Weekend Woohoo!

Our weekend wasn’t really that exciting, but I thought I’d try to spice things up a bit. Let’s see… what did we do? On Saturday, Jonathan and I cleaned the basement playroom. Holy cow, it was a nightmare. Around Christmastime, we received a box from a family member which contained light pink styrofoam packing peanuts. As a mom who literally can’t stand the mess, I did the smart thing and hid the box away as fast as humanly possible. Kids didn’t even know it was here. I’m so sly. But…

I’m alone in thinking five steps ahead. So when the box I hid, which contained only packing peanuts, was found by Jonathan, he did the logical thing: he put it on a pile of boxes waiting to be taken upstairs to the trash and recycle bins. Let me give you a little piece of parenting wisdom: if you leave a box of ANYTHING within sight, the children will open it to investigate. It doesn’t matter if the box is marked “TRASH” or if the box smells like a rotten herring, if you leave it where they can see it, it is fair game.

And, come on, what kid wouldn’t love to jump in a box of packing peanuts, and roll in them, and smash them to smithereens? “Look, Mom! It’s snowing PINK!”

Our playroom was absolutely covered in minuscule shards of light pink foam. I couldn’t even take Sugar Plum downstairs at all because she likes to investigate everything she finds on the floor with her tongue. I asked the children to do their best to clean it all up. But when they were supposed to be cleaning it up, they were really just dumping it on each other’s heads instead (obviously).

And so we got out the Shop Vac and took care of that little issue. It only took an hour for us to vacuum and rearrange the entire basement so that the play area is more contained and there is much more space for the kids to run around wildly. I mean, why should the toys get all the room? The kids are having a ball putting on theatrical performances every day, and they just love incorporating their gymnastic and acro routines, so the extra space has been really beneficial. Plus it gives me and Hula Girl a great area for our sewing tables. Here’s what it looks like for now, and please keep in mind that we just moved in November and have had no time to hang anything up on the walls or do anything to make this space “ours”:

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The sweet pool table and stuff came with the house. We can’t quite figure out how they got it down the stairs in the first place. We can’t get a queen-sized box spring down the steps at all, because of the ceiling height near the bottom of the stairwell. So we’re thinking maybe the pool table was downstairs before they finished off the wall between the room and the staircase?

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There’s the trusty Shop Vac. And no more pink styrofoam! Well done, Spavouchum!

Anyway, Saturday afternoon was delightful. We had super warm weather here this weekend! We hit 50 degrees! So of course the whole family went for a walk. We walked down to the lake, which is about five minutes’ walk from our house. The kids were amazed to see the place where the river runs into the lake, because you can see the water rushing in through the places where the lake is frozen. They were also surprised to see the areas where the frozen lake water has pushed the grass up and made giant cracks in the ground. Here’s a picture of me and Jonathan out enjoying the afternoon:

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As you can see, even when it warms up, it’s gray here. I saw the sun setting last night for the first time in a week. It lasted about five minutes. So… yeah. It’s gray. I digress.

On Sunday I woke up feeling like I was getting a UTI. Heck, no. I won’t stand for it. So I booked it to the grocery store and bought a whole lotta cranberry juice and drowned that dang infection. I drank roughly 1.5 gallons of water and cranberry juice yesterday. It was disgusting. I also stayed in bed under a heated blanket for six hours solid (in between trips to pee, which were quite frequent. TMI?) But… it worked! I feel great today. I even woke up feeling thirsty somehow. I really can’t figure out how that works.

Anyway, Jonathan and the kids stayed home from church too, and they played and read books while I stayed in bed and planned the week’s activities and started thinking about Sugar Plum’s birthday presents and so on. I also spent quite a bit of time reading through photography tutorials and guides to learn a bit more about using my new camera (Jonathan got it for me in October). Then I was feeling good enough to get outside and take a few pictures yesterday afternoon. The kids joined me and we all had fun.

Today has been a pretty good Monday. I spent a good deal of time in the kids’ rooms, helping them clean. They’re learning, but sometimes it just gets to be too far gone, and they need an intervention! I know the feeling, so I am very sympathetic and I am willing to give them about a half an hour every other week or so to help them straighten it all up again. I’m teaching them to clean by piling everything in the middle of the room, then sorting the pile into smaller piles, then putting the smaller piles away one thing at a time. It takes SO much less time than trying to start in one messy corner and having to cross back and forth over the messy floor to the other messy corner to put things away. Plus it’s motivating to see it piled in one heap, then organized into smaller, more manageable heaps. After each heap is finished being put away, the kids and I do a cheer. It’s all very fun. Fun-ish. Ok, it’s not very fun. But I try to convince them that it is worth it in the end.

