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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Art gallery

Today we went to an art gallery in downtown Austin for a field trip. We loved it! It's called Art On 5th. It's free to the public, and has free parking onsite (HUGE bonus!). Daniel's favorite collection, hands-down, was the Secret Works of Suess. 

It was SO amazing to see his private art works!
 My favorite part were the Unusual Taxidermist pieces. He took real animal parts from deceased zoo animals and sculpted fantastical creatures around them. 

There were so many beautiful works in this gallery, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something to do in Austin.

 It was very family-friendly as well, so I felt welcomed with my little troop of preschoolers there.

Family Emergency Prep- 72 hour kits

It's time to rotate the food and update the contents of our 72-hour kits. There were a lot of changes I made this year regarding the bag contents that made it much more organized. For example, think about the food. Last year our packs were well-stocked with adequate food, but it was just packed into all the nooks and crannies of the container without any order. We didn't know what food items were meant for each day. The only way to know what you had to eat that day would be to unload ALL the food, take an inventory, and divide by three. That's simply too much work to do with 5 separate 72-hour kits. I saw an idea of packaging the food items for each day in a labeled gallon ziploc bag. Fantastic! It's so orderly now!

 I had an idea of how to do it in a way to engage the children more than last year. Last year I did all the packing by myself. This year we arranged all the food items on the side table and all the children packed their own bags for each day. Here is the table set up with the snacks and meal choices.

 We'd all start with our 'Day #1' bag, then we'd walk around the table with everyone packing hte same items at the same time. They'd all put in 2 granola bars, 2 oatmeal packets, etc... until the day's-worth of food was all packed. Then I'd ask them to check their bags and raise their hand if they could see 2 granola bars, then 2 oatmeal packets, etc until we covered everything they should have for the day. That ensured a fast quality-check to make sure no one missed an item. This was so fast the the kids loved being able to choose their own items.

 I had a few varieties of flavors for each time, so they could use their own discretion in selecting food. The activity was a hit, and we had everyone's food packed in less that an hour. Here is the finished table with 3 days of food for a family of 5.
I was asked by some friends what exactly we pack into our meals, so I took pictures of the adult meals for each day. The kids meals were identical except they had the smaller bowls of spaghettios and pasta instead of a regular-sized can like we did. There are a few things to note-
1- I added bags of extra plain oats with each day, since A- the little prepared packets don't hold much food, B- there's always too much sugar, so the prepared oatmeal is too sweet, so this will dilute the proportion of sugar, and C- we like having 'real' oats that aren't the instant kind, the instant kind are too powdery and have no texture.
2- The granola bars and fruit snacks had a wide variety of choices, but these pictures show the same thing in all of them, since I let the kids pick theirs all first and I took the left-over choices. There is more variety of flavor in their bags. The same applies to the cans of fruit. I had a few kinds of fruit for them to choose.
3- The same applies to the dinners- they had canned Mac and cheese for one day, spagettios, ravioli, and tuna salad to pick from.
4- I packed the utensils for the day in each bag, and a few napkins as well. Everyone's bag should have everything they need, so they aren't clambering for me to help them find a utensil or something.
5- The only thing I wanted to pack and didn't was Travel size wet wipes for their hands. I couldn't find any in the store. If you were making this, I would put 2-3 in each bag, so they can clean up after the meal.
6- Don't pack nuts or tail mix (goes rancid in a few months), jerky (makes you too thirsty, not fun to eat for kids), chocolate-coated anything (melts).
7- The water bottles aren't packed in the daily bag, they are separate in the family packs. We have several cases of bottled water that get loaded separately in an evacuation. Don't forget that clean water is THE most important commodity in an emergency!

Okay, here's the food pictures-

Day One
Breakfast- oatmeal, fruit, trail mix bar. 
Snack- raisins, gum, fruit snacks
Lunch- Meal replacement bar, fruit. drink power (add to water bottle)
Dinner- Tuna salad, Meal replacement shake, raisins, granola bar

Day Two
Breakfast- oatmeal, fruit
Snack- fruit snacks, gum, granola bar
Lunch- Protein bar, raisins, meal replacement shake
 Dinner- Canned pasta, fruit, drink powder, granola bar
Day Three

Breakfast- oatmeal, fruit, granola bar
Snack- fruit snacks,  raisins, gum
Lunch- meal replacement bar, Ramen (eat dry or cook), drink poweder
Dinner- Canned soup, fruit, granola bar

I had been worried that the food wouldn't pack as tightly into the backpacks if they were compartmentalized like this, but they packed just a well as they did before. Just be sure to squeeze excess air out of the bag.

