Friday, March 31, 2017

By the Fireside

Perhaps my favorite thing about this wonderful house we live in is that it has two wood-burning fireplaces.  One of them is in the living room, but the other is in the master bedroom!  Isn't that romantic and awesome?  

The first winter here we didn't do too many fires.  The wood we had was all pretty green and we were concerned about the twins getting burned.  This winter I was determined to do more.  

At the start of the winter, Fish was always happy to make a fire in the fireplace for me.  That was great for this busy mama:  all I had to do was say, "How about a fire?" and it happened.  Then Fish had a couple of experiences where he couldn't get a good draw up the chimney and the room started to fill with smoke and it set off the smoke alarm.  That stressed him out, and then he didn't want to build fires anymore.  I would have to pester him and beg him, and when he wouldn't I would try Bean, but I couldn't get Bean to do it either.  

During a good chunk of the winter we didn't have many fires.  I would look wistfully at the fireplace as I rushed past on my way to my next essential task.  As spring approached, I thought, "Noooo!  I am not ready for fireplace season to end!  I didn't get enough!"  It finally clicked in my head that if there were going to be fires I would need to build them. 
 
We have had some spells of colder weather lately and I have been building fires with great relish.  I love to build a fire in the living room fireplace and then watch as people come and curl up with books.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing my family gathered around the fireside.  When they read aloud to each other, that's even better!  

AND THEN.... that upstairs fireplace!  Do you know how heavenly it is to lie in your nice cozy bed and watch the flickering flames?  Oh, the luxury!  

My sewing corner is next to the upstairs fireplace right now and I have discovered a new delight: sewing in front of a blazing fire.  Combine the deep sense of satisfaction of the creative process with the contentedness of sitting by the fireside and you have absolute bliss.  




These moments are rare and often cut short by twin mischief, but I enjoy what I can get.  

Mud

I love that we have been getting rain.  We sure have needed it!  However, the kids are a lot more thrilled about the resulting mud than I am.
 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Oklahoma Memories

Yesterday was a day full of deep feelings, deep thoughts, and poignant memories.  So many times when I have these experiences I want to write about them but because they are so big and so meaningful to me the prospect seems too daunting.  Like I won't do it right so I might as well not even try.  However, this time I am going to try.  This will jump around a bit and be very imperfect, so bear with me.  

 Bean, Fish, and I drove down to Oklahoma to attend the funeral of a son of a dear friend of mine.  I did not know him very well, but I knew my friend was in a lot of pain and I really wanted to be there for her.  

One thing I have learned about life is that it's always a good idea to go to funerals when you can. Something powerful happens when people gather together to remember, to share love, to share grief.  There are bonds that are created.  Precious wisdom is obtained.  

The funeral was a very tender experience.  We intended to slip quietly away afterwards and not try to insert ourselves into their family time, but they ended up pulling us in to their family circle and we spent quite a bit more time with them.  

One thing I want to remember... after the service and as the family was gathering in the gym for the meal, some of the extended family came together in a group and sang "The Lord Bless You and Keep You."  Apparently, singing that song at family gatherings is a family tradition for them.  I was really moved for many reasons.  I thought how beautiful it was that someone deliberately created a family culture where this song, sung in gorgeous harmony, was a unifying force for them, and how meaningful and healing that then became as they came together to sing it in their grief at the loss of one of their own.  

Bean and Fish are good friends with the younger sons of my friend (so, the younger brothers of the one who passed away) and what ended up happening was that Bean went with his friend to their house and I took Fish and his friend, along with a niece and another friend, up to the science museum.  Everyone thought this 12/13 year old crowd could use something fun after the emotions of the morning.  It was really enjoyable for me to take a group of comparatively autonomous adolescents on an outing.  I didn't have to constantly keep an eagle eye on them.  



For awhile at the science museum I was alone with Fish.  He took me around and showed me all his favorite places that he remembered from when he was a kid and we had a membership there.  He was particularly excited to sit in the cockpit of this F-16 simulator again because that was a thrill for him when he was little.  


I had no idea that he had loved that so much.  I had no idea how much the science museum had meant to him.  I was just looking for something fun and educational to do with my kiddos.  I didn't know what an impact it was having; in fact, it seemed like they really weren't paying that much attention.  It's funny how you don't find out these things until later.  

