Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Weekend of People

You'd think a yard sale would be about money, or maybe money and junk, but our little Hollow's yard sale was about people.

What began as Sue's idea, grew into a seven family undertaking in our little back road community.  Four close neighbors, two "extended" neighbors and one honorary neighbor banded together to finally get rid of our stuff.  And we sure had a good time doin' it.

I'm telling you, our junk shedding weekend was worth it for every bit of community we experienced.

I knew it was gonna be a fun kind of yard sale, when my neighbor dropped off a hay wagon at my place, so I could load my stuff at my convenience.  Hay wagons make instant yard sale tables, ya'll.

You probably recognize this green and gold beauty from the time our trusty neighbor helped us out when the Rugged Mountain Man wasn't feeling well and our yard was turning into a hay field.

He also broke out his vintage John Deere to haul the hay wagon down the hill to the yard sale site and volunteered his flat ground by the creek and road for our yard sale.  It's much more visible from the road than my driveway, which I will note, I once dubbed "El Diablo," Spanish for "the devil."

The Blossoms and I enjoyed our ride down to the yard sale site so much that our little Hollow may have a neighborhood hay ride in its future this fall.  You can bet that Sue and I will be working on that one!

De-cluttering, letting go and de-junking were the creed for the week leading up to the sale.  It felt so good to be letting go; even the Blossoms said so.  This was really the first time that they looked at their possessions and successfully weeded out some of them.  I felt like we made real progress there.  We re-homed an entire trash bag of stuffed animals, after having a little photo shoot to help us say good-bye to a few that were on the borders of sentimental territory.

Each morning started bright and early for me.  Though the weather was chillier than of late, "there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices." The girlies and I dressed for the weather and were able to enjoy the people, instead of shivering and complaining about being in the elements.  I'm glad; I really didn't want to have to suffer through two long days.

How to Survive a Chilly Yard Sale

I'm also super thankful for how much help the Blossoms were, especially Blossom1.  She did a two mini-baby-siting stints when I headed down the hill to open my tents and uncover our stuff at the crack of I'm-up-before-the-rooster.

I was impressed that she toted her sisters down the hill, well-wrangled and dressed appropriately.  I had my cell phone and she also had the panic button on my keys in case of emergency.  It was a good and comfortable rung in her ladder of independence.

We set up in the rain and the forecast looked bad for Friday.  I'll admit, we did pray hard about that.  Our little city of tents was chock full of yard sale gold that fared well both days, even in the light rain of Saturday.

That was quite an improvement from the original forecast.  We were all breathing prayers of gratitude on that score.  I'm happy to say that we had steady traffic both days and we did very well for a back road sale.

For all the planning of our yard sale, one thing I wasn't too concerned about was how to entertain the thirteen children we have between all of us.  I mean, we were setting up by a creek and woods.

That's the world's best free entertainment.

Those kids kept themselves busy the entire time.  Many of them were wet, even though it was 50 degrees out most of the weekend.

With waders, rubber boots, sticks, teamwork and great gusto, they engineered a log bridge across the creek so they could roam the wooded hillside.

That log bridge made my jaw drop and then, break into a wide grin.

Getting to spend two+ days chatting with each other was absolutely AWESOME.  The Dunkin Donuts deliveries were a huge plus too.

We are all different and yet, we savored the fellowship of each family.  Yep, lots of stuff headed out and the rest was hauled away later, but the camaraderie was a treasured time for me.

Though I was exhausted, I sighed with satisfaction at the end of the day.  It's funny to think that a yard sale was such an amazing experience of community and relationship building, but it was.

I like this quote my sister shared with me, 

"Love people, use things," never the other way around.

PS - That's not all my stuff on the wagon, I really did get rid of my junk.  It's what's left of seven families worth of stuff!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Fostering Thinkers

A much-respected friend of mine, a very experienced mother of seven children, shared this gem with me when we were discussing micro-managing our children.  There are rules in our house and they are required to ask permission about certain things.  When there are far too many rules, kids eventually can operate within those boundaries and ask for permission instead of taking the initiative.  It's almost like they get tunnel vision.

I like to look at it as a country road.  There's a ditch on either side of the road.  Stay out of the ditch and walk in the middle.

She practices this concept with her children.  She asks,
"What do you think you need to do?"

This question is asked in a kind voice, often when they are preparing to leave the house or other such situations.  It takes time for the child to look around and say, "I need to put on my shoes, take a potty break and get my coat on."  The idea is that, when asked habitually, a child starts to get in the habit of doing what each situation requires.  It should be noted that using a 15 minute loading allotment would allow you to do this in a much calmer manner, rather than hissing like a Dragon Mama.  Not that I have experience with that or anything.

