6 years.

What would it be like to have you here with us?  To hear your laughing voice as you egg Will and Elise on in their races.  To see your wavy brown hair dance in the wind.  To hear you read to Seth and do a puzzle with Will.  To see you snuggle up with Elise as she shared her favorite story with you.  To feel you close as you kissed my cheek.  To hear you hurry to greet your Daddy as he walked in the door.

I can only imagine what it would be like to add you to our crazy life.  What your place would be.  What you would look like, what you would say.  I don’t think about it often, and when I do, it hurts.  Because the reality is that you never even got to see a Spring.

Although, how can I compare Spring on earth with the perfect season of heaven.  I know, that no matter what you  missed here on earth, you have more than I can ever imagine in heaven.  I know that no matter how many days we live without you here, there will be more than I can number with you later.

I love you Emma.

Excursions, doctor visits, and growth charts.

It’s time for another general family update.  This is the time of year that we take the kids in for their general well-child checkups at the doctor.  I’ve found that these are getting simpler the older the kids get.  There aren’t as many concerns I guess with kids vs toddlers and babies.  The main concern at this age, the doctor says, is keeping kids safe from injuries.  I squirmed a bit as he gave his lecture about child safety:  wearing helmets while riding bikes, holding hands in parking lots, and keeping seat belts buckled.  I wasn’t sure if the lecture was meant specifically for me, or if it is one he gives to everyone with kids this age.  He’s a parent too, so I know he is aware that this is a lot harder than it sounds.  It sounds so easy, the ways you keep a child safe, but until you have had to try to get three kids safely from the car to the Walmart door (one oblivious to all sounds including your voice, one rebelliously defiant about holding hands, and the other trying to be helpful), you don’t have any clue what this involves.  And then the dangers don’t cease once you enter the store.  A few days ago, Seth almost fell out of the cart head first.  He didn’t, but it was close enough to flash before my eyes, and he was promptly put in the seat where I could keep my hands on him instead of the back of the cart.  I do think I do a good job with seatbelt safety.  But recently, I did drive 2 minutes down the road to my sister’s house to find that Seth had ridden the whole way without being buckled because I had just forgot.  That is very rare, believe me, but it still makes you think.  And even if I were to do a great job at protecting my children from the known dangers we face in a day, they will always be sure to find new ones on their own.  Kids (boys especially) seem to have a knack for that.  But the talk did encourage me to renew my efforts in the areas I am lacking, while at the same time remembering to put my kids before God in prayer.

The kids all were declared healthy and whole by the doctor.  All of them had a great time, as they giggled while the doctor poked and prodded their stomachs, declared how big they were to the nurse, and stood tall and still to get their measurements taken.  Seth was last for everything, so most of the time he was jumping up and down shouting:  “My turn?  My turn?”  Will, my introvert, would not for the life of him make any sound no matter how the doctor encouraged him to say “ah.”  After a few encouraging attempts by the doctor, Seth, who has been watching, impatiently waiting for his turn, tries to be helpful and said it for him.  The visit ended poorly for Will, because we made the unfortunate discovery that he was due for a round of vaccinations.  Three shots and a few tears later, the appointment was over.

Once home with their height and weight in hand, I decided to look up what their percentiles are currently.  I know these growth charts aren’t really that big of a deal, but I get a kick out of knowing where my kids are on the chart.  I had already noticed that the difference in size between Will and Elise is a lot less than the difference between Seth and Will, even though Seth and Will are 16 months apart and Will and Elise are 4 1/2 years.  So I looked them up by turn.  Seth is smack dab at 50% for both height and weight.  Elise is still hovering around 5% for both height and weight.  And Will tops the chart at 95% for height and 80% for weight.

In other news, Arkansas weather has been incredibly mild this winter.  We had one good snow this week, but the weather has already gotten back up to the 50’s.  It’s often been in the 60’s all winter long, and we have been enjoying the chance to get outside frequently.  Since we moved back into town, I have been enjoying getting out with the kids on their bikes as we have lots of options for bike rides around here.  Here are some pictures of one of our recent outings to the park.