I also found a great list of what to pack in your personal 72-hour kits. The list is from a fantastic website that I link to on the sidebar of my blog. It's called the 'Prepared LDS Family".  I highly recommend you visit her site for any emergency preparedness, food storage (Why store food? See the answer here), and smart shopping tips. I love her site! It's really changed the way I do food storage and emergency preparedness. It's helped me get much more organized! Here's a copy of her list for PERSONAL supplies:
72-Hour Kit Personal SuppliesBackpack, tote or small suitcase
List of items in kit (put near top)
Important numbers (update every 6 months)
A recent family photo
Map of city and vicinity
Small flashlight like a Maglite
Batteries for flashlight (put in separate baggie with the flashlight near top)
Emergency rain poncho (put near top)
3-N95 Medical mask (put at top) (Can help during a fire)
Mini First Aid Kit (update every 6 months) (put near top)
Light stick on a neck cord
Whistle on a neck cord
Hand warmers
Thermal reflective (space) blanket
3 day supply of food (2000 calories per day per adult)
3 gallons of water (*will be more than you can carry. Only pack what you can carry)
Pencil and small notebook
Cards, crossword puzzles, sudoku, etc.
Paperback book (I put mine in a gallon ziploc bag in case of water leakage)
Scriptures (Military size is good)
Small comb or brush
Small mirror
Antibacterial hand wipes
Pocket tissues
Lip balm
Wash cloth for sponge bath
Travel-sized toothpaste, toothbrush
Travel-sized liquid body soap
Travel-sized shampoo/conditioner
Travel-sized deodorant
Travel-sized lotion
Travel-sized hand sanitizer
Razor (males)
Personal sanitary items
3 large trash bags
Toilet paper roll
Copies of personal papers & documents for this person (put in hidden but accessible location)
Money - $50 per pack, small bills & coins, waterproof bag (put in hidden but accessible location. This is not all the emergency cash you should have. Just an amount that is always stashed away in your 72-hour kit.)
Waterproof matches (not for young children)
Extra Kit Items for KidsGames, cross-word puzzles, coloring book and crayons, stuffed animal, small toys, infant pacifier 
Comfort foods 
Clothing Ideas 
Complete set clothing: pants, 2 socks, underwear, long-sleeved shirt (can roll up if hot), hat, mittens
Sturdy shoes (Not in pack)
Coat (Not in pack) However, if you can squish a windbreaker in, do it.
Sleeping bag or lightweight wool blanket (Not in pack) (in lawn bag or sturdy bag)
Sleeping pad (grab if you have time)

There are different items to store in a communal family bucket, like a large first aid kit, tarp, rope, leather gloves, etc. If anyone wants the info, you can find it on her site, or ask me and I'll send you a copy. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Joke Journal entry

Daniel- "Mom, why do you always ask me to pick up all the shoes?"
Mom- "Because you are so good at it."
Daniel- "Clever, Mom. Very clever."

At a friend's house, whose son is named Christopher, Daniel yells, "Christopher, I love you so much, so you're in my dictionary!"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday protraits

We arrived a shocking 30 minutes early at church this week, so we went outside to play. These are some pictures I caught in between their games of tag on the church lawn As they ran by, I'd bribe them to pause and look at me for a quick second while I snapped a picture. 

Sunday romp in the meadow

I absolutely LOVE this time of year in Texas. Every little strip of grass along the highway is bursting with color. We've had a great wet season, so the flowers are more abundant than usual. Literally everywhere you go, there are wildflowers scattered along the ground. Check here for some stunning wilflower shots. Here is a small meadow we visited:

There is this ritual every spring that happens here. Everyone takes their kids out to the meadows of wildflowers and takes pictures of them amidst the bluebonnets. It's tradition. If you're Texan, you have a picture somewhere in bluebonnets. There is a reason for this: the land is carpeted in blooms and it's breathtaking. I've watched everyone else do this each year, and I've always resisted doing it. Not because I think the flowers aren't pretty (on the contrary, they make my heart sing anytime I drive anywhere) it's because I hate doing whatever the masses are doing. I always want to do my own thing and not conform with the crowd. Okay, Okay. For 5 years I've resisited joining the masses of other Texans, but I decided to do it this year.

