Monday, February 28, 2011

Above and Beyond: True Friends

As I stare out the window at the falling snow, I am reminded of the old television sets that used to show just static.  It's hard to make out a picture beyond all of that falling white stuff.

As the snow piles grow higher, I can't help but wonder if I'm going to be able to get out of the driveway with the car.

As my thoughts linger on this question, I am knocked out of my reverie by the sound of a tractor.  It's my neighbor, to the rescue again.  He expertly pushes and spins, lifts and turns the backhoe, insuring a safe and easy drive down our 1000 feet of snow-covered gravel to the highway.

I have been in town all day.  I hurry home, only to find it's 5:30 and Richard will be home for dinner in 15 minutes.  I am flipping through cook books trying to come up with an alluring dish for my family of eight.  It's too late now to make any bread or rolls that would complete a simple dish, and I don't have time to start a more complex meal.  I'm now wishing I would have stopped at Little Caesars on the way home, just to save me this trouble.

I hear the dog bark and look out to see my good friend headed for the door with a dish covered with tin foil.  As I open the door for my unexpected neighbor, she gives me a smile and explains, "I made some extra cinnamon rolls and wanted to bring you some."

We all have friends and neighbors that seem to know when to drop in with a plate of cookies, send a note of friendship or appreciation, or just call and say "hi." 

Thanks to all of our special friends that go "above an beyond" at times that may seem insignificant to them but have meant the world to our family.  We love you!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Crowning Moments!

The picture above is an actual picture of Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes in New York in 1973.  More pictures of this horse and his owner can be found at
Last night, for our Friday family movie night, we watched Secretariat, an inspiring movie about a horse and a woman with the hearts of champions and their desire to win.

Secretariat, whose real name was Big Red, has been described as, "the greatest racehorse of all time" and his win at Belmont Stakes, which finalized his Triple Crown award, reported as the "most dramatic moment in thoroughbred history".

Won in a coin toss, Big Red became the horse of Penny Chenery Tweedy, who took over her father's horse stables at his death.   Upon seeing his big heart and fighting spirit, she proceeded to race him and, against all odds, took him on to win the most longed-for prize in racing, the Triple Crown.  In addition to this, he was named Horse of the Year in 1972 and 1973, Champion 2 year-old Colt, Champion 3 year-old Colt, and Champion Grass Horse.

Penny Tweedy, was inspiring in the sense of her drive to find the potential of herself and her animal.  Although she was ridiculed and discouraged by her competition, and even those who should have stood by her, she showed them all what hard work and determination can accomplish.

Granted I haven't studied Penny Tweedy's life, but I do have to mention one thing.  Ms. Tweedy was happily married, it seemed, had four children, and was a successful homemaker, as observed by this viewer.  When her parents died, she took over the family farm, which was an airplane ride from her home.  She made numerous trips back and forth for two years, and then when Big Red, aka Secretariat, was racing for two years, those trips became fewer and farther between.  She even ended up divorcing, or separating, from her husband.  When I watched the movie, it seems that in her drive to make her horse a champion, she gave up what should have been her most prized possession: her family.  Even one of my kids commented, "She's not a very good Mom, is she?"

Like I have previously mentioned, I have not studied Ms. Tweedy's life, but that was my sentiments exactly.  I respect her as the keen business woman and dreamer that she was, but I have to question her decision to sacrifice her family.  Not all "crowning moments" take place in front of a crowd of people.  And although she achieved what many believed to be the impossible, and was awarded many "crowning moments" from the press and fans of the world, she left her greatest moments ever, those with her husband and kids, behind.

At times it feels as though the piles of laundry and the overflowing sink of dishes may never end; that our lot in life as a homemaker is drudgery and boredom.  But the greatest reward we'll ever receive is the trust and unconditional love of a child.  Motherhood trumps any trophy we might win anywhere else.  My success in running a home, having a happy husband, and happy children  are my greatest achievements. 

C.S. Lewis agreed when he said, "[Homemaking] is surely in reality the most important work in the world.  What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government, etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes"... [The homemaker's] job is one for which all others exist" (Letters of C.S. Lewis, p. 262).

 May we look for and find our true "crowning moments" within the walls of our own homes, (even if it is on our knees, wiping up spilled milk from breakfast) and fulfill the divine potential we were sent here to achieve.

Friday, February 25, 2011


I have been having a few reports that only an introduction was posted yesterday.  Since I am posting this explanation, "Everything I Learned, I Learned in Kindergarten - and Then Re-Learned as a Mom", yesterday's post, can be found in the archive section of my blog site or following this post.  I will publish "Crowning Moments!" tomorrow.  Thanks so much to my followers and readers.  I appreciate your support and encouragement.

Love ya, Melanie

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Everything I Learned, I Learned in Kindergarten...and Then Re-learned as a Mom!

English 212:  Ah, the English language, proclaimed to be one of the toughest languages to learn.  Perhaps if we had a child teach us, it would make it simpler, or at least more entertaining.

Probably one of the first songs many of us start singing to our little cherubs is the "ABC Song".  Almost before my kids could speak, they "knew" their ABC's, thanks to this song.  It wasn't until my fourth child that I realized that what I was teaching and what my children were hearing were two different things.

...L, and N, O, P....  My kids didn't even know there was an M in the alphabet until they got in kindergarten!

Once they finally learn the whole alphabet, we moved on to sounds.  Some of my earlier talkers have learned to speak before they were able to properly make the letter sounds with their tongue.  This brings about words you can't actually find in the dictionary.  When my 3-year-old would come to me and say, "Mom, I weally, weally wuv you!  Youw the bestest Mom in the whole wold!," my heart would melt.  Now, Webster may have written a dictionary, but if he would have consulted a Mother, some of the most beautiful words in the non-English language would have been added.

As my little ones begin to increase their vocabulary, they think it's their turn to start reading stories to me.  There are those certain books that you've read to them often enough, they can say them word for word, and even turn the pages in the right spots!  The ones I love the most are stories that they know the basic concept of, but make up the story line.

 Who knew that the spider that sat beside Miss Muffet was really her pet and she ran away to get the spider some cottage cheese?  I've also learned when Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and cracked, a chick jumped out and ran away.

