Thursday, April 27, 2017

On cats and quail

As far as Nefertiti and Midnight are concerned the addition of a small quail chick is the best thing they've ever seen. This is how Nefertiti spent most of her day yesterday.


Of course, quail watching is exhausting, so naps must happen.


And then there is the line for the prime viewing seat.



As soon as I took this, Nefertiti decided to go do something else, so Midnight immediately moved into better viewing position.

Sometimes the cats like the little quail a bit too much. While I was making dinner yesterday, I happened to catch Nefertiti pawing at the box and she managed to upend it. I was across the room fast enough, yelling at the cat, to scare he off and scoop up the chick. All was well, and we put the brooder box to rights. There is still now a large strap holding the box onto the table. (You can see it in the bottom picture.)

A couple of quail hatching notes, because the instructions I've found in various places are not well-written or terribly informative. 1. Game bird feed to too big for little tiny quail chicks to eat. I was concerned that Q. didn't seem to be eating. So after yet more research discovered that most people grind the feed in a food processor to get it small enough and some make it into a mush with water. So this is what I did. Q. immediately started eating, much to my relief. 2. Quail chicks are really loud. It is an amazingly carrying peep that this little bird has, and he does not like being by himself. I've about lost hope that any of his egg mates will hatch, and feel a bit sorry for the poor thing. He seems happiest, with softer, less distressed peeps, when someone is looking at him and talking to him. At least we have a houseful of people who like to watch the quail. 3. At nearly two days old, he is much, much stronger. Yesterday, he would still topple over when standing on his hilariously over sized feet. Today, he is now running around the brooder box at full tilt. He is even trying to flap his wings, which is hilarious, because they are as small as his feet are big.

I promise not all future posts will be quail related, but for such a small bird, he has taken up an awful lot of family time and energy these past two days.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Meet the quail

So far no more quail have hatched, but our little chick from yesterday seems to be doing quite well, and made it through the night. Everyone is more than a little fascinated by it. It is a very tiny chick... maybe an inch and a half long? Little, little, little.




Isn't he a cute little chick? When he peeps it is very loud. I think he wants a friend. I hope another of the eggs hatches. For size reference, that is a lid of a mayonnaise jar filled with regular sized marbles (so he doesn't drown) next to him.


Here's the whole brooder set-up. The reason the light is so odd is that it is a red bulb in that lamp. Evidently it is better for their eyes than regular white light. There is also extremely heavy-duty mesh wire over the top and down the sides. It might seem a bit of over-kill for one little tiny quail. You would think than until you see the 14 pound cat laying on top of the mesh, basking in the heat of the lamp, and enjoying the chick TV show in the box.

J. and I are thinking of naming the quail, 'Q'. It would be in keeping with the whole initial-thing we have going on, plus it has references to both Star Trek and James Bond.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Well, that was fast

A rare, two-post day.

Because....

Right after I hit publish, TM calls me from the corner of the kitchen and say, "One of the eggs hatched! You've got to come here!" I will admit to not believing him at first, because he likes to tease. But he was right. In the time it took me to write a blog post, this speedy little fellow had popped out of his egg. I'm sure tomorrow, it will begin to be all-quail, all the time.


I love finding a new author

Still no chicks... we are all beginning to wonder if they will hatch. We aren't completely despairing yet, because everything I've read says that Bobwhite quails can take several days past the official date to make an appearance.

What I really wanted to share with you today was the new (to me) author that I've found.

Am I the only one who has to look at the name of every book if the shelf the books happen to be on is labelled 'free'? A month or so ago, I was in the city building and there happened to be a free book shelf there in the hallway. So I stopped. One book, called The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig, looked interesting, though this was based solely on the cover and an extremely cursory examination of  the back. But heck, it was free, so worth a chance.

I was so happy that I took that chance. The Whistling Season is about a one room schoolhouse in western Montana around 1909. It turned out to be incredibly engaging and extremely well-written. It was one of those books you plow through to find out how it ends, while at the same time wanting to read slower to put off it ending. Now I want to go to Montana.

It turns out that most of Ivan Doig's books are set there. Not content to stop at just one, I am now reading English Creek. Also set in Montana, though I think further west, closer to the Rockies. It also takes place at the beginning of the 1940's, so set a little later than The Whistling Season.

