Finding Gratitude in a Week of Highs And Lows

Finding Gratitude in a Week of Highs And Lows

It’s been a strange week. And by “strange,” I mean it was like there were an extra six really-high highs and kinda-sucky lows stuffed into it without much of a breather between one or the other. So, for posterity, here are the highlights, and a moment to be grateful, too.

A Winter's Day In "Through the Lens"

A Winter's Day In "Through the Lens"

Today, I had a break from writing. So it was kind of a look-at-life-through-the-lens sort of day. Here are a few things my camera and I saw. Also, I was so honoured to be featured on Mary DeMuth's podcast the Restory Show.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

It's been quiet on stage here at Winters' Day In.

But so, so far from quiet backstage.

We Interrupt This Craziness

Wow. I have been trying for the last two weeks to get a post up here about the craziness of the last two weeks. But said craziness has kept me pretty busy.

So, in brief, I have:

  • run into a snow bank and ripped up the front bumper of my van
  • had someone in Malaysia try to use a copy of my debit card to withdraw from our account. Exciting stuff. I have only forgotten the PIN on my new card about 6 times.
  • had a couple of puking kids. I am SO sick and tired of the kids being sick and tired!!
  • nearly finished with the Snow for Lorelai pattern. Seriously. Maybe I'll even be done tonight, depending on how long I want to stay up.
  • Got invited to hit the road with my mom to go visit my brother. This week. Circumstances aligned and I can actually go!
  • Did a down-and-back-in-one-day trip to Edmonton to get Levi's passport.
  • Finally (mostly) finished my website at Winters Distributing. Not a moment too soon for that January 31 deadline, either!
  • Not gotten enough sleep...

... but then, what else is new?

Snowman made by Jude, his friend Andrew, and Jabin last Sunday.

Pretty impressive, right?

Sweet (healthy) Jude comforting sick, tired Levi on a day off of school Friday.

The other boys celebrated the home day by breaking out the Monopoly game before breakfast!

Happy Sunday night, friends! How have you been, lately?

On the Levi in the House

In the last few weeks, Levi has had a growth spurt. He has now discovered that he is suddenly tall enough to reach the light switches. And the door knobs. And he's figured out how to use them...

That means that I am constantly finding lights turned on that don't need to be. Our bathroom door always remains closed (because he likes to climb up on the toilet and get his toothbrush out of the cabinet, which he then mauls to oblivion... or get into Mommy's makeup, which is worse), but the switches are outside the door in the hall. Whenever I go to the back of the house, both the bathroom fan and light are usually on these days. Since I don't have to go back there all that frequently, they have sometimes been on for a while. Oh, the joys... (Fortunately, although he knows how to turn the doorknobs, it's still kinda tough, so he has only really done it on his own bedroom door--which he was the one to close in the first place--and Jude's a few times, which he doesn't usually do because he knows he shouldn't!)

This li'l daredevil likes to do all kinds of things that give Mommy grey hairs. One of his favourite things to do is pretend he's an acrobat and put his toy truck into crazy places and balance on it. Besides the upside-down blocks container in the photo above, he has done something similar on the couch so he could see out the window while sitting on his truck. He has also stood straight up on the steering wheel and balanced there perfectly--thankfully, while the truck is firmly on the floor! He is always so proud of this feat (and it really is one to be proud of at this age), but I always calmly and firmly (so as not to startle him) tell him to get down immediately.

Gonna have to get this boy into gymnastics!

Just this week, he also seems to be phasing out his nap. This is strange, since last week he was sleeping for over two hours at a time, fighting a mild stomach bug. I don't know if his teeth are bugging him and keeping him from sleeping well, or if he really is outgrowing the need to nap already. He has still been napping every day, but usually only 30-45 minutes, as opposed to the much longer naps I am used to (and prefer! Mommy isn't ready for him to be done napping!!)

Levi is becoming quite the reader--he currently enjoys looking at books that have vehicles in them (of course), but we have let him graduate beyond board books to the closely-supervised perusal of other children's picture books. He also loves the books about animals that we have. Until the last few days, all four-legged largish creatures were "hoe" for "horse", but he is now starting to pick up on "nie-no" for "dino." 

Levi and Noah learn about cheetahs together.

