Snippets

Kids always have a way with words. It’s the combination of tone, expression, and word choice that make their phrases awesome. I have been trying to keep track of sweet things that have escaped my children’s lips over the past few months. I never want to forget their sweet words and thoughts.

Hula Girl’s teacher is of the same mindset. She loves listening to and reporting the words of the students in her care. She delights in them as much as their parents do! Here is a portion of a recent email I received from her:

[Hula Girl] said the cutest thing yesterday, and I actually wrote it down to tell you!  The last word on the spelling pre-assessment was “spoil.”  I used this sentence, “When you go to Grandma’s house, she will spoil you with treats, candy, presents, and staying up late.”  As I walked past [Hula Girl] she looked up at me with the happiest face and said, “Boy, does she EVER!”  It was precious!

Monkey Man has his fair share of intriguing things to say as well. Most of the time, he is quite imaginative and he tries his hardest to impress people.

A couple weekends ago, our town held a fall festival. (By the way, living in a small town that celebrates EVERYTHING is awesome. Downtown streets have been closed down at least three weekends in the past couple months for festivities. That might sound annoying, but there are easy ways around the closures. It’s so much fun to be here and be part of a town that is so focused on families and fun!) We attended the festival in the afternoon once Sugar Plum woke from her final nap of the day. We walked through the booths and roamed through a couple stores downtown. We decided to go to the coffee shop for dinner. We ordered some sandwiches and things and while we were eating, a local band came in and began setting up for an evening performance.

The band was made up of members who have adult children. They had banjos, violins, drums, guitars and keyboards. It was interesting to watch them set up and unpack their instruments; Monkey Man was especially interested in the process of tuning instruments. He was watching the woman with the violin with such interest that she invited him up to watch more closely. She asked him if he liked violins, and he said, “Yes! I am good at playing the violin!” She looked at me as if to ask if this was true. I shrugged. I asked him, “Where did you learn to play?” He said he had learned at school. “I’m the best violin player in my class!”

Ok, first of all, he was only in school for a grand total of 6 days. I’m certain he did not learn to play violin. But perhaps there was an instrument station in his classroom?

The woman then showed him how she tunes the violin and how she plays different notes. He was absolutely enthralled. So much so that her husband came over and said that if they can find their child-sized violin, he will give it to us so Monkey Man can learn to play for real. I think we will be enrolling him in violin lessons soon!

Both kids are very interested in art right now.

Hula Girl gave this paper to me and Jonathan last night. Each side is a different type of sunset.

Monkey Man created this picture for his self portrait for our schoolwork at home. It is him in the sky with a rainbow and clouds; the figures on the ground are looking up at the clouds and finding pictures.

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A Surprising Choice

I have a lot of friends who don’t know this about our family yet. That’s because I’ve surrounded myself with people who have very strong opinions on this topic, and I didn’t want to have people telling me their very strong opinions unless it directly affected them or they are family members. We sought out wise counsel and have made the best decision for our family… for now.

When we moved to Wisconsin, we had no intention of changing the way our family does things. We still eat organic, we still put Jesus first, and we still spend as much quality family time together as we can. However, one major thing has changed– we decided to put the big kiddos in public school.

Homeschooling is our first choice for schooling our children. I even researched and joined several Wisconsin homeschooling groups on Facebook before we moved. We were set on continuing along with our plan, and I have been gathering books and resources for the past year in order to prepare for Hula Girl and Monkey Man to learn some really neat stuff this year.

But the move has been hard on the kids. Like, really, really hard. I believe I mentioned that the kids and I lived with my parents for about a month and a half while Jonathan stayed at our former house, packing and cleaning and getting it ready to sell, before we moved to Wisconsin. Now we are staying in a temporary (wonderful, but temporary) house, and we have been house hunting and dragging the kids all around the area to find a house. We have one that will be ours in October, but in the meantime, we’re not exactly settled.

At first, it was a fun adventure for the kids– staying at Grammy and Grampy’s house! Camping! Staying in a new house! Sharing a room for the first time ever! Eventually, it turned into a real drag. The kids got sick of each other and were bickering nonstop all day. I had to make millions of phone calls and try to learn all about the new area (where to grocery shop? What kinds of insane winter gear do we need to stock up on? How do I get to the nearest Starbucks– it’s PSL season, after all–?). And Sugar Plum is still a baby who needs tons of naps.

