Monday, January 18, 2016

New Room

One of the things we knew we wanted to do when we bought this house 2.5 years ago is to enclose the garage into living space. It had a one car garage, total space was 20'x20' but the parking area was smaller than that. I appreciate garages as much as anyone but it seems like every house we have had one, we hardly ever use it (mostly because they have been small garages) When we decided to buy this house we knew we wanted to expand the house and we knew we wanted a bigger living room.
When I was in high school, the house I spent most of my time hanging out had a game room that had been converted from a garage. It was the perfect hang out room because it was somewhat separate from the rest of the house and you could have separate hang out areas.  And you could shut the doors for privacy and not disturb the people in the rest of house by being loud.  So, it has always been in my head as a possibility when looking at houses to buy.
Our house had a garage perfect for converting. So in the fall, I started working on a garage conversion. It took a while and was a whole lot of work. The conversion included taking down the garage door and building a wall in it's place. Adding an additional interior door, adding two new windows, doing all new wiring, new insulation, new sheet rock and paint, new carpet, new duct work for heat and air. We also bought new furniture and I built some new furniture.
The main purpose we wanted this room to serve is a media room to watch movies.  I love watching movies and I wanted a room that was set up for doing this. I ran speaker wire for 5.1 sound and structured the new room around this purpose. I put in recessed lights with dimmers which is really nice. I also put in solid core interior doors and insulated the interior walls so you could close off the room and really keep the majority of the sound in that room.  We were able to put a wood stove in the new room to help with heating and because we like having a wood stove. We also wanted a place for a piano for Margo and for the girls in the future. So we now have the new room and we still have our old smaller living room which is now more of a sitting room area.
 I can not tell you how awesome it is to have this room. I have never been so happy and excited about something house related. It is so nice to have a two areas to hang out when friends are over. We can put a movie on for the kids in the room and the adults can hang out in the other living area and play games or talk without getting disturbed. And Margo and I can put on a movie after the girls go to bed, shut the doors, and crank it up, and not disturb them. It is going to be great to have as the girls get older and have friends over. It makes me very very happy.

Outside view before remodel

During remodel.  I had to add concrete where there was a tray in the floor for the garage door.

After: I put in two windows. Unfortunately they don't sell 1980's baby blue siding anymore so I had to buy white siding and get paint color matched to the old siding and paint it. i think it turned out pretty good.
Inside the house before adding new interior door.
New interior door.  We now have two doors from the new room into the house. The original goes into the laundry room and this new one goes into the main part of the house.

After:  I used hardie plank exterior siding and painted it for behind the wood stove.
Margo let me buy a big new 4K TV. I built a new TV console for all our media. One of the main things I wanted it to do besides hold the TV is to hold our records and record player so they were easy to play.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Clara turns 4!

Today is Clara's 4th birthday. I don't know how she can be four, it seems like she was just born. She keeps us entertained and on our toes. She is wild and  funny, you never know what she is going to say or what crazy face she is going to make. We are always laughing when she is around and it makes it very hard to discipline her when she is making you laugh at the same time.

Some updates on Clara:

  • She loves to color, draw, make art projects, and cut lots of tiny pieces of paper.
  • She loves to sing. She knows the words to lots of songs from school and church. She also makes up songs, so she is always singing. We recently got a piano, so she likes for me to play songs and she sings along. 
  • She is a true farm girl. She loves to be outside, playing and exploring. When there is a choice of what to do she almost always chooses to go outside and play. If there is dirt or water, she will find it.
  • She knows all her letters and numbers. She likes to write things, so is constantly asking us how to spell things. She loves school and her teachers love her. She loves to help and is eager to learn.
  • She is still big for her age which has always been the case since she was born.  She is now wearing the same size shoe as Esther and can wear her clothes. It won't be long before she passes Esther in size. 

We celebrated her birthday yesterday with a few friends. It was a nice day, so the kids were able to play outside and see the animals. Clara requested chocolate and vanilla swirl cake, with white icing and Dora decorations.

Today we celebrated by taking the girls to a performance at the Walton Arts Center. The Symphony of Northwest Arkansas had a family performance where they played some Christmas music. Then they played the film The Snowman, and the symphony played the score to the film. They love the book and have seen the film before, and Clara has been learning about instruments at school, so it was a great opportunity to introduce the girls to the theatre/symphony. We all enjoyed it.

Clara has requested homemade "chicklin" (chicken) and dumplings, corn off the cob, and black beans for her birthday supper!  This makes Josh happy because chicken and dumplings has always been his favorite and his request on his birthdays, and it is something his grandmothers always made for him growing up because of how much he loved it.