She is having good success with this question.  I had a good old-fashioned common sense type of upbringing and I want the Blossoms to have the same.  I want them to do what is right, obviously, but also do what makes sense.

Instead of going in the bathroom at shower time, fuming, quickly cleaning up or calling a Blossom in with a hearty, "Git back in here and clean up this pig sty!"  I'm calling them in and asking in as patient a manner as I can muster, "What do you think you need to do?"

The funny part is that nine times out of ten, they do know what they need to do.

This brings me back around to an old large family parenting proverb:

You can't expect what you don't inspect.

When you inspect things, they know that Captain Mama is watching and they usually perform to a higher standard.

The question is definitely useful for ages three, all the way up to teens.  I can imagine several scenarios for teenagers where it would be helpful for them to think through what needs to be done for their almost-adult problems and situations and then do it.  Mom and Dad could lend a hand or word of wisdom when/where needed.

Blossom4 is now four, but this is working well for her.  Mama stands besides her sweatshirt and discarded crocs, asks the question and she usually can figure it out pretty quickly.  It's not a big deal to refresh her memory on what she just did.

"You just came from outside.  What do you think you need to do?"

I think this could easily be adapted to toddlers as well.  I always talked constantly to my children as a way of interacting and building vocabulary and social skills.  For toddlers, I might say, "We're getting ready to go to the library, what do you think we need to do?"

"Yep, you're right!  Let's get our shoes on and grab our coats!  Will you please grab the library bag for Mama?"  I'm also a huge believer in sending the little ones off to do small errands for Mama, for so many reasons.  Helping them think, helping them carry out the tasks AND helping them obey is a whole lot of good stuff going on after asking them a simple question.

In being consistent this week, why not ask your Blessings, "What do you think you need to do?"


These pics were snapped at piano lessons today, where three extras, including the Little Camo Guy, 
tagged along for some good pond and field fun.  I'm happy to report that no one fell in.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Daughter?

Your previously sweet little pixie daughter, suddenly is acting like a nasty empress.

Your normally laid back and unflappable daughter has a short fuse and total lack of patience.  

Your funny and charming daughter is acting like explosive anger is perfectly acceptable.  

Your all-conquering daughter thinks what she's doing is never good enough for anyone anymore.


Where is this coming from?

Why are they acting like this?

Is this from me?

What am I doing wrong?

Why do I get so alarmed when a new "thing" begins?  Maybe the thing is a new habit.  Maybe you could call it a phase.  I'm totally not downplaying how wrong those things are.  Not at all.

In our house, we don't excuse sin or sweep it under the carpet in the name of "cute" or "a bad day" or an age-related phase.

It's really helped me a lot to realize that these things happen because they are daughters of Eve, as C.S. Lewis puts it.  We are descendants in a sinful line, descending from Adam and Eve and their sin in the garden.  It's just that nature coming out.

I was just wasting too much time wondering WHY?  

I'll admit sometimes there are other factors too.  They do need more sleep.  Things may have been too crazy busy lately or they may be feeling overly emotional.  There might even be hormonal changes!  I don't brush off those factors.

This is about teaching them how to be Godly, even when they don't feel like it.

My energies were going toward trying to figure out where the nasty little empress came from and what other factors were involved, instead of working on being diligent to promote kindness and patience.  See the difference?

Right now, I'm training my eyes on the wisdom that the Lord gives to those who ask.  That's what I need for every phase of parenting.


Friday, May 19, 2017

What Does a Stage Hand Wear?

I've talked a lot about our co-op's original, student-written play and the recent performance.  What can I say? It's been the substance of our last three months, plus a project that our students have worked on for over a year.

Since I was managing staging and sets, that meant that this mama got to watch from backstage, while helping to switch sets and making sure all the right props went on or off.  Read: I was sweating from all the hard work.

Mamas, we can look good no matter what we're doing; I'm convinced of it.

I still remember the time I was performing a weeding frenzy on our garden plot.  I was covered in dirt in a swingy grey skirt, green muck boots and a favorite matching visor.  The neighbor told me I looked like the farmer's daughter, which made me smile.  I guess I was playing the part.

We can be well put together.  It just takes a little bit of thought.

For performance night, I wanted to make extra sure that my backside would be covered during all the bending and moving.  I do try hard to model modesty to the young people around me.  I also needed to be barefoot for maximum quiet set-moving.

