Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fun in the garden

Since we had nothing on the calendar today and since it wasn't going to be blisteringly hot, I decided that doing some weeding in the garden would be a good use of time. Weeding the small vegetable garden went quickly and uneventfully. Then came the long garden which runs along the drive. I had already done some cleaning out the first week we were here, but as time passed, I became more and more aware of exactly how overgrown it was. There was ornamental grass which had run amok everywhere. Other exciting discoveries included some poison ivy in a place where I wasn't expecting it. (I'm now waiting to see if I am reactive to it... so far so good, and it is now out of that garden bed.) I also think I found some small beginnings of an invasive vine, which my best guess is called a mile a minute vine. I think I have pulled all of it out as well. 

It wasn't all flora discoveries today, there was also some fauna. At one point, I was cutting back grass, pull away a huge handle to drop in my growing refuse pile, look down, and discover a chipmunk, just lying there. Now, you know as well as I do, that chipmunks do not just lie there when you discover them, they run. This one was not running. This one was not even breathing. It was dead, though it couldn't have been dead for very long because it looked perfect. Now, I don't know what you do when you discover an intact dead animal, but I message M. M. likes taxidermy and is actually quite good at it. I now have a dead chipmunk inside a plastic bag in my utility room freezer, waiting for M. to pick it up at some point. Because I am the cool mom.

We ran across live fauna as well. Later in the afternoon, as I'm continuing with my weeding, I go to grab some more weeds, and am startled by this not-so-little guy.

I will admit to letting out a little shriek, because he so startled me. Well, that and I very nearly grabbed him instead of the weed. Not five minutes later, K. comes running over with a small cooler that he shoves in my face saying, "Look what I caught!" Here, look what K. caught.

I very briefly considered catching the frog and throwing him in the cooler with the toad so we could have our own version of Frog and Toad are Friends. I'm kind of sad I didn't.

The last thing I want to show you are these white flowers, which my crowd-sourcing tells me are balloon flowers. Aren't they lovely?

You'll have to wait for tomorrow for some pictures of the much tidier garden. I was too intent of finishing up and getting into the shower at the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Project Zero... or inheriting other people's problems

This past weekend (why is it always on a weekend), L. happens to mention in passing that there is water dripping from the light fixture in the children's bathroom. What?! She was right. J. went poking around behind the knee wall on the third floor to look at the air conditioning unit, and discovered there was something wrong with the drain. So today, we got to meet a very nice HVAC guy, who came out and fixed it. It was no surprise when he said that all the heating and cooling systems were very old and ineffecient. I fear we are living on borrowed time in that department.

This wasn't exactly news, though. We were told at the inspection that these systems were old, and it was already on our radar. It costs money, but they are relatively easy to fix. The problem that we weren't expecting or anticipating was that we seem to be the source of every Japanese beetle in the country. At least it feels that way. I had noticed these beetles when we first moved in, and thought there seemed to be a lot of them, but secretly hoped they were benign. Then B. saw them and filled me in on how not fine they were. I encouraged the masses to collect them and feed them to Q., who does love them, and went on with my unpacking.

Then, this weekend, when out and about the property, we realized that we have so many Japanese beetles that they are completely decimating some of the fruit trees. I'm not sure one particularly large cherry tree is going to survive their onslaught. The worst moment was this morning, though, when I looked at a small apple tree, and every single apple was completely covered in Japanese beetles. It was pretty disgusting and infuriating all at the same time.

I rousted the children out of the house, gave them instructions, and started hauling buckets of warm, soapy water out to them. This seems to be about the only thing one can do to get rid of them. There were quite a few that ended up in the water, but it was both literally and figuratively a drop in the bucket. We discovered that you really need to get out there when the day is still cool and the sun not on them, because they are slower and stay put. The minute the sun warmed the air and shone on them, they were off. K. and L. have an alarm set for the morning, because they are happy to join my crusade of eradicating our property of this vile infestation. Thus, Project Zero, as in zero Japanese beetles.

We will also be put down a lot of milky spore on the grass come fall and then spring, to kill the grubs, but that isn't going to save the trees right now. I have a feeling that this was one of those things that the previous owners just didn't have it in them to tackle, and instead of killing the grubs when the beetles were first noticed, the population was allowed to flourish.

I can now see how we will spend the rest of our summer. Q. is valiantly doing his part, but one quail cannot possibly eat as many beetles as we have. Heck, I'm not even sure a whole covey of quail could eat as many beetles as we have.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Some things just aren't funny, even if you call them a joke

I discovered over the weekend that earlier in the summer, a person who doesn't really know my family or children well was talking to one of my children, and 'joked' [I use this term very loosely] that this child's parents must not have been very happy with them, since they went back and got another one.

