Eva turns 3!

Almost a month has passed but our little Eva turned 3 on June 11! Those of you who know us or who have read this blog for awhile are familiar with that crazy string of major life events that started with a surprise (and tumultuous) pregnancy, Eva's miraculously healthy arrival, and our move to Montana immediately after. Eva's birthday's will always mark the anniversary our our big move also, and it seems very hard to believe that 3 years have already passed!

These days Eva is more fun that ever and we are so blessed to have her as part of our family. She is funny and intelligent, if not a bit sassy, but we love her personality. Have I mentioned that we finally boarded the potty train? We tackled it before our big Memorial weekend trip and I'm happy to report she is doing fantastic with it. None too soon since I have plans for her to attend preschool in the fall.

When I asked her what kind of birthday cake she wanted she simply said "blue". So I came up with the theme idea myself, stemming from her love of umbrellas. She is often seen sporting an umbrella and saying "I not Eva, I Mary Poppins!". 

I almost forgot to take a picture of the decorations so this one is a bit of an afterthought!

A recipe for "cloud cake" was floating around Pinterest so I thought that went nicely with the theme.

It wasn't my best decorating work, but at least it tasted good. It was basically a from-scratch angel food cake with coconut on top and I'm sure I could have made an equally good cake from a box in half the time. I'll never learn. 

Eva is funny—it has always taken her quite awhile to warm up to people. She is just now finally coming out of her shell a bit. It also can take her some time to warm up to things. We have given her new books, clothes, etc. and have gotten the response "I don't need it!" Only after a few days will it turn into her favorite toy. I wasn't sure how she would react to her new birthday presents so I warned everyone in advance.

We bought her a new trike and she had no trouble warming up to it. She sat right down on it while she opened the rest of her gifts.

When she opened this new dress from Nana she had to try it on immediately and model it. And never take it off.

And I loved her reaction here:

But her cousin Colter figured out that the tissue paper was the best gift of the night.

And then she was off.

With a few lessons from teacher Roxie she has been riding her trike like a pro. We have been keeping it inside for now, until the point she gets so crazy that I'll have to touch up and repaint every wall. So far she hasn't been too destructive. One of the benefits of having girls! ;)

There is one more Eva-ism I have to document. When you ask her how old she is she will hold up 3 fingers and say "This is "W!". If you try to tell her "no, it's 3!" She will argue with you. She has some sign language videos she watches in the car, and she is absolutely right about this. Three fingers (in the middle) as we typically hold them up is the sign for W. The sign for 3 uses the thumb and first 2 fingers. No problem. Except now when she is counting something with three things she will say "W" instead of 3. Ha!

Happy Birthday Eva! We love you!

road trip

Hopefully you all had a happy Fourth! Today just finally sharing a few photos from our Memorial weekend trip to the Northwest. Beautiful country and I would happily go back every year if I could. This time we only had a few short days so before you could say "Schools out for the summer" we packed the car to the gills and headed out.

After a long day on the road we were happy to arrive at our Seattle hotel. While Tom and I have seen Seattle a number of times, we thought the girls would enjoy a little time to look around.

Our hotel had a nice little view of the space needle, which is as close as we got.

Looking down at the street from our room Sarah said "This just doesn't feel right". Only 3 years on the farm and our girls were feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed in the city!

The next day we wondered down through Pike's Market and down to the wharf.

We passed on most of the usual tourist activites after seeing the price to ride up the space needle and the lines at the acquarium. We chose instead to enjoy this new attraction:


Who wouldn't want to ride a giant Ferris Wheel on the waterfront! It was a nice long ride and the spectacular views were well worth the short wait in line.

Sarah was pretty terrified at first. 

But after a bit she settled in and enjoyed the ride.

After our morning on the wharf we stopped for a bit of shopping (oh, I could have shopped all day with the stores they had) and dinner with a cousin we headed up to Lynden to our main desitination—to visit Tom's brother's family. 

We did have a minor detour around the freeway bridge that collapsed on our route the day before our trip. Crazy. But oy, did we enjoy the scenery on our way!

Once there it rained, rained, rained (not surpirsingly) so the kids just enjoyed each other's company playing around the house.

When the rain let up we headed out to the coast community of Fairhaven. They had a festival going on, so the town was busy busy, but we parked and walked down along the waterfront.

Watching the train go under the bridge beneath them. An awesome sight to see that power rumble underneath your feet! 

Sweetest cousin Sofia. I want to bottle her brown eyes and dimples.

And such a lovable boy, Eli is. He and Sarah are sporting matching toothless grins. But Eli wins in the adorable freckle department. We enjoyed so much hearing him play the piano as he is doing amazingly well for his age! Natural talent.

Speaking of talent, Petra has more than enough to spare in the kitchen. Yum. 

And baby Lucie showed off her new talent for us—walking everywhere!

There was a kayak race along the path we walked. We enjoyed watching and encouraging them as they neared the finish after rowing all the way from Vancouver, B.C.! 

The next morning we played at their neighborhood park. Lynden was an impressively well-manicured Dutch community. This city park alone was just amazing. They are quite fortunate to have it just a short bike ride from their house.

Clark cousins lined up by age!

We ended our visit there much too soon, but nevertheless headed 7 hours south to Lebanon, OR (south of Portland) to visit my aunt and uncle. The extra miles were well worth it!

The girls got acquainted with another cousin.

And they had a blast playing in Aunt Marilyn's beautiful yard.

Eva took a liking to Uncle Bob. Maybe he reminded her just a little bit of her Grandpa Rog? Tom had a great time joining Bob for a tour where he works at the airport.

We sure miss having Bob and Marilyn around the farm, so it was well worth the detour to spend the night with them!

One final stop on the drive home to see Multnomah Falls. 