We were all getting sick of each other, really. So. I took the opportunity to put the kids in a wonderful public school. I went and toured it before I made the official decision. If I were still teaching, it’s a school I’d be proud to be part of. The teachers are so engaged, the principal is extremely supportive, and the parents are very involved. The school is a 4K-4th grade elementary school, and it offers a wide variety of research-based programs and interventions that are actually really cool. (I kind of geeked out a bit on the tour and I even got jealous of the teachers who get to work there!)

The first week of school was just the two days prior to Labor Day weekend. Both kids were so excited. We got all their supplies and attended the open house the week prior to school opening. We met teachers and saw the classrooms, and the kids were happy and ready for the change. The first two days were wonderful; both kids raved about their teachers and their days.

The following week was not so smooth. Monkey Man made it clear he did NOT want to go to school. He just barely turned four in August. I was having a hard time with him being in school, anyway, due to multiple drop-off and pick-up times and Sugar Plum’s napping schedule. We made the choice to pull him back out of school and just keep him home with me. That has been a wonderful choice for him, and I plan to write a lot more about that soon enough.

Hula Girl, however, is thriving. I feel like we must have won the teacher jackpot! Her teacher is very structured and organized, and she is extremely communicative with parents. She researches and implements new approaches as fitting, and she is super engaging for the children, to boot. Hula Girl is a child who appreciates wit, routine, and structure. She loves knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, and why. Her teacher meets provides all these things while challenging her to better herself.

Hula Girl is above average academically; this was a huge concern for me. My personal experience of skipping a grade because I tested high is one I wouldn’t trade for the world (I had a few wonderful friends and there was a lot of very healthy academic competition in my graduating class), but I wouldn’t want to put the social struggles I encountered at the younger ages onto Hula  Girl. She is already a bit socially awkward as she is still working her way out of her extreme timidity around strangers. I couldn’t imagine sticking her in a public school classroom with second graders!

I have been very pleased to see the proactive ways her teacher and the school are working to support her and engage her academically. My ultimate goal is not to have her earn Valedictorian of First Grade status; rather, I want her to be somewhere she feels is safe, enjoyable and engaging while we sort out our living situation. I want her to make friends and practice treating others like Christ. I want her to walk away with self-confidence AND humility.

Public school is the current means to these ends, and I am so thankful for all the prayers and advice we were given when debating this idea for our kiddos. We plan to re-evaluate our decision at Christmastime, and see if we feel settled enough by then to bring Hula Girl back home so we can start fresh with our Charlotte Mason homeschooling experience. This is truly where we feel God is leading us as a family; we just want to make sure to go at the right time and in the right way. We’ve seen God’s hand in a very vivid way over the past six months, and we are eager to see how and where he will direct us next.

Movin’ on Up…

…to the Midwest.

Yep, silence around here for the past few months because we have officially moved! The last time I posted, I was only vaguely aware of what this move might mean for our family, but I knew it was time to focus on everything else and move the blog to the back burner, as I have done many times over the past few years. Now that we are pseudo-settled, I’ll be catching up… kind of.

This post is going to focus on the overall move- who, what, when, where, why, and how?There is so much to say about it, but I’ll try to keep it condensed.

So, we never loved where we were living. It wasn’t a matter of not liking the people or even Jonathan’s job. It was a matter of simply not enjoying the environment. We did not like living in the hot, dry, windy, tumbleweedy, lizardy desert. Keep in mind Jonathan is a horticultural therapist. Plants don’t tend to do very well in that type of environment without insane water bills. We want green, lush, seasons, and water. So we’ve always kept an eye out for other opportunities elsewhere.

In April I found a job listing for a horticultural therapist position at an inpatient mental health hospital in Wisconsin. It intrigued Jonathan and he decided to apply. At first he was told that he wouldn’t be moving on in the application process because he had asked for too much money on his application. I encouraged him to call back and speak with the director for the position. We are certainly glad he did!

After speaking with the director, it was decided to go ahead and give Jonathan an interview. He completed a Skype interview with a few key members of the staff as well as a horticultural therapy consultant for the company. Jonathan blew them away. They were originally looking for a therapist to fit into the program they’d begun previously, but after the interview they went back and designed the much more in-depth, administrative position of horticultural therapy coordinator. This position requires a bit of travel between their different locations, and a much more thorough implementation of the horticultural therapy program in their hospitals. It took them until July before they made the official offer.

