Zoom! There went December. And holidays. And 2012.

Despite the fact that we were on holidays from school from about the 8th, the month was very full. My list had several things checked off, but not as many as I liked. We got to see friends that the busy-ness of fall schedules had been keeping us from for several months. My old, second-or-third-hand oven finally bit the dust on Dec. 22, and we got a new one (which I LOVE!) And Jason got a promotion.

There is more to each of those stories, but they all seem a little too lengthy to try to cram into one post. Suffice it to say that Jason is now working as a System Analyst, a position that was handed to him within minutes of him receiving a job offer as a Project Manager for another company. The jobs were so similar as far as benefits, pay, and other things, that Jason struggled with the decision for about a week, initially thinking he would take the Project Manager job. He had no peace about it until he decided to stay with Northlands School Division as System Analyst, however, so that is what he did. We are very grateful that our belts can loosen a little, and that Jason gets to stay in a work environment he enjoys, making a wage he is happy with.

The kids were happy to start school again after our four weeks off. Last Sunday night, Jabin commented that he thought the holiday was TOO long. Didn't expect that. I could definitely have used another week, but my "to-do" list has significantly more items on it than theirs does! Especially for the last two weeks of the break, when Jason was off, too--there were a great deal of video games played during that time. It's good to know that they do see the value of structure and learning at times. :-)

My To-Do was more various forms of work, but fortunately, they were mostly ones I enjoyed:
  • sew
  • knit
  • write patterns
  • update web stores (all of them)
  • start newsletter mailing lists for various businesses
  • Plan Science for the remainder of the school year
  • do my books for the past year
It's the last one I have yet to tackle. I'll get to it soon. Most of the sewing was to make things like pajamas, mitts, and toques that my kids (or other family's kids) were short on. I am very much looking forward to making myself a new dress, which I purchased the fabric for a month ago and have been looking longingly at ever since.

Maybe this week...

November, already?

The last week or so has been a bit of a blur. I decided on the Friday before last that I would enter a craft fair on December the 9th, and figured it was a perfect opportunity to knit up a few dozen things and move some older yarn out of my stash. Ergo, I have been knitting. And designing. And knitting. A lot.

Which is perfectly fine, because for the duration of that time, it was snowing. A lot. The sun finally came out a few days ago, sparkling off a new-fallen foot of snow. And me with the summer tires, still.

During that time, I managed to finish the first sweater I've ever made for my darling husband. He has a strong dislike for the effects of wool on his skin, so it took me this long to convince him that there was wool that was less itchy, and that it didn't have to touch his skin. Since it has been finished, he has worn it a gratifying amount of times. I'm not sure if he really likes it, or is just trying to make me feel better. Either way, it looks great on him.

Also during that time--on Saturday, to be precise--Jude managed, through no fault of his own, to turn 10 years old. I managed not to cry about it--but I did succumb to nostalgia and picture the little bundle of joy we brought home from the hospital that catapulted Jason and I from the world of normal adults into that wonderful and scary job category of "parents."

Jude is now not even a little boy--I am starting to see the man he will become, both in his features, and his person. He has helped me grow up--and it is a joy watching him grow up.

I love you, little man! And though the prospect of what the next ten years may hold has me a little nervous, I look forward to entering this next stage of the adventure with you!

Unreasonable Blessings

Sometimes I feel blessed beyond reason. As in, I'm not sure for what reason I am so blessed... but I am grateful.

Jason has been on holidays since last Wednesday. Originally, we had been planning on taking a trip out to Abbotsford for a wedding, then down to Seattle to see my brother for Thanksgiving. We weren't the only ones who were disappointed when we had to cancel due to budgetary constraints. However, Jason had been saving up his time off, and we had several fall projects that needed doing, so he took the holidays anyway.

For the most part, I have continued to do school with the kids during his holiday, as he has been outside cutting and splitting wood most days. He has also helped teach the kids at times, which has been fun for them and for him. Today, as I napped to try and kick the final vestiges of a cold that just won't die combined with the monthly cyclical low that leaves me drained of energy, Jason took over the morning subjects completely.

By afternoon, bolstered by my nap, I was able to teach the kids science so Jason could take advantage of the gorgeous weather and get back outside. As part of a lesson on evaporation, the kids did a watercolour painting. Two of the three made pictures for me that said "I love you."

