Monday, August 31, 2009

Update on the 30-day Shred

I am still doing the Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred DVD as often as I can. And I'm still finding it challenging and worthwhile. I'll post more in the future, but just wanted to let you all know that I'm still liking it and doing it.

The "to-do" list

Wow! It looks like I am only managing to write about once a week lately. I have lots of thoughts in my head, but not so much time to record them all. One things that's been on my mind is the struggle that I have between wanting to accomplish my daily "to-do" list and wanting to be available to play and just have fun with my boys. Now that I am back to teaching full time (I am actually a .8 FTE teacher) I feel the tug of the to-do list even more than ever. I often catch myself mentally going over what I need to get done even when I'm physically hanging out with my boys. And I hate that. I realized recently that I am almost never fully present when I am interacting with them. I might be half-listening to something they are saying, but the other half of my brain is thinking, "OK, I need to go fold and put away laundry, email my (Montessori)parents about XYZ, make playdough for the classroom this week, mop the kitchen floor, start prepping for dinner tonight, etc." Weekends are hard with this because it's so tempting to see a weekend as a two-day opportunity to check things off the list instead of a two-day opportunity to spend quality time with my children. I am going to really try to start making the quality time more of a priority and letting go of some of the "to-dos". This weekend I took my boys to a community event at our local park. I didn't really have a timeline in mind for how long we would be there. We ended up staying for almost 3 hours. It was SO nice to just go with the flow and not be always thinking, "OK, we need to hurry up and get home so I can..........." We just enjoyed our time together with no set ending point and it was really refreshing.

After church on Sunday I usually try to get out house straightened up and cleaned up before the school week begins. As a result I all too often tell my boys, "Just a minute" or "I can't play now because I have to............" when they ask me to play with them. This Sunday I resisted the urge and said, "Yes" when my little boy wanted to play Cootie with him. It was very freeing to just stretch out with him on his bedroom floor and play. Every time an "I need to go........." thought crept into my mind, I consciously pushed it away. My older son wandered back to his brother's room and hung out with us. It was a really good time. I am committed to trying to let my
"to-do" list take a back burner (within reason) so I can become more focused on spending quality time with my children. I'm already thinking ahead to what experiences we can enjoy together on the upcoming three-day weekend. I will admit that it's hard for me. I spend time at my school nearly every weekend during the school year. There just isn't time when I'm there teaching to get all the prep work done. And sometimes I really hate how my job takes me away from my family. However, I am hoping that I can find a good balance this year.

Enjoy a few photos I took of our Sunday Cootie game-playing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

No more chickens in the bathroom

Yes, folks. After a bazillion trips to Home Depot and MANY hours of hard work, our chicken coop and yard are finished. I moved the girls in last night. I worried about them a lot because I knew the temperatures would be pretty cold compared to what they have been used to in my BATHROOM. I checked on them at about 11:30 p.m. for the last time, taking a flashlight out and peeking in on them. They were all huddled up in a corner keeping warm. When I went out at 6:30 a.m. they were still all huddled in the corner. I started talking to them and petting them and they "woke up" and started moving around, eating, and drinking. I didn't think I'd have to wake up my chickens in the morning. Anyway, I was really glad to see they were all alive and well. I am pretty sure no predators will be able to penetrate the chicken equivalent of Fort Knox that DH and I have built. We have a few more details to finish before it's totally done, but it's "liveable" now. I went back to work today and taught preschool all morning. When my boys and I got home, I took the chicks out into their new "yard". They have been happily scratching and pecking out there all afternoon. They are also enjoying taking dust baths in the dirt. DH spent ALL AFTERNOON yesterday putting a roof on the yard so the little poultry princesses can be nice and dry even if it's raining (and he has a really sore back today because of his labors). They are too spoiled. Nothing but the best for our girls. :0)

I have to say that it's really nice to have my bathroom chicken-free. I thought I would miss hearing their little chirps and peeps when I went in the bathroom, but I really don't. I just like having all that floorspace back that was taken up with their brooder box. But now, what else am I going to write about? What else are DH and I going to do in every spare moment of our evenings and weekends if we don't have a big construction project to do? Actually, the timing of all this is perfect because we are all getting back into our fall schedules this week. THAT will require some major adjustments as we adapt to a much earlier wake-up time. I'm sure I'll find more things to write about. Hopefully I can report on all the great crafty stuff I'm working on. We'll see. The beginning of a new school year is always pretty hectic for me. OK, enough rambling. I'm going to stop and click "PUBLISH POST" now.

