Between vacation, getting back from vacation, and having a majorly unpleasant cold sweep through the family, blogging hasn't happened. I think that this is the longest stretch I've gone in years without posting something. It feels odd. I'll if I can't get back on my game. Let's see if I can catch you up on what has been going on.
We have a new licensed driver in the house. TM got his driver's license yesterday, much to his great joy. Today, he drove Aster to the dog park and drove himself to work.
TM also learned that he was awarded Employee of the Month at work this month. I'm pretty proud of him.
It is hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. I do not like super hot weather. I will be glad when it goes away, though it doesn't look as though that will be any time soon. (I do not like super cold weather, either, but you can at least put on another layer for that.)
Did I tell you that M. was officially accepted into the competitive Veterinary Technician program for the fall? Even better, the classes are at night so M. can keep working at the animal shelter clinic during the day.
My garden this year is a disaster. I'm not even going to show you pictures. With all the rain that we had, the weeds are totally out of control and I cannot keep up. I'm crying, "Uncle!" and seeing what I end up with, but am making significant changes for weed control next year.
So remember the hot tub? How we were going to get rid of it, but M. decided that we could transform it into a pond? Remember how for the past year it's looked as though a hot tub fell to the earth and landed in my yard? Well, take a look!
First M. lined it, so it looked significantly more pond-like and less hot tub-like. Today, M. added some gravel and soil in preparation for some major landscaping.
As you can see, the ducks think that this is the single best improvement in their accommodations. ever. The ducks were rather dirty when they jumped in, so muddied the water quite a bit. This will be a test of the pump and filter system. Pre-duck, the water was completely clear. We'll see what it looks like in the morning. The filter is that green Menards bucket there in the corner. It will have landscaping to disguise it.
Want to see some happy ducks? Look at this.
Happy Ducks - YouTube
Since we're on the topic of ducks, they are causing some problems. Due to the sinking of the ground level in the pen, due to all that rain, the ducks can now get under the coop. Which they do. Far, far under. Where they lay eggs we cannot reach. This is all complicated by the fact that one of the ducks has gone broody and spends much time sitting on a nest... under the coop... where we cannot reach her. We have no drake, so there will be no ducklings, but while she is hiding under there, we cannot block up the entrance.
Do you see that opening there next to the ramp into the coop? That's where they are going in.
We're also trying to do something about the sinkhole which is the pen. The massive amounts of rain have created a mud bog that is still not dry. It does not smell nice, either. This is the view of it after having dumped six bags of gravel into it. The contents of the first few bags sank without a trace. We need at least as many more.
Aster turned one year old this past week and Kenzie turned seven.
D. has started reading the Inspector Gamache books and is hooked.
D. is also working on registering for some college classes which J. works for the fall.
I have been spending my time going to the grocery store this weekend. There is an amazing deal on $0.99/pound pork loin for the weekend. I've been stocking the freezer. I also don't want to look like a crazy hoarder, so go and buy 6-9 pork loins, come home and go back the next day. They also had $0.89/each cantaloupes and honeydews. I've bought quite a few, but there is not an easy way to preserve them, so I have been more restrained.
And now that I am reduced to talking about grocery shopping, that must mean that it's time to close. I promise to do my very best to be a better blogger.
We are in the middle of our vacation at J.'s aunt's and uncle's beach house up in Michigan. We have adult children tag teaming to get both time up here and to make sure the animals at home are taken care of. (Can I just say how wonderful it is to have such responsible adult children? They are all terrific.) It has been a great few days so far with perfect beach weather. We have swam, paddled kayaks, played games, read, done puzzles, napped, eaten lots of good food (J. grilled an amazing tasting turkey the other day), walked on the beach, eaten ice cream, and generally relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. I'm not sure how many pictures have been taken. I know I haven't taken any, but I think TM has. We've just been too busy enjoying ourselves to worry about that. I also haven't blogged if you hadn't noticed. I haven't really thought about that either. In fact, this is the first time I've pulled the laptop out since we got up here. Here are some brief thoughts from the past few days.
I've now read three of the books I brought up with me, and am sort of stuck with the huge non-fiction book I threw in. It's not quite what you would call beach reading, so I don't know what I was thinking. I should always just stick with light fiction for a vacation.