I'm enjoying it so far. How can one not enjoy a book where you frequently come across writing such as this:

"No matter what time of day you approached it, the Hebner place looked as if demolition was being done and the demolishers were just now taking a smoke break. An armada of abandoned wagons and car chassis and decrepit farm equipment - even though Good Help Hebner farmed not so much as a vegetable garden - lay around and between the brown old buildings. A root cellar was caved in, a tool shop had only half a roof left, the barn looked distinctly teetery. In short, not much ever functioned on the Hebner place except gravity."

There is solid dry humor through everything I've read so far. I appreciate a good sense of humor and a writer who doesn't take himself too seriously.

So, if you're in need of something different to read, I highly recommend The Whistling Season. It's a perfect summer book, even if you aren't in Montana. Good story, likable characters, humor, good writing, oh, and an unexpected twist at the end.

Enjoy.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A tax tale

No chicks yet...

In the meantime, I'm going to kvetch about taxes and Cook County instead. It's no secret that our property taxes are egregiously high. So high, that we have had to go into debt just to stay in this house, and are the single biggest reason J. even started to look for jobs elsewhere in the first place. If I were to tell you exactly how high they are, you would spit out your coffee and ruin you computer or phone, so I won't do that. (But if you wanted to look up approximately how many quills are on a porcupine, the number would be in the ballpark, if a bit low.) We had given up appealing our taxes because it never did any good. The appeal was either denied or was so little as to not be worth the effort.

Enter realtors and lawyers when we started the whole house selling business.

When these professionals saw the tax bill they were shocked. Obscene was one word to describe them. It felt justifying at least. It was also somewhat infuriating to realize that our tax bill was so much higher than the vast majority of the homes in our area. So, with the encouragement of our realtor, we appealed our tax bill again, hopeful that this time the result would be different.

On Friday, we received a notice from the Cook County Assessor's office that our home's assessed valuation should remain as originally proposed. So. Not. Surprising. But as rotten as all that is, it is not actually what I want to kvetch about. No, here's the worst part.

We received the notice that our appeal was denied on Friday. That would be April 21. Since our mail arrives later in the afternoon, that is when we received the notice. On the notice it says that we are welcome to re-appeal. It does not really give much other information other than you need to look at the assessor's website to see when the due date for your township is. Well, when you do look that up, the due date for our township is today. That would be Monday, April 24. You cannot email the appeal. Your choices are to fax, mail, or deliver in person. Pardon the language, but the assessor's office should just send a notice saying, "Ha! Screw you!"

J. did manage to find a fax machine and send in our re-appeal. But what about the property owners who do not have access to one? Or for whom looking up information on a website is not easy? Or who cannot take a day off work to go deliver a piece of paper downtown? This will surprise no one living in this county, but the county doesn't really care about it's residents. Nope, our only purpose is to pony up the money.

But wait, it gets even better. When I called the 'Help' line, I received a recorded message, telling us that a decision on our appeal had been made in the middle of March. Yes, a full month before we received the notice. I'm sure we are not the only ones to be on the receiving end of this tardiness.

Since we have a signed contract for an amount of money well, well below our home's assessed value, all the real estate professionals believe it is a pretty open-and-shut case to receive a reassessment. But, boy, did the county do everything in its power to avoid having to do that. We'll see what happens with this next appeal.

And can I say just how extremely happy I am that our new home is not in Cook county?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Learning curve

So these as-yet-to-be-actual-quail-chicks are keeping us on our toes. I sent J. to the feed store near his work on Friday, and it turns out that people don't generally hatch just four or five game birds at a time. How do I know this? Well, it's because of the size the brooder supplies come in. take a look.


That bag on the left is the food which is fifty pounds. FIFTY pounds! How many people can say that they own fifty pounds of game bird chow? So, if anyone needs some, I'm pretty sure we have some to spare. That bag on the right is the shavings for the bottom of the brooder box. It's not quite fifty pounds, but it is not light, either. We also have a heat lamp and a thermometer and grit. The thing we do not have at the moment is a brooder box.