PS: I'm not sure if DH still reads this blog daily, but I'm really hoping he will want to get started soon on turning the other end of the shed into a fort for our boys. I have some really cool plans for that in my head and it will be MUCH easier now that we've done the coop.

Where has the week gone?

I can't believe I haven't posted in a week. Busy times. I have a lot to write about soon, but wanted to pass along some info about a giveaway I just stumbled across. The Progressive Pioneer blog (new to me as of today) is hosting a giveaway of a new magazine called, Seeing the Everyday. It look exactly like what I'm sure many of you are craving in your lives. Click on over and leave a comment for a chance to win.

Monday, August 17, 2009

30 Day Shred: Day 1 (Subtitle: Ummm......ow!)

Today I started doing Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred DVD. I had read about it on another blog that I've come to enjoy, Living and Learning. Sherry, from that blog, has been documenting her journey with Jillian on the 30 day shred. I've only done this one workout but here's what I like so far: the DVD has three leveled workouts so you can move to more difficult ones as your body changes, each workout is only about 25 minutes long, really doable when you have a lot of other things going on in your life, and the only equipment you need is a set (or sets) of dumbells. After reading Sherry's blog, I decided to go out and purchase a set of 3 lb. dumbells since I only had 5 lb. and 8 lb. ones. I'm glad I did that.........after doing the workout once using the 3 lbs. I can see a couple of places where I will try 5 lb. next time, but mostly the 3 lb. were perfect today. The workouts are set up as circuit training to maximize what you accomplish in a short time. There are 3 5-minute circuits during which you do 3 minutes strength training with weights, 2 minutes cardio, and 1 minute of abs. I took body measurements so I would be able to track my progress that way. My goal is to get more toned and fit. It would be great to lose some weight..........I could probably lose 5-10 pounds...........but the best thing would be to lose some of my "jiggles". I want to be able to do the jumping jacks without feeling my tummy jump. Ya know what I mean? I'm posting this mainly to stay motivated. I posted back in January about my goal to walk (or jog) 2 miles per day in 2009. Well.......that goal kind of bombed somewhere between February and March. And I really need to get back to consistently working out. I feel so much better when I do and have so much energy. Every week or so I'll do a 30-day shred post to let you all know how it's going. My exercise physiologist husband suggested alternating the Shred with cardio such as walking or jogging on the days I don't do the Shred. I'm not sure what I'll do with that. I am already looking forward to my next Shred workout though. I am a little sore tonight, but not too much. It will be interesting to see how the pain plays out by tomorrow morning.

Wouldn't it be great to have Jillian's abs?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Coop Construction Part (?): Too many to count

At this point I have lost count of how many days/hours/dollars we have spent building the chicken coop and run. I just know that this has truly been a "chicken summer." We are tentatively planning to move the girls into their new digs (and out of our bathroom!) by next weekend. I hope we can make that deadline. I start teaching again on the 24th and it would be nice to know the chickens are safely exploring their new home instead of crowded in a Rubbermaid tub in my bathroom all day. They spent about 4 hours outside in our dog kennel today while DH and I slaved away on their poultry palace. As you can see from the first photo, DH dug a trench and placed concrete bricks to serve as piers for the chicken run. Since it rained a lot yesterday the ground was soft and easier to dig. He also dug trenches between the blocks because we will bury the wire about a foot below ground level to deter predators from digging under and into our run.

We framed in the three walls using 2X4s.

Then we attached the walls to the coop and to each other. The east wall (right side in the photo below) has an opening where we will put a door which we have yet to build. This side also has 2 more 2X4s nailed to the top to create the height difference we need to build a slightly sloped roof. After we got the walls up I gave the frame 2 coats of paint. The next step will be attaching hardware cloth to the bottom of the walls and poultry wire to the top. The we need to build and hang the door, build the roof, finish the windows...........I think that's it. It still kind of seems like a lot to do but the end is finally in sight. When we are done we will have accomplished a lot and will have a chicken coop to be proud of.