Jonathan happily accepted their offer, and we began the process of packing up, selling our house, and saying goodbye to the people who’ve been there for us throughout the entirety of most of our childrens’ lives. Honestly, packing up and selling the house were much easier to do than saying goodbye. We had started to develop some meaningful and vital relationships with amazing friends; fortunately in our world, moving across the country doesn’t mean goodbye, it just means we will start keeping closer tabs on our friends’ Facebook pages.

The hardest people to leave were my parents, obviously. As an only child, I am their one and only source of fun and happiness. (Haha, j/k Mom and Dad!) Seriously, though, the kids have always had Grammy and Grampy just an hour or so away, and we’ve seen them at least once a week for the past year and a half. That adjustment has been the most difficult for me– going from being able to see my parents and have a bit of help at least once weekly to being totally alone in a new state where I know no one all day every day while Jonathan works has been challenging. We’ve stayed in very close contact, but it will be wonderful when they can come visit us. We have so much to show them!

Ok, back to the move. Jonathan accepted the offer in July, and his start date was in the middle of August. Our plan was to move the kids and me to my parents’ house until our house in Colorado sold. In the interim, Jonathan was planning to rent something here in Wisconsin. Once our house sold, Jonathan would go house hunting in Wisconsin, and I would fly out one weekend and help make the final decision. We are SO thankful it did not end up working that way.

Jonathan’s company owns a house that borders the hospital grounds. The board members agreed to turn this house into a temporary residence for employees who are moving their families in from out of state. They offered this house to us, so that our entire family could move at the same time. What a blessing! We are the first family that gets to take advantage of this resource, and let me tell you… it has been absolutely AMAZING. The house is right on a lake. The kids have spent the latter part of the summer swimming in the lake, canoeing, kayaking, and collecting snail shells. They’ve played outside in the grass with sandhill cranes nearby, hunting for frogs. Monkey Man has learned to imitate a male cardinal’s call; Hula Girl whistles the female’s response. There is an apple tree out back where the two of them spend half their time, clambering up in the branches and reading books by the hour. Deer walk through our yard and nibble on the forest that surrounds the property on three sides. Wild turkeys scurry across the road and squirrels chase each other stealing acorns all day long. It is lush and green and beautiful.

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This is the view from our dining room. See? We’re not suffering. 

The night before we started our three-day drive to get to Wisconsin, we accepted an offer on our house in Colorado. (We closed on that house yesterday.) The drive itself was wonderfully uneventful. I had the three kids in the car with me, and Jonathan towed the other car behind the moving truck with the cat for company. We stopped every 2-3 hours to nurse the baby and stretch the big kids’ legs. We stayed overnight in cabins at different campgrounds, which was probably the best choice we could have made. (Thanks, Mom!) Staying in cabins meant more space for less money and much better amenities for the kids, as the campgrounds included more than just a pool. There were games, bounce pads, showers, picnic tables, bathrooms where the baby wouldn’t wake every time we flushed, and so on. Seriously, if you’re traveling across country with kids, consider campground cabins.  I now know of one in Lincoln, NE, that is absolutely outstanding, in case you’re looking for recommendations!

Since our arrival in Wisconsin, we’ve been able to drive around and learn the area a bit. Honestly, every part of the area is beautiful- so green and lush and quiet. We are in quite a small town, and the surrounding area is just gorgeous. We’ve worked with an incredible realtor here. She has been wonderful with our family and I would totally pick her as a friend even if we hadn’t met in this particular way. I actually called her somewhat out of the blue after a quick google search for realtors in our town; I was trying to find out whether chickens are allowed here, and who else knows better than real estate agents, right? It was not a wasted call; our agent has been a true friend to our family and has helped us with everything from finding grocery stores to arranging meetings with other professionals in order to get our living situation in both Colorado and Wisconsin squared away. If you ever move to this area, I know who you should call.

We’ve made an offer on a house here after searching for a few weeks. Finding something in our price range that meets our minimum criteria has been tough, but we have found a house that seems just right for our family. As long as the contract continues on (we are waiting to hear back after submitting our inspection objections), we are set to close in October. Then we will need to add a couple egress windows to the basement and eventually put in a bathroom down there, but it’s a very clean and well-kept ranch-style home on a property with trees… and chickens are allowed! Hula Girl can’t wait to get some new feathered friends.

So that’s a very general overview… with maybe too much detail in some areas. Sugar Plum has just woken from her nap, and I have a list of other things I want to tell you about… so keep an eye out for some other posts coming soon.