"And this is me hugging and kissing you," explained Jabin.

I am so blessed by my family.

Dog Days, Part 2

Jason was glum about his departed dog. Not only was Koda a good guard dog, he had been a good companion (when he was around). Sunshine, our Golden Retriever, is a great companion, but as a guard dog, she's a bit cowardly. We think it's because she has some eyesight issues and doesn't see well in the dark.

After we were certain that Koda was gone for good, Jason started looking for another dog. With bears as next-door-neighbours, having two dogs isn't a bad idea in the Peace Country, even if they are both good guard dogs.

Jason did all kinds of research on what breed would be the best fit for our current situation. As much as I didn't want to start with a puppy, I knew from experience that we were likely to get a better dog in the end if we did so. You can get great dogs from rescues, and we have had several, but you have to be willing to invest a lot of time to get them there--which we don't have right now.

After much debate, and upon discovery that Koda's sweet temper was typical of the Malamute side of his cross (the other being German Shepherd), Jason decided upon a Malamute. The new puppies in that breed are astronomically expensive, though. (Koda had been a gift from someone Jason knew when he worked at UFA--the owner of a European Malamute whose neighbour's dog jumped the fence at just the wrong time.)

We found a breeder by Edson who had a six-month-old pure-white Alaskan Malamute male for sale at a price we could afford--there was nothing wrong with him, he just hadn't sold when the rest of his litter-mates had. The owner had lowered the price to try and recoup the cost of dog feed, and not have to keep feeding him! He had more puppies on the way, after all.

We picked him up in early April. We were somewhat relieved that he was not really responding to the name the breeder had been using, as we didn't much care for it. On the drive home, after the typical "name debate," we decided upon "Thunder". (Thought we'd keep the meteorological theme going that Sunshine had started.)

Thunder at 6 1/2 months.
Thunder at 6 1/2 months.
It wasn't long, though, before Thunder acquired a few nicknames, "Big Galoot" and "Destructo-Beast" being the most common.

Only weeks after Thunder had joined the homestead, Noah went out to feed the chickens and gather eggs. The run door wasn't latching properly, needing some adjustment after the winter. In about five minutes, Thunder managed to kill one of my two roosters and fifteen of my eighteen laying hens. A couple weeks later, he got one more hen through a similar circumstance.

I wasn't happy, needless to say. Mostly with Noah's carelessness. However, I must be becoming calloused, because it was not as devastating as it once would have been. Things like this are just part of having puppies, and kids, and chickens. (Sigh.) He wasn't after blood, anyway--he just wanted to play. As soon as a dog that size starts playing with a chicken, though, it "breaks." Then he had to go on to the next wonderfully-jumpy feathery squawking ball, but I'm sure it broke disappointingly early, too.

Other than the normal puppyish predicaments, Thunder has been a joy. He has proven to be just as sweet-tempered as Koda was, just as eager to please, although much, much bigger.

This was his size compared to Sunshine at 6 1/2 months:

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This is the difference now, at nine months:

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For Sunshine's part, although she and Koda had an on-again, off-again relationship, she and Thunder bonded right away. There was no struggle for dominance, probably due in part to the fact that Thunder was already bigger than her when we got him. He just got to be top dog from the start--something that she was never quite willing to let Koda be. Also, I think she was pretty lonely after nearly a winter without a buddy.

It took a few weeks, but Thunder even managed to teach Sunshine how to play. Now they wrestle with glee and abandon on a regular basis.

Sunshine and Thunder.
Taking a break in the shade of the coop after a wrestling match, Mother's Day.
Thunder didn't just earn the name "DestructoBeast" because of the chicken incident, though. Like most puppies, he likes to chew. His texture of choice is plastic.

Unfortunately for him, and for me, many of my started and potted plants are in plastic pots, conveniently near the front door. It wasn't long before his chain was shortened so he couldn't reach them when tied. And we keep a pretty close eye on him when he's not!

We've also had to remove the plastic knobs from the barbecue. Once in a while, he tries to get at the wheels and the plastic lock for them.

Despite the late age we got him at, he has proven smart and trainable, but with a good dose of the stubbornness that is typically present in the more intelligent breeds. All in all, he's worked his way into our hearts and family pretty solidly--and I have hopes that by next year, the "DestructoBeast" moniker can be dropped.