And so, even though C-A-T doesn't start with the letter A and a "balden" eagle doesn't really exist, I'll cherish forever my little scholars and all they teach me about this "goodest" job in the "wold": MOTHERHOOD.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tip of the Day: Teaching Kids Responsibility

As I have added more children to our household, I have also added more work.  I don't think there is enough time in a day, (nights included) to run a household without help.  I also don't think that you can responsibly raise a child without teaching them how to work.  Although my kids have asked me if the only reason I had them was so they could help clean the house, I feel it is so important, not only to have a clean house, but for them to learn to work, and also feel like they're contributing.  A child's self-esteem is so important in their success, and teaching them to accomplish something of worth to themselves and others raises their confidence level.  Someday, when they have houses of their own, they may thank me for making them my slaves, now.

Marie C. Ricks, an author and speaker on keeping your house in order and organization, has a saying:  "As parents, our job is to work ourselves our of a job by helping our children become productive, happy, and responsible adults."  I whole-heartedly agree with this.   A lot of my theories are borrowed from her because they seem to work.  Sometimes, things may need tweaked to fit your particular family needs.

I start my kids working from the time they can walk.  Brooklyn, my 1-year-old, has one expected job: throw her diaper in the garbage after I change her.  She doesn't have to be asked to do this anymore because she has gotten, and still gets, so much praise when she completes her task.  Because she has learned where the garbage is, she also makes little "runs" throughout the day when I ask her.  Of course, she does seem to have an independent spirit, and sometimes chooses to ignore me, but then I just make a big deal out of me throwing the garbage away, and hopefully she will continue to get more consistent when asked.  She also loves to line up with the rest of the kids and put her own folded pile of clothes into her closet.  Of course, I usually have to re-fold half of them again, but a minute or two more at this age will save me much more than that as she gets older and can take care of her own clothes.

My four-year-old, Jentry, is expected every morning to get dressed, make her own bed, pick up her room, (not always my idea of clean, but I sneak in later and finish up,) and usually one other household job.  She is probably my best clothes-folder and takes great pride in this title.  She loves to hold her baby sister when I am trying to get something done and don't have the extra arms.  Because she is involved in this, she believes that her sister loves her the most and will usually do anything to help clean-up after her, or just entertain her for a while.

My other children, ages 7, 8, 10, and 12 have the responsibility to keep their rooms clean, beds made, get themselves ready, including fixing their own breakfast, and a lunch if they don't want to have school lunch.  They are also required to practice their piano, and any other music they have, and also take care of their own dogs, cats, and pigeons.

During the school year, I don't use a chore chart.  Usually in the morning, and again in the evening, I have everyone pick up 5 to 10 things in each room of the house.  This only takes the kids a few minutes while saving me a bundle of time.  Sometimes, it's more practical to set a timer for 10 minutes and have everyone work as fast as they can.  We all work in the same room and just rotate through.  I may or may not give a treat.  I like to surprise them with treats instead of having them expect them.  This hopefully will teach them to work for the right reasons.  Besides, I can guarantee that when they get their own houses, there is not a treat waiting for them for every load of laundry they do.  Experience talking.  (I do have to add, however, that one of my neighbors hides a bag of chocolates in her clean laundry so that when she is folding it, she "treats" herself.) 

In the following weeks, I will be writing about Saturday cleaning, and also various job charts I use during summers.  I think job charts are great, but it seems to add more work for me to keep up on them while the kids are in school and so busy.

 I have to conclude with my most effective tool I use in getting my kids to work.  That is praise, praise, and more praise.  My kids love to make me happy.  They occasionally try to surprise me by doing something I haven't asked.  I love this because it shows me they have seen that something needs done and have taken the initiative to do it on their own.  When they know I appreciate it, they seem to do that more often.  Praise is definitely the key.  Even if a job is not done to a standard I wish it was, I try to lay on the praise and then say, "I'm just going to tuck this corner of your covers in and that will make it easier for you to make it next time."  Nine times out of ten, that corner is tucked in by that child the next time. 

Although I've made this sound so perfect in keeping a clean house, when company pulls in the driveway, we still sometimes make a mad dash to find them a place to sit before they reach the door.  With eight people in our house, there always seems to be someones book bag laying around or another snack to clean off the table.  But a time and season is what I always tell myself.  If I am doing my job right, I hope to one day not have to shove extra socks under the couch when my visiting teachers come, or gather up empty candy wrappers and stuff them in my pocket when a neighbor comes to visit.  In the meantime, I follow my good friend, Jana's, motto: "If you want to see me, come anytime; if you want to see my house, make an appointment."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Down on the Farm: The Sleigh Ride

How we ended up with our 110 pound polar-bear look-alike, Shasta, that belongs to, and accompanies, our 58 pound daughter everywhere she goes, is a story all its own.  May it be enough to say that Shasta is our 1 1/2 year old Great Pyrenees puppy that loves to eat anything and everything, and is still growing!

Shaylie has been the primary trainer of this dog since she got her.  She has spent countless hours teaching Shasta the fundamentals of obedience.  This training started early because we knew Shasta would quickly outgrow her owner. 

Well, there comes a time in every dog's life when they need to start earning their keep.
That day came this winter when Shaylie decided in her 10-year old, carefree mind, that the best way for Shasta to do this was to pull the kids back up the hill after they had sledded down.

To begin this well-thought out plan, Shaylie gathered her supplies.  She figured out that by adjusting a horse halter just right, she had a great harness that you could easily snap a sled to.  After a few days of letting Shasta get used to her new harness, Shaylie figured it was time to hook up the sled.  Shasta did so well following her around with the empty sled, that Shaylie quickly moved on.  She carefully placed her four year old sister, Jentry, in the sled for weight.  Up and down the snow-covered road, that leads to our barn, they went.  Shasta acted like an experienced Iditarod sled dog. 

That is, until I came along.

I was in the house cleaning up the kitchen.  I gathered up the meat scraps and the leftover bone from the roast we had eaten that day and chucked them in the weeds in our backyard.  I usually do this so the dogs or cats can clean it up.

Shasta happened to be down off the hill by the barn at this time. She raised her nose up into the air and must have caught a whiff of that meat.

Shaylie was unaware that I had basically called her dog to dinner.  She was running/stumbling as fast as her legs could carry her, while sinking in snow up to her knees, trying to catch up with the great big, white blur that was plowing over snow drifts and dodging sagebrush.  Bumping behind Shasta, holding onto her fluorescent orange sled for dear life, was Jentry.  Her hat had slipped down over her eyes as the calm, slow ride she had been experiencing turned into a crazy roller coaster run.  Shasta, the sled, (with Jentry in it,) Shaylie, and by this time, Richard, (who happened to be down at the barn,) were lined up like a parade-gone-wrong.  The frantic shouting, "SHASTA, COME!" over and over while they tried to catch up to our little girl flying behind our single-minded dog, filled the air.