I can't believe I haven't posted in almost a week. The chicken coop is occupying a lot of our time and thoughts right now. It will be nice to have it finished. At the end of the week I enjoyed my last few full days with the boys. We hung out in the pool and on Friday afternoon I took them to the new Disney movie, Ponyo. It was pretty good. The character of Ponyo, is so adorable. It's a very rare treat for us to see a movie in a theater. I pretty much love doing anything with my two sweet boys.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I am feeling wistful about summer coming to an end. I know on the calendar we have another 6 or 7 weeks until autumn begins. But two weeks from today I start back to work and my boys go back to school. We have our moments, but I love being home with them. I am so thankful that we have our summers together. I talk to many parents who state that they can't wait for school to start. I even overheard a parent (someone I don't know) telling another person that they couldn't wait to "get their house back." I truly don't understand that type of comment. My house is a home for my family, the family that includes my two boys. I can't imagine my house without them in it. In fact, I shudder at the thought. On those very rare occasions when both my children are elsewhere and I am home alone, my house feels too quiet and empty as if something is missing. My children are the heart of my home. I pray that I will always feel this way.

So tonight I am truly grateful for the weeks we've had together. Weeks to be lazy and silly. To get dirty and wet. To laugh and love and hang out. Because I know that all too soon we'll be so busy that I won't need to hose off sand-encrusted hands and feet before the sun goes down and we head inside for bedtime.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The girls (?) are growing up fast!

Our little chicks are growing so fast. They will be 3 weeks old on Monday. It is amazing how quickly they are getting feathers and changing. We think that one, Dixie (shown below), may be a rooster. I think it's too early to really tell and we will probably have to wait until we hear crowing. But her comb is growing lots faster than our other 4 and she does some interesting posturing that looks roosterish. What do we know? If we do end up with a rooster (or roosters) we will probably have to find them another home because we live too close to our neighbors..........I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate being awakened by crowing. For that matter, neither would we. So we'll just wait and see what happens. In the meantime, we've been taking them outside each day for "recess" in our dog kennel. They can squeeze right through the holes in the chain-link so they have to be closely supervised. DH and I went to Home Depot for the umpteenth time today to buy all the lumber for the chicken yard. Hopefully that (big and scary) part of our project will be done within the next few weeks. Then we'll move the girls out of the bathroom and into their permanent home. Following are a few photos I snapped on Saturday evening while the girls were outside.

It's hard to get good photos of chickens because the move quickly.

My husband was having a little chicken bonding time on Saturday night. He hasn't had a whole lot of time to spend with them yet. He is holding Abby, our Plymouth Barred Rock, in the photo below. She is by far our sweetest little chicken. She loves to be held and is very calm.

This shows Abby roosting on hubby's arm. You can see how pretty her feathers will be once they're all grown in.

Each chick has their own personality. Sarah is by far the most curious, assertive and brave. When I remove the lid of their brooder box each day to give them fresh food and water she is always the first one to fly up and perch on the edge of the box. Clara is also pretty out-going. She is the one most likely to "pop" through the dog kennel fencing to explore the other side. Dixie, as I said, is kind of roosterish and is the most skitterish of the bunch. Reba and Abby are both sweet and calm. Reba likes to fly more than Abby so far, however.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

He rocks!

I know I write quite often on here about my husband and how great he is. Well, he deserves the here's another post about him. On Friday night I went out for a while to work at school and run a few errands. I had prepared dinner before I left and had eaten with my oldest son. My husband and younger son were going to eat later. So when I left there were dirty dishes all over the counter and all the food was still out. I figured that my DH would package up the leftover food, but wasn't expecting to find all the dishes washed and the counters wiped down when I got home. It was a great surprise! We don't have a dishwasher, so we hand-wash everything which I don't mind (since I do it about 3-4 times per day), but my husband does NOT care for washing dishes. He totally does his share of work around the house, but dishes is one of my usual chores. Anyway, when I got home I told him he rocked. He was not sure of what had warranted the compliment. I reminded him about washing the dishes. He said, "Oh yeah, I forgot I did that." He's so awesome!

Woman on a mission

DID YOU KNOW? 1 MILLION plastic bags are consumer PER MINUTE!!! globally

That is insane!!