We are about to gather ourselves up and head to the Y for some good ol’ exercise and splashing in the pool.

What did you guys do this weekend? Anything new and exciting?

Locked In!

Yesterday we had a harrowing experience.

It was just after rest time. Sugar Plum hadn’t slept for her afternoon nap, Monkey Man had energy for days, and Hula Girl was starving. It was a toxic mess on the brink of disaster. So we did the most logical thing. We went to the library.

However, it wasn’t so simple as that. First, all three children (and their mom, truth be told) had to get dressed. Half an hour later (how the children drag out the process of putting on socks for twenty minutes solid is beyond me), we were dressed. Then we had to scour the house to find our library books to return. We looked in all the usual places, under couches and pillows, between the beds and the walls, and in a heap in front of the bookcase (we wouldn’t want to put the books on the bookcase– those extra two inches would strain our young bodies beyond repair <eyeroll>). Then we searched all the unusual places and found books in the middle of the laundry basket, under a pile of toy bugs, and on Hula Girl’s sewing table. After we had stuffed all the books into three separate bags, I told the children to put on their shoes and meet me in the car. I grabbed the books and loaded them into the car, then came back inside for a couple of granola bars for the big kids’ snack. I also scooped up Sugar Plum.

Monkey Man and Sugar Plum were all strapped in and ready to go when I turned back to go inside and see what was taking Hula Girl so long. Uh-oh. I couldn’t open the door between the garage and the house. Somehow Hula Girl thought we had locked her in the house, so she had turned the deadbolt to try to unlock it. She locked herself inside the house!

“What’s the big deal,” you might ask. Well, the big deal is that when we bought the house, the only key we received works on only one lock: the front doorknob. I have no way of opening any other locks, whether they are deadbolts, doorknobs, chains, or sliders. Another part of the big deal is that Hula Girl has very low muscle tone in her hands, and the deadbolt is a super sticky one. She couldn’t turn it back!

After about five minutes of her trying desperately to free herself through the garage, I told her to meet me at the back door. Surely she’d be able to turn that deadbolt- it’s much easier. No dice. By this point, she was scared and crying, and I was starting to panic.

I couldn’t use the key on the front door– remember, it only does the doorknob. Also, the front door is secured with extra slider locks at the top (a great safety measure when dealing with young children), but Hula Girl can’t reach them, so I didn’t think the front door would work, either.

Thankfully, Jonathan had gone out the front door and he didn’t secure the slider locks the night before. So Hula Girl was able to let herself out that way eventually.

Guess what Jonathan did last night? We’ll never be locked out (or in the case of the children, in) again.

The whole time I was outside, trying to figure out a way to get my baby out of the house, I was thinking back to a time when she was barely two years old and she locked herself in her room during roomtime. I was ready to break down the door to get to her that day, but I ended up breaking in with a bobby pin. Fortunately I was able to avoid property damage yesterday, as well, but I was strongly considering it! Yikes, man.

After all this we went to the library, and Hula Girl brought home 87 books. I think that’s a personal record.

Superheroes and Dragons

Our Monkey Man is beautiful.

He spends his life dressed up as someone, or something, else. Our groceries were delivered on Monday, and he was dressed as Raphael from TMNT. When Jonathan got home yesterday, I glanced over to see him greeting a bouncing T-Rex. This morning Monkey Man has been a magician, complete with his new cape, lovingly made by Jonathan’s Aunt J. He is currently in his room, dressed up as a fireman.

You might say he has a flair for the dramatic. He is wildly emotional, and the expression of those emotions is quite over-the-top. I’m not talking about just negative emotions. You should have seen this boy’s eyes light up while he did his crazy dance (spinning in a circle, raising his knees out to the side above his hips, stomping his feet, sticking out his tongue, and pulling his hair straight up) this morning when I sang our new “Encourage each other and build each other up!” song. He follows his heart, and his heart has a huge capacity for expression!

He loves music, dance, and movement. That said, he does not enjoy exercise for exercise’s sake. He likes sledding and riding bikes and swimming, but if he has no reason to run, he won’t do it. He is particularly interested in gymnastics right now; he has been practicing cartwheels and head stands, and has actually gotten quite good.