Just sit with that for a moment.

It is a very, very good thing that I am just now registering this, because had I discovered this in the moment, I would have done a full-on Maya DiMeo. If you have seen an episode of Speechless, then you will get the reference. If you haven't... well... Amazon may still have the pilot for free. You should watch it.) Pretty much, it would not have been a pretty sight. J. has told me that sometimes I wield words more like a weapon than is necessary (those are the posts which do not get published), and a weapon is pretty much what I feel like using. People do not hurt my children and not hear from me.

And my main point would be, some things just are not funny, no matter how often a person insists that they are. There is nothing funny, ever, about implying that a person is somehow a disappointment to their parents; that they did not measure up in such a significant way that the parents felt the need to start over and try again. There is nothing funny about such a pathetic joke even to the most secure, biological child, because at our cores, aren't each of us just a little unsure about our place in the universe? Don't we all secretly feel as though we don't measure up in some way? That we must disappoint people because we are not perfect? Even if a person is unwilling to admit to these deep fears, I'm pretty sure they are there. Where else does competitive parenting come from? Sibling rivalry? Keeping up with the Joneses? We all battle our fears that we are not enough.

So if children who have not lost their first families are prone to these fears, how much more so a child who has had the very worst happen to them? The stories and fairy tales of losing parents are not just fables to these children. They are their reality. Some children have indeed lost parents to horrific and tragic circumstances. Some children have experienced being left behind by the people who were supposed to take care of them and love them the best. Some children have even experienced this devastating level of loss more than once.

These children battle the worries of not being good enough as a chronic state. You can tell a child a million times that they were not the cause of their first parents leaving them, but knowing it in your head and knowing it in your heart are two very different things. The insecurity is always there. The worry that maybe this home and these parents aren't all that permanent, either. What if someone better comes along? What if I mess up one too many times? What if I'm not pretty enough or smart enough or pleasant enough? What if I make these parents abandon me, too?

As a parent, I know that I love my children no matter their outward appearance, or their behavior, or their successes and failures. I tell my children this. A lot. But, the only thing that will convince their hearts is time and an outpouring of love, even when my child is trying to bring about what he or she sees as the inevitable sooner, just to get it over with. That's a lot of love in the face of a lot of pain. It is our usual existence.

So Ms. Funny Pants, tell me exactly how your little 'joke' is helping my child heal in anyway what so ever? To get your jollies, you have now pushed us back more than a few steps, by naming and making light of some very deep seated and real fears. Tell me exactly what is so very funny about making light of someone's pain? Tell me just where is the hilarity in confirming the erroneous assumption of my child's that they are somehow imperfect... undesirable... damaged.

You may call it a joke. I call it something else. Something that I won't write out because I may get a non-family friendly rating from Blogger. This is a problem these days, tendency of people needlessly cause someone else pain, and then adding to that pain by making light of it. "Oh, I was only joking!" Really, all that you are saying is that your emotional comfort is just so much more important than someone else's. Heaven forbid, that person actually say something along the lines of, "I'm so sorry. That was insensitive. I hadn't thought through how that might sound to someone else. Please forgive me." No one is perfect. I'm not expecting perfection, just humility; a willingness to put yourself in someone else's shoes, if even for a moment. It's not political correctness, it's just accepting one another's humanity as being as important as our own.

Oh, and before I'm done, let's just clear up another little item stuck in my craw. As the parent, I don't go shopping for children, hoping to find the best deal, or looking for better ones because I'm unhappy with the ones I have. My children are each precious and beloved. J. and I see each and every one of them as blessings bestowed upon us by a loving God. Blessings, I might add, whom He loves even more than I do, and who are each created in His image. Don't mess with them.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Meet Olive

I know you were all thinking, "Boy, now that the move is over and everything is unpacked, things must be pretty dull in the Big Ugly Barn." Never fear. We don't really do dull around here, and always seem to have some little bit of craziness going on to keep all of you entertained. A. is responsible for this new little bit of excitement. She had been trolling Great Dane breeders for months, and eventually won over her father and me to getting one. Yesterday was the big pick-up day, so A. and P. drove to Indiana to bring home a puppy.

Meet Olive.

I'm kind of liking this way of having a puppy around. Olive is so cute and so little and so cuddly... and I don't have to do anything except enjoy her puppiness. A., on the other hand, was up the entire night because it seems that Olive is not yet terribly happy about her crate. J. and I slept very well.

Here are some more pictures from yesterday.

Considering her parents are both about 100 pounds, she is a tiny little thing.

