagle has landed", then we laugh and wave as we peel out of their driveway.

I was cleaning out the cabinets in our guest bathroom today, and you guessed it.  The fish is back. It's probably been back for a year but I didn't see it behind the Charmin toilet paper. I will be returning  it to it's rightful owner very soon. Heee Heeee Heeee.

Who wouldn't love to have this?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Highlights of An Overflowing Week

If we tried to pack one more activity into this week, I'm convinced that we may have busted at the seams. It's been quite a ride, and I've got the laundry pile to prove it.  Here's the very small rundown of a few of the highlights:

1. First, the girls went to Grandma and Pop Pop's house for a few days to craft, swim, hike, and go shopping.  The sheer quantity of words, and questions, and stories that come from within the depths of my little girls' minds is enough to render a grandparent completely exhausted from trying to pay attention, but I think they did a good job.  The girls were full of stories to share for days after they came home. 

2.  Meanwhile, I scraped, primed, and repainted our chicken coop mansion.

3.  Then in an act of sheer madness, we loaded up the kids, luggage, and dogs and traveled from our 67 degree weather with daily showers, to go to a 110 degree inferno of heat and humidity to attend a state home school convention.  The kids and dogs stayed at my folk's house while my husband and I attended enrichment classes, poured over hundreds of amazing books, and renewed our vision for the coming school year.  We spent time with great friends and had a wonderful, albeit H-O-T time at the conference.  We even had surprise guest appearances from our governor, and two congressmen.  Hmmm...must be an election year.

4. It was soooo hot that the handle of a thirst buster cup melted in our truck.  I think my face melted off from the reflection of the heat bouncing off of the concrete and high rise buildings of the down town area. That place is not fit for man or beast in the summer time.

5. My husband got together with my brother and the rest of the groomsmen for a "bachelor party" before the wedding....if you can even call it that.  It was a bunch of pastors and deacons having good clean fun with indoor skydiving, pool basketball, and dinner in the evening. Meanwhile, I shopped for shoes with my mother and my girls.  I found a MAJOR bargain on wedding shoes....and you know how much I heart a bargain.

6.  I went grocery shopping while I was in the big city and spent $12.00 while saving nearly $60.00 with my coupons. I got 7 free tubes of Crest toothpaste, 3 free body washes, and 3 free packs of Q-Tips. Yippeeee!

6. After church today, my folks took the entire family out to a Chinese food buffet where my son tried a smorgasbord of unique food items including: fried frog legs, crab legs, craw-dads, oysters, sea creatures and  some other cuisine that "ain't from around here", if you know what I mean.  (There may have been some cat meat on his never know about those Chinese food places.) It was like "Fear Factor" Chinese style.  He loved it!

7. We're back home to the cool country now,and all of the rain we've had is transforming my yard and the pastures into a lush oasis of green.  My garden is finally taking off!! Looks like Zucchini bread is on the menu this week!

My brain is too tired to think anymore tonight, so I'll save my adventures for another blog post!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cabinet Door Chalkboard

For many years I've been teaching my children bible verses on a weekly  basis, and I've been thinking of a way that I could display them so that they could see them often throughout the day.  I didn't want to write it on a piece of paper, and I needed for it to be inexpensive to make.  Here's what I came up with: A Cabinet Door Chalkboard.

Here's how I made it.

First I taped the  middle of a cabinet door that I had laying around. I got it at a salvage yard for 25cents.  I painted the edges with several coats of a barn red spray paint.

Next, I taped up the edges and sprayed several coats of chalkboard paint on the middle.
Then I took sandpaper and roughed up the edges to bring out the wood underneath and age it a little bit.

Meet my new best friend, Ralph. Where has he been all my life?  I put a coat of Ralph Lauren Smoke Glaze over the red and wiped most of it off.  This gave it an aged feel.

Next I spray painted an old green cabinet handle I had in my junk drawer.  Then, I sanded it to give it a distressed look.
The lighting is bad on this picture, but I took a small wooden chicken I had sitting out on display, and I drilled two holes in the top to hold my chalk. Next, I glued it to the corner of my chalkboard with Gorilla Glue, and clamped it until it dried.

Here's the final product!  I'm pretty happy with it and I think it goes lovely in my farm style kitchen!