For now, we'll try to endure, and retrain, his teenagerish ways.

Welcome to the family, Thunder.

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Dog Days, Part 1

There is a new member of our family, which I have been very negligent about not posting here before.

So negligent, in fact, that he is not really "new" any more. But first of all, a memorial.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while may note the high turnover of dogs we have had. Some of them were because they just didn't work out for whatever reason--especially when we lived in town. However, some of it is just a hazard of country living in the North, where wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and other kinds of truly wild and dangerous animals can skirt your property on a nightly basis, and you may not even be aware of it--that is, until your favourite pet doesn't come home one night.

Such was the case with Koda. Koda, whom we loved, was the sweetest, gentlest-tempered dog we'd ever had, with only one fatal flaw: he liked to wander.

We didn't get him fixed at an early enough age, and naively let him stay loose one weekend in September 2010 when we took a trip, because he had never wandered before. Such could not be said by the time we returned.

He found a couple of German Shepherd-cross pups about 3/4 mile away, mostly cross-country, to whom he bonded like they were soul mates. The owners didn't do much to discourage his presence there (as far as we can tell, they did nothing--even petting him, telling us on multiple occasions how much they loved him. Grrr.) Soon, they had a pack going, and there was nothing we could do to break it. If we wanted him to stay home, he had to be leashed or kennelled at all times. Even if we were out in the yard, he would often disappear silently into the trees if he thought our activity was too boring.

We finally gave up. "If the neighbours want to feed him, they can have him," we said. This rankled deeply in Jason's spirit, because he really loved that dog. Especially on the occasion when he would see "the pack" out in the field on his way by. If he stopped and called, Koda would come, of course. He would seem happy to see us, most of the time. But then he'd leave as soon as he got a chance.

So, this past winter, we didn't bother bringing him home anymore. (He would never come home of his own accord when he was out with his buddies--the pack always returned to our neighbour's yard. We were constantly running over there to check for him, and bring him home if the dogs were there.)

Finally, after being gone for over a month, Koda trotted home one time. He stayed overnight. Then left. A few weeks later, he came home and stayed for about five days, then left. We didn't know what to make of him, and didn't want to encourage him in thinking he could just come and go from here as he pleased, either.

In March, we made one last attempt to encourage him to stay home. We tied him up at night after he had come home for the day, during which we had spent as much time with him as possible. The next day he stayed home for most of the day, then wandered off in the evening. Jason had to go to town that night, and on his way happened to spy him in the field, so he quickly brought him home, but didn't tie him up.

And that was the last we ever saw of Koda.

We wouldn't have realized what happened so soon if the neighbour who owned the rest of the "pack" hadn't stopped by only two days later, asking if his dog had come to our place. (One of his dogs had already disappeared several weeks earlier.) His dogs had never come to our place, we explained. It didn't take long to realize that his dog, which usually came home when his owner got home from work, hadn't been seen since the night Koda had last left.

That week, we searched throughout the neighbourhood. We checked at the SPCA. We searched the ditches.

We never saw another sign of either dog.

But the week that they disappeared, the coyotes had been rather loud and active in the area for several nights in a row.

As frustrating as that dog was, it was still a sad thing to say goodbye to sweet Koda.

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One of our last photos of Koda, taken last October with Jason and Sunshine, our Golden Retriever.

Oh Blah Dee, Oh Blah Dah

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I cut open this butternut squash a few weeks ago to a wonderful surprise--sprouts!

After sitting on my counter for several weeks, it must have decided it had had enough sunshine to rev up the next phase of the life cycle. I had grand plans of planting the sprouts and growing squash through the winter (indoors, of course). Those plans ended in a mass of black, squishy rot, since first of all I thought I would keep it in a plastic bag "until I had the time to deal with it." Apparently, "Time" made that decision for me. 

Lady Time seems to be holding a few other Rods of Doom over our heads these days, and we are working hard to make sure they don't land. Jason has been valiantly working away on erecting and connecting the diesel fuel tank for our furnace all weekend, but has met with several setbacks that have made the project stretch out in the most maddening way.

I can claim slightly more success in my weekend plans: I managed to get the second coat of paint on the addition walls this afternoon, meaning that after I paint the trim in there tomorrow, the room can become at least partially useful. (We still have to lay the new linoleum and put on the baseboard, but progress is being made.)