I'm not sure we would have made it out of the house without significant help from children. A. and Y. helped make sure everyone got packed, D. made bread and granola to take along, and TM and D. collected all the food and packed it up for me. Even with all that help, I still had to bring the bills along to pay up here because there was no time to do it before we left.
Kenzie stayed at home. He came with us last time, but he is a little nervous by nature and never really relaxed and enjoyed himself. (Unlike Gretel who loved being at the lake.) He will be much happier at home where everything is as it should be and at least some of his people are around. Plus, he is an excellent guard dog for those people who are still at home.
Aster came with us. She was a little nervous at first, but has settled in and has had fun.
The younger people have spent long periods of time using the walkie-talkies here as they roam about the house and the woods.
We spent today picking up immense amounts of garbage from the beach. Please, people, throw stuff away appropriately. And fireworks leave tons of garbage behind. Just fyi.
We have stopped looking at clocks and as a result our meals have become later and later, starting with late breakfasts from sleeping in, followed by late lunches after the beach, thus making dinner correspondingly late, even for us. It's a hard life, but we are managing.
I was excited to find an Aldi up here, because otherwise most of the grocery stores have resort area prices.
I'm still keeping an eye on the FB groups I help moderate. I really, really wish that social workers would do a better job of preparing families for adoption. We should not be fielding panicked pleas for help from parents who are not prepared for what older child adoption looks like. It makes me more than a little irate, and not at the panicked parents, though a little thoughtful common sense could go a long way.
We were able to see fireworks from the beach. It was perfect. No sound for the more sound sensitive among us, and not crowds or parking to deal with.
R. has (so far) managed this vacation quite well. I think because we've been here before it is familiar enough that it doesn't trigger her anxiety.
R. also really loves the kayak. J. has taken her out several times. What she doesn't love is when, because she doesn't have a good sense of balance or self-preservation, the kayak tips farther than J. can correct for and everyone goes under the water for a moment. We'll see if she gets back in for another ride after that little adventure.
We think Y. might start to grow gills. She adores the water and spends as much time as possible in it. She also loves the kayak and does amazingly well at it. We realize it is one of those activities that doesn't require the use of her legs and the playing field is level for her.
K. has become quite the paddle boarder. He has grown so much that the other day, when I came down to the beach and saw him on it, I at first thought that it was TM.
And now, since I can't think of anything else to write and I am tired, I'll end here. I'm pretty sure I will be going back to total vacation mode, so you may not hear anything more until later in the week. Who knows? I'm taking a total break from making any sorts of plans right now.
This is Midnight, Hemingway, and Nefertiti this morning. Usually these three don't have all that much to do with each other. Well, at least Nefertiti doesn't have much to do with any of the other cats. But there was a chipmunk outside the window. Oh, how these three wanted that chipmunk. It would run back and forth, up and down the sidewalk, and the cats' heads would move back and forth as if they were watching a slow motion tennis match. Eventually, the chipmunk stopped running and the cats went back to their mutual ignoring of one another.
Remember when I was moaning about how cold it was in the dead of winter? When I couldn't fathom every being warm again? Remember when I moaned about the very cold and wet spring we had when there was no decent weather to just sit outside and read? We've had a couple of nice days between then and now, but...
Now it seems as though the weather has decided it is necessary to go the other direction. We are in the middle of a string of 90+ days and it is uncomfortable. The humidity is high and the sun is hot. There's nothing like living in a place that has a 130 degree difference. Especially when my preferred temperature range, and the one where I'm most comfortable and happy is between 68 and 78 degrees. We haven't been there much this year.
Despite the uncomfortable temperatures, J. has been sweating it out in the barn finishing the stalls. He is so close to being done. I'll show you the in progress pictures and then tell you what still needs to be done.
This is Emmy's stall here on the right which is all done.
Here are the other two next door. J. still needs to finish the wall between them, finish some framing, put up the plywood which will line them, and hang the stall gates. The hard part of figuring out how to make them work has been done, though.
Inside Emmy's stall. You can see that the pallets which provide the structure are lined with heavy plywood.
Currently we are leaving the pallets on the outside of the stalls. They are handy for hanging things, but I'm still undecided as to if I like the way it looks.
Up above the plywood boards, J. is going to put some sheets of wire mesh between the stalls. This way horses can see each other, but can't reach into the other stall. Because there is no horse next door right now, we have put off putting it up.