He has an interest in all things larger-than-life. Superheroes, dragons, knights, and monsters hold his imagination captive. He lives in a world of danger and excitement; bravery is an everyday must. He imagines himself our strong protector, and one day he will make good on those promises (watch out, all you boys who may try to date my daughters!). Fear does not freeze him; it moves him to action. When Jonathan startles him during a game of chase, Monkey Man doesn’t cower and cry! He jumps to action, screams as loud as he can, and tries to startle Jonathan back! He keeps his wits about him in all circumstances, and he is reliable to do what is right to keep himself and his family safe.  He even has a toy dragon, which “hatched” out of an egg he received for Christmas. “Fire” accompanies him everywhere he goes, and Monkey Man even made a little bed for his dragon (the dragon sleeps on the top bunk). We are fortunate to have Fire and Monkey Man protecting our family and our home.

He enjoys listening to audiobooks or having me read aloud to him. He snuggles exceptionally well. He giggles at all the right parts and wishes he could be involved in the stories. He understands the deeper meanings and when asked about our reading, goes much further into it than just general retelling. He can express why and how characters show emotions, and he can make connections to his own life. This morning, for example, we were reading a version of “Beauty and the Beast” from Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, when we stopped to discuss the Beast’s feelings as he walked away from Beauty after she refused to marry him each night. Monkey Man was able to identify the Beast’s sadness and explain that he was heartbroken because he loved Beauty and wanted to marry her, but she didn’t see that he would be a good match for her because she only saw that he was ugly. Monkey Man made sure to tell me that it shouldn’t matter to Beauty if the Beast is ugly or not. So wise for one so young.

His little hands are rugged and dexterous. They’re always super dry and warm. His nails are bitten all the way down, but he still manages to peel stickers off of everything. His hands were built for building. He loves to drive in screws and nails; he loves to bend wires around with pliers. He received a new toolbox with a bunch of real tools for Christmas; he hasn’t had much opportunity to use them yet, but I am planning an area of the garage that can be just for him. I plan to fill it with scrap lumber and some nails and screws so he can fiddle around and make some stuff. I’ll help him, of course, but eventually he will be able to take that on as his own.

And he has his daddy’s eyes. Giraffe eyes. Super long lashes, super white corneas, irises the color of moss on a log. His eyes just gleam and sparkle as he goes through his day: glinting with mischief, shining with glee, brimming with tears, crossing with silliness.

He is my most difficult child to parent. And my most easy child to love in that way that makes my heart break. Someday we will welcome his bride into our hearts, and he will no longer be my charge; he will be the leader of his very own family. I equally dread and anticipate that day. There are no words to convey the emotions and the joy that swim under the surface when I think about my son. So I will just say it again: my son is absolutely beautiful.

Hubster Work Update

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Look at that guy.

Jonathan is wonderful. He is truly the most amazing man. When I imagine the type of man  I want my daughters to marry some day, I hope and pray they marry someone who is just like their father. When I imagine the type of husband and father my son will become, it is my strongest wish that he will be a chip off the ol’ block. Jonathan loves God first and pursues biblical excellence in every part of his life. He fills his heart and our home with God’s grace and he gives us all such a beautiful picture of gentle servanthood cloaked in a powerful figure. This might be silly, but he reminds me of Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia: he is physically very strong, he can be roused to powerful righteous anger, and he is always bent toward kindness and gentleness with me and our children. I am truly blessed to have Jonathan as my best friend and life partner. He leads our family in a way that makes us proud to call him ours.

Work is going well for Jonathan, too. Jonathan’s application process and our moving process was 100% done in faith that God was bringing us here for his purposes. We weren’t going to just pack up and leave everything and everyone we knew for nothing. God has not disappointed. Jonathan has had so many opportunities open up in his field, both at work and in the larger HT community. It is exciting for him to be at the forefront of a new movement in mental health. I’m enjoying watching him grow into a super confident, extremely talented expert! He has joined the American Horticultural Therapy Association’s Board of Directors. He has an article published in the next issue of AHTA Magazine. He is working on a research proposal. He is talking with some other HT organizations about work he can do to help further their scope and get HT integrated as a mainstream form of therapy. He is developing a company-wide HT curriculum to be used at Rogers, where he works. It’s all very exciting.

