Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Chicken Coop

We've dedicated one of our side yards to the chickens.  It's not really very usable for us, and it's not a huge area, only about six feet wide at the widest point, but it's plenty big enough to be a great run for a few chickens.  My original plan was to just fence this area off, and build a small coop for the birds for night, and I think that plan would have been totally fine.  But after thinking about it, I decided that it would be a good idea to have a "run within the run".  I decided that I wanted something with a bit more security for them should we ever be gone all day, or for the times when we get home late at night and aren't there to close the coop.  I don't think our suburban neighborhood has too many threatening chicken predators, but I did want to make sure they were safe.  So we designed and built a coop with an attached enclosed run.  It was definitely more expensive to build (and more than I had anticipated, as building projects always are), but I think the benefits are worth it.  We haven't finished fencing off the side yard, so they are in here full time right now, but even when we finish the bigger run, this will still provide a dry area when it is raining, as well as a dry place to keep their food, and as I said, it will provide more protection for the times we're not around, particularly at night.

We designed this based off some pictures we had seen, and then Seth and I (mostly Seth) built it.  I am so thankful Seth was willing to do this for me -  it was quite a big project, especially when you're not really into that sort of thing, and he really did a great job.  I am so happy with how it turned out.  We still have a few little things to finish up, like hanging the main door and burying the bottom of the fencing, but it's usable and the chickens are in there, which is the important part!  =)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why Having Four Kids Is Easier Than You Think

I've been thinking about this off and on for the past couple of weeks, ever since a neighbor asked me how I do it with four kids (he and his wife had their first baby about six months ago).  Put on the spot, I laughingly said we take it one day at a time.  Which is true, but having mulled over it a bit more, I would answer differently next time.  I think most people think that having four kids is four times the work of one, which makes it seem absolutely overwhelming.  And that's just not true.

I understand this feeling, because I had those same thoughts when I had my first baby.  Benjamin took up all my time, and I honestly wondered how on earth people took care of a toddler and a baby when just a baby took all my time.  But then I had a toddler and a baby, and while it was a bit of a learning curve, I adjusted and it all worked out.

Me with baby Benjamin

I will say that, at least in my experience, the transition from 0 to 1, and then from 1 to 2 kids are the hardest transitions.  With the first baby, everything's new, you don't know what you're doing, and your life has changed.  It can be a big adjustment.  Then when you have another baby, you're a little more comfortable with taking care of a baby, but figuring out how to juggle the needs of two children can be really challenging, and all of a sudden everything seems so much harder than it did when you had just one.  And it is.  But then, once you have those two things down, adding another baby is not nearly as big of an adjustment.  Not that you don't have to adjust at all, but it just seems so much easier.  In my opinion, I think this could be one reason people often don't have more than two kids.  They think having another will be even harder than the first two, and I just don't think that's often the case.  In fact, I think many people miss out on the pleasure of having a baby without some of the stress the first two can bring!

Our family of four

Overall, I really don't think having four kids is any harder than having one.  If you think about it, most of the things you would do with four kids you already do with one - make meals, do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean the house.  Now, I might make more food and do more laundry, but since I'm already doing those things, it's just a bit more work, not four times more work.

And babies grow up.  I'm not taking care of four babies, I'm taking care of one baby, plus three older kids who can do a lot of things for themselves.  The three older kids can (mostly) dress and feed themselves and (usually) take care of their bathroom needs.

Three kids under three

Then there's the entertainment factor.  Benjamin wasn't an only child for very long, but while he was, it was ALL ME.  If he was bored, it was up to me to entertain him, or at least find him something to do.  With four kids, they entertain each other.  There's always someone to play with, someone to think of something to do - for good or bad!  =)  If Toby cries, there's not just one, but many people to bring him toys, make him laugh, etc.

And, as they say, "many hands make light work."  I don't have to do everything.  My kids might still be young, but they are old enough now to be genuinely helpful.  They clean up their toys, take care of their clean and dirty laundry, empty the dishwasher, set the table, and help me with other things as I need it.  Just the other day, when we were out and about,  Toby was fussy in the car because he was getting hungry.  If he had been my only child, I couldn't have done anything about it.  But I was able to hand Benjamin a bag of Cheerios (actually, Joe's Os!), who gave them to Toby one at a time, which was enough to pacify him until we could get home.  Not only did that make Toby happy, but it was also less stressful for me, since I didn't have to drive home with a crying baby in the backseat.

FOUR kids!  =)

My answer to my neighbor's question was true - we do take it one day at a time.  We have good days and bad days.  Sometimes all four children need something at the very same time and it can be overwhelming.  Sometimes there is bickering and bad attitudes and whining and I want to send everyone to bed at 11:00 in the morning.  Sometimes (okay, always!) it takes us FOREVER to get ready to go somewhere.  But then there are the small arms clasped tightly around my neck and the story time snuggles and the toothless baby grins.  There are the bible stories at dinner and the requests to pray at bedtime.  There is the endless excitement over chickens and ferry rides and playing in the backyard.  There is the talking and laughter at dinner and the full minivan and the family walks in the evening.  There is the stampede and chorus of "Good morning, Mom!" when their clock turns yellow in the morning.  There is the curiosity and the imagination.  There is the love.

I'll be honest and say that having four children can be challenging.  But I don't think it's the having four part that is challenging, it's the having children part that's challenging.  And that's the same whether it's one, four, or twenty.  And while it may be work; exhausting, stressful, difficult work at times, the fun and the joy and the love I receive in return make it so, so worth it.