Keep Moving Forward

So much time has passed since my last blog post, I find myself at a bit of a loss of where to start... which is where I've been with it for at least two weeks, and why I haven't posted before now. The overfullness of my life has continued on through May and June, but became a little more manageable with the purchase of a new dishwasher about seven weeks ago. We spent the big bucks and got a stainless steel interior, which has now saved me the additional work of de-rusting it every two months--after heavy use all this time, not a single part of the interior of the dishwasher is turning orange. Yay! Another perk of spending the big bucks is that the thing is so quiet, it is sometimes hard to tell if it is actually running. The dryer at the other end of the house drowns it out... *quiet smile*

I guess I could talk about the forest tent moth caterpillar infestation that ravaged the Peace Country this spring, and made all of our trees naked.* Thank goodness the grass is still green, because the trees make it look like January outside. Now, two weeks after the caterpillars started starving to death en masse, the trees are just starting to get a dusting of green on them again, but for several weeks, I found it depressing to look out the window. I wasn't alone.

"Poor trees," Noah sighed one day on our way into town. Where gaily-fluttering foliage should have been were wooden skeletons cobwebbed in sheets of caterpillar silk, with the occasional "cocoon tree", looking like it had managed to bud out its fluff without the benefit of leaves.

We did not have them quite as bad as some people I know, who literally had a layer over an inch thick and solid covering house, yard, and vehicles, but it was bad enough. They especially seemed to favour our south-facing front sidewalk and the corner beside our steps--which is a very difficult place to remove all the little carcasses from, and made it quite stinky there once they started dying.

Everyone say it with me: "EEEEEEEEWWWWWW!"

Once they started diminishing in numbers to something reasonable (e.g. 1/sq. ft. as opposed to 1/sq. in.), we actually managed to get our lawn mowed, and I even got the garden in. (Didn't seem to be much point in trying when the beds were covered in greenery-chomping nasties before that. Sadly, I was a little behind this spring, and hadn't got a thing in the ground before the plague hit.)

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that we had been in Sylvan Lake. We were there for Jason's grandma Joan Morrison's memorial service--a small family celebration of her life. Unfortunately, little Levi got a nasty stomach flu the night before the service. He had managed to keep a few things down for an hour or two by the time we needed to leave for the event, so I decided to go and take him, anyway. (Previously, I had been planning to stay home with him so Jason could go, at least.) All was well until I got distracted with visiting while feeding him a bottle and let him drink way more than I planned. The eruption of Mount Leviticus was epic, and folllowed by a first for Jason and me--washing our baby's hair together in the sink of the handicap washroom. :-)

Other than that, the weekend was great, and we were glad to have even a short visit with family members that we don't see nearly often enough.

After sudden jolts to a life system like adding Levi was for us, your habits and ways of doing things take a while to reconfigure themselves into something workable. But slowly, it does happen. My garden is in. The taxes aren't done, but at least progress on finishing my year-end has resumed, and taxes will hopefully be finished in the next couple of weeks. My boys are wrapping up their school subjects, with only one or two that will not be completed until sometime in July. While I still feel overwhelmed a good portion of the time, I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This morning, the boys and I went to a registration interview at the school they will be attending in the fall. I had expected to be upset about it, but I'm really not. I feel like I am under a huge, rainy cloud of pressures and responsibilities right now, and I can look across the field of summer to see some golden-leaved autumn trees on the other side--and that's where the sun is shining. But not here. Not yet.

I find myself wondering how long it will take for my mind to slow down, for me to not feel like every moment I am awake must be a productive one? How long to revert to a time when blogging could happen several times a week (on the actual computer instead of only in my head), I could occasionally sew myself a dress over a couple of days (instead of only buying fabric that sits collecting dust in a pile somewhere), and making a scrapbook page was a healthy, self-nurturing habit, not something I only do in stolen moments--with the guilt of things not being done whispering through the window screens of my mind's art gallery all the while? I am really looking forward to that "reset", when I don't feel like my whole life is lived on a deadline... to pick up the writing course I was doing... finally go through a few other educational books I have had calling my name on the shelf for a year or several. To compose again. To not be too exhausted to go out with my friends once in a while. To spend my evenings with my husband instead of my office work.

Wow. I am really, really looking forward to that. I know it's up the road a ways, yet, so for now, I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 'Cause the only way to get past where you are is to keep moving forward.

Happy summer, friends. I hope the sun is shining on you.

*In light of the floods ravaging southern Alberta at the moment, I want to clarify that I mention this not by way of complaint, but posterity. I'll take caterpillars over floods any day.

The Wheel of the World Keeps Turning

I stepped through the oversized wooden doors onto plush carpets and paused. Breathing in deeply, I savoured the smell of new paper and coffee, and listened to the muted tones of contented voices chatting comfortably on overstuffed couches. The whole atmosphere oozed calm and peace... the perfect notecard for the invitation the rows of books were giving... Come in. Sit down. Read awhile.

