Friends, Neighbors, Allergies, and Cheese

Yesterday started with beautiful weather; it ended with freezing rain! A huge thunderstorm moved through right as we arrived at our play date, which was thankfully moved to our new friends’ house instead of the park. We were grateful for our friends’ hospitality, and the kids had a lot of fun playing with their bunny. 🙂

Today I get to play hostess as I will have three of our neighbor’s kiddos over this afternoon. I plan to make cookies and then let the kids run wild. The house is clean, and since the kids are four and up, I’ll most likely be able to make some dinner while they’re here since they’ll need a bit less constant supervision. Before they come over, we will have some rest time and I hope to read a bit of Charlotte Mason’s Home Education.

Monkey Man slept in until almost 9:00 this morning. That is the first time any one of my kids has ever slept past 8:30. I was worried about him! He seems to be all right, except for his seasonal allergies, which are really dragging him down right now. We have been giving him some raw honey and a couple of my friends have mentioned some essential oils to use. We’ll try that today!

I think I’ve discovered why Sugar Plum has issues with dairy. I think it’s related to Jonathan’s migraines. Sugar Plum has always had a rough time of it when I’ve tried to introduce dairy into my diet. I had some cheese last night, and today she was just crying and crying while she held onto her little head. She’s done that in the past when I’ve tried cheese (we live in Wisconsin, after all). We’ve been experimenting with keeping Jonathan off dairy for a few weeks, and then trying cheese. Each time we’ve tried it, he’s had a migraine the next day. It’s becoming quite obvious that while dairy may not be the only trigger for his migraines, it certainly plays a part. And I’m thinking it’s the same for Sugar Plum. She gets little baby headaches when I have dairy. Poor thing! So… no dairy for us. Good thing I’m weaning her soon. I’m ready to eat pizza again.

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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.

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.

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.

“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.

“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.

Carry On!

Whew! Has today been tough for everyone, or is it just me (and a friend who texted me halfway through the morning)? Things were getting along swimmingly and then at six thirty, Hula Girl decided to come out of her room to use the restroom. I kind of forgot she was in there, and at seven, Jonathan found her… with Vaseline smeared ALL OVER HER FACE. Then when he told her to go back to bed and wait for her sun to come up (on her Gro-Clock), she spent the remaining time with her light on, out of bed, cutting paper into a million tiny pieces all over the carpet, her bed, the furniture, and so on.

Breakfast was rife with complaining. “My pancakes are too hot! Now they’re too cold! I want more honey on mine! Go get me a vitamin! You forgot to give me another pancake and I’m still hungry! When will it be done cooking? I want MORE orange juice! I don’t like strawberries! I wanted mango! My chair is too far to the left!”

Schoolwork was completed with much chagrin. I took a stand on proper letter formation during copywork. She was writing a “u” with a line straight down from the middle for a y (see pic below). This is NOT correct. Here’s how that conversation went:

  • Me: Oops! Honey, you formed that “y” incorrectly. Why don’t you look at mine and try again?
  • HG: Oops! Silly me, okay! I’ll try to make mine match yours.
  • Me: Oops! You did it again! It seems like your hand muscles have been practicing the incorrect way to write it. Please stop writing and trace my “y” on the next page so you can learn to do it properly.
  • HG: But I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO IT!
  • Me: Oh, does yours look like mine? No? Okay, let’s try it this way. Trace mine a couple times and then try it on your own.
  • HG: NO! My hand muscles are sore!
  • Me: Yes, I understand. When we try to learn to do something better, it takes a few times before our muscles get used to doing it properly. Did you know Daddy went to the gym the other night, and his muscles are sore today?
  • HG: He did? He has sore muscles?
  • Me: Yep, and he LIKES having sore muscles. It shows that he’s been working hard. Let’s see if you can work hard and earn your sore hand muscles.
  • Then we made a few funny faces at each other, just to ease the tension. Next, she traced my “y” and wrote her own a few times.
  • HG: MOMMY! I DID IT!!! I WROTE Y WITH A TAIL THE RIGHT WAY! I LEARNED HOW TO DO IT AND MY MUSCLES ARE SORE BECAUSE I WORKED HARD!!!!!
We made game-show

We made game-show “Ding ding ding!” and “Buzz” noises when we looked at the top two and circled or crossed them out. The bottom row of y’s are her own. This was hard-fought, my friends.