Why did I do it? I mainly did it to share the pretty scenery with distant grandparents and friends who have never seen the Texas wildflowers. I don't expect any local Texans to even glance at this posting, because they are saturated with pictures of the same thing from other parents. I had never seen anything like this before I moved here....although that doesn't mean much seeing as how I grew up in the desert, so there weren't any flowers that grew wild anyway.

I heard stories of other families getting bitten by snakes when they ventures into the bushy growth, and doctors tell me how they hate treating kids who're hurt because their parents told them to go pose for a picture. I've heard of fire ant nests ruining the day, spider bites, bee stings, etc. This is another reason why I was reluctant to go play in the flowers.

This Sunday we stopped in one such meadow along the drive to church, and jumped out for a quick 5-minute photo shoot. The kids all had fun tromping through the meadow while I caught several candids. The only one who stepped in a fire ant mound was me (luckily I was wearing thick knee-socks instead of nylons, so no damage occurred). Everyone did collect a spider bite or two, but it wasn't as bad as a feared it would be.

On another note...I know the lighting is bad. I know we should take outdoor pictures near sunrise for good lighting, but honestly, when are you going to do that? Before school? Not happening. On a Saturday-- the ONLY day you have a tiny chance of sleeping in? No chance. Sunday it is, but then they all have to be ready for church before you go out, and that doesn't' happen quickly either, so the sun's rays are no longer soft and gentle. I figure we're lucky to have a picture in the bluebonnets at all, but the perfectionist in me still points out all the things wrong with these pictures. There is a small chance that I'll go out again with the kids and re-shoot everything.

There are swaths of different colors in different meadows, and my favorite fields are the ones that are dotted with a variety of red, blues, yellows, and pinks all together. It's breathtaking. Unfortunately it seems like the best patches of wildflowers are along highways, and you just can't really take pictures there.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I love my job

What can I say? I really love my job! Today I worked for the University of Texas Law School for an alumni reunion. This is a repeat client from last year. Today we were located outside under the majestic sprawling arms of ancient oak trees. The music was provided by a fantastic mariachi band (I love mariachi bands! I think that comes from growing up in Rexburg and being a host family to people from Mexico in the summers during the Fold Dance Festival. You just can't get much better that. Great memories!) Chuck, the characiter artist, paid the band to come play for our table. We really enjoyed getting a personal show of good music. With the slow flow of painting requests, I had 90 minutes of spare time to chat with the balloon artist and eat the yummy food.T he food was catered fajitas and catered cupcakes with homemade ice cream.

It's the easiest booking of the year. Although, I do think it's not fair for them to be paying me by the hour when only 4 kids show up to the event. I pointed this out to our client, and she laughed it off. I guess they are all lawyers with plenty of money to spare, but my work ethic was still screaming at me to spend the time actually working rather than eating and chatting, waiting for a customer. However, if I am pressed to pick which is better between A) a long line of tired children waiting for their turn or B) being paid even though there are almost no children to paint.....I definitely pick B. It was so laid-back and relaxing. Usually my bookings are very busy and pretty stressful.

Earlier this week I worked for a PayPal corporate party on Earth Day. It was really nice except for the rain, so they moved us inside the offices to set up. Along the way we passed through a break room so I could fill my water buckets in the sink. The room was packed with free food for the employees...baskets of muffins, granola bars, cold cereal dispensers in one corner, boxes of herbal tea varieties lined one wall, popcorn and crackers filled other shelves. Even the vending machines were complimentary! In the lounge were a Wii and foosball table. What a neat place! This was a pretty fun booking as well. The kids were very well-behaved and Amy's Ice Cream was catering bowls of delicious ice cream and candy.

I wanted to take pictures of the work from this week, but I figured that I shouldn't mess with taking pictures of lawyer's kids to post online. (Quick tangent....I painted the son of a lawyer whose name was 'Judge'.Really. I'm not making it up.)