This is the game we call, Pass the Puppy. Everyone loves Olive. Well, everyone except Nefertiti, but she isn't terribly thrilled about most people and animals. Poor Olive has already gotten her nose batted. Nefertiti is quite a big bigger than Olive... now.

We were even able to go out and see the show and not have to stay home to watch the puppy. The show was great, and we enjoyed it. Here are some pictures from afterwards. Some of the characters were posing with audience members afterwards.

TM noted that in our family, it would seem that only the Asian children enjoy having their picture taken; the white ones huddled far, far away to avoid the whole thing.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday bullets, July 21, 2017

Here we are at Friday again.

  • We've had quite a few thunderstorms pass through this week. Poor Kenzie is missing his basement and pantry. He seems to have decided the first floor bathroom is the safest place in the house during storms, so that's where he huddles and shivers. No amount of coaxing can get him to leave. This means that some people are forced to share the bathroom with him when nature calls, and some people are none too thrilled about that.
  • The 'broil' function on this rotten range we inherited does not seem to work. Does this surprise anyone? I'm not sure I will make it to the time we actually do the kitchen remodel with this [insert pejorative of choice here] piece of equipment. You truly cannot cook anything on it. I nearly ruined rice on it the other day. Rice is very, very difficult to ruin.
  • D. has become rather proficient on using the riding mower.
  • D. and TM informed me that if when we get horses, they are NOT mucking out the stalls. P. and I will have to take care of that. I guess it was a little hot and sticky in the stable next door yesterday as they were mucking out 20.
  • Oh my goodness. The stable where P. rode yesterday is more than a little swanky. It looks like a movie stable. You know, the kind I had convinced myself as a child only existed in movies because it was too unbearable to think someone, somewhere had a stable like that. I will admit to a rather strong bout of extreme envy there for a bit.
  • We still really like our new bed.
  • I think J. and I will be spending some significant time tomorrow hanging shelves, hooks, and pictures. I can tell you, J. is so excited he can barely contain himself.
  • Does anyone have any really good advice about getting rid of poison ivy? We have a couple of sections of yard that is full of the stuff. Do goats eat poison ivy? It might be worth getting a goat. 
  • Tonight some of us are going to a local community theater production of Beauty and the Beast. Most of us are going for fun, D. is doing reconnaissance to see if it is a theater he would like to audition for.
  • I've done pretty well finding a home for everything. Well, everything except the printer. I hate seeing electronics like that just sitting out, so am trying to find a more hidden spot for it. But a hidden spot where it is still accessible. This is not an easy task. But it is kind of a moot problem for the moment, since I still cannot find the cords that go with it. This is a little concerning since we have very few unpacked boxes these days.
  • I'm about to head for the grocery store, with Fridays becoming my shopping day. If anything has convinced me of the wisdom of doing weekly planning and shopping, this past month or so has. Our food costs have been out the roof, and it's not because there has been a significant change in food costs. It's been because I pared down the pantry a bit, so had to do some restocking, but more because I would only plan a meal or two at a time, and was always going to the store. This is a recipe for high grocery bills. I'm hoping to rein these back in with an actual schedule.
  • There is so much summer produce available now, I was thinking it might be fun to play a game in August. What would you think of seeing how many different fruits and vegetables we can eat in a month? I could keep track and also share some recipes if I happen to find good ones for some odder vegetables. I've seen 30 vegetables in 30 days challenges, but could we go higher? I have no idea what do you think? You know, if you hit that little 'comment' button on the bottom of the post, you could share your thoughts. Hint. Hint.
And with that, I really do need to go to the store. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Working towards automatic

My piano is now tuned. Even better, my new piano tuner was able to find and fix the squeak in the damper pedal. It had been annoying me for months. In theory, I could begin teaching again... if I had students. I have been diligent in passing out business cards and putting them on any bulletin boards I come across. It has been so long since I have been brand new in an area, I forget how many things we take for granted are dependent upon social capital. It just takes time. The piano tuner was one little step forward.

Another little step was getting P. riding again. She liked the trainer she rode with today, and the trainer was impressed with her skills, and had her jumping fences by the end of the lesson. (She has been jumping for quite some time, but I wasn't sure a new trainer would be having her do that right away.) It seems as though this could be a good fit.

But there are still so many other things that we realize we have to actually stop and figure out. Where do you take bags of donations? Where do you get your hair cut? Where is the nearest Secretary of State's office so we can get our driver's licenses and car registrations changed?