Next to church, the bookstore may just be one of my favourite places in the world to visit. Ever since we were married, my husband and I would consider it a good date to head in to Chapters, have our favourite dessert-like coffee treat, browse through shelves as though searching for buried treasure, and leave with a few paper-bound nuggets in a crisp plastic bag, all anticipation and excitement for the adventures that would soon be ours when we delved into their pages.

As our family expanded, this has still been a great place to visit--we all find treasures when we go. As I insist on previewing children's fiction that I have not heard of or seen reviewed, I spend more of my time in the "Young Reader's" section than anything else these days... however, for the most part, I find children's fiction just as or more enjoyable than that meant for adults, as it tends to be, um, cleaner.

On Saturday, we packed up the kids and the van and drove to Sylvan Lake to spend time with our extended family and grieve Lance's passing. It was a good time of remembering, celebrating, and visiting. By yesterday, feeling drained because of the high emotions and all the visiting, we decided to spend the day in Red Deer, just the kids and us, relaxing a little. A few errands, an hour at Chapters, and a family movie at the "cheap" theatre ("Wreck-It Ralph") was a great "family date."

Now, we are ready to head home and pick up our lives again. The memorial will not be for several months, when spring weather has arrived in Alberta.

For now, life goes on. We enjoy each moment we can. And we treasure the places and moments we find peace... like at the bookstore.


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...

That's What He Said...

Overheard on Thursday morning:

Jabin: I wish that you could rewind, because it was really fun in Grande Pairie [sic] yesterday.

Jude: We were in the van almost the whole day!!

Jabin: Yeah, but it was fun watching movies and playing on Dad's tablet.

Hee hee.
The boys and I have been on holidays from school for a week, now. That doesn't necessarily mean I have been on a complete holiday, though. I have been doing various and sundry business-related activities that I have been putting off until this very time of year, which I planned to devote to "catch-up." Still, the activities seem to be piling up a little, and despite the progress made this week, I felt a little overwhelmed by Thursday at the total amount of things still left on the "to-do" list.

Still, I'll just keep plugging away at them, one thing at a time, and get as much accomplished as I can before school starts again. Weekends are reserved for family and friends and play time, so I don't get totally bogged down in work... that whole "Too much work, not enough play, dull girl" thing sounds like something I want to avoid, if possible.

Hanukkah ended yesterday, and we gave each of the boys a little gift on the last day. Jason found this cool online service (U Star Novels) where you can substitute someone's name so they can "star" in a novel. He bought one for Jude using the Adventures of Tom Sawyer--Jude is Tom, and his friend's names are substituted for some of the other main characters.

Then he surprised me with a copy of Pride and Prejudice starring moi! "Mr. Darcy" has become "Mr. Winters", of course, and the Bennett family was transformed to the Hilmans. A quick flip through the book revealed that several other family members and and friends got supporting parts.

It's kind of cool, in a weird sort of way. I want to read through it again (never need much excuse to re-read P&P) just to see who gets to make appearances. But now I think I know how my junior-high classmates felt when it became known I had written a short sci-fi story starring all of them--fascinated and freaked out, all at the same time. (At least I know I like the story, which wasn't the case with all of my hapless classmates. Lesson learned on my part.)

And really, what woman reading Jane's most popular novel doesn't identify with Lizzy Bennett in some way?

Happy holidays, friends!

Change of Season, Change of Pace

This past week, our Indian Summer made the full transition into Early Winter with freezing temperatures and two days of snow. This weekend, the mercury has hit +10 again, melting away most of the white stuff, but I know it is only a very temporary reprieve before winter begins in earnest.

... a reprieve that we are making full use of to finish our yard clean-up and other last-minute outside chores to prep for winter.

Jude has been driving us crazy for the last few months with comments of, "I can't wait for it to snow!" and "I wish it was winter already!" Given the brevity of our Northern summers, this has irked Jason and I, and we usually retort with, "Six months a year isn't enough for you?"

On Friday, as the kids and I were driving away from home in a snowstorm, Jabin said, "When it's summer, I want it to be colder. When it's winter, I want it to be warmer."

"Do you know what the secret to happiness is, buddy?" I asked him.


"Being content in whatever circumstances you are in." Then I explained what "contentment" is.

"Oh," he said, in that "clear as mud" tone of voice.

I guess that's a lesson we all have to learn in our own way. Sometimes, we re-learn it over, and over, and over.

Yesterday, I was surprised by a restless feeling.

"If we were in Red Deer," I commented to Jason, "this is the kind of day where I'd say 'Let's go to the mall and people-watch and have coffee.'" I think I just wanted to get out of the house, see something different, feel the crispness of the air and the bustle of a busier place. However, after seven years in Peace River, I don't get the yen for that much anymore--I'm out of the habit, I guess.