Always worth the stop, even though it was cool and wet. 

Turns out we brought the cool wet weather home with us to enjoy for the next several days. The rain was badly needed on the farm. So, like I said before, we would happily make this trip to the Northwest every year, especially if we can lasso those rain clouds and haul them home with us!

May Life in Photos

Now that it is July (what?) it seems like a good time to talk about what we did in May, right? Ack! My intention has been to do these Life in Photos updates at the end of every month, but life has a way of pushing forward like a train engine and never stopping for us to catch up. School let out right before Memorial weekend and instead of having lazy summer days we have only been busier. 

I hate it when I have to neglect this here blog so I will do my very best to catch up. So. May.

The Missoula Children's Theatre comes to our town every other year. It is such a great opportunity for the kids. They spend every night preparing for week and then put on a fantastic production. This year it was the "Secret Garden"—Abby played a goose and Sarah a flower. 

Abby has taken quite an interest in basketball this year—which is great considering her height. She has really developed in her coordination and understanding of the game. She participated in a couple of 3-on-3 tournaments this year, both of which her team won. She also won a lay-up contest! The photos above are of her little team (all fourth graders). Both Abby and Sarah have done some basketball camps since school got out as well. We are happy to invest in this interest because it is a well supported sport in our small community!

Just some random life photos... the kids don't stop growing and changing, especially little Eva! She is such a joy to have in our family. I will post about her 3rd birthday here soon! The photo (top middle) was the first rain we got in a good long time. The state of things was getting concerning until the clouds opened up around Memorial weekend and didn't stop until we had several inches of rain. Sooo wonderful!

On Mother's Day we enjoyed a lunch buffet and some cuddling time with my newest nephew, Henry. He is a total peach. Top left: Every year the K-2 grades do a Muffins for Moms performance. So much fun! This is Sarah with her little buddy Casha.

And how about a pet update? This is our "puppy" Benton who just keeps a-growin' (even since these were taken) and still insists on sitting on my lap. Ha. When we get home from somewhere and open the car door he will wiggle his way ALL the way on to my lap to greet me. He likes to ride around the farm with us too, but if we let him into the cab he always ends up on my lap. It's a little ridiculous trying to drive when I can barely see around him. I do enjoy how much of a love bug he is (the reason we wanted this breed) and he is starting to outgrow some of his puppy annoying-ness. Mia, our sweet older female, is so patient with him, as evidenced by the photos above. Sometimes his exuberance is not easy to take (who wants to be chewed on all the time?)

Now lets talk about those weathered deck boards and chicken wire railing, shall we? Projects everywhere. 

I'll be back soon with more updates (I hope). Still to come: our trip to Washington over Memorial weekend, Abby's dance recital, and Eva's 3rd birthday!!! I've had a few other projects up my sleeve I hope to share about soon also. So please don't abandon me and my sporadic posts. I love having you to share my adventures with!

life in photos—March/April

I haven't been very regular with posting lately, but not because life has been dull. Life is made up of little moments that add up to a whole lot of busy

I like the weekly/monthly photo dumps others have been doing. It seems like a good way to share those little moments that in themselves don't seem to warrant an entire post. Here is my version to catch up you up on our life happenings:

Clockwise from top left: The girls in their Easter outfits from Grandma ~ Eva counting peas with daddy to determine germination rate (spring seeding has started!) ~ A visit from Ash and Annie and celebrating Ash's birthday with a chocolate cherry cake ~ A rare (but funny!) grumpy face from Brandon. He wasn't feeling so well, but mommy makes it all better ~ Kitty Zoe sunning in the living room ~ Eva enjoying lunch

We were able to make a super quick trip to help my nephew Oliver celebrate his 3rd birthday and meet our new adorable nephew Henry! He is darling, calm, and content. I could have held him all day long.

Last but not least, a phone photo dump. Clockwise from top left: Henry's knuckle dimples ~ My phone is full of shopping photos. Anyone else do this? Makes me laugh. I'm always shopping alone and taking photos to show my family later. This month was all about shoes- Tom's boots, Abby's basketball shoes (she is playing in some 3-on-3 tourneys) and Converse for Sarah in hopes that she can't wear through the rubber toes! ~ I finally hung some adorable animal prints in Eva's room that I purchased on Etsy ages ago. The girls rooms are tops on the list of priorities to re-do. Blue carpet be gone! ~ A ski meetup with the Dykstras and our last ski trip of the year. Halfway between us. So much fun! ~ Eva is my littel buddy and I love that I get to spend my days with her ~ stamp class ~ Sarah sign painting for Cheerleading ~ Abby won the county spelling bee for 3rd and 4th graders! So proud.

baby bumpers

I got a raised eyebrow from the cashier at the dollar store when I came through to buy just one pool noodle. But one was all I needed.


Voila~ counter bumpers! Eva has reached the perfect height to crack her head on the edges of our kitchen counters. One collision too many sent me looking for a solution. I know this won't make any fashion statements, but that's what makes this great—I can just pop them on and off. 

cheers for Sarah

Every parent with more than one child must be blessed with the wisdom of more than one parenting method. In other words, every kid is different and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Anyone with me? Such is the case for my #2. The Middle Child.

I am learning that she needs a little extra "cheering on"; lots of positive encouragement. Sarah has a little trouble with focusing—I've heard this from each of her teachers and coaches. She isn't being naughty, she just gets distracted in her own little la-la land. She often has to be told several times to do something, which can be frustrating from a parent's (or teacher's) point of view. It is hard not to resort to yelling, but when I get frustrated her behavior only declines. When she gets discouraged, she shuts down.