At first I thought I would just clean out one of the many glass tanks that M. has stored on our back porch. I even brought one into the house to clean it. And then I thought, hmmm, maybe I should check on this. Well, so much for Plan A. It seems that unless the tank is very large, it is neither big enough or well-ventilated enough to house young birds. Well... what do people use? (Yes, I realize that this was probably a question better asked a week or so ago and not the day before the chicks could possibly hatch.) It seems there are several choices. Cardboard boxes are popular, as are large dog crates and large plastic bins. We have a large dog crate, but somehow I don't think Kenzie would appreciate having it taken over by small birds. I am also currently awash in cardboard boxes, so that could be a possibility, but we will have to figure out how to secure something over the top to keep the chicks safe. I do not trust any of the predators (or even some of the children) in my house to leave the chicks alone. They need some sort of lid. We do have some chicken wire on the back porch, so perhaps we (and by we, I mean someone else, most likely J., unless M. happens to stop by) could figure out something with that.

So, tomorrow morning chick watch officially begins, and if anyone close to me happens to have a large dog crate which doesn't have a large dog currently living in it, well, I'd be happy to take it off your hands.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday bullets, April 21, 2017

Another week done, and I haven't packed a single box during that time. I suppose I really need to start thinking about that. I'm in denial. Though we haven't been packing, other things have gone on.

  • We had the first brisket last night, and it was fabulous, if I do say so myself. The caramelized sweet onions that cooked underneath the brisket made a really terrific sauce.
  • For teatime, we have started reading the Swallows and Amazons series. I know I write about these books fairly frequently, but they really are just that good. So good that D. and TM, who have heard them already, are excited about hearing them again. The younger group has heard about them a lot, and are excited to finally get to listen to them themselves.
  • The move is unsettling a lot of people, in different ways. It is particularly affecting those children who have a history of loosing everything important to them. They know what that feels like and are afraid this move will feel like that all over again. This is understandable, but is hard to navigate. 
  • I just love it when a child is ready for the next level of math book (which I don't own) two months before the homeschool conference. There is that brief moment of pondering whether giving the child a two month math break is better than paying shipping. Don't worry, I'm ordering the books today, if only to save my sanity from being badgered by said child. Yes, he likes math.
  • There is nothing like finding the best place to buy homemade samosas just blocks from one's house, weeks before one is to move. We had some yesterday. They were good and spicy... a little too spicy for some of my crew, but those of us who enjoy sinus-clearing heat enjoyed them. We'll just have to get them fairly frequently before the move to make up for both lost time and lack in the future.
  • The weather is generally warmer and sunnier and it is wonderful. I feel my annual need to do some gardening coming on. The trouble is, we can't really put in a garden just yet and need to wait to move. I hope my gardening itch lasts until we move. 
  • Yes, everything in life feels as though it is centered around the move. That's a lot of brain real estate that is being taken up in my head. 
  • The quail eggs are currently on lock-down. This means that I have added extra water to the Chick-bator to raise the humidity, I stop turning them, and we keep the cover on. Pretty much we just sit and watch from this point out. They are due to start hatching anywhere from the 23rd to the 25th. Some of the eggs feel much heavier than the others... perhaps about four? I'm hopeful this means that there is an actual chick inside waiting to come out. If you start to think about it too hard, the whole thing is just bizarre.
  • Because we might actually end up with a live chick or two or four, I'm sending J. to the feed store near his work today to pick-up supplies. Does it surprise you that pet stores near us don't carry game bird feed or brooder supplies? (I did go and ask.)
  • Once again, my need to be prepared is in conflict with my innate cheapness. I don't want to buy supplies if we don't actually end up with chicks, but also don't want to be scrambling when confronted with an actual live chick. I suppose this means we will have to do this again, just to use up the supplies we have.
  • Finally, for those of you who are local friends, block out the late afternoon and evening of June 4 on your calendars. Another friend has graciously asked to host a going away party and this is the date that we've set. I'll get more details to you later. But don't plan anything on that date!!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Education ramblings

I'm still here and things are fine. Sometimes blogging just doesn't rise to the top of the list what with the dog throwing up (more than once) because someone keeps dropping jelly beans which the dog then eats, having to be out of the house so the buyers can come through with their architect, driving to appointments, and just general life.

I have been reading, though. Reading is always at the top of the list and helps keep me sane. I came across a passage that I wanted to share with you in a book I'm currently reading, Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School by Carla Shalaby. It chronicles four different children, each labelled a 'trouble maker' in their classrooms, with the author thinking about the whys that drive each child's behavior. In the passage I'm going to share, the story is about a little boy (6 years old).

"This most basic requirement of school - trading your own desires for the requirements of the teacher - may be part of a 'hidden curriculum,' but Lucas makes it quite visible in his transgressions and often displays his hurt through anger and frustration.

