Pika-Boy and Trent

It was during our epic Western Adventure that Buddy first became obsessed with Pikas. (Which is – as we discovered – a small mammal that lives in the higher elevations and looks a little like a rabbit. It is continually moving – just like Buddy – which may be one reason Buddy likes them so well!)

We thought it was a passing fade that would last until the trip was over.

We were wrong.

He loved them so much that he changed his name to Pika Boy. He checked books out of the library about pikas. He rearranged the magnetic letters on the fridge so that they spelled “Pika”. He spouted off information about pikas at meal times, in the car, and any other time he had a captive audience.

So for Christmas – we found him a beanie baby Pika – wrapped it up and put it in his stocking.

I have never seen a kid so excited when he unwrapped it on Christmas morning!  We even heard him later singing in the shower, “I got a pika, I got a pika!”

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Yes – he looks a little like a mouse. I keep telling myself he is not alive – but I still don’t like to touch him. I’m so brave. Not.

The little guy was named Trent. When we asked him why, Buddy said, “He just looks like a Trent.”

How we could argue with that?

I’ve been amazed at the creativity that Trent inspired!

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It began with a new home. Buddy spent the next two days constructing a unique house for his special friend out of the cardboard boxes left over from Christmas.

Please note the Pika sized door for easy access to the spacious open lay-out.

And being the good mom that I am – I even ventured into the attic to find some Easter grass for Trent to lay on.

But the creativity didn’t end there.

Just this week Buddy decided that Trent needed to be more mobile.

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So he created the one-of-a kind- super-amazing “Pika-mobile” out of Legos.

It hooks to the rear of  his remote control car. Now Buddy and Trent can buzz along at great speeds all over the house.

Happy boy. Happy pika.

Who knew. All this fun and creativity out of one small stocking stuffer.

It’s Habit Forming

I’m about to air some dirty laundry.

Well – actually it’s clean laundry – but that’s the problem.

You see – I have a few pet peeves – and this is one of them:

We spend time gathering dirty clothes, sorting them, washing them, drying them and folding them into nice piles for each child – only to have them dumped in front of their dresser.

Yes – the same dressers that we bought for each child, moved in and helped them organize.

Some kids would leave days worth of clean clothes on the floor – and just dig through it to find what they wanted to wear.

But not anymore.

This momma made a new rule.

By the time our home school starts in the morning – all laundry must be put away.

Of course one of the children asked, “But what if it isn’t?”

I just smiled and said, “You’ll see.”

I checked every day – and I’ll have to admit that the kids did great. It took two weeks before someone forgot. But when they did – I was ready.

I slipped in, grabbed the offending clothes and hid them – saying nothing. Yep – I kidnapped the clothes!

Several days went by. This child looked a little confused – and started wearing some interesting combinations – but said nothing.

Finally when the poor kid had to wear shorts to bed in January because they couldn’t find any more jammie pants – I stepped in.

“Are you missing anything?” I asked – oh so sweetly.

“Um…no. I don’t think so,” replied the offender.

“How about some jammie pants? Or socks?” I volunteered.


I required a ransom to be paid for the safe return of the missing clothing. They offered a piece of chocolate – but no – I had other ideas.

My upstairs bathroom is now sparkling clean and with all the grunts and groans I heard in the process – I don’t think this child will become a repeat offender.  🙂

Mission accomplished.

Next on my list of pet peeves – making their beds and hanging up the towels in the bathroom.

You know this is kind of fun – and I just hope it’s habit-forming!

Sometimes – You Just Gotta Do It


We cleaned the craft cupboard on Saturday.

It needed to be done – I mean seriously needed to be done. It was so bad that when you needed something you had to open the door slowly, brace your arm to catch whatever fell out while grabbing what you needed quickly – if you could find it. Then you just prayed the door would close again.

But I hadn’t planned to clean that cupboard – at least not on Saturday. I had planned to do it some other day – in the future when I had nothing else to do.

Maybe after I had cleaned all the grout in my bathroom with a toothbrush and organized my spices alphabetically. 🙂

But have you ever noticed that one thing always leads to another – especially with cleaning.

It all started when the kids decided – on their own – to organize the movies.  I sat back and smiled while they unloaded everything on the floor and even when they had a heated discussion on the merits of different movies.

I was thrilled when they found the 2 missing movies from our art curriculum and the exercise video that I hadn’t seen in months. (and no – I did NOT hide it on purpose!)

I bit my tongue and let them organize things how ever they wished – figuring that if I ever needed a movie they should be able to find it for me.

But when the dust cleared and the cupboard was filled – there on the floor was a pile of movies – children’s classics like Pooh Bear, Thomas and Busytown that my kids have outgrown.

It was that pile of movies that caused the problem.

They needed to go the attic.

But in order to go to the attic they needed a plastic container to put them in – and the only plastic container to put them in was currently full of stuff that I didn’t want to deal with that was left over from Vacation Bible School back in July – and that container was stuffed in – you guessed it – the craft closet!

So – I took a deep breath – yanked those doors open and watched as the contents exploded on the floor.