Case in point—we are trying to teach her to ski. She is quite good at it, but only when she wants to be. If she falls once, all of the sudden she is falling all the time. She hates being told what to do to improve her skiing. Since we really want to make it a family activity that we all enjoy doing together, we are really trying to encourage her to love it. So carefully and patiently we follow her down the hill at her pace with lots of praise and cheering on. When she is up she is up!

She has a few little quirks as evidence of her anxiety for approval... she tends to chew on things (fingernails, pencils, shirt sleeves) so we have been working on those habits with the advice of an occupational therapist that visits the school. So far she has recommend a stress ball and a bracelet that is safe to chew on.

Don't get me wrong. Sarah definitely has talents worth celebrating and encouraging. She is doing well in school, despite her lack of focus. She is good at math and reads very well. She has a contagious smile. She has a beautiful voice and natural musicality. I'm hoping she will overcome her fear of what people think and try out for singing solos in her class programs because she is absolutely capable. We are going to start her with piano lessons soon.

Most times she follows in the shadows of her older sister and does the same activities, but Abby (to whom everything comes very easily) can be a tough act to follow. I'm starting to consider ways for Sarah to express her own individuality. Abby became obsessed with gymnastics and wanted so badly to enroll in dance this year. It was expensive, so when Sarah didn't seem passionate about it we decided only to enroll Abby. Instead, we found Sarah's opportunity in a little cheerleading program they started offering at the school this year.

So we have been cheering on our little cheerleader!

They had a performance during half-time of the last Varsity girls basketball game. She did awesome, and she really enjoyed the attention afterwards (flowers from her coach and lots of praise from the crowd and family who came to cheer her on.) It was fun to see her beam.

And seriously, what could be cuter than a line of little cheerleaders?

Afterwards, when she thought no one was paying attention to her, she and her friend used the drum platform to practice their skills and mimic the high-school cheerleaders. Of course, everyone was watching her. ;) At least, I was along through my telephoto lens.

I made the mistake of suggesting that—while cheering was super cute at her age—her mom might rather she didn't make a career out of it. Maybe she could instead play basketball when she is older. Oops, crushed her little heart... maybe we will just let her forget this conversation. (Even if I secretly hope her priorities change when she gets older. No offense to the cheerleaders I have known and respected for their talent and very hard work! We just happen to be a family who likes basketball.)

Here is her performance :

(I apologize for the poor video quality. Clearly I need some help learning how to use/focus my DSLR video! Casey and Scott, where are you when I need you? I miss the days when I could walk around the corner at the office and pick your brilliant brains.)

One more story about Sarah—remember the days in Kindergarten and First Grade when you got to be "Star of the Week" and line leader and such? I remember it well. Sarah's turn was this past week and we were asked to bring in photos of her from each year so they could see how she has grown. I haven't printed very many photos so I went through my hard drive to pick some out. This was the selection:

What a cutie. It was pretty fun to see them all lined up year by year. (All photos are mine except years 2 and 3 which are credited to the aforementioned Casey and Scott).

Ages ago I put together a scrapbook of Abby's first year. Its filled with first-baby photos and documents 3 baby showers I was blessed with. Of course I intended to do one for each of my kids, but this is the last scrapbook I've done. (Sad, but true!) Sarah often says to me, "Mom, why don't I have a baby book? You love Abby more than me!" And she loves to point out the pictures of those showers and say "Mom, why didn't I have a shower? No one loves me!" Of course, now that I've given you some background on her behavior, you understand her dramatics. But these photos have reminded me how badly I need to celebrate the life of my sensitive middle daughter and get a book made already. It would mean the world to her.

Pride is dangerous but self-worth is invaluable. It is a fine line, isn't it?

doll beds

As you know, I made doll beds for the girls for Christmas, using this Ana White plan. 

To buy a true American Girl doll bed would cost anywhere from $70-$125. I spent about $30 in supplies to build all 3. (I would have used scrap wood for even less money, but since I needed to make 3 I didn't think I could find enough scrap pieces in consistent sizes. The wood I bought was cheap pine and I had to work around knots, bows, and other imperfections. What can I say? I was going for cheap and the rustic farmhouse look fit the bill.

I bought sample paint jars from Walmart and intended to paint all 3 beds a different color, but it was apparent that one jar wasn't going to be enough. I didn't want to spend more money on paint, so instead I painted the beds with white trim paint and then tried painting the insets on the headboard and footboard with the colored paint. In the end I didn't like the contrast, so I painted over the color and then sanded it off so the color would show through. At least this allows them to be able to tell their beds apart.

I waited to post better pictures because the icing on the cake was the quilts their aunt Amy made for them. Each quilt is pieced to match their beds and personalities.

Abby's is a purple pinwheel pattern,

Sarah's is pink and ruffled,

And Eva's has colorful dots and coordinates with her bedroom quilt. I love them all. Thanks Aunt Amy!

They look adorable all lined up in a row, but mostly they live in their own rooms with the girls. Eva's is in her little play tent, and Abby's is set up like a little bedroom with picture frames and knick-knacks. 


It was a fun project, and was pretty easy if you can make friends with a few power tools! I managed to not cut off any fingers so our friendship is in tact.


Meet Benton

I had a request for more puppy pictures, and I am here to deliver.


Tom grew up with a line of Golden Retrievers, each with some derivative of the name Ben. (Bently, Bennigan, Benvolio, etc.) When we first started thinking about a puppy, we looked at a litter of labs and almost put our money down on a Chocolate one. The girls wanted to name him "Chip." In the end though, we just couldn't do it. It didn't feel right. The parents weren't the best looking dogs I'd ever seen and their living conditions weren't ideal. Then, on a whim, I decided to look up Golden Retriever breeders in our state and happened upon a male that was available just before Christmas. Bingo.