Farm Update

I realize that I haven’t updated the blog in awhile. Sorry about that. Life has been just as crazy as it can be over here. Along with fall came the start of school, the renewal of the mothering group I am a care group leader with, and several craft shows for Baby Vardo. Add that to our already hectic life and I feel like I’ve just been hanging on for the ride. This is the first weekend in awhile that I can feel like I can just sit and relax, well at least for a little bit, then I have to work on the budget, which has been pushed aside because of lack of time. But hey, at least that means I’ll be sitting down. 🙂

I realized the other day that I hadn’t shared any pictures of what has been happening with our animals here. Well, remember all those fuzzy little chicks that arrived back in August? Well, here they are now as 9 week old slim and sleek adolescent chickens. Quite a change right? They are really fun to watch, and come running every time I step outside, just in case I might be bringing kitchen scraps or scratch grains for them. We’ve taken them off regular commercial feed, letting them search for bugs, greens and other edibles in our yard. Once or twice a day I also give them all natural scratch grains, partly just to make sure they know that there are reasons to stay up around the house. They completely demolish my compost pile every time I add anything to it, but hey, instead of getting compost, I’m recycling my kitchen food scraps into eggs and meat. They have very effectively ridded our yard of all insect pests and have started ranging a little farther from the house to find goodies to eat. Pretty much the only time they get into trouble is when they venture into the neighbor’s pasture to get what I can only guess is winter wheat he put down about a week ago. I’m cringing at the thought that he might have whole patches missing when it starts to come up. Sometime in January we’ll set aside a day to put away the roosters in the freezer. It will be hard to kill such pretty and friendly birds, but I hope it will be a learning experience for our kids to see a little more of where our food comes from. In case you are wondering, the red and white ones are the red star hens. The black and red ones are the black star hens. The black and white ones are black star roosters and the mostly white ones are the red star roosters. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the variation between each one. There are several that stand out enough to be recognized and therefore have been rewarded with names.

On labor day, our resident farm cat disappeared for a whole day. Finally that night we discovered her and her 4 little kittens in a box by our back door. We removed the kittens to a safer location, but not too long after their eyes opened, she brought them back closer to the house. Now they romp outside my sewing room windows when the kids haven’t carried them off to wherever they happen to be playing. Surprisingly enough they are very tame (i.e. don’t go running when they see the kids headed towards them) and extremely healthy (i.e. have survived two little boys who have not yet learned how to be gentle with small living creatures). They are at the stage of absolute cuteness. In these pictures, the one Elise is holding is Mischief, who is the littlest and therefore I am finding my favorite. I was always a sucker for the runt of the litter. And yes, he does have one eye closed, he’s still dealing with the sticky eye the others have grown out of. The one Will is holding is I think Roly Poly. I’m not sure because Roly Poly and White Paw (I think that is still his name, the kids change them occasionally) look exactly the same, though one is a boy and one a girl. There is one other one named Smoky (amazingly the kids stuck with my choice of name on this one). He’s a beautiful white with grey tipped tail, ears and paws. Anyone want a kitten? 😉 I guarantee they will be tough little farm cats after surviving my two boys, and the momma has already started bringing them her hunting catches to eat, so I’m sure she’ll make sure they are good mousers as well.

We really are enjoying being out here in the country. The kids have days like yesterday when they play outside almost all day, only coming in for naps and meals. Will and Elise especially have been enjoying making up elaborate stories while carting around the kittens. And never far away are our two little goats and flock of chickens.

Art by Will.

I’m always a little bit boggled by Will’s approach to art. He has recently gotten very excited about coloring and drawing. He’s actually usually quite patient and intent in his coloring, making sure he stays in the lines and colors all the important parts in a picture. He went right from not even being interested in coloring to being very particular and talented at it in just one step. Not sure how that happened. But his drawing is what I really find interesting. When he first started drawing, he never knew how things were going to turn out. Drawing for him was like an adventure, an experiment. He’d say, “I’m drawing a picture . . . oh look! A duck!” Finding a meaning in his pictures was like looking for shapes in the clouds.

He still does that sometimes, but he’s also embracing the joy of drawing from a preconceived idea, or copying letters. I’ve been trying to teach him his letters, since he would like to learn to read. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have as good a memory for letters as Elise did, but he’s slowly getting it. He doesn’t yet know how to spell his name, though he can write it. Notice it written on the bottom of his pirate picture. I once heard him telling someone that he knew how to spell his name, and when asked he said: “W, little line with a dot, two long lines.” I suppose he doesn’t really have to know the names of the letters if he at least knows the sounds they make. He actually does seem to have a good ear for the sounds. The last letter we practiced was D. “Will, try to think of a word that starts with d,” I said. Will looked thoughtful, but I could see he was having trouble coming up with something. “Say the d sound d, d, d and see what your mouth wants to say,” I helped. Will touched his tongue to the top of his mouth and said: “Dragon!” Not the word I was expecting, but yes, it definitely starts with D. He’s been good at coming up with words for all the ones we’ve done so far, except for c, which is just confusing since he did think of a couple words that started with k. I helped him change kitten to cat, so he could have a c word, and here is the picture he drew for his paper.