With all that excitement and with all the irons in the fire, Jonathan remains incredibly steady and focused as a husband and father. Part of that, not to toot my own horn, is that I support him by doing an enormous amount of organizing and editing for him. Jonathan really is a big-picture kind of guy, and I’m super detail-oriented. We work so well together. But where I’m going with this: Jonathan is doing a lot within his field, and he has a lot more big ideas. We’ve brainstormed about where he wants to go in his career and how he can and wants to make the most impact as he progresses on. God has given him the perfect jumping-off place here at Rogers: truly, they are extremely supportive of his work and his pursuit of his passions and goals both within the scope of his employment and beyond. But now we have the daunting task of how, where, and how much to market Jonathan. We’re trying to look way into the future and determine how his future goals should shape the types of work and pursuits he should follow right now. What baby steps should we be taking, and what sorts of connections should we be making in order for him to achieve his dreams? It’s a big overwhelming, and although we have a lot of moral support, we are somewhat lacking in practical guidance. I mean, there is always the common-sense stuff like starting small and really define what you’re wanting to achieve, and we are putting a lot of time and energy into those areas for sure. But beyond that… we are at a loss. So if you are someone who has experience or advice in this vein, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Our Kitchen is Gross

So we bought our house this fall. We love the location, we love the homey feel of the house, and we love the neighbors. What we don’t love is the look of the house itself. It’s a ranch house that was built in the 60s. The exterior is actually pretty okay. But the interior… yikes. There is wood paneling, rust-colored laminate flooring, and lots and lots of oak.

Apparently wood trim (baseboards, doors, railings, etc.) is a thing here in Wisconsin. Most of the houses we looked at when we were buying, both online and in person, were chock-full of wood. Wood everywhere. It feels so dark and grim to me. I like bright, white, clean, and crisp. Wood can be pretty sometimes, but wow, it’s overwhelming to me.

So my kitchen. Let me tell you about my kitchen.

  • Cabinets: Oak with tiny round white knobs, very flimsy-feeling, and noisy as heck
  • Flooring: Rust-colored laminate made to look like terra-cotta tiles with super dark grayish brown “grout” in between
  • Appliances: Older than me– literally, mismatched
  • Countertops: Gray
  • Wall color: Formula-fed-baby poop
  • Layout: Terrible, closed-in, dark

Here are a few pictures to help you visualize the madness. Comments below each picture.

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This is the pantry/coat closet that greets you as you walk in from the garage. Here you can see a good representation of the floor and wall color.

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I have been doing dishes all morning. The dishwasher is full of clean dishes. The counters are full of clean dishes, too. The dishwasher has a towel stuffed underneath it because somehow the opening for the dishwasher is open to the freezing cold Wisconsin air. I’m totally keeping it real here, everyone. Oh, and that phantom light fixture is hovering there because we have a ghost in the kitchen and/or my phone case reflects light in weird ways.

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Here’s a really nice close look at the cabinets and their hardware. Geeee-rossssss.

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Haha, look at that tiny tiny microwave. And the oldest stove known to man, which is currently taken apart so I can wash the under-burner crumb/spill catcher bowl thingies. (I am certain they have a much more proper name than that.) Also, I swept the floor this morning. And then the kids ate breakfast. Oy, this is the life.

Ok, so here are my thoughts.

First, I would love to rip everything out, tear down some walls, and start over. Gotta save the dollaz for that. So, we will be doing some small stuff and some not-so-small stuff in the interim. I think we’ll go in a couple of phases.

Phase 1 (2017)

  • Paint all the wood stuff white and replace the hardware
  • Replace the shelf and drawer liners with something that’s not fifty years old
  • Paint the baby poop walls a light, warm greyish taupe
  • Replace the crazy faux-brick backsplash with something pretty and shiny to reflect a bit more light
  • Figure out why the dishwasher opening leaks frigid air and fix that problem
  • Replace the ceiling fan that is in the eat-in area of the kitchen

Phase 2 (2018-2020)

  • Cut out that low-hanging header from which the cabinets are suspended– it serves absolutely no purpose except to make the cabinets lower and closer to the countertops, so the work space is super cramped
  • Replace the sink and fixtures so I have more than 12 inches between the faucet and the bottom of the sink (the current setup makes washing large bowls and pots very difficult– it’s like Sink Tetris, y’all)
  • Replace the appliances

Phase 3 (sometime around 2025?)

  • Reconfigure the layout
  • Replace flooring, cabinets, etc.
  • Basically rip it out and start over (WOO!)