As soon as Shasta reached her roast and was busy inhaling it, the ride ended.  Jentry rolled out of the sled-turned-race car and giggled, "Let's do that again!"

All of the training in the world won't stop a dog with a nose for food! Just another day "down on the farm."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Above and Beyond: Sacrifice

Our lesson in Relief Society yesterday was on sacrifice.  I thought I'd share some of the things I learned and thought about. 

The most touching part of the lesson was when the ladies shared stories from the scriptures where sacrifices were made.  Some of those stories mentioned were about the prophet, Abinadi, Emma Smith, the Willie Handcart Company, and the three young men who carried most of the company across the Sweetwater River, (see my February 7 post for details on that one,) Abraham and Isaac, Ruth and Naomi, Lehi and his family, and Joseph Smith. 

As we were discussing the incredible sacrifices made by each of these people, the question came up, "Would we be willing to sacrifice our home, life, and family for the gospel?"  Quite a question to think about.

I believe we already answered that once in the great council in Heaven.  When we had to make a choice as to what side we would be on, all of us here on this Earth courageously took a stand with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  We were aware of the challenges and temptations, the heartache and pain we would experience in this mortal life, but we accepted that and willingly agreed to the sacrifices we would have to make. 

We may never be called on the give up our homes or families, but if we are going to return to live in the Celestial Kingdom, we have to be WILLING to.  Is our faith that strong?  If the prophet asked us to pack up and leave our homes tomorrow, would we walk away from jobs, worldly possessions, friends, and possibly family to follow that admonition?

I think this question gives us a scale to rate our faithfulness on.  We were strong enough to answer YES at one time, are we still that strong? 

Heavenly Father held his choicest spirits for these latter days.  That tells me that many of us will have that strength to stand up for what we believe, even if it means great sacrifices.  We will go "above and beyond" to insure our return to our Father in Heaven and live eternally with our families, and that's my ultimate goal.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Crowning Moments!

The time had come, just like they said it would.  If this were going to work, they would have to hurry.  The two of them quickly gathered the things they would need and rushed to their car.

The roads were slick, the snow coming at them horizontally.  On a night like this, no one should be out, but this venture was unavoidable.  It was something that had to be done.  The couple watched for an ambush.  There were many surprised who weren't paying attention. 

They pushed the dark vehicle as far as they dared.  The dangerous, winding roads took skill to maneuver and the two were grateful they had done their homework.  They'd memorized every turn, the narrow spots, and the places to pull off, if necessary.

After what seemed like hours of driving, but was really much shorter, they arrived at their meeting place.  The team was waiting for them.  They switched vehicles and headed to their final destination.  It would all happen here.  Time was of the essence and they were running out of it!

Gloves were pulled on, masks made ready.  There wasn't any way they could pull this off without inflicting pain and they braced themselves for it.  They couldn't wait, the moment had come.

As if time slowed, one man walked confidently to the table.  Amid the confusion, a cry was heard. 

The nurses wrapped the squirming, newborn in a warm blanket and handed the bundle to me.

Is there anything better than that instant bond you have with something so fresh-from-Heaven, so special?  Knowing this baby will love you more than anything or anyone sends you into a spin of emotion.  As you're snuggling this new child  to you, you're amazed at your infant's sudden calmness when your voice, a mother's voice, is heard.  That little bow-shaped mouth, tiny turned-up nose, great big beautiful eyes, all ten fingers and toes: they're complete perfection!  The intense stirring of love and joy are overwhelming.  What a "crowning moment"!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Everything I Learned, I Learned in Kindergarten...and Then Re-learned as a Mom!

Mathematics 101:  Long ago, in my kindergarten class, I learned that 1+1=2.  In my family, the Math of Motherhood has taught me 1+1 equals 8; 8 very different characters.  Even though the denominators are the same, all 6 of my little additions are totally different.  Somehow, it just doesn't seem to add up.

In my physics class, math was a big deal.  Einstein's energy equation, E=MC2, was the focus for a whole term as we studied the energy and mass relationship.  In my house, this relationship doesn't seem to exist.  My energy equals the hours of sleep I get minus the number of times I get up to comfort a child, give out cough medicine, pull up covers, tell one more story, or plug in the binky, one more time.  Take this number and divide it by the number of squats I did picking up the baby and her bottle, bends I did changing the laundry, hurdles I jumped avoiding misplaced toys, and stretches I made scrubbing tubs and showers.  With all of those variables, my calculation is fairly inaccurate, at best.

Although mathematicians claim pi=3.14, I have found it to equal quite a different number.  My pie equals two chairs pulled around the counter, with 2 kids on each one, 2 more leaning in from the opposite side, 60 fingers reaching in to taste the pie crust dough, and 3 cans of cherry pie filling, (because too many cherries were picked out of the first 2 cans waiting to be poured into the crust.)  After 75 minutes to cook, (taking into account the time the kids took to mold their individual pieces of dough into snakes, eggs, puppies, and elephants,) my numbers are almost incalculable.

Here's a story problem for you: if it takes 20 minutes to put a pie together, 35 minutes to cook it with tin foil around the edges to prevent burning, 15 minutes more to brown the crust after removing the tin foil, and 15 minutes to let the pie cool after you remove it from the oven, how long does it take eight people to eat the pie?  ( For all you moms, the answer is a piece of cake to figure out.)  Answer: 4 minutes and 28 seconds.

Motherhood has changed how I understand the mathematical concept of telling time, even.  When you put the big hand on the 12, it doesn't matter where the little hand is, it's time to eat.  When one of the kids say "just a second," I know it will probably be closer to 5 to 10 minutes.  And when I have to be somewhere at a certain time, I have to plan on leaving 1/2 hour early, just to get there 7 minutes late.

As I lay in bed, counting undone chores, instead of sheep, I realize that the number of times I have to search for misplaced pajamas is always too many, while the number of times I hear "I love you" as 6 kids head off to bed every night, will never be enough.  The number of times I have to yell, "Get in bed!" is always too many, while the hugs and kisses my kids shower me with, (usually to avoid getting in bed,) is never enough.

Maybe it does add up!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tip of the Day: Food Preparation

In previous posts, I have mentioned saving money and time while shopping.  These posts have received the most "feed"back.  That is probably because that is where a large part of your money goes, and also a large part of your time.  Coming up with 365 meals a year is hard, but there are ways to make it easier.  One way is to go out to eat.  I love this idea, but if you're trying to save money, you're up a creek.  A more reasonable solution is to prepare meals ahead of time.

