"family"

Your ticket, please

This fall has been a bit of a wild ride, but it seems to be settling into a routine at last.

A little more than a week after my three oldest boys started school, just when I was beginning to figure out what the new shape of my life might look like, Jason received a job offer with a start-up branch office of an IT Services company. Unfortunately, the job would have required us to move to Fort St. John, B.C., a nearly 3-hour drive west of here.

The job was appealing because it offered Jason a chance to gain shares in the company incrementally over time, which is not the kind of thing that comes along in his industry all that often. However, the initial salary offer was not enough to make us think of the decision as a no-brainer.

So, after much prayer, and research, and two fact-finding missions to Fort St. John, Jason sent them a counter-offer that we could live with. They couldn't, and that was that. The process described in the last three paragraphs was about four weeks of limbo and turmoil in our lives, though, which made for a rather emotional September. But at least, in the state of "are-we-going-to-sell-our-house-or-not?", I got my kitchen linoleum replaced--no more holes! Yay!

Thankfully, we have had a beautiful "Indian Summer"-type of fall again, which means that, while we did not accomplish huge chunks of our yardwork in September, we have been able to get winter-ready (for the most part) in October.

After Jason's super-stressful summer, he decided to take two weeks off in October so we could actually finish up a few of the "summer" projects he had been meaning to do--not to mention, get a mental break from work! Yesterday was his first day back at the office.

While he was off, I managed to butcher the last of my spring roosters, so I now only have one remaining (which Jason pithily named "Lucky"), other than one or two in a batch of chicks still too young to be certain about at only 2 1/2 months. The garden got taken in and prepped for winter, our collection of old appliances got hauled away, and on Sunday, Jason and Brian Stanley put our deck on at last! (Yay! It's been sitting on blocks in the middle of the yard for two years, ever since we purchased this mobile home.)

Jason is still hoping to build a roof over our woodshed before the snow flies (because wood burns so much nicer when it is dry.)

Now that Jason is back at work, and the outside stuff is mostly done for the year, I find that I can be in the house focusing on my "inside projects"--except, not really. Levi has reached the stage where he needs almost constant supervision, and thinks all things electronic are things he must get his hands on--and throw. Or at least (in the case of keyboard), copy the typing action everyone else does on it. :-)

Ergo, office work while he is awake is pretty much out of the question. I can do some kitchen stuff (like the bread I plan to bake today), and have been making progress on some knitting patterns I have been designing, but I have been praying for God to help me remember how short this phase is as I try to subvert the frustration I feel at not being able to get even basic office work done some days.

Going back to the baby phase--and now into the so-called "terrible twos"--has been more of a change than I thought it would be, and I realize how much freedom I had with the ages of my other three boys. They were all old enough to be trusted with a certain amount of independence, and I had peace of mind knowing they were all looking out for each other while they were outside, too.

I think I'm going to have to find some friends with boys this age so Levi can start having play dates, and I can start having sanity time. And I'm going to keep praying. A lot.

Jolly Holiday

Not this past weekend, but the one before, our family got to take a weekend trip that didn't involve a funeral. What it did involve was only a three-hour drive to get there, and a hotel with a pool! It was wonderful.

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We all had a good time in Fort St. John, B.C., especially since fall is the loveliest time of year along the Peace River Valley. The colours were slightly more advanced there than here, and on the Sunday, we had to take a drive out to a lookout to take in a new view of the Peace River before heading home.

Another kind tourist, seeing my frustrations trying to work the remote shutter on my fancy-pantsy new camera, kindly offered to take a family photo of us. Other than Levi being sick, grumpy, and needing a nap, it turned out pretty good, I thought. (At least we're all looking at the camera, for a change.)

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Thank you, Fort St. John, for a great end to the summer.

ZOOM!

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...

Pillow Fight

When Jude was born, one of his baby gifts was a child-size body pillow covered in flannel decorated with ducklings and cutesy ladybugs. It soon became one of his favourite possessions.

This pillow has gotten a lot of use over the years.

As moral support when learning to put on socks:

As a dance mat, before Wii was invented (Daddy's shoes make it even better):

As a surface long enough to accommodate a brotherly moment of bonding:

When Jabin got old enough, he became quite attached to the pillow, too. (Noah, not liking confrontation, chose to stay mum on the subject.)

The mutual attachment soon became a source of constant friction--both between the two boys, and on Mom's and Dad's nerves. Finally, after years of this, and various "systems" to try and get the boys to share it peacefully that all failed miserably, I had had enough. I went to the fabric store, bought some flannel and quilt batting, and using some muslin I had at home made not one, but two more body pillows, plus pillowcases for all three. (No sense leaving Noah out--when the prospect of having one of his own arose, he was duly thrilled.)
 