Excuse the lighting. Here is Emmy coming into her stall to see what I'm doing. She loves being able to go in and out at will. I generally keep her Dutch door all the way open to her dry lot.
Let's see if I can remember everything I was going to share with you.
TM is back safe and sound from Ecuador. He had a great experience and took some amazing pictures (of course). Here are a few of them. The cathedral in Quito
Which they climbed up and up
to the top.
He also got to walk on the equator.
Aster was extremely happy to see him when he got home. She was a good dog while he was gone, but she missed her boy.
I realize I never shared D.'s birthday photos.
And speaking of D., a friend sent this the other day. This is D. in the middle surrounded by a H-S family child an M. family child.
Last weekend some of us took a walk around the forest preserve. The trouble is, because of our less than ideal weather, the hay field between it and our house is still waiting to be mowed. It made the walking a little challenging for Y., but she did it. That was about the equivalent of months' worth of therapy there, having to lift her feet up and over the grass for the entire field.
R. continues to struggle, particularly at night or in the too-early morning (ie 4am). It means her parents struggle, too. Some days it feels a little hopeless as communication can be challenging.
Rosebud, the new barn cat was able to be let out of her crate today, since she had spent the required amount of time acclimating her to her new home. She did some exploring, let various children scratch her on the head, went off to explore further afield, and was then back looking for her dinner. Diesel is still in confinement.
We finally succumbed to the heat and turned on the air-conditioning. Olive thought we didn't do it soon enough.
H. and L. have finished their reading game cards. The week for the collection of the first prizes isn't until mid-July. I'm thinking the library's reading game method is not terribly challenging for some of my children.
I have dug out the dozens of letters from my great-grandmother and great-grandfather to my grandmother. I am slowly transcribing them so we have readable, digital versions. It is fascinating and I may be a little obsessed by them. They are from the years between 1923 and 1954.
K. is off with the junior high youth group this weekend for a summer retreat. He was very excited to be able to go, and at least one of his buddies was going as well. But it also reminded me that once a child has experienced extreme hunger, it changes them forever. Before he left, he was with me on some errands, and he quizzed me on what meals he was going to eat and who would be providing them. He has a real need to know that future meals are planned for. It kind of breaks my heart.
G. continues to be a reliable barn helper and is up every morning, waiting to go to the barn with me.
I finally looked up Emmy's foaling date on her registry papers. It turns out she shares a birthday with Olive. We'll have to make a bigger to-do out of it next year. Maybe they can both wear party hats.
When your oldest child owns a ball python and also happens to live at home for the time being, it means that sometimes you go into your utility room and discover a frozen mouse thawing in your utility sink.
And now I'm about to fall asleep on the keyboard, so I'll end here. Happy weekend everyone!
Our van's air conditioning is out. Again. It's become an annual event to turn on the air on the first hot day after winter only to discover that the small leak in the coolant system that cannot be located has done it's work again over the summer and emptied the system. Because some of us will be driving up to Michigan next week, it seemed kind of important to recharge the system so the poor children stuck in the back of the van didn't expire before we arrived. This required the logistics of figuring out when we could be without the van, when the shop had an opening, and how it all would work.
Our local dealer is incredibly nice and found a way to squeeze up in. M. is home so we have access to a second car. The van is now in the shop to have its ability to cool restored. (I truly cannot tell you how happy this makes me.) As J. and I were driving home after I picked him up from having dropped off the van, he mentioned that he feels as though we will use this place forever for the sole reason that the staff remember his name when he walks in.
It is a powerful thing to be known and it happens so very infrequently these days, particularly if you live in a larger city. There is something so very dehumanizing about being just part of the mass of people who pass through somewhere.
I had my own experience with this a couple of years ago in the very beginning of our move. We had attended our church for a few months and I had signed up for the weekly women's Bible study, both because this is something I enjoy and because it felt like a good way to get to know people. I was a little nervous as I walked in because having to interact with a group of people you don't know is always a challenge if you are as introverted as I am. I walk in the main doors of the church building and the women who are in charge of the women's Bible study see me, smile, and say, "Welcome, Elizabeth!" I was blown away. I knew who they were because I had seen them before, but I'm not sure I could have dredged their names up from the recesses of my memory. I think I had interacted with each of them once before. It was exactly what I needed and immediately made me feel more comfortable. It was powerful.