Life inside our house is feeling a little more automatic. Automatic meaning that we know where things are, we know which way to turn at the bottom or top of the stairs to get to the room we want, we don't have to think about which drawer the toothpaste is in. That kind of thing. It is life outside the house, and that would include the yard, which still feels not quite so hand-in-glove. We have to think about them. It can feel a little tiring.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tree climbers

Today L. and K. discovered that we have trees they can climb. There are dozens of trees in our yard, yet it has taken them nearly four weeks to feel comfortable enough to really start to explore. It's as if they didn't quite believe that all this land was really and truly ours, and that they could explore and play at will. 

So as I sipped coffee and ate my breakfast on the side porch, I had a little show of watching these two monkeys discover trees they could climb.

L. is in red at the top, and K. is in yellow coming up behind. They both went up and down multiple times. They are a little difficult to see, so here is a close-up.

I worked more in the room with no name, but am now at a point where I need more shelves before I can continue. J. stopped and got some shelves which can be mounted on the wall, so perhaps I will be back in business tomorrow. Tomorrow is also a big day, because I finally talked to a live person at one of the stables near us, and P. has a trial riding lesson tomorrow. It feels a bit like a riding audition. There are stables everywhere out here, but it seems finding a spot for lessons is trickier than I imagined it to be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Big Wean... plus some marshmallows

We spent the day travelling to and from the neurologist. If you are wondering why I would continue to go to a neurologist that take nearly two hours to get to, I'll tell you. I love having a doctor who listens to me and takes me seriously. I told her about my hypothosis that R.'s seizures were not true seizures, but were psychogenic. Psychogenic being a fancy word for seizures brought on by mental stress and anxiety, not by a physical cause. As a result, we are going to continue to work on making R. feel safe, and at the same time, begin the wean off all the medicine she is currently taking. I am really, really hoping that being off so much seizure medicine will help her to function better cognitively. Really hoping.

The neurologist continues to be amazed by H. and R. Based on their EEG's and MRI's, they should be be having at minimum, daily seizures, and little strength or facility on their right sides. This is not the case for either of them. H. has such good function on her right side now that the neurologist couldn't even really discern a difference.

We'll start the wean tomorrow.

But let's talk about something a little more fun. Yesterday, the masses decided that they needed to collect firewood, in order to make s'mores. This meant that I needed to add s'more making supplies to my grocery list, but it was a beautiful evening...



Y., with K. in the background

K., L., and G.

The sun was setting as we were finishing up.

There are a lot of wildflowers around the fire pit.




Monday, July 17, 2017

Workable photos

Evidently, I didn't have the whole 'share pictures from my phone' thing down, because it didn't work. I have now tried something different, and seem to have solved the problem. You should be able to see the pictures on the previous post. My apologies.

Other then endless unpacking, I don't have a whole lot else to report. We've emptied a lot more boxes, and decided on which other boxes have to live in the storage locker for the time being. As a result, the house is looking a little more finished. Maybe some day I can feel as though I don't have to spend every waking moment dealing with boxes. That would be good.

I did find two new places this weekend where I am probably going to be spending quite a bit of time. The first is a very large grocery store near me which seems to have just about everything I have been looking for. I didn't try it at first because I have a pretty strong bias against giant stores, but this one seems to have both good prices and a great selection. And it is just 10 minutes from our house. I feel as though I can make menus and go grocery shopping again. This feels like a huge victory.

The second is the cutest little tea shop. P. had her first guitar lesson this past weekend. Because she can't walk anymore, like she did in Evanston, I drove her. I had taken a book hoping that I could find some sort of coffee shop nearby where I could sit and read. Boy, did I hit the jackpot! Just next door from the music shop where her lessons are, is The Tea Tree. It has a huge selection of teas, vinegars, oils, and whatnot. Plus, the owner will brew you a cup of tea, all you have to do wander about and decide which of the many teas to try. I had a lovely half hour, sipping some really delicious tea and reading my book. I kind of wish P.'s lessons were an hour long. If you are in the area (though I don't think any of you are... because you would have contacted me and told me, and then we could meet, and I could know someone out here), you should stop by.

Finally, I need a favor from you. D. is taking a class at Aurora University this summer about inventing and innovation. Each group has to come up with an invention and go through the process of what it would look like to bring that invention to market. His group has chosen a sort of phone texting lock-out system, to disable texting while driving. Part of the process is market research. Would you all be willing to take a quick survey for him? Like today? Here's the link: Key Lock Invention Survey Thank you. D. really appreciates it!

And one bonus picture, now that I know how to do it. Here is Nefertiti who discovered that she could climb back behind the books in the room that still doesn't have a workable name.

