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Monday, November 22, 2010

Joke Journal entry

Matthew and Daniel were in a tussle over a black permanent marker. In the tussle, the lid came off and the marker left a 2 inch vertical mark on Matthew's forehead. In great agitation, Matthew ran to the mirror to inspect the damage. From the other room I heard him exclaim in disbelief: "Oh NO! I'm a human piggy-bank!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mineral show field trip

(Quick note- this post is to catch up from last month- I forgot to write about this weeks ago.)

We took a day of school and drove down to the Austin Annual Gem and Mineral show. It was SUCH a fun field trip! Our tickets were sponsored by Silicon Labs so we only had to pay parking. 

It was so incredible. There were paleontologists with tables of fossils, and they let the children take turns cleaning the fossils or chisel them out of the raw rock with vibrating hand tools. They really loved it. It's so much cooler than playing with a store-bought dinosaur kit with fake plaster bones. They were each given a free fossil to take home- super neat!

Another highlight was the polished rock area. You could pay fifty cents to have 2 minutes of digging through buckets and collecting polished rocks. This was the very favorite spot for our family. Matthew has a rock tumbler at home, and we've tumbled rocks before. That process take 6-8 WEEKS for just a handful of rocks to be polished. Matthew couldn't get over what a great deal it was to pay half a dollar for a bag full of beautiful rocks. We went through this station several times and the children had a blast. After the timed dig, they could compare their treasures to a display board showing the names of all the specimens. 

My personal favorite part of the show was an art display of collected minerals representing food. A large buffet table was set up with dishes and dishes of 'food'- but everything was made from rocks. It was so incredible to see how real many of the items looked. We spent a long time oohing and ahhing over the pieces and talking with the artist. They travel the country putting up this display. 

We took along picnic lunches and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Nature and Science Center in Zilker Park. The children brought bags full of items to trade at the trade counter, and Sarah brought home a coyote skull. It's funny to see it in her dainty room next to her other treasures- porcelain dolls, lace doilies, flowers, and ponies. The skull doesn't seem to really fit in, but it sums up Sarah's personality very well. One of our chickens died this year, and Sarah was so excited at the thought of collecting the bones. She has a bag of chicken bones right now, waiting to be traded at the Nature and Science Center. She's such a unique girl, and we love her.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joyous Proclamation

We're expanding our house by two more feet! I'm pregnant!

We have been praying for a long time for this blessing, and we are really excited to welcome a new little child into our home. The Lord told me a long time ago that there was another child meant for us. There have been several spiritual experiences when He has shared knowledge of this precious soul, and I feel like we know this child already. I feel really strongly like the birth will be a long-awaited reunion rather than an introduction.

Here is the story of how we found out about the pregnancy-

I had been experiencing health problems and pain everyday for months. I had been going to the doctor several times to try to diagnose what the problem is. After several tests, we narrowed it down to a select few conditions, but each of those can only be diagnosed through exploratory surgery. I went to my pre-op appointment with the doctor, and that was the day we discovered I'm pregnant. It was quite a surprise to both of us, and made surgery impossible.

Since we aren't sure what problem I have been experiencing, we are also not sure how it will affect the pregnancy. I do not know what the future holds for me- miscarriage? bed rest? preterm labor? Who knows. The due date is July 4th, 2011. 

I do feel peace over the situation. Whatever happens to me, I know that I will gain experience and grow spiritually.

Nathan and I are cautiously optimistic about the situation, and whatever trials come will only serve to draw us closer and add more pages to our life library of adventures.