I also got some poles for my new, "permanent" chicken run tamped in tonight. Two down, fourteen more to go! And my back is already feeling it.

It sounds like Jason will be staying home tomorrow to continue working on his projects while the weather is good. I may only do school in the morning with the boys for the same reason. 

We intend to beat Time to the punch, if it is at all possible!

How was your weekend, friends?

On a Warm Fall Afternoon...

A few photos taken on our afternoon outside today, around the yard and around the field.

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An invitation to play!

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Sunshine cools off.

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Prince of the castle.

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Look at these sweet faces! (You can see the decimated corn and peas behind them.)

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This activity was by Jude's request!

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Noah inspecting our dugout, which is still pretty wet in the middle.

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Jude and Noah were either looking for frogs, or trying to figure out where the dogs had disappeared to in all that tall grass!

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Summer Getaway

It wasn't anything grand--just a weekend visiting the folks' at our home stomping grounds. But it was good. There was lots of driving, of course, but also lots of visiting, including all of both Jason's and my living grandparents. There was family gossip and tea and food and trampolines and Koda (yes, he came with us).

My Grandma's raspberries:


Thanks to a trustworthy neighbour, my chickens and garden were all in wonderful condition when I got home, too.

What a great weekend.

Peace Talks

After a long day of being enemies

they finally called

A Truce.

* * * * *

Overheard this morning:

"Dad, can you help me draw a picture of Koda?" asked Jude, paper and pencil in hand.

Jason guffawed. "I'm the wrong person to ask, Buddy. I have hardly a creative a bone in my body. Ask your mom. All of her bones are creative."

* * * * *

Speaking of which, I finally posted something to my fashion blog. More to come soon! (Hint: You can see a bit of the topic of the next post in the last photo.)

* * * * *
On Monday, we went to the river for a while. I was wearing a hat that is slightly too small for my impossibly large noggin (a common problem with me), and it kept blowing off in the breeze. Thus, I spent most of the time carrying my camera and the children's wet socks in one hand, and holding my hat on with the other.

Therefore, when I got home I ordered some hatpins from gardinofweedingirl on Etsy. They are so pretty. I can't wait to get them!

Gift Wrapped

"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why we call it 'The Present'."
-Eleanor Roosevelt (? - original source uncertain)

"In summer, the song sings itself."
-William Carlos Williams

It has been an interesting week, full of "things wrapped up."

On Monday, Jude did his last math test, scoring 93%. Even though we have been finished all of his other school stuff since the end of April, we had a late start on math (the books came late, 'cause they were back-ordered), so he has been working on it steadily for the last couple of months. He was pretty excited to finally finish it--and so was I!

On Wednesday, Jabin and Noah had their soccer BBQ and wrap-up. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and we all ate cheap hotdogs on cheap white buns and managed to not even pay a price for it the next day! (Sorry, I forgot the camera in the van, and was too lazy to go dig it out, so no photos.)

Also on Wednesday, I wrapped up nearly a week of intensive work on the last six months of my business books from 2009, and also getting my tax return completed. YAY! That's the earliest I have completed my tax return in five years of business. I was all caught up on my books just before we left Mena--and haven't been since. But I'm getting there!

On Thursday, Jude's golf lessons wrapped up with a putting competition and some prizes. Also, more hotdogs on white buns. At least these were half-decent hotdogs this time.

Thursday afternoon and evening, I celebrated the "finishing-of-the-taxes" with several hours of scrapbooking at Amanda's. This is one of the three layouts I completed. Why yes, I am still behind with my photos, why do you ask?

Today, Jason is wrapping up work before a week of holidays. We are very excited, because other than being sick or moving, Jason has not had any time off for, um,... I think about two years? Maybe longer? It's definitely time. We are hoping to spend a little time in Sylvan Lake, but also to get some projects done around here. I will keep you updated!

Also today, Noah is at his last day of school for the year at Kindergarten. Then, I will officially have a third grader, a first grader, and kindergartner in the house--well, "going intos", anyway.

Mark and Colleen passed through on Monday night on their way (moving) back to Yellowknife from Vancouver area. Unfortunately, Jason was away for the night for work, and it had been a long, stressful day for me with the kids (long story which I'm not sharing here), and it didn't work out to get together. However, she left me "a little something" that she picked up for me in Portland, Oregon, and I was able to get last night while at Amanda's.