I wouldn't say it was the easiest (or cheapest) decision to make, until we saw his picture. Cue, "awww". We were sunk. We kept him a secret from the kids, and then right before Christmas we made the 3 hour drive to get him, telling the girls "Daddy wants to look at some equipment for the farm." They were clueless until Dad came out of the house carrying our new puppy and I said "surprise!"

Tom had him named before we picked him up. His registered name is "Benton Gold", in the tradition of Bens (he's the 7th) and in honor of our hometown. Mostly we just call him Ben. Our next one will be "Benry the VIII." :)

If there is a next one. I grumble a little about how much work a puppy is and about him chewing on everyone's socks and my cowhide rug. Good thing puppies are adorable. It makes it easy to fall in love. Hopefully the puppy stage is short-lived and I will forget all about the work. 

We were hoping for a companion for Mia, our older dog who has very nervous and anxious behaviors. So far she isn't terribly impressed, and so far Ben spends more time inside away from her. Even so, having another dog around seems to make her relax. Normally she refuses to ride in the car, but yesterday as I loaded Ben in his kennel to visit the vet for shots, Mia jumped in right beside him without hesitation. I'll be anxious to see how else her behavior changes once Ben starts to spend more time outside with her. I'm hoping she will be less nervous around new people and will learn to use a pet door into the garage. 

Tom was ADAMANT about getting a boy puppy—you know—to help even the score. After we picked him up he took the girls to the store to shop for supplies. Everything they picked out, from his colar to his toys, was blue. :)

We are trying to "crate train" him. The goal is to get him into a schedule where we sleeps and naps in his crate (even eats in his crate) and goes outside immediately after to relieve himself. So far it is working really well. He hasn't been perfect, but I've been pleasantly surprised (knock on wood) how few messes we've had to clean up. The thing is, he is a very social dog and he prefers just to nap at our feet wherever we happen to be. He sleeps well in his crate at night as long as we put his crate right beside our bed.

That is a very thorough introduction–now wish me luck!


Before the year turns

I'm not one to go nuts over Christmas traditions and generally like to keep things low key and simple. It is one of the only holidays I actually make an effort to decorate for though. It just seems like a little festivity and a few twinkling lights really cheer things up when it is cold outside and the days are so short.

Sometimes I find it hard to decorate around the unfinished projects. Our front door is still unpainted and not fully trimmed out, but I finally added a wreath anyway. There is always a pile of boots in the entry- especially now that the puppy needs accompanied outside to do his business several times a day.

I reuse the same decorations every year, but I'll add to it if I see something that catches my eye. This year we made a crude little star from some leftover trim scraps and wrapped a few lights around it. I also bought this pretty pine plant off of our local Facebook yard sale site for $10. It will stay all year, but looks especially nice for the winter!

I found this adorable pair of vintage children's wooden skiis to add to my collection this year also. They were a steal ($5) at a holiday antique show.

There is a darling little place called Virgelle (named for its founders Vigil and Ella) on the Missouri River that opens only about twice a year to sell their wares. They are open as a bed and breakfast in the warmer months. It was a bit of a muddy trek to get there, but well worth the drive.

I could have easily dropped a few more pennies there if I'd had the pennies to drop. Our new puppy sort of ate a hole in my pocket.

I love getting everyone's Christmas cards in the mail this time of year. As usual I display them in this vintage card carousel. This was our Christmas card this year:

I mentioned before that I let my kids decorate this year. It was fun for them and stress free for me.

They filled this bowl with silver pine cones and garland, and I loved it. You can see that I hung some art on the wall in our living room. I've had these New York prints and really like them, but had intended to use them somewhere else until I saw how nice the metallic frames looked against the gray walls. I would like to find a pair of mirrors to flank them since there is a lot of wall left on either side.

I like playing Christmas songs this time of year. This year the girls were asked to carol at the local nursing home with the 4-H club, and I got to accompany them on the piano. It was a grand time and was especially fun to see the joy on the faces of the tenants!

Simple white stockings hung by the chimney with care.

And a simple neutral tree.

My favorite twiggy reindeer appear every year also, even though I can't seem to find a glue to fix the wound they endured a couple of years ago...

I hope you enjoyed the tour of our holiday home before it all gets packed away for another year. Happy Holidays! :)

Christmas at the Clarks

Three American Girl Doll beds greeted my girls under the Christmas tree this year. Santa's freelance elf made them all by herself.

See? Here's proof by way of a few process shots.


I wouldn't know, of course, but rumor has it they were made from these plans from Ana White, and that they were pretty simple to build. They had to be for Santa's elf to manage them by herself. Painting them was no doubt the hardest part.

These beds gave us a lot of bang for our buck—in otherwords, we didn't have to break the piggy bank to give them something that felt substantial. Which was good, because...

...we sort of spent our Christmas wad on a little friend that joined in the festivities Christmas morning.

This is Benton, our new Golden Retriever puppy. The girls were pretty disappointed when Dexter the free dog had to go back home because he wasn't very nice to an important person in our lives. This is how we made it up to them. Not exactly free, but, well, we have always LOVED this breed and decided to splurge on what we really wanted.

More about Benton later.

Christmas at home in our pajamas is always a treat.

Grandma bought new boots for the girls and they were a huge hit.

Later Christmas day we migrated to my parents house where we joined up with more family and enjoyed a yummy prime rib dinner and a leisurely afternoon of game playing. We especially enjoyed the company of my little nephew elf.

We are truly blessed to enjoy a perfect Christmas. After Tom puts in a couple of good days work on my parents apartment project we are hoping to spend a few days with his family. If all goes well. At this point we are nursing a sick little Eva back to health and crossing our fingers that it doesn't spread. And adjusting to life with a puppy. (What did I get myself into?)

Lots more to share- back soon!


