May 25, 2013

Our second Christmas married, Paul bought me a tent, a propane stove, and a dutch oven.

I camped with my family growing up, and have cherished memories of it.  I wanted our family to be a camping family, too.

When you're camping, you're just together.  Just your family, in the world God created. 

No TV, no cell phones, no homework, no sewing, 

just being together.

Plus camping probably makes you tougher and healthier.  Which are things I hope my children are.

Paul and I limit 'screen time' with our kids, but we also want to fill up their other time with enjoyable, rewarding, 

adventurous, spiritual experiences.

Our first camp out wasn't that great.

We thought we'd make camping simple by having cereal for breakfast.

It's cold in the morning, and we could smell the bacon sizzling in the campground next to us.  

We were in rainy TN, and didn't bring firewood with us, expecting to be able to gather some.

It got dark, and we put the kids to bed.  Paul and I sat at the picnic table, with our lantern, listening to the neighboring family sing songs around a roaring fire.

Every time we go camping, it gets better.

It makes me so happy that the kids love it too.

Axel walked slow with Boone to keep him company.

Nobody was rude about all the passwords required to get past the many created 'gates' by the children.

We held hands a lot, 

and smiled together a lot.

Memories made.  

Now if anyone has tips on how to sleep comfortably on an air mattress, we're all ears.

April 6, 2013

I can garden in the desert!

This post is not for the faint of heart.  It's the biggest post ever.  Feel free to take it in sections.  Like a giant cheesecake.

Desert gardening is all about timing.  It gets up in the 90's begining in May, so you've got to have all your plants very well established and flowering finished by then.  But many plant can't go outside until mid march.  So you want to have them as big as possible by then, to give them a good headstart, or else you will not get any food.

Here's the headstart I gave the plants.  Grow lights.  This was early January.  It was still in the 40's throughout the day and nights were long.  The plants liked the grow light.  So did the kids.  This is meant to be an office, but we call it the growing room.

I sprouted way too many zinnias.  Little baby plants.  It makes me feel like their mama.

I was itching to take them outside because they got big so fast and wouldn't fit on their shelves and were crowding each other.  I put them out mid-end of February.  They did not like it.  It was too early and some of them I started too early - beans, sunflowers, zinnias, and they got root bound.  Some of them were leggy too because the grow light wasn't close enough.  It really needs to be 3 inches away.  I didn't believe them and the light was 6 inches away.  About 2/3 of the plants I started died at this stage.  I cried.  Because remember, they're my plant babies.

The tomatoes I kept inside.  I babied them because of all the food I want, it's tomatoes.  Warmed by the sun, juice running down your chin, feeling you're in the garden of eden, tomatoes. 

We ordered 10 earthboxes, because they've done us so right in the past.

I cried again at this point.  Because just as the weather became warm enough for plants to live outside, the wind picked up.  A lot.  The first day we had 40 mph winds and my tomatoes looked like helpless green flags flapping around.  I watched them whipping around, the leaves becoming wiltier and wiltier.  I was really convinced that the desert hated me.  And I hated the desert.

I had to protect my plants from the wind, so I went to Home Depot and got supplies and started building.  I was so fearful that my plants wouldn't make it until I finished the wind barrier.  So I did what every good farmer does, and I prayed.  I prayed for God to help my plants.  And the wind stopped.  Which if you live in Las Vegas in the Spring, you know that's a miracle.  I stayed up and worked by the bright overhead light until I was falling asleep while drilling.  Then I started again the next morning.  And just as I put them in place, the wind started again.

Here's one of the two barriers before I got the plastic on.  Strawberries at the front, green peppers in the back, melons against the trellis, tomatoes not yet in those boxes.  (I've got 10 tomatoes in 5 earthboxes.)

Fast forward a month and a half...  You'll notice the tree that was covered in pink flowers, here has maroon leaves.

My hard work has paid off and the tomato flowers are starting.  You'll notice the petals on this one are pointed backwards, which means it has been pollinated and will form a tomato.

And here's one that I think I've just hand pollinated and hopefully the petals will be pointed back tomorrow.

If you don't know what an earthbox is, you should find out.  It doesn't let you over or underwater, and the plants get exactly how much they need.  This year we even got the self watering kit, so I don't even have to water the tube!  
I'm pinching the flowers on the strawberries until the plants get big.  Hopefully in the Fall we'll get berries from these ever-bearing strawberries.  