Introducing Sugar Plum

a.k.a. World’s Easiest Baby.

Our little Sugar Plum is the baby we prayed for the hardest. About nine months before finding out we were expecting her, we lost a baby when I had a missed miscarriage. We were terrified to try again, but our family didn’t feel complete yet. So we prayed and prayed and prayed for a healthy pregnancy.

I knew she was a girl from the start. I was really not wanting her to be a boy, anyway. 😉 I wanted Hula Girl to have a sister so badly.

Halfway through the pregnancy, we found out she had a single umbilical artery, which put her at risk for kidney or heart defects, and also increased her chances of still birth. It was a diagnosis that could have been terrifying, but we remained calm and trusted the Lord  I never actually felt scared for her, but perhaps just slightly uneasy?

Because of her cord abnormality, our midwife decided she needed to induce labor. I went in to the hospital on a Wednesday afternoon, and I WALKED those halls. For two days. Kid was FINALLY born after we started Pitocin at 10:30 on Thursday night. When my girl decided to come out, she CAME OUT. I went from 4cm dilated to baby in under 30 minutes. With Pitocin. With NO epidural or pain meds. Yep, it hurt a lot. Yep, I would do it again 18 more times. The end result is seriously amazing.

The first thing I said to her was, “You’re so beautiful!” She truly was. And she still is. She favors Monkey Man, but she has Hula Girl’s blue eyes. She is in her super chunky baby phase, and there isn’t a baby with fatter cheeks anywhere. She is stumpy and round and just adorable. Her cord issue was a total non-issue, and we feel so incredibly blessed that this is the case.

I knew from before she was born that she was going to be the type to do things in her own time. Just as with her birth, she has taken her time to do a lot of things. She is almost six months old and has not yet shown much interest in rolling over, even though I can tell she could if she wanted to. She smiled on time, but her laughs are few and far between. She saves them for times when she just can’t keep them in. She is a very complacent personality; she is content to sit back and watch her siblings in action (and boy, they are always in action!); she is happy to lie in the grass and watch the clouds float above the trees. She rarely cries. She sleeps well. She nurses like a champ. She is mild and pleasant and just so sweet. I so enjoy her.

And that is pretty much all you need to know about her for now. She is just the sweetest. The cuddliest. The relaxingest. She makes me calm. I like that about her. She’s a born peacemaker.

 

Selling our House

We are selling our house!

There is so much to do to prep a house for sale. My sweet husband has been working tirelessly for a couple of weeks now. He has been packing everything extraneous, fixing “small” annoying problems, cleaning up the yard, power washing the exterior of the house, touching up trim, hanging decor in new locations for staging purposes, spreading rock, mowing weeds, and working his regular full-time job. I don’t think he has slept more than 5 hours per night for the past couple weeks.

The kids and I (and our cat!) have been staying with my parents for the past week and a half. I just couldn’t handle the constant disruption to the preparation process, and it was getting to be hard for the kids, emotionally, to see their things being packed away to be opened…sometime later. We are very thankful we can escape here!

We had some wonderful people come help us clean up the yard and deep clean the house. I was so thankful for their work! I did some light staging, but nothing too fancy. Our goal was to present a house that is clean, spacious, and light. I feel like we have achieved that goal!

We listed the house on Monday and had a showing on Tuesday morning. That was exciting, but the  buyers didn’t like the location of our house. I am hoping we have a few more showings this weekend, and that one of them is the right one!

Please join us in praying our house sells soon, and that the buyer is one who will be blessed by owning our home. We certainly have been blessed by being there. Our neighbors are WONDERFUL, all of them. We hope we can move to a new house with neighbors who are just as pleasant. (I feel like we have great neighbors everywhere we live. We have good neighbor luck! Carrie and Karen, you know I mean you! But this particular set is even greater than our average neighbor set so far, because it includes everyone on the street!) I hope the buyer will love our street and the people on it just as much as we do.

The kids and I will be living with my parents until our house is under contract. Pray it goes quick, for my poor parents’ sakes! 😜

More to come on Monday… Hopefully I’ll get to write that the house is under contract! Wouldn’t that be fun?!?!

 

The Fourth

I just love holidays. Particularly Independence Day and Christmas. We have some solid family traditions. And it’s sure fun to see the kids excited about the same things we get excited about!

