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.

Snippets

Kids always have a way with words. It’s the combination of tone, expression, and word choice that make their phrases awesome. I have been trying to keep track of sweet things that have escaped my children’s lips over the past few months. I never want to forget their sweet words and thoughts.

Hula Girl’s teacher is of the same mindset. She loves listening to and reporting the words of the students in her care. She delights in them as much as their parents do! Here is a portion of a recent email I received from her:

[Hula Girl] said the cutest thing yesterday, and I actually wrote it down to tell you!  The last word on the spelling pre-assessment was “spoil.”  I used this sentence, “When you go to Grandma’s house, she will spoil you with treats, candy, presents, and staying up late.”  As I walked past [Hula Girl] she looked up at me with the happiest face and said, “Boy, does she EVER!”  It was precious!

Monkey Man has his fair share of intriguing things to say as well. Most of the time, he is quite imaginative and he tries his hardest to impress people.

A couple weekends ago, our town held a fall festival. (By the way, living in a small town that celebrates EVERYTHING is awesome. Downtown streets have been closed down at least three weekends in the past couple months for festivities. That might sound annoying, but there are easy ways around the closures. It’s so much fun to be here and be part of a town that is so focused on families and fun!) We attended the festival in the afternoon once Sugar Plum woke from her final nap of the day. We walked through the booths and roamed through a couple stores downtown. We decided to go to the coffee shop for dinner. We ordered some sandwiches and things and while we were eating, a local band came in and began setting up for an evening performance.

The band was made up of members who have adult children. They had banjos, violins, drums, guitars and keyboards. It was interesting to watch them set up and unpack their instruments; Monkey Man was especially interested in the process of tuning instruments. He was watching the woman with the violin with such interest that she invited him up to watch more closely. She asked him if he liked violins, and he said, “Yes! I am good at playing the violin!” She looked at me as if to ask if this was true. I shrugged. I asked him, “Where did you learn to play?” He said he had learned at school. “I’m the best violin player in my class!”

Ok, first of all, he was only in school for a grand total of 6 days. I’m certain he did not learn to play violin. But perhaps there was an instrument station in his classroom?

The woman then showed him how she tunes the violin and how she plays different notes. He was absolutely enthralled. So much so that her husband came over and said that if they can find their child-sized violin, he will give it to us so Monkey Man can learn to play for real. I think we will be enrolling him in violin lessons soon!

Both kids are very interested in art right now.

Hula Girl gave this paper to me and Jonathan last night. Each side is a different type of sunset.

Monkey Man created this picture for his self portrait for our schoolwork at home. It is him in the sky with a rainbow and clouds; the figures on the ground are looking up at the clouds and finding pictures.

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A Surprising Choice

I have a lot of friends who don’t know this about our family yet. That’s because I’ve surrounded myself with people who have very strong opinions on this topic, and I didn’t want to have people telling me their very strong opinions unless it directly affected them or they are family members. We sought out wise counsel and have made the best decision for our family… for now.

When we moved to Wisconsin, we had no intention of changing the way our family does things. We still eat organic, we still put Jesus first, and we still spend as much quality family time together as we can. However, one major thing has changed– we decided to put the big kiddos in public school.

Homeschooling is our first choice for schooling our children. I even researched and joined several Wisconsin homeschooling groups on Facebook before we moved. We were set on continuing along with our plan, and I have been gathering books and resources for the past year in order to prepare for Hula Girl and Monkey Man to learn some really neat stuff this year.

But the move has been hard on the kids. Like, really, really hard. I believe I mentioned that the kids and I lived with my parents for about a month and a half while Jonathan stayed at our former house, packing and cleaning and getting it ready to sell, before we moved to Wisconsin. Now we are staying in a temporary (wonderful, but temporary) house, and we have been house hunting and dragging the kids all around the area to find a house. We have one that will be ours in October, but in the meantime, we’re not exactly settled.

