So spoiled

I’ve written a few times about the epic pumpkin patch my mom’s cousin used to own just outside of Redlands, CA. We started going there when my now 8 year old was a month old. Being family we did all the activities for free and basically for the years before we moved here, I had all the fancy (and tasty) heirloom pumpkins I could stand for free. Well change comes to us all and we, um, moved across the country. Last year I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for a pumpkin patch, plus we were super busy so we just picked up jack’o’lantern pumpkins at Walmart and called it meh. This year a friend invited me to go with her and her son to a local Pumpkin Patch (one of about 87 in a 5 mile radius of our house…turns out when you can grow things like corn mazes, people do.) I finally got my spoiled self in gear and made peace with the fact that no it wouldn’t be the same, and yes it was going to cost me both my arm and my leg. Sigh. The munchkins were beyond thrilled with the experience so I’m thinking we may be back in the proverbial holiday tradition saddle once again.

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People either love these things or hate them. I hate that I love them. And the disembodied cow/sheep heads? fuggetaboutit.

I’m not sure if I can adequately express the magnitude of my gratitude, that my kids are both easily entertained and easy to please. Tire and dirt? We’re set for hours, Mom!

Not pictured is the huge silo fort with air cannons. Not sure how I was so negligent in my picture taking that I have no pictures of it’s magnificence.

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But the real star, the real icing on our fall extravaganza cake was this little barn thing filled with corn. We spent a solid hour in here and they probably would have stayed longer. True I had to fish corn out of pants and skivvies, but it was the best sensory exploration activity of the whole season for all the ages. All of the things we did just reminded me and threw into stark relief that 99.9% of the time, simple is the right answer (and not just for kids).

We rounded out the day with a haunted hay ride to a field of perfectly placed (if not exactly grown) pumpkins to find our Jack’o’lanterns. Corra had a huge (fake) spider almost land on her head and ghosts came out of the trees. It was pretty great.

So next on our tradition documenting docket: Halloween itself!

 

 

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Fall means tradition

And tradition means Ren Faire, a Pumpkin Patch, and Halloween. I’ll be breaking these classic Fall posts into three installments so that I can put more pictures into each one! Muahahaha! So without too much more initial babbling I’ll get to it…The Renaissance Faire. Better than last year because the kids were older although not without some good life lessons learned (like winning the best prize ever one year, does not really mean it will happen again, and Miss Layna Dawn hates noise. Oh wait, I totally already knew those. Right.)

Homeschooling wins everything, but we added another triumph to the list. Yes “Student Days” are sheer craziness with a capital CRAY CRAY, but this year we learned. We got there later (missing the opening rush) and stayed to close since we didn’t have to be back before any bell rang. When we meandered out it was all but deserted. It was so awesome.

(I’m really tempted to let my husband buy me a newer iPhone just so I can upgrade my camera. Sorry about the meh pictures.) Little Miss doesn’t do heat or noise. There was much to be had of both, I’m afraid. So we happily watched the jousting with me blowing on the back of her neck while firmly covering her ears. It’s mom-fu at it’s finest.

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I’m so glad I married a man who gets that you can cheer really loud and make a complete idiot of yourself and it’s ok. It means that I’m in good company at all the cheesy events I drag our family too. I love jousting, and this year it was so cool to listen to my big ones talk about the horses (wondering what breeds they were and comparing notes) and commenting on the saddles (our knight had an Australian saddle). Score one for riding lessons! They are now knowledgeable horse people (or something).

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Remember that thing about people not being afraid to really get into the cheesiness of an event? Another reason I love Ren Faire. Normal adults playing pretend for 2 whole months! This guy was great. He even let me video him wishing my sister a happy birthday so I could send it to her in Taiwan. How’s that for best random birthday text ever!?

Traditions are great because they get better with time. We saw so many of the same people from last year, including the Raptor rescue show with the same host. Neil chose a great seat and I took the coolest slow-motion video of an owl flying over our heads. If my tech savvy husband were here to make my computer behave I’d attempt to upload it. But alas he is working. You’ll have to settle for the hawk.

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My girls got to watch a show on historical heroines and then attend hero/heroine training. They took it very seriously.

Back to life lessons…Naomi waited 365 days to play the dragon egg hatching game to win a $80 puppet like Garyn did last year. Brought her own money and everything. She ended up with two kind of cool dragon eye necklaces and a whole lot of disappointment. But she soldiered on and took our advice to focus on experiences rather than things for her parent funded activity/treat/thing. And now she can say that she has ridden a camel.

