Sunday, May 29, 2011


Sometimes I get angry with the kids.

I harangue. I scold. I yell.

I wish I had a better way to handle myself at these times.

And then I come across something like this:

Abigail put these flowers here for me to find.

I'm so grateful when they forgive me.

I have another chance to be the person I want to be.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Party Grinch

I gave away my true feelings in the title of this post, but I will do my best to keep things light and bubbly. Like it was really fun. Well, I can't was fun. Just not for me. And that is the truth. Once in a while I have to be a little painfully honest here.

Last year was my first dalliance with "the birthday party". We had a little swim party, and it was successful. The girls invited 3 kids each. So this year, I got a little more brave. I allowed them to invite 5 kids each. And then I invited one more.

I'll come out and say, birthday parties break my heart, because I think they break kids' hearts. It is one of the first times I can think of where the lines are so clearly drawn "You are invited. You are not." And although I can say "That is life", I also remember being on the "not" side enough to cringe when I am drawing the lines myself.

My girls have been dreaming and plotting and planning and listing what they wanted to do for their birthday for literally months. What they wanted was not Chuck E. Cheese, or mega-bounce-houses, or anything like that. They wanted to share the things they enjoy most...right here at home. They wanted to pet the kittens, feed the cattle, go up in the treehouse, and swim in the pool. How pure and sweet is that? I loved their idea, and I wanted to give them exactly that. Here's how it went.

The girls arrived and put on visors with their names on them. They weren't as pretty as I'd hoped, and I originally thought we'd let them do some decorating, but that went by the wayside. The names on the hats were an unanticipated stroke of genius because they helped Mark match names with faces early on.

We loaded up into the truck for a hayride/cattle feed.

Then we went down to the treehouse:

Uh-Oh...someone stepped in some you-know-what!

Then we went to my folks' backyard and had cake:

And swam:

It does look like fun, doesn't it? Maybe my heart will grow bigger in time for next year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Yes, You Can!

Once in a while, I look at the "stats" for my blog. Anyone who has been around here for a while knows that I'm just throwin' stuff out there for family and friends, versus trying to get my big break into the publishing world.

But it is interesting to see how people get here. First of all, I notice my most popular post has been "home made trim", followed by "Dents, Cuts, and Pony Walls". Clearly the building theme remains the most popular. But I do see the "mutton bustin" post creeping up the chart!

I can also see keywords used to find my site. Most of it looks like people actually trying to find ME, using my name, or the site name, in various forms.

But here is one I just had to share. Someone hit on my site with the following keywords:

"can i wear a tutu at disneyland"

Steve, fess up. It was you, wasn't it?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Little Flowers

Hey, has anyone ever seen brocolli do THIS?

Kind of makes the lightbulb go on for me...brocolli florets. I get it now!

I'm participating in a community supported agriculture (CSA) program this year. It is a little local farm, and we pick up a box of veggies every week. All fresh, organic, and ripe. The brocolli is actually fresh and sweet, NOT bitter. And this one, which I let go a little too long, was my "A-Ha" moment for the day.

Sheds are Yummy

I have mentioned it the past that cattle are very curious creatures. They give cats a run for their money. Anything new in their area, they swarm. The shed is a prime example. Take these two:

Is it me, or do they look a tad guilty?

Perhaps they know that eating the tar paper off the shed is naughty, but they just can't resist?

And what is going on over here?

Something is irresistible in there!

Apparently, the wood tastes good, because she is LICKING it.

Maybe they need more fiber in their diets.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Expanding the Homestead

Mark is at it again.

He's picked up his hammer to build...a building!

This time, it is a shed to hold all our yard equipment, tools, bikes, etc. They made it through this winter housed under a ping-pong table, in the trailer, under the porch. You get the idea. The shed has a raised floor, and will have a ramp at the door to drive our riding lawnmower. When we get one.

Oooh, while we're out here, notice the sign on his truck? It doesn't have the graphics I slaved to create, but it DOES do the job, and I like the way it turned out.

Here is the layout of the homestead now. The shed is actually pretty big...for a shed. Let's pretend it is a barn, just farther away.

Should we paint it red?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our Second Home

It has long been Mark's goal to build a treehouse for the kids. The time came to follow through. In his typical style, Mark threw himself into the project, did a bunch of research, and had a grand master plan drawn up. It wasn't until he was actually at Lowes, looking at the lumber, that he began to question his concept. He had envisioned a fully enclosed little playhouse, nestled up in the tree. Can't you just picture it?