At first, it was a fun adventure for the kids– staying at Grammy and Grampy’s house! Camping! Staying in a new house! Sharing a room for the first time ever! Eventually, it turned into a real drag. The kids got sick of each other and were bickering nonstop all day. I had to make millions of phone calls and try to learn all about the new area (where to grocery shop? What kinds of insane winter gear do we need to stock up on? How do I get to the nearest Starbucks– it’s PSL season, after all–?). And Sugar Plum is still a baby who needs tons of naps.

We were all getting sick of each other, really. So. I took the opportunity to put the kids in a wonderful public school. I went and toured it before I made the official decision. If I were still teaching, it’s a school I’d be proud to be part of. The teachers are so engaged, the principal is extremely supportive, and the parents are very involved. The school is a 4K-4th grade elementary school, and it offers a wide variety of research-based programs and interventions that are actually really cool. (I kind of geeked out a bit on the tour and I even got jealous of the teachers who get to work there!)

The first week of school was just the two days prior to Labor Day weekend. Both kids were so excited. We got all their supplies and attended the open house the week prior to school opening. We met teachers and saw the classrooms, and the kids were happy and ready for the change. The first two days were wonderful; both kids raved about their teachers and their days.

The following week was not so smooth. Monkey Man made it clear he did NOT want to go to school. He just barely turned four in August. I was having a hard time with him being in school, anyway, due to multiple drop-off and pick-up times and Sugar Plum’s napping schedule. We made the choice to pull him back out of school and just keep him home with me. That has been a wonderful choice for him, and I plan to write a lot more about that soon enough.

Hula Girl, however, is thriving. I feel like we must have won the teacher jackpot! Her teacher is very structured and organized, and she is extremely communicative with parents. She researches and implements new approaches as fitting, and she is super engaging for the children, to boot. Hula Girl is a child who appreciates wit, routine, and structure. She loves knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, and why. Her teacher meets provides all these things while challenging her to better herself.

Hula Girl is above average academically; this was a huge concern for me. My personal experience of skipping a grade because I tested high is one I wouldn’t trade for the world (I had a few wonderful friends and there was a lot of very healthy academic competition in my graduating class), but I wouldn’t want to put the social struggles I encountered at the younger ages onto Hula  Girl. She is already a bit socially awkward as she is still working her way out of her extreme timidity around strangers. I couldn’t imagine sticking her in a public school classroom with second graders!

I have been very pleased to see the proactive ways her teacher and the school are working to support her and engage her academically. My ultimate goal is not to have her earn Valedictorian of First Grade status; rather, I want her to be somewhere she feels is safe, enjoyable and engaging while we sort out our living situation. I want her to make friends and practice treating others like Christ. I want her to walk away with self-confidence AND humility.

Public school is the current means to these ends, and I am so thankful for all the prayers and advice we were given when debating this idea for our kiddos. We plan to re-evaluate our decision at Christmastime, and see if we feel settled enough by then to bring Hula Girl back home so we can start fresh with our Charlotte Mason homeschooling experience. This is truly where we feel God is leading us as a family; we just want to make sure to go at the right time and in the right way. We’ve seen God’s hand in a very vivid way over the past six months, and we are eager to see how and where he will direct us next.

Movin’ on Up…

…to the Midwest.

Yep, silence around here for the past few months because we have officially moved! The last time I posted, I was only vaguely aware of what this move might mean for our family, but I knew it was time to focus on everything else and move the blog to the back burner, as I have done many times over the past few years. Now that we are pseudo-settled, I’ll be catching up… kind of.

This post is going to focus on the overall move- who, what, when, where, why, and how?There is so much to say about it, but I’ll try to keep it condensed.

So, we never loved where we were living. It wasn’t a matter of not liking the people or even Jonathan’s job. It was a matter of simply not enjoying the environment. We did not like living in the hot, dry, windy, tumbleweedy, lizardy desert. Keep in mind Jonathan is a horticultural therapist. Plants don’t tend to do very well in that type of environment without insane water bills. We want green, lush, seasons, and water. So we’ve always kept an eye out for other opportunities elsewhere.