In another new development on the language front, all vehicles up until this week have either been "tractors" or "truckos". On Tuesday, while we were walking back and forth from the autobody shop to Tim Horton's (a route that goes by Rentco and a very busy main intersection), he actually started using the word "hoe" for hoes, and used it correctly several times that day!

In less than two weeks, this little man will be two years old. He has now been part of our family for almost a year (on Sunday, the year will be complete) and has brought us so many blessings. We love our little Munchkin, and it would be tough to imagine our family without him.

I love watching you grow, little Levi!

The End Draweth Nigh...

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.
— Hal Borland

I can't believe summer is almost over. There are way too many things still on my "to-do" list for that to be allowed.

For most of yesterday, and the rest of today, I have been/will be planning out my homeschool year. Of course, I have a general idea what I'm doing, having picked topics--now I just need to decide what we're doing when, and what activities will go along with it. It is fun, and exciting, and I know that if I plan it now, the year will go much better.

This year, for the first time since we were in Arkansas, I will have all three boys home. I am really looking forward to it, especially to maintaining the "we-know-how-to-play-together" dynamic that took most of the summer to achieve. (Of course, as I was typing that, I heard Jabin start wailing because of something Jude did. Figures.)

Seriously, though, I noticed a real change in the dynamics around here from July to now. It was like a year in school, mostly with children his own age, made Jude forget how to play with his brothers. His self-admitted favourite thing to do in June was to pester them. IT WAS DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!

It took several weeks, but what I was hoping would happen was finally realized--Jude and his brothers seemed to re-equalize their dynamic.


Then, last week when we had a couple of rainy days, I realized that they had been creatively finding things to do all week, and mostly getting along in their play. They had built stuff, played dress-up, played outside, and were uncomplaining about the limited "screen time" I allowed them.


Anyway, despite my typical "the-summer-is-almost-over-and-the-projects-are-still-undone" panic, we have been knocking a few things off of Ye Olde To-Do Liste, some more "for fun" than others.

The weekend before last, I made a wreath I've had the supplies for for over a year. The little wooden "preserve" jars with the "Fruits of the Spirit" on them were actually a garland that I got in a garage sale. The hemp twine holding them together kept breaking, and I had no good place for it in the new trailer, besides. So, "a- repurposing we will go." Add a wreath, ribbon, and decorative potpourri, plus a few silk flowers, and Voila!

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(My one peeve with it is that the last fruit [dangling below the bow] is spelled "Self-Contrl." Made in China, anyone?...)

Also, it no longer hangs over the mirror. I didn't like it there. :-)

Last fall, we switched out the diesel heater that was originally warming our addition (and went through ginormous amounts of fuel) for a wood stove that was a gift from my mom and Mike. Jason built a tiled base and wall-cover heat shield (technical term? Dunno.) from tile that was given to us by our friends the Mundts and also the Stanleys from some of their leftovers. We got very creative in making a symmetrical pattern with what we had, and it turned out pretty good. Unfortunately, it was already late enough in the year that we could not actually remove the stove long enough to mortar and grout the ones on the base, as the addition would be too cold without the stove running for it to cure properly. So, in the last week, Jason has been tackling that project. He mortared down the base tiles, and got almost everything grouted before running out of grout! We are hopeful that he will be able to match the colour, but just in case he can't, he left symmetrical sections of tile ungrouted to make it look a little less "unplanned." :-)

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Since the rest of the room is full of items that would normally be filling up the area in this photo (like the wood stove!), you can see that I am using this convenient flat surface to sort out my textbooks at the moment.

The white case in the far back right is a beginner Japanese course. Jude decided he would rather learn Japanese than French this year. I told him I was game--it is a useful language to know, and I will learn it with him. Should be fun. Also, we are hoping to be able to put the boys in karate this year, so it will complement that nicely. (In most karate dojos, the students need to learn basic Japanese terms anyway, such as counting. I still remember how to count to, uh, ten! Also, I can say "I did it!", but that's from watching Heroes. :-D)

The plastic bag over the stovepipe has a bit of creosote that fell down into it, plus some water from the rain--not sure why that is, since we re-shingled the addition this spring, and Jason just re-tarred everything. Musta missed something. Anyway, last night a moth flew down the chimney (Forest Tent Moth--only about a million of those around here right now) and got caught in the bag. It can't seem to find it's way up again, and the flapping against the plastic is freakin' me out...

