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.

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