Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Helpin' Daddy

This is serious work here.
Much of the time, Charlie's projects in the shop require a moderate to skilled level of experience in woodworking - or at minimum the ability to follow directions closely and lift at least what an average adult can carry. None of these are within the abilities of a two year old no matter how cute she is or how much she sobs that she wants to see and help Daddy. Safety comes first. 

Not wanting to quash her intense desire to help, participate, and learn, we try to find ways to involve her when possible - especially when it is a project where Charlie needs a second set of hands. Much of the time this involves grabbing one of the safer tools and some scrap wood and putting her safely on the edge of our work area.

There are those times when less dangerous tools are used, the pace is slower, and a lovely young assistant/apprentice can join him in the shop or wherever he may be working on building things. This week has already afforded a couple of opportunities, and they both seized on the chance for a little Daddy/daughter time. 

Helpin' build potato boxes
First off were some wooden boxes for the potatoes we are growing this year. The theory is that as the potatoes grow, you put on another level and add soil or compost. At the end of the growing season, you remove the boxes, the soil falls away, and you easily harvest the potatoes. Throughout the summer Charlie has been building new boxes as the potatoes grow and need more layers. The Little Girl was thrilled beyond measure to sit on her log stool in the garage handing Daddy the screws to assemble the boxes. Later they hauled buckets of compost that were put in the top ring. 
Helpin' builded the shed.
Also on the agenda has been the construction of a small storage shed to hold our bikes and make them easier to access.  Again, it was a project that was a little less intense, and our little helper settled quickly into her niche of handing the screws to Daddy and was able to be a legitimate help. We still have another day or two's work to finish it, so there will likely be a lot more of this special time this week. 

Really lovin' that hammer...

Friday, August 26, 2016


In case you had not guessed with my lack of posts, our days have been rather full the last couple of months. Here is a peek at how we have been spending our time.

Garden - This year we decided to both narrow our planting and expand it. We picked our two favorite tomatoes from last year's dozen or so varieties and stuck with those (with a couple plants of a new variety to try and some volunteers). As luck would have it, they were both the highest yield and best tasting tomatoes last year. We are hoping that we will have a bumper crop if the dozens of tomatoes on the vine ever ripen. I have been getting rather anxious to make s'getti sauce for this coming winter and have fresh tomatoes to snack on. These heirlooms are so much tastier than anything sold in the stores.

In addition to the tomatoes, we planted onions, garlic, potatoes, beans, and had a volunteer tomatillo plant come up. The tomatillo was quite the shock as it came from a plant from two years ago. We also have tried doing some raised bed gardening and are finding it more our style than just putting the plants in the ground. It also fits with my deep psychological need for order and straight lines. Our plan is to greatly expand on the beds for next year in addition to figuring out an arbor situation for our now out of control grape vine. 

Canning - like previous years, I have been doing up a lot of jams this summer and actually have tried a bunch of new recipes. It helps when you buy a bushel of peaches and have to figure out what to do with them all. I also did up a bunch of jars of peaches in syrup, so we can have them for desserts throughout the winter. I am waiting for the tomatoes to really ripen, so I can start in with those next. Now that the heat seems to have broken a bit and gotten to more manageable levels, I am anxious to get the rest of the canning started. I love them smell of tomatoes cooking all day.

New Job for Me - In May, our Little Girl's godmom went back to work, and their little one started coming to visit us four days a week. No one enjoys his presence more than the Little Girl who loves to read, play, tickle, dance, and generally attempt to smother him with her love. Hopefully in a few more months he'll be better able to escape.

Charlie's Woodshop - Charlie has his tools and has been starting to enjoy his shop. We still have a ways to go though on making the space really usable year round though. Well, even usable in a little rain is beyond capability right now. The garage is small and very full of stuff, so he can't use the shop without moving a ton of stuff outside. Every time we go out to organize, it does get better, so there is hope. Maybe if the weather holds we can do another round this weekend and finally make it an all weather work space. Probably not, but there is always hope.

The Little Girl - This little sweetie is growing up so fast. It is odd to be both so proud of all that she is learning and sad that it is happening so quickly.

I rarely am without "help" these days. Cleaning, working in the garden, and "help in the tchitchen" are frequent requests. It sometimes pushes the limits on my patience and imagination to find ways to meet these requests. As of now, cleaning and kitchen help are the areas where she can sometimes have something that is an actual help to me. Scooping seeds from squash is a favorite activity as is adding the cheese and butter when we make mac and cheese; using the vacuum and dust mop are some of the most fun ways to spend the morning - although I suspect that part of their draw is that she can chase the dog with them.

Not a church service goes by without the Little Girl getting complimented on how well she has done lately. It is nice to know that she is actually capable of sitting or coloring quietly for an hour or more when the need arises. Part of it is that she loves to go up front for the children's sermon (and Tootsie Roll), thinks that shaking hands at the end is the best thing ever, and is bribed with donuts or ice cream for good behavior. I am not foolish enough to think that it is intrinsic.