Our day started with some red, white, and blue crêpes. I couldn’t have the white part (white chocolate chips) because I’m eating dairy-free while nursing Sugar Plum. But the red (raspberries and strawberries) and blue (blackberries and blueberries) parts were delicious! imageimage

After breakfast, Hula Girl and I made it our goal to get festive! We painted our nails red, white, blue, and silver. Then I did the old Pinterest star-braid hairstyle in her hair. She loved it.

Jonathan took Hula Girl and Monkey Man to our city’s wet parade. Basically, it’s a giant community water fight and some people walk down the middle of it. Everyone gets SOAKED and everyone has a good time.

My mom and grandma came to visit for the day and my mom helped me with some house chores while Sugar Plum napped. We made a delicious lunch and tried to get the kids to nap.

After nap time the kids and I walked  up the street to ask the neighbors for the best location to sit out and see fireworks. We ended up spending the evening eawith almost everyone on our street, just hanging out and chatting. The kids were running wild with the neighbor kids, and they got their first taste of lighting fireworks at home. Monkey Man did not approve, saying, “Fireworks are FIRE! What if something catches fire? We need to make a fire safety plan!” Hula Girl could keep lighting fireworks all day every day and never tire of the sights, sounds, and smells. She was in heaven. Sugar Plum slept through it all.

Our favorite tradition on the fourth is eating saltwater taffy. We get several pieces for each of us to enjoy during the fireworks display. The kids begged for it all day long, and I kept telling them, “You may have one piece now and one piece later, or you may have two pieces later!” After about six times of choosing to have two pieces later, Monkey Man finally asked, “Is it LATER yet?”

We ended the night with glow sticks on our walk home. Just before heading inside, we stopped and looked up at the stars as a family. In a time when our country, which was built upon beautiful principles that we celebrated Monday, has eschewed propriety for laziness, moral depravity, and indulgence, it was a wonderful relief to look up and realize that this isn’t all there is. The best is yet to come. Hallelujah.

“Chickening”

If you visit my house while my children are around, you will almost certainly be introduced to our chickens. We have ten laying hens, three pullets (baby hens), and one cockerel (baby rooster). Chickens are awesome animals to keep in the backyard. So many people are jumping on the backyard chicken bandwagon these days; I’m glad we have done it, too!

The first thing Hula Girl does when she gets up for the day is run outside and check on the chicks. We had a gold-laced Wyandotte hatch out four babies this spring. Two are black copper Marans (one pullet, one cockerel), one is another gold-laced Wyandotte, and the last one is an Old English game bird mix of some sort. All the babies are bantams, and are even smaller than our Silkie hens. When Hula Girl checks on them, she goes out and catches them and snuggles with them. She often tries to smuggle a chicken into the house inside her shirt, but the loud chirping gives her away every time.

After she has checked the chicks, she looks for eggs. The ladies all lay; we find anywhere from 8-10 eggs every day. We don’t use all of them. Jonathan sells dozens of eggs at work, and we bring them to our friends, family, and neighbors frequently. The eggs we get are beautiful. We can tell which hen laid which egg, thanks to Hula Girl’s patient observation of which hen is in which nesting box singing her egg song before each new egg appears.

 

Eggs

Clockwise from top egg, center listed last: eggs from Babette, Arwen, Laura, Prim, Scout, Mary, Molly, and Snowy. There won’t be a pop quiz, so don’t worry if you can’t tell them apart!

 

After the chores have been completed, we generally leave the chickens alone to graze through the backyard all day. I love looking out the kitchen window and watching the baby chicks catching grasshoppers– it is so funny! They will hop all around and try to fly and it just makes me giggle. I also giggle when I see Bella, our curly-feathered Sizzle, waddling all around the yard. She looks just like a mop from Harry Potter.

Hula Girl, of course, spends a lot of her spare time with the chickens. She knows each one’s personality and egg song. She knows which hens are friendly and easy to pick up (here’s looking at you, Scout, Bella, and Snowy!). She can tell Helena and Prim apart, and can distinguish between the buff Orpingtons (quite the feat; I can’t tell them apart save for Babette’s extra-large comb and wattles). The hens all come running when Hula Girl opens the door; they know her presence usually means a treat is coming soon.

We call our interactions with the chickens “chickening” as if it’s a verb. It kind of is. And Hula Girl is great at chickening.

Baby’s First Trip to California

My cousin got married last weekend!

