Most Beautiful Opportunity

My Aunt Lois was absolutely the most beautiful person I have ever met. She was gullible, but good-natured. She enjoyed a good joke (and a good number of corny jokes). She was caring, giving, inspiring, courageous, joyful, and kind. I can remember her exact tone of voice when she came with me to try on new outfits. If there was one outfit in particular she liked, she would say, “Oh, Kim… I love it!” Her voice would be soft and deep on the “Oh, Kim…” and it would rise up on the “love” and fall deep and warm again at the end. She was a teacher and she always told her students that their best work was most beautiful. She affirmed them so frequently with that phrase that at her funeral there were many cards given, signs displayed, and speeches made to show their gratitude to the woman who had made them feel like they were most beautifulMost beautiful meant most inspiring, most meaningful; “I am so proud of who you are.”

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Today has been the most beautiful day we’ve experienced so far in Wisconsin. It is spring. The temperature is in the upper sixties, there is a slight breeze blowing every so often, the sun is out, the grass is green, the daffodils are blossoming, the trees and bushes are budding out, the birds are singing, and the insects are coming out and passing through.

We did school in the front yard and on the screened-in porch this morning. The kids were swinging in their tree swings and we were singing our folksong at the top of our lungs! While they were swinging, we watched a wild turkey meandering through the neighbors’ yards. Then we walked around our yard and inspected the bushes, flower beds, and fruit trees for new growth while Hula Girl and I took turns reciting a poem about spring. We saw a monarch butterfly, a small white butterfly, and a dragonfly. After our nature study, we went into the porch, where Monkey Man and Sugar Plum dug around in some potted plants and rearranged the chairs while Hula Girl and I worked on her writing. Last, we went back to the front yard to swing again while I read today’s literature selection to Hula Girl.

While Sugar Plum had her nap, the big kids ate lunch outside and then whiled away their early afternoon barefoot in the grass. It was with much chagrin that they retired to their rooms for their rest time; I would not have made them do it had I not needed a shower!

This afternoon we will be meeting up with a new family for a playdate at the park. I connected with the mom in an online group for people who use Ambleside Online as our curriculum for homeschooling our kiddos.  And, bonus, they actually live in the same town as us! This is exciting because we have met very few homeschool families in our area, and no other families who use the Charlotte Mason method at all.

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Homeschooling has been going well overall. We took quite a break this past year after Sugar Plum joined our family. Hula Girl did a stint in public school while we were settling in here in Wisconsin, and I pulled her back out at Thanksgiving. We took the month or so between Thanksgiving and New Year off so we could focus on family and festivities, and started back up in January with a modified schedule to cover some of the material we had previously skipped or done poorly due to me being pregnant or us having a newborn in the home.

Lately I have been on a quest to really get a full picture of the Charlotte Mason method- her educational philosophy, her goals, and her means by which to achieve those goals. I have been reading blogs and articles and books and forums; I have been listening to podcasts; I have been consulting with the (two) moms I know in real life that also use Ambleside Online. It was a great time of learning for me, but I reached my threshold quickly. There are SO many ways that different families can focus their time and energy as homeschool allows for freedom and choice! I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that people have come up with to organize, streamline, and enhance their educational atmosphere in their homes. I couldn’t handle looking at yet another way to organize a nature notebook, or another binder for keeping lists of things, or another bookshelf filled with books for mothers to read (on top of all the curriculum to read to or pre-read for our children)! It all started to feel very “keeping up with the Joneses” in that I would never be able to organize our curriculum and materials in the most beautiful way, or create perfect nature notebooks filled with most beautiful sketches, or spend hours every day reading to cultivate my own heart and mind to embody the most beautiful thoughts, feelings, and motivations. To put it simply, there is no way I will ever have time to have the most beautiful everything, and that was downright discouraging.

I met with a seasoned homeschool mom, who told me that I am doing well. I explained the ways I was planning to implement a few things, and what I envisioned for our homeschool journey, and she assured me that we would do well! She gave me courage as she reaffirmed that this is my school, my family, my relationship with the Lord, and that my best is the best for my family. Even though I’m not creating showcase-worthy sketchbooks or filling our bookcases with hardback, leather-bound versions of all our textbooks, homeschooling is still the most inspiring and most meaningful thing I can provide for my family, and that makes this journey most beautiful for me. It might look different from other moms’ versions of school at home. It might look crazy to our neighbors (“Don’t your kids need socialization?”). It might look like an unnecessary burden (“That’s what public schools are for!”). But I get to watch my children mature, I get to feed their minds interesting things to ponder, I get to be witness to their incredible ideas, and I get to know their hearts more deeply and completely every single day. It is a most beautiful calling and opportunity, and I am so grateful that this is my life.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Introducing Sugar Plum

a.k.a. World’s Easiest Baby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turning 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. 😉 I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. 🙂 He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! 🙂

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