Nathan is so excited; ecstatic really. He really loves babies. Every time we have guests that bring a baby, he just wants to hold the baby the entire time, and he's sad to watch it leave at the end of the night. I've been SO BLESSED with this wonderful man. He's been doing all the cooking and all the cleaning while I stay in bed. I laid on the couch and watched him bake crepes for Sarah's birthday breakfast (while dressed in his Sunday suit), clean the kitchen, dress the children, take them all to church, return home in time to make them lunch, clean up afterwards, bake 3 birthday cakes, cook up a storm of gourmet food for the local missionaries, feed the children and guests, bundle the children into bed, and stay up late cleaning the kitchen again...all the while he was blowing me kisses and brewing ginger tea for me and lovingly fetching me anything I could think of to calm my stomach. All in one day. Everyday has been like this. I'm only worried he'll burn out before the sickness ends.

I can't tell him enough how thankful I am for his cheerful work. Last night I was crying and feeling overwhelmed and so sick. I mentioned that I'd like a citrus Popsicle. He dashed out the door and ran to the store, bringing me back a orange Popsicle and medicine. It was almost midnight. What would I do without him?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Inspiration in unexpected places

I came across a remarkable story recently. I have a new personal hero, Cliff Young.

Chances are, you haven't heard of him, unless you live in Australia. From what I understand, he's a bit of a national hero. His story is amazing and inspiring. You can click on his name above for a link to his story.

I love real heroes that defy the odds. What makes him more endearing to me is his humble manner and unpretentious approach to the fame. He was a poor farmer that became a celebrity, but he didn't keep any of the prizes that were given to him. I hope you take the time to read his story. It made me love this stranger for his powerful determination. I think the world needs to hear more of the stories like this. 

Here is a video of his race:

I love acquainting myself with true heroic stories because it makes me evaluate my own actions. It motivates me to be more courageous, more compassionate, and push my own expectations. I want to be an excellent person, and true excellence isn't measured by paychecks or possessions. True excellence will always be measured by one's character.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Daily

I've been really sick lately. Really sick.

It's really helped me to focus on the positive. Heavenly Father has blessed me with so much. I realized that I really have no reason to complain. 

What are you thankful for? 

I'm so thankful for the opportunity I am blessed with to rediscover the wonder of the world with my children each week. I love how Daniel points out the magical things in our everyday life. I'm thankful that I have been taught how to read, so I can learn anything or travel anywhere with the turn of a page. I am so immeasurably thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which comforts me and sends me peace when I am sailing the stormiest seas of life. I am so thankful for my sweet Mr. Kingsley, who has been tirelessly taking care of me lately. I'm thankful for my soft bed, where I have been spending the bulk of my afternoons.

I'm very thankful for my body, even with it's complications. I am so thankful that I have arms to embrace my family, fingers to entwine in Sarah's soft hair, lips to kiss my children's velvety cheeks, eyes to appreciate Daniel's colorful art, and ears to enjoy the music they each create all day. 

A friend told me that calm seas don't make experienced sailors. I'm thankful that I have this trial and the opportunity to gain experience and grow stronger in spirit.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and enjoy life's little joys today! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chicken Guests and Special Project

We came home from running errands the other day and had a surprising discovery.
There was a row of chickens sitting on our couch! They looked perfectly content and appeared to be quite comfortable.

Our dog can open the back door if it's not locked. Evidently she let herself back into the house while we were gone. While she napped upstairs, the chickens made themselves at home.

Matthew's chicken is particularly inquisitive. Everyday this hen hops up the back steps and peers into the window in our back door. She'll tap the window with her beak and turn her head this way and that way, examining the activity inside the house. Our home school students think it's so funny.

I love the way it makes our home feel like a country home or a homestead farm. I'm so attracted to little cottages and family farms- it makes me smile every time a chicken steals a rare chance to stroll inside my home and eat the crumbs under the table. Those visits always make me smile and it prompts the children to squeal in delight. 

On another note, I'm working on a very special project. It's taking most of my energy. This project is huge. Nathan loves it so much. I think you'll be delighted.

What are you thankful for? I'm inspired to be thankful by my pioneer ancestors. Their journals and life stories are amazing. I am constantly strengthened by their examples and I admire what they were able to create out of barren desert. They made blossoming orchards and lovely homes out of almost nothing. It really makes me appreciate the simple things- running water, daily showers, a soft bed, medicine at my fingertips, and quick transportation. Whenever I feel like things are really hard in my life, I think of them. Suddenly my problems seem so small and manageable and I feel like I can conquer anything.