I am glad I have really prioritized seeking out fun learning experiences for the kids.  I will definitely continue to do so.  

We went back to our friends' home and I spent some time talking with my friend, looking at photographs and just listening to her remember.  It was really nice.  I think it helped her.  I hope it did.  

As we began our drive home, we decided to go drive by our old property.  We've been down to Oklahoma a couple of times since we moved to Kansas, but we have never gone by our old house until last night.  

I just remember when we left Oklahoma I kind of shut the door on it emotionally.  On one hand, I had enjoyed our time there.   On the other hand, I never felt like I belonged there, like I was truly From Oklahoma.  On one hand, when we left, I was extremely sad.  On the other hand, I was moving forward and I didn't want to look back.  I never expected to go back.  We were moving back out west where we belonged, and that part of our life was over.  

So I have all these mixed-up feelings whenever I am down there.  Like, it's all so familiar and yet so strange.    I feel nostalgia and yet not attachment.  Does this make any sense?

We drove into our old neighborhood and there was our pasture, our stable, our house.  Someone is taking extremely good care of that little property.  It is obvious they love it.  They have made the house look cute, with shutters on the windows and flower pots on the porch.  The lawn is neatly trimmed and everything is well-maintained.  They have a small pony and two llamas living in the pasture.  It just seemed so Right.  Like it was meant to be their home, whoever they are.  I felt so happy for them and for the house and land.  



Then we noticed something: our cat was sitting on their porch.  When we left, we couldn't take Little Miss White Socks.  But the new owners said they would be happy to have a cat, so we left her with the property.  That was another emotional door I shut.  I didn't want to think about what might happen, about whether or not they would love her and take care of her.  Well, they love her, and they are taking care of her.  She has now been their cat longer than she was ever ours.  We got out and went up to the porch.  I knocked, but no one was home.  While I was knocking, Fish spent a couple of minutes petting our sweet kitty.  It was a very tender moment.  

I guess maybe what I learned was that while I had decided in my head that Oklahoma was not a big part of who I was, my heart knew better.  Oklahoma is a big part of me.  Not just my friends I made there, but the land itself.  I am grateful for it.  

People matter.  Relationships matter.  Animals matter.  Places matter too.  There are connections there with all of these things-- invisible spiritual strings.  You can pretend they're not there, but they are.  And they influence you and make you who you are, whether you want them to or not.  

Someday we will understand the whys and the hows of all these connections.  Someday we will know the full meaning of the grief and the joy, the darkness and the light.  And we will marvel at the pattern.  




On the Trail

Here are photos from our hike.  I bet you've never seen this side of Kansas.  I sure hadn't.  I really want to go back in the fall.










Three in a Row


Twin Pictures

Okay, let's get caught up on pictures.  Here's some recent shots of the twins.

Matchy-matchy:


Twig as a leopard:


Leaf reading:


Twig reading:


Eating Twinkies at the park-- Twinkies kind of scare me, but my younger kids didn't even know what they were, so I bought an obligatory box.  They loved them.  (Here is a link to my post about Roo's first Twinkie.  Good memories!)


Sunday Afternoon Storm

I was taking a much-needed Sunday afternoon nap when I was awakened by a huge clap of thunder-- the kind that shakes the whole house.  The room was dim and full of the sound of rain pattering on the roof. 

The energy of these spring storms just thrills me. 

And how we need the rain!  Everything has been so dry.  I have not been able to work the soil much at all this spring because it was hard and dry.  My spring bulbs did not perform well. 

Things are going to green up and revive quickly now that the rains have started.  The forecast is looking great. 

Spring break is nearly over.  Of course, I did not get everything done.  But we did a lot.  Maybe, maybe I am ready to go back into the fray tomorrow.   Maybe, maybe I am pretty sick of this school year and just want it to be over already.  I will try to muster a positive attitude and continue moving forward with strength.  The end is in sight.  So many good things have happened this school year, both at Plumfield and here at home.  So many good things will happen in the next ten or so weeks if I will just carry on. 

The bathrooms have been deep cleaned this week, which they sorely needed.  I am really bad at keeping the bathrooms clean.  They probably won't have more than "essential surfaces quickly wiped down" before summer break.  Just keeping it real.  I don't know why I am so lousy at keeping up with the bathrooms at this stage of my life.  I have never really minded cleaning bathrooms, so it's not that I avoid it out of detestation.  I just... would rather do other things, I guess. 