Similarly, Jackson [Phillip Jackson who wrote Life in Classrooms in 1968] provides a theoretical understanding of Lucas's difficulty sharing space. He names four key features of school life: delay, denial, interruption, and social distraction. And he writes, 'Each is produced, in part, by the crowded conditions of the classroom.' These four features require that children - even very young children, whom we know to be active and impatient - wait a whole lot, get denied the choice of their own work, get interrupted from their own play, and become distracted by the requirement to be with others socially only at 'appropriate' and designated times. These are all normalized school demands and they are largely considered unproblematic, even as we make such demands of five- and six-year-olds, whom we know to be naturally unsuited to them. The fact that the demands are considered normal makes them hidden, part of a neutral and unproblematic school culture. This invisibility draws us to the conclusion that classroom life is regular and children who don't comply with it are irregular. Thus we rely on changing children rather than changing classroom demands.

Children like Lucas, with their exasperation and perseverating insistence on their own desires, their angry red faces and blowups, remind us that our demands are not neutral but, rather, quite challenging and potentially even toxic to the ability of young children to be themselves. ... children today are still being evaluated based on how well they meet the standardized requirements of classroom life." pp. 68-69

Hang in there, I have one more excerpt to share with you, this time about a little boy names, Sean, about the same age.

"In Sean's experience we see a problematic and unending cycle in which a child uses disruption to try to belong and be seen, and rather than recognize that basic human need, the common school response is to exclude him further - to send him away from the group repeatedly. The response is not particular to this school; I see the practice of exclusion and the withholding of attention in every school I visit.

The justification for such exclusion is that teachers do not want a child's disruptions to 'distract' other children. In the individualistic culture of American schooling, it offends our sensibility to imagine that one child's disruption should be addressed as a problem of community rather than a problem in and of the individual. It seems inappropriate, of course, to allow Sean to impact the experience of his classmates. But Sean's willful disruption is a community problem because it is a response to community conditions. Feeling sad and left out, hurt and lonely, is a social problem that requires a social response, and then emulated by the children, who come to believe that Sean deserves to be left out. After all, they repeatedly witness his being sent away.

Instead of rearranging the culture of the community, the response is to isolate the problem in Sean. His shortcomings are cited and measured, beginning the process of urging his mother toward a medical evaluation. But, frankly, Sean misses a lot of academic instruction in the day-to-day. He often returns from taking a break confused about the task at hand and having missed the content required to successfully engage academic tasks. ....

His social problems and physical altercations are cited and measured too, further pushing his mother toward considering a medical diagnosis. But, again, Sean does not have much opportunity to learn the skills of social relationship. The school day is highly structured and intensive, leaving children little time for play, for free conversation, and for unstructured interaction." pp. 112-113

What's interesting is that this is written by a person well-established in traditional schooling, with a biography listing Rutgers, Harvard, Brown, and Wellesley's schools of education. Homeschooling is never mentioned. In this book the option doesn't even seem to exist. The closest the author comes to acknowledging homeschooling or alternative education is a brief mention of two books by Paulo Freire in the recommended reading section.

So why do I bring this up? I guess because it's nice to see someone from within the school world notice that there must be better ways to educate our children. As a homeschooler, it won't surprise you that I believe homeschooling offers a truly viable option to provide children with both an education and a voice in that education. Ms. Shalaby is coming at it from a viewpoint of reforming from within the system. Her path seems so much more impossible to me.

________
After a little writing break, I have a new article published which I co-wrote with a friend. Meeting Your Child


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The day of brisket

This moving business affects areas of life that you wouldn't think of at first. It's because we're moving that I have spent all afternoon dealing with a giant beef brisket. Why? Well, it's because of a little mistake a made a while back. When you buy a side of beef, you then must have a conversation with the butcher as to how the beef will be cut and wrapped. The butcher we used for the last batch asked me a question I had never been asked before, which is my defense as to how I have ended up in this situation. The question was, "Would you like your brisket cut in half?"

Now, we have quite a few mouths to feed, and as I thought about all the briskets I'd received in the past, I thought, no, I don't want one of those cut in half. It wouldn't feed all of us. So, I said to leave it whole. You can imagine my surprise when we picked-up the beef to discover this.


