Today I did a crazy thing; I think I am in shock.

Some changes have been afoot in my life recently and I haven't been sure where they were leading.  Yesterday I got my answer.

So after talking with my bishop last night and then my mom for a long time I have decided to enroll with the training/employment assistance program offered through DI.  I guess they employ you part time and then help you with training or whatever you need to be moving forward.

I was actually surprised this was the answer, I had thought I was going to do some  piano lessons to keep us afloat for a while and everything would work itself out.  But all of a sudden this was the answer.  I fasted yesterday and clear until I talked to the bishop this wasn't my plan.  But I walked out of the door with a peace I hadn't felt in weeks and a sudden understanding of a plan that has been unfolding around me for some time.

I had felt like I was here in Oregon for reasons other than working on the farm, but I wasn't seeing it.  I have been praying and praying to see what that reason is, but I've had no idea.  All of a sudden so many little things are clicking together like pieces in a puzzle.  I see how I have been prepared for this day in so many ways, millions of tiny ways, really, and now that it is here I feel totally fine.  Probably each of you has a part in things that have shaped this moment.

At this moment the hardest part of all of this is that this afternoon I went and enrolled my kids in the local public school.  I NEVER thought I would do that.  I always thought I would at least find some private school or something, but suddenly it was the right thing to do and although I have moments of sheer dread come over me, it is the right thing and everything will be fine.

I think it was funny that my kids took it way better than I had.  They were pretty excited.  I had to restrain myself from letting them know the extent of my feelings.   I ended up asking for my kids to be put into a grade higher than their ages, so Elizabeth is in a 1st/2nd grade class as a second grader and David is in a 4th/5th grade class as a 4th grader.  We will do some testing tomorrow morning to make sure my assessments are correct, but I feel like this is going to work out.  David has a man teacher and I know that will be so good for him.  Tons of kids in our ward are in the school, so they already know a bunch of people.

I feel like one of the big reasons I am here is to minister to the people in my ward.  I feel like I need to be more "mainstream" for that to work best and the Lord has been preparing me to let this happen.  It is all part of His plan.

When I talked with my Mom yesterday we talked about the possibility of my returning to Utah.  I have to say  it was a bit tempting, but last night I felt strongly again that I am here in Portland for a reason, not Utah.  One of the reasons I could see last night is that I am thinking I will transfer (yet again) to a school here in the area and finish my degree in Social Work.  I had thought I might be here to get my master's degree, but I had another year to finish at George Wythe.  It turns out the school here has an accelerated program that will allow me to finish both my bachelor's and master's degrees in about three years: the same amount it would have taken me to finish at George Wythe and then get a master's degree.  When I started looking, this degree was not available in Utah County, and I can see how I needed to be HERE to feel like I should move forward with it.  I will be able to pay for school with a pell grant and that will help me to really finish this time, unlike the last few years when I've struggled to come up with school money on my own.

So tomorrow is my birthday.  And tomorrow my kids start school.  I figure I can either bemoan my fate and have a miserable day, or I can look at it in a different light:  Heavenly Father has chosen this day, more special to me than any other, to provide me with a large step on the road to my mission.  I choose to take that step with a straight back, a clear conscious, and a twinkle in my eye!

You know how sometimes the day is super cloudy and it feels all oppressive and awful, and then all of a sudden the sun breaks through the clouds, and for a minute it is so cheerful and bright you just want to soar?!  Even when it goes back to being cloudy that happy feeling lingers on...

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Lately I have been working really hard to eradicate some negative things I've seen in my kids.  Things like minor bickering, eye rolling, having a hard time sharing, grumpiness, etc.   Little things, but worrisome nonetheless.  I'm sure lots of people think these things are unavoidable in children, but I believe differently. I've seen differently.

I tried adding a lot of things: extra scripture time together, books with an extra moral "punch", more sleep, extra vegetables, lots of long "talks" about behavior. No big difference. So I tried removing a bunch of things: excessive free play time, frequent play time with other kids, "twaddle" in excess, sugar. Still no big change.

The other day I was disheartened to witness the following interaction:

Child 1 (calmly, trying to lift a large box of toys): Can you help me?
Child 2 (enroute to another room, instantly on guard): No! I'm busy!
Child 1 (whinily): Please!!!
Child 2 (storming away): NO!