I plan to start washing all the wood stuff with TSP this week. Gotta start somewhere. Clean surfaces really help. 🙂

I’ll keep you updated every now and then.

Antsy

Every now and then, I get a little bit antsy. I get into a rhythm, it gets to be too easy, and I start to think of the next great project. I find if I don’t have a particular thing to look forward to, my mind wanders and my hands start to create. This could be an amazing gift if only I had some sort of direction for my periodic spurts of energy.

I often fill these times with crafting. In the past year, I’ve done sewing, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and Christmas ornament making. Sometimes I get a bit more physically involved when I feel bored, and I tackle a new exercise routine or clean out my closet. Occasionally I just need something to engage my mind and so I read several books in a short period of time. And rarely I will experiment with cooking and baking a bunch of new recipes all in one week or so.

The key characteristic of these phases for me is the need for planning and executing something and bringing something new to fruition. Being a stay-at-home-mom is wonderful in many ways, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tedious at times. Waking up and doing the same routine and sorting out the same squabbles over and over, day after day, gets a bit tiresome. My mind begins to wander and I begin to consider what my contribution to our family, and to our society, will be.

I have a bunch of ideas running through my head all the time. I guess you could say I have a bucket list. But mine isn’t fancy– I don’t feel the need to go skydiving or fluttering around the world in scary scary airplanes (seriously, I’m terrified of flying). And yet I struggle with trying to balance my big ideas, like writing a book or opening a Christmas tree farm, with this scripture from 1 Thessalonians 4 that the Lord has laid on my heart over and over again over the past year:

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.10 …Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life… I have no trouble with this usually. I’m very introverted, I enjoy staying home, I can go for days without speaking a single word to anyone and feel very much okay. I’m not interested in gossip and I do everything I can to stay out of it when people try to involve me where I’m not needed. I’m constantly working with my hands, whether it be cooking or cleaning or laundry or crafts or gardening or mommy-ing. In fact I am sure Jonathan and I do a lot more work with our hands, in order to save money, than many people in the world. We try desperately not to be in debt or to ask favors from anyone.

With all that said, I still feel the urge to dream and plan and set goals. I have my sights set on some particular achievements I’d like to see come to fruition, and yet I’m not certain how to get there. God has also been working in my heart and seems to be leading me to consider doing some work I never thought I’d consider. It’s all very murky and unclear, and I feel like I’m wearing glasses that I can’t seem to wipe clean. Every time I sit and consider where God might be leading me, I have more new ideas and come up with even better plans for the old ones. Each new idea is just another speck of dirt on my life lenses, and God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to make my path forward clear.

And so I’m making it my task right now to lead a quiet life. I’ll go through the steps, day by day. I’ll be the mom, I’ll clean the house, I’ll teach the day’s lessons, I’ll cook the meals. But I’m also digging in quite a bit deeper and doing a bit more self-care, which for me involves exercise and spending time alone with a notebook, a Bible, and a blanket. Jonathan and I are going to sit and come up with a schedule for both of us to go to the gym and for me to have an hour or two alone throughout the week in a quiet comfortable place.

To keep my mind engaged, I’m reading a bunch of books right now, ranging in topics from photography to parenting. I discovered I prefer nonfiction, and I checked out about 20 books from our library last weekend. I do have a couple of books that are on my list of what I’d like to read, but they’re not available in our library system, and so I will have to save my money and purchase copies later on.

I’m also working on another year-long project that will be more on the fun, creative side. It’s helping me learn photography, and I’m really excited about it.

And now to plan.

What are you working on right now? What head space are you in? What’s inspiring you? Where is God leading you? How can I support you as you tackle your next project? Friends and family, connect with me!

A Little about Hula Girl

Just the other day, I asked Hula Girl, “You always have such a sweet, obedient nature. When I tell you to do something, you obey right away, and it is always with a cheerful attitude! What makes you want to obey the way you do?” She pondered a few seconds, and then replied, “The Bible says, ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,’ and I want to do what is right. I want to please God.” Plain and simple. The way she stated it, as if it was an obvious choice for anyone who knows what the Bible says, just blew me away. Oh, to have the willingness to obey that she displays!

She is changing into a young lady far more quickly than I could imagine. I realize she is truly still a child, but in five months she will be seven, and all the seven-year-olds I’ve ever met have been, like, REAL people! They’re funny and opinionated. They have ideas that aren’t just fantastic or curious- they are problem solvers and their solutions frequently work! They can read and brush their teeth and tie their shoes and make a mean PB&J. Heck, some of them can even converse with adults on topics not related to toys, Santa, or hide-and-seek. You guys, seven-year-olds are second-graders! Second-graders!

