Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Fun

We've been filling this season with simple, fun Christmas activities.  We have a number of things that have now become traditions in our family, and it's so fun to know that these are creating memories for our children.

Some of the highlights from this year:

Cuddling up and watching Christmas movies - of course! 

This year a nearby town had a Christmas trolley with free rides around town - so fun! 

We had thought about having a big sleepover in the living room by the Christmas tree, and we did, though it wasn't quite what we planned.  Everyone (except me, thankfully!) got sick with a stomach bug, and to try to avoid having kids throwing up in their beds we all slept out in the living room.  Nobody threw up that night, but instead they took turns throwing up (in their beds) on various nights later in the week.  Anyway, we spent about a week eating juice and crackers, watching lots of movies, and doing lots of laundry.   Once everyone was better, we were able to move on to the fun stuff!

Like making and decorating and eating cookies.....

We've been doing our annual December evening reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible.  We've been reading Christmas stories and we went out looking at Christmas lights.  I tried making homemade Egg Nog this year, which turned out great.  I used this recipe.  We got the house cleaned up this morning and now we're ready for a fun Christmas with our families!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Snow

We had our first snowfall last night!  It's so fun to wake up to a winter wonderland!  And such a fun way to start the Christmas season!  We're hoping to go get our tree today before everything freezes over as it's supposed to the next couple of nights.

We had to go out to enjoy the snow and build a snowman.  The 15 minutes of play time hardly seems to justify the hour we (I) spend getting ready and cleaning up, but of course it does somehow, too.  Toby only lasted a few minutes this year because he took off his gloves and it all went downhill from there.  I ended up putting him in the living room with a bottle and Veggies Tales while I helped Ben and Jo finish up their snowman.  Then everyone was ready to head in for hot cocoa!

The aftermath!

The chickens were a little hesitant to come out of their coop, and when they did they preferred to avoid the snow.  We'll be bundling them up a bit more tonight to avoid some of the bitter cold!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

I found the idea for a Thankful Tree online and thought it would be a fun project to do with the kids.  We went outside and gathered some branches and rocks, which we arranged in our jar.  Then we cut leaves out of construction paper.  The kids did most of them.  I have to admit I love their "unique" shapes!  My idea was to hang the leaves with string, but they preferred to just put the leaves straight on the branches.

Then, for the last few nights at dinnertime, everyone chose a couple of leaves on which to write something we're thankful for.  Benjamin and Joanna wanted to write theirs themselves - perfect unschooling writing practice!  =)

Reading their leaves is a bit like unscrambling words - but hey!

I love how this project turned out, but especially just how much the kids had fun with it.  I think it has been really helpful in talking about and encouraging thankfulness in the kids.

I am so thankful for these little people in my life, and for the opportunity to make fun memories with them!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Benjamin has been really interested in the
Thanksgiving story, and he wanted to make
a Pilgrim hat!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Still gets excited over new socks!  =)

Benjamin is six today.  So hard to believe six years have passed since that little baby made us a family of three, and yet, of course, it seems like forever, too.

I'm pretty sure he's an extravert; he loves to be with other people, can't stop talking, and thrives on attention - lots of it!  He's generous and always willing to help.  He loves consistency and routine, and he has a huge imagination and an amazing memory.  It has been so fun to watch him grow and develop these past six years, and we can't wait to see how he grows and changes (and stays the same) in the coming years!

Happy Birthday, sweet boy!

We love you!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Going up....

There are definitely lots of benefits to having older kids along with babies, but unfortunately there are some extra challenges, too....

He can't walk, but he has become terribly good at scaling the bunk bed ladder!  He's been trying for a while, and then all of a sudden yesterday, he did it (and did it again and again)!  And, of course, he's very proud of himself.

Now if we can just remember to keep the bedroom door closed....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Let's run, run, run.....It's time for Halloween fun!

After watching all the neighborhood kids come trick-or-treating at our house for the past couple of years, the kids have been asking if they can go get candy, too.  So this year we decided to do a little something with them and we took them trick-or-treating at the grandparents' houses.  All the stores in the little downtown near Seth's parents' house were all giving out candy, too, so we walked around there for a little while gathering some goodies.  The kids loved it, and we made sure we were still home plenty early enough to pass out candy at our house, which is always a huge highlight to our kids.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Farms!

We got to go to the pumpkin farm twice again this year - so fun!  It's such a fun fall activity that we all love and look forward to!

Trip #1:

Trip #2:

  Yay for fall!  =)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

End of Summer Camping Trip

We had one last hurrah of summer with a camping trip in the middle of September.  We joined Seth's parents in Eastern Washington for a couple of days - and we had a great time!  Thankfully, September is usually nice around here, so we had plenty of sunshine!

Unfortunately, we had our garage broken into just before our trip, and several of our camping supplies were taken, including my parents' tent, which we've always borrowed for camping.  Thankfully, we were able to find another similar (large!) tent.

We enjoyed an afternoon at a nearby mountain lake.  Benjamin and Joanna are always ready for water play - no matter how cold the water.

