Fall Festival

The kids and I went to a nearby town’s fall festival and they rode their first Ferris Wheel. I think Annie’s expression says it all; they approved. The view from the top was actually quite beautiful; carnival lights below us, the town full of fall colors, the river, and the woods beyond.

My mom graciously joined us since The Man had to work and taking four small kids, one with sensory issues, into a loud, crowded, and visually stimulating environment is a potentially volatile combination. With her help everyone had fun, nobody got lost, and we got home in time for dinner and bed.

One of the things we’ve learned while parenting children with special needs is to set and reiterate expectations: “We’re going on one ride, getting one treat, looking at the displays, and going home.” We do our simple list and quit while we’re ahead. Our outing doesn’t have to look like another family’s outing and it’s okay to just sample a few things and leave. It’s something I wish I’d heard in our earliest days of parenting, both as special needs parents and parents of young kids: leaving early does not mean the outing was a failure!

If one ride is fun it’s tempting to do a whole slew of them, especially if the kids are begging. However, as the parent, I know my kid simply could not cope with the resulting sensory overload. Mom treated us all to funnel cakes (wow…I don’t think I’ve had one of those sugar-loaded concoctions since she treated me to one at a fair as a child!). Rather than sitting at the closest table surrounded by music, crowds, and flashing carnival lights we walked across the street to a quiet ledge in a parking lot to manage sensory input. Rather than trying to see all the fall displays and booths with the crowds we walked around the perimeter of the event. When one child started crying when she didn’t get her way I was able to recognize she was overwhelmed not defiant and popped her into the stroller to retreat even though she was “too big.” In the past I might have tried to milk an event for all it was worth: We’re here! We need to do everything! Push through, pull it together! We need to walk to all the locations! Collect all the free handouts! Look, they’re giving away pumpkins! We can make a scarecrow! In reality we are all so much happier when we do just enough. It makes it possible for a kid with special needs to still enjoy a big event, and we don’t have to put up with a whole evening’s meltdowns from over-tired children. They came home with happy memories and sparkling eyes chattering about the Ferris Wheel and everything they want to do next year.

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Day in the Life

I’m always glad when I scroll back through my posts and drafts and find old Day-in-the-Life notes. A day was so different with infant twins and a husband worked long hours in the Army, with four kids two and under, and now with two kindergartners and two preschoolers. Those snapshots in time have turned into unexpected treasures for our family, although probably boring to others! There’s no such thing as a typical day here; the Man works an irregular schedule, some days are for errands, some for school, and on some days we have appointments or therapy. This, though, is one day in our life right now.

5:30 The alarm goes off. I like to be up well before the kids. This introvert has a much better day when it starts with some quiet time before my crew spills down the stairs. The Man is sick but thankfully doesn’t have a shift today so I get up quietly, dress in the dark, then head downstairs to make myself half a bagel and tea. I start to lay out the kids’ breakfast at the same time.

5:40 Sit down at the table with my breakfast (or half of it – I’m saving room to eat a bit more with the kids). I start with Bible (Psalms, right now), then catch up on Facebook, email, and my blog feed. I realize it’s September 11th when I see someone else’s post. Seventeen years later and shock still lingers at the edges for most of us. I don’t know anyone in this country who can’t remember where they were when they heard the news, and almost all of us know someone who escaped that day, or someone who died, or someone who lost or nearly lost a relative or friend. It changed my husband’s life (he joined the Army in the middle of med school) and mine, as well as our nation’s course, for better and for worse. There’s also lots of news in my feed from friends in the Carolinas preparing for Hurricane Florence. After catching up on internet news I read my current book (Dinner, a Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach), preheat the oven for breakfast, meal plan, and place our Walmart grocery order.

6:45 Mix up a baked German pancake and pop it in the oven.

6:50 Get kids up, help them potty, wipe down, lotion, dress (we lay out clothes the night before), and brush teeth. Jack is pretty independent (albeit reluctantly so) about getting himself ready, the others all still need a lot of help.

7:10 The Man is up, though sniffly and tired from poor sleep. He takes over the last of the kid prep while I finish making breakfast and put the dining room to rights after last night’s cleaning. I print a picture for Annie to share with her driver, pack the last cold items for her lunch, and do a final backpack check.

