Jun 10, 2016

An Open Letter to London on Her 6th Birthday

Dear London,

This has been quite a year. After the expected adjustment period at your new school, you have settled in well. You even made so many new friends this year that we invited over 30 kids to your birthday party tomorrow. You have a thirst for knowledge and have soaked up so much in Kindergarten. I'm often amazed at just how much you remember and retain at such a young age. You can read quite well now and are not only good with sight words but good with sounding out words you don't know. You also can not wait to start 1st grade, declaring so after I picked you up from Grammi's after the first weekend school had let out for summer. 

You've also recently shown a keen interest in cooking and I am trying to let you in the kitchen with me as much as possible. This happens more on weekends when we're not trying to get a meal on the table as fast as possible because everyone is hungry. You love watching cooking shows. You started out watching my recordings of Pioneer Woman and we now record Chopped Junior too. I hope this interest continues and develops into you trying new foods - you still retain a picky pallet. 

This year you joined your first organized club - 4H. You participated in two project groups - Baking & Wildlife and enjoyed both. I also learned by watching you that you are not afraid to ask questions in big groups. Your last meeting for the year was Wednesday. At it, the District 4H representatives came and presented on bullying which included a video. After the video they asked several questions. You weren't afraid to answer, raising your hand and waiting to be called on. You were one of about three kids answering in a group of about 30, spanning a range of Kindergarten through 8th grade. That is one thing I love about our new school - you have friends in almost every grade. 

The school has also sparked a small interest of yours in Basketball and Cheerleading. Once summer swim lessons conclude, your dad and I plan to evaluate venues for gymnastics. And we'll definitely look at getting you signed up for youth basketball - that is in your blood. 

We'll be ending the summer with a trip to Disneyland. You're quite excited about it as you know you are now tall enough for California Screamin' and you have an interest in trying Space Mountain and Tower of Terror again - now that you're not afraid of the dark. 

You have a strong love for your animals - each and every one of them. You graciously take turns with Sydney as to who gets what dog each night, though lately you seem partial to Gibson. I think this is because Sydney tends to reject Gibson for Tulley. Even Kelsey Lou has warmed up to you and allows you to pet her when you approach her the proper way. 

The bond between you & Sydney continues to grow. Of course, you two bicker and argue and know how to push each others buttons to the best of your abilities, but you also look out for her and continue to let her get her way much of the time. You're often considerate of her feelings and when the two of you are getting along well, it makes for a wonderful scene for your dad and me to see. 

I love that you love your Christmas Elf, Snowie, so much that you write notes to him throughout the year. You were quite surprised to see that Santa had allowed him to come down and surprise you with a visit this morning. I'm glad you appreciate the magic of the Christmas season as much as I do, and don't focus just on your list of wants. All you wanted for your birthday this year was a pink tent and a Doc McStuffin's vet kit. We'll see if these wishes come true today and tomorrow. 

Tomorrow is your birthday party. We purchased a giant, inflatable waterslide. I'll admit I'm happy only about 10-15 kids will actually be able to attend the party too. That way there won't be such a line for the slide and we got a two-slide Slip and Slide to add to the water play. I'm also looking forward to meeting more of your friends at school. 

And oh how I wonder what this next year will bring. Keep it up baby girl - every day is a joy. 


Jun 2, 2016

Hello Summer!

Today is London's last day of Kindergarten! Looking back, it feels like it has flown by. And I wish I was there with her. It's only a half day. It starts with Frog Jump competitions and ends with a school BBQ. 

Looking back at the picture of her from the 1st day of Kindergarten, I can really see how much she, and our grape vines, have grown!

1st Day of Kindergarten
Last Day of Kindergarten

We're also glad that London made it to the last week of school. She missed all of last week due to a virus and pneumonia. She only started to act like normal self on Sunday! It's probably been a good thing that she only had half days these last 3 days. 

London will be heading back to her old daycare next week. She is excited to see old friends and teachers and Sydney is excited London will be back at "her" school. 

We have a few fun things planned for the summer, starting with London's birthday next week and ending with a trip to Disneyland. We've also set a few goals for London this summer. 

1. Learn to wake up to an alarm clock instead of mom and become a self starter in the 
2. Learn to tie shoe laces
3. Learn to ride a two-wheeler

We happened to go to Chuck E. Cheese last night to celebrate McKenzie's 3rd birthday and London really started to grasp the concept of games and tickets. She got very upset when she was out of tokens to play games, so we made a deal - when she learns to tie shoe laces we will go to Chuck E Cheese to celebrate. 

