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Santa Claus: Friend or Foe

December 15, 2014

Annie has a love-hate relationship with Santa.  She talks about him daily, and often her first words in the morning are, “Did Santa come while I was asleep?”  Although she is ever hopeful that her stocking has been filled in the night, she can’t really decide if she wants to Santa to know where she lives.

“I will sit on his yap at the grocery store,” She explains, “But not in my home, because that would be scary for me.”

Then again, maybe she does want Santa in her home.  Last time she pinched her fingers, she was inconsolable insisting that she needed Santa to “Kiss it”.  And her latest nap-time protest has been, “Santa never puts girls down to nap!”

Annie marched in bravely to see the Macy’s Santa, fully prepared to sit on his lap. But alas, at the last minute, faced with the man himself, she choked, telling us sadly afterwards, “I did not sit on his yap.  I just sat on his drum-stool.”

Maybe next time.

Below: Evidence of Ambivalence.



Winter Ready

December 8, 2014

Winter is here.  It’s been here for a while.  Every time we step outside means four little hats, four little scarves, four pairs of boots, and eight little mittens.  Every time we step inside they take it all off.  Then they decide to go outside and play in the snow and put it all back on.  This used to be a sweaty and stressful process for me, one which often resulted in two left boots, or mismatched mittens, or somebody wearing a sock on one hand.  In a pinch, I have been known to throw a blanket over a few and haul them to the van like a sack of potatos.  You can see how happy they are to be all bundled up:

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But last year, all that changed.

If I could offer one gift to the mothers of the frozen north, it would be this piece of advice: sew it all together.  You don’t have to know how to sew.  I don’t.  But somehow, in desperation, I managed to thread a needle, tie a knot, and poke it through hat, coat, scarf, coat, mitten, coat, mitten, coat.  And there they hang: a complete suit of winter gear, ready for a body to be slipped into it at a moments notice, should the snow suddenly call someone out into the yard to play.

I will admit, they look a teeny bit spooky hanging there like little ghosts.  Last year, after I attached Elisabeth’s mittens I realized they were WAY too large, giving her suit hanging on the hook a distinct Edward scissor-hands look.

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The day before thanksgiving we picked up a Christmas tree and a load of firewood, and between that and the suits of winter gear, we are in business.

Even our six hens are ready for the season.  Being city chickens, they feel a lot of pressure to keep up with the Jones. Sometimes I hear them clucking about possibly moving to the country and homeschooling, but I will not have it! And so they continue to grace our yard with their presence and our table with their many colored eggs. To keep them laying eggs through the winter we had to plug in two hanging heat lamps, a heated waterer to keep their water from freezing, and a strange of Christmas lights to keep there spirits up….leaving our coop just crackling with electricity.  The night we plugged in the lights, Elisabeth thought it looked so cozy she begged to sleep in the coop with her hens. It is tempting.

Below, the chickens busily preparing for the holidays.

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November in a Nutshell

November 24, 2014

November has been exciting.

Exciting thing #1: The children got haircuts. They don’t usually get haircuts. Usually I just whack a little here and there with their safety scissors every now and then. But for some reason it seemed like a good idea to take them all in at once and just be done. The five of us walked in to Cost Cutters shortly after they opened at 9 a.m. The salon was empty except for a lone client receiving a hair cut and the stylist doing the cutting.

When I explained that I had four children in need of haircuts, the stylist quickly informed me that she would not have time to cut their hair this morning. I looked around at the eight empty stations, and ten empty waiting chairs and clarified, “This is a walk-in salon, right?” She confirmed. “And there is no one else here waiting?” There was not. It slowly dawned on me that perhaps SHE JUST DIDN”T WANT TO cut the beautiful tresses of my squirmy children.

“Well, I think we will just wait here until you have an opening.” It was a showdown. But with four children jumping off chairs and rolling around on the floor, I was pretty sure I had the upper hand. I usually keep the children pretty well in hand in public, but occasionally if I am desirous of quick service I make no attempt to contain them. On these occasions, we are usually helped first and ushered right out to our car. It’s very convenient.

Sure enough, in about five minutes, she wrapped up with her original client, and after milling about the empty salon for a bit, she grudgingly said, “Which one first.”