I can't wait to put our new verses on the board each week.  It's in plain view from the dining room table, so my kids can see it at every meal.  The best part is that I made it for the cost of the chalkboard paint, $3.00.  I love cheap crafts!

Monday, July 19, 2010

On my Mind

It's 6am on a Monday, and I have some things I feel compelled to tell you:

1. After all these years, I finally learned the rules about the differences between semi colons and colons.

2.Today, it's my girls' turn to go to Grandma and Pop Pop's house.  They woke up at 5:30 and asked me about belt selections, outfit choices, hair accessories, and matching shoes.  They're sitting on their suitcases at the front door and we don't leave for hours.  When my son went, I had to force him to bring more than one shirt.  His entire suitcase was filled with pocket knives, archery supplies, and work gloves.

3. Today was the day I intended to tackle painting the chicken coop, but I woke up to thunder, lightening, rain, and 700% humidity. My chickens are pecking the paint off of the outside of the coop in an obsessive compulsive manner.  At 4:45 a.m. this sounds like 5 woodpeckers drilling holes outside my window, or maybe a jack hammer. I can't decide.

4. I'm finishing up an art project that I can't wait to post about.  I'm 90% done, but the last 10% is all about the details.  It will make or break my project, and I'm in a puddle of anguish and indecision about how to finish it.  My husband just grunts when I tell him about the options.  He's no good to me in times of crafting crisis.  What I need is my mother.....which brings me to my next point....

5. My brother has stolen my parents.  He has ripped them from me and forced them into hard labor preparing his house for his soon- to- be- wife, and preparing for his wedding.  O.K....not really....they volunteered for it, but still!  I need my mother for crafting project advice; she's a visionary.  I need my dad to replace the lighting fixtures in my bathroom; my husband doesn't do electricity. (Odd isn't it?  He's not afraid of a natural gas explosion, but the guy won't touch anything with electricity involved.) Anyway, I can't have my parents back for over three more weeks and I don't know if I can make it that long.
Mom, Dad...If you're reading this, I heart you.

6. One of my chickens started to lay  really long, skinny, pointy eggs that don't fit into the carton.  I'm too embarrassed to give these away.  I will make them into egg salad.  I hope this phase doesn't last long.

7. After I said all those horrible things about my husband's corn in the spring, it was uprooted in a micro burst during a huge storm we had over the weekend.  I felt so bad that I went out there and replanted the knocked over ones, and I think they're gonna make it.  What's worse; My sunflowers came away unscathed from the incident and that made him even more upset.

8. Last night at my church small group, they were short on song books, and were trying to locate one for my husband and I. I didn't want them to fuss over it, so I made the super smart-mouthed comment that I didn't need one because the really righteous people who grew up in the church already know all of the hymns.  And right on cue, the leader said, "Tonight's hymn is  "Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord".  It was so funny, I couldn't stop laughing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cookbook Catastrophe

Have you ever asked me for one of my recipes, and I've neglected to write it down for you?
Here's the reason.
I probably just can't find it.  I know, I know... I'm ashamed of it too.  It took a lot  for me to be vulnerable, and to write about the embarrassing state of my recipe books, but I'm all about "keeping it real" for my followers, so here it goes:

Hello.  My name is Nell, and I'm addicted to collecting recipes.

Wow! I feel better already!
I didn't start out this way. My love for recipes grew over time.  In fact, I had a perfectly good idea when I first got married.  My goal was to keep my recipes neat and tidy by tucking them inside plastic sheets so that I could wipe off anything I might spill on them.  My plan was brilliant!  Except that I ran out of plastic sheets, and had no more space in my 3 ring binder, and I kept coming across good recipes.  Compound this problem by ten years and you have one giant stack of disorganized ingredient lists. 

Oh sure, I own 10 or 20 cookbooks, but the real gems all lie somewhere in this stack.  You know.... the ones you write down on a napkin at a pot luck, or on the back of the tithing envelope at church.  Some are even written down on place mats. Those are the really good ones because they come from disgruntled restaurant workers willing to give up top-secret  recipes. 