A knitting coaster--combining two of my great loves in classic, vintage style. Does this girl know me, or what? Thank you, Colleen. It's perfect.

Now, without taxes looming, I am hearing the siren call of summer like a lullaby from heaven. I am looking forward to an endless string of summer afternoons at the splash park, or scrapbooking, or stitching, or knitting, or visiting friends, or gardening, or camping, or all of those on the same day (okay, maybe not quite). Somewhere in there (and soon) I have to plan school for next year, and I also have a goal of catching up on this year's books and STAYING caught up, so there will be none of this "late-with-the-taxes" nonsense next year. (Jason's pretty excited about that, too.)

What have YOU been up to this week, friends?

A Lighter Note...

The kids and I have been getting some laughs from the uber-talented Tim Hawkins this morning, and I just wanted to share this video with all my friends, especially those with young children.

Jason was doing better yesterday when we were there, but the doctor had decided that he needed more testing to find out what's wrong with him (besides pneumonia.) They took ten vials of blood for a battery of tests that we won't hear about until next week. Also, Jason will now be in the hospital until at least tomorrow.

Thank you to all of you who have sent kind thoughts and wishes our way. I printed them off to take to Jason and lift his spirits.

I'll keep you posted.

... But then it started pouring.

On Wednesday night, Jason came home feeling extremely ill. He went to bed.

And pretty much didn't get out until this morning, when I took him to Emergency at the hospital. After an hour of flurried activity and testing, they decided for sure that he has pneumonia, mostly in his left lung. They think he may also have diabetes and impaired liver function. We'll know more about that tomorrow.

Even though the sun is shining, this week is looking to be a little rainier than last.

I just keep praying for the rainbow...

Five Random Things Monday: Jason

I recently saw this idea in a scrapbooking magazine--jot down five random facts about your life and who you are. Great idea! I thought. Why not do it for the whole family? We all change over time, and I think we would all like to look back at a little "snapshot" of who we were at certain times in our lives.

I decided to start with Jason, by right of him being the head of our family, as well as getting the least personal attention on this blog, in general. (This is due to him being the least willing photo subject in our family!)

  1. Pumpkin Pie: Hands-down, this is the man's favourite dessert. It is followed closely by Chocolate Chip Cookies. I don't make either very often, which he occasionally laments, but even if I made them both every week, I get the feeling it still would not be often enough!
  2. Bike Trip: Jason and my second-cousin Mark (yes, Colleen's Mark) once rode their bikes from Sylvan Lake to Thetis Island (near Vancouver) for Bible college at Capernwray. For those of you not aware of the geography between those two locations, it meant riding over every mountain range between the plains and the Pacific Ocean! He says that after that trip, his legs were in the best shape of his life!
  3. UFC: This is Jason's current sport of choice to follow. He no longer makes a date to go watch hockey games or golf matches at people's houses (we don't really have any TV channels to speak of), but I can count on at least one evening every month when he will be "out with the guys" watching UFC. And plenty of nights in between watching interviews with the fighters on the internet.
  4. Career: Jason's career path is taking another turn, as he is beginning a new job today. After exactly a year working for his friend Wes, he is beginning a job back in the IT industry today for one of the school divisions. He is filling a newly-created position as the "first contact" tech guy for all of the schools in the whole division. Part of the "breaking-in" process will include some traveling to the schools to see how they are all set up. Some of the schools are so remote, they are fly-in only! But, other than that, he gets to leave later, he will be home earlier, and he will actually get a few weeks holidays every year. He is excited for the new challenge, and to be back in (one of) his fields of training.
  5. Coffee: Like myself, Jason did not start drinking coffee until college, much preferring tea. However, there is nothing like long hours of working and studying and exams to inspire a serious caffeine habit! Also like myself, a plain cuppa java is not his idea of a tasty beverage. Adding plenty of sugar and cream (I use honey, but Jason doesn't like honey in his coffee) makes it palatable, but still not a first choice. He has had many periods over the years where he has not drunk much coffee, but the last year has not been one of them! It is awkward to bring tea and honey and cream to work all the time, and the availability of free coffee right there in the station all day every day made it all too convenient to imbibe! He has been tossing around the idea of going on a "coffee cleanse"--you know, before anyone at the new job knows that he drinks it! I guess we'll see how that goes...