7:25 Kids are in chairs at the table for a breakfast of apples, German puffed pancakes, and milk. They listen to the Same Page podcast for Shakespeare, poetry, scripture, and presidential facts, then listen to the first half of the Wizard of Oz, Chapter 10, from the same podcast. I sit with them to eat a slice of pancake. Carl reads Genesis 3. One child heads to timeout for relentless interrupting. I unload and load the dishwasher then read a picture book to Annie, who is done with breakfast before the others, and put on respectable clothes (see “dressed in the dark” above) to take her out to the bus.

8:00 Out the door to wait for the bus. Annie rides her bike for a few minutes. The bus is early.

8:05 Text a neighbor to see if she and her kids are free to play this morning. They’re busy. Respond to a teacher’s email. Meanwhile the Man clears the dishes, tidies the kitchen and dining room, and sits down to read a stack of picture books with Jenny and Josie.

8:20 I do a reading lesson with Jack. Could’ve taken 10 minutes, takes 22 due to bouncing, sulking, and a tantrum 🙄. I release him for a couple minutes then call him back for:

8:47 Right Start Math. Jack does two lessons with me. The Man is still reading a stack of picture books to the little two, then switches them over to Magnatiles. Schoolwork is so much easier when there’s another adult in the house for crowd control! If he’s not around I put the little two in the sunroom with blocks or trains.

9:17 Little ones playing with Magnatiles. Jack joins them and I free the sneezy Man from kid duty to go rest again. I pull out art supplies and a book and prep the kitchen table for painting with a wipeable plastic table cloth.

9:30 I call the kids to the kitchen for a book and painting. This activity comes from A Year of Playing Skillfully. We read He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, illustrated by the fabulous Kadir Nelson. Then the kids make their own “worlds” by using pipettes and dripping blue and green liquid watercolors onto coffee filters. The kids love it. I’m not much of an arts and crafts mom but my kids adore painting and creating so I appreciate that AYOPS provides a steady supply of great process-oriented art projects for our kids. After painting the coffee filters they switched to paper towels and had fun watching the paint absorption patterns. Jack has been in a bad mood all morning, but as I’d hoped working with his hands settles him and snaps him out of it, as it usually does.

That child on the end isn’t smiling, she’s tantrumming because she can’t get her dropper to suck up paint. Thankfully, big brother to the rescue:

10:00 The kids wrap up painting. I help them scrub up and change out of painting clothes, then wipe down the table and put away the painting things. As the kids hit the restroom and put on shoes I clear the fridge a bit for groceries and grab a quick piece of cheese for each kid.

10:25 We’re on the road for the park a bit later than I’d like. The Man woke up from his nap right before we left and agreed to finish clearing the fridge and make lunch for everyone while we’re out. As we drive the kids listen to Mozart and I listen to my current audiobook, Just Open the Door. It’s so-so – some good ideas on hospitality, but with a “hey, girlfriend!” tone that is not my cup of tea. The statistics are what strike me most. A full 1/3 of all Americans don’t know their neighbors at all. About half of all American children eat fast food for at least one meal a day. Most American families only sit down to a meal together once every five days. It’s so foreign to the way I grew up and the way we run our family. [For really thought-provoking writing on hospitality I prefer Rosaria Butterfield’s The Gospel Comes with a House Key, read earlier this summer. Butterfield is definitely stronger with narrative than with explanatory/connecting sections but there’s a lot of meaty food for thought in her book.]

10:45 Park. I run into a lady I know casually. There’s the usual assortment of young moms with preschoolers and babies, one in snow boots because his mother has wisely chosen to pick her battles, 75 degrees or not.

11:04 The grocery order is ready. We leave the park to pick it up. More reading time via audiobook for me.

11:11 Arrive at the grocery store, wait for our order to be brought out.

11:18 Done and on our way with a week’s groceries in the trunk. Hooray for online grocery shopping! There’s no fee and I find I save money because I don’t make impulse buys as I walk through the store. The drive home is beautiful – blue sky, golden-brown corn and soybeans, and early fall colors on the trees.

11:30 Home. The man and I unload and put away groceries with varying degrees of “help” from the kids.

The Man sits down to eat lunch with the kids while I keep going to get all the food unpacked and put away. Once they’re done with lunch the kids go down for naps just in time for me to…

12:16 …Step out to pick tomatoes and wait for the bus. I say hi to the driver, spend a few minutes with Annie, then leave her to ride her bike on the driveway for a bit before nap. We’ve found the transition home goes much more smoothly when she has a few minutes exercising outdoors before coming in. I step inside to put some soup in the freezer and unpack Annie’s backpack. The Man heads up for another nap himself, feeling no better. I bring Annie in to wash her hands and get ready for nap, then read her a book (Ox Cart Man). Annie goes to her room for quiet time with a stack of books and a box of wooden trains.