Fortunately we are not quite to seven. I will take my very young, innocent, charming, giggly, lanky, emotional six-and-a-half-year-old for as long as I can get her, thankyouverymuch. She is truly a joy, and she has changed so much lately. She brings energy and excitement into every room. Her laugh is contagious and loud, her emotions are fully experienced by anyone in the vicinity. She is getting more and more responsible and interesting, and she has a lot of adorable quirks as well. I just love her and respect her spirit so very much.

Her favorite activity, by far, is reading. She reads for hours every day. She enjoys reading books about fairies, dance, animals, and friendships. She is enjoying the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. She does not enjoy fantasy tales, unless we read them together. She does like folktales and fairy tales, though. I have her reading Moss Gown, which is a type of Beauty and the Beast story, for her assigned reading for school, and she is loving it.

She just watched The Little Mermaid with me this week. We have held off on most of the Disney classics because our kids are very sensitive to scary material. It was only recently that I decided she was ready for Ursula. Our next film will likely be Beauty and the Beast, but I’m uncertain since she is still quite scared of wolves, and wolves do play a prominent role in the scary scenes in that movie. When we watch things, we tend to stick to older movies, like Mary Poppins, but she is really enjoying getting to learn the stories of some of the Princesses whose images we see everywhere!

Hula Girl loves to dance. She is growing longer and leaner by the day, and her legs and feet are truly beautiful. She spends a lot of time stretching each day, and I recognize the preening beauty from my childhood days in her as she prances around the house and begs me to watch each turn, leap, or pose, whether executed gracefully or not. In her mind, she is the prima ballerina, and no other dancer is quite as beautiful as she. Her eyes shine when she dances- it brings her such joy. It is true that no other dancer is as beautiful as my little Hula Girl as she completes a turn and leaps across the living room, enthusiasm streaming behind her like the shining gold curls of her hair.

She is turning into quite the little seamstress, as well. She received a sewing machine for Christmas (the one from her birthday tragically stopped working!), and since then she has crafted numerous pillows, blankets, and other odds and ends for all of her dolls and Monkey Man’s dragon. She has spend countless hours with her little shoulders bent over her machine, concentrating on every seam as if her life depended on it. For one so young and with very little training aside from being taught how to thread the needle, she turns out work that is surprisingly well-done, which includes details that are of utmost importance to the six-year-old mind. She may not be the next designer on Project Runway: Junior, but she will at least be able to sew enough to create some lovely gifts and decorate her home in the future.

Our family will be joining the YMCA this week, and Hula Girl is beyond excited to get back in the water. She hasn’t been swimming in a pool since August, and she has been craving the sensation! She will likely pass her swim test on the first go-around, so that will be one less worry off my chest when I take all three hooligans over there in the afternoons. Hula Girl is a strong athlete, and she excels in the water. I’m certain that has a lot to do with the way we’ve visited the pool at least once monthly, but usually much more often, since she was 12 months old. She has never had any fear, and she is just so excited because this YMCA has a family pool with water slides that will be available for her use. I can tell she will start sleeping very well in the next week or two!

Hula Girl holds back in one area of life, though: food. Not in quantity or variety; that girl is voracious eater and has a great palate, but in the introduction of new foods. We learned a year and a half ago that she is allergic to cashews, pistachios, and pecans. Mangoes are related to cashews and pistachios, so she can’t eat those, either. She had anaphylactic symptoms to some homemade cashew ice cream, and we had to visit the ER for that. She now has an Epi-Pen, and she is very careful to read all the ingredients of any new food she encounters. It doesn’t pose much of an issue at home because I cook most of our food from scratch, but it was a problem of sorts when she was in school because she wasn’t allowed to have all the treats her classmates brought to school for parties and such. Her classroom was designated as a nut-free room, but even when her teacher would reassure her, she generally stuck to the foods she knew were safe for her rather than venturing out. Her allergist told us to keep peanut butter in her daily diet, as he’s seen many children with tree nut allergies develop peanut allergies later on, but she doesn’t seem to like peanut butter very much and will only rarely eat it. I noticed a rash on her back a couple days ago after eating a PB&J, so I’m keeping a very close eye on that and will only be giving her peanut products under careful supervision from now on.