Then Angel Girl and I spent the afternoon organizing colored pencils, crayons (seriously people – do crayons ever get used up?)  and markers.

We sorted paper, yarn, scissors and millions of beads (I am not exaggerating – well , not much!)

At the end of the day we had one clean cupboard, one full garbage bag, one box of fun stuff to give away (it’s coming your way Cinnamon!), one plastic tote of movies ready for the attic, and one cabinet of movies sorted and organized.


At least I can cross that one of my list – now I should get right on that grout in the bathroom…. 🙂

The Water Challenge

It’s already started – dry skin season.

Every year I have kids who really suffer during the cold months. Every year I tell them that they need to moisturize from the inside out – which means that they need to drink more water.

Every year my words fall on deaf ears.

Until this year. This year a miracle happened. One child listened.

She actually asked how much water she should drink. I told her 8 – 8 ounce glasses.

There was a pause while she did the math. “You mean I have to drink 64 ounces of water every day?”

Yep. (Extra points for doing the math correctly!)

I do it every day. It’s totally possible.

She pondered this for a day or two, then on Sunday she pulled out her water bottle, did some calculating and determined that if she drank 2 of those every day, she would reach her quota.

She then filled it and put it in the fridge so she was ready for the next day.

Monday was a success and the dry spots on her shoulders were gone.

By Tuesday her hands were starting to heal.

By Wednesday she noticed that she actually sweated when she worked out.

At the supper table, she shared her new found wisdom with her siblings – who listened better when it came from one of their own.

Then she issued a challenge – which of them would join her in drinking 64 ounces of water the next day?

After supper there was a flurry to find water bottles and get them filled.


The kids decided that whoever didn’t drink their quota of H2O would be subject to PT (physical training) inflicted on them by those who did finish.

Thursday was a success (although a couple of kids chugged about a quart in the evening to finish up!)

Friday was also a success.

I’m not sure how much longer this can last – but as a Mom – I definitely feel vindicated.

Momma’s always right.

PS – How much water did you drink today?

A Trip to the ER

Our week with seven extra children had gone amazingly well – until yesterday.

There we were at day 6. Everybody had slept well and was happy. The sun was shining and the weather was unbelievably beautiful.

The kids had just finished the assigned task of picking all the apples off the trees in the orchard when the 4 boys asked to go out on an adventure.

I said, “Sure – but be careful – we’ve had no major injuries and I’d like to keep it that way.”


Famous last words.

I was working away on some music with Gladys when the boys came back in yelling that Gunnar was hurt.

My first thought was – yeah right. Those boys know I hate blood and gore, and I had heard the fridge open earlier. I just bet they smeared ketchup on him and are trying to get a rise out of me.

I took my time walking out to the kitchen trying to decide whether to pretend to be freaked out of let them know right away I knew it was a fake.

The truth was – I didn’t have to pretend. One look at poor Gunnar and I knew he was really hurt. Then I looked at his ankle and just about passed out. It looked like somebody had stuffed a hard boiled egg inside.

Oh my.

A quick call to an EMT friend (who has several sons and works the Friday night football games) confirmed my gut response – this needed a visit to the ER.

I sent the kids to the attic to find the pair of crutches that my husband had bought at a garage sale awhile back. I remember that I thought he was crazy at the time – but he said someday we’d be glad we have them.

Yep. I was glad all right!

With the help of those garage sale crutches, Pedro and I loaded him up in the van  and took off for town – leaving the remaining kids at home with my teens in charge. At least it was nap time.

It must have been a slow afternoon at our small town hospital because everybody in the area stopped by to see who was in the ER.  I should have sold tickets.

A quick trip to X-ray confirmed that is wasn’t broken (whew!) but was a severe sprain.

He left an hour later with a splint, an ice pack and a lecture about how important it is to stay off of it for several days or risk serious permanent damage.

He will spend the rest of his stay here on the couch playing chess and watching movies with his ankle elevated above his heart.

So much for playing Rambo in the ravines.

Meanwhile, I got to call his mom. “Hey Cinnamon! Remember those insurance cards and medical clearance forms you sent? Thanks so much.  I needed them at the ER today…”

Oh my! What a day!

Parenting Panic

parenting panicIt went by way too fast!

It seems like just yesterday that I started my first year of homeschooling with my oldest and now we’re talking about senior pictures and future plans!

This moment wasn’t supposed to come so soon – and I’ll admit to a few moments of panic.

One year from now he will be starting a new chapter in his life and my mind keeps asking – “Is he ready?”

“Have I done enough?”

“Did I cover all the academics he needs? What about life skills – did I remember everything?”

Then there’s the question of what’s next?

People have already started to ask what his future plans are. I feel like a terrible mother when I blush and stammer – “Umm… I don’t know”.  But I don’t know because he doesn’t know.

And then I get all panic-y because I really do want to know. I want to have it laid out – our 5 year plan, our 10 year plan. But – that’s just it – it isn’t “our” life to plan – it’s his.

parenting panicI can give guidance and input – but I can’t control or make those decisions.