Meat is one of the biggest expenses on your shopping trips.  I have already mentioned that by buying it in bulk, you can save a bundle.  If buying half a beef is not your style, family packs are a great alternative.  It may seem these are harder to use.  There are ways to prepare it, however, that are easy and will save a lot of time.  Some of the meals that I mention are just examples; you can plug in your favorite meals in these places.  Also note, the amount I use is for a family of eight, six if they're older.

In every grocery store I've been to, you can buy hamburger in five pound family packs.  This is usually cheaper than the single pound alternative.  When I get a five pounder home, instead of freezing the whole bunch of it, I use it up right then.  If I don't have time, I put it in the refrigerator until I do, maybe while I'm making dinner.

All measurements are approximate, but by splitting the meat up, you can figure out about how much a pound is.  I take about 1 1/2 pounds and make into a meatloaf.  Then I put that in the freezer.  I use about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds to make hamburger patties, separate them with wax paper, and put them in the freezer.  I then cook the remainder of the hamburger, chop it up, and separate it into about 1 pound increments. With this, I make lasagna, shepherd's pie, spaghetti casserole, tator tot casserole, and/or beef enchiladas.  You can substitute any other casserole dish your family likes, and put them in the freezer.  I usually have about 1/2 pound left over.  I put it in a bag and freeze it to add to taco soup or spaghetti sauce.

You now have four to five meals made already!  It's also handy if a neighbor needs a meal to take it our of the freezer, add a salad, and wah-lah!

All of the above meals freeze really well.  To use these, I take them out of the freezer the morning I want them and they're ready to bake by dinner time following the directions in your recipe.  If they're defrosting too quickly, put them in your refrigerator until time to cook.

Just a note: if you don't have enough casserole dishes, you can line one with tin foil, make the casserole in it and freeze.   When it's firm, dump the food out of your dish, and wrap well to avoid freezer burn.  Now, you have your clean dish back, (because you used the tin foil,) and you've saved time on doing dishes!  When you want to bake these, just unwrap the meal, (you can leave the bottom foil in place,) put the casserole in the correct pan, and bake.

You can follow this same concept with family packs of chicken, pork chops, or any other meat that you can buy in bulk.  With ham, you can buy a whole loaf and the meat department will slice it for free.  At home, divide it up into single meal-size portions and freeze it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Down on the Farm: Spring Planting!

I received my Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co. 2011 Spring Catalog today!  For those of you unaware of Gurney's, it's "America's Most Complete Seed & Nursery Company," as advertised on the cover of the catalog itself.

 There's something about looking through a magazine filled with trees, seeds, flowers, bushes, and everything green that just shouts SPRING!  The delectable descriptions of the fruits and veggies have me salivating just reading them.  For example, under the Pixie Crunch Apple picture, we read, "This sweet beauty is absolutely unparalleled for fresh eating.  One bite and we guarantee you will agree. This apple 'explodes' with a breaking crispness, tantalizing your taste buds with mouthwatering flavor and juiciness."  How clever to get English majors to write up such descriptive narratives!  I just want to shout, "I'll take 35!"

Of course, it's only February, and although in many places you can see your lawn, my beloved Birdseye is not such a place.  With freezing temperatures normally going into the first part of July, there is still plenty of time left to go sledding, build snow forts, shovel sidewalks, scrape windshields, and bring in coal. 

I have to admit, I tend to jump the gun, just a little bit, every year when it comes to gardening.  All of the gardening books say that there are certain things that you can plant as soon as you can "work the soil."  Well, if you have the right tools, you can dig through three inches of crunchy snow and work the soil just fine.  Just ask me.  I do it every year.  But I can't help it.  You can only spend so much time reading about the enticing produce found on every page of my new magazine or looking out the frosty windows planning which row you're going to dedicate to your newly-ordered, buttery-sweet beets, ("that even kids will love,") and which row to use for those sweet and crunchy carrots, ("you don't have to be a rabbit to love these").

Although beginning my planting so early does seem to go through seed quicker than it should, (I have to buy a two-year supply of seed for my one small vegetable garden every year to allow for all the replanting I do,) I just have to get that early start.  Besides, positive thinking on my part tells me that everybody plants their gardens three times before temperatures reach 50 degrees.

On the plus side, planting early uses so much less water, in theory.  For one, the hose can't be used, (it's still filled with ice from last fall's "last watering of the year.")  Secondly, as the remaining snow melts, (for the next three to four months,) it provides all of the moisture you need.

Someday, all eight planets will align, the Earth's axis will tip just right, and two major stars will collide, sending Spring to Birdseye in March.  Until then, I will look for my radishes to pop up out of the crisp white snow, (if a snow crocus can do it, so can a radish) and then replant them again when they don't.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Above and Beyond: Happy Valentine's Day!

I am dedicating this to the love of my life, Richard, my adoring husband, who keeps coming back for more at the end of the work day.  As we stumble through this beautiful mayhem of parenthood together, I can't imagine anyone I'd want to be holding onto more.  You're such a devoted, loving husband and father; and how you balance that with everything else you have to do is an amazing feat.  I wish I could find the words to tell all that you are to me.  You honestly go "above and beyond." 
Thanks for being my special Valentine for eternity!  I love you tons and tons!

To all of my friends out there, comment about your special Valentine and how they go "above and beyond" for you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Crowning Moments! Homecoming Queen

Shock registered on the three girl's faces as the runner-up was announced.  Everybody knew she was supposed to be Homecoming Queen.  She had been groomed for this day from the first day of high school.  Not only was she beautiful, she was head cheerleader, was dating the star of the football team and the name everyone would say when asked the question, "Who is the most popular girl of this school."  She was the expected victor.  But here she was, being crowned first runner-up. 

As she received her crown and bouquet of flowers, there was time to gain a semblance of composure for the other two girls left standing there.  Well, now the choice was apparent.  As the president of the drill team and the obvious winner of the talent contest, there was no question as to who would receive the crown. 

There was no ill-will or animosity felt from the girl who shouldn't have even been standing with the top five.  She was just excited to have made it that far.  With forty percent of the points coming from the high school student's vote, popularity was the determining factor.  Although she felt she had done well on the interview, that was worth only twenty percent of the total score.  The talent contest, another twenty percent of the overall points, obviously was taken by the talented dancer standing next to her.  The perfect execution of every step and inarguable master of technique made anyone watching gaze in wonderment.  With the remaining twenty percent being split by the evening gown competition and a final question, there was no doubt who the chosen royalty would be.  One contestant was sporting her junior prom dress that she finally found in the desired price range, and although pretty, it was hard to compete with the fitted gown that dazzled the eye on her competitor.  And what can you say about the question?  World peace is world peace.