Well, since that wasn't an option, and since we wouldn't pile into the van for a two-hour trip to Grande Prairie just to have coffee at the mall, I did some digital scrapbooking instead. I managed to complete six layouts, working backwards from the present. That, plus the ones I've already completed in the last few weeks (I've been going through a miniature "scrapbooking phase") means that I have done all the photos back to mid-August already. You never know--maybe I'll actually get a whole year done digitally and print a photobook when Shutterfly has their year-end sales. That would be different. :-)

Well, I better go tackle those afore-mentioned outside chores. Here are the layouts I did yesterday:

Any Season is Knitting Season

I am in adamant denial that summer is only two weeks from ending. Even while typing that, I blindfolded myself and thought about rainbows and sunflowers so I could trick myself that it was just a "pretend."

This summer has been full, and busy, and not, all at the same time. July was travelling and visiting and getting sick, a cold that worked its way through our entire household and didn't move on for about a month. What is it about summer colds that makes them hang on so long, anyway?

Combine that with the heat wave that we endured for most of the month, and on into the first part of August, making our li'l Tin Can o' Dreams a mere 30C+ by evening every night, and most of the summer "to-do" list didn't really start getting tackled until the August long weekend (first weekend, for those not Canadian-holiday-aware). So, what did we do while we were coughing, and sweltering, through July?

First two weeks: The boys had swimming lessons from Monday to Thursday in the morning. Conveniently (for me), they were in a consecutive two-hour stretch each morning. Guess what? That meant two hours of nearly-uninterrupted KNITTING TIME!! I also met a new friend, another avid knitter named Lori. She was making a tank top. I was making a cotton sundress. (More about that in a minute.)

Next two weeks: Veg. Recover. Read. KNIT. I read several books this summer. The whole 12-month "Conspiracy 365" series (preview for Jude, ostensibly. Not bad--a little "mile-a-minute" for my tastes, but good adventure for teen and pre-teen reading.) After that, I read "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory McGuire. This is the novel that the musical "Wicked" is based on. While I enjoyed the skill of the writing, and seeing how the source material was changed to create the musical, I was disappointed in the vulgarity of the book--about an "R" rating. Oh, well. Since then, I have been working through "Which Lie Did I Tell?", William Goldman's sequel to "Adventures in the Screen Trade" about his life as a screenwriter.

The skirt of the sundress was very boring. Since I was reading "Wicked" on the Kindle app on my phone and PC, and therefore didn't need hands to hold a book open (and only a light touch to "turn pages"), I also got a great deal of knitting done while I was reading. This was a new trick for me, but I found it worked well to keep my mind occupied while my fingers were doing the same repetitive stitch for hours.

Cotton Cool Sundress 2

Here's the story of the sundress: I actually started it early last summer (2011), very excited about the slight challenge the lace bodice would supply, and the prospect of making myself a summer garment. (I don't usually knit summer dresses, I sew them.) Last summer, as you all know, was more than a little busy with moving, renovating, and the like. So, I didn't really put any speed on with the project until the week between Christmas and New Year's, when Jason was off of work and we were watching movies every night, with not much to do all day but knit, either.

Cotton Cool Sundress lace detail

By the end of the week, the skirt was nearly finished when I realized I had made two fatal errors: my gauge had loosened considerably from when I started the project, meaning the fit would be off, and I had also cast on the wrong number of stitches in the first place.

I was so grouchy about it, I stuffed the whole thing into my knitting bag and didn't touch it again for months. This spring, I was finally over my "irk" enough to rip it out and prepare to re-knit.

I (re)cast this on the third weekend of June, and finished it by the end of July. I am SO glad it is done, it fits (maybe a touch loose, but nothing major), and I can move onto something else.

Cotton Cool Sundress

Like this sweater for Jason, for which I just ordered the yarn.


The Days are Just Packed!

We started summer almost a week early in our house, having Jude skip the last few days of school (mostly "party time" anyway) so we could spend eight days in central Alberta, visiting family for the most part. The holiday was a nice mix of "busy" and "relaxed", with plenty of visiting throughout.

My brother even came up from Seattle area for the second weekend, so although most of the visiting was with Jason's side of the family this time around, I got to see my immediate family lots (since we were bunking at my dad's.)

The reason we chose that week, instead of the following one, is because my boys all had swimming lessons back here in P.R., starting at 10 a.m. on July 2. (Weird, considering it was a holiday here.) We made it in time, although Jude missed his first day, as he and my niece Kayla (who had come home with us for the week to visit) both woke up on Monday with a horrible cold. That cold has since made the rounds through everyone in our family except Jason, with me being the most recent victim. I have been feeling the effects all this week, and have now got it reduced to the slightly-sore-throat-and-lots-of-nose-blowing stage.

Thursday (the 5th), the last day of swim lessons for the week, we split from Peace River as soon as they were done to head back down to Red Deer, dropping Kayla off on the way out to my dad's again. Jason didn't come along this time, as he really didn't want to go on a 20-hour-in-4-day drive, no matter how beautiful the scenery. Our destination was Emerald Lake, B.C., by Friday afternoon, where my cousin Stephanie was getting married at 3:30.

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Emerald Lake, B.C.

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Walking down the "aisle" at Emerald Lake Lodge.