I normally wouldn’t make a mountain out of this kind of molehill. But proper letter formation is a must when learning to write in cursive, which will be in a couple years. It also slows a kid down when she has to pick up her pencil just to form another part of the same letter! She’ll thank me someday, but until then…

After that small triumph, the rest of the day was miserable.

Hula Girl told me to SHUT UP today. I have one guess as to where she heard that: “The Dream” in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together. She has not ever heard anyone say it out loud except for in that book, which we happen to have as an audio book. Apparently she decided she had had enough of me talking to her while I did laundry, so she went storming into her room, slammed the door, and yelled at me. Oh, my.

I calmly went in, sat on her bed with her, and explained to her that our family doesn’t use words like that. I told her that they were unbecoming of a young lady, and that she would have a consequence for saying them to me. She spent quite a bit of time in her room, cleaning and so forth, and then she came out for lunch in a happy mood.

It lasted all of four seconds.

She made her PB&J, with permission, and then I gave the kids some peas on the side. I turned to cut up some apples for them, and I heard a pea hit the floor and Hula Girl yelled, “Pea fight!” I took the peas away, and she ran after me, grabbed the bowl, and spilled them all over the floor. Her next move was to scream and cry and tell me that I had hurt her. How? “You held the bowl when I wanted to grab it and you hurt my fingers.” Oooooookay. Then she tried to hit me, which I blocked while saying, “I won’t let you hit me.” Then she hugged my waist and bawled while I rubbed her back and said, “You’re having a lot of big feelings today and you’re misbehaving left and right! Something must be bugging you!” And all she did was cry.

After lunch, which was very short, I put Hula Girl right to bed. I read her some poetry about self-discipline, table manners, and finally one about perseverance.

God gave me the poem about perseverance as an answer to a desperate prayer I’d prayed earlier in the day, during which I begged God to show me how to show her my love. After reading the poem to her, I was able to tell her that I would ALWAYS persevere in my love for her. I told her that no matter what she did, no matter how poorly she behaved, no matter what words she spoke to me, I would always love her. I told her that I love her more than she will ever know until she becomes a mommy herself someday. I told her that I was thankful that God let me be HER mommy, because SHE is exactly the daughter I need. She cuddled up onto my lap and told me she was glad to be my daughter. I was happy to reply that I was beyond thrilled to be her mommy.

It doesn’t matter how hard this gets. I don’t care how many times she hurls insults at me. I am her mommy, and I’m going to show her grace and love. I’m going to fight to show her Jesus in me. I’m going to win, because that is my mission as her mother. She must know she is loved and treasured and that Jesus is her loving, gracious savior.

Here’s the poem I read to her, but more to myself, which steeled me and gave me strength:

Carry On!

by Robert W. Service

It’s easy to fight when everything’s right,
And you’re mad with thrill and the glory;
It’s easy to cheer when victory’s near,
And wallow in fields that are gory.
It’s a different song when everything’s wrong,
When you’re feeling infernally mortal;
When it’s ten against one, and hope there is none,
Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

      Carry on! Carry on!
   There isn’t much punch in your blow.
You are glaring and staring and hitting out blind;
You are muddy and bloody, but never you mind.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   You haven’t the ghost of a show.
It’s looking like death, but while you’ve a breath,
       Carry on, my son! Carry on! 

And so in the strife of the battle of life
It’s easy to fight when you’re winning;
It’s easy to slave, and starve and be brave,
When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat
With a cheer, there’s the man of God’s choosing;
The man who can fight to Heaven’s own height
Is the man who can fight when he’s losing.
   
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Thing never were looming so black.
But show that you haven’t a cowardly streak,
And though you’re unlucky you never are weak.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Brace up for another attack.
It’s looking like hell, but – you never tell.
      Carry on, old man! Carry on!

