Thursday, July 17, 2014


Folks, we have a rooster. I'm sure of it.

(Oreo in the raspberry patch, AKA "Forest of Delight")
About a month ago, I noticed Oreo's comb growing larger and definitely redder than our other 19 birds. Hmmmmmm...suspicious.

I dropped by the farm where we bought the chicks and shared my observations with Chicken Man Corey (he doesn't know we call him that!). Casually, I pulled out my phone and scrolled through way too many photos of Oreo.

"See? The reddish comb? It's twice the size of our other pullets. He's a cockerel, don't you think?"

I have to add that at this point I was nervous to try out my meager but growing chicken smarts. Three months prior, Wes and I stood across from Chicken Man Corey with blank stares on our faces. Now I was throwing out words like pullet, cockerel, and comb. I felt like an awkward teenager feigning confidence in my mother's unmanageably high heels.

"Well, you never know," Chicken Man Corey began. "She might end up being your best layer. Those more masculine hens sometimes turn out that way."

(Oreo at 4-6 weeks old)
I went back to the internet for more chicken smarts.
You really can't be sure until the rooster crows AND doesn't start laying eggs when the rest of the hens do. Some hens have been known to crow.
(Oreo inspecting the huckleberry stump)
Well, let's just say that as of yesterday, unless Oreo lays an egg, he just might end up with a side of cole slaw. I am absolutely not interested in keeping a rooster.


It was 6 AM and I was standing at the kitchen window getting a drink of water when I heard something like a squeaky trumpet coming from somewhere near the chicken coop.


With all the charisma of a 13 year-old boy whose voice just cracked for the first time, Oreo stood tall on top of an old apple crate mustering up another uni-syllabic crow.

I wish I could have seen the hens look up from below. Huh?

Talk about awkward.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Keeping Cool

It's hot. The kind of hot where it's okay if you just. don't. move. But the second you move- the second you even think about moving- you are MISERABLE.

You friends in the south can go ahead and laugh. 


In the Pacific Northwest most of us figure it's not worth it to have A/C during the one week of hot weather we usually get around here. But every year, when that one week rolls around, we reconsider. 

Oh, how we reconsider. 

In the meantime, we're blowing up lots of tubes.

The giant slip and slide at Ensign Ranch takes the edge off the heat.

The rope swing is lots of fun for the older kids.


Smiles. (All of this at Ensign Ranch for $10 per carload?!)

We've also kept cool at Rattlesnake Lake.

And our good friends, Rachel and Jason, have let us waste away a couple of afternoons at the river in their backyard.

Keeping cool...most of the time.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Independence Day 2014

There was nothing cautious about the way it rose over the mountain that morning. The sun's excitement for Independence Day burst through the crisp morning air, waking us up with perhaps a little more zeal than called for by the previous late night.

The annual routine of emptying out dresser drawers and digging through Rubbermaid bins found enough wearable patriotism to outfit the entire family.

By 8:15 AM, we were saluting the flag in front of the church, getting faces painted, and chowing down on decked-out pancakes.

There were lots of smiles.

There's no shortage of parties and picnics on the 4th of July. One of our local communities celebrates with enough bounce houses, pony rides, and free Sno-cones to draw what seems like half the population of Western Washington. (Of course, I live in the woods for a reason- any crowd over fifty people feels like half the population of Western Washington to me.)

I'm pretty sure our exchange student enjoyed her first full day with her American family.

We had some time in the late afternoon for the kids to light sparklers and snakes in the driveway. Beau set off a few small fireworks, too.

In the evening we headed over to a friend's house where hot fudge sundaes and fireworks chased away what was left of the day.

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Welcoming Ara

My kids held up their homemade welcome signs and waved their American flags yesterday as a charter bus full of young Spanish exchange students rounded the corner. We were all so excited to meet Ara.


(THIS is where there should be a photo of Ara stepping off the bus or my kids holding up all their signs or SOMETHING from that moment, but I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE!! Brain lapses like this really annoy me.)


Any worries over whether or not Ara would fit well into (or at least be understanding of) our family dynamics quickly faded once we got home.

Later that afternoon we headed out to the local farmer's market.

Ara tried her first Hawaiian shaved ice.

She even bumped into two other Spanish exchange students.

It was probably during a game of freeze tag when my nine-year-old decided that Ara is a keeper.

Back at home darkness settled around our fire pit as Ara toasted her first s'more.

A game of zombie tag burned off the very last bit of the day's energy before six worn out kids gathered back around the fire. Eyelids grew heavy. Time for bed.

* A huge thank you to Ara's parents for sharing her with us for the next three weeks!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

In the Belly of a Whale

Yesterday I spoke with a dear friend about some of the colossal storms her family has weathered in recent years. They lost nearly everything....except each other and their faith in God. I truly admire my friend for choosing faith in the face of such great adversity.

Our conversation reminded me of an article I wrote for Mormon Mommy Blogs about a year ago. I thought I'd repost it today on my own blog-

Nothing feels better than being vomited up by a whale. 