Finally, a truce. And we are ALL happy about it. :-)
 

The Great Disappointment

Ah, Monday. A whole new week to discover.

Jason was away in Vancouver for the whole of last week, taking a computer course for work. We went and got him from the G.P. airport Saturday afternoon, had a good Sunday together, and now he is home in bed with a stomach bug. I don't know what kind of evil creation can bring Jason down, and don't want to find out. He's usually the one with the stomach of iron, I'm the one who catches things like this--so I'm really hoping I don't.

The week without him was more challenging than I expected--not because he was gone, persay, although we all missed him, and my life was definitely busier (these are the parts I did expect)--but because that was the week that Noah decided to try out vandalism.

It rained, hard, for most of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On Wednesday, I had Noah's friend Q.S. here, a boy who is also home schooling, but his family is going through a tough time with health issues right now, so I've been taking him three days a week to do school at our house in order to help the family out. Q. is an interesting child with a tendency to "forget" the rules whenever it is convenient for him, and so is Noah--more like Dory on Finding Nemo--"something shiny!" they exclaim, and immediately forget about anything else. However, the two of them together are not usually a major problem. Until now.

I once received a hilarious e-mail forward about boys, and there was something in there about how a group of boys together have a lower combined I.Q. than each one individually. That was borne out last week, when Noah and Q. came in just before lunch, bragging that they had been breaking glass in the old trailer (which is still sitting a few hundred yards away in our yard, but at such an angle that I cannot easily see it from anywhere in our house, especially in the rain.) They did not think of it as "destruction of property"--until I illuminated them, that is. They were simply two boys, not thinking, having a lark, enjoying the noise and effect of shattering glass.

I haven't been that angry for a looooonnnnng time. Of all the things left on that trailer, the windows were the only thing of any real value. I had intended to take them all out and make a greenhouse with them.

On surveying the damage, I found that only four windows in the entire house remained unsmashed. The four panes in the beautiful large bay window in the front was destroyed. The only surviving windows are smaller. There is glass everywhere there, and so we have had to restrict and carefully monitor our dogs since then, as we have not yet had time to begin cleanup.

Most of the cleanup will be done by the two boys, as part of their discipline. We (our family and Q's) have initiated several other measures of discipline to really drive home how big of a deal this is, but the unfortunate part is that you can't make eight-year-olds get a job and pay back $6000 worth of damage. That is just the way it is.

However, I think that the part that will really help these boys remember is the lack of trust I now have for them, especially the two of them together. Even when Q is allowed to come back over to play (which will be some time), I will not trust them to be unsupervised by an adult or an older, more responsible child. How are they going to earn that trust back? I don't know--but it is going to take a great deal of time.

Because if a child was four, I could maybe see them not "remembering" that you don't just wreck stuff. Especially something like a house. But at eight, if you can't trust them--how does that trust get rebuilt?

Without a lecture on my parenting, I would appreciate any further insight that other experienced parents may have in dealing with a situation like this.

So... here's to a new week. Let's hope it is less exciting than the last.

Has it really been nine years?!

When I got out of the shower this morning, I could hear a little boy making shuffling noises outside the door.

"Is someone waiting for the bathroom?" I asked.

"I am!" piped up Noah.

"Okay, I'll just be a couple of minutes." I hurried through the process of drying off, wrapped my towel around myself and opened the door.

"SUPRISE!!" he shouted, holding up a drawing of a flower that he had coloured and cut out, with "Happy Mother's Day" scrawled across it.

"Thanks, buddy," I said, giving him a big hug. His ear-to-ear grin was a photo-worthy moment in itself.

That was the beginning to a day that kept getting better.

The other two boys had made Mother's Day crafts for me, too, which they sprung on me as soon as I came out to the kitchen. (Jude actually made me look around the room for his three items, one of which was a poem: "Hair like sparkeling Jewels, you say all the rules, We made these gifs for you. Like em, save em, and enjoy em. Love Jude." Tee hee!)

Jude had been up since 7:00, mixing up blueberry pancakes. He had told us last night that he would likely do so, and Jason said that was fine, just wait for him (Jason) to cook them.

So, after a huge pancake breakfast, we got into the van, dressed up and ready to go to church. Out on the road, I took a look at the clock.

"We're going to be half an hour late. We'll miss most of the service, and then there is the Mother's Day Brunch, so we'll just be eating again."

Jason thought for a moment.

"Do you just want to do church at home?"

"Yep." (I hate walking in late, and a half an hour just seems quite ridiculous.)