Role models.

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By the end of the day this one announced that he wanted to spend all his time working with molten metal of any kind. When can kids start welding classes? Of course, molten glass was pretty captivating, too. I got another blown glass ornament for our Christmas tree and I figure by the time the kids all move out, I’ll have a pretty respectable collection to fill in all the gaps left by the ornaments they take with them.

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This one wanted her picture taken with every fancy statue there was (and I’m graciously sparing you the other 13 pictures of exactly that) but this one…I mean, how often do you get to grab a pirate by the dreadlocks? Best. Day. Ever.

 

 

 

 

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SmartSteader

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So that big announcement? We launched our app this past Saturday at a homesteading conference in Virginia! It was an amazing experience and so far so good…we have over 400 people playing with our app! It’s a bit surreal and what’s even more surreal is that since I volunteered to tackle a lot of the business side of things (Neil obviously is the developing genius who is swamped with all the new features we want to add in), I get to re-learn accounting and economics stuff. And yes I do actually love that and am having fun! Our partners (the amazing people behind Reformation Acres ) are heading up social media and marketing (hallelujah) and it’s been so cool to watch it slowly spread. I’m working on refining our investor presentation and business plan so that hopefully in the next few weeks we can start talking with possible investors. When we get funding we can do everything bigger and faster. It’s pretty unique to be able to start a business like this and know that since we funded it ourselves we have no pressure or debt or anything, and we can make this work regardless of if we can get outside funding. It would just be really helpful. The website is www.smartsteader.com if you want to see the promotional video that we put together, featuring the only actors I had at my disposal…the kids and cows and chickens and one handsome farmer man. We are so excited!

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[This is Arty. The face of SmartSteader]

I also promised a farm update. Whew! What a season. Here’s a smattering of my favorite pictures then I’ll give you some numbers at the end. Enjoy!

Still can’t really get over the fact that stuff actually grows here…so naturally I completely over-planted. Again.

Before the numbers though some fun things:

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I grew peanuts and then made peanut butter! Someday when I have lots of time, I won’t eat any other kind, it’s that good. In the mean time, it’s nice to know that it’s possible and waiting for me.

We put in an orchard and our Asian pear tree just put out blossoms…in the middle of October! (pic is up above)

We have at least 1 female turkey and turkey eggs are tasty…just like chicken eggs only bigger.

I started making soap again with Mei’s milk and lard from our pigs. It’s awesome and I forgot how much I missed making soap.

Some garden/farm stats as of right this minute:

We produced:

  • 2,143 lbs of milk (252 gallons) this year
  • 1,608 eggs (134 dozen) this year
  • 440 lbs of pork loveliness
  • 292 lbs cucumbers
  • 282 lbs tomatoes (didn’t get to at least 50 more lbs…those went to chickens)
  • 70.75 lbs Summer Squash
  • 40.5 lbs misc. peppers

We have 11 blueberry bushes, 15 fruit trees, 2 elderberry bushes, 4 turkeys, 3 rabbits, 2 cows, 30-ish chickens, 2 cats, 2 gerbils, and 1 green anole.

Now I just need a partridge to put in my pear tree.

 

 

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This was a big one

The thing that hit me hardest about this birthday, was the reminder that she is learning she is a girl who will one day be a woman. She is exploring femininity and what a lost skill and art being feminine is. She swished her hips to make her dress make sound not because she wanted to pretend at being sexy. She did it because there’s nothing girly-er than swishing a new dress while you wear your mom’s pearls. There was a profound lesson here for me. To focus more on being feminine and less on being sexy. Sexy is great and fun but it requires someone else and, therefore, is essentially out of our control. I can be perfectly, beautifully feminine when I’m alone in a room and it’s a gift I can give myself. Its an acknowledgement of my inherent beauty as a woman that is there whether someone is looking at me or not. Hmmm. I need to stash these musings away and really dive in deep…sometime in the next 8 years before she really starts terrifying me.

My Naomi (aka: Naynay, Nays, Yeomi, Naybean, Naynay girl, Nay) turned 8 this year. This is a big deal for a few reasons…It meant she had the chance to choose to be baptized and become a member of our church. We are Mormons or Latter Day Saints (belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and eight is the age when a person is capable of making promises with the Lord and is capable of honoring those promises. She did great and it was so cool to experience this with her. It’s a first step in a life long journey.