Such a small thing, I thought, it would have been so easy for them to help each other and instead it is bringing such a spirit of contention into our home. Why are they acting this way? As I pondered on the sad state of our family, I was reminded of an interaction I had had with my child only moments before:

Child 2 (cheerfully enjoying the last of the school day): Mom, can you help me with this problem?
Mother (at the computer): No, I'm trying to finish this last page, it's time for lunch. In fact, it's time for you to put your work away...
Child 2 (caught off guard): But Mom, I'm almost done, I just need some help.
Mother (turning off the computer and hurrying into the kitchen): No, put your things away now and come set the table!

Oh, my little apples! I'm so sorry.

I have a favorite habit right now: reading my scriptures in my bed when I first wake up. This is a great habit for several reasons – 1. It starts my day off on a really great note. 2. I am actually getting through the Book of Mormon (I started in March and I plan on finishing it tomorrow!!!) 3. It's a gentle way to wake up, even when I find myself surrounded by kids!
Yes, I was awakened by Elizabeth snuggling into my bed. She was followed by her brother a few minutes later; he didn't want to miss anything! Eventually I shewed them out so I could read in peace. They ran off to dress, clean their rooms, and do assorted chores (Actually only the latter was truly accomplished – Elizabeth managed to wear next to nothing clear until one minute before we walked out the door). After I got up and dressed I went to make breakfast. In the midst of my cooking the phone rang. No surprise, it was William, wondering how I was and what my plans for the day were. This is becoming more and more of a daily occurrence, although I feel badly when I'm not even near heading out the door yet (I probably shouldn't feel that way, he probably doesn't even care, and I certainly don't need to be there super early every day). We chat for a minute, I tell him that I should be there in about an hour. He tells me that he will come out around noon – he has something he wants to show me. That sounds exciting, I put some speed on those eggs.
After breakfast the kids put their school stuff in their bags. We end up doing most of their school work at the farm these days – my hours are long and unpredictable, so they generally have a set amount of work that is their minimum to accomplish daily (an hour or two of reading, a set of Saxon math, sometimes some writing) so that if we don't get more time I will feel like they have still gotten in a good day's work. This week, however, I am trying to change it up a little and make school fun (ask either of them, it usually isn't). I have created a number of cards with certain activities on them (ie: identify 5 trees and tell 3 things about each of them; write a story about a dog, a gumball, the color orange, and being lost; estimate how many plants are in the wide radish row; read a book with a red cover). Each card has a number on the back from 1-5 relating to level of difficulty and work involved. They kids are charged to get 100 points this week, an average of 20 per day. So far they are enjoying it, and aren't even balking at writing the cards they have chosen in their school notebooks. I've seen some good work this week out of them, especially the story David wrote yesterday.
So we head out for our day. It's about 15 minutes to the farm from our house, a distance I both dislike and enjoy simultaneously. I wish we were closer because I often find I would like or need to go home at some point in the day but need to return later and I dislike all the gas money spent on travel. I do enjoy driving, however, and the roads we traverse are very picturesque. Lately we have taken to listening to books on tape while we drive, and right now we are immersed in the third book of the 39 Clues series. The second the car is on the kids are clamoring for the story. It's a good one, and sometimes the trip to the farm is way too short.
On arriving at the farm I park the car along the fence and hop out to get right to work. The kids stay in the car most days while they do their work. After ascertaining where the irrigation is I adjust it for the morning and check on a few rows that are really starting to grow. It is exciting to see all of this growth around me and know that I personally had a large hand in what I see. The array of growth is impressive and I feel really proud of all of my hard work. I settle in to do some daily weeding when a white truck pulls up. It's William much earlier than I was expecting him. He has brought the clamps I requested and we work together to finish the irrigation lines to a few herb rows. Then we wander into the propagation house, where he proudly shows me some herb bowls he created last night. They are very attractive and look like they were fun to create. William shows me how he did them, twice, then asks me to teach him how. This method of learning to do things sometimes feels scary but once I was sure he wouldn't bite my head off, I find that it works very well. William tends to be really patient, whispering instructions while I “teach” if I forget them. Pretty soon I'm a pro, too, and together we create 25 more pots.
Vernie pulls up and with a wave drops off the three youngest children. She is off to deliver milk and needs the kids home in a bit to clean up the yard and kitchen before Ephraim's birthday party tonight. My kids are delighted to see friends, and hop out of the van to play a few minutes later (“I'm done with school, Mom, can I play?” They both come and ask. I'm not 100% sure they really are done most of the time, but they have been working for about 2 hours, so I feel good about it. I let them go and ask to see the work later.) The boys help up carry pots of herbs to the other end of the greenhouse for watering, some of them with whining and others more readily. I like seeing my kids get into work here and I generally encourage them to choose something every day they can do.