So, we turned around and were home about two minutes after we left. Sunshine (our Golden Retriever) greeted us like we had been gone for hours. :-)

Since we were all spiffed up, and it was a gorgeous morning, we took the opportunity to take some family photos before we went inside for our service.

During our service, Jason had each of the boys say a few things they like about their Mom (that was pretty neat for me). Then he talked about how when they start looking for a wife, one thing to consider is that she will be a good mother, and teach their children rightly. After that, they gave me their biggest surprise: a video presentation that they had all worked on together yesterday while I was out for the day, covering the last nine years in family photos in about forty minutes. It was so fun looking back on my sweet boys as they were growing up, and it was a really great gift.

I am so blessed to be a mom, and I am so thankful for the boys I get to mother.

Really, how could I resist?

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I don't know how those boys got to be so silly! (Ahem.)

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Festival of Dedication

We have been celebrating Hanukkah for three or four years, now, but after this year, it holds more meaning than ever. That can be attributed to the wonderful information we found in an eBook I got last year in a newsletter from First Fruits of Zion called "Light in the Darkness". (I'd link to it, but can't seem to find it on the site--must have been a one-time thing.)

As we celebrated the eighth night of Hanukkah tonight, we had all gained a deeper appreciation of how lighting the hanukkiah (the Hanukkah menorah) represented the Light of the World, Jesus Christ--for the Temple menorah was also known as the Light of the World. We understood that we were choosing to rededicate the temples of ourselves to be a light to those around us, and to stand for truth and share God's love with others. And we understood how God had helped his people in the events that led to the Hanukkah festival, and that a Great Miracle Happened There.

And by the end of the week, the kids were almost able to remember the name of Antiochus IV, the Seleucid general who defiled the temple and murdered so many Jews in the first place! (Maybe next year will be better! :-D)

(I accidentally broke our home-made clay hanukkiah on the third night, so we improvised with tea lights for the rest of the week. Oh well, it worked--and was less messy, too!)

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Happy Hanukkah, friends!

Coasting

Wow, how long can I be "meaning to post" and not do it? I'm on holidays right now--you'd think it wouldn't be that hard!

So, yet again, the main activity of my first week off last week was catching up on my year's books. I got to the end of August, so I'm not doing too bad. I probably only have three more days of work on that.

Jude began his holiday on Thursday, and the dynamic between the three boys had to be shifted subtly again. However, Jude being the "ideas man" that he is, they did have an easier time coming up with things to play. The costume box got aired out, the Legos got spread out, and the sleds got dragged out (the last at Mom's behest, but they spent an hour and a half sledding at the dugout anyway).

Jason's holidays began at Friday around noon, and he and I both spent the weekend doing a lot of much-needed NOTHING!! We never really got a break this year, so he and I are both going to use this week to recuperate from our long, exhausting, and busy year. We started by playing a lot of Kinnect sports (my muscles say "ouch" to prove it), a game of Scrabble with Jude, spending an hour or two outside sledding and walking with the kids, playing various other games, and I did some scrapbooking, both paper and digital.

It has been so long since I really scrapbooked, I spent about an hour yesterday getting my bearings. What photos have been done? Where is everything? (I haven't done any since we moved this summer, so I had to figure out what I put where.) What is my highest priority? Then, I "went to town." Over the weekend, I completed 17 pages. Here are a few of the digital ones:







Bottle Babies

A little over a week ago, Amanda was watching Jude and Noah while I helped supervise a field trip for Jabin's kindergarten class. Afterwards, we went over to Amanda's brother's place to help bottle-feed their lambs.

How could I not share the ensuing cuteness with all of you?

Meeting the bottle babies
Bottle-fed lambs are very tame. When they are hungry, especially... they follow you around like, well, like little lambs.

Adorable spring lamb.

Tame, hungry, bottle-fed lambs.

Din-din time! 
Lunch is served! The lambs gulped it back like they may never see food again! (They must be growing! Hee hee!)

Desperate Measures

When we bought this trailer mobile home in 2009, we knew it would be temporary.

How temporary was a matter up for debate, subject to several variables, not least of which was how soon we would be able to save up and build a house--but that was before changing houses became about more than "cramped quarters" and "ugly siding."

That was before we knew our house was killing us.

We moved into this mobile in mid-August of '09, blithely thinking that the musty smell was simply part of living in an older home--this house had been built in 1979, after all, and had endured multiple relocations. So, we set about making the best of what we had, just happy to be out in the country on our own land, at last.

The next spring, we were getting quite concerned. Not only had Jason had a severe bout with pneumonia that left him hospitalized, Noah had had a lingering, dry cough since December that we could not seem to get rid of. We started to suspect mould, and the suspicion was confirmed when, in August, both Jason and Noah had their blood tested. Sure enough, mould was present, where it had never been before. (Jason had had his blood tested three years before, Noah only the summer before.)