My dad called me a few months ago and asked if I would like to fly to California with him to attend the wedding. My mom offered to stay here with Hula Girl and Monkey Man so Jonathan didn’t have to take any time off work. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my cousins and to visit Jonathan’s parents. So, we booked our tickets and made our plans to stay in California for four days.

In order to achieve our goal of spending time with family, we left early in the morning (REALLY early- 4:45 am!) from my parents’ house on Thursday. I was super worried about Sugar Plum’s sleep. She is my third Babywise baby, and I have worked hard to give her a good, consistent schedule all her life. Of course, she has endured many more disruptions to her schedule than her siblings ever endured, so I really ought not to have worried so much! I woke her at 4:15 on Thursday morning, and she slept a tiny bit on the way to the airport. She stayed awake all through checking in and security, and through boarding the flight. I nursed her as we took off, and she fell asleep for about 30 minutes or so. Then I moved and woke her up… and she never went back to sleep. She didn’t cry, though, so it was fine.

Sugar Plum slept REALLY well while we were at Ama and Papa’s (Jonathan’s parents’) house. We stayed with them during our visit because Ama so kindly offered to babysit Sugar Plum while we went out to see family and attend the wedding. We had a pretty major problem, though: Sugar Plum won’t take a bottle. I tried for weeks in advance, and I had Jonathan and Auntie Nay Nay (Jonathan’s sister) try at various times in there. No dice. She doesn’t cry when offered a bottle, but she just kind of chews on the nipple and looks at you like, “What am I supposed to do with this?”So I couldn’t really LEAVE her with Ama and Papa for very long. Fortunately, she is a good night sleeper, and once I got her down for the night, I could leave her and be pretty sure she’d sleep just fine.

While we were there, Sugar Plum basked in the attention lavished upon her by Ama, Papa, Grampy, and me. She didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else, for once in her life! She worked hard on rolling and got *so close*. She lit up and smiled her giant gummy baby smile whenever she saw her Ama. I got to take a couple showers and dry my hair and put on makeup… it was quite the luxurious trip for all of us!

My dad and I made plans to see his brothers and my cousins on Friday afternoon. We drove about an hour away to visit and have a barbecue. I took Sugar Plum over there to meet everyone (she made special friends with my cousin’s eight-year-old daughter, who is just the sweetest thing ever and loves babies so much!), then I drove her back to Ama and Papa’s house for bedtime. I went back to my uncle’s house to visit with family some more  (another uncle and several more cousins showed up then–hooray!), and then we drove back to Ama and Papa’s house for the night. It was a lot of driving but it was SO worth it. Family is extremely important to me, and I am very glad we had the opportunity to reconnect, at least a little bit.

Saturday was the day of the wedding. I worked on getting Sugar Plum good sleep during the day so she’d sleep well during the evening, when I left her with Ama and Papa. Unfortunately, the afternoon didn’t quite work out as I had planned, so when I left for the wedding, I was not sure how the evening would go. But I knew it was only one evening, and even if she stayed awake until midnight, at least she was with someone who knew how to care for my baby! (Jonathan’s parents are awesome grandparents! I couldn’t imagine better grandparents for my kiddos than the ones they have!) Lo and behold, Sugar Plum ended up waking up around 8:00 for part of the night. Ama gave her a small bottle, which she chewed, and rocked and snuggled her for a while before putting her back down. She went back down without a peep, and was out like a light for the rest of the night.

Now for the reason for our visit: the wedding. It was a superfun wedding. It was wonderful to catch up with (almost) all my cousins on my dad’s side– I haven’t seen any of them in over five years! The location was a small building in the middle of downtown LA. My cousins had decorated with tulle and lights and beautiful flowers, but it definitely was not overdone. It was a great mixture of hard and soft elements (thank you, Tim Gunn, for bringing awareness to this juxtaposition, haha). The food was AMAZING. They hired a street taco vendor, who doled out hundreds of delicious tacos during the evening. There was a small cake, but most guests satisfied their sweet tooth with a vanilla glazed donut instead. Yummo.

Even better than the decor and the food was the company. My cousins are just so cool. The last time I saw most of them was when I was still in high school. Getting to know a family member again as an adult is such a rewarding experience. It is really fascinating to get to know about each person’s unique interests and pursuits, and to witness the maturation of someone you’ve known since you were born. I would imagine it’s a similar situation as when siblings grow up and hang out for a while again. I am excited for and proud of my cousins and most, if not all, seem quite happy with where their lives have led them so far. There is NOTHING like family for comfort, entertainment, and encouragement. We had such a great trip and loved getting to know you better.