Thursday, December 03, 2015


About a month into school Esther came home with a note from the school nurse saying she had failed part of her eye exam and needed to see an eye doctor. We were quite surprised by this, as we have never noticed any problems with her vision. We thought maybe Esther just wasn't being cooperative with the eye exam. We made an appointment with an eye doctor and expected everything to check out just fine. Esther is not a very compliant patient, so the appointment was interesting. The results are that one of her eyes is "lazy" and does not see things well at a distance. Her other eye has compensated, which is why we haven't noticed any problems. So she needed glasses which was kind of a shock. Before we got them, Esther said she did not want to look different with glasses. We asked her what she meant and she said she did not want her looks to change which was kind of sad to hear. But we explained how much they would help her and we let her pick them out and she mostly went with it. The doctor is hopeful that her brain will respond and start using that eye more and maybe not have to wear them forever. Her prescription in the one eye ended up being quite strong. The first day she said "things look so huge!" The first couple of days were a bit tough getting her used to wearing them but we are all getting used to them and I think Esther sees the benefit in wearing them. After just a couple weeks of wearing her glasses they have become a normal part of her looks and now she looks different to us without them.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fall Fun

It has been a while since we posted. We've been busy with a big project (post about that coming soon). Here is a recap of some of our family fun from the past couple of months.

We made our yearly trip to the Washington County Fair. Josh won admission and ride tickets through a local contest, so we rode more rides than usual. We all love seeing the animals and riding rides.

At the top of the ferris wheel
Riding the carousel
Over the long Labor Day weekend we went to Austin, TX to visit our friends Walt and Annie. They recently moved to Austin from Germany. We are glad they are much closer now! Their girls are 5 and 2, so Esther and Clara had a great time playing with them. We ate some good food, went swimming, went downtown and saw the bats fly out, and just spent some good time hanging out. We hope to make it back sometime soon to see/do more of the "Austin" attractions.

Hard to see them, but there are a bunch of bats flying in the air
Naomi, Chloe, Clara, and Esther
In October we went to Mena (Josh's hometown) for the weekend. We stayed with our friends Steve and Kathy (the site of the infamous scooter accident). We took the girls to Queen Wilhelmina State Park. They have recently redone the Lodge, so we wanted to see that. They have a little train that goes around the park and an old train engine that you can climb on. Those are childhood memories of Josh's that we wanted the girls to experience. There is also an old fire tower near the Park that we went up in.

Riding the train

On top of the fire tower
For Halloween we asked the girls what they wanted to dress up as. We were talking about unique and funny costumes and Clara came up with "a box of tissues." Esther decided that is what she wanted to be, and we came up with an Etch a sketch for Clara. Josh and I crafted their costumes and they were a big hit. We once again went to the Fayetteville Square for their Trick or Treat event. We also went trick or treating with some of our friends. The girls sprinted from house to house. When we got back to our friends' house they spent the rest of the evening handing out candy to trick or treaters. I think they enjoyed that almost as much.

Friday, September 11, 2015

School days

When you have a baby (or adopt one) school seems like a very far off thing. And then all of the sudden it is time to start Kindergarten and your like.... what the heck just happened.  And then you get all nervous and emotional about it and worry about if they are going to be ok. Then they start and it seems like no big deal.  It is kind of a roller coaster of emotions raising kids.

So,Esther started kindergarten 3 weeks ago, just like that. As far as we can tell Esther is loving it and is doing well. We worry about her because she is not super outgoing and does not like to talk very much (except around us). So we are worried that she won't ask for help when she needs it or she won't find friends easily. In fact that is the thing I pray for and hope for most, is that she will find good friends. I think that may be one of the most important things to a happy and fulfilling life is good friends that are a good influence.  One thing we are not worried about is her doing good in school and being a good student.  She is very smart and very well behaved.

Most days we get spotty details of what happens throughout the day. Here are some of the highlights:
  • She loves riding the bus. There was no hesitation the first day (even though we were worried about it). One day she said she even rode at the very back of the bus. The downside of the bus is she gets on at about 6:55 every morning. Clara also loves to walk with us for Esther to catch the bus and to pick her up at the end of the day at the end of the driveway. 
  • She gets chocolate and strawberry milk. On the first day of school when we asked her what her favorite thing was she exclaimed "I had chocolate milk 3 times today!!" (Breakfast, lunch, and after school program snack) Up until that day she had only had chocolate milk 2-3 times in her life. We now encourage her to choose white milk at least once a day.
  • She also gets bubblegum as a reward (something she had never had before). As a reward for good behavior and following the class rules, her teacher gives a penny for students to get a gumball out of a gumball machine. She got her first penny the second day of school (very proud parents) and knew she was not allowed to have gum previously so she brought her penny home instead of getting gum (very, very proud parents). We told it was ok for her to have gum (we had just never rewarded the girls with candy) Since Esther is quiet, keeps her hands to herself, and always listens to the teacher she has gotten quite a bit of gum.
  • She likes the extra classes they do weekly--Art, Music, PE, Health, Library, and Computer Lab
  • So far in class they have just been working on writing letters and numbers, learning about shapes and colors. All of that is a review for Esther since she knew those things when she was 2-3 years old. But she says she loves doing the worksheets.
We hope she continues to enjoy school. We have Parent/Teacher Conferences in a couple of weeks. We are very interested to hear her teacher's perspective.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Farm and Garden Update