I only got half the kids' clothes switched out.  With eight kids, that's a huge project twice a year.  Remember, I have tubs and tubs of off-size/off-season clothes in my garage.   I am trying to pare it down a bit.  I have a huge pile of clothes to bring to the upcoming Relief Society clothing exchange. 

I also went through my own closet and purged a bunch of stuff.   I am to a point in my life where I can acquire and keep clothes I really love and get rid of the rest. So I am slowly doing that.   It feels great.

Five cute little skirts have been cut out for five cute little girls and one has been mostly sewn together.  Four more to sew.  Because each one has 20 panels it takes a lot of time.  I have three more weeks until my Easter deadline.  I ought to be able to finish, right?

Thursday we went on a family outing.   We had heard about a hiking trail in southeast Kansas that was descibed as "rugged."  Knowing that Kansas is not typically rugged, we had to go check it out.  So we drove to Elk City Lake and started up the 15 mile hiking trail that goes along the north shore of the lake.  It did not disappoint.  It was rugged.  It did not look a bit like "Kansas."  We loved it.  We only made it a mile down the trail because of the twins, but we can't wait to go back. 

The wild redbud trees are in full bloom right now.  There were many of them along the trail.  What a treat to see. 

In the vicinity was the site of the book "Little House on the Prairie," so we were able to stop there too.  I took the kids there in 2008, so Bean and Fish remembered it, but for most of the family it was a new experience.   There's not a whole lot there, but if you're a fan of the books it's neat to see.  Peanut is a huge fan of the books.  I have been reading them aloud to her and she LOVES them.  That makes me so happy.   The older kids have loved them for years, but watching Peanut get so into them recently has been delightful. 

I didn't get many pictures because Leaf was running around being challenging (Twig was asleep in the car with Bean) and it was suuuuper windy.  The twins are a handful lately when we go places.  It's hard to manage them and I can't do it by myself.  They are good car travelers though, so I am grateful for that. 

The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining.  Later tonight there will be more storms.   I am looking forward to them. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Break So Far

I have such a long list of things I would like to do during spring break!  It's wonderful to have a chance to shift gears and do different things. 

We flew kites!  We haven't done that in years.  I have always loved flying kites.  Fish found a cheap R2D2 kite at Walmart last week and I had to buy it for him because I have had a crush on R2D2 since I was three.  The kite flew just great. 

We deep cleaned the toy closet!  Yay for organized toys!

I have also been helping the boys to deep clean their room.  They are very capable of doing a basic cleaning of their room and so I almost never need to bother with it, but every few months I need to supervise a very thorough cleaning and organizing. 

We have played outside a LOT and jumped jumped jumped on that trampoline.  Love love love the trampoline.

We drove across a good chunk of lovely Kansas farmland to visit my amazing friend for an afternoon.  Six of her seven children plus my eight made for quite a lively house.  The kids enjoyed sword fighting and playing games on the Wii and chasing the cat while my friend and I had a lovely visit. 

This afternoon I had another biopsy done on the abnormal growth on my thyroid gland.  I had one done in 2011 and the results were benign, so that is the expected outcome, but it needs to be kept an eye on.  I have not been very stressed or worried about the procedure this time.   However, the after effects have been uncomfortable.  I don't remember this from the last biopsy.   I remember not enjoying having a needle stuck repeatedly in my neck, but I don't remember being anywhere near this sore afterward.  The rest of today was shot... I have pretty much been in bed trying not to move.  I hope I feel better tomorrow because...that list, you know?  So much I want and need to do. 

I am so grateful for my older kids.  Fish made a delicious dinner and they all have helped me today.  "Oh, Mom, it's okay, stay in bed.  We will take care of things."  So even if I'm out of commission tomorrow as well I know they will take care of me. 

And maybe I need rest more than anything else on that list of mine. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Consistency

One thing that I have learned over the years is that when you're dealing with kids, consistency is key.  It doesn't really matter what job chart or reward system you use.  What matters is that you follow through with it consistently.  You can't just create a system or plan for them and expect them to keep up with it on their own.  You must be prepared to continually be the enforcer. 