12:40 Everyone in bed at last! I slip down to the kitchen to make my daily hot cocoa. Jack pops out of his room. I return Jack and sit down at the table with a book. Annie pops out of her room. I return Annie and sit down at the table. Jack pops out. Annie pops out. Finally, all children are back in their designated quiet time spaces and peace reigns. I sit down (again) with cocoa and Dinner, a Love Story, check the internet (still there…), and update this log.

1:40 Prep dinner and collect library books to return.

2:05 Kids still napping except Annie who is loudly singing in her room but playing independently, so good enough. I hand off the last bit of veggie chopping to the Man and head to the library to drop off books and pick up our holds. One the way home I pull through two grocery stores hunting for an elusive ingredient. No luck.

3:05 Home. Wake any still sleeping kids and help them with toilet, socks, and shoes. The Man buckles everyone up as I quickly whip up a pie crust and put it in the fridge to chill.

3:30 We hand the kids their afternoon snacks and waters in the car and pull out for a family hike. On the trail there are early fall colors, lots of races, rocks thrown in the creek, near misses with poison ivy, and a peaceful trek back to the car.

4:45 Home. I go in to get dinner in the oven (thank goodness we prepped in advance!) and assemble an apple pie with apples from our orchard trip the day before. The Man supervises the kids while they bike on the driveway.  I enjoy listening to a podcast while I cook and work on dishes. The Man brings the kids in and changes them into pajamas as I cook since dinner will be later than normal.

5:30 Dinner. It’s Arroz con Pollo from Dinner, A Love Story. I increased the quantities so we’d have enough for two nights. The Man and I plus two kids like it. One more kid tolerates it, and the fourth resists but eats politely enough when reminded there’s fresh apple pie for dessert so it’s a net winner on the family dinners front.

6:00 Dinner is done. We hand off back and forth with wiping up kids, brushing their teeth, doing dishes, and packing up food. One twin is assigned to wipe the table and chairs with the little two while the other twin vacuums the dining room. They’ve gotten a lot better at it over the summer! I check last minute to see if my parents can drive over for pie but they’re busy. The kids are getting antsy as warm buttery cinnamon smells waft out of the oven. The Man reads the kids some bedtime stories early since the pie is still finishing in the oven: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World and The Apple Pie that Papa BakedBoth are fall favorites around here.

6:40 Pie! And vanilla ice cream! And paper plates because Mommy and Daddy are tired of dishes!

7:10 We clear dessert dishes. The Man takes the little two up for bed while I pack lunches for the next day. In addition to Annie’s regular school it’s co-school day for the other three. I start reading picture books to the twins.

7:35 I run out to drop off unused extra diapers at a donation drop in the next town because the Man feels too sick and tired to drive. The Man takes over story and hymn time for the twins.

8:03 Home, help put the twins down for bed. The Man and I finish packing school lunches, changes of clothes, etc. as well as doing final tidying around the house.

8:30 I join the Man at the table with a cup of tea and a book. We both read a bit and chat about the next day’s plans, then he keeps reading and I fill out paperwork for Lucy’s school.

9:00 I check that doors and windows are locked and close down the kitchen. We get ready for bed a bit earlier than usual since we’ll need to make an early start to get everyone out the door for school in the morning. We read a bit. The Man checks kids one last time before lights out at 9:40. 

(Third) First Day of School

After sending Annie off to kindergarten two weeks ago and getting back to homeschool work last week we had our last first day of school this fall earlier this week. Jack, Jenny, and Josie headed off to a Charlotte Mason cottage school. Their classes meet once a week. Jack’s class has a full range of subjects, while the little two have a low-key preschool class with lots of play, stories, and time in nature. Afterwards everyone gathers for lunch and recess. There’s no homework but they do send home the schedule and suggested readings (modified from the Alveary curriculum) so that you can build a full Charlotte Mason home curriculum around the program if you like. I was impressed with the books, the teachers, and the kids, and appreciated how orderly and timely everything was – not always the case when homeschoolers gather!