Tomorrow we drive two hours one way for neurologist appointments. I'm sure that will generate good blog fodder. It always does.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Bullets, July 14, 2017

And it's Friday again. Days certainly do blend in with one another when all you do is spend every hour unpacking boxes.
  • Our bed continues to be really comfortable. I had gotten used to waking up in the middle of the night (even before we were sleeping on the floor) feeling vaguely uncomfortable, and then having to take a bit to go back to sleep. With this new mattress, I haven't woken up in the middle of the night at all, all week. It is wonderful.
  • Did I tell you about the screeching cat? That would be Nefertiti in the middle of the night a few nights back. J. and I were woken up by the most awful, and loud, screeching. It was definitely animal-like, but we couldn't really identify it. So, we go downstairs, with a little trepidation. What we see is Nefertiti looking out one of the sliding doors at one of the barn cats from next door. We wait a moment, and we here the sound again. Yes, indeed, it was coming from Nefertiti. I didn't even know a cat could make such a sound. Lower it by several octaves, and you would have thought that  lion was in our dining room. Evidently, Nefertiti was totally outraged by the other cat's presence. The other cat seemed completely unconcerned by Nefertiti's roarings. We finally had to carry Nefertiti upstairs and shut her in our room, because it was obvious that she was not going to be quiet if left downstairs.
  • D. is currently taking a class at Aurora University on inventions. He is enjoying it, and loves the fact that he receives both high school and college credit for it. 
  • If posting is still spotty over the next weeks and months, it is because we don't have our internet situation totally sorted out. Currently, we are using phones and hot spots. The phones work fine, but are not great of writing on. The 10 gigs of hot spot get used up extremely quickly, which then makes it hard to use my computer. It is an imperfect situation, but it is certainly better than nothing.
  • We seem to have landed in library heaven. We have not one, but two very nice libraries equidistant from our house. And, outside of the Chicago are, it seems that library cards work everywhere. D. and I discovered the new library yesterday. It's sort of like having two different branches I can use, depending on which direction I'm driving. 
  • 36 boxes later, we have this.

And this.

But we also have this.

Yes, I'm working on the school/sewing/craft room, and have been for the past two days, with no end in sight. The room needs an official name. I think we will settle for 'library, but that doesn't really seem to encompass all that it will be used for. I thought perhaps 'atelier' would work, but that may be too pretentious to stick. Thoughts or suggestions? 

To show my progress, though, the toy loft was completely filled with boxes when I began. (TM and I had to move all the boxes out of the SS and C room in order to rearrange the bookcases. You can see there are only a few left to deal with.

  • As you can also see, there has been a lot of block play happening. I think the smaller people are thrilled to have toys to play with again. Usually I will make them clean up their creations at the end of the day, but I let K. keep this up a little longer, because it was so cool. Can you tell what it is? It's a theater. See the rows of seats, the stage (complete with backdrop... the red blocks), and wings for the actors to wait in to go on.
  • You might start seeing more pictures on the blog, since TM helped me figure out how to get pictures of my phone and onto here.
  • Speaking of my phone, I'm willing to eat crow. I do like it, and it does make life a bit easier. Go ahead and say, "I told you so."
  • I'm very excited. A piano student gave me a book gift certificate as a going away gift, and my order arrived today. I have The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire, and Arne& Carlos' Field Guide to Knitted Birds. You have to see the cute birds on the cover of the last one.

Aren't they adorable? I can't wait to finish sorting and organizing (and finding) my knitting supplies and knit some birds. I'm also excited to read the other books. I need to finish the unpacking so that I feel as though I have more reading time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cooking vaguely Vietnamese food

Last night we had a 'make your own spring roll' dinner, based loosely on a meal we had at a Vietnamese restaurant. I have no idea what the real name of the dish was called, but essentially they provided things to go into rice paper wrappers and you rolled them up. It's a little bit of prep work at the beginning, and a little tricky to sort out how to serve it, but everyone enjoyed it. Here's what I did.

Make your own spring rolls (there is no way I can give you amounts... you're just going to have to guess based on how many people you have and what you think they'll eat)

Sliced beef (I found some great pre-sliced stir-fry meat at H Mart the other day.... meat sliced for Bulgogi would work, too.)

Marinate this for a while in a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and oyster sauce. Then while it is marinating, slice some green onions and chop some garlic. Set these aside.

Before you cook the beef, you will want to prepare the other toppings. I shredded some carrots, washed some leaf lettuce, cut some cucumbers into sticks, put some bean sprouts in a bowl, and made some dipping sauce (nuoc cham). If you have access to spicy basil and mint, put some of that out, too, Oh, and cook some rice noodles, the skinny vermicelli kind. (The trick to these is to cook them for only 3 minutes, then drain in a colander with a small bowl turned upside down inside, and run cold water over the them. I don't know why the bowl keeps them from sticking, but it does. Let them cool in the sink until you are ready to serve.)