Now that her language skills have gotten very good, she jabbers away, and even strangers or people she rarely sees can understand her. This is mostly a good thing, but we do worry that she might decide to call someone a "bum licker" (what we often call the dog) in public....hopefully we can teach context and all those social niceties quickly. It could get interesting.

Other Stuff - In addition to all of the regular and daily type stuff, we helped my mom clear the last of the stuff out of the house I grew up in, so she could sell it. This means that all of our progress in clearing out the attic, basement, and garage has been negated by all of the stuff that had previously been stored in my mom's basement. We are back to needing to do a TON of work to get things usable. It has been a slow process, but we are continuing to work at a steady pace. (I want to turn the attic into a bedroom and the basement into a rec room. We need more living space.) 

We also have had a steady stream of two and four legged visitors this summer. Charlie's sister and her kids, my bestie with her hubby and kiddo, my dad's dog for numerous visits, and others have all been keeping us company. It has been a lot of fun and a good reason to keep the house at a baseline clean. Hey, anyone want to come visit? I am having a hard time inspiring myself to dust the entertainment area....

Monday, March 7, 2016

Adulting Is Hard Work

It is pretty amazing just how much can happen in the matter of a few weeks. It can make your head spin. It is either that or we could not manage to get the cold bugs out of the house for weeks and made trips to doctor's offices and urgent care. It could be a little of both.

Our little fashionista has started completely choosing her outfits in the morning. While there have been a few unusual choices, many of her outfits have actually matched. As long as they coordinate with her tutu that is. She has a couple of them, and they are her favorite accessory. In addition to picking the outfits, Elska has been getting much more independent with getting dressed. Some help is still needed, and sometimes it takes 20 minutes or more to accomplish, but she needs a little bit less every day.

Are you sure that's right Papa?
Weather permitting, we walk to the library most days. While we don't make it quite there and back, most of the way we walk with occasional bursts of needing to run. The reason for running is both that it is fun and the library is one of the best places to go. We are on a first name basis with many of the librarians, and they are always on the lookout for new suggestions of titles. However, we can not get enough of the favorite titles - the "no monkeys" book, the Teeny Tiny Farm, and anything by Sandra Boynton. We have started to transition to some "big girl" books too and are working on turning pages nicely and sitting for the entire book. It works better on some than others.
Leftover movie theater popcorn for breakfast!

Last weekend, Elska went on her very first trip to the movie theater to see the new Star Wars movie. She did even better than we had expected and definitely enjoyed the movie as well as getting to gorge herself on pizza and popcorn. 

Charlie is continuing with his wood tech program at school and will be finishing in a few months. He has been learning a lot and discovering which aspects he likes the most. (FYI - if you want a beautiful cutting board, he could probably be convinced to work on a commission to make them.)

After over two years of talking about it, work on the kitchen has begun in earnest. Wallpaper is almost entirely removed (except from behind the oven and fridge), the walls are patched and sanded, and painting has been started. We have yet to finalize plans for the back splash, and we will be installing new flooring to round out the project. We are already trying to figure out which project to tackle when we finish. There are a lot from which to choose.

Other projects have included getting our couch moved out and a pull out couch moved in, replacing the leaking drainage pipes from under the kitchen sink, replacing the shower head that fell off, working on picking up all of Gretl's "leavings" from over the winter, clearing out all of the things stored in Elska's room, so she we can transition her to a "big girl" bed when we do potty training, planning what will go in this year's garden and designing the raised beds we will be installing, defrosting the chest freezer, and doing and figuring out what we have stored in the pantry, so we will be able to figure out what needs to be canned for next year. These would be the things that no one mentions as things for kids to look forward to when they grow up. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

No White Christmas

This year, we skipped having a white Christmas to spend the holiday in Arizona. We had a wonderful time relaxing and spending time with family and friends at the SKP park in Benson. Just how good a time? Well, for starters, it turns out that when your Gigi knows Santa and Mrs. Claus, they make special house calls the night before his big delivery day. I think that the moment that they walked
There are how many miles are left?!?
in the door, the Little Girl forgave us for the long drive to get there.

The drive there was pretty intense. We drove there in only two days. We were smarter on the way home and split it into three days with preplanned stops at pet friendly hotels. They were still
long days, but it kept our passengers much less vocal of their displeasure at being cooped up for so long. 

We opted for spending most of our time playing board games, reading, art projects, sleeping in, dancing and relaxing instead of a lot of sight seeing. However, there were a few important ones on our "must see" list...lunch down in Tombstone and the Christmas lights at a neighborhood in Tuscon renowned for its elaborate displays. (It was intense and deserves its own post which I may or may not get around to doing....let's be frank. I sometimes do not get everything posted.)

