Valentine’s Day

Our Valentine’s Day celebration this year happened a day early (to avoid the crowds in restaurants– we’re practical like that) and included our youngest two daughters.

At 12 and 14 they are totally old enough to be home on their own.  But you try experiencing four kids moving out in the past year (8 altogether moved out in the past decade), and you might understand why we’re feeling a bit nostalgic and more than a little eager to enjoy this time at home with the last two.

They were coaxing us to go out on our own– they had a movie night of their own planned.  But when we enticed them with the promise of Cuban food at Casablanca, and then Lego Batman, they were happy to come along.  It was totally worth it to hear them laughing uproariously beside us in the movie theater.

We’ve got years, Lord-willing, to go out for Valentine’s Day on our own, and only a few more with them home with us.  We’re going to enjoy their sweet presence for as long as we can.

Our next adventure

I looked at my blog the other day and was shocked at how long it’d been since I’ve last posted. We did just get back from church camp, which with all the cooking and prep that I do each year, does take a bit of time. I was also working extra before we left to make up for the days off.

But there’s also another thing that’s kept us busy lately, and I’ve been itching to tell you about it. You may remember that awhile back we bought a piece of land on the Oregon coast, with the big audacious dream of building a house there someday? Well, that day is coming soon!


We lined up a contractor and nailed down our house plans, and talked through the nitty gritty details of cost, and decided that 2016 is the year!  We hope to have a building permit by mid-July, and if plans come together as our contractor is predicting, we could have this house built by the end of the year.  Squeeee!

It has been a whirl of phone calls around here lately, mostly between our contractor and me, working out all the many details.  There’ve also been lots of text messages with the wonderful Becky, my friend who staged our previous home so beautifully that it sold in 36 hours.  She is giving me advice regarding flooring and furnishings, with the goal of making this home a stylish, comfortable and family-friendly retreat.  Our plan is to use it for our own family several weeks of the year, and then rent it out to other families during the rest of the year.  I’ve done a ton of thinking and research to make it functional for groups with a variety of sizes and needs.

The house is 6 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths, which includes 3 full master suites.  There’s also some fun bunk space planned for kids in the family room downstairs, allowing the house to sleep 16 in beds, with 4 more possible on cots if your crew is really big.

The outdoor living space will include a hot tub, a fenced yard, and a big deck with gated stairs for kid-safety.  We’re also planning a wheelchair ramp, an accessible bathroom, and a stair chair to cater to folks with mobility issues.

The neighborhood has a pool, good beach access, and tennis courts, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium is just 20 minutes north, so there are many good outdoor options nearby.

I’ve rambled long enough for now.  But I’m so excited that I want to pinch myself, so you can bet you’ll be hearing more about this adventure very soon!


Summer Movie Ideas

If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to some serious down time this summer, both for you and your kids. But you also don’t want your kids’ brains to completely stagnate in the process.

My girls will be reading at least an hour a day this summer, and will also continue to do just a tiny bit of math.  Emily is finishing Algebra 1 and Julianna will be reviewing her hard-won multiplication facts at least once or twice a week. Beyond that, we’re wide open.

AmericanGeniusBut I am planning to sneak in a bit more learning with the help of Netflix. One show that the girls are already enjoying watching is called American Genius. Here are some great lists of other interesting and educational moves that are available for kids these days:

Movies for kids about real scientists

Historical movies for kids ages 6-12

Nature documentaries for kids

Not-boring history movies for kids

Read the book, watch the movie


Just these five lists alone would keep your kids in movies for weeks, I’m pretty sure!  What educational offerings have you enjoyed on Netflix with your kids?

The garden is coming together!

I’ve had such fun seeing how much garden I can fit into this tiny back yard of ours!  (The answer: quite a bit)  I now have a total of 6 raspberry canes, 5 tomato plants, four peppers, four strawberry plants (Julianna had to have strawberries!), three cilantro plants, two cucumbers, and one watermelon plant.  Oh, and mint.  I have two tiny baby mint plants.  See?


