Saturday, March 27, 2010

First Quilt

For the past several days Josh has been in Texas with work and my computer stopped working, so I had some time on my hands. I began and finished my first quilt! My inspiration was the pro-mom blogger SouleMama's log cabin quilt she made for her daughter. Her take on log cabin quilting - little measuring and any width of rectangles sewn together to make squares, seemed to fit my ability level. The quilt top went smoothly, but quilting the quilt was far more difficult than I expected. I made the quilt from one of my great grandmother's pillowcases, one of Josh's dress shirts, my old pajama shirt, and some of Ben's old pajamas mixed in with fabric remnants I already owned. Some of the fabric stretched more than others, and there are several mess up places across the top because of not accounting for the different materials. Next time I'm sticking to cotton and no stretch and I think it will work out much better. The batting is Soft and Natural 100% cotton and the underside is "super cuddle" white fuzzy fabric. This made for the perfect heavier weight throw. I made 12 squares, 18 inches across each, making a  54" x 72" blanket. I will try to post some close-ups soon.

Josh is now home from Texas (I'm sneaking a minute on his computer before he gets up). Ben is feeling better, but is still coughing a little and snotty. His grammy keeps promising me that with better weather, he should feel better soon. I certainly hope so.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Super Freakonomics

I finally finished Super Freakonomics. This book and its original - Freakonomics, contain a series of economic discussion questioning everyday behavior and social phenomena. The chapters seem somewhat disjointed and some topics are far less interesting than others, but they chose mainly controversial topics that have caused me to  question my own perspectives on several issues.

The authors begin discussing the statistical chances of being injured while walking drunk. A section of the first chapter is devoted to the declining IQ of schoolteachers. Although I recoiled at this initially, the logic and data maintains. Decades ago, teaching was the primary choice of females entering the workforce, and only the brightest qualified for those positions. Today, bright women may choose careers in business, law, medicine, education, along with so many others. The pool of bright women is diluted and the quality of education has declined at the same rate. Sadly, the only chance of returning to education becoming a select field is to increase teacher salaries and make that career option competitive with other equally demanding career fields.

Another notable section discusses the car seat industry denying the release of information comparing car seats to regular seat belts for young children (not infants/toddlers). The authors have independent research conducted and find that much simpler solutions could be built into cars, but the car seat lobby will not let that happen anytime soon.

I will not dissect each chapter, but the authors continue with discussing prostitution rates, terrorism, global warming/cooling, organ donation, and problems in the medical community. Through all of these areas, the authors dispel myths while sharing feasible options and explanations of how so many of these problems can be solved.

Some of my favorite classes in college were behavioral research, sociology, and statistics. I absolutely love to look at data and reevaluate situations and opinions for fallacies and statistical error. I may do a separate post on Freakonomics after I reread it to refresh my memory, but I would not hesitate to recommend the pair. Both of these books strive to find and explain "things you always thought you knew but didn't," with a rich bibliography and reference section in each if and when you find the need to conduct some fact checking of your own.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wooden Toys

I am in love with wooden toys. I know they get a bad rap for paint peeling and some containing lead paint, but for the most part, they are great. Ben has wooden puzzles, a set of wood blocks, wooden stacking rings, and his newest - a wooden hammer and pegs ($3 at a thrift store!) He also has one of those wooden activity centers like in doctors offices. Maybe it's the simplicity of these toys without any batteries or flashing lights.  Or the appeal may be my own nostalgia, picturing my own grandkids someday playing with these toys, but either way, they are my favorite.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break

Spring break hasn't meant the same since college. I love that by teaching, I am able to continue to relax and refresh for one week each spring. But in college, I used this week to travel the country. In my four years of college, I visited Oregon, Arkansas, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Illinois. My friends and I mostly took road trips, particularly in the years I drove a conversion van. This makes my visit to Bolivar to see grandpa a little less exciting, but so much about my life has changed that sleep and laundry are far greater priorities for this week.

Ben and I both enjoy the extra time in pajamas. He has started mimicking behavior, and was feeding his dog a play bottle this morning.

He also had some awesome bed head, to go with his hip pajamas.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Year Photos

We returned to JC Penny's for Ben's one year photos. I don't love them as much as his Christmas pictures, but they weren't bad for the price. I love the bright green on the white background. It seemed very springy. I also squeezed him into his Converse All-Star shoes, although they are a little small now. None of the pictures really showed his shoes anyway.