"And the 1991-1992 Homecoming Queen is... the little gal from Rush Valley, Melanie Park!"  It was as if time slowed; it seemed a hush fell across the stage and the audience, and then the deafening roar of cheers erupted, breaking the stunned spell I was under.  As if in a dream, THE CROWN, was placed on my head and a dozen long-stem roses set in my arms.  Cameras flashed as I was surrounded and embraced by the other contestants.  The confusion of people rushing up on the stage giving hugs and congratulations and handing me flowers proceeded; a "crowning moment," literally!  It was all a little overwhelming, and so unexpected, not only to me, I'm sure, but to most of the contestants, especially those final five.

Going back a year before this memorable point in my life, I was sixteen years old.  I went to Education Week at BYU every year from the time I was fourteen.  I loved it!  The youth speakers were so entertaining and at the same time, inspirational.  I learned so much about myself and my testimony of Jesus Christ grew immensely.

One of the speakers this particular year, Barbara Barrington Jones, was speaking on "How to Be the Most Popular Kid in School".  This was definitely a topic I was interested in.  Don't we all want to be popular?  Although I don't remember if there were a number of steps to take, I do remember the part about smiling.  Smile at everyone.  Being popular isn't about you, it's about others.  I decided right then and there that I could be the most popular girl in high school  After all, I could smile.

Well, I don't know if I was the most popular girl in school, but I do know that I had a lot of good friends that I loved.  I do know that my high school experience was awesome because I could look outside myself and try to make someone else's day brighter, just by smiling.

Now, of course, my dreams have changed somewhat.  Do I want to win a popularity contest?  No.  Not anymore.  I now dream of all the dirty socks making it into the hamper, getting caught up on the laundry, and the crushed Chex cereal vacuuming itself out of the carpet.  In reality, when I look at the grand scheme of things, (and overlook the constant crumb pile under the high chair,) I'm "livin' the dream."  I have healthy, happy kids, my husband loves me and works hard to provide all our family needs, I'm surrounded by great friends and loved one, and I have a loving Father in Heaven that sees my potential and inspires me to reach for it.  Who could want more than that?

This realization: a true "crowning moment"!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Everything I Learned, I Learned in Kindergarten...and Then Re-learned as a Mom!

Music Appreciation 212:  My Dad had a rule when I was growing up. "No singing at the table."  I grew up thinking this was a general rule of etiquette, a preached practice of Erma Bombeck herself.  I really didn't see anything wrong with singing at the table.  It wasn't as if we could do it when we put a big bite of mashed potatoes into our mouths.  It just showed that we were happy. 

It wasn't that Dad didn't like music.  Quite the opposite, in fact: he loved music.  My Dad was in a barbershop quartet, The Salt Flats, and travelled around the country singing.  He loved music of all kinds and was very talented.  He could whistle two notes at the same time and harmonize with himself!  He loved harmony.  When we would take any trips in the car, Dad would organize my family into parts while we were driving.  My sister and Mom would sing the melody, Dad and I would sing a harmony part, and my brother, not being a fan of this ritual, would make drum noises.

While on our yearly trip to West Yellowstone, Dad usually came up missing when we went for an ice cream cone.  We would find him singing or visiting with the barbershop singers that entertained along Main Street.  (This just goes to show how much he really did love music, because he REALLY LOVED ice cream!)

As my own family has grown, I have enjoyed all of the inherited love for music.  The whole lot of them are taking piano lessons, (granted my one-year-old only plays when I try to); two of them have went through 5th grade training in the art of recorders; one has a special knack for singing opera, while another prefers making up her own lyrical rhythms; one is taking guitar lessons while the others just like to practice to see how many times Mom can fish the pick out of the guitar hole;  whistling, whether it be out of your mouth, or just blowing air into anything that a sound will come out of, is a common practice, (it's amazing the noises you can get from a baby's belly button!); and the list goes on and on.

From the made-up, one-note symphonies to the plunking out of "Chopsticks";  from the race through "Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater" to the grandiose memorization of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata";  we love it all.

At this very moment, my youngest is displaying her upcoming talent by composing a cacophony of "music" on the harmonica; my oldest is playing the Transformers theme song, "What I've Done" by Linkin Park, on the piano; two of my kids are sitting at the table blowing into empty .22 shells saying, "Yours has a better tune, can we trade?"; while my last two are tumbling and singing in the front room to the heavy bass of their dance CD.  Oh yes, we love music, anytime, anywhere.

In short, even though my husband and I really LOVE our kid's music, and although it may not be a law in Martha Stewart's dining room, we just have to say, usually in unison, "No singing at the table!" 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tip of the Day... from menu planning to fixing girl's hair

Some of my readers had questions on last week's Tip of the Day about my monthly shopping trips.  A few of those dealt with menu planning.  I decided it would be a great topic to discuss for this post.  After this discussion, I have included some links that may be helpful.  They offer weekly and monthly planning calendars, some with grocery lists attached.

When I began grocery shopping once a month, I would plan out monthly menus and from those menus, I would make my shopping list.  This is quite time consuming, but I felt that in order to buy enough food to last a month, it was something that I needed to do.  It also took care of the hardest part of dinner: figuring out what to fix.

I began with a blank calendar with big enough squares to write my dinner menu for the day.  I started with tried-and-true dinners and put them in random places on the calendar.  I tried to have my kid's favorites, or at least familiar meals, three to four times a week.  Then I added some menu items that I had in my recipe book that I had forgotten about, and the majority of the family liked.  Finally, I filled in the remaining four to five squares with new recipes that I wanted to try.  I basically repeated this menu the following month, changing items around to fit new schedules and tastes.

I subscribe to Simple & Delicious magazine and always find at least one meal idea to try from each magazine.  This is where I usually find extra meals to replace those that the kids don't like, also.

Now that I have been doing this for sometime, I have a master grocery list that I use every month, made from my usual monthly meals.  I read over this printed list just before I go shopping.  Sometimes, I have enough of an item left that I don't need to get it and I cross it off my list.  Other times, I realize that I did not have enough of an item to get me through the whole month and add more.  Finally, I add any new items I may need for a new recipe I'm trying or to cover any holiday meals or special occasions that month. 