Exciting thing # 2. Our neighbors, Bob and Kathy, gifted us with their expansive Dickens Christmas Village. They have been collecting little houses for thirty years. Deciding that they didn’t have room for it anymore, they brought it down the block to us in five jumbo storage bins which took two closets to store.

I wanted to familiarize the kids with the story before unpacking the village so I explained to them that we would watch “A Christmas Carol” for our Friday night movie and then set up the village on Saturday. Elisabeth clapped her hands: “Do you mean we are having a theme?” A Dickens theme it was! We watched Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol, and Muppets Christmas Carol, and set up our Christmas village all in one weekend.

It proved to be a little too exciting for me, when I got so absorbed in rearranging the tiny people that I forgot a pot on the stove resulting in a rather startling grease fire which Dan had to extinguish with our foster care fire extinguisher, which was exciting in its own right.

Little damage was done.  Although the front of our over the stove “microwaver” (Charlie for microwave) will never be the same.  As Elisabeth says, “Fewf”.

Exciting thing # 3: a hawk attack. Prior to the hawk attack, our chickens enjoyed free range foraging around our neighborhood. I had seen the hawk once a few months ago, but I didn’t think too much of it. That particular Tuesday morning began as any Tuesday morning with the big kids heading to school and the little kids heading to Children’s Hospital (for speech therapy). We returned from speech therapy to find a yard full of feathers and a hawk standing over the headless corpse of Charlie’s dear little Dumps (pictured in previous post). The rest of the chickens were nowhere to be seen. The worst part was, that Hawk wouldn’t leave! So, I couldn’t leave, for fear that when the rest of the chickens came out of hiding he would finish the job. I called Dan, who was in his car a few blocks away and begged him to come help with his lightning fast pitching arm. I gathered some big rocks, sure that Dan could nail the hawk and end the standoff. To my shock and dismay, Dan went and gathered TENNIS BALLS. You can’t kill anything with a tennis ball. It turns out, he didn’t want to kill the hawk! This caused marital discord.

Dan argued that he should not kill the hawk because the hawk is an endangered species and to do so would be a felony offense. I argued that this should qualify as a “stand your ground” situation.  You be the judge.

In the end, Dan grazed the hawk with a tennis ball, eschewed my large hawk-killing stones, and returned to work. The hawk eventually flew away and I was able to gather up the remaining five chickens.

I did not know it was possible to be emotionally connected to poultry, but I shed actual tears upon Dumps’s passing. I was really fond of the little guy who laid a lovely brown egg every single day.

Coincidentally, Charlie’s homework assignment that night was to write about a pet. He wrote the following:

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Translation: I had a chicken and his name was Dumps but a hawk got him today.

Below: New haircuts.



Pictures of Fall

October 12, 2014









What you get when …

October 6, 2014

Quite a few people have been asking us about the twins transition from Hand in Hand Montessorri to Hope Academy. We had such a wonderful experience at Hand in Hand, but it was always the plan that for elementary school the kids would join Dan at Hope.  I knew it would be a big transition for the children, but I didn’t anticipate how different it would be for me.  In addition to their private school, Hand in Hand has a “homeschool academy”.  The students spend half the week at school, and half learning at home.  Because I work there, I was around them quite a bit during the school days.  It felt like an extension of our time together at home, and really didn’t feel like they had left me at all.  I was not prepared for how “gone” they would be as full time students at Hope.  At Hand in Hand parents were involved in most everything.  Even school pictures!  Below: Here’s what you get when your mom comes with you to get your school picture taken.

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And here’s what we got this year, when I was not involved in the school pictures:

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I suppose it’s a good thing that they don’t seem to miss me a bit.  Nor have they noticed the suspicious mini-van cruising slowly back and forth by the playground during recess, with a familiar mother hunkered down behind the steering wheel.

It’s no wonder they are so happy at Hope Academy.  Click here to see how happy.