I'm not doing very well with catching up, am I? It has been a busy week. Abby started basketball practice every night, and we have been attending the Montana Grain Growers conference. On top of that, I've been a little under the weather. I did take some living room photos that I need to upload and hopefully have ready for you on Monday. Until then, these were my little ghouls this year:

Halloween in December. Awesome! I'm just trying to be fashionably late, that's all. We made Abby's costume with felt and foam. Sarah's was an old costume we had that we gussied up a bit with tulle. Eva's was a last-minute (as in 15 minutes before we went trick-or-treating) trip to the dress-up closet. I have to admit I'm a bit of a Halloween grinch and usually find it to be a lot of unnecessary effort, but the kids love it and it is fun to see them all dressed up. 

Now we are 18 days away from Christmas. Or let's just not go there. DENIAL! DENIAL! The girls wanted to decorate and I just wasn't feeling it. So I hauled the boxes and tree out and let them do all the decorating. It was easy for me and they had fun. Win win! We asked the girls what they wanted for Christmas and so far we are about 0 for 4. Either we can't find what they want or they are out-of-stock. Turns out waiting to shop in December can fail big time.

We are tempted to forgo gifts and buy the girls a puppy instead. If you follow me on twitter or Facebook you might have seen me introduce Dexter, a pretty 2-year old Retriever/German shorthair mix we found on Craig's List. He was energetic and sweet and the girls quickly fell in love with him. It seemed like it was going to be a match made in heaven... until he decided he didn't like my dad. He barked and growled at him mostly, but one night when my dad went into "his" garage, he actually tried to bite. Not good. So he went back to his old home. 

That seems like more than enough random chatter for one day, so I'll sign off and wish you all a happy weekend!

Thanksgiving recap and catching up

It's probably time for me to do something about this blog neglect situation. I didn't intend to leave you hanging for—what, nearly two months (gulp!) but I guess life has gotten away from me and I have found it difficult to take the time to write about it. 

Now I'll offer up my excuses. Since I last posted, we (among other things):

-celebrated several more birthdays, including Tom's and Abby's . . . associated sleepovers and cake baking.

-took a family trip to California.

-made Halloween costumes and did the typical Halloween festivities yada yada.

-hosted Thanksgiving at our house.

-and last but mostly to blame, worked on house projects.

What this means is this:

I have lots of material to blog about! :)  Now, if I can just sit down and get that first post written I will be on a roll. It might take a post a day until Christmas to get caught up. No commitments, though. 

Catching up seems daunting, so I will start with the most current events. Auntie Amy knitted new hats for each of the girls (above). Aren't they adorable? And here is Eva enjoying her baby cousin Brandon. She just loves babies.



My whole family was together for Thanksgiving weekend, and we hosted at our house. It was probably a crazy thing to do because we were finishing up projects, moving furniture, and cleaning house until 2:30 AM the night before. But ah, was it ever fun to cook Thanksgiving dinner in our new kitchen! And it is so good to have a deadline to work for, despite the craziness. 

Speaking of kitchens, I have been dying to finish up the last of the projects in ours so I can take some real photos and post before and after pictures of the project. But first I wanted to finish every. last. detail. And we did pretty good.

This is what we accomplished this month on the kitchen:


  • Order a new pantry cabinet and install it (actually, this happened awhile ago, but I don't think I've posted about it.)
  • Build the wood shelves (Dad) and stain and finish them (me). L-O-V-E them. 
  • Caulk and paint all the window trim.
  • Hang the curtains that I finished sewing ages ago.
  • Install, caulk, and paint the crown moulding above the cabinets.
  • Install soft-close hinges on our cupboard doors (we meant to order them this way, but some came without. Love this feature). 
  • Install mug hooks on new shelves.
  • Order and install a light fixture over the island (finally)! An issue of debate finally settled. 
  • Make over the fireplace doors (more on this later).
  • Paint the beam and other touchup.
  • Replace outlets and switches.



Still to do:


  • Tile an area above the window that didn't get done before because we ran out of the adhesive we used. Oops.
  • Makeover firebox.
  • Paint stool
  • Fix the propane leak in the fireplace. We haven't been able to use our fireplace because the valve leaks. We drilled through the mortar to attempt to fix it, but it is still leaking. 
  • Patch mortar
  • Cut the kickbase off of the sideboard/buffet and add feet. (My dad is going to help build some strong feet to bear the weight of this heavy piece. Someday.)


I would like to get the first three things done before I post pictures. The rest might be a while.

We've been busy, right? There's more.

Here is our list for the hallway:


  • Install new vertical windows
  • Install new front door
  • Install new side light windows (they arrive this week!) 
  • Paint front door and side garage door. (I bought the paint.)
  • Install trim (almost there)
  • Caulk and paint trim.
  • Buy new entry rugs that can handle all the ranch dirt that tracks in and out of here.
  • Make shelf and bench for mudroom/coat hook area. 
  • Stencil wall of coat hook area.
  • Hang hooks in coat hook area.
  • Hang artwork in hall.


Still more. Here is the list for the Living Room:


  • Remove wallpaper.
  • Remove those old dusty curtains.
  • Remove carpet. (Yes, we did!)
  • Scrape popcorn ceilings.
  • Retexture ceilings.
  • Paint ceilings.
  • Spackle, sand, and smooth walls.
  • Prime and paint walls.
  • Install hardwood floors (Yes, we did that too! Grin!)
  • Redo light bar (under old cornice/valance). Build, sand, stain, finish, and install. Paint light fixtures.
  • Order and install new sconces.
  • Install new hallway light.
  • Retrim everything.
  • Caulk and paint trim. (almost there)
  • Replace outlets and switches. (almost there)
  • Order new window treatments. Probably solar blinds.
  • Get a light for piano. I'd like a floor lamp that arches over the piano.
  • Get an area rug. We might bind some of the old carpet for now. Maybe. It's hard to put something old back into a new space.
  • Build desk and cupboard for desk niche. 
  • Stencil wall behind desk niche.
  • Replace doors upstairs so they are all white and match the trim. Someday.