We made it with time to spare, and I got to visit with members of my mother's side of the family that I haven't seen in ages, including my cousin Michael and his family. Despite the fact that he has lived far away from me for most of our lives, I have always maintained a pretty good friendship with him (probably helps that he is my only cousin that is my age). His wife is a complete sweetheart whom I befriended as soon as I met her at their wedding reception years ago, and whom I hadn't seen since. (I always wish we lived closer together anytime I get to spend any time at all with those two.) And meeting their daughter Juanita for the first time was a joy.

The next day, my boys went kayaking for the first time EVER in some boats brought up by friends of the family and generously shared with all the guests present. The three of them went out together in a larger boat at first, coached along by Mr. Dalk in the basics of rowing, etc. They went a long ways across the lake before coming back.

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Our three big boys on their maiden voyage!

Then Jude and Noah each took solo voyages, a watchful adult in a kayak close by. Unfortunately, when Noah went out, all the smaller lifejackets were in use, so he was figuratively "swimming" in his. Fortunately, the boats were surprisingly stable, and he managed it like a pro! I was so proud of my boys. (And a little proud of myself for not going all maternal and not letting them go.)

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Jude on his solo trip.

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Noah going solo!

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Three crazy, amazing boys!

We had intended to take the short hike from Lake Louise up to Moraine Lake on our way up toward Jasper to camp for the night, but while the boating was going on, the aforementioned nasty cold bug hit Noah--he was suddenly in no condition for hiking. (This one comes on hard and fast.) So, my mom (who was coming up to Peace River from the wedding with us, having just flown up from Arkansas and driving out with her parents), the boys, and I packed up and hit Hwy 93 north. We did make a quick stop for the 10-minute hike to Peyto Lake. Since this was my boys' first time in the B.C. Rockies, I wanted them to experience it as much as was still possible with an "invalid" in the group. Unfortunately, Mom and I had to take turns carrying Noah the whole way up and back. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make to ensure the other two would get to enjoy a close-up with some of the amazing beauty we were driving through instead of just barely acknowledging it through the window.

The first night in the mountains (by Emerald Lake), I set up the tent with just the boys. It's an eight-man "mansion", as far as tents go, and although fairly easy to set up, I was quite glad that Mom was there the second night to help. Since this was my first camping trip of any kind for four years, I was also glad the the only thing I really seemed to forget was a flipper for the French Toast. In fact, being "out of practice" actually meant that I bought enough food to feed an army, so there was no lack of anything except ice to keep it cold.

On Sunday morning, we debated on our day's activities as we broke camp. We had to be back in P.R. by that night, as the boys still had swimming lessons the next morning. Noah was not doing a lot better (having experienced the bug myself now, I know why), so we thought that we would try to make one short stop at a place called "Jasper House" on our map, and that was it, disappointed to put off the planned stop at Miette Hot Springs for another time. Unfortunately, we somehow missed the sign that would have taken us off the highway to whatever that attraction may have been, so decided to take our own "pit stop" at Fiddle River, just before leaving the National Park. We pulled over beside the highway and hiked across the scrub and rocks to dabble our toes in the glacier-fed stream (COLD!!). Jude was brave enough to stand in it up to his ankles. It sure felt good on the sunburn I had collected the day before, and on that 30 degree day it was a wonderful refresher.

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The rest of the trip home was uneventful, which is good... Well, except for the yearling bear that ran across the highway right in front of us south of Fox Creek. We grazed his backside--but Mom said he still trotted off using all fours, so I'm hoping that that fact, and the lack of damage to my bumper, means that he would be fine--and much more wary of roads and vehicles! (Okay, I guess hitting a bear is kind of a big event!)

Elk through window
This fellow was having a snack beside main street in Jasper as we were leaving. This is right through our van's side window!

The boys finished their swimming lessons yesterday, with Jude and Noah both passing to Levels 5 and 4 respectively. Jabin gets to repeat Level 1 for the third time, but not for lack of effort. Considering he actually had a fear of putting his head underwater at the beginning of this school year, he's doing alright. Once he lets himself relax a little more, he'll just take off with the swimming. For now, he's enjoying the journey.

Which is exactly what I've been doing for the last three weeks. I have to admit, though, I am really looking forward to next week--no schedule, and hopefully the heat wave we've been experiencing this week will have slackened. (I'd only wish for a little slackening--'tis hard to keep the tin can I live in below 30 degrees when it is 35C+ outside. However, summer is usually so short here, I don't want to complain about the heat too much!)

What a great start to summer.

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Fiddle River, AB

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?

Back to the Future

I've had some people hint at me recently that they would like to see something new on this page a little more often.

While my intentions are all towards blogging 3-5 times a week, the reality is that by the end of my day, it has usually dropped right off my priority list. We'll see if I can pick up the pace again in a few more weeks once we have all the "extremely-urgent" items off of our "to-do" list.

But I'm not making any promises...


Despite the frost we had several nights earlier in the week (or maybe because of it), I managed to get all my potatoes and onions in by Wednesday. There is still a good chunk of garden to come in, but between school planning and the sun going down so darn early (what's with this "dark at 8:30" thing?! :-D), I am running behind on a few things. Our addition only has one coat of paint on it, still... and in a way I was glad that I was stalled at that point when we got to "discover" some leaks yesterday, thanks to a day of steady, slow rain. Now we get to figure out where the sources of those are before finishing the inside.