In April I found a job listing for a horticultural therapist position at an inpatient mental health hospital in Wisconsin. It intrigued Jonathan and he decided to apply. At first he was told that he wouldn’t be moving on in the application process because he had asked for too much money on his application. I encouraged him to call back and speak with the director for the position. We are certainly glad he did!

After speaking with the director, it was decided to go ahead and give Jonathan an interview. He completed a Skype interview with a few key members of the staff as well as a horticultural therapy consultant for the company. Jonathan blew them away. They were originally looking for a therapist to fit into the program they’d begun previously, but after the interview they went back and designed the much more in-depth, administrative position of horticultural therapy coordinator. This position requires a bit of travel between their different locations, and a much more thorough implementation of the horticultural therapy program in their hospitals. It took them until July before they made the official offer.

Jonathan happily accepted their offer, and we began the process of packing up, selling our house, and saying goodbye to the people who’ve been there for us throughout the entirety of most of our childrens’ lives. Honestly, packing up and selling the house were much easier to do than saying goodbye. We had started to develop some meaningful and vital relationships with amazing friends; fortunately in our world, moving across the country doesn’t mean goodbye, it just means we will start keeping closer tabs on our friends’ Facebook pages.

The hardest people to leave were my parents, obviously. As an only child, I am their one and only source of fun and happiness. (Haha, j/k Mom and Dad!) Seriously, though, the kids have always had Grammy and Grampy just an hour or so away, and we’ve seen them at least once a week for the past year and a half. That adjustment has been the most difficult for me– going from being able to see my parents and have a bit of help at least once weekly to being totally alone in a new state where I know no one all day every day while Jonathan works has been challenging. We’ve stayed in very close contact, but it will be wonderful when they can come visit us. We have so much to show them!

Ok, back to the move. Jonathan accepted the offer in July, and his start date was in the middle of August. Our plan was to move the kids and me to my parents’ house until our house in Colorado sold. In the interim, Jonathan was planning to rent something here in Wisconsin. Once our house sold, Jonathan would go house hunting in Wisconsin, and I would fly out one weekend and help make the final decision. We are SO thankful it did not end up working that way.

Jonathan’s company owns a house that borders the hospital grounds. The board members agreed to turn this house into a temporary residence for employees who are moving their families in from out of state. They offered this house to us, so that our entire family could move at the same time. What a blessing! We are the first family that gets to take advantage of this resource, and let me tell you… it has been absolutely AMAZING. The house is right on a lake. The kids have spent the latter part of the summer swimming in the lake, canoeing, kayaking, and collecting snail shells. They’ve played outside in the grass with sandhill cranes nearby, hunting for frogs. Monkey Man has learned to imitate a male cardinal’s call; Hula Girl whistles the female’s response. There is an apple tree out back where the two of them spend half their time, clambering up in the branches and reading books by the hour. Deer walk through our yard and nibble on the forest that surrounds the property on three sides. Wild turkeys scurry across the road and squirrels chase each other stealing acorns all day long. It is lush and green and beautiful.

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This is the view from our dining room. See? We’re not suffering. 

The night before we started our three-day drive to get to Wisconsin, we accepted an offer on our house in Colorado. (We closed on that house yesterday.) The drive itself was wonderfully uneventful. I had the three kids in the car with me, and Jonathan towed the other car behind the moving truck with the cat for company. We stopped every 2-3 hours to nurse the baby and stretch the big kids’ legs. We stayed overnight in cabins at different campgrounds, which was probably the best choice we could have made. (Thanks, Mom!) Staying in cabins meant more space for less money and much better amenities for the kids, as the campgrounds included more than just a pool. There were games, bounce pads, showers, picnic tables, bathrooms where the baby wouldn’t wake every time we flushed, and so on. Seriously, if you’re traveling across country with kids, consider campground cabins.  I now know of one in Lincoln, NE, that is absolutely outstanding, in case you’re looking for recommendations!