Whew. Tired yet? We certainly were after pushing to get all of this done before Thanksgiving. And I'm still trying to catch up on the laundry and house cleaning that gets neglected while I'm working on projects.

One big reason for pushing so hard (besides the fact we were hosting Thanksgiving) was because now we are going to take a break (on our house, anyway). My parents have helped us extensively on house projects, so now we are going to attempt to help them in return with one of their projects. They just purchased a 4-plex in town as an investment, and one unit is going to be gutted and redone. They would like to finish it before the new year. Yes, we are all glutton for punishment! :)

After that, if all goes well, I would like to work on our house again until spring farm work calls. Besides finishing the above list, with any luck we'll tackle the laundry room, guest bathroom, and girls rooms. I'll spare you those lists for now. Until then, I will have plenty to show you with the projects I mentioned above. 

And that's all I have for today. Ha :) It is good to be back.

(P.S. I have an issue with compound words. When I run spell check that is all it picks out. A string of incorrect compound words. Sorry, but I'm leaving them! Forgive me.)


Happy Birthday, Sarah!

I'm getting this up at the last possible minute, but wanted to wish Sarah an official online happy 7th birthday!


She asked for a cowgirl cake, and I obliged. It was fun to make.

Over the weekend we had all the first grade girls (yes, there are only 5!) for a sleep over. They decorated these little letters for a fun craft project.

On Saturday night we had a family party at Grandpa and Grandma's. Today she shared her favorite cookies at school and we had her favorite dish for dinner (meatballs). Aren't birthdays great . . . when you are a kid and can drag out the celebrations for several days?

Happy Birthday, Sarah! We love your smile and your spirit.

Colter Wayne

I recently had the privilege of practicing my photo "skillz" (ha) on my newest, most adorable neighbor. This is Colter Wayne, my cousin's new baby boy. And boy is is he irresistible. All these new baby boys might be making me want my own little boy a teensy weensy bit . . .  Nah, just kidding. I'm quite happy to give them lots of cuddles and then hand them back to their mommies.

There is no doubt this little guy is going to be raised all country, is there? :)


The weekend before school started was our county fair. Abby participated by showing her horse for 4-H.

No, we don't have horses here on the farm, but Tom's family has enough to go around. Abby was able to participate in this level of 4-H because she was able to spend a few weekends this summer on Tom's parent's ranch helping with the horses, feeding, cleaning stalls, and riding.

With Tom being tied up with harvest and me knowing nothing about horses, Aunt Tawnya and Nanna stepped in to save the day. They brought the horse up to the fairgrounds and stayed with Abby during the fair.

This is Double-Dot. He was Tom's horse when he rode in high school.

Tawnya gives Abby some last minute pointers before the show.

Abby did very well, placing first in her Novice Horsemanship class.

This is her friend Madison, who competed in her same classes. Cuties.

Abby with her cousins, and their newest "cousin" Chesterfeild.

Relaxed and relieved after the events are through. Isn't she a pretty girl?

Two pretty girls. I love this picture of them together.

And I love these boys.

They look just like brothers and sisters.

This little munchkin was along for the day also. Just not old enough to perch on the fence with her cousins.

And for good measure, one more funny picture that must be saved for future blackmailing. Recently lost teeth make Sarah look like she is sporting fangs. Paired with a wide-mouthed crazy smile, and crossed eyes its a great look.

Meeting Brandon

Would anyone like to meet my new nephew?

Introducing Brandon Wil, cutest cowboy in the west.

His sweet Momma had a shower in her home town and we got to join in. Brandon was already a month old when I got to see him for the first time. 

It's hard to think about how much he will have changed before we see him again. We are already seeing some stinkin' cute smiles show up on Facebook since we've last seen him.

Thank goodness for cyberspace, right? We would miss out on so much without it.

Harvest happenings

Before harvest time fades too far from our memory I thought I'd share a few more moments from this year. 

This is what dinner in the field looks like these days:

A simple production. Mom says "Where did everyone go? Doesn't anyone want to relax and enjoy their dinner awhile?" No, everyone is off for one last ride on the combines.

It isn't the easiest thing to drive with a kid on your lap. Especially one that defiantly says "I do it" and takes over the steering. Grandpa is very patient.

And this straight edge on the field wasn't so straight after Eva finished with it.

Beautiful Montana sunsets:

One night we had a storm roll in so we went out around midnight to move vehicles off the field (so they wouldn't get left in the mud.) Tom pulled out ahead of me with a loaded truck and I could see grain pouring out the back. He made it up onto the road a ways before I could get his attention to stop the truck. By then there was a pretty good trail of wheat behind him, and more piling up on the road behind the truck. For some reason the back door (which is is usually never used) had come unlatched. The weight of the load prevented us from closing it, so left the truck in the road, ran back to the house for a crowbar, then back to the truck to pry the door closed. (Good thing it was a remote country road in the middle of the night). By then the rain was pouring hard. The photo below shows Dad and Tom saving the last of what they could after already shoveling a substantial pile back into the truck.

Harvesting canola:

Early that same rainy night we had strong winds that shattered many of the canola pods before we could get them cut. So many weather events that can wreck havoc on our success. First lack of snow, then hail, then wind. Sometimes the odds are hard to beat.

The night of the storm we happened to have some great old friends for company—this sweet Minnesota family stopping on their way through. (Hard to believe we are on the way to anywhere, seems like the end of the earth sometimes, but we are on the way to Canada!) We treated them with a true campout... due to the power outage that resulted from the winds. We told them Montana is still so remote we don't even have electricity up here. Ha.