Our trip home was long but uneventful. Thank you, Dad and Mom, for making the trip happen. Thank you, Ama and Papa, for your hospitality and for the babysitting. Thank you, K&K, for getting married and providing a reason for us to get together. Love you all!

“It’s been 84 Years…”

Not quite that long, but it surely feels like it’s been 84 years since my last post. It’s really only been just over a year. (Can anyone identify the source of that quotation, by the way? Chelsea, are you reading?) My excuse? I forgot my password. I feel really sheepish saying that. Passwords are recoverable. However, I have a separate email account associated with this blog and I forgot the password for that as well… so… Anyway! Now I’m back.

So much has happened over the past year. We’ve added a new family member, our little Sugar Plum, who is five months old today. Monkey Man is almost four years old; Hula Girl just turned six recently. We completed our first year of real homeschooling. We’ve added new chickens to our flock. And all sorts of other things in between.

I wanted to get back to blogging because I don’t really keep track of our lives in any other organized way. All my kids’ baby pictures can be found on Facebook, but nowhere else. I want a place to store all our memories again!

I’m just going to jump right into writing about what happened today. I’ll go back and fill in details as needed, but I don’t really want to try to recap more than I already have.

This week Hula Girl has been taking a ballet class at dance camp. The funny thing is, she has the same ballet teacher she had waaaaay back when she first started dance. She quit dancing back then because she was just too shy to continue on. However, she started back up two years ago, and she has flourished. Hula Girl does so well with dance. She has beautiful feet, she takes corrections well and applies them consistently from the first time they’re given, and she observes her teachers carefully so she rarely misses a step. I know that all moms whose daughters dance think their daughters are just the most beautiful little ballerinas they’ve ever seen. I am no exception. Hula Girl astounds me with her grace and self-assurance when she dances. We plan for her to take separate tap and ballet classes in the fall.

Another funny thing about Hula Girl’s dance class is her reaction to a new girl in her class who has Down syndrome. Hula Girl loves kids with Down syndrome, especially if they’re of Asian descent. She once told me she wants to be Chinese and have Down syndrome, because she loves her friends who have Down syndrome SO MUCH. (Some of her favorite Sunday school friends have Down syndrome. Two of them are adorable Chinese girls.) The new girl in her ballet class has a darker complexion as well. I was SURE she would come home talking about the new girl with Down syndrome. I was half right. She DID come home talking about the girl. She said the girl is new to dance and that she is excited to see the girl trying so hard when it is something she has never done before. She said she is proud of the girl for doing her best. I asked her if she noticed anything else about the girl, and she thought for a minute before answering, “I really liked the way she had her hair braided!” It is such a rewarding experience for me to see my daughter being so accepting and encouraging of children with all abilities and skin tones. I want to impress on my children that NO ONE is better than anyone else, for any reason. I want them to learn to love and appreciate everyone, and to find ways to encourage everyone. Hula Girl is doing these things, and it makes my heart so thankful.

Monkey Man has a lot of fun at Hula Girl’s dance classes. He stands in the corner and does all the steps along with the dancers. We actually planned to have him take a rhythm and movement class this summer, but he backed out of it. I think it’s so interesting because he loves getting everyone’s attention– he is always walking through stores saying hi to everyone– but he doesn’t want to participate in dance class because he’s afraid people will watch him! We aren’t pushing the issue with him. Jonathan danced and we would love it if Monkey Man wanted to try it out, too, but we will leave it up to him to decide whether he wants to do it, and when. He knows the option is open to him.

Both children are also interested in taking gymnastics classes and joining a soccer team. They are both very athletic, and Jonathan and I are all for them trying out as many different activities as they’d like to try while they’re young.  We are also planning to start music lessons soon. I never learned to read music (I have tried, but it befuddles my mind),  and I feel such a sense of loss over this that I refuse to let my kids feel it too! So we will start piano lessons soon. I am certain that music lessons will be fun for Monkey Man. He is introverted, and he has always had an extra measure of musicality.