Wade Olsen, a man whose family has come here from Utah to live and work with the DeMilles, pulls up, needing some plastic for a project he is doing at their house. The Olsens live in a trailer in the DeMille's back yard and Wade is in charge of most of the animal chores and does lots of construction sort of things. William shows him a few things around the farm that will need attention soon, then William loads up his kids and heads off: he needs to pick up some feed from the feed store, and poor Ephraim is nearly frantic with calls of “My party is at 6! We need to go home and get ready! We can't miss my party!” despite the fact that it is only 2. Wade sticks around for a few more minutes and I show him our giant radishes. Some of them are almost as big as a tennis ball! He picks some to take home and some lettuce to go with it.
After Wade leaves David asks me if I want to hear his story so we sit down and he reads what he has so far. It's pretty good writing, and his penmanship is better than it has been for a long time. I spend so much of my time going back and forth between pushing my kids and backing off to let them initiate their learning. Today has been a success.
Elizabeth pulls out the lunch she has packed for the day. This is one of the tasks she chose today for school. She has packed pretzels, hunks of cheese (she cut them herself), carrot sticks, and an orange. I weed for a while more and then we head home for a while. I have an errand to run before the party (plus I forgot our present at home). Back at home the kids and I spend some time working on the dry erase board doing sentences. It's really cute to hear Elizabeth shouting: “Language Arts! Let' do Language Arts!!” I don't think she really knows what that means but she is excited, so that is all I care about. I have been writing sentences with a number of mistakes on the board and having them identify and fix the problems. Right now our sentences encompass spelling, punctuation, commas between adjective strings, capital letters and homonyms. We do four sentences before we are out of time and the kids are left wishing to do more. If only every activity was that much fun to them!
We head off to the party. The kids have dressed in costumes for this special occasion: David is part Jedi and part ninja and Elizabeth, who was supposed to be dressed in princess attire, is too enamored with the sword David has lent her and has decided to wear jeans instead (so that she can tie the scabbard to her belt buckle). By the time we arrive at the DeMilles' house the party is in full swing. A number of boys are in the dining room creating shields out of cardboard, other kids are helping Vernie decorate the dragon “pinata” with scales. William is stoking up the BBQ with gusto. The kids run off to play and I grab the two buckets of leftovers and spoiled food out of the back of my van and take it to my pigs. I have to walk a fair distance today before I reach their pen; the rotation has them way at the back of the 16-acre property. Climbing under several electric fences, I am followed by no less than five cows, three horses, a large flock of chickens, and honked at by the geese. I am carrying some very tasty morsels and everyone wants some. My pigs see me from far off and start calling out in greeting. It takes me longer than I was planning to get there: I went the wrong way around the chickens and now I have to go clear to the end of their pen and around. The pigs are nearly frantic by the time I get there, shoving each other into the electric fence, trying to get into the spot directly in front of where I will put the food. They are overjoyed at the mess of dried bread, soggy beet leaves, and random old things out of my fridge. I sit on one of the buckets and watch as they fight over who gets what. It is interesting to watch the dynamics of who has the most power in my little herd. My two original pigs, the “white pigs” as we call them (inside joke) are still outsiders from the others. Luckily they have a lot of pluck because they are often being shoved out of the way or knocked into the fence. I admire their tenacity. A few pigs are obviously in charge, and I have my eye on several of them to keep to breed this next year. After a while I decide that I ought to rejoin the humans at the party, so I reluctantly bid my porcine pals adieu and climb back under fences and wade through the cows until I emerge on the other side of the barn.
The party is really going when I get back. Kids are giggling while root beer bubbles out their noses and William wears a satisfied grin as he puts up his BBQ gear. The hamburgers are as well done as the lazy atmosphere. Good times. After they are done eating the kids tumble into the barnyard, where Vernie and Ephraim have cooked up an elaborate treasure hunt, complete with a troll (Daniel) guarding the princesses, who are perched atop the wagon, which is covered with hay. Back from their hunt, the kids line up to slay the dragon (creatively built out of random boxes and construction paper scales, holding a cache of candy in the middle). Some of their swings are spectacular, one little girl gets a whole wing, while others are wild and leave the adults running for cover. Blindfolded, dizzy kids with a hard metal bat: like I said, good times!
The party concludes with cake and ice cream followed by a dizzying array of presents, mainly following two categories: medieval weaponry and zoological adventures, just what this 10 year old ordered.
Party over, visitors gone home, the kids off playing, the grownups congregate in the barn while the evening milking takes place. A good place to talk, conversation runs the gammot from grandiose plans for the future to the herbs necessary to combat bovine mastitis. At some point in the conversation, William gets animated and launches into a lecture on Leslie Householder's stick-man concept. He begins by apologizing to everyone for wasting their time and boring them (puleez!) and quickly changes to full-lecture mode, complete with a visual aid drawn with a ball point pen on the side of a box. The lecture turns into a rousing discussion about attitude, belief, and our connection to past generations as everyone learns and shares. This is why I am here, I declare, because I need to learn what William has to teach. Moments like this are my purpose.
On the way home I reflect on where our paths have gone in the last six months. I never expected to be working hand in hand with nature, caring for animals and producing food, let alone living here in the Pacific Northwest, away from family and all I've known. But for all of the strangeness (I keep saying I feel like Dorothy, and I'm not in Kansas anymore) I know this is where I'm supposed to be and I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing right now. And with that knowledge comes the peace and assurance that all is well and right.
Good times.

