Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weekend Adventure

We are generally not spontaneous people. I am a planner. .and often like to start planning weeks or months in advance. It's just my personality! But this weekend was different. Secondary to my foul mood due to multiple things, including the aforementioned drought in the previous post, the never-ending home and garden chores, a week-long broken dishwasher saga. .I just felt like I HAD to get out of here. .somewhere that the "grass was greener on the other side of the fence," and a place where all the things I needed to do and couldn't weren't staring me in the face.
So we decided to go on a road trip!! Leaving at 9:00 p.m. right after Devin's team played baseball. .now THAT is desperation!!
I have been dying to go to Arkansas City to visit the Chaplin Nature Center for the last couple years. I was all ready to go last winter for a bald eagle watching hike and then chickened out. So we drove for a couple hours and stayed overnight in Blackwell Oklahoma before driving up to Ark City Saturday morning!! I was NOT disappointed.
Though it was a bit warm and humid. .we enjoyed (OK, I enjoyed. .everyone else TOLERATED) a leisurely hike through the wooded area. The canopy of trees was so dense at the bottom, that it was impossible to locate any of the songsters that we could hear.
BUT. .
by the time we reached the trail around the circumference of the trees. .I was able to do a little bird watching. I might add. .I was able to do some birdwatching when the noisemakers ran ahead of me on the trail. Bless Cami. .she would loudly SHHHSH us. .so she could yell "Do you hear 'em??" Because she would say that about 5 times in a row. .I did have a really hard time hearin' 'em!
I was super excited to catch a glimpse of this scarlet tanager as I listened trying to spot the bird with the sharp chirp. I believe that the yellowish bird in the previous picture was a female tanager. There were several pairs flitting through the forest. I've never seen one in real life. .so it made the whole trip worth while (see I'm not THAT hard to please) I could spend a LOT of time wandering and watching! Probably good I don't live closer. .I wouldn't get anything done!
I also saw a SWARM of these swallowtails feasting on the wild bergamont. I had decided that this flower would be on my wish list for next year. .and after I saw how pretty it was and how attractive to winged creatures it is. .It's a no-brainer!
I was also tickled to watch this male cardinal for a while too. I bemoan the fact that I never see any at my house. .so I was thrilled to see them here!
When the crew got tired and too hot to wander, they went back into the nature center to play around. They had this cool table filled with sand. The little white things are stamps to make lots of different animal tracks in the sand. That kept them occupied for quite a while.
There were also some different pelts for everyone to see and feel. .as well as lots of informational posters, puzzles, and displays. .including a display of numerous real bird eggs.
Back by the bathroom they have a mounted albino squirrel. .which I thought was just plain freaky looking!
After the nature walk, we headed back into Oklahoma to eat lunch, shop a bit and then to look at Kaw Lake. Jeremy has been wanting to check it out. We always take a weekend lake trip to Canton, Ok. .and he was thinking about trying a new lake out. It is a very large lake with lots of coves and fingers. .but it's a L-O-N-G way out there.
About 5 miles from the lake there is a water park. .
where the kids and I spent a couple hours Saturday afternoon. Jeremy had a raging headache. .and isn't a swimming pool fan anyway. .so he dropped us off and ran around for a while in the car.
The kids LOVED it!! Especially the wave pool. .Cami is already plotting her next trip back. It was quite something to watch a 3 foot tall girl turn into a karate-chopping wave killing machine.
There were several slides to use too.
Look at the pitch on this one!! Straight down on a rubber mat!!
Till they bump. .bump. .bumped right off!
My humor was much better by the time we arrived back home, merely 24 hours after we left! In doing some research last night, there are definitely places way worse than we are. .but it seems that the expectations are for the drought to continue on at least through next month. .and maybe longer. I also was interested to read that the temperatures soar during a drought because there is no vegetation left. .or any type of moisture left in the ground to cool the temps down. I don't think ever in my LIFE I have seen temps over 102-103 more than once or twice. But it is becoming routine here and was even up to 114 degrees the other day. .with a predicted high tomorrow of 110. .and probably a little warmer!! They have banned fireworks on the fourth here. .in addition to many other places. .but there will still be BBQ's and gatherings. The older boys are at church camp this week. .and Grant is already very homesick. Dev's last week of baseball is this week. .and we are near completion of most of the fair projects slated to be exhibited in a few weeks. The countdown to a real vacation is on. .and if the drought continues like it has. .when I return. .likely most of my gardens will be dead, which is a fact that I am slowly coming to terms with. .I won't give up though. .and we'll just plant a new one when conditions are better!