My "family store" keeps getting fancier and fancier.  I just so loved the glass jars I had to buy more (they're only a couple bucks each at Hobby Lobby when they're on sale.)  And then I went to the local specialty candy store recently and stocked up on some seriously fun candy.  (Do you remember how when I started the family store I was trying not to have it be full of sugar?  Ha!  It's pretty much all candy now!)  Gummy sharks, chocolate coins, hand-selected flavors of salt water taffy, and POP ROCKS.  My kids adore Pop Rocks.  I adore Pop Rocks.  Admit it, you do too.



But it doesn't matter how awesome it is and how delicious the candy is.  It only works as a motivator when I am consistent about it.  If the kids know that I actually am going to open the family store fairly regularly (we shoot for Saturday mornings and most of the time we make it) then when I say "who wants a Badger Buck?" they come running to do my bidding.  But if I'm always too tired or too busy and the family store gets pushed back and back and back then they don't care anymore. 

And that's happened many times.  So we try again.  When I start being consistent about it again, I am always amazed and pleased at how well it works.  Even when the candy is running low and the choices aren't great, they are still eager participants.  It's all about consistency.  

March Onward

Here it is the middle of March already.  There is a lot going on around here.  I will tell you about some of the things we have been doing lately.   

I bought a year subscription to abcmouse.com for Peanut and Frog.  I have mixed feelings about these learning websites for little kids.  The boys did Starfall and the girls did Reading Eggs and I never felt like they really helped that much.  My kids somehow always managed to spend 80 percent of their time on the reward games or changing their avatar's hair and only a little bit of time actually doing the learning stuff.  However, I decided to give the world of online preschool learning another go.  I needed something to help Peanut review and solidify her letters and sounds... something that would help keep what I already was teaching her on her mind.  It is also useful to have something to keep Frog and Peanut busy and out of my hair while I work with the older girls.  Finally, it is a useful carrot: "once you finish this reading lesson with me you can be on abcmouse."  It is working great as a carrot and as a "keep them out of my hair" tool.  I don't know how much it's helping with the learning.  Peanut is doing better with her letters and sounds lately, but I can't tell if it's the website or just her maturing.  

Roo and Rabbit can't stop playing the piano.  They both are getting very comfortable with the notes on the staff, and so are finding that they can pick up and "read" so many books of music.  It's so fun for them right now they just want to play the piano all the time.  There's music in my home almost all day.  I love it, and it gets me to sit down and play more often myself.  I enjoy that.  I believe in the power of music.  I think it is an antidote to all this electronics addiction our kids (and us!) are experiencing.  

Meanwhile, the Rabbit has lost all motivation to do her school work.  I practically have to sit on her to get her to do anything.  She is going to be doing math into July.  Sigh. Maybe we just need a break.  We skipped our last break in favor of an earlier summer vacation, and then aligned our next break with Plumfield's spring break so we'd be out at the same time as the boys, which pushed it back two weeks.  So this coming break is long overdue and we're all desperately looking forward to it.  

Especially me.  My creative juices seem to rise up with the sap in early spring.  I need to Make Something.  I do not have time to Make Something.  But I Need to.  I bought fabric for another set of those cute skirts for my girls.  I am so glad that Roo doesn't think she is too old for them yet, but this may be the only time I make a set for all five of my girls.   It's been three years since I made the last set.  So this is important.  These skirts have been such a cherished part of their girlhoods.  

The line of fabric I chose for the skirts is "Poetry" by Moda.  Lovely, soft florals.  I love working with beautiful fabric.  It makes me so happy.  

I will try to get some pictures posted soon!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Clouds

Recently we enjoyed watching a magnificent display of storm clouds building above our front yard.  They were moving away from us, so there was no danger, just an absolutely spectacular show.  It included the moon, the pink tinge of sunset, rapidly expanding cumulonimbus clouds, and a bit of lightning.  I love stuff like this, and I love it that my kids love it too.









Thursday, March 9, 2017

Butter Bites

I am grateful for our fridge lock.  It works well at this stage to keep the twins out of the fridge.  Boy, do they love the fridge.  For awhile their favorite thing was to grab the bottles in the door and carry them off and mess with them.

But lately, they have another passion: butter cubes.  They know where to find them, how to unwrap them, and that they are delicious.  If anyone leaves the fridge unlatched, I am certain to find one or more gnawed sticks of butter lying around.  It happened five times this last week.  I have to admit, those little teeth marks make me giggle.