Because I go crazy during case lot sales, I usually have a surplus of canned and baking goods.  This really saves me money because I don't have to buy something if I can't find it on sale.  I also buy meat in bulk and put it in the freezer.  At meat processing plants, you can buy a beef, (or half or quarter of a beef), a lamb, and pork in different cuts.  This allows you to be flexible on rush-days by having numerous ideas on hand for your dinner menu.

Finally, don't forget the ease and popularity of breakfast foods for dinner.  If I have been gone all day and don't have much time, pancakes and eggs are always a great choice.  My whole family loves this meal and I love the convenience.

I try to make dinner a good experience for my family.  We always sit down together at the table and I feel like we learn so much about each other by doing this.  Every once in a while, (about every other month,) I like to do something out of the ordinary.  Whether it's tin foil dinners cooked in the oven, a weinie-roast outside, or having the kids design their own pizzas, it adds a little flare to dinners.

 About twice a year, when peaches are in season, and again when apples are ready to pick, I make pies for dinner.  The kids think I'm the coolest Mom ever to let them have dessert for their meal and I like that they're eating their daily dose of fruit, (even if it is covered in cinnamon and sugar!)  Be sure to add some fun to your menu planning!

For the ultimate meal-planning website, check out This site tells all of the why's and how's of meal planning and shares some new ideas about it also.

To print blank calendars, menus, and shopping lists, go to

There is a great weekly menu planning list with a grocery list attached at

A SIDE NOTE:  When asked by 'suzeeduzee' about what my family's favorite foods are and how I deal with picky eaters, this was my reply:

Some of my family's top menu choices are 1)self-made pizzas- I make the crust and they do the rest, 2)fried chicken- legs only!, 3)spaghetti- some like sauce, others like butter and salt, 4)Hawaiian haystacks- because you can put on only the ingredients you like, 5)tacos- once again, kids can choose their own ingredients ,and 6)taco soup- kids love dipping the chips, (had to mention this last one because it's so easy for me!)

If, or should I say when, the kids don't like something, I make them eat at least a spoonful amount, or one thing, like one asparagus, or whatever. The kids can then make themselves a jam or ham sandwich if they just can't handle what we're having.  (In the case of my pickiest eater, it's ham and jam together on the sandwich.  And he won't eat potatoes and gravy. Crazy, huh?) 

If you'd like a sample of my whole month's menu, let me know.  I could also give you a sample of my master shopping list if you would like that, also.

Down on the Farm: Feather Pillows

I don't know if it's because of the "eggs"cellent jokes and comments I received on my chicken-raising "eggs"perience, (they really "cracked" me up), or what, but I just can't get the those feathered friends out of my mind.  Once again, I will broach the subject of chickens, although this blog takes a different route.

I think everybody will agree with me when I say, "I have a favorite pillow!"  I found mine when I was in junior high school.  It actually belonged to my Mom and was a true feather pillow.  It would shape to my head every night and hold that shape perfectly throughout.  It was so comfortable and cuddly.  It was as if it gently cradled my head and lulled me to sleep every night, (or was that the late night studying that put me to sleep?)  Ahhh, the memories.

After I graduated from high school and was packing up to go to BYU, my comfortable, old friend, that feather pillow, was one of the first things in my pile to go with me.  Night after night, no matter what happened during the day, there was my pillow waiting for me. 

And then it happened. 

I was probably half way through my freshman year when the tragedy occurred.  One night, after a grueling day of study, I snuggled down into my campus-appointed bed, hugged by my most favorite-of-all-times pillow.  As I was sinking down into it, I felt a stick under my head.  Now although my Dad may have thought I was a princess, I had never had a true "Princess and the Pea"experience. But, that was what was happening here. I thought of that story as I lay there, trying to think how a stick could have got into my pillow.  I reached up, tentatively, and felt the piece of wood that was so irritating.  As I ran my hand along to the end, I froze!  To my horror, I felt a foot, a chicken's foot!  They must have thrown the whole chicken in there, legs and all!

Sometimes, especially at night, you just can't deal with something like a claw in your pillow.  I re-fluffed the pile of feathers, and although the Edgar Allen Poe story, "The Telltale Heart," beat in my head, I fell asleep to the rhythm.

Many nights I layed down, trying to ignore what I knew to be under my head.  It couldn't be true.  I had slept on this pillow every night for six years, or more.  Why had I never discovered this THING?

One night, upon pulling back the covers, I could take it no more.  I threw that pillow quickly to the floor.  I would deal with the fiendish appendage in the light of day.

After I awoke, there was much to do.   Studies to be read, tests to be taken, the everyday duties that come with living with five roommates; the list goes on and on.  The forbidding task awaiting me at my bedside was too much. Maybe on the weekend I would get around to it.  I pushed the pillow underneath my bed carefully with my foot.

That chicken foot lay under my bed for months.  One morning, I awoke feeling invincible.  Today was the day I was going to be free.  Today was the day I would find "the claw" and take care of it.  It would haunt my nights no more.  I bravely pulled the pillow out from under the bed and felt around.  I quickly found the offending "stick" and ran my fingers along it.  I felt the knee joint, (or whatever that is called in a chicken), the scales along the leg, the foot that had shrivelled up into a claw, as if grasping onto something, probably life itself.  I could not understand how I had missed this large appendage all of those years.  But here it was, not in my mind, but sitting in my hands, as true as life.

I relived the memories I had shared throughout the years with this pillow.  We had been through a lot together.  I briefly thought maybe I could just overlook the offensive "claw," but knew I could not.  There comes a time when you have to move on.  I would have to find another place to dream.

I'm still searching for a pillow that compares to that down-filled place I once layed my head.  Although the years pass, I haven't given up hope.  Someday I will find one, and when I do, I will sleep as I did once upon a time.  Until then, I hope that misplaced appendage finds its way back to that legless chicken in the sky; the one that still cackles in my dreams now and again.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Above and Beyond

Many of you are familiar with the stories of struggle and heartbreak endured by the Mormon pioneers, specifically, of the Martin Handcart Company.  Realizing that so many of our ancestors are deserving of recognition, I want to honor three eighteen-year-old boys who went "above and beyond" any assigned duty or call they may have received, and share their story. 

Because of extenuating circumstances, the Martin Handcart Company left later in the year than the other handcart companies.  The winter storms were also unseasonably early.  This combination caused much suffering and death to this faithful group of pioneers. 