2 Samual 22:33
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect
Have a GREAT week!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Little Encouragement, Anyone??

So, for those of you that aren't from around these parts. .we are in a VERY serious drought in southwest Kansas.  And, nearly worse than not having any moisture, is the fact that the temperatures have been in the triple digits ALMOST every day this month. .and a few in May. Today was 114 degrees. .with a drying, parching wind.  Much, MUCH hotter than normal!! Generally, at this time of the season, the view from my home is beautiful. Rolling hills of green and some wildflowers, with beautiful blooms in the gardens as well.
You'll see that the pastures are a crunchy shade of brown, with only a hint of green grass that is REALLY short, visible only if you are close to it. 
And my yard. .which has been watered, is nearly dead from the high heat and insufficient moisture to combat the temperatures and wind. 
Even this patch of weeds in the yard (Have I ever mentioned the horrible time I have growing grass??) is so stinking hot and dry that it is demising as well.
I'm a gardener.
 I love to work in the soil and make beautiful things grow and healthy food to feed my family. It gives me satisfaction and pleasure.
The constant, no-win battle has about gotten the best of me.
B-U-T. .
while sitting at the ball field the other night waiting on Dev's team to finish their 1 1/2 hour practice, I worked on the bible study that we are finishing up in Sunday School. .The study is from the Women of Faith series entitled Encouraging One Another.
And that Great Big God. .who knows my heart and my frustrations. .got my attention! 
There are a few things blooming despite the high heat and parching winds. These coneflowers were the ones I started last winter in 2010. Thankfully I transplanted some of these Marconi shastas. .because my mother plants didn't survive the winter!
The first sentence I read that night was a passage from Isaiah 35:3 "Strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees."
Now, since I have been SOO busy with all the activities that came with the month of June. .I thought to myself. .I have tired hands right now. .I wonder what else is in this passage that I should read. And, with God's gentle nudge to explore the passage further, I opened up my bible and got the biggest encouragement I've had for a long time.,  
And in the event that anyone else reading this needs a lift. .I want to share it! The chapter title of the passage that is now highlighted in my bible is called "Hope for Restoration."  Chapter 34 of Isaiah speaks about the destruction of the wicked nations. .and some scholars believe it to be prophesy regarding the great tribulation, or the "end times" for our world as we know it now. 
My daylilies are smaller this year, but this one has started blooming and I think of all of them, it is my favorite!
Chapter 35 then explains how the Lord will restore the land after judgement.
I was so encouraged by the verses surrounding the theme verse of our lesson, that I read them 3 times!
Marigolds that flank the new sidewalk. They don't mind the heat so much, and the spot of bright color is welcome here.
"Even the wilderness will rejoice in those days. The DESERT will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of FLOWERS and singing and JOY! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel's pastures, and the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his GLORY, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those who are afraid, "Be STRONG, and do NOT fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save YOU. Isaiah 35:1-4 
And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will shout and sing! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the desert. The PARCHED ground will become a pool, and the springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a main road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-hearted people will NEVER travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God's ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, and there will be no other dangers. ONLY the redeemed will follow it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness. Isaiah 35:5-10
The mexican hats are in full bloom. They are just a gorgeous shade of coppery red! Love 'em
    I won't lie. .I still feel frustration for the devastation occurring in the little plot of ground I am stewarding. .and the fear for those whose livelihoods are at stake because of the significant drought. .but it was just a VERY timely reminder to me that no matter how much time, money, effort, sweat, and tears I pour into our gardens trying to build an oasis for my family, friends, and God's creatures. .it will NEVER compare to the oasis that God will prepare for His children!! My mother in law thinks that the last few weeks have been a little insightful as to what Hell will really feel like. .I think it will be a LOT hotter!
But because of His mercy and graceful gift of eternal life the day I asked Him for it. .
I won't ever have to find out!! I can't WAIT to stroll through HIS gardens singing with joy from the bottoms of my barefooted feet!!

I hope this passage encourages someone out there today that needed a little lift!

Check back soon. .we took a spontaneous trip to the land of the green grass this weekend. .
And I can't wait to share it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Bathroom is FINISHED!