We were also pleasantly surprised by the school’s diversity. When I was growing up most local homeschool groups were 98% white (actually, those were the diverse ones 😉). This tiny school has a significant proportion of African American and Hispanic students as well as an African American teacher. In addition, this school is doing a good job of modifying the set curriculum to offer a more diverse and global perspective versus a narrowly white perspective. While we appreciate the benefits of homeschooling, classical education, and Charlotte Mason, many  classically-oriented curriculums focus almost 100% on white authors and individuals, particularly those curriculums that insist on only using books Miss Mason would have used. When they do give a nod to diversity it’s only in connection to slavery or the Civil Rights era. What a loss! What kind of “feast” are we spreading for our kids when we only ever serve “food” from one place or category? I think it’s possible (critical, really) to embrace the richness of European cultural heritage while ALSO embracing the richness the rest of the world has to offer. Likewise, it’s important to teach our kids that not only white Europeans or North Americans (or Australians, or colonizers, or what have you) have contributed to their countries.

For example, two commonly recommended books for lower elementary students in Charlotte Mason curriculums are Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin and Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Edward Eggleston. To be honest, I’m not sure I would’ve thought twice about them before adopting African American kids. They’re similar to curriculum books from my childhood. The stories are well told and offer rich ideas for young children. As books, there’s nothing especially wrong with them at first glance. I’m all for reading classics, while occasionally verbally editing the author’s tone or antiquated viewpoints for my kids. Even now, I’ll happily read most of those stories to my children. However, used in isolation or read only with like books, they offer a painfully narrow view of the world. Out of fifty stories, only two specifically referred to non-European characters (Genghis Khan and a “lazy king of the East”, while two more were not specific to any nation). Likewise in Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans mention is made of Native Americans but every hero is white (and almost every hero is male, but that’s another issue…). When we think we’re teaching history, we’re also teaching viewpoints. In this case, that only white Americans have been “great Americans.” Used exclusively such books build a myopic view of history and the world. At worst, they implicitly teach white supremacy and racism, quite often without parents’ awareness. I grew up with similar books and until embarrassingly late I thought we didn’t learn about, for example, Africa or Southeast Asia because nothing important had happened there. I thought that everything that “mattered” had occurred in the Middle East or Europe (plus gunpowder and paper from China) because that’s all my books discussed. I want my kids, black and white, to grow up with classic stories of Washington or Audubon or King Arthur or Socrates. I ALSO want them to grow up with stories of wise and heroic kings and queens from Africa and know Mexican folktales and the history of India. I want them to know about the history of European settlers in our area. I ALSO want them to know about the Native American who had cities and villages here for hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived. All that to say, in a roundabout way, that I’m happy this school is embracing western classics while giving the kids a wider viewpoint. We’ll continue to work on the same goals at home.

As someone who experienced both the rich benefits and the pitfalls of homeschooling myself I’d encourage you (homeschooler or not) to inventory your own bookshelves and your children’s bookshelves. What kind of faces are reflected in their books? What usually comes home from the library? Is one group usually the main character and another always relegated to sidekick? Which heroes are your children learning about on a daily basis? Once in a while? Not at all? What perspectives, explicit or implicit, will our children take in about themselves, other citizens of our countries, or other people around the world from the books around them?

Eating Outdoors

Winters here are long and hard. In summer, we soak up the good weather.

We try to live seasonally as a family. One way we embrace summer is by eating outdoors. However, it’s time-consuming to haul booster chairs and trays in and out for every meal, and squeezing into the kids’ picnic table or balancing plates on our laps gets old. A few weeks back we found a nice outdoor table, chairs, and bench for a steal on a local Facebook sale page. Our house has a nice deep porch on a hill that always catches a breeze so we’ve been eating out there rain or shine for three meals a day ever since.

Berries from our woods, basil and zucchini from the garden, mititei, and juicy summer tomatoes with fresh mozzarella.

Picnics are also working well for us this summer. Last summer picnics were still…not remotely fun. Little children constantly slipped off the benches or kicked over dishes on the picnic blanket, food went flying, toddlers dumped drinks on themselves, preschoolers bolted toward danger, and the parents longed for home. What a difference a year makes. We grab something easy like good thick bread, butter, cold cuts, fruit, and cheese, then head to a park after naps. There’s time for the kids to play, a supper with no cooking and easy cleanup, a walk, then home to put tired children to bed. Another easy picnic option when we’re unprepared is packing water bottles then pulling through the grocery store for some fruit and a pre-made sub sandwich to split. It’s cheaper and healthier than takeout but prep-free on our end.

Martha Stewart is so jealous right now.