The strawberries, melons, and peppers I didn't start from seed, but the rest of the garden I did.  See how big those little sprouts have gotten in just a month and a half!  I'm so proud of them.

Grow up that trellis little cucumbers!

These are alyssum and phlox that I started from seed and in the back are beans that nearly died in the February cold, but maybe they'll pull through and grow up the other side from the cucumbers.

I bought two bouganvillas as well in Februrary.  They were shockingly beautiful, and then the cold wind blew off every single flower and leaf they had.  But I kept watering, and then saw signs of new leaves!  And now it's almost as beautiful as when I bought it.

There is a little raised bed with part shade in the yard.  I've got 4 tomatoes that I thought had died and wasn't caring for them at all, and then noticed tender new leaves.  I thought those fighters deserved a chance to live, so I put them in the garden.  I've got gourds that will hopefully grow up the sunflower stalks, zinnias, bells of Ireland, cucumber, and marigolds to scare away the bugs.  All of them I started from seed.  It's a miracle and I've watched them from their beginning.

Maybe the desert doesn't hate me after all.  Maybe I don't hate the desert.  Maybe.

Somewhere in there, I tried to potty train Boone.  I only lasted 4 hours and 9 pairs of wet underwear.  Maybe he's not ready.

February 26, 2013

our family update

Maggie attached a garage clicker to her bike.  It makes me laugh every time she pulls in with her pink helmet and clicks the garage open.

I have a few projects open right now, and Lou asks me about 5 times every day in a whining voice, "Mooooom, have you painted the acorns yet?"  "Moooooom, have you you made the temple dress yet?"   "Mooooooom, have you finished the ice cream skirt yet?"  I told her that if she would clean up I could work on all those things.  She actually has helped more, because she's a good girl.

Axel went to the dentist for the first time and had three BIG cavities.  I felt like such a delinquent parent.  We're now flossing daily.  Axel is taking it very seriously, and now brings floss to the diner table so the plaque doesn't have a chance.

Boone is finally talking and repeats EVERYTHING we say.  "Mom, where is that thing?"  "FING?"  "I don't know what thing you're talking about."  "TOKIN BOUT"  "Can you be more specific?"  "SIFIC."  "The thing for my doll."  "MY DOLL."  It's actually quite cute.  Which is good because he's throwing things when he's angry, which is not that cute.  Also, he says nuggo for snuggle.  And he is absolutely irresistible when the lifts his arms to me and says, "Mamma nuggo."  He gets one every time.

Paul and I finally signed up for a gym membership, and go together often.  He lifts weights, I run on the treadmill.  But he's started sprinting before he lifts, and he really likes to work out together.  I'm more of a loner worker-outer, but try not to poopoo any togetherness time.  So we ran together, just one mile on the track at a 7.5 min. mile pace.  It was nice.  At the end, he congratulated me, "7.5 is a great time for a girl!"  When I didn't respond, he repeated it, to make sure I knew how proud he was of me.  I was a little irked, and was going to give him a piece of my mind, but I was too busy huffing and puffing.  And it IS a pretty good time for me.  Meanwhile, my husband who sat on his bottom for 4 years in undergrad, and 4 years in medschool, and then for 4 years in the OR turning knobs, has been running a little over a 6 min mile pace, because he's been working out for a month.  Testosterone.  It beats me every time and makes me so mad.

But to leave you on a pro-husband note:  He thinks I'm a genius in the garden.

February 19, 2013

Not so talented?

Apparently they don't know good dancing when they see it.

January 5, 2013

Axel fasts

He's fasted the last two fast Sundays, since his baptism.  Last month he fasted for endangered animals not to go extinct.  I asked him this evening what he was going to fast for tomorrow.  He answered with confidence, "I'm fasting for construction workers to be safe and the houses not to fall on their heads."  Random, there's no back story for construction safety in Axel's life.  Maggie told me that she'll be fasting that the roses grow well.

There's a lot of things out there to fast for.

December 29, 2012

I had two miscarriages

I think most women have experienced miscarriage.  It is very sad, and gives you much empathy.  I am so thankful for the women who have had miscarriages who have comforted me.  I'm sure I'll have the chance to return the comfort.