Instead of planting everything together, I chose to spread things out. I love the idea of fruit and flowers growing all together. Here you can see my cilantro in with my flowers.

CilantroIt is doing so well it is threatening to take over the containers.  Guess it’s already time to chop some up and do some guacamole.


I’m not quite sure how the part-sunny places in the yard will do for the tomatoes, so I decided to try them out in a few different places.

Here’s the bed against the house– it gets tons of morning sun, but is shaded by 2 PM or so. I put a couple strawberries in this bed along with tomatoes and flowers.  Hoping I don’t kill the azalea in the middle.

BigTomatoesI majorly splurged on the two big tomato plants in this bed.  Bought HUGE ones in April, which is why I already have half a dozen or so green tomatoes.  My dollar/tomato ratio is terrible at this point, but I’m hoping good yields all summer will eventually justify that $15/plant (eek) cost.  Maybe.



Since this bed against the house doesn’t have sprinklers in it, I added a soaker hose on a timer.  For a couple minutes John and I were puzzling over what to do with the bit of soaker hose that was hanging over the concrete next to the spigot, not really wanting a big puddle there.  But then we thought to put the pet water dish under it. Now the cats and dog get a fresh refill twice a day.  The dog loves it, and runs to get a fresh drink each time she hears it turn on.


And just in case you’re wondering about the writing on the wall in that previous photo, here’s a shot of my husband’s latest project– a shed addition built onto the side of the house.  He is a woodworker and since we’ve moved in has had tarps covering his woodworking materials, since there’s not enough garage space to house it all.  No more– all that wood is safely under cover now, and he has a good place to work on projects as well.  He is looking forward to the arrival of the siding so it will start looking like part of the house instead of an add-on.


This week he also built the little fence you see in the photo, to separate the ‘working’ part of the yard from the entertaining space.  It also gives us a place to put the dog when we’re entertaining, so she won’t continually have her nose four inches from guests’ plates, begging for bites of their burgers.  I am planning on whitewashing that new bit of fence so that it will match the gate.  (Do you remember that gate from our old house?  We couldn’t stand to leave it.)

I think the plant below is called a spirea.  I am excited to see all the buds that mean flowers are coming soon!


On the south end of the yard (the far end in this photo– you can’t really see it in this photo, but it’s there) I planted bamboo, intermixed with more strawberries.


The tall fence next to it give it continual shade, which I am hoping will help the bamboo thrive.  The variety I chose is called Fargesia rufa, which is a clumping type which means it is less invasive than some other types, and is supposedly an evergreen in Idaho.  I am excited to see how it will do.  Hopefully I won’t kill it.

Then here are some photos of the main portion of my garden.  I’ve sheltered it against the fence behind the firepit area so that pets and kids are less likely to run through it.


Here’s the east ‘leg’ of it, with freshly planted tomatoes and sweet peppers.  I opted to give cages even to the peppers, since our cats tend to lie down in fresh plantings.


As you can see, I am doing landscape fabric and bark to decrease the weeding time.  This first year I’ve spend a fair bit of time establishing all these new beds, but I am trying to lay it all out so that it will be reasonably easy care all summer long.  Love, love, love the fact that this yard has in-ground sprinklers.  A simple thing to most people, but something that we didn’t have at our other place, and when I hear those sprinklers go on, I can’t help but smile.  Ahhhhhh…..

Here’s one last shot of the garden.  This is the north side of the yard.  It gets sun almost all day long, and here I’ve planted a watermelon, a jalapeno, two tomatoes and two cucumbers.  Once again, I protected almost everything that’s small with tomato racks or bamboo stakes– our cats just love to lounge wherever I’ve just been working.

Here I’ve also planted a few flowers and a pampas that is supposed to get 10 feet tall.  (Eeek!)  If it really gets that big it may overwhelm the space.  But I am hoping for a nice sheltered feeling to the firepit area.  I will try to update you later in the summer when things have had awhile to grow!