Eventually cold weather will come again. On bitter days when darkness falls by mid-afternoon we’ll be happy to eat inside by candlelight. For now, we’ll revel in summer.

Last Day of School

We officially kicked off summer with Annie and Jack’s last day of preschool in June and Annie’s class party at a park. We surprised them afterwards with ice cream for lunch at our favorite ice cream shop to celebrate a job well done.

The party was both fun and just as nuts as you’d expect when 40 or so preschoolers and their little siblings gather in one place (the morning and afternoon special ed and Spanish-speaking classes all celebrated together).

Mrs. G!

We’d never planned on public school for our kids but ended up there via a roundabout course for Annie. Her special ed classroom, teacher, and district this year were true gifts, rare even in the special ed world. We couldn’t have imagined a better learning environment for her. She attended class in a simple, peaceful room with a near-magical teacher, two great aides, and just 6-8 special needs students. On most days one or more therapists for speech, occupational therapy, or physical therapy also worked in the room. The teacher firmly believed in emphasizing play and outdoor time over worksheets and formal academics (as do we) and Annie grew by leaps and bounds. The school bent over backwards to accommodate our concerns and desires as parents. She only went for half days four mornings a week, the bus picked her up from our driveway, and her class spent lots of time integrated with the small classroom for native Spanish speakers next door so they had typically-developing role models. We couldn’t have imagined a better year for her than with this particular teacher in this particular program with this particular class. It also gave us a small community of parents and kids where our family was “normal.” Not only did Mrs. G shower our daughter with extravagant love but she constantly encouraged our family throughout the year. Praise God for the Mrs. G’s of this world!

Jack did preschool at home via the same battered Alphaphonics book my Mom used to teach me, huge library lists (especially the “Our Favorite Picture Books for….” monthly recommendations on Read Aloud Revival), lots of outdoor play, work at home, and the wonderful hands-on curriculum A Year of Playing Skillfully. We take a Charlotte Mason-ish approach with stacks of quality books. He loved his park district basketball class in the fall and enjoyed plenty of play with neighborhood kids and the kids at church. He especially loved any play that involved sensory work for his hands: tracing in shaving cream, water beads, making playdough, sculpting clay, painting, making arctic “snow”, etc. Jenny and Josie joined in on much of the preschool play though we don’t worry about any academics at their age.

In the fall we’ll attempt a new Special Ed kindergarten class for Annie, and, hopefully, a homeschool co-op for Jack. The first one we’d chosen disbanded for the year so we’re still figuring out our options. One of the nice things about living in this generation is that educational choices are flexible. When I was being homeschooled there was very much a “homeschoolers vs. the world” mentality, in large part because “the world” was constantly attacking homeschoolers and their right to educate their children as they saw fit. You were A Home Schooler, or A Public Schooler, or a Private Schooler and most viewed crossover between camps with disapproval. Decades later and homeschooling is relatively normal and familiar. In our family, and many I know, attitudes toward education are flexible. Homeschooling may be ideal for all kids one year. In the next year, private school or public school or a co-op may best suit the children’s and family’s needs. We are lucky to have options!

Jenny Turns Three

Jenny turned three earlier this month. Barnes & Noble sent her a coupon for a free birthday cupcake so we kicked off her celebration early with a mother-daughter trip to the bookstore. She was a little bewildered at first but warmed up to the idea after her first bite of chocolate cupcake. Reading (and her shoes) are her great loves so we gulped down stacks of books in the children’s area along with time at the train table. She basked in the undivided attention and beamed the whole time.

In our house the birthday kid picks the food for the day and wakes up to a decorated dining room. We started her actual birthday with donuts for breakfast plus squeezie packs of applesauce. Individually packaged anything is a big treat around here because Mom and Dad are cheap! After breakfast we hit a favorite park to burn off all that sugar energy.

We ordered pizza for lunch on the way home, and at the last minute called my Mom and asked if she wanted to stop by for lunch with us. Annie does not do well with crazy days or big events but we were glad Grandma could stop in for an hour to make things a little bit extra special. Jenny loves Thomas the Train so we had Thomas plates and some of our trains out on the table for decorations. Easy-peasy. Our oven’s been on the blink so the cake came from a local French bakery. It was fabulous. I hope our oven breaks again for the next birthday to give me an excuse! Unlike last year, when she couldn’t yet chew, she knew exactly what to do with her cake and ice cream this time!