Sometimes my job is stressful, but this week has been a fantastic week at work. I love it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blessing in the Garden

(Hmm....this is a re-post from last year. I don't know how the system did this. Skip it if you've read this before) Okay, you know how much I love locally-produced food. I am a big advocate of the local farmer's market and backyard gardening. I especially love pulling up grass and replacing it with beneficial plants. Grass is so expensive to maintain, in terms of water usage, fertilizer, and time spent mowing it. I've been teaching some gardening classes to a variety of home school friends and church friends. I think it SO important to know where your food comes from and have control over what you eat. It gives you independence in a way nothing else can. I love it!

Recently I contacted a local garden center in an effort to buy ripped bags of garden soil for a discount. I was informed that they store policy was to never sell the ripped bags of soil because some customers would intentionally destroy the bags and then ask for sa discount. I couldn't believe that! So this company was throwing away all the perfectly usable garden implements. They wanted to donate it to a non-profit group, but didn'thave time to find one. I explained my gardening classes (which are completely non-compensated) and they agreed to let me come twice a week and collect any broken bags for free! What a huge resource! That represents several hundrede dollars of supplies each day we collect from them. I've arranged several volunteers with trucks or trailers to drive down to the store, then I do all the paperwork for the inventory lists, and we fill an entire truck bed with supplies. We unload everything in my garage as a distribution site for the students of my gardening classes. It's really blessed a lot of families, since Central Texas has to have raised beds for gardening. It's extrememly expensive to build the raised bed...not for the wall materials, but for the dirt itself. When we did our first raised bed last year, it was $100 for one 4 foot square garden. Ouch! It's really difficult for most families in our ward to afford the initial investment of starting a garden. I'm really glad I can help get people started...Ithink it's so important for everyone to have some form of food production on their property, no matter what size it is.

This morning we had no volunteer with a truck, so I went down on my own to fill my van with whatever we could fit. There were 5 full pallets of supplies waiting for me! There was no way I was going to make 10 trips to bring all that home! When I arrive home with my first load of bags, I called all my students from the last gardening class I taught. Within 30 minutes, we had a caravan of 4 vans headed to the store. We all backed up and loaded up, and still only fit half of the pile!
Our stake presidency is concerned about Satan's increasingly targeted attack on young children, so they hosted a Standards Night for Primary children this week. All families with Primary children from the stake were encouraged to attend. The Stake Primary Presidency put together a 2 hour sharing time for all the children that came so the parents could focus on the teachings occurring in the chapel. Can you imagine how many children were in the Primary that night? They packed the gym! I was so impressed with how organized everything was for the children. I was so thankful for the time and energy those people put into this night.

In the chapel we were blessed with amazing talks about several things.

One speaker emphasized the need for a strong foundation in moral standards. Our youth receive the "For the Strength of the Youth" booklet that outlines moral choices that will protect and improve them, but he said that parents need to teach these principles as soon as children can speak and understand. If we wait until they are teenagers to teach this, it will be too late, bot the vicious attacks of Satan are the strongest during the teen years and the foundation hasn't been laid. It's too late to build that foundation of strength if you endeavor to begin during those years. He strongly suggested that we build our weekly Family Home Evening lessons around one topic of the book and continue this pattern until we have covered everything in the book. I loved that idea and felt in my heart that our children DO need this discussion now.

Sister Nicholas emphasized that we really need to have the Spirit in our parenting. There is no greater tool on earth for protecting and blessing our children. The Spirit knows when our children are in danger or when they should avoid certain places/people and he will communicate these things to us, but only if we are attuned to it. She said this is one of the most important skills for parents to hone: listening to the Spirit. I had never heard that before, but I instantly saw the wisdom of this counsel. She pointed out that if you are always in a hurry, or stressed about little things, you can't hear the Spirit's whispers and you'll miss them entirely.  I hope I can take time each day to ponder and slow down mentally so I can grow stronger in this area. She shared stories of times when the SPirit told ehr to keep her children home from some fun activities that they had wanted to attend, and she found out weeks later that the situations were very bad and the children in those places were abused. She was so thankful for the gift of the Spirit that helped her keep her children safe. I feel like society is so twisted and wicked, and it requires me as a mom to be constantly vigilant to see the possible dangers around us. Children are increasingly targets for felons and I will happily accepts all the help I can to protect these little ones from broken hearts.