I think this is why this move has been challenging on a certain level. We moved from a place where I had lived for over thirty years. It didn't happen everywhere, but in the places I frequented, I was known. This was particularly true at the library where we had gotten to know some of the librarians well enough that we had had them over for dinner. (I'm still working on being known at my new library. It seems to be a tough nut to crack in that respect. And it's not as though we are not in there all the time.) I was talking about this with M., and in the course of our discussion I realized that there was another, more powerful piece about missing being known. I realized that not only was I known in our old community, but I was known in the context of my mother-in-law as well. So many people knew her, and often, for a very long time, people would see or hear my last name and ask if I was her daughter. (We looked a little bit similar.) This would happen even after she had passed away, and I realized in talking about this, that it was a small way that kept her memory alive for me. For the last few years we lived in our old house, this happened less and less frequently. I think it was one reason I felt emotionally able to move.
But now, I have the long hard work of becoming known in a whole new community, and this one completely detached from past history and loved ones. It makes the feelings of being anonymous a little more poignant. With all this in mind, when someone does recognize me or use my name, it becomes a big deal.
I am preaching to the choir here, because remembering people's names is incredibly challenging for me. I would be thrilled if we all walked around with name tags because seeing a person's name in print makes it much easier for me to remember it. But, make an effort to remember and use someone's name, particularly if you run a business or are part of an organization which welcomes new members. It is a powerful way to connect with that person and make them feel valuable and known. And couldn't we all use that as we go about our day?
We are heading to the beach next week, and it suddenly entered my awareness that I had two girls who were in desperate need of sandals, swimming suits, and some more summer clothing. I took advantage of a free afternoon to go do some shopping. (Not my favorite thing!)
What started out as just a recognizance trip turned into a full blown shopping trip once I made the choice to buy a lot, take it home and have them try it on, and then return anything that might not work. This is not how I usually function, but it suddenly seemed easier than going back, collecting the girls, and having them try things on in the store.
So for ~$200, I brought home, two pairs of sandals, three (new, not thrifted) swimming suits, 6 or more pairs of shorts, ~8 t-shirts, and 2 summer dresses. Nearly everything will work, but I'll be taking back 5 or 6 items that didn't fit. It will probably drop my total bill down to $170. If I do that math, it averages out to $9 an item, though the shoes and new swimming suits are certainly skewing the average.
I have lost all perspective on buying clothes for children because, believe it or not, I don't do it that often. I do a lot of hand-me-downs and garage sales. I try not to buy huge batches at a time because I don't like big totals, so this feels a little high to me, though I realize I bought a lot.
So tell me, how much do you spend on children's clothes? I'm really curious, because I truly don't know what's considered usual. Also, how often do you buy your children clothes? Obviously, I tend to put it off until I'm embarrassed to be seen in public with them or they don't actually have anything to wear. There is probably a happier middle ground in there somewhere.
Regardless, four people now have some new additions to their wardrobes and two girls in particular will find it much easier to get dressed in the morning.
Other than realizing that the world is going to hell in a hand basket in more ways than one, the book was also fascinating because it shares how much we do not know about how trees work. It seems they are so much more complex and interesting and weird than we ever expected, as well as being able to do so much to heal our very broken planet. Truly, it made me want to run out and buy trees to plant in our yard.
Now you may think that the healing that trees can do is pretty much ecological, and you would be correct, but it seems that trees and growing things and green spaces also heal on a different level as well. Take, for instance, this example,
"Kuo and her colleagues [Dr. Frances Kuo with others at University of Illinois] have also studied the effects of green space on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In one case they looked at the ability of children to concentrate before and after a walk in the woods, and before and after a walk through urban Chicago. The kids, scored by people who did not know where they had been, were substantially better able to concentrate after a walk in the woods. Another study found girls in a housing project with a view of trees had better self-discipline - they could concentrate better, inhibit impulsive behaviors, and delay gratification, which meant better grades and better life decisions.