Let the fun begin!

Apr 29, 2016

Spring around The Homestead

My roses are blooming like crazy - and they are huge this year!
Spring has sprung here in California! With my parents in town over the Easter Holiday, we took a tour around the property. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Fig Tree already has large green figs forming on it. Before I know it, it will be time to harvest and make more of my Fig Preserves. 

Our wedding arch and the grapes
Those preserves have been a huge hit with the people I have given this to as gifts. I've even had people ask for more, which, of course, I have happily obliged. But that also means I am almost out of my stock from last year! The sad part is I could have made more but instead I dried and froze a bunch of harvests instead - which still sit in the freezer to this day. The goal had been to make fig bars. One of these days...

The garden is coming along great. Almost all of my spring and summer crops are planted. Unfortunately, my tomato and basil sprouts from the laundry room didn't survive the hardening process this year. We broke down and purchased 6 tomato plants at Costco and 6 more plants at a local nursery. We also purchased 6 basil plants from Costco. 

My pepper seeds took forever to sprout and by the time they did, I had already purchased other plants. I managed to get 6 of 12 bell pepper seeds to sprout and I did plant those in the ground without hardening them. Only 3 survived and are still quite small. It's as if I need to plant tomato and pepper seeds in November to have the plants ready for garden planting!  I may just stick to purchasing plants from the nursery from now on. 

The chickens have been growing fast! And we're pretty sure we have at least 3 roosters. At least it's not 6 or 8. They've been moved into the coop outside for a few weeks now. This was after Cameron not only improved it so we don't have a repeat attack by a coyote and expanded it!  The expansion will allow us to separate the Turkeys from the Chicken food when they get too big. 

The Turkey Expansion Area

We purchased two bronze Turkeys a couple of weeks ago. They are currently smaller than the chicken but were much older than the age we got a turkeys last year. We've brought them out to the coop a few times for some socialization with the chickens, but until they get all their feathers, they will spend their nights in the garage. We think we scored 2 Toms this year!

Lloyd & Harry (or Henrietta if Harry turns out to be a girl)

Cameron is also working on building a coyote-proof pen just behind our main backyard area, too. That's because we're getting baby goats! These are Boer goats, which is the preferred breed for meat goats. These two little gals won't be dinner just yet, though. We plan to breed these two and raise their offspring for meat. Of course, we have plenty of people asking us if we will be making goat cheese. We're not quite ready for that kind of work and commitment, sorry. 

London's Goat - Sunny
Sydney's Goat - Roxie
When I told London what these goats were for, she got upset. Apparently, she wants a pet goat. So she is currently doing chores around the house to earn money for a Pygmy Goat. Amazingly, she's already saved more than 1/2 the money she needs. And she can't earn more than $8 a week. Some of her chores involve taking care of other animals around our house. She has to let the dogs out each morning, feed them both in the morning and evening and monitor Jake & Kelsey's food bowls. 

The soon-to-be Goat Pen
The Goat House - soon to be painted Red
We'll see how the goats like being next to the dogs
London is quite motivated and on top of her chores most of the time. We added these chores as we want her to understand that if she gets a pet goat she needs to be responsible for it and take care of it. Right now, Cameron and I are both impressed. 

London was feeding Sophie in the mornings, but that chore now belongs to Sydney. One morning Sydney burst into tears when we explained that feeding Sophie was London's chore. Sydney said she wanted a chore board, so guess what my weekend project is?! (Of course, things have been so busy, that has been a weekend project for a few weeks too). 

Sorry for my absence - I'm behind in all areas of my life right now. Just trying to stay afloat is hard. 

Apr 6, 2016

London's 1st 4-H Presentation

The weekend before Easter included a 4-H Baking Club meeting for London, and by default me (don't get me wrong, I love it. I attend the baking meetings and Cameron goes with her to the Wildlife meetings). 

At this meeting, London needed to give a oral presentation on any subject she wanted. Oral presentations are part of the "curriculum" of 4-H, mainly designed to help kids learn to speak in front of large groups of people. Because London is at the primary level, she could have either done this presentation in front of a couple of the 4-H leaders, a small club group or in front of the entire 4-H Club organization at one of the general meetings. After watching a few presentations at the general meetings, I asked London if she wanted to do her presentation there or at a Baking club meeting. Of course, London opted for the smaller group. 