I watched this chick flick the other day, and the guy asked the girl this soul searching question that was meant to get to the heart of what was important to her.  He said,

"If there was a fire, and everyone was safe outside of your home, and you had 30 seconds to go back in and get some things, what would you take?"
I thought long and hard about this, and I would come back for my Bible, our trunk of pictures, and my cookbooks.  The rest is just stuff.  But my pictures and my recipes are infused with wonderful memories.  I have recipes from when my grandmothers were alive, and marinades that my Dad has scientifically concocted, and things that I learned how to make in Jr. High cooking class.  I have family favorites from my Mother- In- Law, and delicious pork chop dishes from my Grandfather.  I even have one from my dear friend that was printed in the Church cookbook with a major typo.  Instead of saying....add pudding..... it said, ass pudding.  Every time I make her recipe I tell her the ass pudding was amazing....then we giggle like school girls.  I love every one of those recipes, but I just don't have the time to tackle the task of organizing them. 

When I look at the recipes, it feels like I'd have to climb Mt. Everest to conquer the stack.  I have this grand plan to purchase a computer program with a really cute font, type out all of my recipes, organize them into a book according to category, and store it neatly in my cupboard.  I would hire out the job but...1. I don't have the money and....2. Many of my recipes are missing key things like titles, oven temps and times.  Some just have a list of 5 or 6 ingredients and that's it.  Only I know the rest of the story.  It would never work to have someone else do it.  So the stack grows ever more impressive by the week, and I lose hope of getting it organized until retirement age.  In fact, it's on our list of things to do when we retire so we don't want to shoot each other.  It's right behind learning to team rope, and right in front of riding a Harley to embarrass our grown children.  Until then, I shove it up into the cupboard, and only take it out in the privacy of my own kitchen, where it's safe to view it without fear of ridicule or shame. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Too Much Information

Note: For your benefit, today's blog will have no pictures.  If you are a male, or are squeamish about leg hair, you might not want to read this.  Thank you for understanding.

My Love has been working out of town this week, and I'm soooo glad he's coming home today.  I've really let myself go the last few days.  In fact, I've taken a good hard look at myself this week, and I'm convinced that if something happened to my husband, I have the potential to become one of those scary "cat ladies" that own 15 felines. That's a frightening realization, folks. I don't even really like cats!  Let's face it, the only real reason I put on lipstick every day is for my husband, and if he's not here, why waste the stuff?

For days I've roamed the house with no makeup, a bun in my hair, and cut off sweats.  I even mowed the front yard on the riding lawn mower that way. I've NEVER done this before... I'd be mortified if someone I knew drove by and saw me like that.  But this week, I threw caution to the wind.  I enjoyed the grunge look so much that I decided to go to the feed store wearing a Bass Pro Shop ball cap and  big movie star sunglasses like the paparazzi was chasing me.  It was great. I didn't have to brush my hair or put on mascara!

I stayed up every night reading in bed, surrounded by a nest full of pillows, and no one was there to tell me to turn the darned light off.  I even pulled out a few pairs of Granny panties that I haven't worn since the third trimester of my pregnancies, and I wore them to bed with my husband's old softball tee shirts.  Who cares? There's no one there to see them anyway! Why waste the good stuff?  Instead of good smelling Victoria's Secret lotions and lingerie, I used Vaseline intensive care lotion and wore Hanes Her Way Grannies.  I even applied one of those green facial masks that made me look like the Incredible Hulk.  Who needs a gun for self defense when the menfolk are away?  Intruders would run away screaming at the sight of me this week!

I even decided to take a break from shaving my legs.  By day three, I was out weeding the garden and I thought I could feel the wind blowing on my leg hairs.  It may have just been a bug, but the thought of having leg hairs long enough to catch a breeze was enough to make me shave my legs immediately.  I guess I have some limits when it comes to the"natural" look.

Today, all my hippie living comes to an end.  Today, I shower. Today, I put on good smelling lotion.  Today, I will brush and curl my hair and put makeup on.  I might even wear my bling belt.  I will wash and fold my Granny Panties and put them back in the depths of my drawer for another time when my husband goes out of town, or goes hunting.  Today, I will transform myself from "Cat Lady" back into "Hott Wife" (With 2 T's).  A few more days of this nonsense and I might have started to think deodorant was optional.  Scary!  I'm so glad my husband's on his way home....for your sake, and mine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brother's Back!