Since our arrival in Wisconsin, we’ve been able to drive around and learn the area a bit. Honestly, every part of the area is beautiful- so green and lush and quiet. We are in quite a small town, and the surrounding area is just gorgeous. We’ve worked with an incredible realtor here. She has been wonderful with our family and I would totally pick her as a friend even if we hadn’t met in this particular way. I actually called her somewhat out of the blue after a quick google search for realtors in our town; I was trying to find out whether chickens are allowed here, and who else knows better than real estate agents, right? It was not a wasted call; our agent has been a true friend to our family and has helped us with everything from finding grocery stores to arranging meetings with other professionals in order to get our living situation in both Colorado and Wisconsin squared away. If you ever move to this area, I know who you should call.

We’ve made an offer on a house here after searching for a few weeks. Finding something in our price range that meets our minimum criteria has been tough, but we have found a house that seems just right for our family. As long as the contract continues on (we are waiting to hear back after submitting our inspection objections), we are set to close in October. Then we will need to add a couple egress windows to the basement and eventually put in a bathroom down there, but it’s a very clean and well-kept ranch-style home on a property with trees… and chickens are allowed! Hula Girl can’t wait to get some new feathered friends.

So that’s a very general overview… with maybe too much detail in some areas. Sugar Plum has just woken from her nap, and I have a list of other things I want to tell you about… so keep an eye out for some other posts coming soon.

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.

 

Selling our House

We are selling our house!

There is so much to do to prep a house for sale. My sweet husband has been working tirelessly for a couple of weeks now. He has been packing everything extraneous, fixing “small” annoying problems, cleaning up the yard, power washing the exterior of the house, touching up trim, hanging decor in new locations for staging purposes, spreading rock, mowing weeds, and working his regular full-time job. I don’t think he has slept more than 5 hours per night for the past couple weeks.

The kids and I (and our cat!) have been staying with my parents for the past week and a half. I just couldn’t handle the constant disruption to the preparation process, and it was getting to be hard for the kids, emotionally, to see their things being packed away to be opened…sometime later. We are very thankful we can escape here!

We had some wonderful people come help us clean up the yard and deep clean the house. I was so thankful for their work! I did some light staging, but nothing too fancy. Our goal was to present a house that is clean, spacious, and light. I feel like we have achieved that goal!

We listed the house on Monday and had a showing on Tuesday morning. That was exciting, but the  buyers didn’t like the location of our house. I am hoping we have a few more showings this weekend, and that one of them is the right one!

Please join us in praying our house sells soon, and that the buyer is one who will be blessed by owning our home. We certainly have been blessed by being there. Our neighbors are WONDERFUL, all of them. We hope we can move to a new house with neighbors who are just as pleasant. (I feel like we have great neighbors everywhere we live. We have good neighbor luck! Carrie and Karen, you know I mean you! But this particular set is even greater than our average neighbor set so far, because it includes everyone on the street!) I hope the buyer will love our street and the people on it just as much as we do.

The kids and I will be living with my parents until our house is under contract. Pray it goes quick, for my poor parents’ sakes! 😜

More to come on Monday… Hopefully I’ll get to write that the house is under contract! Wouldn’t that be fun?!?!

 

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.

Baby’s First Trip to California

My cousin got married last weekend!

My dad called me a few months ago and asked if I would like to fly to California with him to attend the wedding. My mom offered to stay here with Hula Girl and Monkey Man so Jonathan didn’t have to take any time off work. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my cousins and to visit Jonathan’s parents. So, we booked our tickets and made our plans to stay in California for four days.

In order to achieve our goal of spending time with family, we left early in the morning (REALLY early- 4:45 am!) from my parents’ house on Thursday. I was super worried about Sugar Plum’s sleep. She is my third Babywise baby, and I have worked hard to give her a good, consistent schedule all her life. Of course, she has endured many more disruptions to her schedule than her siblings ever endured, so I really ought not to have worried so much! I woke her at 4:15 on Thursday morning, and she slept a tiny bit on the way to the airport. She stayed awake all through checking in and security, and through boarding the flight. I nursed her as we took off, and she fell asleep for about 30 minutes or so. Then I moved and woke her up… and she never went back to sleep. She didn’t cry, though, so it was fine.