Now you are ready to cook your beef. Heat a pan and put in some sesame oil. When it is hot, add the green onions, and stir them for a minute or two. Add the beef and cook until you are comfortable eating it. (We like things medium rare around here.)

The last thing you need is to boil some hot water so the people eating can soften their rice paper wrappers. I put shallow bowls on the table for people to share, and then put the hot water in them.

To serve, you set everything on the table. Take a rice paper wrapper, and dip it into the hot water. I like to put just a portion of it in, and turn it until it is all wet. This is the key part. You don't want it too soggy, or it becomes impossible to work with, but too hard and it won't fold. It takes a little practice. Then put the softened sheet on your plate, and fill with whatever you want inside. Wrap it like an eggroll (or burrito, if that is more familiar), dip it the dipping sauce, and enjoy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The gift of frustration

This whole move has been hard on some of the children. We have seen some pretty significant regression in several of them, as they sort out what has happened. You will probably not be surprised to hear that R. is experiencing the most significant regression. Because I think that so much of her functioning is encoded in the part of her brain which stores chunks of habits, we are now back at square one in terms of how to go about one's day. I'm sure she finds this upsetting, but if you were just to go by presenting behavior, the casual onlooker would never know there was anything wrong. Aimlessly happy... actually it's in reality vaguely disassociated.... is pretty much how she moves through her day unless I am actively making her think or do something other than sit and stare (or play with one of her three favorite activities for hours on end.)

I know a bit or two about frustration. As a highly competitive, recovering perfectionist, I have a fairly low frustration point. (You can ask my mother about my chemistry text book being thrown across the kitchen more than once.) It shouldn't surprise me, therefore, that some of my children also have fairly low frustration thresholds. I have never seen any of this as a positive trait; instead I tend to view it as something to be managed at best and avoided at worst.

While being so frustrated that it makes you throw a book is not desirable, I have come to the conclusion that, as long as you can step away from your frustration before the books start to fly, frustration is actually a good thing. Feeling frustrated is an indication that you can perceive greater possibilities. It means that you are aware when you do not understand something, and can spur you on to harder study. Frustration can mean that you have big ideas in your head, even if you don't always have the means to carry them out at that very moment. (Hmmm... that wouldn't describe anyone we know whose name starts with an 'L', would it?)

There are many moments throughout my day when I long for R. to feel frustrated. I would be thrilled if, out of frustration, if she threw something across the room. I great big noisy, limb flailing fit at the injustice of not being able to do something that is beyond her capability would truly be a joyful noise to my ear.

Instead, R. tries something (half-heartedly) once. Then when she doesn't succeed, she stops and stares at whichever adult happens to be in the room, and grins. It takes a lot of prodding (oh, I cannot tell you how much prodding) to get her to try again. It is the grin that causes me to physically bit my tongue... inside my head (which is exploding), I am having the great big noisy, frustration induced fit. I want to scream, "Look around you! See what everyone else is doing and enjoying. Want to do that, too! Try! Be a part of your own life!"

Now, before you jump to the comment section, I know this is trauma-induced behavior. I know R. has been so damaged by abuse and neglect that she is past frustration. She has ceased to think she can even try, no doubt as a result of being thwarted too many times when she was younger. It is now too scary to try. We are left with a shell of a child who is only comfortable inside her own head, though I'm pretty sure, based on my reading, that in her disassociated state, there is little to no brain function going on. R. finds it preferable to essentially to be unconscious, even when awake.

To see her experience frustration would mean that she is slowly coming awake, and feels safe enough to do the developmental work of a toddler of trying to do things for herself, even at the risk of frustration.

I do not know how to bring her to this point.

So the next time you or a loved one is frustrated, appreciate it, because I can tell you that the other possibility is truly not desirable.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

How about some bullet points?

I am so out of any type of schedule, I truly have no idea what day it is. The fact that it was Friday completely missed me yesterday.