Matthew playing Dreidel for a Jewish history unit.
I hope you have a wonderful week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Girls' night at the Opera

I took Sarah and some of her friends to their first experience at the Opera. I'm registered with the Austin Opera as a home school teacher, so they blessed us with some free tickets to the performance. Isn't that wonderful?! When I was little I always dreamed of going to an opera, and never thought I would. It was one of my childhood dreams that Nathan later filled as a birthday gift (accompanied with a pair of burgundy and gold opera glasses to match my evening gown. What a thoughtful touch!). Nathan has a self-proclaimed mission to fulfill all my childhood dreams....but I suppose that's another story for another day. Suffice it to say I'm so blessed to have him as my best friend!

All the girls were so excited about our evening. I had listened to them talk about it all week long, full of eager anticipation. They all dressed up in their finest dresses and wrapped up in lacy shawls or sparkly stoles. They all lined up in my bathroom, giggling with delight as I put glitter and makeup on each of them. Many of the girls even had little purses with lipstick or lip gloss. It was so cute to watch them practice being 'sophisticated'.

We arrived at the opera just in time for the show. We watched "La Travatia" by Guiseppe Verdi. As the musicians tuned their instruments prior to the performance, our friend Minya said, "I know this song! I've heard this before!" It was pretty funny...she would exclaim the same thing after each intermission when the instruments would be tuned again. Halfway through the first act, another friend, Brianna, exclaimed in surprise, "Hey! Those are REAL people down there! This is amazing!" 

The performance was delightful, and the symphony was absolutely captivating. The girls would pass the opera glasses and an extra pair of pocket-sized binoculars back and forth quietly throughout the show. I passed out lemon drops to our group periodically whenever there was a particularly long song so the girls wouldn't get bored.

During the second intermission I held a vote among the girls. It was very late at night and I gave them the option of leaving early or staying for the rest of the show. I had thought they might be bored and didn't want to drag them through the entire thing unwillingly. I was delightfully surprised with their enthusiastic response. They all wanted to stay and watch the revenge between the Baron and Alfredo. They claimed to love the entire show. I'm so glad! They played hand-clap games during the was so fun to watch them.

I absolutely LOVE a good opera. The music is so captivating and the singing sounds so singular. I'm always astounded with the singers' vocal capacities. It gives me chills, and I constantly squeeze Nathan's hand in elation during the most beautiful parts. I'm always sitting at the edge of my seat in anticipation. I was SO thankful to be able to share this experience with my daughter. 

After the show we took the girls out for a dinner at a late-night restaurant. They had so much fun eating and chatting. We made it home right at midnight. On a school night. Can I just say again how much I love the freedom home school gives me? I LOVED being able to stay in bed an extra 2 hours this morning. My boys ran into my room early in the morning and we all snuggled under a pile of quilts together and drifted back off to sleep. It has been a delightful day so far!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween round-up

The week of Halloween is normally one of the busiest of the year for me. I feel like I've just jumped a huge hurdle, and I welcome November with open arms. There is simply too much to say about my past week, so I'll try to summarize and thus spare you the details that would run on too long, much like this sentence.

We had so much fun with our costumes this year. I never buy costumes new- it's so expensive. I also like the creative element in hunting out costume pieces in thrift stores. Sarah chose to be a beautiful witch, and she loved the face painting pattern we did on her. Her favorite part of the costume was the sparkly black tights. Very cute.

Matthew chose to be a vampire, and he LOVED the red-lined cape. His favorite part were the vampire teeth, and indispensable part of the attire.

Daniel asked me for a bed sheet with eye holes cut into it. He was so sweet and  particular in wanting the bedsheet ghost outfit, but I thought he'd get frustrated when the eye-holes moved. I found a great ghost costume that he really loved. The little tendrils would trail on the ground behind him, adding to the ethereal look.