One more exciting bit of news. Last Tuesday, we got 40 chicks from a mongrel used-to-be-purebred-heritage-breed flock of chickens. They are meant to replenish my own decimated flock. (If you don't remember what happened, my dog did it.) They will be pretty little going into the winter, and we won't know for sure which ones are roosters until around February. However, I'm hoping that they manage to keep each other warm this winter and we can actually start getting a decent number of eggs again by spring. Right now, they are just li'l cute balls of multi-coloured fluff!

Anyway, I should go feed my kiddos some lunch, then keep working on "school."

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Adding to the Fun...

Last Saturday, while Jason and our two friends Brian and Darryl spent the entire day risking life and limb getting our addition from There to Here, the kids and I got to go on buggy rides.

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Brian's wife, daughter and grandson got to go with us. I know it doesn't really seem fair that we were having fun while the guys were working harder than they usually have to on their days off. However, it helped take all of our minds off of worrying that something might go wrong a little bit.

On a one-horse buggy.

The lovely lady driving the buggy is Irinel Agapow, and the noble steed is a young Halflinger she is training named Simmel (I think?). The buggy is an antique belonging to my step-dad, and we were invited on the whole adventure by my mom (who was holding the camera, therefore not pictured.)

Since it was really only a one-seater buggy, which we still managed to squeeze two adults and two children onto, the rest of us were entertaining ourselves while we waited for our turns. While he was waiting, Noah found a frog, which he decided needed to go into his pocket. This is him, pointing to the frog's location inside his pants:

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Later, Jenn and Laverna took the frog to their place, where they have a little aquarium for him to live in. We get to pick him up the next time we go. (Assuming he is still alive, I guess!)

As far as the men-folk, they made it home safely, racing the setting sun to get the addition off the trailer before dark. On the next two days, Brian graciously came back to help Jason in sucking the addition in next to the trailer and getting it levelled.

So, that means we now have our addition. Last Friday, Mike and his friend Jerry had brought up our deck, stairs, and fuel tank (the trailer is set up to run on diesel heating fuel), which are laying in random places in our yard (still). The addition is not "hooked up" yet, meaning no power, and we are climbing in and out on a stepladder, but AT LEAST IT'S HERE!!

The walls in there were circa-1970s dark faux-wood panel board, never painted, so this week in between the +30C heat wave and getting started schooling my younger two boys, I also managed to prime the porch. That's about as far as I got, though!

I am feeling the pressure of the impending and unknown date that it will get cold and miserable and white outside like an unknown but inevitable execution date. My head is constantly filled with all of things that I have yet to do, and knocking off the in-essentials that I simply won't have time for this year. I didn't get much canning done, since I rarely had time to go to the store to buy fruit, and didn't have much time to can, either! I managed to keep on top of the plentiful crop of peas I had, which is good, since last weekend the neighbour's horses got out and destroyed most of the vines. Fortunately, I will get a few seed peas for next year from what is still remaining. (The horses also ruined all but about 5 stalks of corn and ate quite a few of my sunflowers. It was a tearful moment for me when I discovered that.) Most of my garden is still in the ground, so as soon as it cools back down to fall weather I need to dig that up.

So, here are a few things still on my "before-the-snow-flies" To-Do list:

  • Finish the permanent chicken run we began in May
  • Winterize my chicken coop
  • By the first week of October, butcher about 12 Rhode Island Red roos
  • Finish painting the addition
  • Finish moving in to my house
  • Finish harvesting the garden
  • Clean up the holiday trailer we borrowed to live in while we were "in transition" this summer

I'm sure there's more that I have temporarily forgotten.

On Jason's To-Do list:

  • Skirt the trailer (huge job)
  • Hook up the addition
  • Attach the deck
  • Build new stairs, since we have the trailer blocked significantly higher than the previous owners did
  • Plus more...

However, on the more positive side:

At the end of August, I had only a few tomatoes on any of my plants--the plants were strong and lush from all the rain, but there had not been enough heat to produce fruit on many of them. I was disappointed, but since this is my first year growing tomatoes, I tried not to take it too personally. However, there are now tomatoes on nearly every plant I have. Even the lone rare strain of Oxheart that I received from my friend Doug F. produced one lonely, large, though misshapen fruit. I hope the seeds are fertile. (It looks like it grew around the clover, or something!)

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Oh, the Places I've Gone!