Jason almost got our fuel tank for the diesel furnace in place before dark on Thursday... but not quite. Yesterday, the rain made working outside unfavourable, so I expect we may now not have heat until Monday. It won't be a minute too early, either! Some mornings this week, I have really had to "psych myself up" to extend my bare toes from beneath warm, fluffy blankets to frigid morning air!


Both Jabin and Noah have said some things this week that tickled me to the funny bone. Of course, I don't remember what they are now...

Okay, I remember one. On Monday, Jabin was helping me pick rosehips to make jelly.

"Could we have rosehip jelly for a snack sometime, Mom?" he asked, clambering over some rocks to reach some berries that were higher on the bush.

"Well, yes, on our toast and butter," I replied, gingerly reaching my hand through a gap in some thorny branches toward a succulent-looking red hip.

"Not by itself?"

After several turns around this conversation, it occurred to me what he was talking about.

"I'm not making Jell-O, I'm making jelly," I clarified.

"What's jelly?" he asked.

"It's like jam, only without the pieces of fruit," I replied. "'Jell-O' is that jiggly stuff that is really bright, weird colours."

"Oh." After a few more moments, "It would be cool if my name were 'Jell-O'," he said.

Giggling, I asked, "Why's that?"

"Because I love Jello so much," he said, then went on with his picking.

Oh. "I guess we didn't think of that when you were born," I replied. Gotta love kid logic.

Yesterday, Jabin used the word "struggling" a handful of times, in context. It caught me by surprise at first. How many near-six-year-olds use words like "struggling?"

"Mommy, I am struggling with this one. My '2' doesn't look right," he calmly said to me, pointing at the question in his math book so I could help him out. He used the word several more times in the next twenty minutes.

Later, at supper, when I said to Jason, "Jabin's 'Word-of-the-Day' was 'struggling,'" Jabin added, "Yeah, I was struggling with math."


It really struck me last night how grown-up all my boys seem. Only a few short years ago, Jude was bringing our family into the new chapter of "school age" by being in grade one, Noah was a mystery we hadn't read very many pages of, and Jabin made you want to squish him into a hundred little pieces of love just by being alive.

Now, Jabin is running around using words like "struggling", "supposedly", and making astute observations every day. The "baby" is gone from his face, leaving behind a little boy with hairy legs (which he gets from his dad!) who thinks he can boss around his big brothers. Jude is only a couple of years from "pre-teen", and Noah is becoming more responsible all the time.

Reading through some of those older posts, it struck me that I used to be much more clever. I guess that's the benefit of posting more often--you think of better things to say. Or better ways to say the things you were going to say anyway.

From the archives, here is a few-paragraph blurb that gave me a giggle. I hope it does for you, too:

From August 10, 2008 (my 31st birthday):

"What is this thing?" Logan asked, looking at me. The "thing" in question was a small but surprisingly heavy shiny metal rod that had been shaped into a triangle, and was suspended by a brightly-coloured nylon cord attached to a very small, rounded, red wooden handle. My brother kept swinging it around by the cord. "Is it an actual musical instrument, or a weapon?"

"Both," I replied. "It's a child-sized triangle. I don't know where the stick is for it." A twinkle popped into my eye. "But musical instruments often double as weapons, you know. That's why you would always see the Mafia walking around with violin cases."

"Uh, Talena, those had guns in them," my Dad said, but I refused to be deceived.

"No, just violins," I replied nonchalantly.

"What, 'If you don't talk, I'm going to play my violin at you?!'" he teased, imitating a maddened Mafia henchman with evil intent about to play something dark and Russian.

"Well, you know, some of them were saxophones," Logan chimed in.

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah. That's why they had so much sax and violins."

Disclaimer to the members of my family who may feel like correcting me on any part of the above conversation: While some of the exact wording may have been changed, the purpose of the conversation remains the same. This is how I remember it--and conversations around a breakfast table do not always translate well verbatim to the written word. End of disclaimer.

Another Year, Another Milestone

Despite the mile-high stack of items still on my summer "to-do" list, summer has had the indecency to wander off with barely a "hey, how's it going?" or even a "here, would you like some good weather to remember me by?" She's kind of sanguine that way.

And that means that fall has sidled in the front door, silent as a cat. I noticed him sitting at my table the other day drinking his tea as though it was the most natural thing in the world to have the leaves changing, the days cool, and the "back-to-school" sales breaking out all over town.

Jude's first day of school is tomorrow. He is actually going to school this year, as opposed to staying home for it, and he is very very excited. He has been setting his alarm for 7:00 a.m. all week (which means we have all been waking up then, for the alarm is loud, screeching, and annoying to the -nth degree). The school shoes and new backpack have been bought, the lunch is packed, the bussing arrangements are arranged. Now, if only he could sleep! ;-)

Noah and Jabin are pretty excited about school, too. Their math and printing workbooks came in the mail yesterday, and they begged until I let them do a few pages from each today. We are not officially beginning our home school until Monday, as I have other things to finish up and some last-minute preparations before then, but it was pretty easy to oversee their activities today while I was going about my own.