What do you do….

…when you’ve moved into a house where the back yard has high fences and your sweet lil puppy dog has absolutely zero view on the world?

A shady corner of the yard

Well, you go to Hobby Lobby and you find a really cool piece of framed decorative metal (on sale for $30), and you cut two boards out of the gate.  Then you put your cool bit of metal over the hole you (or your amazing hubby) just made in your gate.

View from inside the yard

Voila!  A window in the wall, a perfect peep hole for toddlers and malamutes.


Peekaboo, I see you!

Peeking out

Not bad for $30 and 20 minutes of work.

Just a glimpse

Dog tested and approved.


Defiant Joy

In the darkness I’ll dance,
In the shadows I’ll sing,
The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Starting on the back yard

I’ve been derailed for the past few days by the dreaded puking bug.  Today I’m feeling better though I still have not gone beyond toast and Sprite and cold cereal in the food department.  And sadly, now Julianna is sick.  Bah, humbug.  Hoping everyone else will continue to feel healthy.

I wanted to tell you about the beginnings of our back yard project, at least the part that I began last week before illness struck. Our back yard at our new house is incredibly small.  It’s 30 feet from the back door to the back fence, and that includes about 10 feet of concrete patio.  Our living room is deeper than our back yard.

One of the reasons we moved was to have less yard work and upkeep, so that’s good. But this box of grass edged with fence and concrete is pretty boring.  I am eager to transform it into something that would be a fun place for entertaining, despite its small size.  So I’ve been doing a bit of scheming.

Here are some of the ideas I have so far, drawn up with a cool program that I looooove called Chief Architect.

Yard Ideas

The grey in the drawing is the already existing concrete. The patio cover doesn’t exist yet, and we may actually do a pergola instead of a fully covered patio—still thinking through that.

In the left lower corner of the drawing I’m planning a lawn swing under some kind of a trellis draped with creeping vines.  Or possibly we’d even set up the trellis as a swing set, like the photo below, with a swing or two for bigger kids alongside one for little ones.  We won’t have space for something that big, but you get the idea.



Against the house to the left of the patio is a narrow flowerbed where we will try a tomato plant or two.  John isn’t sure how tomatoes will do there though, with only east and south sun.  The bed is shaded in the afternoon.

Here’s a view of the yard in that direction, which shows the space where I was imagining a trellis swing, as well as the little flowerbed against the house, which you can’t actually see because of the grandkids’ bikes. The bikes are strategically placed to block the cats from going  to the bathroom there, and will be moved at tomato-planting time.

Yard towar the south

Side note:  all four of our cats successfully made the move from the farm to the subdivision- a major miracle since two of them are rather wild barn cats who don’t like each other a bit, and we weren’t at all sure that they’d stay put. They did, but boy, do they look bored these days!

The above picture also gives you and idea of how small the yard is.  🙂  But there’s lots of concrete to set tables on, so that’s good.  We can feed a crowd!

To the right of the patio (in the yard plan) is another narrow flowerbed against the house that is already in existence.  It already contains a couple of rose bushes and I am thinking it might fit some cucumbers on a narrow trellis.  Are there any shade-loving cucumbers?  I need to ask John…

On the right side of my yard plan is a seating area around a fire pit, with a narrow space between the seating area and the fence where I would like to have some plantings.  This is not yet in existence, but it will be our first yard project. I am picturing a dwarf butterfly bush and maybe a couple small evergreens in that space, along with a few tomato plants and peppers.

The other day Julianna and I went to Lowe’s and found some nice rough-top landscape blocks.  My son in law who does landscaping suggest that this type of landscape block is easier to set as flowerbed edging than blocks of a more uniform shape, since they are more forgiving of slightly uneven placement.  I wasn’t sure how many we’d need, but I started with 40, which fit in the back of my little car quite nicely.