Okay, I haven't been that many places over the last few weeks, but I have been extremely busy--as usual, lots to blog about and no time to do it in. So, I will try to recap:


- We have been going strong for three weeks now, and have got to do such fun things as making the colour wheel out of frosting, hitting up the library, painting a giant sun on butcher paper, and doing a field trip to the Telus World of Science. Jabin comes home from kindergarten every day talking about a new friend, and enjoys his "home days", too. So far, so good.


- We spent last weekend in S.L., the official reason being to attend my cousin Riley's wedding reception. It was great, but also a perfect excuse for a "mini family reunion" with my brother and dad. Logan had not been to Canada for almost exactly two years, as he was waiting for his Green Card paperwork to come through, which it finally did about a month ago. Thankfully, we have all managed to travel his direction a few times during the interim--well, all of us except Jason. We had a great weekend of hanging out, playing board games, and laughing--a LOT. I love my family.


- On the Labour Day weekend, our friends B. & L. came out to educate us on the ways of butchering a chicken. L. has plenty of experience from her childhood days on a farm. I had two roosters whose doom awaited them--one for the demo, and one for practice. I'll spare you the grisly details, but considering the fact that I used to have my friend Amanda do all the actual dissecting when we were in Biology together, I'd say I did pretty good. I only felt queasy once, and that was when my attempts at neck-breaking only stressed out my poor boy instead of achieving the "quick demise" I was going for. We ended up using the axe. Anyway, on Monday they looked like this:

And on Wednesday night, one of them looked like this:

(The other one is still in the freezer.)

Kinda scrawny, I know, but there were just too many roosters for my "girls", so they had to go.

I don't quite have the whole garden in, yet, but I managed to save the last of my potatoes from the ravages of my chickens today--the "turkeys" were digging them up and eating them! I still have two of my five raised beds to empty, but I'm not in a hurry to dig up my carrots--they'll keep much better in the ground, for now.

I'm sure there is much more that could be said, but my clock just informed me that the party's over, folks--it's after midnight. I need to get my rest, so Teacher Mommy will be reasonable tomorrow. I'll try not to stay away so long, this time!

Ode of the Moving (A Pioneer's Poem)

In Winters' house the chaos grows
amidst the boxes in tumultuous rows
That fill our space; and in the hall
the kids are banging on the wall
Scarce noticed by the cats below.
We are the moving; scarce weeks ago
We had power, and heat, and water's flow.
But now we shiver on rainy nights
In Winters' House.

Take comfort in these things, you know:
That though we're running to and fro
Like chickens unaware they've died,
If you listen close as it rains outside,
You might hear from us still, though chaos grows
In Winters' House.

(It's safest, if one is going to plagiarize, to choose an author that has been dead for nearly a century.)

Down in the Arkin, Down in the Arkin, Down in the Arkansas...

I don't have a lot of time for typing today, but I finally uploaded the photos from our trip, so this will be a photo blog of our recent adventures. I do not have internet access at the house (yet), so I only get to get on my computer and the internet once a day on weekdays when I drive over to the shop--about fifteen minutes away.

Because there will be so many photos, I am posting them all as "small", but you can click on any photo to see it larger.

Double rainbow over Saskatchewan.

My gorgeous friend Dawn

The most eccentric toaster I have ever seen--leopard print. Found in our motel room in Kenmare,North Dakota.

One of a few "famous" places we visited--Fargo. Also, I believe we crossed the Red River. See below for more.

The tallest park slide I have ever seen, found in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

Jabin gets to know his second-cousin Avery.

Because, apparently, my boys don't know how to take a non-goofy photo.

Crossing the Mississippi River at it's headwaters (Lake Itasca).

A scale map of the Mississippi--we still had to travel most of the way to it's end when I took this photo.

See what I mean? Goofy.

Taken at a park while visiting my friends, the Ericksons. Cool swing chair!

Only in the South can you find a vintage shortening container that once held 110 pounds of the stuff!

Noah and Tuffy on our way out of the Easton driveway for a walk after the rain.

Mom and Mike's horses.

Some damp roadside lushness.

I Should Have Known Better

I should have known that any friend of Colleen's would be wonderful. I should have been prepared. I should have known that two friends of hers would be twice as wonderful.

Yet, somehow, I was still caught by surprise.