Stunning Stage Hand

The swishy black tunic and black skinnies were thrift store finds.  My pretty silver earrings were a Kohl's splurge, courtesy of my mother-in-law.  I went with a simple silver ring and a long, inexpensive necklace.  If it breaks, no loss there.  I was comfortable, modest and well put together.  Hurray!!!

Next time, you're doing what mamas do best - EVERYTHING - put some thought into being modest, functional and well put together.  I really believe that it glorifies the One who made us.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Clothesline Quick Fix

It wasn't til I had a new baby in our house, that I realized this #mamalifehack.  The Rugged Mountain Man was helping me out in the first few days of having one of our little ones.  I looked outside to see his version of hanging clothes on the line.  I chuckled a bit, as everything was thrown over the line and secured with one clothespin.

"That is not how my mom taught me to do it!"

I couldn't believe how little time it took him though!  No wonder I avoid hanging clothes on the line. I asked myself why I'd been doing it my way all along, painstakingly hanging each item the "right" way.

Mamas, we are busy.

We must ask ourselves why we do things the way we do!

I should be careful not to stretch the clothing.  Yes, if you hang it just so, the clothes dry faster too.

For our family, most of the clothes going on the line are play clothes or jeans, so less wrinkles or more wrinkles aren't a huge concern.  And, most of the clothes these days are low-wrinkle fabrics.  Fabrics have really changed over the years.

Either way, it takes less than five minutes to hang clothes on the line, when I take a cue from the Rugged Mountain Man.  This #mamalifehack advises you to throw those clothes over the line, slap on a clothespin and move on with your life.

I promise you, Martha Stewart won't show up on your doorstep with a notice of violation and neither will your mom.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mom Guilt and Life Skills

Following many discussions on acquiring new rabbits, participating in hopping competitions and showing rabbits in non-4-H shows, I finally told Blossom1, "You research it.  You find a show that's close and find one that is not on Sunday.  Find one that is having a hopping competition too."  (Many rabbit shows are on Sunday, but we try to keep Sunday a day of rest for our family.)

Off she went.  She researched for days until she discovered a show a little over an hour from our place.  It met all the requirements.  I wasn't too thrilled though.  It was the day after the play, a pinnacle of the last three busy months.  Honestly, my plans for that Saturday included sitting on the couch, drinking tea, and maybe, if I felt a little ambitious, working on the grocery list.

Nevertheless, I discussed this rabbit show with the Rugged Mountain Man, because this show met all of the requirements.  We somewhat reluctantly decided the girls would participate, mainly because Blossom1 is passionate about rabbits.  I communicated that Blossom1's part in the play was not to suffer in any way AND she would have to prepare for it herself, as I had already exceeded my event planning capacity with the play, other life details and the usual minorly important details of feeding, clothing, and educating a family of six.

As all of the details for Egg White and the Seven Muffins came together, we wrapped up our school year and attended our last few practices, I noticed notes on the white board and piles in the basement.  Blossom1 had begun her planning.  Meanwhile, I kept my nose to my schedule grindstone.

After our stellar performance and all the unloading of props and materials in our garage, I turned my attention to the rabbit show.  This was about 10:00 pm.  I'd already been informed by Blossom1, that we needed to leave by 6:15 am.  What follows is my list of preparations for the rabbit show:

1. Move GPS from van to truck.
2. Pack bag of snacks.
3. Grab a pack of baby wipes out of the van.

As I lay in my bed, reviewing our evening's performance of Egg White and then, thinking of the next day, I felt a stab of mom guilt.

"I should've put more thought into the rabbit show.  It's SO important to her."

I turned over and went to sleep, thinking I should've done more, even though I'd already given 110% over the past three months to bring about something else that I knew was important to three of the four Blossoms.

The alarms went off early the next morning.  The girls did their usual choring and we headed out the door.  We arrived in time for our early registration and got our livestock situated.

Nothing was forgotten.
She had all the information specific to each rabbit to register for the shows we were participating in.
She was prepared for pre-show rabbit preparation.
She had prepped all the rabbits at home all week.
She had all the equipment for the rabbit hopping competition.
She had all the equipment for the shows.
She made sure she had money from her account to pay the fees and buy other equipment from the rabbit supplier.
She even had the address printed for the GPS.

Blossom2 helped to prepare and carry out all of this, but Blossom1 master-minded it.

I kept thinking something was going to go awry, since wasn't prepared.

My friends joke that I prefer planning six months in advance.  This is not far from the truth.  I'd literally planned for 5 minutes last night so I was astonished that there were no glitches.