Our son went to visit his grandparents for a few days so he could have some time to do "guy" stuff without his pesky little sisters around to bug him.  Less than 10 minutes after we dropped him off, my baby said:

"Momma, I miss brover already!" 
"Already?  We just dropped him off!" I said.
" I know but I weeeaallly miss him.  I wuv him. Can I call him?" she said.

It's funny.  My kids fight like cats and dogs when they're together, but when they're apart for even a half an hour they think about each other as if they had been ripped apart at the hip.

My son had a great time, and came home full of stories to tell about his adventures:

He attended an Archery class, saw elk, went for bike rides with Pop Pop, and went for a hike.

He also had lots of time to play in the creek, look for stuff in the water, play board games with Grandma, and shop for hunting and fishing stuff at Western Drug. 
He followed his Pop Pop around like a little shadow watching his every move, and although they won't admit it, I have a sneaking suspicion that he probably wore his grandparents plumb out, and I'm imagining that he also ate them out of house and home too. (He's a growin' boy!)

Meanwhile, back at home, we girls had a spa night!  We watched Girly kid movies and I painted nails and curled hair.  Polka- dots were the request for the day, and I did my best to fulfill their spa wishes.
Have you ever tried to paint polka dots on tiny toes?  It's harder than it looks!

Today, when my son got home, he came bearing gifts for his sisters. And they, likewise, had some for him too, along with homemade cards they made for him. While he was away, the house was much quieter, but I have to admit that the sound of giggles and laughter and running around were nice to hear again.  The break was good for all of the kids, and it also made them appreciate their friendship again. They were all smiles as they laid down to watch a movie on the living room floor. They spent an hour chatting about every detail of their time away from each other. It does this Momma proud to see that this family sticks together like glue!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Levels of Cheapness

This morning I've been busy putting a coat of varnish on my beautiful Adirondack chairs that my Dad made for me a few years ago.  I'm not sure if it's because of accidental paint fume inhalation, or hours of quietness spent on the back porch while painting, but as I threw away my used paintbrush, I started thinking..... there are DEFINITELY different levels of cheapness.  I for one, would rather throw away a paintbrush, than have to clean it in a jar of paint cleaner.  It's not worth the hassle....but if it can be washed with the hose, I'll keep it for decades.  I'm frugal, but not THAT frugal.  I'm a big money saver, but even I have my limits.  So in order to define my level of cheapness, I've created a list of things I will or will not do to save money.

Things I'm willing to do to save money
1. Clip coupons, always....end of story.
2. Never pay full price for anything.
3. Make my own cleaners
4. Watch to see if the Diamondbacks scored 7 runs so I can take advantage of Taco Bell's D- Backs special $1.79 for 3 tacos and a large drink. (You can't even make them that cheap, people.)
5. Grow a garden
6. Reuse old socks as dusting rags
7. Save jars, and coffee cans
8. Go around the house as the "light Nazi" flipping off lights and asking who left them on.
9. Sew my own curtains, linens, and bedding
10. Make my own Cinnamon Sugar, and put it into an old spice jar
11. Save taco sauce packets from Taco Bell
12. Use toilet paper to blow my nose so I can save the Kleenex for the "guests"
13. Recycle gift sacks and tissue paper (Thanks, Gina for reminding me of this one!)

Things I won't do to save money
(If things got real bad, then all bets are off, but for now, these are my limits.)
1. I will not wash and reuse plastic baggies, or plastic plates.
2. I will not save cool whip containers.
3. I will not save dryer sheets to dust with.
4. I will not save dryer lint to stuff a pillow with.
5. I will not buy cheap toilet paper. It must be Charmin....always.
6. I will not use baking soda to bathe with or brush my teeth.
7. I will not make my own ice in trays. (The stuff in the bag tastes waaaayyyy better.)
8. I will not buy generic cheese puffs.
9. I will not use dish washing soap "sparingly". (I like a proper amount of suds in my water.)
10. I will not pay to have someone wash my truck, spray for bugs, clean my carpets, or paint my house. I do it myself.
11. I will not wash and re-use straws. (Thanks, Krystle for reminding me of this one!)