I am so glad to finally be able to write this post!! The bathroom project has taken much longer to finish than I expected. .but it is really finished. .and I can't even begin to voice my excitement! After I finally got rested up from rock hunting, camp nursing, work duties, ball games, 4-H service work, worship music practice, beet harvest and subsequent beet pickling at midnight. .I was FINALLY able to clean out my bedroom after 6 weeks of dust and clutter and completely move into the bathroom. Now, I will be the FIRST to report that I can't STAND to clean. .H-A-T-E IT! But, I also don't function well in grime and clutter. .so my nerves have been virtually shot since the remodel started. BUT, it turned out wonderful. .and I can't wait to give you all the tour!!
Now, if you can't remember what my bathroom looked like before, click here to see it before you continue. .that step is important. .cause a world of difference has been made here! The doorway to the hall got a taller opening, and a little wider too. .so I haven't hit the corner of the door frame ONCE as I move through the house at the speed of light! (This would be funny for any of you that knew I once had a maintanence man that PADDED the door jamb to my office because I kept injuring my hand as I cut it a T-A-D too short. .no different in my own home. .just no one there that felt sorry enough for me to pad the door!) The old tin tiles came from the stairway going up to the boy's bedroom. Jeremy framed them in for me a LONG time ago. .and I am excited that they can be fully appreciated now!
This photo was taken from Cami's room looking back into the newly widened hallway. .with the new closet door that you can no longer see through. The previous door had panels kicked out of it by "accident" from fighting male children.
Da-da-DA!! Here it is. .looking in from the door!!
And looking back at the door from the shower.
I think the space looks a lot more open now and less long and skinny. .the look I was hoping for!
Kelsey was a phenomenal help in that. .once we were able to get a raw space, our plans changed slightly to better accomodate things. .and I think we totally got the best use of the space!
This is an air bath. .which has given great pleasure to the younger kids. .and I have enjoyed it too! The tile on the wall was my idea. .and again. .one of those things that ONLY I could picture in my mind before it got done.  I had mosaic tile formations laid out all down the aisle at Lowe's before I had my mind made up! The tiles have a metal inserted diamond, and are sealed to prevent rusting.
Here's a look at the same tile worked into the floor. I think that whole concept worked out much better than Kelsey thought it would. Jeremy wanted hard wood. .and I was afraid it would get water damage. .but the man NEVER has a decorative opinion on anything. .so I HAD to figure out how to make it work for both of us.  I really like the way it turned out. .except the floor needs a little shinier top coat. .something that Jeremy will soon rectify after we get a different product to use.
More space for me to decorate. .I LOVE it! I was able to use all of my antique medicine bottles and tins in a hodge podge arrangement at the top of my new cabinet.
And look inside this luscious baby!! The storage possibilities are ENDLESS. .and yes. .I TOLD you I was an organizational freak!! I put all those little drawers in there. .and then labeled them so we could find everything easily.  The bottom cabinets are perfect for my hamper and my workout clothes (you know, so I don't have to put them away everyday. .L-A-Z-Y!)
The vanity top was total impulse. I had something less stand-out-ish picked out. .and kept looking at this chocolate brown one until I just went with it. I am not sorry so far!
Here is my other favorite thing about the bathroom. .the lights!! We picked through the bubbly glass shades for ever looking for the same pattern of bubbles. .they are so minimalistic. .PERFECT!
And you may remember the project we started months ago using the kitchen cabinet belonging to my great-grandmother's home. .
Jeremy turned it into a shadow box door for my old toiletries collection. Yes. .that big white thing is a porclean bedpan. .what antique-collecting nurse WOULDN'T have one?? I'm also fond of the pink hairdryer I found at the antique mall. The collection also contains a couple of curling irons, hairpins and a watch belonging to Jeremy's great grandmother, along with a few other family pass alongs.
So. . .
to go from this. . .
. . .to this
has been a MAJOR pleasure!
Enjoy your day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Let the Camps Begin!!