This whole brisket spans nearly the entire length of my six burner stove. It is big. This also explains why it has been languishing in the bottom of my freezer for a long time. Because it's big, I wanted to cut it in two and have two briskets. But then I have two thawed briskets because oddly enough I don't have a kitchen chainsaw to cut the brisket frozen. And two thawed briskets was always one more than I really wanted to deal with, so the whole big thing sat in the freezer.

As I think about moving, I'm realizing that the smaller amount of freezer food I have the better. We are on the last bits of our last side of beef, but there was this brisket still hanging about. I decided that since we didn't have anything going on this afternoon, and since we were yet to be deep in the throws of panicked packing, that today would be a good day to deal with the brisket. On Saturday, I took it out of the freezer and put it in the downstairs refrigerator to thaw.

I've seen turkeys thaw faster.




It's a good thing B. was around to act as butcher for me, because I'm not sure I would have been able to hack through the still pretty well frozen brisket. Yeah for strong 21 year old sons.

One half of the brisket is currently baking on a bed of caramelized sweet onions with a sauce composed of chicken broth, dark beer, and chili sauce. It smells pretty wonderful. We'll have this Thursday night since the whole brisket-shtick is that it needs to be cooled, sliced, and reheated.


The other half is currently brining in a pickling mixture in the downstairs refrigerator to be made into corned beef. For the next five days, I have to remember to go down and turn the brisket twice a day. That's OK, the quail eggs are about to go into lock down and I won't have to mess with them anymore until the hatch. I'll just switch my twice daily turning ritual to brisket instead.


It should be done on Monday, and then we'll have Reuben sandwiches. Ironically, no brisket will be eaten tonight. Instead I threw some chicken in the crock pot and we'll have that over noodles.

So, I can now check 'deal with brisket' off the moving list. The other beef left still are several filet steaks. I see no problem with using those up. In fact, I have been hoarding them just a bit to make them last. By the time mid-June rolls around, the freezers should be mighty empty.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Easter 2017

I can tell I have other things on my mind. In the great scheme of family holidays, this is probably our most low-key. I didn't even get that many photos. We had a lovely day with lovely weather. Here are some of the very few pictures we took.

Things are all topsy-turvy here, so no breakfast in the dining room, just Easter baskets.



R.

R.

G.

Y.

H.

A.

G.

L.

J. and B. (no they didn't coordinate ahead of time)

TM

D. carrying around Nefertiti, of course, a box.

Other parts of the holiday involved dying dozens of eggs with friends, and going to J.'s sister's house for Easter dinner.

This morning, I spent the bulk of the day out at the new house doing the house inspection. For the most part, it is a good solid house. Here is a teaser.


I can't wait to be able to show you more. I more can't wait to see my children playing here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday bullets, Good Friday 2017

We are entering into Easter weekend and for once the holiday feels restful after this past week.

  • K., my budding engineer has been busy building bridges using blocks and books in his room. I asked him to take some pictures to share so you could see it.



So far it is sturdy enough to withstand Nefertiti investigating it, though I don't think she has actually tried to walk on the bridge.
  • We made it back to the library on Wednesday, much to the joy of the masses. I think we have now checked-out every origami book ever written. Did you know you can get books explaining how to make origami army vehicles? Well you can, because it is currently in my house. I think H., who is the usually origami book checker-outer might have been influenced by K. in that particular choice.
  • I checked out a bunch of books on house decorating. I like nothing more than a brand-new project.
  • It is very confusing having two houses under contract at the same time, especially when there are two different sets of lawyers and realtors. J. will tell me about a phone call, and I'll realize half-way through the conversation that I was thinking he was talking about the other house.
  • Quail watch will be starting soon. The little quails can begin hatching anytime from the 23rd on, though it seems Bobwhite quail can take up to five days past their designated hatch date to actually hatch. The good news is that I think little quail are growing inside six of the eggs. That poor little egg I cracked, but left inside the incubator just in case, remains cold and light. In comparison, the other six eggs feel heavier and are much warmer when I pick them up to turn them. I suppose I should be starting to look into getting food mix for baby quail.
  • Of course, moving with ten children, two adults, two cats, and one dog is going to made so much easier by adding in six baby quail. 
  • I can feel my stress levels plummet. I slept through the night without waking up for the first time in months. Even moving with all of the above family members feels easier than the not knowing.
  • This morning we went to our church's Good Friday Family Workshop, where there is a short worship service, snacks, and a craft. Here is what we came home with.