Beware the Watch- Rooster

September 26, 2014


Elisabeth’s little Tib, who (she reminds us regularly) hatched from an olive green egg, has unfortunately turned into a rooster.  This is our fourth rooster!  Rooster one: Davey went to live with Patty’s son Steve in Madison, Wisconsin.  Roosters two and three: Nini and Dumps went back to the farmer from whom we procured the original four hens.  We are loathe to part with the ever docile rooster number four.  For a while he didn’t crow and we held onto the slim hope that he was just a long-legged hen.  But once the crowing began, it began in earnest, and can be heard at six o’clock sharp from one end of the block to the other.  And last week Elisabeth happily reported: “Tib is playing with Ella Lehmer and Ella Wang (or Ella Wing as Annie calls her).  Tib is jumping on the Ellas and they are giving him piggy back rides!” Piggy-back rides: a sure sign your hen is a rooster.

Although I know we can’t keep him forever, I have been dragging my heels because I have grown strangely fond of the little-big fellow.  In effort to postpone the inevitable, each night I reach into the dark coop, drag out the reluctant Tib (not at all pleasant), carry him through the backyard, and put him to bed just inside the door of the garage so his morning crowing won’t wake the neighbors.

As unwieldy as this process is, it paid off big time last night.  When we came outside this morning, we realized our van and garage had been broken into.  A couple of small things were taken from the van which was parked outside.  Strangely, nothing was taken from the garage, even though Dan’s power tools, and several people’s bikes are quite valuable.  We have only one explanation: the watch-rooster.

Can you imagine creeping into a completely dark garage only to encounter a large rooster scurrying around by your feet.  I think the hooligans left in a hurry, because the door was swinging open as was the gate to the backyard.  I use the word hooligans, because the kids overheard me informing Dan of the break-in, and, not wanting to scare them, I thought hooligan sounded more naughty than sinister.

Charlie immediately informed Miss P, that our garage was broken into by hula-dancers last night, but our rooster scared them away.  Beware the roving band of hula-dancers, breaking and entering and hula-ing all over Minneapolis.  And beware the watch-rooster!  You never know what a rooster is capable of when protecting his family.

Ours is not the first watch-rooster.  Papaw tells me that he recalls a gas station in Samson, Alabama that was known to be guarded at night by ferocious roosters.   I highly recommend it.  But if you don’t want to actually keep your own watch-rooster, you could still consider buying a “Beware the Rooster” sign strategically placed near your garage, or garden gate, to scare off opportunistic hooligans.

Also, note-worthy, we found our first three eggs in the nesting box yesterday.  Dan refers to them as hundred dollar eggs, since that’s about how much our coop and chickens cost.  I am pleased to report that, with Tib saving us from at least a thousand dollars in tool and bike theft, the chicken farm has more than paid for itself.

Oh, how will I ever give him away now?



Merrily We Roll Along

September 18, 2014

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Last week Miss P and Annie had there first day of school.  They are at Hand-in-Hand Montessorri again this year, enjoying a one day a week “family preschool” program.  They were most proud to be headed out the door together in uniform.  They look sharp in spite of their mother, who has lost a little steam along the way.  I remember putting great thought into shoeing the twins when they were two…ensuring that they had both fashion and support for their developing stride.  Poor Baby Dear just dug some out of the pile on the way out the door.

The twins are cruising right along in first grade. A focus of Elisabeth’s education seems to be the various means she employs to get seated directly across from Mrs. Watkins at lunch.  Elisabeth has discovered that sitting across from someone, rather than beside them, is the best way to “visit”.  Elisabeth reports that she and Mrs. Watkins just love to visit over lunch.

I sure hope Mrs. Watkins loves it.  If not, I will encourage her to seek the counsel of Elisabeth’s kindergarten teacher, Miss Myra, who last year found herself eating her lunch in the shadow of a little stalker.  There’s nothing like someone who’s been there.

Things are, for the most part, going smoothly for Charlie as well.  He looks quite dapper headed out the door in his stiff-as-a-board dress pants.  He is having a little trouble, in his words, finding his “fly”.  Yesterday, he lost his fly for a whole day, and, unable to pull his stiff pants up and down, he had to “hold it” for eight hours until he got home and I could assist.  Oh, the fly.  One of the many things taken for granted until it is lost.

On Wednesday, Charlie proudly unfolded his self-portrait, drawn with oil pastels.  I could see he remembered  me telling him recently, that the human head is really more egg-shaped than circular.  I did not think to specify that, when drawing a head, the pointy part of the egg goes at the bottom.

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But we love him, just the way he is!


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