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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!

A Call for Help

September 5, 2014

We are rounding the bend and the end of our first year of Moms4Moms is in sight.  Moms4Moms is a place for younger mothers to connect with more seasoned mothers, explained here: Asking for Money.  We are grateful for the relationships formed, and that moms (younger and older) keep coming together for supper, games, and teaching.  A high-light of the year together was a six week cooking class (pictured below).  A low-light was running out of money in approximately January. I guess we underestimated how much we eat. But we got by with a little help from our friends, this whole outer ring of mom-friends we kept rounding up to help with cooking, child-care etc.  Cari (one of ‘em) dubbed them the Moms4Moms4Moms.

In spite of our budget shortfall, we press on by popular demand, and are planning to kick off year two with another weekend retreat.  Last year’s retreat was really an introduction, and now, with deepening relationships and trust we are ready to go a little deeper.

So, here I come again, hat in hand.  If you know ANYONE who might be interesting in sponsoring a young mom to come away for the weekend for 75 dollars, or participate for whole year 200 dollars, (tax deductible) please email me: Thanks for spreading the word.

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First Week Of First Grade

September 1, 2014

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The twins made it through the first week of first grade at Hope Academy with flying colors!  Both are very happy heading into school each morning.  Elisabeth (note that due to a maturing understanding of the letter s which can occasionally make a “z” sound,  she has returned to the original spelling of her name), has had a little case of cold feet at the door, primarily due to her red folder which must each day be placed in the red folder box.  For some reason each morning, just as Mrs. Watkins’s door comes into view Elisabeth experiences red folder amnesia,  convinced that she does not know where to put the red folder.

Being the bearer of a red folder is a whole new level of responsibility, the weight of which cannot be underestimated.  Fortunately, Mrs. Watkins is a paragon of patience and with a smile and, “Let’s see if you can remember where to put the red folder,” Elisabeth’s confidence comes rushing back, and she is good to go.

Both twins have struggled with a little case of not-sure-what-to-do-with-myself on the playground.  (For me it was a chronic condition.) The situation improved when Charlie’s teacher, Mr. Crowl, joined the soccer group inviting Charlie along.

“So now,” Elisabeth explained, “Charlie plays soccer and I am the cheerleader for his team.  I stand on the side and yell, ‘Goooo Cheaters! Goooo Cheaters!'”

“CheeTAHs,” Charlie corrected her, exasperated, “We are the Cheetahs.”

According to Elisabeth, the other team does not have their own cheerleader.  Apparently, they do not have a twin.

The highlight of Elisabeth’s week (other than cheering for the Cheaters) was being asked to demonstrate to the class how to read silently, or, as she corrected me, “Read to self.” I wonder if this demonstration was as exciting for her classmates as it was for her.  As Elisabeth told it, “I read until Mrs. Watkins said, ‘I’m sorry to have to cut you off, Elisabeth, but it is time for us to move on.’ ” I can’t imaging why Mrs. Watkins wouldn’t want the whole class to continue watching Elisabeth sitting silently, staring at the pages of a book, indefinitely.

The highlight for Charlie is being taught by a man.  According to Charlie, Mr. Crowl is a thrill-a-minute.  Math, for example, is much more suspenseful when your teacher tells you that your math book is a stick of dynamite, primed to explode if you don’t answer the question.  That scenario would never have entered my mind, but for a six-year old boy it takes math to a whole new level.

Dan got an email from Mr. Crowl the second day of school wondering if anyone had suggestions for how he might help a little girl in the classroom, who limps a little, to navigate the long halls.  I didn’t hear any more about it, until Friday when Charlie marveled, “Mom, there’s a girl in my class, I think she has a disability, and Mr. Crowl pulls her around in a little red wagon. And each time we line up, she gets to pick someone to ride along. I hope someday I get to ride with her!”

If that isn’t the the sweetest thing since Pa made that tall shoe for the little girl at Laura Ingall’s birthday party, then I don’t know what is! I have now joined Charlie in the Mr. Crowl fan club. Maybe I will be the cheerleader.

Below, my big kids, sittin’ on ready:

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