As far as our housing situation, we are still trying to get our addition here. (I'm praying that that happens this weekend!) However, the trailer itself is feeling a little homier every day. The kitchen cabinets are now painted, and I was re-hanging them tonight. All I have left to paint now is the bathroom and some of the trim around the house. Once the addition comes, it will also need paint. And new flooring, which has been bought and is waiting patiently to be unrolled.

This whole moving thing is a pain. Whose idea was it, anyway? :-)

Well, I better go try and settle down a little earlier tonight than I have been. I am not sure who finds it harder to adjust from a Northern summer to a Northern fall--the kids, or me! However, despite the fact that it is WAY too short of a season at this latitude, it is still one of my favourite times of year.

"I love [Peace River] in the fall. If I knew where you lived, I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils." - Joe Fox, You've Got Mail (slightly altered by yours truly)

Suddenly Busy Part 3

Well, in order to make this post about the last two weeks seem somewhat shorter and less dry to the casual reader (since anyone not directly involved in them may care a lot less than I do), I am going to put the highlights in bullet form.
  • After returning from our weekend in Sylvan Lake on Tuesday, Aug. 2, we knew we had our work cut out for us. The first stop for me was the paint store. For Jason, it was the hardware store--his trips there became almost daily. I'm sure he now knows all the employees by first name. Fortunately, he was just beginning his scheduled holidays, so had plenty of time with helping to get our new house ready! His main accomplishments that week were getting the trailer levelled with the help of our friend Brian, getting the pressure pump moved over from the other trailer and getting that and the septic hooked up, and getting the electrician here by Friday so we could bathe again. Yay!
  • By Saturday morning, we were cheering because Jude came back into the holiday trailer from his bathroom break to report that there was hot water. The celebration was short-lived, however. After only three quick showers, Jabin's bath-water came out cold. I waited four hours before trying to have my shower, and within five minutes the water was cold. Hmmph. Guess we'll need to change out the water heater.
  • We are now referring to our three homes as the "new trailer", the "holiday trailer" or "camper", and the "old trailer", or, more affectionately, the "parts trailer".
  • The first part to come in from the "parts trailer" was our other water heater. Jason changed it out by himself on Sunday, which was quite the job. I continued painting.
  • Upon removing the first baseboard from the dining room to start painting, I discovered (horrors!) mould behind it. And the same behind the second board, which came from the peninsula adjoining it. Further inspection (by removing the peninsula and lifting up the wall panel) revealed the bottom part of the wall frame to be damp, but there to be no rot or damage in the wall or behind the poly. We concluded it was from a leak from either the dishwasher or the sink, but since we had no running water at the time, had to wait a week to confirm it. In the meantime, we let the wall dry out and discovered we liked the kitchen better without the peninsula in it. Bonus!
  • Turns out it was a leak from the faucet, which is a really old unilever-style. When you lift it to the hot side, water pours out around the base. Changing out the kitchen faucet from the "parts trailer" is pretty high on Jason's "to-do" list right now (but really low on his "things-I-enjoy-doing" list! We had just put the other one in last winter, and it is much nicer, anyway--although, a real pain-in-the-you-know-what to deal with, apparently.)
  • Painting jobs completed: Living room; kitchen; Jude's room; alcove in our bedroom. Still to do: hallway; bathroom; dining room; kitchen cabinets.
  • While revamping the peninsula design, Jason built me a "weathered-wood"-look set of display shelves at the end of my cupboards from some old pallets. He does not really enjoy carpentry work, and I am so proud of him. He did a great job, and I absolutely love them! (I can't post photos right now, due to computer issues. I will be posting the "grand photo tour" once we are done renovating, anyway.)
  • We spent our first night in our new home on Wednesday, which happened to be my 34th birthday. My friend Laurie C. commented on my Facebook update about this, "Lucky girl! Not everybody gets a new house for her birthday!" She's right! :-D
  • Jabin's sock (see yesterday's post) has been successfully frogged and is well on it's way to complete recovery. I finally got over my grumpiness about my mistake. I'm not sure if that could be called an "adventure in knitting", but hopefully the "inconvenience" did teach me to inspect my heels carefully before moving past them from now on!
And that's about it!... so far.

Suddenly Busy Part 2

The next morning, we got up early and continued preparing for the move that we hoped and prayed would be happening within hours. (I guess it was a good thing that it hadn't happened the previous day--we wouldn't have been ready!)

The first step of the move was to transfer our old trailer from its previous location to blocks in another part of our yard. Because it wasn't going far, and we didn't really have another place to store everything, most of our stuff and all of our furniture were staying in the house.

We thought that was a good plan. The movers didn't. They muttered something about insurance not covering it if the frame folded in half, but we really had no other option, so we said to go ahead and do it anyway.