  • I fear I will never get these boxes unpacked. I know I will, but there are just so many of them. 
  • Today J. gave D. a lesson on how to ride the tractor to mow to the grass. D. managed, but did say it was harder than it looked. Also, in farm child-type news, the stable next door, will hire one child a day to muck out stalls. It's good money. D. did the first shift, mucking out 18 stalls.
  • When B. was here for the 4th of July, he set-up the bee hive back behind the fruit trees to see if any bees would move in. Well, when J. checked two days ago, bees were coming and going, so sent B. a picture. Today, even more bees are coming and going, so it really looks as though a swarm has moved in, and they are not just stealing the bit of honey B. had left in the hive. 
  • Besides not knowing what day it is, I cannot seem to keep enough food in the house, nor get on a regular shopping schedule. Aside from the whole move disruption, I think the reason is that I need to figure out what stores I am going to go to. We have an Aldi close, so that's good, but I need something more than Aldi. What I want the equivalent of my nice little grocery store that had amazing produce and meats, as well as a huge variety of ethnic foods. Foods, I might add, that I am now pretty used to buying. For example, I was picking up some things at Target yesterday, and decided that I would also pick-up the few things that I needed for dinner. There was no pita bread. How can a store not sell pita bread? Does anyone else find this unusual?
  • Probably the biggest news of the past 24 hours is that J. and I actually slept on a BED last night. I real bed... frame, mattress, everything. It was lovely. On M.'s recommendation, we ended up ordering a foam mattress that gets mailed to you in a box. I was a little skeptical, but since neither of us really wanted to go visit mattress stores, decided to try it. (A 100 day free return policy that did not involve us trying to get the mattress to go back into the box sealed the deal.) It was a little squishier than we were expecting when we first opened it, but by bedtime, it had firmed up a bit and was actually pretty comfortable. Of course, after over two weeks of sleeping on the floor might color my opinion a bit.
  • I tried going to a local farmer's market today. I was at the tail end, so didn't find anything produce that I wanted, but did happen to see a guitar store, so went in and found P. a guitar teacher instead.
And now I should go, as we are eating (another) late dinner. Someday life will go back to normal, right?

Friday, July 07, 2017

Book Issues

"In the study she nodded to my husband, turned completely around once, and then remarked that we seemed to be making no practical use of the space in our house. 'This room would be much larger,' she said, 'if you took out all those books.' Mrs. Ferrier thought the master bedroom should have faced west, and she barely put her head inside the smaller bedrooms. 'They would be much larger,' I told her, 'if we took out the beds.'" - Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson **

Seeing as how I have books on bookshelves in my bedroom, but still no bed, it is clear that Shirley Jackson and I see eye-to-eye on the importance of things. I am really starting to miss the large built-in bookshelves in our old house, as well as the Folly, which had multiple, if decrepit, bookshelves where we kept more academic volumes that we didn't want to part with. Now all those books are sitting in boxes around the house, waiting for a shelf to live on. I walk around my house wondering, "Could I fit a bookshelf in here?" These bookshelves do not exist yet, but I see them in my imagination running down every hallway in the house. (And this is the much depleted book collection. I shudder to think the state we would be in if we hadn't done quite so much purging.) I haven't even started on the school/craft/sewing room. I'll have to be sure to take a before picture of that particular room before I start on organizing it.

I'm particularly bad at taking before shots. How will you appreciate the beauty and order I have wrought if you cannot see the chaos beforehand? You'll just have to use your imaginations. I want to show you the level of desperateness I am in for shelf space. Yesterday it was the cookbooks. I decided to turn the built-in desk into other types of storage. First I had to remove all the desk detritus that had accumulated over the past two weeks, in drifting piles of paper of varying importance. (I just picked them all up, and put them in a pile in another box near the place where I will actually have my desk. Bill paying will have to happen soon, so I'm afraid I will have to actually tackle that next.) Once it was clean, I could do this...

Those are my cookbooks and cooking magazines, grain mill, Bosch mixer (for making bread dough), and the Kitchen Aid. There's even room for more cookbooks in the future. I like shelves with empty spaces because it is like tacit permission to buy more books.

Clearly we have book issues around here.

**Raising Demons, and the first volume, Life Among the Savages, are the memoirs of Shirley Jackson (yes, that Shirley Jackson, of "The Lottery" fame) regarding raising her four children. The are hysterical, and I reread them every so often, just for the sheer fun of it. It will also make you vaguely glad that you do not have to take her children shopping, though I'm afraid I now come perilously close with L.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Home thoughts

As I've been going through this process of packing up, moving, and unpacking in a new place, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what makes a home. It clearly isn't the fact that your stuff is all with you. My evidence? The completely and total sobbing meltdown that L. had last night because, "I miss our old house." This was after she had spent the past two days opening up boxes and discovering all the things they contained. Last night, the first floor was even looking somewhat lived in, and a lot less like a moving company storage facility. So, it's not just the stuff being in your living space.

I think it is more how you feel about it. Are you comfortable? Do you know where everything is? When you wake up in the middle of the night, do you have to stop and think for a moment where you are, or do you just know? It is these things that I think my children are currently missing. In truth, I'm missing them a bit, too, but I'm the one doing the bulk of the unpacking, so I have spent the past week cleaning and organizing and getting things organized, so I think I am feeling the most comfortable as a result. A place doesn't feel terribly home-like when even the most basic tasks take conscious effort rather than being automatic. We have to figure out how our family is going to function is our new space. How do meals work? How does the laundry work? Where do we play, read, eat, sleep, find places to be alone? All this was automatic in our old house, and these things need to be figured out again. It takes time. Each day we all feel a little bit more comfortable. Each day everyone figures out a little bit more where everything is.