Grateful for this stud who is an amazing father to my children. Can I say how much I love that he gets really choked up sharing spiritual moments with his kids? Seriously one of my favorite things about this man is that he cries.

Lots of support from family and friends made this day memorable for her, and totally made my mom heart happy. Also made me happy that her taste in baptism dresses was within my sewing skill level and that she was thrilled with the end result.

Next reason this was a big birthday…She got her ears pierced! I went back and forth but ultimately opted for a tattoo parlor with a professional pierce-er. We were both very pleased with the experience. She was a champ. So brave. She calmly sat with her nervousness and quietly dealt with it. She held my hand and then bounced out of there like it was nothing. Also, luckily, she takes the daily upkeep and maintenance very seriously and has attended to that with much more attention than other areas of personal hygiene ([cough]brushingteeth[cough]).

The trend lately is for the kids to design and decorate their own cakes. This more than anything makes me want to wail, “My babies are growing up!” It wasn’t the ear piercing or leaving cub scouts that made me choke up…no. It was the passing of the cake making baton. I’m just not ready for that!!!

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It was a friend birthday party year and after suggestions of a slumber party, fancy dinner at a restaurant, epic barbie play date, star wars…she settled on picking up friends and going to McDonald’s. Then we went to a park for cake, ice cream and presents. It’s like my monkeys sense when I need things to be easy and they magically run with that. They must love me or something. It actually was really cool in it’s simplicity and all involved said it was the best night ever. There’s another lesson here, I just know it.

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My mom was in town for the baptism so we took some family pictures to really round out our summer season. Can’t wait to update our gallery wall and my children can relax their sore-from-smiling cheeks until Christmas. Next blog post is an huge (and long over due) farm update, with a very exciting announcement.

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Coco Shea

She doesn’t pronounce her R’s correctly (so her name sounds like “Co-wa”) and she calls her leotard (which she very solemnly dons whenever she decides it’s time for an impromptu ballet class in the living room with Mommy) a “lelotalla.” Yesterday while the kids were playing before bedtime I heard her exasperated little voice say, “I’m always the princess! I never get to be the dragon!” I’m pretty sure I’m doing something right…

My baby turned four the middle of August and it is good. She is currently fascinated with hearing all the details of all of the kids birth stories (her favorite thing ever is when I talk about my water breaking and how it felt like I peed my pants) and in the telling and re-telling I don’t find myself longing for babies. Corra is now without a doubt a little kid, not even a toddler anymore, and it’s good. I’ve savored each stage so completely and I feel so peaceful about our decision to be done at baby #4, that there isn’t even a twinge of sadness at her growing up. I marvel every day at her beauty and her passion for life. Like I’ve said before, she filled a hole in my heart that I didn’t even know was there…and to think I cried the day we found out she wasn’t a boy. Good thing the Good Lord knows how to do this whole life thing way better than I do.

Corra’s favorite color is not pink. And the indignation comes out in full force should one even suggest it…luckily this barbie has blue (the actual favorite color) hair which made it possible for us to overlook the pink shirt. We had the hardest time nailing down specifics for her first friend birthday and at this point I don’t even remember how we landed on a barbie dress cake…Her Halloween costume will probably be made day of (right now we’ve gone through Merida, an alligator, the pirate fairy, and a dragon).

I did my best to distract from the pink with as much blue frosting as I could manage and have it still look like a fancy dress. We declared victory and the birthday girl was happy. Someday I might just even get an actual cake platter instead of just using dinner plates…maybe.

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Again, not sure how we arrived at a princess and knight theme…but we did and everyone came dressed up and ready for revelry. Garyn and Naomi graciously volunteered to be evil dragons. [as a side note: I love that these little girls are helping Garyn grow up slow. He still enjoys My Little Pony, gives me squeezes unasked for through out the day, especially when Layna closes the car door on my finger, and is willing to drop everything to play with his sisters. Sometimes I worry that he is acting too young, that he should be moving beyond childish things. Quickly I’m reminded that all too soon he will move on and just because other kids get hustled right through childhood, doesn’t mean it’s right or better.]

They built a “castle” and had a balloon free for all. Garyn ended up not being the only big brother there so he, Charlie, and Naomi made sure that no balloons went un-bopped into the air.