 

Getting Connected

Today we tried out a new church. We had tried one for a few weeks when we first arrived here, based on the recommendation of a couple people we contacted ahead of time. However, we didn’t like the church for some reason or another (I honestly can’t say exactly why, it just didn’t feel like “the one”) and so we decided to keep looking. Then we moved from the old house to our permanent house, and holidays and sicknesses happened… so we finally found got it together enough to try a new church today!

The verdict: we liked it! The big kids went to children’s church, which is something new for our family. We usually like to keep the children with us in the service, but I think both Jonathan and I realize that this is one of the kids’ rare opportunities to interact with people outside the confines of parental supervision. We decided to go ahead and use the resource available to us to enable us to focus better on the message.

Sugar Plum stayed with us in the service, and she did well. She is a very quiet girl by nature, except when she is excited about eating, and we frequently get comments like, “Oh! I didn’t even know there was a baby behind me! She was so quiet!” So we figure it’s safe to keep her with us. It is nice to just have one to corral between the two of us.

The message was delivered by someone who wasn’t the senior pastor. It was good, but I am definitely excited to see what the senior pastor’s style is. That will be the main deciding factor for Jonathan and me when we evaluate the church in a couple of weeks. Hopefully we will like his preaching and we will feel more and more at home as time goes on. It would be so nice to have a church family again. We really miss that part of living in Colorado.

I also have to mention my friend, Gwen, and let you all know how wonderful she is. I was having a particularly rough time of it this week. I called her yesterday and explained some of my struggles. She listened and reminded me of how God sees me, which was the thing I really needed most. Then she got practical (I love a friend who is practical! Some people get upset when friends try to problem-solve instead of only listening, but I do SO appreciate it). She asked me if I had been able to connect with moms here in Wisconsin, and my answer was that I have only found one or two mom friends because I’m home so much with Sugar Plum’s napping. I told her that I would really love to find a group of moms who do a Bible study or something, but that I’m not on Facebook so I couldn’t find that information easily. Do you know what Gwen did?! She offered to look up some groups and send me the contact information. She is making sure I have no excuse to be alone. You guys. Her simple act of love for me was the most meaningful moment of the past month for me.

Be like Gwen. Be a friend.

Thanks, dear friend!

It’s Cold Here.

 

Yesterday I took the kids for a walk. We got halfway down the street and came home. Sugar Plum’s cheeks were icy and my fingers just about fell off. Hula Girl and Monkey Man stayed outside and slid down the ice in the backyard on their bellies like penguins for a few minutes, but then they, too, succumbed to the inescapable fact that 4 degrees Fahrenheit is just too cold to enjoy.

Sugar Plum had a bath while Hula Girl and Monkey Man enjoyed a small mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course!). I sat in the bathroom with Sugar Plum with the heater on and slowly thawed to the temperature of a refrigerator. Once Jonathan got home, I took the world’s hottest shower and steamed the rest of the way warm like a dumpling.

My favorite purchase I’ve made in the past year is the heated electric throw blanket. Monkey Man and I sit snuggled on the loveseat, soaking in the gentle warmth from its fuzzy soft folds, while we read through dozens of books from the library. Hula Girl comes and joins in, but as soon as she arrives, she throws the blanket off her legs and complains that she’s too hot. She must be cold-blooded. Some kind of giant lizard, that one.

Settling in: Rhythms and Resolutions

So we’re here. We’re home. We bought our house in October and moved from our temporary house in November. We still have boxes upon boxes to unpack and organize, but we will get there. No rush now. That’s a nice, but really strange, feeling. I tend to rush.

We pulled Hula Girl from public school at Thanksgiving break. School was a good experience for us overall. Hula Girl had a wonderful teacher who made her students’ lives at school fun. Even when the academics were way too easy for Hula Girl, she still wanted to go because she loved her teacher and she enjoyed her friends. My main comfort when deciding to put her in school to begin with was that I knew she wanted to socialize. She needed some practice speaking up for herself and being assertive. It took a couple months, but she got there. It was fun to see her develop confidence in situations where she needed to speak to other children and unfamiliar adults.

It was never our intention to use public schools for long. So when we moved to our permanent home, we gave it a few weeks and then kept Hula Girl home. We took the time between Thanksgiving and New Year to really focus on Christmas and all that season brings- TONS of activites, songs, crafts, reading together, and family time. We went light on the baking this year, mainly because our dishwasher broke in the beginning of December and doing all the regular dishes PLUS the baking dishes seemed like just a bit too much for me. Gotta know my limits.