When I was at the library with the littles this past weekend, I picked up a book that I found, and it is feeling entirely appropriate for our current phase in life. I picked up it both because of it's title and because it's by Bill Bryson. I really enjoy Bill Bryson's books. They are usually informative as well as having moment of being so funny, I want to read sections out loud to J., and then end up laughing so hard I cannot do it. (In truth, I haven't found a part in this current book which reaches this level of humor, but I'm still at the beginning, so I have hope.) Anyway, the book is, At Home: A Brief History of Private Life. I'm enjoying it, and it is full of interesting bits of history and how it all relates to the houses we live in today. Even though I'm still only in the first few chapters, I'm going to recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


I know it's a holiday, and we will be celebrating with friends later on, but pretty much my day has been spent unpacking boxes. The movers arrived yesterday, and inundated is really the only word to describe the feeling of watching the movers bring in all of our personal possessions. I had purged a lot. (Really, you can ask the haulers who cleaned out the house. We left A LOT!) But as the movers were bringing it in, I kept panicking, thinking, "I should have gotten rid of more! There's nothing like everything... furniture and hundreds of boxes... just sitting where ever in a house to make you feel, even briefly, that it will never all get sorted out. While there are still piles of boxes everywhere, nearly every room has at least the furniture sorted into place.

Last night, I tackled the living rooms and dining rooms, while J. put together endless numbers of beds. Everyone got to sleep in a bed last night except for me and J. We gave ours to A., whose room will double as the guest room. The old guest room bed went with B. to his new apartment. We are working on ordering a bed and buying a mattress, it just hasn't happened, yet. You know you have asked your family to sleep on the floor for a good long while, when they all wake up in the morning complaining they didn't sleep well in their beds because it felt so odd.

Want to see the progress we've made so far? Here are a few rooms.

Here's what is currently the dining room. We have the old kitchen tables now in a square. It is a bit tight, it works. It will be a little less tight once I figure out what to do with those boxes.

The living room. I'm really happy with how the piano fits, and this little part of the house is looking almost homey.

From the other direction. Yes, I suppose I could have moved the giant IKEA bag, but I didn't really see it until I looked at the picture.

The end of the living room looking towards the front doors.

The TV Lounge. I needs another chair or something, but it's a start. I have the CD's and DVD's are all organized, as well as....

the game closet! Look at this! They all fit... neatly! I cannot convey how satisfying I find this. On the other side (there are sliding doors, so this is just half of the closet) are the puzzles and a few more games. I've already had a few people look at the puzzles, games, and DVD's and say, "What's this? I didn't know we had this!" Clearly my old storage system was not truly workable, and a lot of things got lost. This is going to be so much better.

Now, I will go back to doing some more unpacking. We will eventually get to the holiday part of the day. Enjoy your 4th of July!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The promised pictures

Here they are, current pictures of our new home. First, the wall that was partially taken out.

You can see down there on the floor how much wall was taken out. It does help to open up these rooms. This is looking from the doorway of the kitchen towards the front of the house.

Here is the wall from the other side. The idea is to eventually make these two rooms one large living room, and turn the back porch into mudroom/pantries/dining room. This will make one room, even though the wall sticks out a bit still, right? (If you look at the floor, you will see a bunch of books scattered across it. We took our first family visit to the library this morning.)

Here is the view of the house from the same spot as the earlier picture. 

And here is the front part of the property from our south-east border. Those are all silver maples.

This is the front drive that runs along the side of the house, 

and here it is further on, past the curve.

The front of the house, complete with two little girls who are playing.

The garden along the side. I cut down an awful lot of ornamental grass and found strawberries growing underneath.

This is the view from the back of our house. Those trees in the far background are the forest preserve.

There's a fire pit... people are looking forward to having a bonfire and cooking s'mores.

I walked out to the far south-west corner of our property and took a picture looking back towards the house. That is mostly all of our property that you are seeing.

Here I'm facing across our property to the north. Our land ends at that white fence in the far distance. More than enough room for a small stable (someday) and some pastures, right?

This is the view looking towards all those silver maples from the other side. All the grass you see is what J. spend several hours mowing yesterday. Now you can appreciate the size of the job.

And one more picture looking across the to few buildings behind our house. There is the shed and playhouse, and currently we are adding our huge family tent because some people thought it was more fun to sleep there than in the house without carpeting. We've had some rain, so are waiting for it to dry out a bit to take down.

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