That's grass seed all waiting to sprout, and there's a rock to roll away on Sunday morning to show that the tomb is empty. In the meantime we wait. We wait celebrate the Good News of our God conquering death for us. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Doing a little bragging

I don't do much bragging about J. here on the blog, though I certainly could. He takes very good care of me and all the children. For instance, even though he has to leave at the crack of dawn, I still get my morning because he found a plug-in mug warmer for my bedside table. He brings me my cup of coffee when he leaves, says good-bye, I mumble something back and try to wake-up. Inevitably I doze for a little longer, but still have a warm cup of coffee waiting for me.

J. would usually be the one who took care of breakfast for us all as well. (I'm not a waking up person. No matter the hour, it takes a good half hour to an hour for my brain to start fully functioning. Once this has happened, I'm fine, regardless of the time. Making breakfast is not my strong suit as a result.) We've been having a lot more eggs, toast, bagels, and such in the mornings because the masses can get those things on their own. J. enjoys baking, though, so he will still make something every so often.

Not wanting to put something in the oven of a sleeping house, here is what greeted up this morning.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Taped together books

We switched the winter picture books for the spring books yesterday. Aw we were getting them out, there were the usual cries of, "Oh, I love this one!" or "This one is my favorite!" I noticed that many of the most loved books are all held together with packing tape. Some with multiple layers of packing tape. They are well-loved books. I thought it might be interesting or useful for some of you (I know I have grandparents here who appreciate book suggestions for their grandchildren), if I listed some of them. I might be missing some, but here's a good start.

1. The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman - I love this book. It is about a family of seven children, each of whom have extremely exacting diets. The illustrations by Martha Frazee are a key part to the story, as you get to watch the children grow up through the story.

2. A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman - This book has been loved so much that I have actually had to replace it. It has wonderful pictures, a fun rhyming text, and (putting on my educator hat for a moment) does a great job of encouraging flexible thinking skills as the book goes through all of the different things that can be thought of as being houses.

3. Market Day by Eve Bunting - This book is set in the Irish countryside and the story follows two children as they wander through the town's monthly market day. There is something about the story that causes extreme devotion in the children who love it.

4. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood - A little mouse tries to hide a very large (to him) strawberry so the bear cannot eat it. The picture of the strawberry with the fake nose and eyeglasses has always cracked my children up.

5. The Just Alike Princes by Pauline Palmer Meek - Sadly this book is out-of-print, but it is one of G. and L's favorites (for obvious reasons). Two identical princes have to learn to share.

6. The McDuff Stories by Rosemary Wells - This book has four stories about McDuff, a little West Highland terrier. The stories are set in the 30's and the illustrations are lovely as is the little white dog.

7. The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord - A small town decides to combat the wasps which have invaded their town by creating a giant jam sandwich in which to trap them.

8. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems - Trixie leaves her stuffed rabbit at the laundromat and her parents have to find him. The expressions and descriptions of the parents are hilarious.

9. Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn - Children, feeling misunderstood by their families run away and build a village in a meadow. The pictures of the houses Andrew Henry builds for each of the children are detailed and fascinating.

10. Going on a Bear Hunt retold by Helen Oxenbury - A lovely retelling of the familiar children's finger play.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

God's provision

After an exceedingly rotten night, at 10 am this morning the phone rang and it was our realtor. I took a deep breath and practiced briefly reacting to the news that we didn't get the house before answering. I didn't need to do that bit of practicing, though, because the news was good. Exceedingly good.

We got the house!

And not only that, we didn't have to go up at all on our offer. We got it for the list price, which was a very good deal. I had written a brief note to accompany our offer (something I've always done for each of the houses we have bought), and it seems that it was the thing that did the trick. Being a professional writer pays in more ways than one.

Before I tell you about the house which you have helped to pray for, let me give you some back story.

I have always loved horses and have always dreamed of owning horses. For various reasons, this was just never a possibility. J. and I have tried at various points in our marriage to move somewhere more rural, but despite years of our best intentions, things just never worked out. I was more or less content with this depending on the season. So we stayed put here in our Victorian houses of varying sizes and raised our increasing number of children.

But while we love the Big Ugly House, there were some problems. The property taxes being one and the lack of money to do the needed repairs being another. To continue as we had been was not sustainable. For the past five or six years, we have wondered and prayed and dithered about how to solve the conjoined problems of job, housing, and finances, all the while the taxes grinding us further into a vague financial nightmare. We had no idea which way to move.