Everyone has their limits.  Those are mine. What about you? What are your limits of frugality? Do you go to extreme measures to save money, or will your pride not allow you to save a ketchup packet for later?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Head of Ranch Security

"When I took this job as Head of Ranch Security, I knew that I was only flesh and blood, four legs, a tail, a couple of ears, a pretty nice kind of nose that the women really go for, two bushels of hair and another half-bushel of Mexican sandburs.You add that all up and you don't get Superman, just me, good old easy-going Hank who works hard, tries to do his job, and gets very little cooperation from anyone else around here." -Hank The Cowdog

Side Note: If you've never read a Hank the Cowdog Book, or listened to a Hank the Cowdog Audiobook, Run....don't walk to your nearest library today.  Your kids will thank you for it! My husband and I enjoy them as much, if not more, than our kids!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"The Purse"

Last year for our 9th anniversary, my husband went and did something so out of his character, that it rendered me speechless.  And, folks, speechless is something that never happens to me.  He bought me a purse....not just any purse, but this one pictured above.  Did I ask for a purse?  No.  Did I pick out this purse? No.  He just saw it, thought it looked cool, and bought it for me.  My burly, mustache wearing, cattle raising, weld making, big- game hunter of a husband picked out a purse for his little lady.  I truly didn't know what to say to such an outrageous handbag.  Truth be told, I honestly didn't think that I could even pull it off.  I mean, it takes quite a woman, with a whole lot of grit and gumption to pull off a purse like this.  It's a little bit like owning a gnome statue or cowboy boot planter.  You can't just have it, you have to OWN it or it looks ridiculous.

For two days, it hung on the door knob of my hall closet with the tags still on it, and I just stared at it every time I walked by.  Was it hideously crazy, or ridiculously cool?  I couldn't decide.  I think it's a little of both. My husband thought I'd appreciate the crosses on it because we are Christians.  But they looked more "Rock Star" than "old rugged cross" like the one Jesus died on.  Was it offensive to wear something with a fancy cross on it, or was it proclaiming my love for my Savior?  I just couldn't decide, and I agonized over it.   Finally, I decided to cut the tags off and take it out in public.  This started a full year of getting approached by absolute strangers wanting to talk about my purse.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I get at least one comment on it every day that I go out into public.  Cashiers, cowgirls, common folk, and construction workers alike, all want to talk about my purse.

Two weeks ago, I walked into the beauty salon and ten women swarmed me.  They passed my purse around the shop, and one customer offered to buy it from me right on the spot.  Then, they all asked where I bought it.  This was the most embarrassing part, husband bought it for me at the Tack Shop.  That's right, the Tack in the place to buy livestock feed, saddles and veterinary supplies.  NOT a fancy department store, NOT a trendy boutique, and NOT a high priced fashion mall, but a feed store.  I felt my cheeks getting flush the minute I said it, but I couldn't take the words back once they came out.  I could have lied and said that it came from a little corner shop in Dallas, or a boutique in Beverly Hills and then felt ultra hip, and fashionable, but the guilt would have eaten me up.  So instead, I told the truth......and I was surprised when the girls all wanted directions to the Tack Shop. 

Last night my Lover took me out on a hot date, and the waitress said, "Cute purse, I'll be right back. " Then she came out to show me hers, and it was the exact same one in black and white.  One day, the person in line behind me took a picture of it with her camera phone, and another time an old man told me I was pretty "gutsy" to wear a cow hide purse like that.  On many occasions, it opens up conversations about God, and that's what I really enjoy most about it.  For better or worse, my outrageous, borderline tacky purse gets LOTS of attention.  There's only one other thing that gets noticed as much as my purse and that is my Bling Belt.....but I'll save that story for later. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"God has purposes for our lives which He has not yet revealed.  Therefore each day grows sacred in wondering expectation."  -Phillips Brooks

Summer Fun Idea For Kids

Because it's summer, and because I'm always trying to keep my children from saying the dreaded "B" word, (Bored) I try my best to keep things fun around here.  I also try to say "yes" to my children as much as possible when they ask to do things that won't cause bodily harm or property damage.  In the last two days my children have built forts, caught crawdads and frogs, ran through the sprinklers, baked cookies, made Jello, made play dough, created bracelets, gone for bike rides, all in addition to their usual routine.  I also did something with my kids that was a big hit, so I thought I'd share the idea with all of my readers that have kids.

