Green Thumbs

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Brian and I love to garden. Something about the “excuse” to spend time outdoors in the lovely spring weather even while there are other projects and chores waiting to be done inside.

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Like any good garden endeavor – all green thumbs start out as brown thumbs

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Even if we are dubious about the produce.

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It provides opportunity to teach the children about hard work – like when the trees were trimmed away from the power lines on our street and I asked if they would dump a load of mulch in our yard.

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And another lesson in work ethic with a second load.

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And yes, a third. The garden is now covered knee deep in mulch – no more weeding this year!

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We discover amazing things – like this mother skink guarding her eggs.

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We learn to rejoice in the small things – like our entire beet crop!

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And big things – like the volunteer sunflower plant.

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A garden gives us a chance to watch something that grows…

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…faster than our kids! (same corn patch 10 days later).

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Best of all, it tends to make vegetables a larger part of our diet by sheer desperation when we try to consume a large yield.

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Yum!!!

2 birthdays!

A little catch up here on our March birthdays – Lance and Eden.

We happen to be studying flying insects for science in our homeschool co-op. This became the theme of our little celebration that appealed both to Eden (beautiful butterflies) and Lance (creepy crawlies). I planned some activities and spent a fun Monday with my sister prepping and making some decorations. The day of the party dawned clear, bright and with evidence that a stomach bug had hit our household. It took a week to clear through all of us but by the next Tuesday we were ready to party!

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Eden – 5, Lance – 9

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For the boys/older kids we did a bug scavenger hunt.

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Ran off some excitement with spider web tag

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And raced snails we found in Grammy’s garden – they all start in the small circle and the first that makes it to the larger, outer circle wins!

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Meanwhile, the girls caught “butterflies” made of tissue paper that we put on fan blades to make them flutter down when the fan turned on. This game was a big hit. We also had face painting and posed as butterflies.

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And if your face didn’t get painted – well, body art is the next best thing. They made poster board wings to wear.

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We ate caterpillars, butterflies and popcorn. ‘Flower nectar’ and ‘bug juice’ were also enjoyed.

A good time was had by all. Thanks to those that helped bring this about.

Fun Run!

In our household I tend to be an idea generator and Brian tends to be the working force that makes it happen – we’re a good team that way. Well, I had this idea that it would be “fun” to train for a race with the kids. We looked around at several options and settled on the tried and true Blue Bell Fun Run. For about two months we walked and ran down our dirt road, slowly increasing distance. The goal was that the oldest five could at least walk the whole distance with the bigger ones able to run while Brian and I trained for the 5k. Skye and Garrison completed many miles in the stroller and Brian built up his upper body pushing them. Not every training day was golden and happy – we had tears and grump and even I wanted to skip some days – but Brian saw us through and we all benefited. The best part was the building of our family as we pursued a goal together and celebrated each other in our efforts. I love what we were able to give the children in learning to stick with something hard and experience the feeling of success that comes from discipline.

 

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Cahill and Cook cousins on race morning.

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Lance, Ivy and Dad finishing up the 1 mile – just under 10 minutes!

 

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Flora follows close behind the oldest two.

 

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Aunt Katie and Bruce kept up with Eden who ran the entire way!

 

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Aunt Lori brings in Iris and cousin Alexa

 

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Even Grammy gets in on the race!

 

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Our family of runners! (medals were for participation). Brian gets the athlete award by running the kids mile and then pushing a stroller while running the 5k with me! Of course, what makes this a true ‘fun’ run is the free ice cream at the end! Way to go team!

An idea, tabled.

When we first moved into our house we lacked a dining table. At that time, my brother, who manages rentals, had a table from one of those houses that the tenets had left behind. This happily filled our need and along with folding chairs has served us well for the last four years. However, as the family grew the table filled and we really needed something bigger.

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We had looked at tables and chairs several times but had always remained undecided on what kind of surface would prove most durable under the use of many children. Then, on a date night several months ago, we went to Cotton Patch and found what we were looking for; metal tables! So Brian started researching options online. This table option proved hard to find however so Brian emailed the restaurant and asked where they purchase the tables – and so starts the story:

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A response to Brian’s email is met with an offer – they are remodeling a Cotton Patch in Tyler and we can have the tables. And the chairs. For free! So we pack ourselves in the van, grab a trailer and head to East Texas. We packed in 8 booth tables and 40 chairs! Wish I had a picture.

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Since booth tables aren’t big enough for a family of 9, Brian set about figuring how to put several together. First he  bent down a metal lip that had secured the table to the wall. He scored the metal with a grinder then hammered it with a rubber mallet. Skye attempts to don ear protection.

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Brian’s parents came for a weekend and his Dad enthusiastically helped with the table while his mom, my mom and I cleaned the chairs. Brian took each booth leg and cut the end off square.

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The legs were arranged just so, where they gave support and didn’t interfere with packing as many chairs as possible around the table.

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At Amy’s request, Brian ground off some metal corners that she kept bumping with her leg. The kids were quite impressed and all watched from a safe distance.

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While the table production happened in several stages, chair work took place as well. First, to clean off the chairs, hopefully to rid them of restaurant smell.

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Then stripping the finish on the tops where grease and oils from many hands had made it gunky. Finally a wipe on poly was applied to protect the wood again.

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Unfortunately, the poly dried sticky – so it had to be wiped off with paint thinner and reapplied. This time Amy used a different product – just in case. Redoing a finishing times 40 chairs is a lot of work but Amy’s mom and sister, Stacie, lent a hand. The weather cooperated with lower humidity and the chairs dried hard and smooth.

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14 chairs now surround an indestructible metal surface. 10 chairs are going to some friends who needed some, another 7 will go on the back porch for outdoor meals and the rest will be stored under the house until some occasion when they are needed.

Someone asked how we find deals like this and I answered “you have to be very patient.” That, coupled with some clever thinking and sweat brings us a table and chairs that will serve our family for years. Thanks to God for providing the idea, the supplies and the means!

The Ice Storm

Texas winter 2017 proved to be quite severe. Subfreezing temps gripped the land for two whole days, causing everyone to bundle up and sit by the fire!IMG_7700

This report centers around an extremely localized ice storm that happily landed in the backyard of a family here in the Brazos Valley.

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Having missed the winter of 2016 due to having a baby on that frigid night, a local father determined to take advantage of the fleeting season to make some memories for his young brood.

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Wielding ice powers (and a sprinkler) greater than those of the acclaimed Elsa, this father created not one…

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but TWO ice castles!

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There are even reports of an abominable snowman.

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Dawn breaks over the the frozen landscape.

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Every living thing is encased in ice. It seems the White Witch has been here, leaving a spell of Christmas-less winter behind.

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But the spirit of youth and joy can create fun and break any spell..or at least the ice.

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Even little Tumnus the fawn has thawed out in the warming sun.

Rubber boots are a far cry from silver skates but Hans Brinker lives on in the hearts of these children.

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All aboard the Polar Express!

It seems the pools in the ‘wood between the worlds’ have frozen over allowing exploration with no worries about green and yellow rings.

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This little snowman may not be walking in the air, but she can touch the frozen sky!

Looks like the abominable snowman was really a Wampa and young Luke makes his way out of the treacherous ice cave.

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The adventure was too good to keep home alone, so cousins were invited to partake in the fun.

One word: wheeee!

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And to finish the party, hot chocolate for everyone….

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….and a mess for mom to clean up later. Good thing the cold only lasted two days.

And that is how one family likes their winter – short and fun!

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