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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Where have you been?

Matthew LOVES to play chess!

Yeah, yeah. I know. 

It's been pretty dead around here lately. Before you smack me around, listen to my perfectly good reasons.

1- We had a bit of drama with a fire. (And that's a bit of an understatement.)  Have you ever cleaned up from a fire? The soot is ridiculously difficult to get off, and it covers everything! More about that later (whenever I can find my darn camera cord and upload the pictures. Then I'll share the story.).

2- The state DI tournament took up so much time and energy. (I even spent my birthday doing dress rehearsals with the team and packing my van for the trip to Houston for the competition) When we came home,  I needed to chill-ax for a couple days. Actually, I've been trying to single-handedly tame the voracious CHAOS monster that has been reigning in our home the past 2 months. It's a slow battle, but I'm surely winning. 

And I'll share more about our amazing (and humbling) experience at state....we were totally the small fish in the ocean! But we learned so much about how to improve, so we are already revving up for next year. More about that later....when I get pics uploaded. 

3- Taxes. Need I say more? Really? Okay then. The state competition was only a day before the tax deadline. As a coping strategy, I filed an extension to buy more time.....and now it's time for me to catch up. 

4- Projects, projects everywhere. 

Nathan and I emptied most of our garage contents into the attic, and have been working on refinishing it into a living space. The second wall is up, thanks to a particularly generous friend who volunteered to install it for free. We were floored by his kindness, but he shrugged it off by saying, "Hey,  you helped my kid all year in your DI team, so this is a way I can return the favor." I was really humbled and filled with gratitude for his help. He didn't know that this help was actually a direct answer to one of my prayers to the Lord this month. Never forget we are often the Lord's hands in answering other people's prayers! 

My other project has been our garden. Ever move a dump-truck-load of compost by small wagons across a large property into a garden bed? No? Well then, you've never lived! There's nothing more fun than getting dirty carting soil around and getting blistered hands from shoveling dirt all afternoon. Actually though, I'm doing my little happy dance over this garden. It's worth every bit of the work. I must be sick and twisted.....but in a good way. 

5- Not content to sit back and relax after the state DI tournament, we immediately launched into new activities. In the hopes of continuing my mother-in-laws unique after-school snack tradition, we started hosting Waffle Wednesdays:  a day when kids can come over and enjoy a fun after-school snack with our family. Last week I cooked six batches of waffles and fed 10 guests. Whenever my camera cord is found (it's currently held hostage by the terrifying monster mentioned in item 2 of this post), I'll post pics and do a full post about it. In a nutshell, it was very fun and we made new friends. And I cooked waffles for over an hour. Not my preferred method of 'fun', but I feel like it's an important service.

My view is this is one way I can serve the Lord by blessing the families in our neighborhood. I'm hoping the experience will prove to be a positive, encouraging time for everyone. My goal is to invite people to enjoy a light-hearted, positive experience. The world is overwhelmingly too depressing and dark, and this is one small way I'm combatting that. Everyone said it was a hit and asked to be invited to the next one. 

Sarah and Matt deliberate their next moves in Grandma's library.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Birthday Wishes

Today I turn 30. 

Months ago I had dreamed of celebrating my birthday by renting an ice cream truck and giving out free treats at a local park in a poor neighborhood. Wouldn't that be such a life-enriching experience? I imagined the faces of children lighting up in glee when they were handed delicious treats. I'd feel like a summer-time Santa.

Then I found out the price tag for such an excursion ($400-yikes!) and decided to spread joy a slightly less expensive way.

So. I thought about things more and realized my truest joys come from Jesus Christ, and wanted to find a way to spread that love on my birthday.

Will you share your testimony of Jesus Christ today as your Facebook status?

Please tag me in your post so I can read your testimony!

The gospel is TRUE! Jesus Christ is REAL! He knows and loves each of us, and wants to guide us safely home to our Father in heaven. The power of Christ's atonement can transform your life, and this power is freely given to any who seek it. Isn't it marvelous?

This is such joyful news! I want to sing it from the rooftops!

Christ's original church has been restored to the earth under His direction, and He is at the helm of it today. I love my Savior with all my heart and look eagerly and joyfully forward tho the day He will return as King of Kings on this earth and reign in love and peace.

I KNOW Christ lives. I know He will come again. The Spirit has witnessed it to me so powerfully as to prevent any misunderstandings.

I truly hope you will find a safe refuge in Christ. This world is too troubled to live without faith and hope in Jesus,  the one who has power to mend every ill in society.

I hope your day is filled with joy and peace.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Glimpses of our farm

Yesterday I followed Diego around the property while he toddled around exploring for flowers, chased a few butterflies, dug in the dirt, and tried to stalk a song bird. Since a friend asked for pictures of our property, I carried along my camera and documented a few of the places Diego went. 