President Brown commented in particular about spending time with our families on Sundays. He used to play basketball with his son after church and years later his son told him, "That meant the world to me. I looked forward so much to having that time with you each week." While playing basketball in and of itself may be debatable and inappropriate for Sundays, he said that the family time was very important and that condoned the activity. I agree with this and have decided to plan fun activities for Sunday afternoons. In particular, Sarah has been begging me to get out the sewing machine and teach her how to sew dresses for her dolls. This is what I hope to incorporate into our Sundays. 

President Huntsman discussed 'family time'. In particular he said that the family should not be involved in so many activities that the family must divide inorder to attend them all. Whatever we choose to be engaged in (sports, dance, band, etc) we should support as an entire family.  He also emphasized family heritage and family unity.  I felt prompted to make a family motto to recite every night. I"m working onthe details now, but I liked the format the Huntsmans used: "I will respect and honor the Huntsman Name. 'H' is for honesty in all our doings, "U' is for unity, etc".

I will respect and honor the Kingsley name.
K is for Keep the commandments of God in every place.
I is for Integrity everyday.
N is for Never give up.
G is for Go the extra mile.
S is for Service to God and man.
L is for Love one another.
E is for Ever learning new things.
Y is for You are priceless.

Great news and sad news in the same envelopes

Today Matthew and Sarah brought home the results of the gauntlet of testing they went through to see if the school deems them worthy of the Gifted and Talented program. They've been taking tests throughout the past few months, and the results are in.

Matthew IS approved to participate in the program for next year. I thought he had a strong chance of making it, especially since he is a-maz-ing-ly creative at problem-solving. He is so creative that he makes huge projects for himself literally every afternoon when he gets home for school. It makes a huge mess, because he collects things from all over the house to make his ideas become reality. It reminds me of the this commercial released around Christmastime that was put out by the LDS church. This scenario happens at our house every day.

It's a big hassle to clean everything up, and it used to really bother me. I was very tempted to box up all the bins of craft supplies and hide them so they would stop making such colossal messes. Luckily I had an epiphany moment before the crafts were doomed to the garage. I realized that Matthew LOVES self-initiating these projects and he's so good at thinking outside of the box in order to reach his goals. I didn't want to curb his enthusiasm for being creative, so I let the craft supplies stay.

We were very excited for him with this success, even though I don't agree with the standardized testing and 'labeling' of children. I think lots of children are very smart, but don't conform to the one mold created by the public school system. I think standardized testing is flawed, which brings me to the next point.

Sarah's envelope held disappointment. She is a very good student, but not considered eligible for the Gifted program. She has gotten straight A's and has been performing above her grade level in a couple academic areas, so I am not sure why they didn't accept her into the full-time program. We thought she had a great chance at making it into the program, especially since she reads so far beyond her grade level.  She had been participating in the Gifted program all year this year and really loved the enriching activities. She crumpled into tears at the thought of missing the program's activities and was very morose all evening. It was very hard news to bear.  She perused her letter and noticed the small print. She pleaded with me to make an appointment with the school staff so I can discuss the testing results with the administrators. We'll see what happens.

She was very depressed in inconsolable for a long time. I told her that we don't have to let the school be the only thing to provide the 'gifted' activities. I suggested that we could incorporate homeschooling into our family again and we could provide her enriching activities at home. We are planning on homeschooling over the summer anyway, and the 8 week social studies program I'm planning is WAY more intense than the school was anyway. (Massive tangent: It's a history immersion program that takes the children through great civilization of the past each day. They learn several arts and facts of the culture and time period then they present it in a cultural celebration at the end. I have the curriculum for Ancient Rome and the Ancient Americas {Inca, Maya, and Aztec nations'}, but we haven't picked which one to do yet. As a previous homeschooling mom, I think these books are amazing! I can't wait to start the material!) She perked up a bit at this discussion.