For those of you who are wondering, Hula Girl is happy to be home. She really needed more challenging academics and she enjoys having ample time to read. She can knock out 50+ books in two weeks. She loves going to the library and impressing the librarians with her stacks of books. (I know some people who limit the number of books their children are allowed to check out. I limit my kids, too, to the number of books they can carry. Hula Girl has three library bags and she carries them all. Well, at least until we get to the door. Then I take pity on her and grab one and take it to the car for her. I’m a book softie.)

The socialization issue is really a non-issue for us. I feel like I need to address it, though, since many people somewhat close to me have questioned it. I think I’ve probably written about it before, and our views have not changed. As many homeschool families have already said, we would rather have our kids interacting with people of all ages in real-life situations than be stuck in rooms with twenty other people their age. Who will teach my kids better manners: the elderly neighbor who teaches Monkey Man how to paint and do papier mache; or a bunch of four-year-olds? Who will demonstrate careful attention to detail better: Hula Girl’s dance instructor; or her peers, who think that it’s an achievement to color mostly in the lines? And who will teach them to love Jesus best: her family, made up of two parents who put Jesus first and demonstrate the power of God’s grace and two siblings who give them ample opportunity to put that grace into practice; or the public school system, where Common Core determines all learning and all character education falls upon the shoulders of the school’s one guidance counselor, who presents boxed vague information about “getting along” and “bullying”?

Don’t worry. We’re not just keeping ourselves hidden away in our little hermitage here in the woods of Wisconsin. Hula Girl has many opportunities to interact with kids her own age. She has dance and Sunday School. We have neighbors right across the street with a little girl who is six also. The two of them get together and play and it’s like they’ve grown up together. They just have so much fun. Every afternoon, Hula Girl waits for C’s bus to drop her off, and then they go for walks or jump on the trampoline or go to C’s house and guzzle hot chocolate (C’s mom is much more liberal with the sweets than me!). We also have several other kiddos of roughly the same age in the neighborhood who will likely form a gang together this summer, with Hula Girl as their leader. And there are even kiddos Monkey Man’s age who will be junior members of the Summer Club. Winning!

So, for now, we have been working this week to establish our new homeschool/life routine. It looks like this most days, but some days the order of things gets thrown out of whack and we just adjust and go with it:

  • Sugar Plum gets up and nurses (yep, still going strong!)
  • Big Kids get up and we all have breakfast- Scripture memory, poetry, hymns, and folksongs happen during breakfast
  • Chore time- big kids do morning chores, I clean the kitchen, and Sugar Plum crawls around causing mischief (watch the cat food or she will eat half of it… ask me how I know)
  • Sugar Plum starts her nap and big kids start school
  • Monkey Man gets individual time with me while Hula Girl does independent school work
  • Switch
  • Free Play when independent work is completed
  • Sugar Plum wakes from nap, I nurse her, and all the kids have independent play time in their rooms or in the basement playroom while I make lunch
  • Lunch- I read chapter books to the kids while they eat (Chronicles of Narnia is our current series)
  • Free Play- the part of the day during which the three kids go nuts and look so darn cute while they do; the big kids engage with Sugar Plum and make her the Princess of the castle, take her on rocking horse rides through the “meadow,” and defend her from imagined dragons
  • Nap/Rest time- each kid goes to his/her room to sleep or rest; I only have one napper these days, but the other two are very good about resting quietly while they read or play with their toys
  • Snack- I usually have fresh-baked bread or cookies ready for this time of day, and we eat them with tea; snack time is wonderful
  • Varies- sometimes we have dance class, sometimes the kids play with neighbors, sometimes they do a table activity like play-dough, and so on
  • The Finish Line- Daddy walks in the door and is greeted with buoyant smiles and enthusiastically leaping monkeys

And my New Year’s Resolutions (which, by the way, I have actually kept this far! I think it’s a record for me.)

  • Whole foods, plant-based diet (except honey)
  • Drink 60+ oz of water per day- I hate water
  • Read the Bible every day
  • Pray specifically for each child and Jonathan every day
  • Exercise (That one is a bit vague on purpose. I don’t do anything specific to exercise while pregnant or breastfeeding. Never have. Probably should. Meh.)

And that’s the haps. I’ve completely disconnected from Facebook. I don’t miss it. I do miss some of you, though. Email me or text me and let me know how you’re doing.

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