In April, at 15 weeks we found out the baby died two weeks earlier.  We thought it was just a random situation where the baby maybe didn't form correctly, though everything looked fine, but it's hard to tell.  The second, we found out at 18 weeks the baby died 3 weeks earlier.  The two were very similar.  It seemed we have a problem.  We did a lot of blood work and discovered that my plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 levels are more than double the normal level.  Pai1 is the superglue in blood clotting.  They think that little microclots are forming in the capillaries where my and baby's blood connect, and over time, the capillaries are all blocked and the nutrients cannot be exchanged.  My poor babies.  They were both girls.  I have a name picked out.  I hope she can still be a part of our family.

There is no conclusive church doctrine on the subject of when the spirit is put in the body.  Still births are not counted as sealed children in the church records.  I hope that my girl will come to me again, and I will have her in my arms, where she belongs.

This is a fairly common blood issue for women.  But even 20 years ago doctors would not be able to help me.  For my next pregnancy I'll be injecting myself with lovenox every day.  I am so so so thankful for modern medicine.

After Thanksgiving, after my family left, when my house got quiet, I was more observant.  One morning, when I bent over, I didn't feel that bulge, like you're leaning over a ball.  I looked at my stomach.  I just looked fat.  And then I cried.  Because I know what it feels like to carry a live baby.

The ultrasound confirmed it.  My husband kissed me, and cried with me.  I am thankful for 4 perfect children.  The specialist was so confident we could figure out what was wrong, that it made me confident too.  16 viles of blood and amniocentesis revealed that the baby was perfect and my blood has gone wonky.  The doctor also said that it's common for women to have no problems with their blood clotting and then for it to change.  Good, I'm not a rare case.

I can blog about this because I think there is a happy ending with more babies.

Rachel said, "Give me children, or else I die."  God put maternal desires in us.  So Strong.  I am thankful for the Atonement that can make everything right.  My little trial is small compared to most.  I know that.  These miscarriages have revealed that I am not as strong as I thought.  But I hope that they have prepared me to be able to handle bigger things to come with Grace.

December 26, 2012

We had a gingerbread decorating party

It was very memory making.  Which is really what I was looking to create.  The gingerbread houses were really fun to create too.  Especially with my helper in the kitchen.  

I made a gingerbread house last year for the first time with great success.  So I decided I could tackle making 8 this year.  I used the Martha Stewart recipe for the dough, and used her template.  For the roof I cut out two rectangles 8.5x6 and 8.5x6.5.  (That gives you overhang on the sides and a little overlap at the roof.)  For the chimney I added a 1/4 inch on each of the long sides of two of the pieces - the ones with the sharp angles.  So two of the chimney pieces are 1/2 inch wider than Martha's.  There are little windows to cut out, which is the only part that makes you want to poke your eyeballs out.  And being that I was making 8, I decided that I needed an easier way to make them.  After racking my brain and coming up empty, I was wandering the house looking for inspiration, and found it in my children's out-all-over-the-floor legos.  They worked perfectly.

Assembly was only tricky because Martha's syrup did not work.  Right when it was supposed to turn into a syrup that hardens in seconds, it turned into a chrystally  powdery solic.  (Yes it is possible to be chrystally and powdery at the same time.)  Poop.  We tried it twice.  It was late at night, and I really needed the syrup to work.  Better Homes and Gardens to the rescue.  Theirs worked perfectly.  I actually kissed the book.

2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
1 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until mixture boils.  Cook until it gets to a light caramel color.  Then turn off heat immediately.  You know you cooked it enough when you drop syrup on a plate and in 30 seconds it has turned into hard candy.   You can dip the sides pieces like Martha and I did, but don't use a brush like Martha, you'll never be able to use it again, and a spoon works just great.

Spread the syrup glue on your pieces you are joining and then quickly put them together.  Repeat until your house is done.  Put the smaller roof piece on first, then the larger one on the other side overlapping at the roof line.

It was late at night when I finished assembling these beauties.  And they're not just gorgeous, but delicious too.  You don't have to stop at the candy when eating it.

Make the Royal Icing - Combine 2 large egg WHITES and 2 tsp. lemon juice.  Then beat in 3 cups powdered sugar.  Put it in a bag immediately, it hardens quickly when exposed to air.  Cut a tiny corner off to squeeze out your candy glue.

Cue entrance of 30 Reynolds and many pounds of candy.

Decorating was magical.  And there was much family togetherness goin' on.

The judge took her job very seriously.

I've been in the family long enough to know that the secret to a successful Reynolds party is good cheese.

It was very Christmasy.