And now for a bit about our little Sugar Plum. She is just the easiest, sweetest baby you could imagine. She only ever cries if she is extremely overtired, extremely hungry (has only happened once in her life), or cold. Otherwise, she is just all around mellow. Nothing makes her smile more than seeing someone she loves; eliciting a laugh takes herculean effort. Most of the time she can be seen just gazing around the room and quietly taking it all in. She hasn’t rolled yet, but she is trying very hard. I am certain she will be rolling within a week or two. She looks much more like Monkey Man and Jonathan than she does like Hula Girl and me. However, she has red eyebrows, which leads me to believe she *might* have my red hair. So far she is taking after her siblings by growing superfine, uncertain-colored hair all over her giant head.

Jonathan and I are doing well. Just keepin’ on keepin’ on. I’ll let you know if anything specific happens. Haha.

Memorial Day Weekend; School and Life Update

This is just a quick update on school progress, and then a bit about family/life stuff.🙂

Kindergarten is going well. I love the ebb and flow of business and activity in our home when we are working on school and chores and play. Monkey Man occupies himself well by digging out in the backyard in his “construction site.” I slather him in sunscreen and stick a hat on his head, and he’s good to go. It’s so peaceful to look out and see him atop his mountain of dirt, digging away with his little shovel, while the chickens browse in the (GIANT) weeds nearby. He hardly even notices them, and they only move away from him in order to escape the flying dirt he sometimes flings in their direction. Monkey Man gets completely absorbed in his projects; he works SO hard and doesn’t stop unless he’s thirsty… a lot like his Daddy.

Hula Girl is enjoying school for the most part. She is not a fan of copywork, but she will write sticky notes for anyone and everyone all day long! So funny. I have been trying to get a little bit of narration out of her in response to the readings. Narration is totally unguided and is a way to check for understanding. Charlotte Mason says students should narrate in order to solidify their own understanding of the material and that narration should never be guided- we want children to make their OWN unique connections. I will say that there are times when Hula Girl’s narrations surprise me with her insight, and there are other times when her narration is so obviously NOT correct that I feel the need to go back and re-read segments of the text with emphasis so she gets the point. This is especially critical with Aesop’s Fables. Haha.

I think our next big change is going to be switching to the Alpha level in Math-U-See. The Primer level is just dragging along and Hula Girl is becoming a bit restless as the concepts seem too easy for her after just a day’s practice, but then too difficult after a week off. She gets it right away, experiences success, and then as we move on, the concepts seem to leave her brain, and she gets frustrated when we have to do it again. So we’ll see how that goes. I think we might back off math completely for summer and then pick up with the Alpha level in fall.

Hula Girl’s dance recital is on Saturday. We are all very excited to see her perform; I have heard that the productions done by this studio are magnificent. Hula Girl is doing a phenomenal job with dance. Her class ended up being a bit too easy this session, but that worked out because her teachers used her in a leadership role. She has SO enjoyed the responsibility. She will be continuing on with this studio in the fall with a half ballet, half tap class. She is also doing a dance camp this summer to ease her into tap and rhythm a bit.

Monkey Man and Hula Girl are taking swimming lessons two days per week at the YMCA. We opted to put them into a private lesson together. They each get 15 minutes of full attention from their teacher, Miss J. Hula Girl thinks Miss J is something special. Monkey Man runs away from her. We’ve ended up having me play with Monkey Man for Hula Girl’s lesson and then having Miss J use Hula Girl as the demo kid while showing me what to do with Monkey Man for his lesson. It works pretty well. My goal is for Hula Girl to be able to swim and for Monkey Man to get there by next summer.🙂

The kids went to my parents’ house for the long weekend. Jonathan and I spent our time at home cleaning, working on the chicken coop and run, planting some things in our garden, mowing and pulling weeds, taking down old dead trees, ripping out some fencing, and shopping for some new organizers and stuff for our closets. We also had our pastor and his wife over for dinner on Friday and went up the road to a friend’s house for dinner on Saturday. It was a productive weekend!

The kids’ weekend was really fun. My parents took them bowling when it was raining. The next day they went kayaking on my parents’ pond, scouting for bugs and critters (they caught frogs, snakes, crickets, grasshoppers, and all kinds of flies), and camping in my parents’ fifth wheel. Of course they got to have s’mores.🙂 The kids had a blast with Grammy and Grampy, and BOY were they tired when they got home on Monday! We got nice long nights and naps the first couple days home.

I’m hoping this week gets calmer. It seems to me that we’ve been going, going, going for weeks on end. I’ve also been sick for five weeks straight with colds and sinus infections. I was up all night last night, coughing and coughing. Ugh. Power through.

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