That’s when I really get panic-y! What if he makes a wrong decision? What if he messes up?

But wait a minute – didn’t I mess up on occasion? I still do.

My goal in parenting isn’t to raise perfect children – that would be impossible. My goal is to raise mature kids who love the Lord with all their heart and want to serve Him.

So I think it’s time to stop fretting and get back on my knees. I need to give this boy back to God and let Him do the planning.

It really doesn’t matter what my son does next year or in five years, or in 10 years – as long as he’s doing what God wants him to do – this Momma will be proud.

But letting go isn’t easy…

Wish I Had a Pressure Gauge!

pressure gauge

I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my pressure canner in the last few weeks as the green beans continue to ripen.

Using the pressure canner requires a close watch on the pressure gauge. A certain level of pressure is needed – but too much can be dangerous.

During one of my many sessions of watching that all-important gauge – I got to thinking. (Now I know that can be dangerous – but follow me here…)

I got to thinking – it sure would be nice to have a pressure gauge stamped into my forehead so everybody could know how much pressure I was under.

Imagine the conversations between my children:

“Hey guys – better leave Mom alone – her gauge is in the danger zone! She’s ready to blow”


“This is a great time to ask mom for (fill in the blank) she’s nice and steady right now.”

Just think of the harmony that would be attained if my husband could – when arriving home from work – see how much pressure had built up that day.

He would immediately know whether it was a good time to tell me that he forgot the milk, or that he had invited company over.

Or whether it was a better time to whisk me off on a walk or just take the children and disappear for a while so the head of steam I was building would have a chance to cool off a little.

Yep – I think I pressure gauge is a really good idea! Just think of the explosions that could be averted!

Hey Moms – Need Some “Alone Time”?

As a mom of five, I know very well the need we moms have to be alone.

We love our children,  but to be continually needed by someone and always on call is tiring.

Sometimes we’re looking to get away for a few minutes, to sit in silence, to rest our minds.

Sound impossible? If you have young children – it is. They are hard wired to need you. They want to be with you – all the time.

You don’t dare close the door when you go to the bathroom because it’s just asking for a catastrophe to happen!

But – if you have older children – it’s actually easier than you think.

After years of trial and error, I have discovered 10 foolproof statements that are sure to get you some privacy.

All you need to do is announce any one of these and the room will clear instantly as your older children will disappear like leaves in the wind.

1. “I’m looking for someone to wash dishes”

2. “The bathroom needs to be cleaned”

3. “I’m heading out to the garden to weed”

4. “I’m heading out to the garden to pick green beans, or tomatoes, or peppers, or anything”

5. “There’s laundry waiting to hung on the clothes line”

6. “There’s laundry to be folded”

7. “I think we should start cleaning the basement after lunch”

8. “The garbage needs to be taken out”

9.  “I need help canning tomatoes (or apples or green beans)”

10. “Dad said we were butchering chickens this afternoon”

Try one and see for yourself!

Hiking the Ravine

800px-pink_clouds01When the temperatures soared up into the 60’s this week, the kids and I all played hooky for the afternoon and took a hike.

After all, having 60 degrees in January in southern Iowa is an event to be celebrated!

We made 2 rules for this adventure. The first rule was that each of us needed to have a piece of candy in our pockets that we could eat anywhere, or anytime we wished!

The second rule was that we could not walk on any trails.

We headed down the hill to the ravines and decided to follow them for as far as we could.

Winter is the perfect time to explore the ravines that surround our homestead since they are overgrown, inaccessible and full of ticks during the summer and fall.

But this day was perfect! The snow was melted, the sun was shining and we were all wearing sweatshirts, – no parkas, mittens, or hats – in mid-January.

We climbed over logs and crawled under branches. We slid down steep banks and shimmed back up the other side. We skated across the frozen creek bed and explored the wash outs.

We found several animal bones, turkey feathers, and part of an old foundation.

We discovered with awe that the rushing creek had frozen as it was flowing into amazing little frozen waterfalls.

We talked, we laughed, we ate chocolate and we savored the sunshine.

But most of all, we made a memory.

Christmas Traditions

'Lil Donkey and Cow Christmas traditions are what ties us together as a family.

One tradition we’ve enjoyed with my family for years is acting out the Christmas story.

We started it when the first nieces and nephews began arriving.

We decided that instead of reading the Christmas story to several wiggly little ones, we would have them act it out.

Nana grabbed the box of dress up clothes and tipped it upside down on the floor and everyone- parents included- found a costume and acting out a part.

Whichever couple was pregnant or had just had a baby played Mary and Joseph. The animal hats that my oldest sister made for a Christmas program were perfect for little ones (and sometimes daddies!)

Papa Jim told the story as we all acted it out.

Those oldest nieces and nephews are now in their 20’s, but still participate every year to help bring the story to life for the youngest ones.

There are so many of us now that we have moved our Christmas celebration to Labor Day weekend and our “pageant’ is acted outside with a real campfire for the shepherds to sit around and the barn as a stable.

It’s a tradition that ties us together from the oldest to the youngest and makes memories that will last a lifetime!