When my kids woke up this morning, I handed each of them a piece of paper that led them on a Photography Scavenger Hunt.  They each grabbed a digital camera (my son got a Kodak Easy Share for Christmas, and my daughters used our old digital camera).  Then I gave them a list of things to find around the property.  When they found the item, they would take a good picture of it.  I had a total of 20 items on the list and they included the following things:
A pink flower, something rusty, an insect, a feather, something soft, an animal, a ball , a vegetable, something wet, something ugly, something heart shaped, something with a hole, something very old...etc, etc.

The kids had a blast taking pictures, and combining their detective skills with their artsy side to find and shoot the perfect picture.  And the best thing about it was that it was all free and occupied them for a good 2 hours.  That's like a double accomplishment in my book.  Plus, we all had a good laugh when we viewed the pictures on the computer screen.  If you've got a camera that you trust your kids with  (not your new Nikon or Canon DSLR) then it might be a great summer activity for the family, and it will make great memories.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Competitive Nature

I have a slight to moderate problem with losing.  It's OK to lose.....if it happens to someone else.  I just happen to really loathe it, myself.  It's part of my competitive nature.  I think it's hereditary.  My family makes everything into a competition.  According to the parenting books I threw away, my brother and I had a bad case of sibling rivalry due to being born too close together.  I happen to know the truth, though, and it runs much deeper than that.  It's more like a multi-generational competition that we were born into...a giant race that never ends.  We always bring our "A" game when our family gets together.  Whether it's ping pong, washers, golf,  or scrabble, it's cut throat to the death!

My husband's family is way too nice to be competitive.  They just like to play the game, win or lose.  Practically no one keeps score in his family, and everyone congratulates each other for "trying hard".  It's like some sort of Hallmark Card of kindness that they share around. Warm fuzzies abound in his family. It's completely foreign to me.  I can't imagine playing anything in a leisurely manner.  It's all about strategy, and executing the plan of attack, in my mind. In his family, no one even remembers who the winner is the next day.  In my family, not only do we remember, but we will never let you forget it!  We trash talk, make wagers, and use intimidation as much as possible in my family.  And when we win, (notice I didn't say if we win) then we react like we just won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes.  We run around the back yard screaming, jumping up and down, and doing a signature jig that involves dancing with elbows swinging back and forth in merriment.  Then, the next day, we text message each other about the re-match and accusations of cheating.  It's all very mature.

Sometimes, we even do the "Christian" slam by saying something like, "God bless ya, you just can't throw a washer to save your life, can you?"  If you preface the insult with "God bless ya" then it's supposed to make it sound nicer.  It's a Mary Poppins approach to trash talk. You know, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.  It's a technique we use when non- family members are playing with us.  It's how we initiated my soon to be sister- in- Law.  We didn't want to scare her away, so we used this type of game strategy with her, but after the wedding, forget it.  Then she's one of us.

 I'm telling you all of this because my husband's family has a budding tradition the day after the fourth of July that brings out the competitive spirit in me, and leaves me feeling like a loser.  Every year, we have a rubber duck race in the river.  We take sharpies and decorate our ducks for the big competition, and then dump them in the river to see which one floats to the bridge the fastest.  We do a series of "heats" and the winners of those heats race in a final match of rubber duck madness. 

This whole race is problematic for me on many levels.  First of all, it involves absolutely no strategy.  It's purely a game of chance.  Secondly, there are too many elements out of my control.  The bushes overhanging the river, the pockets of calm water, the grass traps that snag ducks, and the occasional upside down water fowl.  One minute you're in the lead, the next, you get caught in a swirling pool of wayward water and it's curtains for your victory chances.  If I could "will" my duck to win, then it would be a champion every time, but it doesn't have anything to do with sheer will, strategy, or skill.  It's all just dumb luck.  Herein lies the problem.  How do you sit back, relax, and  enjoy a duck race when you have a winner's drive?

It would be more fun if we could build a motor, change the design, or use a straw to blow on the duck for steering....anything to put an element of skill or strategy into play.  But that would be cheating, and there are NO cheaters in my husband's family.  So I try to enjoy the race even though my lousy duck fails me time and time again. 

My baby is all smiles as her duck finishes first place!

Here, the rest of us are pretending to be good sports even though our ducks are losers.