He was being a total ham during the photo session. We didn't bring any props except for his Build-A-Bear from Grammy and Poppy. It fit better with the darker background and overalls.

 was on such a great posting roll, then Ben was sick, then I was sick. We are now on spring break and I am hoping we will be able to get out of the house more, weather permitting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baby Signs

First, I can't believe I haven't yet posted that Ben no longer needs his helmet! This has been as much a relief for us as for him. The helmet was getting stinky and becoming a huge pain to deal with, and we are thrilled that all of that is over with. He doesn't go back to the neurosurgeon until next year, and he will probably need another CT scan when he's three.

We are working on a few baby signs. So far, he claps, waves hi, and raises his arms for "all done" and sometimes even says something that sort of sounds like "all done." He can say mom, dad, dog, uh-oh, and no. I am working on teaching him the signs for drink, food, and more, but the hardest part is being consistent. I think it will come more quickly when we are home together this summer (in two and a half short months from now.)

I am so eager for summer. These cold, dark, rainy days are tiring. I still don't feel caught up from daylight savings time and missing half a week of work last week. I do have a few more book reviews to write, mostly in thanks to the poor weather.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Outside Playhouse

As if Ben doesn't have enough, I came across this outdoor playhouse and it was a heck of a deal. I regularly frequent Children's Orchard, a used children's clothing store in Springfield. It's a chain, and I linked the title to their national website. They offer cash or store credit for used children's clothing, toys and equipment. This fits perfectly with my values of frugality, reusing, and not keeping what we don't need - even in storage.

On a regular basis, I try to bring in boxes of Ben's clothes as he outgrows them. I keep a running credit with the store and have come across great deals on a stroller, dress clothes for Ben, nursing clothes, and I even bought my Maya Wrap there.

At my most recent visit, I came across a mint condition playhouse, as pictured above. Within ten minutes of them bringing it out and assembling it, I bought it and they had to take it apart all over again. It included the printout of the same item new - priced at $250. The store priced it at $100 and I had $75 store credit, making it a $25 purchase. How could I resist?

The employees knew it wouldn't last long because it had been kept indoors only (until know) and is in such great shape. Ben is still nervous about crawling outside for some reason, but he'll cruise around cautiously, favoring the doorbell which makes different noises each time he presses it.

The slide is another one of Ben's awesome birthday gifts, and it seems to fit next to the house in his outdoor play area. We still haven't decided if his setup would be more practical near the clothesline or the garden, each on opposite sides of our house, but both requiring our time and attention. I'll probably ask Josh to drag it around to each side of the house at least a couple of times before I decide.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

In a rare move, I picked up a book of pure fiction. The Lace Reader was assigned to me by my book club - an eclectic group of mothers, people in education, architecture, law, and business. And if any of those ladies haven't finished the book yet, I promise not to reveal any spoilers.

The Lace Reader tells of Towner Whitney, a young woman from an upper-class family in Salem, Massachusetts. In spite of moving to California as an adult, she is drawn back into her confusing and estranged relationship with the women of her family. All of these women are "readers" of varying degrees, that is to say the read other's minds and fortunes with the aid of holding up a piece of lace and looking through it for images.

Just as The Thunderbolt Kid made me want to visit Des Moines, The Lace Reader made me want to visit Salem, Massachusetts - even more than Iowa (go figure). The descriptions of historical homes and streets, docks and harbors are seriously affecting my decisions about future vacations.

Throughout the novel is passages from "The Lace Reader," a guide on how to make and read lace. Descriptions of bone bobbins, lace pillows, and the ceremony of cutting off the lace is described in vivid detail in these introductions to each chapter.

The storyline is intriguing if not rambling. A murder mystery, love affair, religious cult, domestic abuse, and family drama, all intertwined, make for a book that is difficult to stop reading, even during the slow parts. Without saying too much more, the ending makes the journey worthwhile.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Restocking the Flock

A couple of weeks ago we suffered from a chickenocide. Although my spell check doesn't recognize the word my father-in-law should be credited with, our flock has suffered great loss. We awoke to dead chickens all over our yard and pasture, and only four remaining hens, stunned but unharmed. The small door to the coop was open, but the large door was locked. we are still not sure if it was a small dog or a opossum that killed and dragged our chickens across acres of land without actually eating or carrying them off.