Researchers in Europe and Japan and in other parts of the United States have made similar findings. In a very large study, of 340,000 people, Dutch scientists found the amount and proximity of green space to a person's home was a reliable predictor for generally improved mental and physical health. People who live within a kilometer of 10 percent green space had anxiety disorders at a rate of 26 per thousand, for example, while for those living within a kilometer of 90 percent green space, the rate of anxiety disorders was 18 per thousand. Depression rates were similarly reduced. Green spaces, the researchers wrote, create a halo of health around them." (pp. 56-57)
I believe we were created to be outside amidst growing things. We were created to be in nature, to live in it, walk in it, appreciate it. When we divorce ourselves from the natural world, there are steep consequences. And like so many other things, the effects of this on children are even greater than in adults. Children spend so much more time holed up inside buildings, often staring at screens, than they used to. They need to play, and they need to play outside. They need to explore, climb, get dirty, look at bugs, play in water, make forts, and just sit quietly. This is more than the organized soccer practice or softball game. Not that those things can't also be good, but it is the free time, the self-directed time that is truly vital.
So go outside. Wonder at the amazing world God has created. Weep that we haven't taken better care of it. And plant a tree or ten or twenty. _______________ After a fairly long hiatus, I am back to writing to Adoption.com. My most recent article is published. Please read and share to your heart's content. Adopting as an Older Couple
Today is the two year anniversary of us being in this house.
When we first moved and I talked to people about surviving major moves, they all said that it took about two years to really feel as though they were settling in. This was hard to hear. When we first moved, I was desperate to create the kind of support system and comfort level that we had left. Why I thought that I could create in one year what took over thirty to build is beyond me, but that didn't stop me from trying. I didn't want to wait two years until I began to feel comfortable.
Yet that is what I had to do. I can tell you it is with some great relief that I say we have reached the two year mark. The second year in a new place had it's challenges, but it increasingly felt better. I know people now... and I often even remember their names! We have met more neighbors, we have met more people at church, I am starting to sort out the social aspect of our homeschooling, and everything just feels less new. I don't get lost anymore or turn the wrong way on a street because I have forgotten how to get somewhere. I have some piano students. I still turn the wrong way, but that is because I am on auto pilot and not thinking about where I am going. Even that, the ability to have an auto pilot, is new in the past six months. Life is just less work because there is more that is automatic.
The first year I spent in a sort of frenzy, feeling as though I had to do everything right away. It was exhausting. This year, I have perhaps gone the other direction, but the weather has also been rotten for doing much gardening. Because of the continued wet weather, everything is terribly overgrown. J. and I was just talking about what to do in the fall to try to contain some of the crazy next year as far as the yard is concerned. We'll do what we can this year, but I'm not going to make myself crazy. Looking back at my post from a year ago, there is much on my list from things I wanted to do that still hasn't been accomplished. The cast iron sink is still not in. The kitchen is partially painted, but we still have a ways to go. There is no screened porch in back, and there probably won't be for quite some time, since we need to put in a French drain first.
That isn't to say we didn't do some major upgrades. The biggest being the building of the barn and the fencing of the pastures. This was huge, both in emotional commitment and money. I think my laissez faire attitude towards the yard at the moment is because it looked so absolutely dreadful at the end of the very wet spring from all the construction that I kind of despaired that it would ever look okay. Now, with the wet summer, the grass has grown back and the horrible scars in the yard are nicely covered over. And with the building of the barn came the ownership of a horse. Something I had dreamed about for forty years, and which is a pretty big deal.
There were also a few other accomplishments... the iron filter for the water system. It was lovely to not have everything come out orange from the iron heavy water, and was not a small expense. The new gravel on the driveway was also a major, yet needed, expense. There was great rejoicing when people could park and get back out without getting stuck in the mud.
More animals, besides the horse, joined the circus. We added one husky, two inside cats, two barn cats, six ducks, and two geese. We feel pretty full up, though once J. finishes them, there will be two empty stalls that I am doing my darndest to fill.
It's been a good year and we feel content here. There are people we miss seeing often from our own home, but that is about it. We like it here. We like the space and the trees and the animals. J. likes his job where he is appreciated and doing well. I like being involved in equine therapy to the extent I want to do more and get certified. We spend more time thinking about who we can invite over to get to know better than thinking about who we can convince to come out and visit us. (Though we would still very much like that, too.)
We are glad we are here. God knew what He was doing and has brought us to a good and restful place. We are all emotionally in much better places than when we made that crazy car ride out two years ago. Soli Deo Gloria