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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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.

 

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.

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!

“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.

Rainy Days

Yesterday and today have been cold, rainy days around here. What a nice change for us! We’re all glad the weather is finally cooling off! The kids and I have been soaking in the quiet togetherness that rainy days create.

Yesterday the kidlets played with Play-Doh after breakfast while I put dinner in the crock pot. Then we went for a walk in the drizzle. Our neighbor’s dog came with us and Hula Girl spent the entire walk throwing the dog’s ball. Gelato spent the entire walk alternating between crying because his hood was on and crying because his hood was off. 🙂 Afterward, we came home and the kiddos had some hot chocolate. In the afternoon we cleaned the house and baked biscuits, and then the kids played with shaving cream paint in the tub. They had an early dinner of chili and biscuits and then we welcomed our small group. The kids played quietly during the first few minutes of small group, and then it was time for Jonathan to put them to bed. Hula Girl, of course, did not fall asleep right away; she stood looking out her window to watch our guests leave, as she always does when we have company.

This morning, Hula Girl didn’t wake up until 8:00, so Gelato and I made breakfast together before we got her up. They had banana bread and milk for breakfast. While they ate, I read them the story of Noah’s Ark from Genesis. Hula Girl was surprised and said, “Mommy, I’m amazed that the story in the Bible is just like the story in our Jesus Storybook Bible! God is sure awesome! And he made rainbows to make a promise!”

Then we cleaned up and the kids stayed in their jammies while they played with the Lite Brite and Cootie. After we got that craziness cleaned up, we decided it was time to start making Christmas gifts and decorations. (Nay-Nay and Auntie Joanna, something’s coming your way soon!) Gelato surprised me with his dexterity! We were stringing Christmas beads (not pony beads- the star-shaped things that have small holes in the middle) on pipe cleaners to make “icicles” to hang in the tree. He could do it! I was amazed. Hula Girl has discovered a passion for stringing beads, and she will be making many many many more of these for friends and family alike. 🙂

Around 10:00, I got the kids bundled up in sweat pants, rain coats, and boots, and I sent them out in the backyard so I could read my Bible while watching them play. They got SOAKED. And they loved it. At 10:45, I called them back in and welcomed them with a hair dryer, big towels, and fleece footie jammies. Hula Girl thought it was great fun to have me blow dry her entire body; both of them loved it when I pulled their jammies out from their bodies and blew warm air down their backs. Ah, to be a preschooler again! Then we snuggled up on the couch and read several books under a cozy blanket.

After lunch, Gelato started his nap and Hula Girl and I finished Peter Pan. This is the fourth movie she’s ever seen. I am not a super big fan of it for her- there are lots of names called, Indians are portrayed in a terrible light, and there is just a lot of violence in general. I had to keep reminding her that it’s all a big game the Lost Boys play with the other inhabitants of Neverland, and that since it’s all pretend, none of these things actually happen. She is much more partial to Frozen. I have to agree with her! She has also seen Cinderella and The Aristocats. I like Frozen and Cinderella best.

When the kids wake up from naps, I plan to take them to Walmart, just to get out of the house for a while. We need to get a few pull-ups for Gelato (he sleeps in a pull-up but is potty-trained otherwise), and I believe they carry a non-GMO cornmeal there, which would be great for cornbread. (You’ll notice I said we baked biscuits to eat with our chili yesterday… yup, we are out of cornmeal.) I’m hoping Jonathan will light our fireplace after dinner so we can bring the kids down and read them a bedtime story in front of the fire tonight.

 

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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