Then came the new job and a way out of our situation. The job was the first piece of the puzzle, the Big Ugly House the second. Of course, the Big Ugly House is a 'special' house, we were repeatedly told. I am intimately aware of that use of the word special. We have many special things and people in our lives. Special is code, often, for 'better you than me.' Would we be able to find a buyer who could appreciate the specialness? And how much work and time and money would it take to get there.

Only God could arrange the puzzle pieces to fit as they have. A buyer out of the blue who was really interested in the house and wasn't scared off by it. Not having to actually list it and live through house showings. A decent offer that allows us to solve some financial concerns. And then this new house.

When we are in the middle of a huge change, I like to make lists... it's kind of a way of praying and telling God what I either see needs to happen or what I would like if I got to choose. It's a way to start a dialog. As we were realizing that we were closer to needing a new home sooner rather than later, I made my list to talk over with God. Here were some of the things on it: A home large enough that we could all fit without having to do extensive additions; at least five acres; a place with either an existing barn or at a price where we could add one; nearby riding trails or an arena or someway to build an arena so that there were places to ride; a quiet area with both trees and fields; close to J.'s work; not too far into the country because I wasn't sure any of us could really handle that; a basement and a fireplace would also be nice to have; oh, and newer, not falling down, which was J.'s particular wish.

With that we actually started to look in earnest. There were very few homes for sale, and I was realizing that things were moving quickly. The first house we looked at seemed the best, and quickly became the one by which we were measuring the others. It's the one we just had the contract accepted for. Remember my list as I describe it. (I won't show any pictures until after close, because it's not really ours yet.)

It's a two-story brick home with 3678 square feet. That's a pretty big house by usual standards, but to really show just how big the Big Ugly House is, we'll be down-sizing by nearly half. It has five bedrooms and a large attic space that we can easily convert to three more bedrooms giving us the bedroom space we need. And they are not small rooms. The other rooms are decent size, and I think fairly quickly we will take out some walls to open things up a bit just to make it a little more comfortable. It is on five acres. Some of the acreage has mature trees, some is open hay field or grass. It is bordered by some residential houses on the same amount of land, a boarding stable is next door, and a fairly large forest preserve with riding trails. I've already talked to the stable owners and they would be willing to work out a deal for using their arenas. It does not have an existing barn, but the price allows us enough money to build a simple one and some fencing for pastures. It was built in 1981 and seems in pretty good shape. It even has a small playhouse out back. Oh, and it's 15 minutes from J.'s work, and 7 minutes to the nearby town with library and large Metra station. That station would make it possible for M. and B. to get out to us if getting a ride didn't work. The only things it doesn't have are a basement and a fireplace. But you know what? I think I can live without those.

I am excited about it. We will miss the Big Ugly House, but this feels right. What I'm not looking forward to is the logistics of it all. We close on the same day for both houses. There are a couple of things, mostly involving flooring that we really need to do before we move a bunch of furniture and a giant piano in. I just can't quite wrap my head around how it will all work, but it will... eventually.

Before I start worrying about all that, though, I'm going to enjoy this: How God has truly provided for us yet again. Maybe someday I will know this at such a deep level of my being that I can avoid that spiral of worry and fear that I so often succumb to.

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, April 10, 2017

I'm going to play show-and-tell today... or join me on the roller coaster

First, the as promised pictures of the newly painted Folly. Not a bad change, huh? Our lesson here is that even if it is not perfect and exactly how I would fix a room, a coat of paint is always better than just living with ugliness.



Look! No horrible painted stripes on the ceiling!

Here's what you don't see in the above photos.


It's not what you would call clean, I know. This is because our wonderful realtor called us a week ago Sunday and said the possible offer was so strong, and they were planning on stating those glorious words, 'as is' in the contract, that we were told to put all work involving time and money on hold. So that's what we did... for an entire week. 

It was a long week. 

In the meantime, I decided that maybe actually looking at other potential homes would be a wise idea. This explains why posting was done at odd times and with only vaguely engaging content. Well, we found a house that we loved and would work perfectly, except that we didn't have an offer.

The past twenty-four hours have been stressful to say the least. First, late yesterday afternoon, we received a contract on our Evanston house. It's a good offer and will allow us to do what we need to do. Of course, this was when we still thought we had some time to figure out how we would make the money work and then make an offer on the other house, which I have been increasingly enamored with.

But....