I finally had the chance to wear the ball gown that has been haunting my closet for months. It was really fun. I wore a gold necklace pinned to my head in place of a crown. It was so fun to stroll around arm-in-arm with Nathan. We had several people ask for pictures- even little girls wanting a shot with Beauty and the Beast. It was really fun.
It is a tradition for our family to eat out at a restaurant after attending his work Halloween party. We love Tex-Mex food, so we went to Chuy's (if you ever visit this area, you simply must try out this restaurant, particularly the Chuychanga!). It is so fun to be dressed up in public. More people asked for pictures at the restaurant, and Nathan obliged.

The next day was our ward party. (A ward is what we call a congregation in our church.) I was on the Activities Committee, so I took the children up to the church early to help set up for the party. The children were in heaven- the bouncy house obstacle course was already set up when we arrived, so they played on it all by themselves for 2 hours while the adults decorated and set up tables. It was the perfect setup- I had been worried that they would be bored.

Unfortunately I don't have pics from the ward party since I couldn't find my camera. There were several carnival games with prizes. The tick-or-treat doors game I made was pretty popular for the tiny children that were too young for the other games. Nathan wired up sound effects for each doorbell. The monster mansion had rattling chains, creaking doors, monster moans, and ghost wailing. The witches house had bubbling cauldrons, screeching cats, and a cackling witch laugh. The Pumpkin Fairy's home had chimed doorbells and magical wand sounds. The graveyard had owls hooting, ravens calling, wolf howls, and wind whistling through the trees. It was so much fun!

I had been a bit stressed before the party since I had been sick earlier in the week and didn't get everything prepared that I was supposed to. We were in charge of baking prizes for the chili cook-off and pumpkin carving contest- but we ran out of flour. I couldn't make pumpkin bread, and didn't have time to let a pumpkin pie set before the party, so in desperation I pulled out a couple loaves of homemade bread from our freezer. (We make 4 loaves of bread twice a week. I freeze them until we are ready to use them, since they don't have any preservatives.) I wrapped them and topped them with bows of raffia. I was surprised that the winners were excited about the bread. I had thought they might be disappointed. I was very flattered that they were so enthusiastic about taking home Kingsley Bread.

The trunk-or-treat was so much fun for the children. I was so glad they had the chance to trick-or-treat. We didn't go trick-or-treating this year on Halloween since it fell on a Sunday. Instead we had a festive dinner with fun foods. We had a family join us and we made bean dip with spider webs piped on top with sour cream, cheese fondue with bread and veggies for dipping, and pizzas dressed like little mummies. The drink was really fun- it was like swamp slime with fish eggs in the bottom. The eggs were tapioca pearls that had been boiled with food coloring. They looked exactly like caviar. It was really fun to eat it! Our friends made Jello blood worms, which were a big hit.

On Saturday I had worked most of the day painting for a private party hosted by a mulit-millionaire. It was my first time in such a house. This was the biggest party I've ever seen- a full size carnival for the guests. There were bungee-jumping, rockclimbing, giant hamster balls to run in, laser tag, giant video games, bouncy houses, and a full collection of a dozen real carnival games with prizes. The catering was amazing, and it was fun to have my car parked by the valet. Can I just say that the costumes were out of this world? There is too much to share all my impressions of this party. I had prepared myself for spoiled kids with a huge sense of entitlement, but I was delightfully surprised. All the children were very courteous and well-spoken. It was actually the best gig I have ever worked. There weren't lines, so I was able to take the time to make the patterns amazing. A lot of adult women wanted to be painted- and those are always my very favorite clients. It was SO fun, and I hope I will be called back again next year. There was only one drawback- I couldn't hand out any of my personal business cards, since this booking was procured through my agent. I could only hand out his card. What a bummer. There were so many people asking for my information at this gig- and they would be fantastic clients. Ah well.