Sugar Plum slept REALLY well while we were at Ama and Papa’s (Jonathan’s parents’) house. We stayed with them during our visit because Ama so kindly offered to babysit Sugar Plum while we went out to see family and attend the wedding. We had a pretty major problem, though: Sugar Plum won’t take a bottle. I tried for weeks in advance, and I had Jonathan and Auntie Nay Nay (Jonathan’s sister) try at various times in there. No dice. She doesn’t cry when offered a bottle, but she just kind of chews on the nipple and looks at you like, “What am I supposed to do with this?”So I couldn’t really LEAVE her with Ama and Papa for very long. Fortunately, she is a good night sleeper, and once I got her down for the night, I could leave her and be pretty sure she’d sleep just fine.

While we were there, Sugar Plum basked in the attention lavished upon her by Ama, Papa, Grampy, and me. She didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else, for once in her life! She worked hard on rolling and got *so close*. She lit up and smiled her giant gummy baby smile whenever she saw her Ama. I got to take a couple showers and dry my hair and put on makeup… it was quite the luxurious trip for all of us!

My dad and I made plans to see his brothers and my cousins on Friday afternoon. We drove about an hour away to visit and have a barbecue. I took Sugar Plum over there to meet everyone (she made special friends with my cousin’s eight-year-old daughter, who is just the sweetest thing ever and loves babies so much!), then I drove her back to Ama and Papa’s house for bedtime. I went back to my uncle’s house to visit with family some more  (another uncle and several more cousins showed up then–hooray!), and then we drove back to Ama and Papa’s house for the night. It was a lot of driving but it was SO worth it. Family is extremely important to me, and I am very glad we had the opportunity to reconnect, at least a little bit.

Saturday was the day of the wedding. I worked on getting Sugar Plum good sleep during the day so she’d sleep well during the evening, when I left her with Ama and Papa. Unfortunately, the afternoon didn’t quite work out as I had planned, so when I left for the wedding, I was not sure how the evening would go. But I knew it was only one evening, and even if she stayed awake until midnight, at least she was with someone who knew how to care for my baby! (Jonathan’s parents are awesome grandparents! I couldn’t imagine better grandparents for my kiddos than the ones they have!) Lo and behold, Sugar Plum ended up waking up around 8:00 for part of the night. Ama gave her a small bottle, which she chewed, and rocked and snuggled her for a while before putting her back down. She went back down without a peep, and was out like a light for the rest of the night.

Now for the reason for our visit: the wedding. It was a superfun wedding. It was wonderful to catch up with (almost) all my cousins on my dad’s side– I haven’t seen any of them in over five years! The location was a small building in the middle of downtown LA. My cousins had decorated with tulle and lights and beautiful flowers, but it definitely was not overdone. It was a great mixture of hard and soft elements (thank you, Tim Gunn, for bringing awareness to this juxtaposition, haha). The food was AMAZING. They hired a street taco vendor, who doled out hundreds of delicious tacos during the evening. There was a small cake, but most guests satisfied their sweet tooth with a vanilla glazed donut instead. Yummo.

Even better than the decor and the food was the company. My cousins are just so cool. The last time I saw most of them was when I was still in high school. Getting to know a family member again as an adult is such a rewarding experience. It is really fascinating to get to know about each person’s unique interests and pursuits, and to witness the maturation of someone you’ve known since you were born. I would imagine it’s a similar situation as when siblings grow up and hang out for a while again. I am excited for and proud of my cousins and most, if not all, seem quite happy with where their lives have led them so far. There is NOTHING like family for comfort, entertainment, and encouragement. We had such a great trip and loved getting to know you better.

Our trip home was long but uneventful. Thank you, Dad and Mom, for making the trip happen. Thank you, Ama and Papa, for your hospitality and for the babysitting. Thank you, K&K, for getting married and providing a reason for us to get together. Love you all!

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