Nathan also suggested that he should make German pancakes for dinner if it would cheer Sarah up. She nodded 'yes' and felt much better. I'm glad he thought of making German pancakes; they use up a dozen eggs in one sitting. Our chickens have been producing prodigiously and we literally have buckets overflowing with eggs right now. Some days we collect a dozen eggs in one afternoon! Anyone want some farm-fresh eggs? Seriously. I have like 6 dozen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Campout Time

This past weekend was our ward campout. The setting was coincidentally our favorite camping site: Berry Springs Park. It's a huge pecan orchard that was given to the city for a park in 2002. The trees are over 100 years old, so the property is beautifully shaded and very scenic. Nathan was working late doing presentations at NI, so I packed the children and took them to the campsite alone.

We decided to make it into a mock emergency evacuation drill. We try to practice this every 6 months or so. We set the timer and had everyone go do their assigned duties. The children all lugged their 72-hour kits into the van, then Sarah ran to collect the first aid box and medicines while Matthew collected sleeping bags. Daniel gathered pillows from each bed and Sarah moved onto the journals and scriptures while Matthew leashed Bella. I loaded the tent, water, and family 72-hour buckets. It went tolerably well and we were loaded and set to go in 12 minutes! Daniel did end up wandering aimlessly through the house, forgetting to collect the pillows. When I did remind him of his only duty, he frantically brought me the decorative throw pillows from the couch....I see we have room for some improvement. :)

 Daniel really loved playing in the tent. I remember how magical and exotic tents were when I was a child.

Nathan loves climbing trees, so he convinced a lot of children to join him off the ground. I could hear the kids giggles floating across the clearing to where I was sitting. I think they really loved it.

 Sarah made it to the first branch, then was frightened and asked to be put on the earth again. Later that afternoon, Sarah whispered something in Nathan's ear and asked him to come see a surprise she had for him. She took him to a tree and proceeded to scale up the tree all by herself. She was so pleased with her accomplishment! Nathan was so pleased that she conquered her fear.

Here is Matthew perched in his tree.
It like an overnight party for the children. They loved playing with all their friends, romping through the meadow and orchard on a grand adventure they imagined.
Daniel discovered a surprising love for football (the American kind). The teenagers and some adults were playing football and Daniel was determined to play with them. He lined up with them and skirmished alongside them. We were surprised that he didn't get any broken toes.

He was so funny to watch as he doggedly chased the ball around. I think someone gave him a spare ball to play with as a way of occupying him. He carried it around for hours.
It was such a great weekend to spend together!It was such an adventure to go camping. Now that I'm the mom, it's not so much an adventure. It's a LOT of work. I read a quote somewhere a long time ago that said parents don't do activities like this because they think it fun. It's not fun for the adults. Why go through all this effort? Because it creates meaningful memories for our children that will stick with them forever and help unify our family.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nathan's Poetry- Old Birds

Old Birds

Two hairs sat like eagles, their feathers a-fluttering,
reminiscing on days of yore,
and how swiftly, it seemed, that their crag was uncluttering;
and how woolly it was there before.

"In MY day birds spread like a rug o'er this rock!"
said the first, with conceit, to the other.
"A regular wig and an elegant flock!"
the second agreed with his brother.

Their time-ravished ridge appeared weathered and shorn.
It reflected an unwholesome gleam.
Rejecting new flights and new perches with scorn,
they made a belligerent team.

With envy they'd scowl at the fowl 'cross the way.
A thick flock and sturdy new roost.
Said one to the other, "Outlandish display!"
"Rogaine," his partner deduced.
"I remember when we were a shock such as they."
"I'm sure we were never so bold!"
"At least handsome of plumage and none of it grey."
They argued and sat and grew old.

Now sitting alone, two trees in a clearing,
unshielded, to quake in the wind.
Though anxious, perhaps, that the fall might be nearing,
contented to wait with a friend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Okay, I get irrationally excited over fabric. Skip this post if you don't care about it. Here are some of the fabrics I'm working with lately...

This is my favorite one. I plan to use it to make Sarah a late Colonial-era ball gown. Think of Felicity from the American Girls books....she has a similar pattern on her dress on the cover of the first book. The total cost for this ball gown will likely be $20.

These are all wool blends and suitings for waistcoats. Waistcoats look like a vest. Nathan and the boys will wear these, and these are intended to be the 'working' vests, so they have muted colors and plain patterns. In the rare occasion that we would do a ball or other special occasion, Nathan would wear a silk waistcoat, and paisley patterns were very popular during the time we reenact, so he'd likely have a bright paisley. (Isn't that weird to think about?)