There are some who drift out in the desert of doubt
And some who in brutishness wallow;
There are others, I know, who in piety go
Because of a Heaven to follow.
But to labor with zest, and to give of your best,
For the sweetness and joy of the giving;
To help folks along with a hand and a song;
Why, there’s the real sunshine of living.

      Carry on! Carry on!
   Fight the good fight and true;
Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;
There’s big work to do, and that’s why you are here.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Let the world be the better for you;
And at last when you die, let this be your cry!
      Carry on, my soul! Carry on!

The Chicken Dance

Wednesdays are always hectic in the mornings. The kids get up at 7:30, and we have to leave by 8:20 in order to get to Hula Girl’s dance class on time. This 50-minute chunk of time seems adequate time for most people to eat, dress, brush teeth, and leave, but TODDLER TIME is sooooo sloooooow. Somehow I put breakfast on the table at 7:35 and the kids still aren’t even halfway done by 7:55. 20 minutes into breakfast, and they’ve eaten like half a bowl of oatmeal and a few strawberries. I find it’s best if I just give them a quick breakfast and then plan for a larger morning snack than usual on Wednesdays.

Regardless of the hectic nature of the morning, yesterday I made sure to review our memory verse, read our poem for the day (“At the Sea-Side”), and pray for our sponsor kids. The kids so enjoy these activities at breakfast time. Monkey Man enjoys the poetry, and Hula Girl likes talking about what kinds of things our sponsor kids are doing, how the weather is where our sponsor kids live, and how we can pray for them. And of course both kids love the chance to show off their memory skills.

A couple days ago, I posted that Monkey Man doesn’t really join in memory verse recitation with the rest of us. Well, two hours after I published that post, kid was spouting off the entire verse. I knew he was able to do it, but he just wasn’t yet. He has decided to jump on board with family memory verses. It’s so much fun to see the kids gobbling up God’s word and taking it to heart. I even got the chance to correct their behavior using scripture yesterday when they were bickering. l asked them to say Ephesians 4:32 with me (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you,”) and then I asked Hula Girl what she needed to do in order to obey. She stopped arguing, said, “I forgive you, Monkey Man,” and they hugged it out.

Another awesome part of doing family memory verses is being able to address deeper spiritual issues. The other day, Jonathan got the chance to explain God’s forgiveness through Christ. Hula Girl was asking, “What does it mean that God in Christ forgave us?” Jonathan explained that Christ died once for all, and that our sins are forgiven because of HIS sacrifice, not because of any good thing we’ve done. She liked that a lot.

Anyway. Dance was great. The recital is coming up in two weekends, so the girls are really just working on fine-tuning their performance right now. Their sweet teachers are great at what they do, but this time of year is just crazy with so much going on. We will all be glad when the recital comes and we take the summer off.

After dance, we went to Starbucks to get hot chocolate and then we went and picked up the dance teachers’ gifts and cards. Our final errand was to get Monkey Man’s hair cut. To say the hairdresser loved him would be a major understatement. She was amazed at his speech and how sure he was with himself. He wanted his hair to be short on the top so he could “put gel in it like Daddy.” He also asked her to blow dry his hair (SO funny to see a hair dresser blow-drying a tiny little boy’s inch-long hair strands!), and he asked her to put gel in it when she was done. She got a kick out of all his requests and so she indulged him. He was definitely spoiled.

When we got home from our errands, Hula Girl disappeared to her room to work on her projects (she loves to write notes to people and glue them to pictures she’s created) and Monkey Man laid down on the couch to listen to an audio book from the library. We had a hot lunch of soup and popcorn! Then it was rest time.

When the kids got up, we spent about 10 minutes on Hula Girl’s reading lesson, and then we read 20-something books from the library. It is so cozy to be snuggled on the couch with those two little people. Monkey Man leans his head on my shoulder while I read; Hula Girl holds the cat on her lap and drapes her legs over mine. We put a blanket over all of us (the cat included, we wouldn’t want to forget Riley), and we read until we’re out of books. It took an hour and a half yesterday.