The blackout didn't prevent us from taking a few combine rides, though, which suited this big boy in front just fine. 

A few days later we had more company, my brothers and their families, including my very new nephew, Brandon. (That is material for another post). With Ash to help dad in the field, we took advantage and headed out Saturday evening to Holter Lake to join Tom's family in celebrating Papa's birthday number 6-0. The girls were able to spend a few extra days camping there, but Tom and I were just lucky to sneak away for one quick overnight stay. 

Nothing like eating cake in the dark around a campfire.

Except maybe getting up the next morning to go fishing.

The fish knew it was Papa's birthday too and bit his line 5 times, completely ignoring everyone else in the boat with a rod. Birthday luck.

The best part was that the kids did the dirty job of cleaning the fish.

Sometimes it feels like we miss out on a good portion of summer when we spend well over a month of it harvesting. But it just makes us appreciate the priviliages we do have all the more. 


summer's end

Hello friends! Sorry to be such a stranger. I'm sad and relieved at the same time to find ourselves at the end of our summer. The start of school puts an abrupt end to our summer schedule but it also launches us into routine and normalcy.

The girls are happy to be going back also. Its a long summer for these country girls when you don't get to see your friends everyday.

Sarah is starting first grade and Abby is in 4th. Both are excited about their new teachers.

Does anyone else's house look like this after school shopping?

The first day of school was also our 15th Anniversary. We got married 3 days before my parents celebrated their 25th. That means they are celebrating their 40th this year! I wish I had a picture of Tom's parents together also because they too celebrated their 40th this summer.

Since our anniversary fell on the first day of school and the last day of harvest, we didn't celebrate until the following day. Mom offered to babysit and Tom and I escaped to town for a little shopping, movie, and dinner.

There should be lots of posts coming your way as I catch up with our busy August happenings. Back soon!

Thoughts on being a stay-at-home mom

I recently had a friend make the decision to leave her lucrative career to stay at home with her kids. She was excited about the change but nervous at the same time. Nervous about how she was going to fill her time, stay motivated, and most of all, fulfilled. She asked me if I had any advice. 

I'm no expert, but I have now lived on both sides of the fence. And I'm here to dispel the notion that staying at home is the easy choice. I know for some women the choice isn't really a choice at all. Some are forced to work to pay the bills. Others stay home because it doesn't make any financial sense to work after they pay the daycare bill for "x number of" kids. For me, the choice was easy to start with. When I graduated college I planned to work at least until my loans were paid off. It just made sense. When Abby came along three years later, however, I didn't have those loans paid off and we had car payments and a house payment. We were adjusted to a certain way of life that we liked. My career had already accelerated by that point, and I contributed to at least half of our household income. So I kept working. While I definitely had moments where I wished I could spend more time with my kids, most of the time I didn't feel like it was a huge sacrifice to be a working mom. I felt like my kids benefited from being around other people, educational opportunities at daycare, and most of all, structure.

There were other benefits to working full time. There was a distinct definition between work and home. When we weren't at work, our time was all ours and we could spend it how we wanted to. We could afford to take family vacations. At some point we hired a housekeeper to come every other week, frequent enough because we weren't home much to mess the house up. We hired other things done also; our car repairs, building our house, landscaping our yard. We had a small yard to care for, and if we didn't have time to do that we could usually find a neighbor boy to mow the lawn. You get the picture. I also had help from Tom. Because we both worked full time, we shared the housework. Tom was mostly in charge of the laundry and he cooked, cleaned, and payed the bills.  

My decision to stay at home was attached to our decision to move to the farm. By the time I pay for gas to get to town and childcare, and work at one of the low-paying jobs a small community offers, it isn't very practical for me to work. Plus, I'm more valuable at home. Keeping the household going takes time, and Tom can't help. He doesn't get off at 5 (or 6 or 7) like he used to. We have fallen into more traditional gender roles here on the farm just by necessity.

The truth is, the idea of staying at home was a big part of the allure of this lifestyle and the decision to move to the farm. I knew what I was getting myself into, but I didn't know, if you know what I mean. I am definitely much more busy with all things domestic than I expected to be. 

In theory, we have the same amount of laundry as before. We have the same amount of space (roughly) as before. Okay, our lawn is gigantic now. The house is a little bigger. But the housework load seems like it should be about the same, right? Well, instead of cooking dinner every night, we cook (and clean up after) 3 meals a day. There is no fast food down the street. I do all the yard work. My house gets messy 3 times faster because we are IN it all day long. Every time I go to the grocery store, I spend 2 hours in the car. I spend another hour in the car on school days delivering and collecting the kids from the bus. Another hour if I have to get them to town for activities. And this business of keeping three kids busy and out of trouble all day is a full time job in itself. Especially with a toddler. You know what I'm saying.

In this new life of ours, we now have more time than money. We do more things ourselves. For example, our remodeling projects are almost all DIY. Another example—I need a baby gifts for my new niece and nephew. Before I could afford a really nice gift—like a stroller or name brand baby shoes for instance. Now I can't spend that much, so I am making a handmade gift in an effort to make it more special and meaningful. At the moment I am stressing about getting this gift made, dinner cooked tonight, my house cleaned for guests, and keeping my toddler entertained on top of it all. This job comes with a different kind of stress—one that is self-imposed but real none-the-less; pressure to be a good mom and be everything to everyone. I want to cook yummy and healthy meals. Have a clean, organized, and well-decorated home. Raise good kids. Lose this baby weight already. Be smart. Well informed. Be involved in the farm. The list goes on.

Then there is the quesiton of fullfillment. Before it was easy. Work, get paycheck. Work harder, get raise. Buy clothes. Buy stuff for house. Work some more. Buy more. (Ha.) But the work was attached to a tangible (key word) reward, and I felt like I was accomplishing something. Now, I don't contribute directly to the family income. Much of my work is never finished. I clean the house and do the dishes, just to do it all over again. I'm not saying it isn't worthwhile or rewarding, but the reward is much less tangible.