In a sweet old children's book about Holidays we read last night about the origins of Memorial Day.  It appears to have begun in the South after the Civil War as a way to honor American soldiers irrespective of which side they fought on.  A sweet story was told of a boy whose two brothers were fighting on opposite sides, so in their honor he had a suit of clothing made from half of an old uniform of each, and with the two sewn together, he went and put flowers on all of the graves in the country graveyard outside of town.  The town was currently being occupied by the Confederates, but when they saw his touching tribute, they allowed him to pass unmolested as he paid respect to all who have given their lives for us.

Our family found a rather unique way to spend the holiday: we spent the day slaughtering chickens!

Yes, you heard me right, chickens.  We currently have almost 1000 broiler hens ready to sell, and that means 1000 birds that need to be killed, gutted, and readied for market.  I wasn't sure if this was something I could do, so I showed up at the farm feeling really quite apprehensive about the whole thing.  Turns out it wasn't quite as terrible as I had imagined, although I am not ready to try my hand at the actual killing of the birds.  I ended up being rather fascinated by their innards; it reminded me of eleventh grade physiology, when I enjoyed dissecting.  Strangely enough, David was the most interested and active participant in the day.  He was very fascinated by the process and jumped in to help wherever possible.  He is really LOVING having these two men to follow around the farm (not to mention their tools to admire and occasionally fetch).

All in all, definitely a day to remember!

It's rainy here.

I know you've heard that, but it needs to be repeated, especially when I tell you what happened to me tonight.

It had rained all afternoon and the world was wet.  We stopped at Safeway to pick up a few things on our way home.  Purse and keys in hand, kids trailing, I sailed into the store on a mission:  I wanted to get out of the rain as quickly as possible.  In a hurry, I didn't notice the puddles just inside the front doors, and suddenly I started to slip.  The floors, you see, are a nice hard polished cement (what are they thinking?!?!) and when my boots hit that puddle, they wouldn't stop.  Since my hands were full and my brain hadn't registered what was happening I couldn't brace myself very well when I started to fall.  I had probably slid a couple of feet by this time and so my body sank just in time to be stopped by:


Yeah, you heard me right, I fell into a cake-laden table at Safeway.

I had sunk just enough that my knees hit the ground, my chest hit the edge of the table, and my face landed splat on the nearest cake.  LUCKILY the cakes had plastic covers on them, so I didn't walk away covered in cake, but when I stood up the entire side of one of the cakes was smashed in.  Oops.

You know how when you need someone in the store, you can never find them?  Well, I found the best way to attract some help.  Within seconds I was surrounded by a dozen grocery store people: clerks, bag boys, even the manager was suddenly inquiring if I was okay.