Mindy and Cheryl showed up at my door at 10:30 last night, road-worn, but not too much--because somehow we managed to stay up talking until 1:30 a.m! I had never met them before, my only previous experience having been seeing their names on comments on Colleen's blog. But Colleen is one of those types of girls that when you know her, you would do anything for her, so when she asked me to host her friends as they were passing through, of course I said yes.

They are single, I married with children. But other than that, we have so many things in common--all musicians, Mindy is going into missions, all with a love for Jesus, and all friends of Colleen! Our conversation last night brought me some badly needed encouragement. We laughed, we shared, we imbibed hot beverages. And then we exchanged text messages at 1:30 a.m. while we were waiting for the caffeine to wear off! :-)

When they came last night, they were Colleen's friends. When they left this morning, they were my friends, too.

Thank you, Lord, for the love you give that binds us together in unity.

As if I needed more justification, this article on Dr. Mercola today gave even more of an excuse for me to hang on to my tea habit! From the article:

A four-year study has found that tea slows down brain-cell degeneration, and thereby keeps your mind sharp into old age.

Catechins, a natural compound in tea, protect brain cells from damaging protein build-up over the years, maintaining your brain's cognitive capability.

In addition, the caffeine in tea, unlike that in coffee, contains the natural protein theanine, which counters the normal side effects of caffeine such as raised blood pressure, headaches and tiredness.

Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of over 2,500 Chinese aged 55 and older and gave them memory tests.

While two-thirds of the tea-drinkers maintained their memory test scores two years later, 35 percent of non-tea-drinkers had a decline in their memory test scores, which indicates cognitive decline.

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.*

They were like ungrateful, self-centered teenagers.

They didn't see that their restricted freedom was a direct result of its abuse. They thought only of themselves, not the destruction--and cost associated with it--that went along with every pastime they thought to amuse themselves with.

They didn't understand that it was their frequent late-night (and mid-day) excursions that resulted in the chains that held them down. They only applied themselves more diligently to maximizing the time when security was lax for their escape bids.

Even at the end, as we drove away waving at them, they hadn't figured out that it would be the last time--that instead of posting their bail again, after they had tunneled under the fence and escaped for the second day in a row, we had chosen the less-expensive option of leaving them imprisoned at the S.P.C.A., rather than continuing to incur the costs and the stress of being their caretakers--a role they so obviously did not wish us to have.

Everyone has to learn that actions have consequences sometime.

Brutus and Suri, may you find some wide open spaces to exercise your neuroses on in your next homes.

I guess this is goodbye. Here's looking at you, kid.

*Dave Barry

Et tu, Brute?

Last year, I filed my taxes in September. I also registered with a GST* number for my business, which means that in addition to taxes this year, I also got to file a GST return.

This year, I managed to get my taxes filed sometime in early June, I think--a huge improvement over last year. And although my GST return was due on April 30, I dropped it in the mailbox across the street ten minutes ago, after receiving a verbal warning from the government from the self-same mailbox this afternoon. (Really, it was on my things to do last night already, but my husband, erm, distracted me. Like I was going to file a GST return after that!) I was tempted to see what would happen if I just let it sit, but they were using four-letter words like "fine," and I figured it wasn't worth paying more money to the government to find out. I'm such a wuss sometimes.

Anyway, in other news, our house grew by four more feet on the weekend. On Friday, as I pulled the van into the driveway from our homeward sojourn, Jason was filling up the water dish for Suri and friend, whom he had found wandering around downtown. After putting up a few "Found" posters over the weekend, and calling him in to the radio, his owner called us this afternoon--and said we could keep him! The voice on the other end of the line said that she had actually been trying to find him a new home for a while now, and if we wanted, we could have him.

We had already been joking about that very thing, since he is more laid-back and has less bad habits than Suri. Also, Suri is a lot less work with him around, since they play well together and he helps to keep her entertained. So, other than the additional cost of feeding another dog, there were very few drawbacks. We were planning on getting another dog when we move out to the acreage anyway, so this just saves us looking and training an "unknown."

Brutus, in all his canine glory.

Welcome to the family, Brutus.

*Government Sales Tax, applicable on practically everything, except I pay more than I collect in the course of my business, so I registered for it so I could actually get some of my money back from the government.

Home again, Home again, Jiggety-Jig!

Okay, so this is the point at which I pretend I haven't already been on blog-holiday for a week and half to say that I'm going on a holiday--a real one, and will not be posting while I am away. But here's an update on recent happenings before I go.