I didn't give London the option of doing it in front of just club leaders, as I do want her to learn to be comfortable speaking in front of large groups. I still have a hard time with presenting. The last time I had to do one, I could feel my whole face go red and I almost fainted (tunnel vision started to set in, but luckily it was a short presentation.) 

And it worked out well, as at this meeting the kids were making cupcakes so there would be some downtime where the presentation would be good filler. 

Cameron and I both helped steer London in her presentation topic since she originally said she wanted to do it on the color pink. We bribed her into covering Baking Basics, by telling her she would get to make a blueberry coffee cake two times - what can I say the kid loves to bake. 

The first time was the weekend before the meeting. London loved not only getting to bake but also getting to use the camera for the first time to take pictures for her presentation board. While we went through the steps, I quizzed London on different things that need to be done while baking, from washing hands before getting started to having adult supervision when using the oven. I then wrote these basic guidelines down into a presentation dialog, trying to use words I knew London knew or could sound out. 

A few revisions were made before I wrote the presentation onto index cards. The night before the presentation, London made the coffee cake again, and cut out and glued the pictures for the board. She even copied over my writing for the title on the board. The cutest part was London kept wanting to practice reading her presentation out load, which really helped her. Such a good habit to get into. 

When it came time for the actual presentation, London got nervous. Luckily, you only get support  and encouragement in 4-H. Everyone encouraged her to do what ever made her comfortable - to the point that they would have let her read the cards from behind a chair. But London was able to read her presentation while sitting on a chair. 

My goals for London in this presentation were to read her cards and do it in front of the group. She exceeded those expectations and I was so proud of her for doing it. Everyone loved the coffee cake too. Plus, it was a nice Thank you we could leave behind at the Firehouse, since the local firemen loaned us the use of their kitchen for the meeting. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get too many pictures or video of the presentation as London quickly wanted me sitting near to help during the presentation. 

This was one of the cupcakes London made at the meeting - she named them "Rainbow Amazing" with the help of one of the older girls

Mar 30, 2016

Happy Spring!

Things have been busy around the homestead lately. The weekend before Easter felt as if it was dedicated to birthday parties and 4-H, which included London's first ever formal presentation. But that's a post for another time. 

This past weekend we celebrated Easter. This of course included our tradition of quiche Lorraine (minus the crust) for brunch, homemade pizza for lunch and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting made from scratch for dinner. Yes, I said dinner.

I tried a new thin-crust pizza dough recipe, swapping all-purpose flour for whole wheat. It turned out pretty good and allowed the flavors of the toppings to really shine through. 

On Saturday, Sydney's best friend McKenzie came over for a play date. Toward the end of the day the 3 girls dyed hard boiled eggs, that we haven't done a thing with since. But they loved it - they only wished there had been more to dye. Dyeing eggs goes quite quickly in comparison to the time it takes to get set up, and to hard boil the eggs! 

The Easter Bunny came that night and filled the girls' baskets with a ton of candy and left candy filled eggs throughout the yard for the girls to find the next morning. McKenzie and her parents, Matt & Lynde joined us for brunch and the egg hunt, too. With help from us adults, they had found all the eggs within a 1/2 hour or so. 

Easter weekend also brought the arrival of London's spring break, and my parents! They came into town to help with childcare this week. They whisked London away Sunday evening for an in-town vacation. They usually stay at a hotel when visiting and this time, they made sure there was a bed for London too. On London's wish list of to dos? Go golfing (which really means putting practice), have lunch at Ikea, go to the park and see Zootopia at the movie theater. 

Today, my parents will pick up Sydney to join in on the fun - just in time for Cameron and I to go see the San Francisco Giants take on their AAA team, the Sacramento Rivercats, in an exhibition game here at Raley Field. We bought a pack of season tickets just so we could go to this game. Cameron and I can't wait!

And Sydney can't wait to join her sister and grandparents. She had a bit of a hard time on Monday going to school. She wanted to stay home and she said she was missing her sister - mainly she wanted to go to the movie theater since London had mentioned it. Luckily, I was able to convince her that the idea of making popcorn at home and having a movie night at home with Mommy and Daddy that night would be just as fun. And she did have a blast mixing the popcorn and eating it for dinner. 

Hope your Easter weekend was enjoyable too.