Now, safely home with a handful of pain medicine and the promise of a warm bath, I can't decide if I should laugh or cry.  My knees, chin, and shoulder really hurt.  But then I get a blow-by-blow vision of myself sailing into the store, or remember how three of the giant sheet cakes had been replaced by the time we left, and I start to chuckle.

Man, where is my video camera?  Funniest Home Videos would pay big bucks for this stuff!

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Lots of people have asked me: What are your kids doing all day while you are at the farm?  The answer is simple: building forts, digging, chasing each other with swords, picking flowers, eating Miner's Lettuce, poking things with sticks, tromping through the Forest of Night.  With 5 other kids to play with there is never a dull moment around here!  Dirt Girl and Tractor Boy (as they will be referred to from here on out) have never been happier!

We've all heard that saying, "The church is true wherever you go."  And I think we generally all understand and believe that.  But since we moved to Oregon I have found new meaning in that saying.

It all started the first week we were here, staying with friends in Vancouver, Washington, waiting to find a place to live.  We were staying with a lady my mom knew when they were girls, April.  April happened to be gone visiting her parents in California the week we got here, so we were staying at her house alone.  I decided to be brave that first Sunday and figured out which ward we should attend and went, all by ourselves.  We arrived early, as I like to do, and in the ten minutes before church started more than half of the people in the room had made our acquaintance!  I felt very welcome and not so very far from home.  (Vernie recently expressed surprise at receiving the same treatment when they visited a ward in Vancouver, as well)

A week later, settled in our new home, we headed off to church and met the same behavior in our new ward!  Everyone here is so friendly, although I frequently feel that "We're not in Kansas anymore" feeling, attending church is almost unsettling, it's so wonderful!

Not only have I felt so very welcomed, this ward has bent over backwards to meet our needs since we got here.  Although the garage sales I had when we moved helped tremendously to both lighten our loads for moving (I've never had an easier time unpacking!) and pave our way financially, they left us lacking some essential items (sleeping on the floor wore thin pretty fast).  Within a few weeks of moving in every item of furniture we needed had been replaced.  A list was created of other misc. needs we had and each item has been more than accounted for!  Today alone I came home from church with: a brand new grater, a bag of yarn, an over-the-door-shoe-holder, 20 hangers, and 6 sets of queen-sized sheets.

In e-mail correspondence with the Relief Society Secretary concerning our family's needs, I expressed my surprise and delight at their help.  She replied: Yes, we have a great ward - - full of love and giving.  We're working on being celestial!!!!

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Wow, it's hard to believe that we are one week away from having been in Oregon for two months!  The time has really flown by.  Just the other day, as we were driving to the farm, I started thinking about the snow that will probably be around for another month of so in Monticello.  Comparing it with the brilliant green folliage all around me, I realized how out of place the thought of snow is to me anymore.  I'm already growing accustomed to green plants, rolling hills, and rain.

We are doing so well.  We are really settling in and starting to feel more at home in what seemed at first to be a "foreign land".  We are loving our new town and feeling very welcomed at church.  I'm so excited to see all of the neat things still in store for us here.

I've been having an amazing time working on the farm with William.  So far I am delighted to spent every minute I can learning, trying, getting my hands dirty.  It's all so exciting and new, I am loving it!  I am looking forward to posting lots of pictures of what we are up to here on my blog.  I also plan on including lots of the wisdom I am gathering so I can pass it on to you!

I am excited to announce that William and Vernie are handing over the reigns to their seed packets business to me!!!  I am really grateful for this opportunity and looking forward to this chance to not only learn as much as I can about the different vegetables we are using, but to share these great seeds with other people.  I am going to keep the business up on their miniag site for the time being.  You will have to take a look and check out what I have to offer.  In fact, I am going to be raising the price of the packets slightly in the next week or so, so if you are interested in ordering, jump in before I get them changed: The sooner the better!

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I spent 2 hours today planting Greek Oregano and filled 20 trays.  If each tray has 72 spaces and I placed somewhere between 1 and 10 seeds in each space (you can round it to 5), how many seeds did I plant?

Bonus Questions: 

How long will it take me to plant the remaining thousand Oregano seeds?

How did I end up with a blister on the palm of my hand?

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