There were some pretty interesting moments in the process of moving that heavy trailer on the soft ground, but by mid-afternoon it was done, and the frame hadn't even creaked. We were hopeful that the next day would see our new home sitting on the location that had just been vacated. We had to wait to see if the movers would have time the next day, as they seem to be contracted to a local mobile home company, who get first priority.

It was about 9 p.m. last Thursday night that we got the call that yes, we could move our new house the next morning. The drive to get there takes about two hours, so they wanted to get an early start. We were to meet them in P.R. at 7 a.m. so we could guide them to our destination! Also, the new house would need a different hitch than our old one had, so we would have to stop along the way and hope that there was the right kind available. (Why can't they standardize these things?!)

So, bright and early, we got started. To make a long story a little briefer, we did get our new trailer that day, but not the addition, which will be moved a little later. There were some interesting moments with that one, too, so it didn't pull into our driveway until about 4:30 in the afternoon. We beat some heavy rain to get it blocked up, which Jason did while I grabbed a couple of tarps from home, a ladder, hammer, and nails and headed BACK down to where we had just got it from to cover up the exposed insulation on the side of the addition. (About 8-9 hours of driving for me that day. Whee!)

After a very, very long day, we sank into bed, completely exhausted, but excited to know that we were finally making progress in our move--and ready for another long day in the van when we woke up, as we were heading to Sylvan Lake for the weekend. Jason's grandpa had passed away in February, and the memorial service was being held in Red Deer on the Sunday, so we knew that all the work we were wanting to do to set up our new place would have to wait until we got home.

On Saturday, we were on the road again, heading for sunnier Central Alberta.

To be continued again! :-D

Suddenly Busy Part 1

We have spent most of the summer waiting for it to quit raining long enough to move our "new" mobile home here. As wonderful as all that rain has been for my garden, it made things not very conducive to moving heavy objects.

Last week, the rain started to slow down. On the first two days, Amanda and I butchered the 42 surviving broiler chickens from the fifty we had started with. Amanda and I, being co-owners of the birds, were there both Monday and Tuesday, with some extra help on both days (thank goodness!). I did something I didn't think I would be capable of--41 of those head chops were done by me. Amanda held them during the death throes. We made a pretty good team, I think.

Wednesday morning, with about three days of mostly-dry weather (except for the sudden downpour while we were finishing our last five birds Tuesday evening) behind us, I called the mover.

"Do you think you could move our trailer this week?"

Typical humming and hawing ensued on the other end of the line, with a sudden "Maybe we could do it this afternoon," thrown in there at the end.

We weren't ready for that, but there was no way I was going to turn him down! I called Jason at work, said, "You need to come home NOW!" and then started what would be three days of a frantic pace. The rest of Wednesday was spent moving my kitchen into the holiday trailer (in which we had only been sleeping up to that point) and packing the rest of the house (most things just got moved to the floor), while Jason worked on disconnecting all the utilities. There was an hour and a half of torture in the afternoon while we watched two inches of rain fall, with some hail thrown in for good measure, and we wondered if all of our energy had been expended for naught. However, the mover said he would have his guys come out and take a look the next morning, and maybe it could still be done Thursday.

We held our breath. And prayed.

To be continued...

The Twilight Zone

"Enough about the chickens and the coyotes and the farming already! Don't you have some kids, or a move, or something else to talk about?"

I know you were thinking it...

As soon as our friend Cheryl read my Desperate Measures post, she and her husband volunteered their holiday trailer for us to live in, as opposed to tenting throughout our transition. Thank you, Steve and Cheryl! What a blessing, especially as this has now turned into a very wet spring... tenting would not have been pleasant in the least!

Also, the trailer that we looked at and liked is the one we ended up buying. It had renters in it, so we needed to wait until the owner could give notice before arranging the move. Now we are waiting until the house mover has time to work it into his schedule.

The new trailer is twelve feet longer than this one, with a 12'x24' addition and a deck. It is in very nice condition, so the only thing we will do to it before we move in is paint it, something I hope to have finished in a week or less. (Any volunteer help with the painting would be gladly accepted!)

Our plan is to move our current trailer off a ways into the yard, gut it for anything usable, and burn it in the depths of winter. The local scrap yard will take the metal frame when all that is done.

We are partially moving into the holiday trailer for a few weeks, so some of our stuff is currently travelling around the yard. As far as the house, the plan is to only really pack up and move out the stuff that may break or fall down in the jostling that comes with moving the house. That pile will partially fit into our SeaCan, but mostly spend a week or so on pallettes under a tarp in the yard, is my guess. Then, once the painting is done, we will be moving into our new home, which will be sitting in the exact same location as our current one. (We like the view from here, and the amount of protection we get. Not to mention, all of our utilities are already laid in right to this spot.)

This is a weird move for me.We are halfway between several places, which is weird, but it is strange to only be packing some of our stuff, and figuring out where to tuck it out of the way in the meantime. Also, the expected moving date keeps changing--right now, it looks like the 29th, but it may have to be pushed later. Then, there is the need to coordinate when our gas, power, water, septic, and internet will all be disconnected--and then reconnected a few days later. Also, figuring out the logistics of moving the addition and the deck, which the house mover is not equipped to do. And finding a hitch for moving the trailers. Eep. No wonder I've been trying not to think about it. (I know that strategy won't work for much longer.)