He’s a lot of fun to teach. His enthusiasm makes school time exciting, and his unexpected thought processes make it interesting. He is also learning to recognize and write his numbers. So yesterday, after teaching him how to write a 3, I asked him to draw 3 things on his paper. They could be anything he wanted, there just had to be 3 of them. He started drawing something very elaborate that I couldn’t quite figure out. Finally I asked him what it was. “I don’t know yet,” said Will, and continued adding lines until it formed into a large castle. Knowing he didn’t have room left on his paper to add two more such castles, we settled for adding three doors to the castle to help him remember the letter 3.

He is great fun to talk to as well. Yesterday he discussed his future plans with Aunt Hannah. It started by him showing off his brand new shoes, which sadly did not have lights on them because mom says they’re too expensive and we have to buy them ourselves. “So when I grow up,” he said, “I’m going to buy light up shoes.” Hannah asked him how he was going to make money to buy the shoes, and he explained his whole plan. “I’m going to be a horse rider.” “Oh, you are going to train horses?” she asked. “No, I’m going to ride them.” he replied. “I’ll buy lots of horses and sell them, but keep one for me to ride like Tio” (who buys and sells used cars). “And then, I will go and buy the shoes, except I will buy light up boots, because I will wear boots then.”

Proof that Seth really is smart, despite evidences to the contrary.

A friend laughed when I mentioned the latest thing Seth had gotten into that day (concrete powder). “You always have a story,” she said. And yes, I do, but thankfully whereas these stories used to always be about both boys, they are now more frequently about just Seth. So there is hope.

And here are a couple stories about Seth that show that he really does pay attention and has a good memory. Perhaps soon he will start actually making choices based on those two things.

Several weeks ago, we lost electricity for about half an hour. I was worried about our little chicks who were still tiny and using a heat lamp. Will, in his usual problem-solving manner, tried to come up with a solution. “I know!” he said. “We can go get the fan, and put it in front of the chicks and turn it on.” “Well, that won’t work Will.” I explained. “First of all, the fan makes you cold, not warm, and secondly, the fan uses electricity too.” Elise suddenly got a worried look and asked if the car used electricity. “Well, yes it does,” I answered. “But it makes its own electricity because it has a battery.” “So we can still go somewhere then?” she asked. “Yes, we can go in the car even without electricity in our house.” Elise and Will ran off to play or get ready to go, not sure which. I had promised them that if it got too much hotter in the house we’d go somewhere cool. Seth, who had been sitting quietly on the stairs in my work room during this whole exchange stayed behind. After a few moments of quiet pondering, he suddenly spoke. “Mom, plug a light into the car?” What a smart little kid. He had sorted out on his own, that the heat light needed electricity, which we didn’t have right now, and the car had a battery and made its own electricity. Why couldn’t we combine the two things and solve the problem?

Last week, we started school. As I sat down with Seth to do a little preschool with him, Will kept interrupting with instructions for Seth. “Will,” I finally said in exasperation. “You are not the teacher. I am.” Will just laughed and answered: “You are not a teacher, you are a mommy.” “I can be a teacher and a mommy too,” I replied. Will just seemed to think that was silly. Several days later as we were loading up the car, Seth started teasing me by calling me a “big man.” Figuring he was confused on the right wording, I corrected him by saying that no, I might be a big woman, but not a big man. “No,” laughed Seth. “You is a mommy teacher.”

So, you see. Seth really does pay attention. He just decides that getting into trouble is somehow much more fun than learning from his mistakes. I’m sure that will change . . . I HOPE that will change. Will has become a bit more responsible with age, but even he sometimes finds something to do that baffles my mind. Like last night, when he came out of his room after bedtime with his thumb securely stuck in a little hole he had found in his toy dump truck. As John and I worked for several minutes trying to release him from his predicament, I asked Will why he had stuck his finger in there. “I wanted to see if it wouldn’t get stuck,” he replied. And for some reason that makes perfect sense.