But, he started to wonder if that was the best way to enjoy the tree, in a closed-up box. And he started to worry that it might be too heavy for the tree, especially fully loaded.

So a new concept was born.

Kind of a deer-stand, observation deck sort of a treehouse.

Where one is fully in touch with the tree. And the fact that you are way up in it!

There is a custom stairway-ladder.

And a trap door.

Mark attached it to the tree in the most tree-friendly way: a single puncture of the bark with a lag bolt through the center of the trunk. The platform "rides" on top of these bolts, allowing things to shift as the tree grows.

We may put a partial roof on later.

I think we like it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mae's Battle Scar

This is what it looks like when you fall off a sheep's back and he runs over you.

If you're lucky!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mutton Bustin'

Since we moved back to Tollhouse in '09, we've made attending the FFA Mother's Day Rodeo a key event of our Mother's Day celebration. This year was no exception EXCEPT...the event was on Saturday, not Sunday. Yes, after 62 years of hosting the rodeo on Sunday, they decided to experiment and see if they could draw more attendance by having it on a day OTHER than Mother's Day. As you can imagine, this was a hotly contested decision in our community. I understand they even had sponsors withdraw based on this move. Is that crazy, or what?

OK, so on to the actual event. For the past two years, the girls have gazed with longing at the kids who were participating in the "mutton bustin'" event. Wishing, hoping, dreaming they could join the ranks of the mutton busters.

Well, this was their year.

But wait, before I go on, you do know what mutton bustin' is, don't you? Well, just in case, I'll elaborate. It is sheep riding. The idea is to cling onto the back of the sheep for as long as possible. Kind of like bull riding, but the riders are children and the ridees are sheep. Now, doesn't that sound fun?

So here I am leading my babies to the gates like lambs to...well, you'll see.

Yes, another "Mother of the Year" award for yours truly. I'm so proud.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Post Field Trip Stress Syndrome

Now, you know me.

I don't like to complain.

After all, I got a free trip to and fro to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

That's, like, a 4-hour drive (one way)...for free! Jeepers, with today's gas prices, no small beans!

This may explain why there were so many chaperones on this field trip. Literally almost one per child!

OK, OK, maybe they wanted to share in their child's wonder as they observe the bountiful display of our ocean wildlife. That part WAS pretty spectacular! But there was far too little time before we had to pack up for the return trip: 4 hours with a dinner break at McDonalds.

42 first graders at McDonalds. Need I say more?

So today, as my tender sensibilities are recovering, I will share with you some of my favorite pictures.

The sea otters (these were the largest marine mammels they had--no sea lions or seals or orcas or humpback whales, but they do sight many of these things off their observation decks!)

Coral reef tanks with lots of beautiful tropical fish

Abigail really liked the moray eels :-)

A giant kelp bed tank with leopard sharks, sardine schools, and some very large, sinister looking black fish called "blacksmiths", to name a few. This tank was really amazing!

One of many seahorse tanks. They had an huge collection of sea horses, sea dragons, and their cousins, the pipefish. More on those next time!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Party is Over

My feet hurt.

My house is a wreck.

Laundry is piled high.

I haven't communicated with anyone in weeks.

But today is a different day.

Because our school carnival (which I chaired this year) is OVER! And yes...I'll say it out loud. I'm glad!

But I'll also say, it was a lot of fun. We had a perfect spring day, sunny, breezy, but not too hot. We were there from 8 a.m. to set up, til 5:30 p.m. to clean up. The girls were real troopers, considering Mark and I both worked all day. They earned us three cakes and twelve goldfish--yay!

Just look at all the fun we had...

Cake walk (which Mark ran for hours)

Face painting (big hit!)

Karate exhibition

The Von Trapp Family singers (from the upcoming local production of 'The Sound of Music')

Look at the crowd!

These adorable little performers were from the local dance studio (yes, we DO have one up here in the hills)

Here are the older girls, doing a routine to 'Takin' Care of Business'.

A real show stopper--literally the whole carnival stopped moving to watch!

The perfect batch of cotton candy

Hair Stripes

Inflatables (we had two bounce houses, an obstacle course, and a slide)

Piano performances

And a hula hoop contest (that's Abigail, second from the left). We had neck twirlers, hand twirlers, and the traditional waist hoopers. After three minutes, they all won.

So you see...lots of work, lots of fun. We'll see next week what kind of funds we raised for the schools. I have high hopes, and am already thinking about how we can do things better next year. And I'll leave those notes for whoever decides to run it :-) .