The next day I spread landscape fabric across the living room floor and figured out about how big an area we’d need to fit several chairs and benches, as well as a fire pit space.

Then it was time to stake down the landscape fabric in that corner of the yard and edge it with blocks to try out the design.

Here’s how it looked from the patio after I got done playing with the design.

Firepit area

And here’s the view from an upstairs window.

Firepit area

Looking at it from above, I can tell that I’d like the space to be just a little broader and more rounded. So I am going to get more blocks (yup, I used all 40) and pull the space just a bit more out from the corner.  While I am rearranging the space, I’ll weed-kill the lawn area that will be covered by the landscape fabric, and add another layer of landscape fabric for more weed protecting.  Then it’ll be time to bring in some flat blocks for the front edge of the space, and add gravel in the center.

Still lots to do, but I am excited to see the beginnings of the space laid out.  And oddly enough, having something laid out in that corner of the yard makes it look bigger than it did with just grass in the corner, something I didn’t actually expect.

I’ll keep you posted!


Being a nurse, part 2

(If you missed it, here’s Part One)

Now for the rest of the story of night shift nursing:

2AM to 5AM on night shift:

When it’s quiet or even moderately busy, here’s where the night starts feeling long, the yawning starts getting serious, and the ‘since I can’t sleep yet’ eating starts happening.  I try not to have caffeine after 4 AM or so, because I want to sleep well when I get home, and also if I overdo the caffeine at this time of night, my stomach gets uneasy. But usually I feel in desperate need of a pick-me-up.  Lately I’ve been drinking just a little black tea around that time.  I will also often run an item personally to the nurses on the ‘other side’ of the OB department rather than using the ‘tube’ system, because a brisk walk is a nice pick-me-up at that time of night.

When taking care of moms in labor:

When the night is busy, even this part of the night can roar by.  I especially like having a birth around 4-5 AM, because the busyness surrounding the birth carries you through the tiredest hours of night shift while still giving you time to wrap up loose ends of charting before the tail end of the shift. And usually if you have a mom who delivers between 4-5 AM, you (probably, usually, unless it is a hectic night) won’t get assigned another labor after she delivers.

I tend to use a lot of energy coaching moms near delivery.  After that ‘whew, we did it!’ euphoria of a good birth, it can be hard to hand off that patient to her postpartum nurse and run back over to the labor side to do it all over again.  Especially hard is to be equally energetic with the next momma, especially if you get her at 5 AM and know you probably won’t even get to be in on her birth.  On busy nights it’s just a fact of life that we go from patient to patient.  But when it happens near the end of my shift, I really have to pull the energy up out of my toes to give that next momma my best.

When taking care of moms on postpartum:

Often the postpartum side has a time of quiet between 2 and 5 AM, even when most of the rooms are full.  The visitors are usually finally gone.  (Side note: I am BLOWN AWAY at how many people will visit new moms at midnight or later, often trundling little children along with them.  What can they be thinking??) By the wee hours of the morning, the moms are getting tired and they’ve gotten their pain meds and some of them even turn off their TV’s and actually get a little sleep, if their babies and visitors (grr) allow it.  Nurses have a dab of time to eat lunch and get caught up on charting, and maybe even sometimes sit and chat for a few minutes before the pace picks up again and we need to do our 5AM lab draws and other end-of-shift things.

Since we don’t have a well-baby nursery per se, often there’s a baby or two behind the desk keeping us company while a momma or two tries to get a little rest.  My daughters think I’m crazy, but I find almost all newborns to be completely adorable, so it is fun when I have time to give one a snuggle, or if the aides are busy, sometimes even a bath.beautiful babies

5-7 AM on night shift:  Here’s where the night shift feels most brutal, and almost everyone wonders why they signed up for this gig.  You’re so close to bed and yet so far away still.  When it’s quiet, you’re exhausted, and when it’s busy you’re even more exhausted.  Time does go quicker when you’re busy though.