When Brigham Young heard of these Saints moving through Wyoming, on their trek to Utah, and their hardships, he immediately sent out a rescue party.  In a letter to President Young, written by Captain George D. Grant, the rescue party leader, a description of the scene was as follows: "You can imagine between five and six hundred men, women, and children, worn down by drawing carts through mud an snow, fainting by the wayside, children crying with cold, their limbs stiffened, their feet bleeding, and some of them bare to the frost.  The sight is too much for the stoutest of us, but we go on doing our duty, not doubting, nor despairing.  Our party is too small to be of much of a help. ... We have prayed without ceasing, and the blessings of the Lord have been with us".

In the Improvement Era, January 1914 issue, Solomon F. Kimball wrote of this event.  He published, "Those of the handcart people who were unable to walk were crowded into the overloaded wagons, and a start was made; the balance of the company hobbling along behind with their carts as best they could.

"When [they] came to the first crossing of the Sweetwater west of Devil's Gate, they found the stream full of floating ice, making it dangerous to cross, on account of the strong current.  However, the teams went over in safety. ... When the people who were drawing carts came to the brink of the treacherous stream, they refused to go any further ... , as the water in places was almost waist deep, and the river more than a hundred feet wide. ... [They] remembered that nearly one-sixth of their number had already perished from the effects of crossing North Platte, eighteen days before. ...They ... cried mightily unto the Lord for help.

"After ... every apparent avenue of escape seemed closed, three eighteen-year-old boys belonging to the relief party came to the rescue, and to the astonishment of all who saw, carried nearly every member of that ill-fated handcart company across the snowbound stream.  The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all the boys died from the effects of it.  When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act, he wept like a child, and later declared publicly, 'that act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.'"

Do we have the faith and courage to go "above and beyond"  by serving our fellow men as these young boys?  Although we may never have to face physical hardship that compares to that of the pioneers, there are people all around us that we can serve and help make their "trek" a little easier.  I pray that we can find those who may be struggling and, like the Savior did, lift them up and make their burdens light.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Crowning Moments!

It was a Wednesday night in November, nothing much going on, an ideal night to go watch the team roping at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds arena.  My BYU roommate, was going to go meet a friend of a friend and wanted me to go along.  I thought it might be fun and was getting all decked out, (you know, like you used to do when it was all about you!) Finding a cute cowboy to date was what she was after, and I figured maybe I'd find my own.  One of the guys in the Animal Science department with us at BYU worked on the church ranch in Florida with this particular roper my roommate wanted to meet.  This gave us an in.

As we walked into the arena, the dust was settling as another team of ropers had taken their turn.  Paul, our friend from the department, met us at the gate.  The roper we were supposed to be meeting was just getting ready to rope. The clatter of the chute opening brought our attention to the action.  Out flew 700 pounds of wild ropin' steer, followed closely by two cowboys swinging their ropes and reaching full throttle in one stride.  The steer was fast, but the horses were faster.  The header threw his 30-foot lasso, caught both horns, took his dally and turned a hasty left.  This aided the heeler in getting in position.  He threw his loop, caught both back feet, and simultaneously the two ropers faced in, and stretched that animal out: a perfect execution!  It was a very impressive first meeting.  The header was Richard, the cowboy we were supposed to be meeting.

Two weeks later, I got a phone call from Richard asking me to go horseback riding with him.  Needless to say, things were a little tense around the apartment for a few days.  My roommate was holding a little bit of a grudge against me.  (Can I help it if I'm so cute?)

We went riding up Spanish Fork Canyon.  When we got up to the top of the mountain, the snow was pretty deep and our horses were sinking up to their bellies.  Richard was in front of me.  I got off my horse and was able to stand on the snow.  Because the horses were lower than usual, I asked Richard if I could do a leapfrog jump up on his horse.  He made room and I jumped up behind him. This is when my "Crowning Moment" occurred.  When I landed, we were pretty much nose to nose.  That left only one thing for Richard to do....  That was our first KISS.

As they say, the rest is history.  Six kids later, one of my favorite places to kiss Richard is still on the back of a horse and it's still a "Crowning Moment"!
Richard and Melanie
Married March 7, 1997

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Everything I Learned, I Learned in Kindergarten...and Then Re-learned as a Mom!

Art 102:  One of the most interesting parts of art class was the self-portrait segment.  If this is a teacher's idea of improving one's image of themselves, I have to question their angle.

 Looking back at my progression as a self-proclaimed budding artist, I take a look at the well-named stick figure.  I knew that if I drew in big eyes and long hair with feathered bangs, the likeness to my own real self was amazingly accurate.  Maybe I didn't notice I had two extra fingers on my left hand and one missing finger on my right, (or maybe I knew I would need extra fingers, and arms for that matter, to become a mother).  Whatever the reason, thankfully I got past that stage and moved on to more realistic likenesses. 

The older I got, the more detail I added; things such as eyelashes, (seven on each eye), and ears, (can we say Dumbo?), flat feet, (with clubfoot ankles), and toes, (the same size as my ears).

Regardless of my resemblance to any of these self-portraits, I never quit running home to show off the latest picture of me.

My kid's gallery of self-portraits has followed surprisingly close to my own.  Thankfully, the feathered bangs are a thing of the past, (they were so hard to get just right), but the stick bodies holding up the beach ball-size heads have the most beautiful blue eyes and long hair on them.  They must be my girls.  And those club feet crammed into a pair of boots with perfect ears sticking out from under a cowboy hat must be my boys. 

It's taken thirty years, but I'm again starting to see the resemblance.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tip of the Day... from shopping to taking family pix

My tip today has to do with grocery shopping.  Although some of you may love cruising up and down aisles in the limo-sized police car carts, bumping into anyone who may be standing in an 8-foot radius, taking out the corner displays of every aisle as you try to turn, and smiling at all of the passers-by admiring the melting ice cream cone dripping down your little drivers' faces, I do not. 

Now don't get me wrong.  The invention of the make-believe-police-cars-hooked-to-a-cart were an ingenious idea.  To actually have a little horn to beep and a steering wheel to spin keeps my kids occupied for at least half of my grocery shopping experience.  I guess I'd just rather be raising chickens, or maybe cleaning marker off my walls.

Because the grocery shopping experience is not at the top of my list, I do it only once a month.  Granted, I do have to run into a store an extra time during the month to restock my milk and lettuce supply, but I've pretty much got the once-a-month thing down to a science.