Our final activity before Jonathan came home yesterday was letting our youngest baby chicks out of their brooder for a while. I tried to keep them contained to just a blanket on the floor, but they were WILD. We have five little chicks who are 5 weeks old; our “big girls” are 9 weeks old and out in the coop already. The “little girls” are not as tame as the “big girls” because they were older when we got them and hadn’t been handled as much as young chicks. They were literally flying all around the playroom, and three of them even climbed up on Hula Girl’s head. Monkey Man enjoyed fishing them out from under the train table and the futon, and I just walked around cleaning up any messes. Oy. After 20 minutes of that, we rounded them up and returned them to their brooder so we could all get some rest! Thankfully, Jonathan is in the process of moving them to their bigger brooder in the garage as I type this, so I won’t have any more chickens living in our guest room. Ever.

Wednesday was not very school-heavy, but it was certainly educational. Every day is educational, in one way or another. And who says academic lessons are the most important lessons?

Rainy School Day #2

Hula Girl has really fallen into the rhythm of Kindergarten quickly and easily.

On Tuesday, we worked on our memory verse as a family, and then when Jonathan left, I sat down at the breakfast table with the kids and we read our poem for the day (“A Thought” by Robert Louis Stevenson). After poem reading and prayers for our sponsor brothers and sisters, we turned on our hymn (“All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”) and tried to sing along.

After breakfast, we worked on laundry and getting ready for the day for about a half an hour. Hula Girl was so funny, asking, “Mommy! What should I wear?” I told her she could wear anything she wanted to wear but that it needed to be warm enough to go outside. She replied, “Mommy, I can change to go outside, but I want to look fancy for SCHOOL!” Haha, she is really taking her job as a student seriously!

Once we finished our chores and got cleaned up and dressed, we completed the following work:

  • Literature- “Wolf and Kid” from Aesop’s Fables
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12D (dealing with place value)
  • Literature-“Whale” from Just So Stories
  • Copywork- “tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” from Ephesians 4:32
  • Reading- Lesson 4

This really only took us until about 10, and so we were left with the rest of the day stretching ahead of us, full of opportunity. Since we’ve had such rainy weather lately, and it’s been so cold to boot, we spent the day inside. We made a blanket fort, we read a mountain of books, and then the kids had an hour or so of roomtime while I vacuumed and cleaned in preparation for my women’s book group on Tuesday evening.

After rest time that afternoon, we bundled up and headed out into the rain to go meet Hula Girl and Monkey Man’s new swim teacher at the Y. Hula Girl is a hesitant little girl still, and we’re starting lessons this week. I thought it best to go meet her teacher a couple days in advance so she knows who to expect. Her teacher won her over just by standing there; after all, what four-year-old isn’t going to be charmed by a young blonde teacher who wears an ELSA BRAID in her hair? Bonus points for Miss J, who happened to be wearing glasses, as well. Hula Girl loves glasses. She can’t wait to wear them someday.

After the Y we stopped at Walmart because somehow our coffeemaker broke last week. I’m still thinking it’s coincidence that it broke when we tried to use it after I had made coffee for the first time ever. When I made coffee, it worked. Coffee came out. Nothing weird. But the following night, it was broken. I didn’t touch it the night it broke. Let’s just be clear. 🙂

Sorry, I got sidetracked. I was going to explain how cute my Monkey Man is. When we went to buy the coffee maker, he was dressed as a firefighter, with the jacket, hat, and boots. He was also wearing a stethoscope around his neck, because fun. This older man at Walmart stopped and said, “Oh, hi, Doctor!” Monkey Man turned with his hands on his hips and said, “I am not a doctor. I am a firefighter.” The man didn’t really hear him, so he chuckled and went on his way. But Monkey Man kept calling after him, “Man! I am a firefighter! Man! Do you hear me? I am a firefighter, Man!” Bahaha. After that, anytime anyone stopped to admire his get-up, which was a LOT of times (cute kids FTW!), he pre-empted the entire conversation by saying, “Hi, I am a firefighter. Not a doctor.” They’d all laugh and he had a grand old time. He loves to talk to strangers and tell them all about his life.

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