This is the fabric for my own dress. It was on clearance at the fabric store, so the entire dress costs only $20. Not bad!

Sarah is always very hot and hates wearing clothing that restricts the air flow around her body. She hates pants and literally wears skirts everyday. I really liked some fabrics on sale at the store, so I bought them and made a couple play dresses for this summer. The dress is very breathable and perfect for hot Texas summers.

Nathan's Poetry

I realized that I've neglected to share much of Nathan's poetry on this site, so I'll add them bit by bit. I love the beauty of poetry! I feel like I'm the heroine in the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' each time I read his beautiful words. What a neat talent to be the benefactress of!


How do you see me when I'm not nearby?
What foibles do you recall?
When do you miss me when we say 'goodbye'?
When do you miss me at all?

How to secure a firm place in your life?
Where can I find your heart's key?
How to be worthy to call you my wife?
What sort of man should I be?

When you think back on the time spent with me,
How many times do you muse:
"What stunning example of manhood is he!
Whom better could ever I choose?"

What poet's power consoles those apart?
How to bring peace with a pen?
How could but words soothe my lonely-filled heart?
When will I see you again?

When next we are near let it not be the same,
What passion, our past, will eclipse!
How sweet it will be when you call out my name,
What thrill your caress on my lips.

Why waste time with asking and not begin here?
How happier we'll be then!
Who gladder, than I, will be when I hear:
"How lovely to see you again!"

Happy Birthday

My birthday was on Sunday this week. My family was so sweet to me, and I felt perfectly blessed.

 On the drive home from church the children plotted out their schemes. As soon as we arrived home, Matthew opened the door with great dignity and helped me out of the car as he called me 'Princess'. He escorted me into the house, where Sarah was busily setting up  a container of water for a foot scrub. Nathan moved the furniture to make a comfortable 'throne' in the middle of the room, where he instructed me to sit. Matthew brushed my hair while Sarah rubbed my feet and Daniel napped. Nathan worked in the kitchen, cooking chicken cordon bleu, gourmet mashed potatoes (with garlic, heavy cream, and butter-YUM!), and salsa green beans. In the place of birthday cake, he made Tres Leches cake and Rasmalai (my favorite dessert! I CRAVE it!). The meal was sumptuous and the company was the best.

This is Rasmalai, an Indian dessert made of tender cheese curds (like ricotta, but firmer)shaped into balls and cooked in a sweetened milk syrup with saffron, almonds, and cardamom. YUM! The flavor is very delicate and light, and highly irresistible. After one taste, you'll  discover yourself craving it and salivating at the mere smell of cardamom. Unfortunately I have a jar of cardamom in my spice cupboard, so I smell it everyday, which makes me long for this dessert!

The children made lovely birthday cards and picked flowers for me. They were excited to watch me open gifts. Nathan bought several pounds of candied fennel (one of my favorite candies), an Indian movie, a label-maker (YAY!) and arranged a session of swing dancing lessons. I am SO excited about the dancing lesson, as I've wanted to do dancing lessons for years now. This is such a special gift, and I'm looking forward to it eagerly. I'm also very thankful for the label-maker.

 I've been trying really hard to make my house a house of order, so I've been organizing closets, cabinets, and boxes and I've been labeling everything. I'm really excited to use a real label maker that will standardize all my signs. I think I'm slowly gravitating towards some OCD tendencies. Organizing has never come naturally to me, so it's hard for me to figure out how to logically categorize some things. I have longing for more order in our home, so the clutter has been slowly disappearing as I downsize possessions.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Historic clothing updates

After making Sarah a dress, chemise, pantaloons, apron, and bonnet; and making the boys and Nathan all shirts and pants, I'm finally starting my own 1860's dress. I started cutting the fabric today and the pattern is much more difficult than anything I've tried before. I'm feeling intimidated by it, but luckily I just discovered that one of my friends is an amazing seamstress (she made her own wedding dress! Wow!). I'm planning on calling her more than once throughout the duration of this project.

Today Nathan and I went to the fabric store and discovered that the discounted fabric was even additionally discounted. Happy luck! We went through the stacks of fabric until we found wool blends suitable for waistcoats for Nathan and the boys, and a beautiful pattern for a formal gown for Sarah (I'm thinking along the lines of late 1700's for this gown), and some homespun for a work-day pinafore for Sarah. The prices were only $1-$3 per yard! That means Sarah's ball gown would only cost $12. I'm so excited!