Here are a few more of the duck race competitors on the bridge.

I've found that by marrying someone whose personality is different yet complimentary to your own, you can live a much fuller life with new perspective and greater insights. My spouse's strengths are my weaknesses. He's calm when I'm excited, he's brave when I'm scared, and he's a good sport when I'm a brat. And there's an added bonus: my husband's mellow gaming family is wearing off on me a little bit.  Being in their family for ten years has softened my insatiable desire to win at all costs.  It has not  fully taken away my love of victory, but it has made me a better sport about the occasional loss....even though it wasn't my fault if my dumb duck got caught in the grass, and it wasn't my fault that it tipped upside down, and it wasn't my fault that someone let it go just a split second slower than the rest of the ducks.  My middle child came up to me after the race and said, "Good try, Mommy" in her best Hallmark voice.  She must take after her father.  Even though I lost, I was still able to enjoy the sound of the water flowing down the creek, and gave a congratulatory handshake to my baby for her win, and then whispered in her ear, " Next year, your duck is going down!" Hee Hee Hee.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

Every Fourth of July, we go to my husband's hometown to take part in all of the Independence Day celebrations.  Pancake breakfasts, parades, friends, barbecues and fireworks make the day extra special.  Everyone comes back home on the Fourth of July, and we reconnect with old friends every year.  It's one of my favorite times of the year on the mountain.

Here our kids are waiting patiently for the start of the parade.

This is Rosie.  She's a princess that my kids got to dog sit for waaayyy too much money.  She's ready for the parade too!

Here she decides to have a Popsicle to make the parade a little bit more enjoyable.
There's my baby waiting for floats to throw out candy to her. There was a lot of competition for candy this year and she only came out with 4 pieces by the end of the parade.  Her daddy was trying to show her how to throw an elbow to get more candy, but she's just too darn nice.  Lucky for her, she has a big brother and sister that are a little more experienced at candy grabbing, and they shared their loot with her.

Here's a Model A that a family friend restored and drove in the parade.  It's gorgeous inside and out!
For a small town parade, this float was amazing.  Abe Lincoln would sit down to go under the power lines, and then stand up again.  The theme of this float was "Stand Up for the Constitution."  Very Clever.

After the parade we had a barbecue, went to the lake for the afternoon, back to the house for dinner and fireworks, and then drove home.  We pulled into the driveway at 11:30pm, and carried the kids to their beds.  They were covered in sunscreen, bug spray, popsicle juice, frosting, and ketchup, but they slept like little angels until the next morning when we gave them all a good scrubbing. We had yet another memorable 4th of July reflect back on. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tales from the Campfire

One afternoon while we were camping, my son was shooting his bow at a target, and starting to feel really confident in his archery skills.  Later that day as we were hiking, he proudly proclaimed that he wanted to sleep in the hammock that night with some hot dogs in his pockets, so he could:
A.- Attract a bear into camp with the hot dog smell.
B.- Shoot the bear with his bow and arrow and be a hero.

Don't you just love the mind of eight year old boys?  They think they're soooo tough. Late that evening, we all sat around the campfire drying the kids' socks and making smores for dessert.  It was the perfect night for gazing into the fire.  The air was still, the moon was high, the stars were bright, and we were all bundled up in our camp chairs.  Then my father- in- law began to tell tales of days gone by.
First, he told the story about the last Grizzly Bear found in Arizona, who happened to roam an area not far from camp.  He was notorious for killing cattle, and scared the ranchers into hunting him down. My son's eyes were getting big. Then he told the story of a man in the newspaper who was mauled not once, but twice by a grizzly bear after shooting it with his hand gun.  My son was hanging on every word he said.  After that, he spoke of seeing a man-eating lion that was now dead in a museum in Chicago, and told about the many people the lion devoured before getting shot. 
All of the sudden, my boy who never wants to go to sleep, suddenly wanted to go to bed inside the trailer, with his two sisters.... immediately.  He said he was getting "tired".  I laughed and helped tuck them all into their sleeping bags, where they were safe from the bears.  Needless to say, it was the last time he spoke of wanting to sleep in a hammock, or about shooting a bear with his little bow and arrow.  I think he has a healthy respect for nature now, and don't anticipate him baiting bears with hot dogs anytime in the near future.