It has been a while since we have talked about the farm on the ol' blog. It is not because stuff has not been happening, blogging just seems to get forgotten at times.
The garden has done pretty well this year. It has been a weird year with lots of rain and lots of hot temperatures. Some things have done great (especially the weeds) and some things not so great. Being our second year in this place, our berry production has really ramped up. We had tons of strawberries this year. We froze 6-7 gallons and sold some too. We also had a lot of them rot because of so much rain early on in the year. We also had lots of raspberries this year to eat fresh and we froze 2-3 gallons. We had mulberries as well from our mulberry tree. Our blackberries produced tons also. We froze 3 gallons of those and sold gallons also. We were also able to make 10 pints of mixed berry jelly.
The garden has been a love/hate thing this year. Weeds have been out of control with all the rain and heat, I could barely keep up with pulling them. Some of our early veggies did not do so well like onions and potatoes but the later veggies have done much better. This was the second year for our asparagus bed and we were able to get quite a bit from it and it will only get better in the future. We have been doing tons of canning the past month or so but that is starting to wind down. We canned 12 pints of pickled peppers, 20 pints of salsa, 35 pints of spaghetti sauce, 10 pints of tomato sauce, 15 half pints of hot sauce, and 30 pints of green beans. Our corn struggled a little this year but we were able to freeze 100 ears of corn. We also had lots of fresh squash, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, okra, spinach, radishes, bok choi, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. We should be able to harvest sweet potatoes soon as well. I have been planting some of my fall garden and some of it is already up and growing...winter squash, more summer squash and cucumbers, and more corn.
When we moved into this new place I increased the size of my garden from our previous location by about 50%.  I have come to the conclusion that this is too much and requires too much of my time to keep up with it.  I am planning to reorganize during the winter and downsize a little bit. I don't want to be spending so much time in the garden and farm that it takes away too much time from more important things like doing other things with the family.
The animal part of the farm has been doing great so far this year and is growing. We had several baby goats and sheep born which have mostly been sold now. We bought 10 new weaned Holstein steers to raise through the year and sell this winter.

We also decided to try pigs this year so we got two young ones in the spring. We had never done them before and were not sure what to expect.  But they have actually been pretty easy to deal with and not caused any real problems or anything. We plan to take one to the butcher in a month or so and sell the other one. I think we may continue to do some every year in the future.

And the biggest news on the livestock front is we were finally able to buy some young heifers to start our real cow herd. They will be ready to breed later this winter so I will need to get a bull for them. Then we can start having our own calves and hopefully grow our herd to maximize the use of our land.

Since we have not built up enough animals yet to eat all our grass on the farm we had our hay cut this year again. We were actually able to get two cuttings this year since we had good rain. A neighbor cuts it for us and we split the hay with him. Total, we got 32 round bales the first cutting and 300 square bales along with 11 round bales the second cutting.  Our part of that should take care of our hay needs for the winter which is great. I am anxious to see how many total animals we will be able to have in the future with the great grass that we have.
We are slowly working this place into "our" place and getting the farm set up how we want it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The big 5!!!!!!

Today is Esther's 5th birthday! I know I say this every birthday, but the time has gone so fast. It seems like we just brought her home. She is such a smart, sweet, and fun little girl. She is introverted, shy, extremely independent and stubborn. Getting her to comply with a request is sometimes quite challenging. But she is a really great kid and we are proud to be her parents.

Some of her favorite activities:
  • Drawing, coloring, creating artwork. She brings home a stack of artwork everyday from school and she is always drawing and coloring at home. We think she is really good and are quite impressed with some of her drawings. She has started writing and illustrating some little books. It is so fun to see her imagination.
  • She loves to read. She has progressed really well since she learned to read last summer. She is reading books on a 1st-2nd grade level. At nap time and bedtime she sits on her bed and reads books until she falls asleep. She loves to read and look at books, but she hates to read for other people. She will read for Josh and I, but won't do it for anyone else.
  • Playing dress up and make believe. Her and Clara are always dressed up, playing with their babies, playing school, and pretending to have restaurant or a store.
  • We spend a lot of time outside and her and Clara have lots of adventures. They do lots of digging in the dirt, riding bikes, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and playing in their playhouse. She loves our cats and dogs and is always hugging on them. Feeding the cats is one of her chores. 
We had a little birthday party for her this weekend. We let her decide all the details including who she wanted to invite. She wanted an afternoon party with cake and homemade ice cream. She wanted a Frozen cake and wanted it to be blue with white icing. She wanted hats and blowers. After cake and ice cream we went to the pool to swim. Several friends and some family were able to join us and she had lots of fun. Here is a little video collage of her birthday party. She was feeling shy and didn't like us singing to her and didn't want to blow out her candles.

She starts kindergarten in less than a month. We are excited and a little bit nervous to see how she does at school. We know she is ready.