One of the craziest times (I think) to have a delivery is between 6 and 7 AM.  Some nurses are good at staying caught up with charting, but I tend to get behind on charting at the tail end of labor, because patient care feels all-consuming.  So a 6-7 AM birth almost always leaves me still charting at 7:30-8 AM, and straggling home late.  I almost always clock out late when there’s a ‘shift change’ baby.

On the postpartum side, you tend to have a teeny bit more control.  I spend this time trying to be as organized as possible, finishing every scrap of charting, making sure my moms’ needs are fully met so I’m not scrambling trying to do things at 7.  Also looking at the clock.  And looking at the clock.  And wondering why on earth I ever thought night shift was a good idea.

Around 6:50 AM the clickety-BEEP of the time clock gives our sleepy brains a reason to rejoice– the day shift staff is starting to clock in!  It’s almost time to go to bed.

At shift change, as long as you aren’t in the middle of delivering a shift change baby,  being on the labor side is nice.  All you have to do is give report on one patient to one nurse and then you’re off, home to bed, sometimes even a few minutes early.

On the postpartum side, you usually have 3 or so mother-baby ‘couplets’, and very often your assignment of patients has been divided in a different way on day shift than on nights, meaning it’s common to give report to two or three different nurses.  So there’s lots of waiting around to give report to various nurses during that final snails-pace half hour. Almost always giving report, and then introducing patients to the new staff, takes til 7:30, or sometimes longer.

Then finally, off I go, yawning my way toward home and the blissful thought of sleep. Driving home, I try to shut off the worries about what I might have forgotten to do– usually it’s charting-related, not patient care.  But it is incredible how much charting there is. Once home, I usually don’t manage more than 20-30 minutes of awake time with my family before I trundle off to bed.  Sleep.  Bliss.


I’m fortunate that (thanks to a fan, room-darkening shades and a quiet family)  I sleep pretty well during the day, usually til around 3 PM. By then the boys are just getting home from school and the girls have been done with homeschool for several hours.  (Maybe I’ll share in another post what we’ve been doing to make homeschool doable on my work days.)

In the afternoon when I get up, I’m completely groggy.  I make my way to the coffee pot and sit in my comfy chair in my sweats for an hour or so, and gradually wake up.  By the time I’m actually awake, it’s already time to rassle up some dinner and get ready for work.  Often I’ll order pizza, or do something super simple like fish sticks and tater tots.  I don’t tend to have much energy to cook in between two work nights. Lemme tell you, night shift nurses EARN that hefty hourly shift differential.

But the good thing at this point in the week is that I only have one more shift to do before I make it to my next stretch of days off.  AND (unlike before my first night shift of the week when I can never sleep) I spent this whole day sleeping. So once my coffee kicks in and I’ve come up with some type of food for everyone, I’m usually awake enough and energized enough to hit that second and final 12 hour shift with energy and enthusiasm.

There’s another bonus of two nights in a row:  sometimes I get the  patient I had the previous night.  I usually enjoy caring for someone who I already know, and who already knows me. In fact, even if I don’t get assigned the previous night’s patient, I will often zip over to her room and say hi to her sometime during the shift. And sometimes, of course, instead of getting the happy grateful type of patient, you can be assigned a challenging/needy, or very ill patient two nights in a row.  But even then, I try to give it my all, and use what I already know about her likes and preferences to make it as good an experience as possible for her.

The last hour of my second 12 hour shift often really drags, because by then I am really ready to head home and be done with work for awhile,  but finally report is done and I’m out the door, heading home to bed.

Often on my second day of sleep, since I know I’ll be able to sleep that night, I’ll only sleep til 1 or 2 before getting up for the day.  That way I can sleep better that night.  Always, no matter how short or long I sleep, I’m foggy and sometimes short-tempered (tho I try not to be) for the rest of the day.  Dinner again tends to be something super easy.

What’s changed about life since I started working

I definitely do more convenience food or fast food on my work days. And even on my days off I think I cook a bit less than I used to. But it feels like a reasonable compromise given the added demands on my life.