Jenny loved her gifts – her new schoolbus and Daniel Tiger trolley were big hits. This is the first time we’ve done party favors. We’d hoped they would distract the siblings from the birthday kid’s toys but not surprisingly, since they’re only four, four, and one, they were hard to pull away. We eventually shooed them up to nap to give Jenny a little predator-free time with her new toys before bed.

After the kids’ naps, afternoon snack, and a little time playing in the yard we took a long family walk. The Man and I actually had a dinner to attend that night (we forgot that date was Jenny’s birthday when we penciled it into the calendar) but it’s just as well since at that point all four kids had taken in just about all the birthday excitement they could handle.

We left a screen-less window open during our walk and came back to a surprise: a chickadee in the house.

A few days after Jenny’s birthday some relatives were able to meet up at a local ice cream shop for a last-minute low-key family party. It was the simplest party – singing Happy Birthday and eating ice cream. Completely relaxing and fun. The kids ran around in the warm weather, the adults got to talk, and who doesn’t love ice cream? It’s an ideal birthday celebration for Annie to attend, too, as she (and her parents) didn’t have to deal with the stress of gifts. She has a hard time even when the gifts are for her. Skipping them at Jenny’s party let all of us relax.

We loved our time in the Army, but after so many years away it’s a treat to have so much family nearby – the Man’s dad and step-mom, his sisters, two sets of my grandparents, my parents, and one of my brother’s with his wife and son all live with an hour and a half of our home. We even get to see the Man’s mom from Canada more frequently since she’s only one flight away now instead of an extended trip with two flights and layover. The Man’s side of the family was too busy with school and work to be able to meet up during Jenny’s birthday week (his own twin sisters had their birthday that week too) but it’s still great to have them close enough for afternoon visits, holidays, or quick weekend trips.

Our sweet Jenny had a great birthday week. What a joy this kid is! We’ve loved watching her growth and emerging personality this year. She is the easiest, sweetest, most happy-go-lucky kid and completely skipped the terrible twos. We often joke that it’s a good thing she wasn’t our first child; we’d have thought we were wonderful parents, not realizing that if you’ve had one child you’ve…had one child. I think the results of parenting are about 25% parenting effort and 75% whatever personality your kid popped out of the womb with! This year Jenny has progressed from a very quiet laid-back baby into a more boisterously cheerful toddler with a zany personality. She likes to crack jokes and run in circles around the house singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite!” at the top of her lungs. I could count her tantrums on one hand. While she’s a sinner like the rest of us and sometimes tries to snatch a sibling’s toy she’s also incredibly kind and tender-hearted. When she sees a sibling crying she’ll often take off like a shot and return with their favorite toy. She’ll hug and pat her baby sister when she’s upset (a gesture the baby sister does not always appreciate!) and is quick to share. She’s very sensitive to other’s emotional distress – even a sad page in a picture book will make her cry or bury her face. She’s also very sensitive to correction from us and will sometimes burst into tears when we tell her “no” – not because she’s mad, but because she’s sad to have displeased us. Her favorite things on earth are her shoes and reading books, closely followed by cars, bikes and strollers, slides and swings, puzzles, baby dolls, and Daniel Tiger. She graduated from feeding therapy two months ago. After almost three years of therapy she can finally eat normal foods and drink from a cup like the rest of the family. That was her last therapy, and she’s otherwise very healthy and completely typical for her adjusted age – pretty amazing for a kid born 3.5 months early! She’s started hiking on her own legs a lot this year and is incredibly wiry and strong. She’ll do pullups on the park equipment for fun, and is constantly climbing up the fridge or onto the counter to get at the (forbidden sink) or swinging from the underside of the table. We call her the tree frog. She’s a snuggler and especially loves cuddling in on my lap with Josie for the little girls’ end of day story time. She loves playing with her big brother and sister, especially riding bikes around the house with Jack and reading books or singing with Annie. She’s highly social after an initial burst of shyness and often makes friends at the playground and charms guests. What a gift this sweet girl is to all who know her!

 

Back at the Mound

My Mom watched the kids last week so we could get out for a hiking date. We love to take our kids hiking but sometimes it’s nice to go at an adult pace without stops for every pebble, leaf, and mud puddle! The woods are a spring fairyland right now. We stopped for coffee in the quiet little farm town near our home on the way back. It reminded us of our early married days in San Antonio, TX when we’d often leave first thing in the morning, drive into the Texas Hill Country, eat a picnic lunch somewhere on the trail, then meander back home in time for dinner and evening reading or a movie.