One chicken was scared by the invader enough to jump the wooden fence into our backyard, where our own dogs picked up. We have a dog door leading from the backyard to our laundry room, and the next day I entered the laundry room to find a dead chicken and two proud dogs waiting for me. I then prepared to pack my bags and leave for Springfield for good. We already own a house there after all. It was almost too much.

However, after a night of reflection, we cleaned up the yard and began the search for suitable additions to the flock. As always, we found what we were looking for on Craigslist and Josh drove to Seymore for twenty three pullets and two roosters. He purchased a few different breeds, but mainly production reds this time around. We lost two in the first week, from the chickens crowding and trampling in transport and in the coop over the first day or two. The rest seem hearty and brave enough. 

The four big hens and the one duck are still laying and all of these changes didn't seem to affect their stride one bit.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Touch of Pneumonia

For those who know me personally, it may seem strange for me to be posting pictures of Ben playing and having fun, knowing he is home sick this week. 

I wrote all of this week's blog entries on Sunday evening. That is my new method of keeping up with the blog. I'm writing several entries at once, when I have the chance to sit down and concentrate, then they will be scheduled to post each evening during the week. I'm hoping this will help me stay with posting at least every other day or so, as things start to pick up around the farm this spring.

Ben woke up the next day with a fever and has had one since. We took him to the doctor Monday, Wednesday and again today, and he has the very earliest stages of pneumonia. His fever spiked to 105 degrees on Wednesday, and he was prescribed strong antibiotics to fight a throat infection and the pneumonia both. Josh and I have shared taking off from work all week, and he is doing better each day. He is having long crying jags that we aren't used to, and he has been getting up throughout the night - furthering our leanings toward having an only child. I already forgot the constant mind static I feel when I haven't had a good night's sleep. Today's picture is his actual state - mostly sleeping when not angry or eating. I'm sure he will feel better in another few days.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s may not sound like the most intriguing setting for a book. However, this is the hometown and era of Bill Bryson, upon which he reflects in his memoir - The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

I'm somewhat of a slow reader, and I always have more than one book going at once. This book took me a little over a month to finish, and the first half was far more intriguing than the second. I blogged about this book in late January here, The concept of photographing a year of food is fascinating. I would love for this moment to be recreated by researchers for the average American family today, but I can only imagine how disheartening it would be for nutritionists everywhere.

Bryson portrays the 1950s as happy and plastic. Cheerful yet almost too good to be true. His recollection is from  the skewed vision of his childhood. The streets of Des Moines, the department stores and historical homes, and sweet neighborhoods and grocery stores made me want to visit Des Moines, for no other reason than to find these places from the book.

However, the last half of the book features less humorous anecdotes and more emphasis on his teenage years, trying to find his dad's stash of men's magazines and cigarettes. He closes with a depressing look at Des Moines today, with most of the nostalgia from the first half of the book now bulldozed for the sake of Wal-Mart and a Travel Lodge.

The funny stories from the first half of his book have motivated me to try reading another of his - A Walk In The Woods, about his trek on the Appalachian Trail. I'll be sure to post about that one too.

Other upcoming book posts include The Lace Reader (recently finished reading for the first time), Super Freakonomics (just started reading that one, but I'll be sure to write a refresher about how much I loved the first book - Freakonomics), My Life as a Guinea Pig (still in the middle of), and another entry combining a few of the Malcom Gladwell books I've read over the past few months. I would have written about those earlier, but I'm still not sure what I think about them just yet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Preparation

We got a bit of a late start, but we have already purchased and received our seeds and began garden preparation. Last year we had six raised beds that were 6' x 6' each. We then tried square foot gardening in each of them. This proved to be difficult because of how hard it was to weed and harvest the middle, from standing outside of the boxes. so this year we took all of those boxes down but one and plowed over a much larger area to plant in rows.
The smaller garden near the house

We plowed the garden with a tractor that has been in Josh's family for quite some time. His father brought it to us last week and Josh could not be more thrilled. It's too tall to store in our barn due to the opening and layout of our barn, so he erected a carport next to the barn. The less exciting part of that day was picking rocks out of the garden. A rite of passage for any southern Missouri gardener, I believe.