Lake Fort Smith.

John and I wanted to do something different and fun with the kids for the holiday, while hopefully avoiding the crowds we expected once the weekend officially started. So we headed out yesterday to enjoy a day at the park. John had heard good things about Lake Fort Smith park and thought it would be a fun place to try. I didn’t read all the info, so I don’t have all the details clear, but supposedly this park is brand new, rebuilt after they flooded an old park by connecting two existing lakes. It really is beautiful. The facilities were well designed, and the outdoor spaces had wonderful views. And because we went Friday, there was hardly anyone there. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

After a quick visit to the visitor center, which I’ll tell you about at the end of the blog, we headed to the picnic area for some lunch. The kids played a little on the playground, and then we headed back up the hill to start a hike. We hiked a total of a mile and a half. It would have been fun to go further, since the trail was beautiful. It is one end of the Ozark Highlands Trail, which is a 160 something mile long trail. Wouldn’t that be fun to hike sometime? I think I’d need to be in much better shape and have kids with longer legs. 😉 We hiked to a “seasonal” waterfall, which was apparently not in season. Along the way, we saw a deer and lots of trees and leaves and rocks. It is fun to take Elise out and have her point out things we learned about in school. It is very reaffirming to realize she is paying attention and retaining some of the information.

Because Seth is getting quite heavy now (he only walked a small portion of the way and was on John’s back the rest of it), and the weather was quite warm, and the kids were running out of water, we decided to turn back at the waterfall. We made it back just in time for the “Wagons Ho” presentation. Since we were the only ones there, we got a personal presentation from the park ranger, who also took us out to check a box turtle nest (unfortunately, no baby turtles were emerging yet) and let the kids hold the turtles in the turtle tank. She held the kids attention with her presentation of the wagon and what it held. Lake Fort Smith has its very own original wagon and several tools that were equally as old. Seth’s favorite part of the presentation was the explanation of how to trap and then eat a bear. Everything after that point was continually interrupted with Seth’s proclamation of “bears live in the woods.” Will seemed to like the long two person saws (felling saw and bucking saw). Elise liked interjecting comments of all her knowledge on the subject being discussed. It was probably good we were the only ones there. The park ranger said she usually didn’t have anyone there to do her presentation to, so she was happy to have us.

The visitor center also has information on springs (of which there are several in the area), log cabins (with squared logs like the Arkansas settlers would have built) and local wildlife and flora. We ended our visit with some ice cream bought in the gift shop and headed back for pizza and a movie at home.

Flowers for Emma.

July 14. This date usually looms in my head for at least a week if not more before it hits. But not this year. For some reason, perhaps the hectic activity surrounding our move and the arrival of our goats, the date snuck up on us. My good friend Laura wrote on my facebook wall that she was thinking of me today as I remembered Emma’s birthday and I suddenly realized what day it was. Funny that someone else thought of it before me this year. Is that good or bad? I’m not sure, but regardless I was glad someone brought it to mind, because if for some odd reason I had gone through the whole day without realizing that it was Emma’s birthday I would have been terribly disappointed once I realized it on the next day. Laura wasn’t the only one who remembered, another good friend Melinda texted me her encouragement and many others commented on my facebook post in remembrance of Emma.

With remembrance of course came emotions. Not bad ones, just strong ones. Longing, I guess it could be called. With the kids gathered around me, I shared with them the reminder that today was Emma’s birthday. Will piped up immediately. “Are we going to the grave?” Hmm, yes, I guess we could do that I thought. Funny that without trying too hard we have developed a tradition, one that even Will knows. I’m so happy that they want to go to commemorate Emma’s special days, and that they believe we should all be there. And I’m thankful that John agrees as well. So I sorted out the logistics and we had a plan.

During Elise’s gymnastics class, I took the boys with me grocery shopping. We picked out some bright purple and green flowers that seemed to fit the emotions I was feeling. We took them home and put them in water waiting for the evening when Daddy could go with us to the cemetery. Our visit was quick as we were running a bit later than I had anticipated. And we were on our way to a swim party, so the kids were all dressed in swim suits for our usual picture, but it doesn’t matter. Because now I can remember what we did that day every time I look at the picture, and it seems fitting that in some small way Emma was included in a family celebration.

