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.

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.

 

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.

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.

The Fourth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Chickening”

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

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

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

 

Eggs

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

 

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

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

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

“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?

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