We weren't quite sure what to do. We made some immediate changes--re-venting our dryer outside, instead of under the trailer (where we had thought it would help prevent heat loss); starting to rub anti-fungal oils on the kids' feet every night, and ingesting them ourselves; diffusing the same oils into the air in our home; sealing up any possible leaks in the roof as best we could. And, as summer's warmth diminished, the results seemed to be positive--Noah's persistent cough became almost non-existent, and for most of last winter things were "better." Never mind that we all seemed to catch every little cold that passed by...


Then, the snow melted. Noah’s cough returned with a vengeance. Jason caught another cold that kept him home for a week. And we knew it was time to do something about it.

We bought two $10 home mould-testing kits from Canadian Tire, placed one inside (by Noah’s bed) and one outside, as per the instructions, and after an hour of exposure sealed them up to watch, and wait. Four days later, the results were horrifying. Despite the “spring mould” in the air, the outside sample had only a little bit of rather unthreatening-looking white, fluffy mould growing in it. The one from Noah’s room, though, was plastered with multi-coloured, ominous green and yellow and orange mould patches. We didn’t have to send it away to get it analyzed—Noah’s persistent cough (and the sniffles making the rounds through the rest of the family again) were confirmation enough. The mould was toxic.

That was Wednesday. Jason and I spent the night praying and discussing our options. Build now and go into debt? Both of us cringed at the thought. We discussed stripping our current trailer down and expunging the mould—but when all is said and done, we would have spent an entire summer and more money than our trailer is worth in renovating it. So, we turned to Kijiji to see what was available for mobile homes in our price range.

Pleasant surprise—we had options. This past weekend we looked at three houses, and have found one that is not only really nice, but will give us a lot more room. We don’t know how things will work out exactly, yet... we just know we need to get out of this house sooner, rather than later.

It looks like we will be doing a fair amount of camping in the next few months—right in our own yard. This isn’t exactly the adventure that we would have chosen for ourselves this summer... but it will be one more story to tell, the stuff that one looks back on and refers to as “the good ol’ days”, for some odd reason.

But, you know what? They really are.

God has provided for us every step of the way--including the money we need to remove ourselves from this bad situation. He is good, all the time, and we are so thankful for his direction in our lives.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3: 5, 6 (NIV)

Where the Wild Things Are

This fall, I saw (and captured on pixels) quite a lot of wildlife. Besides the foxes mentioned in August, there was also this bear, not a half-mile away from my house across the field.

Black bear taking a drink

Also, this moose, who looked like he was hoping for a quiet morning basking in the sun's rays in our sheltered yard, and got a little more excitement than he bargained for in Koda!



However, I'm not sure which is "wilder"--the four-legged critters, or these three monkeys on any given day!

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Uh... make that four monkeys! (Photos taken November 2009.)

It Was a Dark and Smokey Night...

I have just been outside to do my evening chores, and even though it would normally not be dusk for about another hour, the thick haze of smoke filling the air makes it feel like one is walking through the pages of a ghost story, or maybe "the mists of time." I was amazed by photos of Edmonton (5 hours south-east of here) this week, with smoke so thick that public health officials are warning people with respiratory conditions to stay indoors. I have not yet seen photos of the fires in British Columbia, but if it is this bad here, the source must be completely devastated.

I have actually been wondering if that is part of the cause of the very cool, fallish-feeling weather we have had here this week. Despite the contents of my last post (the photos from which were actually taken in July), every day this week has felt like "pants weather," and it has made me start thinking of digging out my fall wardrobe. Or making a new one. Either way.

I have had the sewing bug pretty bad, lately, but I am currently still working on a rather summery design. For some reason, it feels a little inappropriate at the moment!

Part of the reason my current piece is taking so long (over two weeks, now), other than that I am making it "from scratch" (drafting the pattern myself), is that I got several new books from Amazon.com this week, one of which was Claire Schaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques.Have you ever wondered how haute couture pieces could be valued at such crazy prices as $10,000 for a day dress, or $20,000 for an evening gown--or more? I have. Now I know. Besides the fabulous fabrics they use in high fashion, almost all the sewing is done by hand!! Not only is it done by hand, the garment is draped, and basted, and ripped apart, and fitted (often on a custom dress form padded just to your measurements) over and over again during the process of making it. That is the secret of those beautiful clothes that fit so amazingly. So, now I know why they are worth so much--but I am still a little amazed that there are people who choose to pay it!