Literally as I was writing this, I received a phone call from our realtor out there who said the sellers of the other house just were handed a contract from another potential buyer. 

Wah! Wah! Wah! Wah!

We are now hastily trying to get all of our ducks in a row and will try to submit our offer for the house this afternoon. 

It would be a significant understatement to say that my stress level is currently off the charts. Please, please, please pray that everything works out. 

Please?

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Eventually a craft project happened.

Well, after yesterday morning's little craft fiasco, most people felt refreshed enough after lunch to give it at try. They worked on bird pictures in the style of James Rizzi, based on the instructions that I found here. Those who chose to participate did a nice job. Here they are.


G.

H. (she did this with no outside help at all)

L.

TM

K.

Y.

Aren't they cute? They will look so happy hanging in my kitchen.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Friday bullets, April 7, 2017

The day seemed to start off well enough, but then I had the nerve to plan an actual art project. The horror! I thought my arts and crafts loving children would be thrilled at the prospect of an art project, especially since they have been pretty infrequent around here recently. We are evidently out of practice, or the general anxious tone of the house regarding the move does not allow for much creativity, either way, let's just say it was a train wreck from start to finish and leave it at that.

Let's talk about other things instead.

  • I don't have news about the move. I wish I had news about the move. It could be in the next couple of days I might have news about the move. But I don't have any news right now. I wish someone would let a cat into my head and have it just kill that particular hamster, because I'm kind of done with his constant wheel running.
  • I don't even get to escape when I'm asleep. I normally sleep exceedingly well. I have yet to have a night when I haven't woken up in the middle of the night, and when I do sleep I have strings and strings of classic (and unpleasant) stress dreams. 
  • I think my general stress is communicating itself to my children. Stressed children, even if it is secondary stress are unpleasant.
  • To show my complete lack of emotional margin, I burst into tears when I accidentally cracked one of the little quail eggs when I was turning it a few days ago. Yes, I am a quail murderer.
  • On the subject of eggs, when we were at the Museum of Science of Industry last week, we first went to see if they had any eggs hatching. They did! We stood for a long time and watched two chicks actually hatch out of their eggs. It was very cool.
  • We also saw a cool new Omnimax movie at the museum called Think Big, about engineers and the things they design and build. Some children found it entertaining enough, but K. loved it. He came up to me afterwards to say how cool the movie was. I was reminded several times afterwards how much he enjoyed it. Of course, this is also the child who builds city scapes with blocks, draws city sidelines, can name some of the more important Chicago skyscrapers, and comes up with new car ideas all the time. Here are a couple of his most recent car drawings... done freehand.

  • Having J. gone for 13 hours a day kind of stinks. Just sayin'
  • Because of the news about the house I don't have for you, we have temporarily put all house-stuff on hold and gone back to a more normal schedule. This was good. Normal is good, for almost everyone. R. had quite a bit of difficulty, though, because this also meant that much more parental energy and attention was directed back at her. If I am busy, it is so easy for her to just quietly float around the edges of things, sitting and staring. If I notice, I'll try to redirect her, but if I am frantically working to get things done, I don't always. The past week has been a week of Mom noticing, and it is tiring to have to actual be focused and present for several hours at a time. As she worked on using those brain cells again, it got better as the week progressed, but there were some hard moments during the week.
  • Y. has written two books about a little girl who didn't know God and then her parents told her. Much processing is going on in that head.
  • Y. has also really blossomed in her reading as well as G. and L. Yesterday I got to hear (for a third time) about Pig Wig and the ham. I love that story. It makes me laugh every time.
  • The downside to all of this hurtling closer to having nearly everyone be a reader is that the picture books have become less and less important to everyone. I'm not really sure I am quite ready for a phase of parenting that does not involve stacks of picture books. I'll keep them out for now, but I offered to switch from the winter to the spring books the other day and everyone was kind of, 'Meh.' At some point R. will be ready for them, but not for a while yet. She is heavily into the board books we have for her.
  • Stress seems to cause people in my family to desire pets. Some of my older children keep showing me pictures of dogs that need homes. It seems incredibly foolish to add a new pet at this particular point, which I tell them. But the pictures still come. And then I have to look at the really cute Great Dane puppy pictures. And the rescue huskies. And dozens of other really cute and deserving dogs. If my children had their way, the animal population would far outweigh the people population.
Let's stop there a call it a week, shall we? I'm ready to. 
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