The kids and I were sleeping in the holiday trailer starting on Sunday night--the same night that Jason left for a week-long business trip. And the same night, it so happens, that it started getting fairly chilly and wet. I am not experienced with holiday trailers, never having used one, but by Wednesday I decided I needed to turn on the furnace. I followed the instructions, but no heat resulted. Are we out of propane in there, or is it just not on? Not sure, but Jason will be home tonight, so he can help us figure it out.

Between the chill and the damp, the kids and I have all ended up with wicked colds, so by Thursday night, I decided that the mould inside and a good night's sleep was probably more desirable than the cold outside on hard, uncomfortable mattresses. Jason can help us haul out our own mattresses to use tomorrow--something I was not willing to attempt on my own, due to the mud and the wet everywhere.

So, half in, half out. Within the next week, we will likely be living exclusively out of the holiday trailer, so I can pack up in the house with less interference. Some dry weather for a few days later in the week would be good--if it is too wet, we can't move the trailers anywhere. Our driveway is pretty mushy with just the van travelling up and down it right now, let alone a truck and mobile home!

So, there you go... all you wanted to know, and way more than you needed to, about our moving adventure. I feel like we are in the Twilight Zone--halfway between houses, not really in either one. Also, the overcast skies have made it feel like twilight for most of the day lately--and the fact that we are only three days away from when the sun only sets for a few hours means that it is twilight for most of the night, too. (It would be, anyway, if it weren't so cloudy.)

And you know I can't leave the chickens out entirely, not with the ongoing saga-of-the-moment. Last night, I confirmed that it is, indeed, coyotes that have been molesting my livestock. I confess to staying up extremely late, worrying and listening to what was going on outside through the open window. Around 1:30 a.m., a pack of coyotes surrounded our yard, their eerie cries echoing from the trees in several places. Koda barked valiantly, and after a few minutes, the howls faded into silence. (He even howled back at them a few times. Maybe he secretly wants to be a coyote.)

This morning I was relieved to see that there were no further molestations of either dogs or chickens, so I guess the strategy worked. Yay! Those dogs are more than a money drain, after all! (I know they are cute, too, but that only counts for so much.)

Photos taken this afternoon:

Guard dogs in the rain.
On guard.

Oxheart Tomato
A rare strain of oxheart tomato (I think Hungarian?) that I got this spring from my friend Doug, from whom I have bought most of my adult chickens. I haven't the heart to tell him yet that the breeding pair of rare French Crevacouers I bought from him have both been killed by coyotes. (I'm not over it myself, yet.)

Seedy dandelions in the rain.
A meadow full of dandelions gone to seed in the rain. Up close, their rain-bedraggled heads look pretty motley. From a distance, the effect is like a field of clouds. The field is like a reflection of the sky. Two weeks ago, the merry yellow faces were reflecting the sun. (Too bad I didn't take a picture of that.)

Welcome to the jungle.
A broken lawnmower means our yard has been "doing its own thing" this spring. In places, this is actually quite lovely.

My yard-jungle.
Like here--a natural vignette by our walkway that reminds me of an overgrown garden.

So Much To Say, So Little Time.

What with our upcoming "move", getting the garden in, and school year wrap-up activities, I have had quite a lot of "life" happening that I would like to get onto this blog, but very little time and energy left at the end of the day to do it. The same could be said today, but I am MAKING the time.

First things first. The offer we made on the mobile home we really liked (see this post) has been accepted, and the mould test for the house was passed. If we can get the gas-fitter, mover, and all other necessary activites, people, and things lined up just right, we should be moving the trailer this upcoming weekend!

That is going to make for a very busy week.

Thankfully, the garden is officially in, as of today, except for a few tomato plants I have in the house still.

My chicks have been doing just fine. We have lost a few for various reasons, but now, at two and a half weeks old, they all have enough weight that they are a little more hardy. They proved this on Thursday night, when we had freezing temperature, heavy wind gusts, and rain which turned into snow (!) the next day. Yep, you read that right: Snow on June 1st. It still doesn't top 2002, when we had snow on the August Long Weekend! (First weekend of August, for you non-Canucks.) Anyway, the chicks were all still breathing the next morning, so all my prayers on their behalf through that cold, blustery night must have been heard! (Thanks again, God!)

I realize that this is a VERY brief update, but I really need to hit the hay. Let me leave you with some photos I took about two weeks ago, when spring had literally seemed to explode onto the scene in less than a week's time. We went from barren-looking trees and snow-covered lawns to crabapples in full bloom. (Some of last year's crabapples haven't wanted to "cut the apron strings" yet.)

Autumn's crab apples among Spring's flowers

And bees taking advantage of it.

Bee in the crabapple blossoms

And boys being silly...

Cheetahboy and Squirt in a silly hug.

... Wait. That happens year-round, doesn't it?