Anyway, I do not intend to start constructing everything I make by hand, but I have found the techniques in the book to be helpful, and I will definitely use them judiciously to construct better clothes. And since the dress I am currently working on is meant to be a "practice piece", I have been using several of the hand-sewing techniques I have just learned on it. Needless to say, this has slowed down the construction process quite a bit.

It occurred to me today that Jabin will be having his orientation day for kindergarten in only nine more days. When I told him that, Jabin was thrilled. "Yessss!!" he shouted, making a fist and drawing his elbow back in the commonly-used gesture of excitement that looks like you are pulling the bus bell. (Where did that come from, anyway?)

Mommy is a little less excited. This is my last "baby", off to school, after all. *pouty face*

The kids have been begging to go mini-golfing almost every day this summer, so today we finally took them. The winners fell in the same placement by score as by age--Jason creamed us all with a 60 (on a par 54), and Jabin took home the "booby prize" at 122. The rest of us fell in line between there. (Okay, there wasn't really a prize. I made that part up.)

Well, that's enough rambling for one night. Back to my needle and thread...

The Fantastic Mr. You-Know-Who

Today, we decided to go on a picnic. We didn't hurry there, but managed to arrive at Dunvegan in time for supper.

Dunvegan is an historic site and beautiful provincial park on the Peace River about an hour's drive from here. We had not been there before, despite having driven the bridge over the river at that point every time we go to Grande Prairie. Mostly, we go to G.P. in the off-season, but honestly, a family day trip like this isn't something we do a lot of.

We ate our sandwiches and drank our lemonade. The boys made friends with some extroverted campers and played "Hide-and-Seek Tag" in the playground. (I never quite caught on to how the rules for this version worked, exactly.) Can you see Jude in his hiding spot?


Koda got to practice staying, when he would rather be running around checking out everything he can see and smell. (No dogs off-leash in the park, of course.)

The boys tried to build a new bridge across the river with rocks.


We walked the 1 km. to the market garden, where they also had some very picturesque flower gardens. It was a good time had by all.


We were almost home, about 1 1/2 miles as the crow flies, when we saw two interesting little fellows in the ditch just ahead of us. We stopped to look at them, and one of them came over to look at us.

He was rather obliging about having his photograph taken, sitting not ten feet from my van window for several of them, actually.


The kids were thrilled about seeing a red fox so close up.

Meanwhile, I was secretly terrified that they were just looking around for dessert after a nice chicken supper.

I had left my older chickens (6 mo. to maturity) ranging around our yard when I left, but of course, we took the dog with us. He usually spends the time when they are free ranging tied up under out step. I don't know why I wouldn't trust him, or anything, but so it is. Actually, he is so hot most days that even when he is not tied up, he still just sleeps under the step, so this is not really a sacrifice on his side, just peace of mind on mine. (Koda is definitely a snow dog.) However, even tied up, he would most likely bark if he noticed a fox in the yard. However, with no such canine in the yard to bark at them, there would be nothing standing between two young foxes and poulet al fresco.

It was with trepidation that I looked around as we pulled into the yard. Of course, it was empty--it was already nearly 9 p.m., which is when my chickens head in to roost.

"Well, either they are roosting, or they are all dead," Jason said cheerfully as he turned off the van's ignition.

"Thanks for that, honey," I replied, shooting him the evil glare. Apparently, my poker face needs some work.

Fortunately, I soon ascertained that all of my poultry were snug as bugs in their coop.

This does exonerate Koda from the attempts at breaking-and-entering I found around my smaller coop yesterday morning. I had already suspected it to be a fox, but there were no clear indicators.

I still don't trust him, but he really does seem to have learned at least a partial lesson after his poultricidal day.

Maybe we can start to relax the security protocols on him soon... but not too much!

Better a Brother Close By

"Mom, come outside!" came Jude's voice through the window screen. "We want to show you something!"

I stepped out the front door. And what a beautiful sight:


Noah was doing so well on Jude's bike that Jude decided to take the training wheels off of Noah's bike. He ran and grabbed the wrenches from the shed and set to work.


Time for another go! Noah did even better with his own bike! It's a little too small, instead of being a fair amount too big (which is how Jude's bike fit).



I'm proud of both of these boys--Noah, for learning how to ride a bike without training wheels, and Jude, for taking the initiative and helping his brother out in so many ways.

After Noah was tired of riding, Jude actually put the training wheels back on so Jabin could try riding a "big bike" instead of a tricycle, then took them off again when he was done.

You know, that kid can be pretty thoughtful when he wants to be. It makes him seem so "grown up."

I LOVE it!

(Do you love our "very redneck" rusty Seacan and yard piles in the background? Hee hee!)