 Ezra - not so much.  He prefers to stay on shore.

Toby likes water, but it has to be at least somewhat warm!

Somehow blurry pictures seem to capture how everyone feels in morning while we're still trying to wake up!  I love the morning cuddles we enjoy while camping!  We don't do that very often in everyday life - everyone's ready to get started with the day.  I love the slow-down the happens when we're camping and away from our normal routine.  We always have a wonderful time camping, even with little kids!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thoughts on Chicken Keeping, Six Months In

Wow - I can't believe we've had our chickens for six months now!  Crazy!

Painting the lattice fence Seth built on one side of run.
If I never have to paint lattice again I will be happy.
Anyway, here are some thoughts on our experience so far:

1. A Chicken in Every Yard by Robert and Hannah Litt has been my go-to guide to keeping chickens.  I read another book that, while it did have a few helpful tips, mostly just seemed to talk about all the things that could go wrong, and how you have to know what you're doing to keep chickens.  That is NOT the kind of book you want to read!  A Chicken in Every Yard is easy to read, practical, and encouraging.  It makes chicken-keeping actually feel doable, and I appreciate that!  The authors of the book own a urban farm store, and I actually called the store when we had a question about our run, and that was helpful, too!
2. This blog post was very helpful as well - so nice to get information from a regular person who has chickens.
3. It was very fun and convenient to have our chicks in the house for the first several weeks, but next time we get chicks I'll be keeping them in the garage.  There was so much dust!  They are constantly scratching and digging in their litter, and dust flies everywhere.  After realizing this, we used sheets to cover stuff up, but I still spent a whole day cleaning the office once we got the chickens moved outside.

4.  Chicken keeping, like most things, can sound complicated and daunting when reading about it.  But once you do it, you discover that it's much simpler than it sounds.  I was a bit nervous about getting chickens, but really they just require the same care as any other living thing: food, water, and to be kept warm and dry.
5.  Gathering your own fresh eggs is the best!  Seriously, the best!  I love going outside and bringing in eggs from my backyard.  And I love knowing exactly everything that has gone into them!

6.  I am very happy with our coop design.  We designed it ourselves based on different ones we had seen, and it has proved to be a good decision.  My favorite design elements are the large door on the back, which makes cleaning out the coop a breeze, and the smaller built-in enclosed run.  The chickens are free to use their large run most of the time, but the smaller, more secure run has been great for the few times we went camping this summer.  We simply locked them in the small run, and left the coop door open, and then they were free to put themselves to bed and come out in the morning, and we didn't have to worry about something getting to them while we were gone.
7.  Chicken care is, really, very minimal.  I probably spend 10 minutes a day, tops, taking care of them.  I bring them their food and let them out of the coop in the morning.  Once a week or so, I also have to refill their water bucket.  Then in the evening, I close up their coop and gather eggs, if I didn't already gather them sometime earlier in the day, which I often do, just because it's fun!  A couple of weeks ago I spent half an hour or so cleaning out their coop, which was the first time I had done so since they moved out there a few months ago.  Once every couple of weeks I spend ten minutes spreading out some new pine shavings and hay to their coop and run.  That's it.  I'm sure there will be times now that a cold and rainy winter is coming up, when I really won't feel like having to go outside and take care of them.  So it's nice to know that I will be done in just a couple of minutes.

8.  Getting started was expensive.  We estimate we spent $500 - $600 all total, and that was even with building everything ourselves and using a few things we already had.  We could have saved some if we had skipped the the smaller run element, as the hardwire cloth we used is pricy, but as I've said, we have found that to be helpful, so it was worth it.  Some people get creative and reuse dog houses, or get things off of Craigslist.  Aesthetics was important to me, so overall I'm happy with what we did.  Still, I didn't realize we would have to spend quite so much money getting going.
9.  As much as I would love them to be more free-range, it really isn't practical.  Although we have let them out in the backyard a few times and it's fun to watch them wander around, the mess and destruction they leave behind means it won't happen a lot.  With a baby crawling around in the grass, I don't really want chicken poop everywhere, and since chickens eat everything and scratch everywhere, I pretty much have to keep them out of the yard when I have flowers and a garden growing.  Because of all that, I am thankful that we have a fairly large area that we have been able to dedicate to the chickens.

10.  The thought of clipping their wings makes me really nervous, even though I've heard over and over that it's no big deal.  So far we've avoided it, though.  When one of the chickens almost escaped, we bought some bird netting and strung it over the run, and that seems to be doing the trick, plus it helps keep them safe from any hawks or eagles that might be flying around (rare around here, but it happens occasionally, apparently).
11.  Chickens are fun.  The kids love to pet them and visit them.  Toby always wants to look out the window at them, and when we're outside, he'll crawl over to their run and sit nearby, just watching them.  Whenever we're near their fence, they run over to see us.  They really are fun to watch and they make great pets.

So, overall, my opinion is that it is so worth it to get chickens!  We absolutely love having them!