First we collected the mail. This is what the road in front of our house looks like. I think it's so peaceful and quiet out here! Little one lane roads have such charm. It's perfect for biking with our kids. 

This is the gated entrance to our driveway. Most country properties out here have gated driveways to keep in the livestock. I LOVE the way it keeps away any unwanted solicitors. In our city house we were bombarded with door-to-door salesmen several times each week. Now I don't see any. Score!

Here is one of the children's favorite climbing trees. (See the chair left behind from the last child's play?) They hang from the tree like monkeys, or sit up on top and straddle it like a horse and pretend it's a giant dragon giving them rides to a far off castle. This tree gets more play than any other tree on the farm. Diego always climbs on the chair and tries to reach the tree, but he's not tall enough yet. 

This is the view walking back up our driveway. The trees shade our property nicely, cooling the yard several degrees in the summer. Most of the yard near the house is under a canopy of leaves, so we spend a lot of time there. 

This is one of the many flowering bushes on our farm. It smells just like a rose, but I'm not sure what it is exactly.

Part of our front yard.

This week we counted 49 new fruits on our apple tree.

I love all the different flowering plants we have this time of year. There are different flowers on vines, bushes, grasses, and trees. I love the spring in Texas! The wildflowers are everywhere!

This is a view of one shaded area of the yard. Several clusters of trees completely shade an acre or so of our farm. It's a delightful area to play. My hope is to put picnic tables here and install a couple zip lines for the kids.

This is my favorite tree- The Grandfather Tree. Last year Daniel climbed this tree and became tightly wedged. It's too far from the house for anyone to hear his calls for help. He had to sit there until I found him. It didn't take long for me to find him, but it was pretty funny discovering him trapped in a tree with a cat who climbed up to keep him company.

These are some of the wildflowers who populate the sunny parts of the yard in our fruit orchard. They dot the landscape anywhere there is sun. We also have white and purple wildflowers. It's lovely. I love seeing a field of flowers nodding their heads in the breeze. 

Shots of more trees...just cause I like them so much.

This is the view out of our dining room windows. Diego loves to watch out this window for the school bus and wave 'hello' to the Big Kids as they come home.

Often while we wait for the school bus to arrive, I take Diego out to the tire swing. He loves singing our "Swing Song" while we sway slowly in the shade. It's a song my grandma always sings when she pushes children on the swings. I like passing the tradition on to my own children. 

This is what we see when we recline on the tire swing and look up. 

So. There is a wee bit of our farm. I love it here and feel contentment every time I step outside to listen to the birds. 

There is a special peace that I feel around big trees, and a unique joy that fills my heart when birds fill the air with song.

I wouldn't trade this little patch of earth for anything. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Animal Whisperer

Daniel feels such a deep connection with animals. He has a special gift with creatures, and he's always drawn to animals as if he's pulled by an invisible string tugging him in their direction. 

He can't help but pet any creature he finds, like the summer he mortified me and played with monstrously huge Texan spiders. He giggled and let them crawl all over his head, arms, and chest. These spiders had a 6 inch leg span. (Shudder!) To watch Daniel, you'd think these spiders had all the charm and appeal of new puppies. 

Another occasion we went to a zoologist show. The presenter called Daniel up to the stage and put a huge live scorpion on Daniel's head for several minutes. He loved it.

Today he told me, "I often wish I was a chicken." Trying to stifle my laughter, I asked him why he felt that way. He responded, " The feathers are sooo soft and I've always wanted to hatch my own eggs!"

These photographs capture him perfectly.  He's often found by himself quietly cuddling with a cat in bed or cradling a chicken in his arms. This is what Daniel finds joy in the most.

farm horse, sweetberry farms, texas farm, boy and horse

At night he carefully brings his favorite cat, Severus, into bed. Severus sleeps on Daniel's pillow, with blankets loving tucked around his furry body with all the gentle care of a concerned parent. Severus purrs loudly for hours while he cuddles with Daniel each night.It's so fun to check on my children in the middle of the night and see Severus still lounging on the pillow, happy as can be. 

Daniel is so happy to live on a farm and be surrounded with animals every day. Life is so good for him here! I am filled with joy when I watch him interact with his furry or feathered friends. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter portraits

Our adopted 'Texan Grandma' surprised the kids with new Sunday outfits and boy were they tickled.

Before we left for church, I snagged a couple of quick photos for Easter Sunday.

Usually Sarah *hates* to pose for pictures, but today she felt beautiful and confident and totally hammed it up for the camera. These moments are very rare for our introverted daughter, so I took as many pictures as I could while she giggled and posed.

We were also delighted with an Easter surprise- new chicks! We had two broody hens that we allowed to keep clutches of eggs, and this morning we discovered new fluffy chicks peeping in the nesting boxes. We are delighted, and the mother hens seem so proud of their families.

Daniel asked for a quick portrait in his new suit, then begged for funny face pictures.