I'll post pictures of the progress when it becomes more interesting...piles of fabric aren't very interesting to any one except me. BUT, the fabric looks SO neat (especially Sarah's). The menfolk are looking forward to having their own waistcoats. So far we've been borrowing them from the custome shed at the farm. From what I gleaned in our history research, men would not be seen in public without a waistcoat, working men and boys included. It does a lot to make them look like gentlemen. I love it!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Finished Needlework

I've been trying to finish up a variety of projects this month before other commitments take precedence, but it's been slow going. This is one that I finally finished:

Ironically, this project wasn't even on my list of priorities. It just happened that I could bring needlework to the Pioneer Farm, and I could sit and sew while the children played outside. Sarah wanted to stitch an alphabet sampler, so I thought I should design something that I could stitch alongside her.  I experimented with adding color to the fabric to fill in the picture. I used Prismacolor pencils for that and it worked really well. I've framed this piece and hung it in Sarah's room.

Daniel and Matthew are surprisingly interested in stitchery as well. Matthew has stitched a pirate flag and a picture of a pirate ship in the past, so he's been trying to think of something equally masculine to emroider. Daniel just wants to stitch anything; it's like a new toy for him. Yesterday I taught him the running stitch and he followed a bunch of curved lines I drew for him on fabric. He did a tolerably good job, until he ran out of line to follow. Then he didn't know what to do, so he made huge stitches that were 1-2 inches across until he ran out of thread. I'm just happy that he learned something new.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Adult tantrums

Recently I was talking on the phone with one of my sisters. As we shared advice, her toddler became needy. His frustration became a loud tantrum as he tearfully and loudly begged for help with his toy. We mused over the situation (after he was taken care of and settled down again). It's hard to take a toddler seriously when they get so angry. Really, what do they have to be angry about?

As parents, we provide everything for his comfort and safety. We give him food, keep him warm and protected from harm, we love him unconditionally, we encourage him and share his joy as he learns and grows. What do they have to get upset about? They don't do any work for themselves. His tantrum was regarding a toy phone that wouldn't do what he wanted it to. It didn't seem important to me, but his whole world was focused on this tiny trial, and he loudly complained and begged urgently for help.

I was struck with a similarity between this toddler and adults. I think we must be demanding in the same way in God's eyes. He gives us everything in life: our healthy bodies, our material needs are met, we are protected from harm, we are encouraged and loved unconditionally. Even with all these blessings that are openly given to us, I think we take them for granted, like the toddler who doesn't appreciate the work parents do just to feed him and keep him safe. I think we also weary the Lord with our tantrums when we experience adversity. When I experience a trial, I beg for help urgently and have a hard time being patient for answers. I weary the Lord with my prayers asking for direction or help. Sound familiar? My trials that seem to consume my energy must seem so insignificant to God, just like I thought it was silly for my nephew to get so worked up over a toy phone. In the eternal perspective of things, most of my trials really are unimportant and not worth the energy I give them.

It made me resolve to be more patient and less demanding of our Father. People often say 'grow up!' when someone acts childishly. I think I need to take that advice and spiritually grow up.

Grandpa visits!

Grandpa Kingsley came to visit! (Okay, this actually happened almost a month ago, and I forgot to post it...) It was such a treat to have him over! He drove up from a conference in San Antonio so he could spend an evening with his grandkids. How nice! The children spent all afternoon making pictures and cards for him. I took pictures of my favorite ones...
Sarah wrote 'Welcome to Texas!' and drew all the things that she thought symbolized our state: a hot sun, longhorn cattle, coyote, lizards, cactus, and vultures (eating the obligatory dead longhorn cow, and circling in the sky).

I loved the picture with the entire family, especially Nathan's beard and Larry's pristine head.
The next day Nathan and I drove to San Antonio so we could spend a few more precious hours with Larry before he flew back to New Hampshire. We went out to a Cajun restaurant then strolled along the Riverwalk. It was so nice to talk and hear stories of Larry's childhood. We really appreciated his time. He had  such a busy schedule and we felt incredibly special that he would take the time to drive up to visit us! Thanks Dad!