I am so glad to be finished with my marathon week of being gone to many different places with lots of different beds. I put nearly 1200 miles on vehicles throughout the last week. .and probably a few extra wrinkles on my face! As I reported last week, I helped transport 32 campers to our 4-H camp, and I stayed there as well to work as the camp nurse. I continued to be amused at the activity and interactions of the kids. And this year I didn't feel like an outsider. .I have become quite familiar with the camp, the agents, and many of the returning kids. The last two years I have posted my reflections of camp as an outsider looking in.  . .but this year I decided to illustrate through pictures just WHAT they do there for 3 days. So come along and join our fun!
The first day includes a pizza lunch and lots of group building activities, both in small groups and as a whole. This year there were 106 people at camp. .including counselors and adults. .so it was quite a busy place to be! Some of the group building activities the first night included parachute games. . .
Rowdy rounds of tug of war. . .
And rousing games of dodge ball, along with some relay race games.
The second morning always includes a special flag raising ceremony. The atmosphere created by the silent reverence, the balmy morning air, and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance always leaves a warm spot in my heart.
The kids rotate in small groups through a number of different activities. Air rifles are a favorite. Even the girls seem to enjoy shooting at the paper targets. And bless Mike, he is an agriculture agent. .but always does a nice job helping the kids be safe, learn, and have fun.
Chayde and Cody await Tanner's ok to shoot the recurve bows. .another annual favorite. The kids always seem to enjoy visiting with each other as they wait for their own turns to shoot.
Across the road from the camp, is Scott State Lake. The kids get the chance to fish. Ethan and Landon found a quiet spot to sit on the rocks while others stood on the banks.
This year, Christine's (the agent in the green shirt) husband came along as a volunteer to help. It was the first year that kids in each group caught fish. He laughed about the noise level near the lake. .and reported that the fish turned and swam the other direction!
While wandering around taking pictures of the camp happenings, I spotted this heron!! Isn't it majestic looking! There were great birding opportunities available to me in my spare time too! And both Grant and Devin noticed the different birds around too (Tristan was too old to go this year, and hopefully will return next year as a counselor).
This may be one of the all time favorite activities. .mine for sure!! Canoeing! And how fortunate for me that the canoes happened to be crossing paths all at the same time! It made for a great photo anyway.
The theme this year was "Wild, Wild West" and Carmen's craft class taught them the art of making baskets. It was a skill that challenged their patience. .but lots of the kids could be found working on their baskets later in the week and on the ride home.
A new activity introduced this year was a really big hit! They had an hour of water games!! The kids LOVED it! They played some water games, started by the firing of a WATER gun!!
The games included a bucket brigade water relay. .
Shooting shaving cream off of their partners. . .
A water balloon toss and water dodge ball were some of the other games included! Joe and his wife Karen were new this year and they did a great job!! The last activity that took place was a short field trip to some old Indian ruins not far from the camp. I wasn't able to go check it out, since I needed to be close to the nurse's quarters!
The kids enjoy several hours of free time each day.
They go in small groups of friends. .to swim at the pool, buy snacks, play basketball or other games. .
. .and hike. .which seems to be a huge favorite for all the kids.
The hike up will take you to the top of a cliff that overlooks the campgrounds and the lake. The view from there is awesome!! This picture was a zoom up from the bottom of the campgrounds. .and then I was in trouble because it didn't show how tall the hill really was!! Free time is always my busiest work time. Lots of kids come in with abrasions from falling, pain from touching the sting weeds, puncture wounds from the yucca plants, and splinters from whatever!! This year we had two diabetic campers and lots of kids with morning and evening medicine for me to dispense. So not all my time is spent observing! I really do earn my keep!
The camp food is actually really good, but the second evening the agents grill hamburgers for the kids as a cost saver for the campers. They eat around the fire pit and have a great time! I must say these guys wear their aprons well!!
This is also the night that a dance is hosted for the kids. Those kids start preparing for the dance by mid afternoon when their free time rolls around. The girls all get makeovers. .lots of hairspray, bobby pins, and curling irons. The boys change shirts and put on cologne.
This was the first time I actually saw THIS type of outfit from the males!! First of all, one would have know Luke, to appreciate the magnitude of his outfit!!
The best part of his whole outfit?
The courage to wear THESE!!
This kid has no self esteem problems. .and was later seen taking off his jacket, rolling up his sleeves, and doing the WORM dance!!
I had to include this photo. .because it is so typical. You may notice on the right side of the picture are the girls. .dancing and having a great time. On the left side shows a few of the many boys that were playing basketball and holding up the retaining wall, also having a great time! As the sun sets. .the dance floor does get fuller. .and my 8 year old didn't set foot on the dance floor until it got dark and his mom couldn't see who he was dancing with. .He informed me that he danced 3 times. .though I only caught his sillouette once! Darn kids! A movie marathon occurs at the same time as the dance for those kids who would rather do that. Then around 9 pm the whole camp reconvenes for an ice cream sundae party!!
And I can't resist doing the cotton eyed joe!! It's one of my favorites. They also played the chicken dance. .just for yours truly!! It's another dance that attracts lots of dancers!
Here's our whole county crew the last morning of camp. By then kids are tired, adults are tired, and many of us (and them) are ready to return to our real lives. It's a fun camp. .with lots of opportunities to play, learn, and make new friends. .as well as catch up with our old friends. We will look forward to going again next year!
And until then, our fun memories will hold us over!
Wishing everyone a great week!