I know time makes you forget. I know I am forgetting the stress and overwhelming fatigue of our old schedule. It wasn't easy. Tom traveled a lot, for one. My lucrative career was such because I was in management, which added to the stress and emotional strain of my job. That stress was hard to cope with sometimes. A lot of times. Money doesn't buy happiness. It buys lots of stuff. That we don't need.

I suppose there are a few out there that get to stay at home with their kids and can still afford the housekeeper, nanny, or (heaven help me) cook. They exist in a different reality than mine. But somehow I'm pretty sure that instead of stressing about how to pay the car repair bill and getting dinner on the table, they are stressing about how to pay the pool boy and private school tuition and how they are going to manage to squeeze in that Botox appointment before the soccer game. What I'm trying to say is this: Our means dictate our priorities. And we are all pretty good at maxxing ourselves out.

So what's my point?

I'm happy. This lifestyle isn't always easy, but its what I want. The grass might look greener on the other side sometimes, but I truly believe we are happiest if we can bloom where we are planted. With change comes challenge, but I will work at perfecting this life until I get it right. That is just my nature. Instead of fighting for that next promotion I will fight for happy kids, a clean house, and efficiency.

Today I read a blog post about how to make the laundry chore easier by foregoing much of the sorting (what? really?) and just doing a little bit every day. It's strikes me as funny that I get jazzed about reading blogs about housework and organizing. It used to be we learned everything we knew about domestic things from our moms. Now there is no end to the inspiration and help we can get from moms of all walks of life. It occurred to me though; in the time it took me to read that blog about laundry efficiency I could have folded a whole basket of laundry. Ha. (As much as I feel guilty about my blog reading habit, I do value and appreciate the connection it gives me to life outside the farm. Its that adult interaction I miss by not working outside the home. The key is moderation, right?)

Recently I discovered our online library where I can download both e-books and audio books. I've enjoyed how listening to a story while doing housework really makes the mundane chores much more enticing. After I finish a book, though, I am usually happy to work in silence for awhile so that I am more in tune with what is going on around me and using my brain to meditate and think. (Think up ideas like this blog post. :) I just had to quit what I was doing so I could write this all down while it was in my head.)

So, what are your tips for staying motivated through the mundane? I'm all ears and I need all the help I can get!

(About these photos: I feel like I do a pretty good job of documenting major life events on camera. But sometimes I feel like I miss out on the best photo opportunities when I don't pick up my camera at home and capture what happens on any old boring day. I love to follow everyone's 365 photo projects for this reason. It forces you to take a photo every day. I'm not sure if I have the discipline for that, but maybe I should try? Here's to capturing the everyday!)

harvest time

I'm breaking the silence of an intended blog hiatus—unintended but unsurprising. Harvest has been in full swing for the past couple of weeks, which launches us into coping mode. Coping and keeping up with the busy days. If you are one who visits the blog simply for house projects and updates, well, there just isn't much (any) of that happening right now. Come back in a month or two. In the meantime, here is a smattering of goings-on around the farm.

Furrows and Fourwheelers

Last week started out with an event that took the wind out of our sails a bit. My cousin Rob, our main hired hand and harvest help the past several years, was injured badly in a four-wheeler accident and put out of commission for the rest of the season. Not to discount the severity of a broken shoulder and pelvis, but we are thankful it wasn't worse. It happened like this:

We finished up our harvest dinner and the guys headed back out to work. Rob's cousin, visiting from out of state, drove her uncle's four-wheeler over from the neighboring farm where they were having their own harvest dinner. Rob hopped on to show her around the farm before heading back to work. They were riding through a field, not on the usual path. They came over a hill, hit a rock pile, and were launched from the four-wheeler, narrowly missing some very large rocks. I was the first one they reached by cell phone (luckily they had service!) and hopped in the car to get them. We loaded them up and took them into the hospital to inspect the damage. His cousin suffered a concussion and broken thumb. The accident raises lots of concerns about farm liability and the wisdom of having four-wheelers on the farm. Even in this case. Not our four-wheeler, but on our farm. Not our guest, but our employee. Tom and I owned four-wheelers for recreating (always with helmets). Since Eva's arrival we no longer use them that way, but they are quite handy for moving easily around the farm between machinery. The trouble is, the guys quickly get out of the helmet habit. Kids who visit want to ride them for fun. Where do we draw the line? 

Needless to say, we are shorthanded now. I'm willing to pitch in if I need to, but as it happens we've had several visitors lately that have provided temporary help. God provides!

cotton ball clouds

Putting our farmhouse table through it's paces. On this night we had 17 to feed. Out came the paper plates on this occasion!Zinnias we planted from seed (a gift for Mother's Day from Sarah) are in full bloom. I love the bright colors!After dinner swing sessionSean cleans the combine windows. The Raineys are becoming annual harvest guests and we wish we could keep them longer. They know that visiting during harvest means work and they are so great about pitching in and helping out. Having friends like this around makes the work fun.

Beautiful Holly. I love this girl.Working into the sunset—and well beyond.

Unplugging a plugged-up header in the dark.We always take Sundays off, even during Harvest. So after church we decided to take the long way home through the mountains. We first hiked down to Lost Lake. (It truly is lost, an unmarked local attraction.)
Sweet Isabel
Its a green a slimy lake. Not very inviting.The rock formations are the main attraction.We were in our Sunday clothes. Odd attire for a hike.


Up in the cooler air of the High wood Mountains for a picnic by the creek


Hugs goodbye.



I'll be back in a week or three. Happy Harvest everyone!