The story of Jonah and the whale found in the Old Testament is familiar. God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach repentance. Instead, Jonah ran away. But God knows EVERYTHING. And he has the whole of Oceania at his command. Hence, Jonah was swallowed by a whale. But seriously, who gets swallowed by whales these days?
How to get swallowed by a whale:

Well, I do, for one. And it’s not always for what I might recognize as blatant disobedience.
Take for instance, these less obvious but probably more common ways to be swallowed by a whale:
1. Hold a grudge for a few hours after feeling slighted by a loved one. 
2.  Make a career move despite that pit in your stomach warning you not to. Those feelings are easily written off as “cold feet” when you are emotionally tied to the decision. 
3. Here’s a good one: focus on your doubts. That one point of gospel doctrine where your testimony is weak. The role of women in the plan of salvation? Tithing? …? 
4. Face disciplining a child with your pride. Go ahead and focus on winning that power struggle instead reproving with love. 
5. Or try this combination for imminent whale consumption: Go a week without feasting in the scriptures- maybe just nibble on a quick verse or two before you fall into bed each night. Follow it up with just enough of a prayer to cross it off your daily list of things to do.
For me it’s more about twirling the flaxen cord in my fingers than grabbing on to the chains of hell lock, stock, and barrel.
And then a giant whopper of a whale comes along, opens it’s gaping mouth, and swallows me whole.
Inside the belly of a whale:

Much of the suffering that goes on inside the belly of a whale is spiritual, making it difficult to describe adequately with words. But here are a few that might come close:
                  Overwhelmed                    Agitated                    Scared                    Hurt
                  Distressed                         Despair                      Trapped                  Offended
                  Anxious                            Lost                           Victimized              Unclean
                  Prideful                           Despondent                 Alone                     Misery     
The belly of the whale represents the very antithesis of the peace, confidence, and assurance brought about by the spirit of the Lord.
Time spent in the belly of a whale might be brief- a few minutes while we regain our spiritual composure. It might be a few hours or days. It might even be months or years.
We might take a while to recognize our predicament, allowing pride to deny our discomfort and hopeless circumstance. We shout from within the obvious gastric environment, “Hey, I’m doing great! What belly of the whale?”
But it is only as we begin to recognize our surroundings and humbly realize our impending doom, that we seek deliverance.
Get me out of here:

Suffering from within the belly of a whale is ALWAYS self-inflicted. It is not brought on by the actions of others. It is not brought on by unfortunate circumstances over which we have no control such as job loss, illness, death of a loved-one, or even being treated unkindly by a fellow ward member. There are always whales waiting to devour someone who uses their agency to respond negatively to such trials.
Once we take full responsibility for how we got into the belly of the whale in the first place, there are a few steps we can take to invite the delivering hand of the Lord.
1. Repent:  If you’ve taken accountability for your less than favorable circumstances, you’ve already taken the first step of repentance. Completely and honestly finish the process.
2. Feast on the words of Christ:  This requires sacrifice and dedication. It requires time. MAKE TIME. A quick nibble- even if daily- will do nothing to help you escape the whale. Period.
3. Pray:  During a particularly long and gut-wrenching stay in the belly of a whale, I finally admitted my circumstances. In the busyness of a mother’s day, I locked my bedroom door, and ignoring the knocks and cries of small children from the other side, sought even more solitude in my closet. I closed that door, too. I longed so desperately to be free from the whale and wanted NOTHING to distract me from repairing the relationship with my Heavenly Father. 
I wept like a baby. I looked deeply and honestly into my heart, into my every motivation. I asked for forgiveness and counseled with the Lord. It has become a truly sweet and treasured experience. And though my burdens were not immediately removed, I no longer faced them alone. 
4. Act:  This may include apologizing to your husband or child for acting less than Christ-like. It may include selling your business or breaking off an engagement. It might mean letting your doubts take a back seat to your faith. 
Find yourself on dry land:

Life post-whale is like seeing light for the first time after being held in a very dark place. It’s the first gasp of fresh air when you thought you had breathed your last. It is freedom.
Upon finally finding myself on dry land, it is sometimes easy for me to get down about how I got swallowed in the first place. I lament how LONG I spent in the belly of the whale. But of course all that does is whistle for another whale.
Instead I express gratitude for my Savior. That, though we all spend time in the belly of a whale, we are not destined to remain there. It is through Christ’s Atonement that each of our Jonah experiences can work for our good.
(Article originally posted here on Mormon Mommy Blogs.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chicken Genes?

As a little girl my best friend was a one-eyed chicken that lived halfway between our powder blue mobile home and my grandparent's house. Along with the rest of the flock, my visually impaired fine-feathered friend roosted in a shed-style coop built to last through the millennium by my great-grandfather. Both of his sons participated in 4H, with my great-uncle Wes claiming the illustrious title of New York state poultry champion.

I was there the day a team of archaeologists were scouring the fields around my grandfather's childhood home. They were searching for Native American artifacts when they uncovered a small skeleton behind the garage. I watched as one corner of my grandfather's mouth turned up in a smirk. "My pet chicken!" he declared. "You found my pet chicken!"

So perhaps my long-held desire for keeping chickens is genetic.

Our chickens were a mere five days old when we brought them home. They fit ever-so-nicely in the bottom of our bathtub.

We fed them and they grew.

And pretty soon a couple of them found their way up to the bench.

They encouraged their friends to join them.

By the time the chicks were three weeks old I knew their days in the bathtub were numbered. I called every appliance and big-box store within a reasonable radius and BEGGED for boxes.

"I'm sorry, ma'am. We break those boxes down as soon as they come 2 AM."

"I'm sorry ma'am. Our tractors ship in crates, not boxes."

"I'm sorry ma'am. We can't save our boxes for you."

"I'm sorry ma'am...."

"I'm sorry ma'am..."

"I'm sorry ma'am..."

Just about the time I started imagining waking up at 3 AM to chickens sharing my pillow, I came across an appliance delivery truck parked down the road. I attacked. On the unfortunate condition that I also dispose of their styrofoam, I made off with two PERFECT boxes.

Plan B.

Now instead of twenty chickens in my bathtub, I have twenty chickens in my kitchen.

Our coop will be finished this coming Saturday (crossing ALL of my fingers...and toes). Hopefully, it will be as nice as the one built by my great-grandfather back in 1940. Either way, the chickens can hardly wait.