Moving.

And so, we moved. Well, sort of. We aren’t finished yet. Moving a family of our size plus a home business, requires more than one day of work apparently. We still have to go back to get a few things that wouldn’t fit the first time around and finish cleaning the house for the next renters. But we are almost completely moved. We are not almost completely unpacked though. That will take some time.

For those that missed the news, our new house is another rental, but quite a bit different than our old one. It’s an old rock farmhouse, sitting in the middle of farm country just west of Decatur. It’s 25 minutes from Siloam, which will take some getting used to, and it’s not within walking distance of anything, at least not anything that I know of. So that will also take some getting used to. But it’s on a beautiful piece of property, has a huge old barn we can use, has a small shed that we can turn into a goat shed, and has room for gardening and a chicken coop. It even has a clothesline, which I made use of today. In this heat, the clothes dried in less than an hour, though I waited until the temperature started dropping before I headed back out to take them down from the line. They smelled wonderful, and were all so crisp and wrinkle free, you would have thought I’d starched and ironed them. I love clotheslines!

I thought the kids would miss the large circle drive that we had at our last house. They used it a lot to ride their bikes back and forth. But I discovered today that it doesn’t even compare to the long straight drive we have here. Will was having a great time racing back and forth, getting up to speeds he couldn’t easily manage on our much smaller old drive. The cows in the field next to us, which belong to a man who rents the acreage behind us, stopped their grazing to watch the antics of their new neighbors.

So far we’ve spent one night in our new house, and once the kids have been asleep, we’ve all slept fine. the boys went to sleep faster last night, tonight they have been testing their mother’s patience by not falling asleep, even though I put them to bed over an hour ago. I think it is finally getting quiet in there. Elise seems to be doing better than she did last night. Last night she was so emotional over the move that she had worked herself into quite a state. She was sure she was sick, and said she couldn’t breathe well. She finally came right out and said, “I want to go back.” Meaning of course the old house. She’s been struggling with adjusting to this move for the last week, and is just not sure she’s going to like it here. There are plenty of things she does like about living in the country, but she doesn’t like being so far from her friends, especially her next door neighbor who she had gotten quite close to over the last year. I’m hoping she’ll adjust quickly and love this house as much as she did the last one. You can pray for that.

The boys, on the other hand, are adjusting very nicely. Will loves it here, and even in the terrible heat, disappears outside to ride his bike or dig a hole in the dirt. Seth, as John says, is always up for anything. His newest thing right now is pretending he’s superman, and apparently that can be done anywhere. As long as he still gets to see his Nana, Pops, Grandma, Brennan, and multiple aunts and uncles, I think he hardly notices where he lives. He has been a bit more clingy than usual, but to be honest, that’s been nice since there are still so many boxes he could get into when he wanders off.

John and I go back and forth on our feelings about the move. I love it here. It is peaceful and quiet. I like waking up and seeing a field outside my window. I like hanging clothes on the line and watching them swing in the breeze. I like my new kitchen, even though it is a bit old-fashioned, and my newly polished wood floors. But it does feel a bit isolated. I wonder how comfortable I’ll be asking friends over, knowing how long the drive is and how high gas prices are. I wonder if I’ll get lonely during the day when John’s gone and I don’t have a good enough reason to drive into town. I wonder if I’ll get weary of having to add 30 minutes onto both ends of each and every trip to town. I guess I feel a little like Elise right now. Liking my new place, but missing my old at the same time. I’ve told her that this is an experiment. This is where we discover if we like living on a farm as much as we’ve imagined we will.

Great quotes from little boys.

My favorite quotes from today:

Seth – “Me superman. Nobody can spank me.”

Will – “Mom, there was somebody at gymnastics today that looked like a bad guy. He had on boots, bad guy clothes and bad guy hair.”

Will – “Seth, you be the Mommy, I’ll be the Daddy.”

Sometimes I just have to sew.

Sewing moods come and go for me. I’ve had some fabric on hand for summer clothes for the kids for awhile now, and realized I better get started on it before it is fall. It’s hard to fit in personal sewing with all the Baby Vardo work I have, but yesterday and today I took some time to do a quick project for Elise. I am pretty happy with the way it turned out. And as a bonus, here are some cute photos of the boys as well. They didn’t want to be left out from Elise’s photo shoot, but of course had to put their own little spin on it.