Another thing that’s probably less positive overall is that I find I’m simply quicker to spend money.  We have a bit more than we’ve had for a couple decades, and already I can feel that it’s changed the way I feel about a $30 purchase, or even one that is $130.

Just today I bought 4 outdoor lights that will be a nice upgrade to the exterior look of our house. They were only $29 each at Costco, which isn’t bad at all for nice lighting.  But it was a total impulse buy and not necessary.  I need to watch out that ‘little’ splurges like this don’t diminish the financial benefit that work is bringing our family.

I also am trying very hard not to use work as an excuse to not do activities with the kids, or to not be focused on them when I am home– which of course is part of the reason blogging frequency has been decreased lately.

I have to say that I’m very glad I had 17 years where I wasn’t working outside the home.  It allowed me to really focus on the kids when our house was full of little ones.  It was a financial sacrifice, but there’s zero doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do for that time in our family’s growth.

And this new schedule seems to be working for our family where it is now.  Of course anytime one of my kids is struggling with anything to any degree, my mind goes to the fact that I’m working, and feels guilty.  Would they be struggling if I was here all the time?  Am I doing the right thing?  But when doubt starts riding me, usually John reminds me I’m only gone two nights, and he’s home almost all the time I’m gone. (He works 3 12-hour day shifts a week.)  So most of the time there’s still a parent here.  I think we’re doing ok. Overall I think it’s fitting and working and is a success.

Well, that’s more than enough from me for now, but I’d love to hear from any of you who are thinking of transitioning back to work, or want to stay home and are figuring out logistics. Or maybe you’ve recently made a similar life change. It is an important decision for a family to make, and I’d love to hear how it’s working for you.

Getting back to normal

Our house went on the market on Wednesday.  (Here’s the link to the virtual tour, if you want to see it.)  Twenty-four hours later we’d already had 5 showings and one offer — an OFFER.  Our agent is coming at noon today to present us that offer.  Crazy to think that (maybe, maybe) it could be sold this fast.  Crossing fingers that all goes well.

After months of painting and packing and cleaning and fluffing, I’m looking forward to our spare time not being taken up by the house and for life to start feeling normal again.

And already, with the bulk of the work done at the old house, I’m feeling more relaxed. Monday I made a big batch of bone broth, which I hadn’t done in awhile. Next on my list is a triple batch of enchiladas for the freezer. Tuesday I printed out the girls’ spring school schedule– those daily check boxes help a lot with accountability.  Wednesday I made biscuits to go with chicken soup.the start of a good pot of soup

I’ve decorated the piano with some Valentine’s Day finery, and have a craft or two up my sleeve to do with anyone so inclined.  I think sometime this weekend I’ll probably make some bacon lentil soup. And hey– I’m even blowing the dust off my blog.  Feels good.

I just heard about a website that I love the idea of– it’s called BuyMeOnce.Com and features items that should last you a lifetime.  So many things these days are made so cheaply that I love the idea of durable quality.  Just about the only things I’ve bought that I’m certain would last that long are my cast iron skillets, which I bought very affordably at a farm supply store in the camping section.  I’m thinking BuyMeOnce.Com is spendier, but there are some items that might justify that additional cost.

Speaking of shopping, if you live near a Costco but don’t yet have a membership, you might be interested in this screaming-good deal on Living Social:  $55 for a year of membership that also includes a $20 Costco gift card, free batteries, passes to the food court, and all sorts of other goodies.  Kinda makes me sad that I’m already a member and can’t get this deal.  Disclosure:  if you click on the link and get the deal, my daughter earns credit on Living Social.  Super good deal if you’re needing a Costco membership!  🙂



Sweet Meg

Erika and Israel had their baby last week, sweet little Meg.


She joins brother Ranger, 3.5 and sister Ali, 2 years old.


All went well and we are so thrilled!


If you want to see more photos, visit Erika’s blog and tell them congrats!