The big garden
We are still deciding between renting or buying a tiller to pull behind the tractor to finish readying the garden. After that, we are going to divide the soil into wide rows for planting. Our seeds are either harvested from last year's crops, (mine and my grandfather's), or purchased from Baker Creek. I'm a little late starting some of them indoors, but I hope to get that going soon too.

Last year I mentioned several books that were used as garden resources when we were getting started (Square Foot Gardening and Carrots Love Tomatoes). This year, we are keeping the close container / square foot garden that's next to the house for lettuce, herbs, and a couple of tomato plants that we will be able to reach easily, but for the big garden, we are using Storey's Basic Country Skills as our primary resource.

Our little weed picker

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ben's Birthday Party

The weekend following Ben's birthday, we had a small family gathering to celebrate. We didn't have a theme or matching hats, but we did have good weather, farm animals and time to walk the trail and spend time outside with our nearest and dearest.

Because everyone's Saturdays are so busy, we decided to have a birthday brunch and serve breakfast food. It made good use of our eggs and was quick and easy to prepare. After presents we had homemade cupcakes, but Ben got the special birthday cake as seen in the picture.

Ben got his first real pair of cowboy boots from PFI, given to him by my parents' neighbors. He was pretty excited about them. He later discovered they are perfect containers for his wooden blocks too.

He received too many wonderful gifts for me to post a picture of him playing with each, but the tricycle above was another big hit. I love that it straps him in for now, but most of it comes apart and will leave him with a stand alone tricycle when he's old enough. We've already taken this one all over the farm and down to the pond and back. It's quite a workout to push that uphill through the weeds.

I hope no one felt left out, but I really enjoyed keeping his birthday a small family affair. The breakfast idea was a big hit, because everyone had the rest of the day to themselves and we had time to recuperate and clean up before going to a church event that evening. i'm still not entirely sure where we are going to put everything he got, though.

Monday, March 8, 2010

First Time Coloring

As suggested by our Parents as Teacher's person, we have started letting Ben practice coloring. He's a big fan for brief increments of time, followed by attempts to eat the crayons and paper.

I love the Crayola big pad of paper, and he actually did much better when the paper was held vertically, but I couldn't do that and hold the camera at the same time. After he had this paper pretty well covered, I cut it up and made it into thank you notes for his birthday presents. The "washable" part of these crayons proved to be true, as he enjoyed coloring his shirt as much as he enjoyed coloring the paper.

After a day of appointments, Ben has graduated from helmet therapy. These pictures are actually from a few days ago. His head isn't quite where they hoped it would be, but the surgeon said that we can expect no further change and the doctors are all pleased with the growth and shape of Ben's head. Considering his age and all he's gone through, everyone is impressed with how great he looks. We will continue to have annual checkups for the next couple of years, but the prognosis is good.

At the later appointment, his pediatrician postponed his vaccinations again because his ears are clear but he has a red throat and low grade fever. We're going back in another two weeks and hoping for health.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Catching My Breath

Whew, what a hectic few weeks we've had. I have plenty to write about - Ben's birthday party, spring farm preparation, a new outside playhouse for Ben, a new (to us) tractor, new chickens, first time coloring, and two books I just finished reading. I'm sure I could come up with even more, but I'm wanting to divide everything up to write shorter and (hopefully) more frequently.

Earlier this week, I had my first article published! Earlier, I posted my article submission here, about nursing through infant surgery. It made it into this month's La Leche League's New Beginnings (pages 10-11). I am so excited about being published. I've written an education article that was published locally a few years ago (about teaching reader's theater in the classroom), but this is the first major publication I've had. I absolutely love writing and hope to continue through this blog and maybe through other outlets as well.

Tomorrow, Ben has several appointments with his surgeons, doctor, helmet people. We will hopefully find out if he is finished with helmet therapy. I know we are certainly ready for it to be over with. It smells terrible and Ben has gone from being fine with it and used to sleeping in it, to dreading each time it has to go back on. I'll be sure to post how the day goes again tomorrow.

And, thanks for all of the comments and emails about Ben's playhouse. It was quite the project and I still haven't finished everything I would like to add and adjust with it, but Ben certainly enjoys crawling in and around it.

Pictures are from us spending time outside, taking advantage of this wonderful weather. Ben spent most of his time carefully studying bits of leaves and sticks, when not playing in his playhouse.