For quite some time I've felt guilty about all the plastic bags we use. We have a few cheapo cloth ones from the grocery store that I always forget to bring. Since I love to sew, I've thought many times that I should use some cute fabric and sew up a bunch of shopping bags to have in the van for all types of shopping needs. Yesterday I did a Google search to find some free patterns and stumbled across a really cool website called Morsbags. Besides having a free bag pattern, this website has a mission to eradicate (as much as possible) plastic bag use. It is based in the UK and the really cool thing is that it has a tracker to keep data on how many bags have been made through their site. You can set up what's called a "pod" and get a group of friends together for assembly-line bag making. Then you log in your number of bags. And here's the totally cool part: you arrange to go to a local store and pass out your bags to customers FOR FREE to promote reusable bag use. That is my favorite part. I was motivated enough to try stitching up a bag last night using their free pattern. They state that you can sew it in 20 minutes when you are organized :0). It took me about 35 minutes (not including cutting out the pieces), but I'm sure I could make future bags faster now that I've done one. I didn't make it to their exact specifications because I only had a 1/2 yard of the 2 fabrics I used.

Using fabric bags has to become a habit for me. For example, this morning my little boy and I made a quick trip to the grocery store. As I was in the check-out line I realized that my lovely new fabric bag was hanging on the door at home and of no use to us whatsoever!! UGH! As soon as I got home with my (gasp!) 2 plastic bags, I tried fitting their contents into my 1 fabric bag. They totally fit. I am already planning to make up several more for myself soon. I found another pattern that I'd like to try using a pillowcase. It looks WAY easy.........and it makes me want to immediately head to the thrift store to look for some cool pillowcases.

My new "chicken" bag with "egg" handles. I was going to use these fabrics to make napkins, but decided this was a better use.

The handles and all the seams are reinforced making these bags really sturdy.

I am thinking about starting a local Morsbags pod. If anyone locally is interested in joining me, please let me know. You do NOT need sewing experience...........when we assemble bags we will need people to cut out pieces and iron.
Interestingly, the city of San Francisco, California banned the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and large pharmacies over 2 years ago. I am not sure if other cities have since followed suit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicken Quilt

This is a great story (and it's true!). About a month ago I saw a really cool chicken quilt in my FAVE local thrift store. It was completely handmade. Machine-pieced and machine-quilted, but not mass-produced. was really neat and I wanted to buy it, but it was marked $20 and I never spend that much for any home decor for my house, especially not in a thrift store. I told the store owner, Pauline, that I loved it but that I was going to think about it. If it was there the next time I came in, maybe I'd buy it. If not, then I wasn't meant to have it. Pauline said that's the philosophy of her daughter, Terry, but that she herself has learned that if you love it, you'd better get it because chances are it will be gone when you come back.

A few weeks later I stopped in with my boys and headed to the back where I had seen the quilt. Of course it was gone. I told Pauline I wished I'd bought it but that it probably wasn't meant to be mine. Just a few days after that my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and were dropping the boys off at my parents' house so we could go out to eat. Before we left my mother handed me a bag with our anniversary gift and card from her and my dad. have probably guessed by now that the quilt was inside it! It was one of the best surprises I've ever had. I had forgotten that I'd told my mom about the quilt. She also loves quilts and I knew she would enjoy it if she was in the thrift store. So now it's mine. I love it. I still have to hang it up, but I have just the place for it. It will always remind me of our "Chicken Summer 2009" and my surprise anniversary gift.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lunchbox napkins

I can finally check something off my to-do list that has been tugging at me for about a year now. I just finished sewing some cloth napkins for my oldest son's lunchbox. I really hate to send anything that gets thrown away. He has a zippered lunch bag and carries his sandwich, pretzels, carrots, etc. in reusable containers. His school is really into recycling (he attends a private Montessori elementary school) and composting. Any compostable leftovers from lunches are added to the school's compost heap in their garden. Love that! The only thing I was always sending were paper napkins. Not anymore...........this year he will have a cloth napkin each day that can easily be washed and reused again and again. I just used cotton fabric and cut out squares (finished they are about 13 inches). I sewed 2 together right sides together and left an opening for turning. Then I pressed them and edge-stitched them which finished off the opening. I made four so far and have fabric to make a few more. His school only offers hot lunch once a week, so he takes his lunch the other four days. I am planning to make some with different seasonal fabrics both to send with him and to use on our table at home. It's really so much more pleasant to wipe your mouth with cloth than with paper. I'm happy to have this done because most of my "spare" time these next few weeks will be devoted to getting my Montessori classroom up and running again. The time for completing summer projects is fading fast!

If I ever open my Etsy shop, I'm thinking about selling sets of these. Would any of you who don't sew consider buying them? Just curious.