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The princesses played pin the Kiss On the Frog. Neil flew home from a work trip to Las Vegas the morning of the party so he wasn’t here to work his graphic design magic and make me a huge frog, but we made due.

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Our knights played pin the Dragon On the Shield. Naturally.

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Cake and Ice Cream. I’m pretty sure more than half the cake went to chickens but I just needed pictures, which I got. Our animals sure do love the combination of birthdays plus me trying weird cake recipes that kids may or may not approve of. Also Corra had her first hair cut so her hair is now just above shoulder length. It really suits her and she couldn’t be happier with it, but I’ll confess…I cried after she went to bed. I can’t wait for the curls to grow back.

Presents and more balloon frolics and we proverbially dropped the mic on year number three. She is already planning all the delightful things that will happen when she turns five.

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The rest of the trip…

[quick pause from birthdays for more catching up]

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Legoland was only one day of the six we spent in Orlando. The other days were filled with all this stuff…

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Not only does bowling allow for awesome foot gear it offers a chance to experience the vast array of human emotions. The depths of despair (for a gutsy boy insisting on no bumpers for the very first time), hope and perseverance (He’s such a good sport and didn’t fuss or fret. He just buckled down and kept trying…I love that kid), and of course the very peak of joy and elation:

Because Orlando is the theme park capital of the world and Legoland ate my theme park budget in about 1.3 seconds, we had to look for other options. Luckily, Grandpa found a super fun crocodile preserve (free admission) with all sorts of other animals to go visit. It was more than enough zoo for us and plus they had Swamp Freezes.

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7-11 day with the grandma who started the love of Slurpee’s young and paddle boats with the great-grands. (I found brand new muscles in my legs…oh joy).

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Coco Beach and local Splash Pads. Florida knows how to do summer right.

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The kids missed their Dad, and I missed my partner in crazy. Amazing Grandparents, a fun hotel/resort to swim at (and play mini golf, and go to the beach by the lake, and watch movies, and play with mini-figures, and do art crafts at), and adventures to be had helped distract us. We were all glad to get home and get back to normal. Well, as normal as we ever manage around here.

P.s.

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Leonine catch up

This farm is home to a disproportionate number of Leos. When you figure there are 6 of us and three are Leos…yeah…we win. The end of July ushers in the season with my now 11 year old [insert freaking out emojis here], then the baby a few weeks later and then my birthday 10 days after that. So the next few posts will be birthday catch up plus eclipse. Because yes. I now understand why people travel ridiculous distances to see total solar eclipses…totally worth it. But first, Hallelujah it was an off year for the boy. Every other year the kids get a big friend party. The way it works out is that all the girls have friend birthdays on one year and Garyn is the opposite year. So his birthday was mercifully low key right in the middle of cupcakes and princess, pink and barbie parties. He wanted to go ice skating. [aside: I have no idea why my kids love ice skating so much. I roller-bladed all through middle school and high school so ice skating isn’t such a stretch, but my kids? It just confuses me.]

I’d known for a while that my little sister wanted to come visit before she heads off to a dance study abroad program on the opposite side of the world. Happily, the dates worked such that she and my mom came down the week of his birthday. It was so fun to see her and teach her to milk a cow…Mei even kicked the bucket over just for her! Also not sure how I thought I could ice skate with two little girls simultaneously by myself had my mom and Baylie not been there…Sometimes I’m delusional.

At one point I had the brilliant idea that I’d just hold Corra and skate. Just needed to not fall, right? Riiiiighhhtttt. I totally wiped out and luckily managed to minimize her impact on the ice. I was asked if we were okay by no less than five fellow skaters (all under the age of 12) It must have truly been a spectacular fall.

The big ones just kept a running tally of their falls. They’d hop right back up again and keep going. I think if we keep to our every other year ice skating excursions, they’ll be passable skaters by the time they leave home. Valuable life skill successfully imparted = check.

Speaking of life skills…every boy should learn how to cook and decorate a cake. Garyn insisted on doing his own cake and I was happy to oblige. He also humored me and let me make it a zucchini cake I’ve been wanting to try as I cook my way through my friends cake cook book. The cake was amazing as all the cakes have been thus far. I’ll talk more about some other cakes we’ve tried in later birthday posts.

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Presents at his birthday dinner at Grandma and Grandpas house.

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And eating said cake awesomeness. Naturally.

 

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