So just how do the Sheffers relax? Here is a quick glance at the numbers:
  • 1,600+ miles travelled both there and back.
  • 9 states including 7 new ones added to the Little Girl's list of "places visited" (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona). 
  • 3 additions to the roadside buffet along the highway. 1 rabbit, 1 possum, and 1 road runner. Random side note: we realized that the bird in the cartoons is not actually a roadrunner. It is really more of an ostrich or emu.
  • 40 MPH...the speed that we managed to reach on the pass between White Sands and Las Cruces. Our little 4 cylinder engine just could not hang with the big boys
  • 18 days away from home
  • 1 very happy family!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bestest Buddies

One member of the Sheffer clan seems to get very little mention in the normal course of postings. Gretl is a sweet pup who is a bit of an oaf. Most importantly, she is without a doubt, hands down, the Little Girl's very best friend. This is, of course, going to be a fantastic excuse for me to post some goofy pictures of this dynamic duo and their near constant mischief.

Gretl joined the clan during our 2014 road trip because normal people get a dog while on a multi-state journey with an infant in tow. Right? Um, that is what I thought. To be frank, I was not really wanting to get a dog yet. I already had my hands full. However, someone had his heart set on "at least looking to see", so I did agree to stop and look at the dog (the breeder was in Kentucky) just to say no. I should have known better. She was an adorable pup and already housebroken which was one of my major arguments against getting a dog.
I'm gonna wrassle you!
(If we had known that she was full of fleas, I might have had a different answer. Just as a quick PSA, hobby farm animals can come with additional baggage. It was not the end of the world, but it made for an interesting rest of the way home. We had two more stops and about three
Here, you want Mama's water?
days of driving left on the trip.)

Even though I was reluctant at first, I have to say that I am very glad that this fuzz ball is a member of the clan.  For one thing, she and the Little Girl really are the best of friends. Like any best friends or siblings, it can have its downside for the "grownups" around them.
You have an itch? I'll help!
For starters, one of their favorite games involves the Little Girl pushing toys, chairs, or stools all over the living room while chasing Gretl. I can not count the number of times that I have been startled by a loud crash due to Gretl not quite clearing the Fischer Price town while being chased by Noah's Ark
Jail break!
being pushed by a squealing and giggling Little Girl. I can not count the number of times that I have had to use the phrase, "now settle down, or you are not going to be able to play together anymore!" I apparently now have become my mother. It is not a bad thing, but it sort of comes out in the strangest places.

For a long time, we were able to give the girls a time out from each other (and giving Gretl a chance to eat and drink since her dishes are a source of much naughtiness for the Little Girl and need to remain out of reach for now) by having Gretl hang out in her kennel. Then came the day that the Little Girl figured out how to undo both latches. The first time it happened, I thought that I had maybe just forgotten to latch the door. However, I did watch from around the corner and catch photo evidence of the Little Girl busting her buddy out. There is currently a third
latch fastening the door shut, but we all know that it is only a matter of time before someone figures it out as well. We are using the interim to work on getting both girls to behave well enough that we will hopefully be able to just pack the crate away when that day comes.

We do still intend to get Gretl trained as a certified therapy dog and plan to do cart training as well. (The cart training is mostly because I really am too lazy to pull the wagon with kiddo riding in it myself when we go for a walk. I am totally ok with that too. Hopefully it will also help with her oafishness to be doing the work that she was technically bred to do.) I am not sure how her training will go now that the Little Girl is getting enough vocabulary to give commands. Gretl has not really followed her commands at all yet. In her defense, the commands do not exactly sound like the words that she is used to hearing. I give it a couple of months before we really will be expecting her to listen to them.

Ultimately, this post is mostly an excuse to post a bunch of the cute pictures of these two best buddies in the whole wide world. I figure that there might be a few folks out there who would enjoy the bonus pictures that I could not get to work properly in my Thanksgiving post earlier. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thanksgiving 2015

Apparently, we are so abundantly thankful that the website has a hard time handling all the photos while we share it.

A year of things to be thankful for:
An adorable niece born last December
Safety seats at Kwik Trip
How nicely these two play together
That fingernails heal quickly
That I have help with laundry

Just tons of help

So much help with the laundry

That we have loving friends
Who are there with hugs
For first birthday parties
For boogie bubbles
For the "Elvis" lip
That coloring is so fun
For exploring new things with friends

That Great Great Auntie Mimi's sweater is so warm

For blanket forts

That cooking lessons start early
That I have such kitchen help
For a roof with all the shingles

For sweaters from Nana
That brushing teeth is the best
For tutus
For Norske Nook pie
For time with Godparents
For the extra latch that now prevents jailbreaks
For jokes with Daddy
and just snuggles too
For bonfires at the Farm
 sitting on the stoop
and camping
For that one day last summer when the living room looked like a magazine
That she can't reach the pedals yet
For long rides in the stroller

For Door County cherry popsicles

For swimming on hot days

For stories with Gigi
For furniture on its second generation of abuse
For crazy hair days

For never being lonely in the kitchen
For books with Lita
For magic wands to manage mischief

For baby whisperers who can get slivers out of toes

Flexibility in more ways than one
Bubble baths

Living close enough to grow up with cousins

For Grandma
and Grandpa too

For Great Grandpa Buck
Great Grandpa Bill

and Great Grandpa Blakeley

We are so thankful for all of this and so much more. God's blessings on you all.