Yeah, he's a keeper

I just wanted to show you the NEW ROOF on our chicken coop. Over the last 3 days, my DEAR HUSBAND (aka DH) has probably put in close to 20 hours working on this for me and 5 little chicks. We needed to add more ventilation to the roof anyway and the existing shingles were in pretty bad shape AND we had a bunch of shingles left from our recent roofing project on the house and garage. So...........he tore off all the old shingles, added 2 attic vents on each side, and put new shingles on. It took a LONG time. On Saturday he did one side and was pretty much working on his own the whole time. Which is hard when you have to hold a shingle in place on a slanted roof with one hand and hammer it in with the other. We don't have a nail gun, so he did it all the old-fashioned way..................with a hammer and nails. I helped him some on Sunday which he told me was actually helpful because I could hold the shingle while he nailed it on. I even nailed a few on myself. I wish I could show you a photo of him working hard, but his privacy is also protected here on the blog. Besides..........he looks pretty hot (in a good way) when he's all sweaty on a ladder and wielding a hammer so you never know where THAT kind of image might turn up on the web. Better to keep that image all to myself! Sorry ladies!

Hopefully the chicks will be able to move into the coop SOON because they are quickly outgrowing their Rubbermaid tub in the bathroom!

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Life. In Pictures: Session 2/Day1

My good friend, Amber, is sponsoring another week of photo assignments. I had fun participating in her last one and decided to join in with this one. Today's theme is Summer Fun. Oh how I wish I could show you my two adorable boys and what they've been up to this summer. I have some hilarious photos of them in the pool with their goggles on looking like insects. But I never post their faces to protect their guess I'll post this photo of my little boy making a little "nest" under his shirt for our baby chicks. I love the little chicken head peeking out between his legs.

I've decided to dub the summer of 2009 as "Chicken Summer" since we have jumped onto the Backyard Chicken raising bandwagon this summer. It has consumed much of our time, resources and energy, but has so far proven to be an exciting journey. My boys LOVE their chicks and are creating memories that will last for their lifetimes. So this photo does truly represent our Summer Fun.

This is why..............

.............I don't post photos of my children on either of my blogs. Too many sickos out there. Please read this and think about it if you post photos of your children on your blog. You never know where those sweet faces may end up. How frightening!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wrapped and Ready

I know many of you have been following along on my posts about the Christmas Book activities I'm planning to do with my boys during the Advent season this year. If not, read this post to get an idea of what we're doing. You can also click on the category label "Christmas Book Activities 2009" and that will allow you to read the posts about each individual book I've selected.

This afternoon I wrapped all 15 books in Christmas wrapping paper. My two boys were right there in the room with me, so I wasn't trying to keep it a secret. They did ask me what I was doing and I told them I was getting something ready for our Advent activities this Christmas. (I think they thought that was a little weird since it's still summertime.) I had pre-determined the order that I want to do the books this December. Remember that since I found it too difficult last year to do a planned Advent activity every day from December 1st-25th, I only selected 15 books for our project this year. So...........I decided which order we'll read the books in and made a master list. I wrapped all the odd numbered books in red polka dot paper and the even numbered ones in green printed paper. Obviously you could use whatever you have. I happened to have a lot of each of these papers left over from last year. And the little OCD person inside me insisted that they be wrapped so every other day was a different paper. Gotta keep the inner princess happy you know! Then I used some little white stickers I had and labeled each book with a number. We will open them in order, read the book inside and make the corresponding ornament project. My next step is to find and organize all the ornament materials so I'll have them ready. I'll post about that once it happens. I'm hoping that will be SOON!
I placed all the wrapped books in order in a wooden book box my dad made us. We have several of these and they are awesome! Then I stashed it in a closet and smiled to myself that I have planned ahead for ONCE IN MY LIFE and won't be scrambling to pull this together after Thanksgiving.

If you are interested in this project but don't want to tackle it with 15 books, think about a Christmas book you already have. If it's one on my list, you could even use the same ornament idea. If not, do a Google search and you'll probably find a cute idea to go with your chosen book. Just plan ahead to do one book and activity with your child this season. Chances are it will be a very special memory for both of you. And doing just one is just FINE!
We will be hanging our "book" ornaments on a separate tree. Just this morning my mom called me from a garage sale to let me know she had found a tree for $3 and should she buy it for me? Um.........YES, please! So she did and it's in my basement now. It's bigger than what I was's actually about 5-6 feet tall. But I think it will work just great..........and you can't argue with the price. If you aren't out there thrifting by now after reading all my thrifting posts, then get going! There are great deals to be had!!