By shopping only once a month, I save a bundle of money.  How many times do you run into a store for just one thing, and end up spending $50 to $100 more than you planned?  Stores are so clever in where they put up their displays and sale items.  Sometimes, it's just more than a value-seeking homemaker can resist.  Thus, by only going into a store once a month, you avoid all temptation to go over budget.

Most money you spend grocery shopping should be spent on the items bought around the perimeter of the store.  Every grocery store I've been in has fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products, and breads around the outside of the store.  These items are the healthiest and best value for your money.  As you go in and out of aisles, you come across the processed and snack items.  Not to say that these do not have a place in a pantry.  One of my children in particular would starve if I didn't visit and stock up in the cold cereal aisle. But, even though dinner may take a little longer to make by using the fresh ingredients found around the perimeter of the store, it will be healthier for your family, and will have cost less.

When shopping once a month, you have to think about how to make food last until the next month.  If I'm not watching my kids like a hawk when I get home from my big monthly shopping spree, they will have opened all of the fruit snacks, cookies, lunch meat, and candy for the whole month.  By putting things out of sight and reach of my little snackers, I can bring things out one at a time and keep them fresher, (because the container has remained sealed), and it encourages the kids to snack on fruit or other perishables that they can more easily reach. 

Preservation is also an important thing to think about when shopping once a month.  Produce is probably the trickiest thing to keep on hand for the month.  By placing paper towels in with your lettuce, it prolongs freshness by soaking up excess moisture which causes the lettuce to spoil.  Apples put off a gas that tends to make your other fruits ripen and spoil faster.  By keeping your apples separated from your bananas, tomatoes, etc., they last longer.  I freeze a number of things to guarantee their freshness when I need them.  Lunch meat, bread, cheese I cook with, dried fruit, and snack cakes are just a few of the things that come out almost as good as when I put them in.  The only thing I've found with doing this is some of the items need to be used faster if they were once frozen, such as lunch meat. 

I have an extra refrigerator in our shed where I put many items in that I won't be using right away.  Common sense tells us that every time the refrigerator door is opened,  cold air comes out and warm air goes in.  Research has shown that this deteriorates cold foods faster.  By storing extra gallons of milk in my extra fridge, they will last more than  a week past the due date.  Fruits and vegetables also benefit by preventing frequent temperature changes.

If nothing else, the time I save by only entering a grocery store once a month makes this plan worth it to me.  By the time you get all of the kids out of car seats and booster seats, decide on the police car cart or the fire truck cart, run back out to the parking lot to get the cart the kids want, buckle them in a cart, make a side run to the bakery for a cookie,  come back to the front of the store to start shopping, get to the back of the store and your kids decide they have to go to the bathroom, make a run for the restroom at the front of the store, come back out of the bathroom to find someone has stolen your cart, and then start over, it's time to pick the other kids up from school.  

Shopping once a month may seem intimidating at first.  For the first several months, my husband would walk into the pantry and mention, "Hmmm, it must be the end of the month."  When going to check out, you may see baggers running to hide just so they don't have to bag up all of your groceries.  As you're pushing one overflowing cart and two store employees are following you to your car with equally full carts, it may be a little embarrassing.  But in the end, think of this: they won't remember you because you won't be back for another month!

Down on the Farm: Imposters!

Our family lives on a little ranchette in the almost never-heard-of town of Birdseye.  We raise horses, cattle, pigeons, dogs, and occasionally, sheep.  We're pretty high on being self-sufficient.  In order to increase our own food production, we decided to raise chickens.  This, we felt, was such an ingenious plan.  We could supply ourselves with eggs and save so much money.

When chicks went on sale at Cal-Ranch, the kids and I hurried over to get the best selection. Although to the untrained eye the chicks all looked the same, I was convinced that by picking each one up, flipping it over several times, and comparing fluff length, I would pick the best egg-layers in the bunch. (Thankfully, before they were sent, they had been sexed and only females were being sold here.)

We decided that each of our children, (five at the time), would get to claim their own avian baby.  As a matter of precaution, I bought eight, in case somebody's chick decided living wasn't all it's cracked up to be. 

Because Birdseye freezes well into June, and it was only March, the chicks were too little to go outside.  Thus, our small laundry/mud room became the temporary hen house for our little brood. This wasn't so bad the first week when all of the chicks fit in a cake pan, but not long after that, they started growing.  Unfortunately, all eight survived.  Not only were they taking up more space, they would stand in their food and "scratch"  it all over the place.  Since they were now eating so well, you can imagine what other messes they were also making all over the place.  We were running out of newspaper, space, and patience.  But, what's a responsible chicken-owner to do but continue on.

Finally, with the addition of a 75 watt light bulb, a heated waterer, some nesting boxes, a self-feeder, and a bag of gravel, to aid in digestion, we moved our chicks down to the barn in a newly-built shed/chicken pen.  Now, we could just sit back and watch as our little hens grew and provided us with homemade eggs by the dozen.

Having not studied up on the production of chickens as we maybe ought to have, we were finding that you could probably buy dozens and dozens of eggs for the cost of keeping eight growing birds in stock with laying mash.  They went through it like water through a sieve.  Every time we turned around, they were out of food and we were headed back to Cal-Ranch to get the specially formulated feed that produces Grade A eggs.  Of course, our birds weren't laying yet, because they have to be at least eight months old; another thing we maybe should have studied up on. 

So, a long seven to eight months later, we were noticing how some of our so-called hens were growing larger combs on the top of their heads.  We joked about the absurdity and irony of some of our "pricey" egg-layers turning out to be roosters.  It really wasn't as funny as we thought it would be when one morning, we heard a crowing coming from our hen house.  Sure enough, one of our hens turned out not to be a hen.

We took our loss in stride and decided it was probably a good thing all eight birds lived, so that we now would have at least seven egg producers.  Not two days later, we were surprised to hear another crowing answering the first one.  Okay, two out of eight isn't THAT bad.

As the week went by, one by one, our eight little hens all began cock-a-doodling.  Our dreams of eggs Benedict, omelet extravaganzas, boiled, scrambled, and fried eggs, and any other egg concoctions we may have dreamed of, went flying out the hen house door. 

We fed those impostor chickens another three months, hoping that maybe, with all of the laying mash they had consumed, maybe, just maybe, they would squeeze just one little egg out for us.  Well, at the end of yet another expensive bag of feed, we decided we'd fattened them up enough: just perfectly, in fact, for chicken noodle soup, chicken enchiladas, fried chicken, roasted chicken, stuffed chicken....

I'm Dreaming of...Blog Hops