Blossom1 had engineered a road trip for 6 rabbits and 6 people and she did it all by herself.

My mom guilt finally melted away.  I'd just watched her nail a life skill - managing logistics.  I resolved to stand back a little more and let the Blossoms do it, because, clearly, they can.

You're probably wondering about the results of the hopping competition, Sebastian did so-so.  At times he'd sprint through four jumps and screech to a halt only to be coaxed by one of the girls to hop over.  That's the fun of rabbit hopping.  Sometimes they hop and sometimes they don't.  It's downright comical.  In any case, a fourth place finish isn't too bad for his first attempt and a little experience under his belt.  Blossom2's suspicions were confirmed; he likes to hop!

For the rabbit show, the rabbits did well and the girls were pleased that Digory, one of our main meat rabbits, placed first and gained a "leg" of Grand Champion.  The judge also had some really good things to say about another of our breeders.

And yes, we came home with two new rabbits.  Evidently, that's what 4-h families do.  We collect rabbits.

At least it wasn't two new cows.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Don't Judge a Parent by What Their Kid Eats

The other day, Blossom4 rushed in the house, sobbing uncontrollably.  The following conversation went something like this:

Blossom4: "I atzidently ate a PIRE ant."
(I accidentally ate a fire ant.)

Me, while examining for signs of injury: "What???"

Blossom4: "I atzidently ate a PIRE ant!  I tought it was a buhlack one, but it wadn't.  It was a WED one."
(I accidently ate a fire ant.  I thought it was a black one, but it wasn't.  It was a RED one.)

Me, relieved at no sign of injury or blood: "You mean, a chicken ate the ant?  Not you, right?  It's ok.  Don't worry, it won't hurt the chicken."

Blossom4: "Nooooooo, I tought it was a BUHLACK one, but it WADN'T.  It wad a WEDDDDD one.  I was TWYING to eat dee ant."
(No, I thought it was a black one, but it wasn't.  It was a REDDDDDDD one.  I was TRYING to eat the ant.)

Me, incredulous: "Wait, you were TRYING to eat the ant???  You ate an ant ON PURPOSE???"

Blossom4: "Yet, but I tought it was a BUHLACK one.  I didn't know it wad a WED one."
(Yes, I thought it was a black one.  I didn't know it was a RED one.)

Me, quirking an eyebrow: "Do you do this often?"

Blossom4: "Yet, tumtimes, when I'm outtide, I eat ants, but ONEE the BUHLACK ones.  I neber eat da PIRE ants!"
(Yes, sometimes, when I'm outside, I eat ants, but ONLY the BLACK ones.  I never eat FIRE ants!)

Me: ................crickets.......................

I'm actually speechless for the first time in my entire life.

At this point, there's a scrolling sign in my brain.  It reads: I.can't.even.

Yes, ladies and gents, my four year old pixie daughter was upset, not because she was injured.  No, she was not upset because she'd actually eaten an ant.

She was upset because this unfortunate ant was the wrong color.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Birthday, Play & Springtime

The play, the play, the play!  That's how my conversations have generally been going for the last three months or so.  Helping out with Egg White and the Seven Muffins, an original play written by students in our co-op was a roller-coaster experience.  In between the practices, the prepping, and the painting, other life details were still going.

You know, things like birthday parties.  Birthday parties bring me joy, because family is something I value.  All the food and the little fun fanfare are really just excuses to chat, laugh and fellowship together.

I cherished being able to hug my niece when she dropped her cake and made a mess.  Being able to assure her that cake-dropping is no big deal at "Aunt Domi's" house.

Plopping down on the couch and bugging my brother while he solved the Rubick's Cube made for good times.

Talking deep stuff and fun stuff with family and friends cements the bonds of love.

Blossom4 turned four and basked in the limelight.  At times, I did think we were living out The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday. 

It's part of parenting though; teaching children how to handle lots of attention, in addition to handling the normal attention.

Teaching Blossom4 to be sweet and not foolish is just part of child-rearing.

I'm learning not to be surprised when a sweet girlie goes through a different phase that I find alarming.  These phases are normal because we are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, if I can borrow from C.S. Lewis a little.  Sinful people sin.  This is our chance to teach the Gospel in action.

There were cousins and children everywhere.  It was childhood glory, filling my heart with parental satisfaction.  For most of my childhood, we didn't live close to cousins.  We had plenty of good times with the kids in our neighborhood though.  Watching the girlies romping around, playing in the dirt, or arranging backyard games of hide-n-seek or capture the flag relives the stuff of wholesome childhood goodness that I remember.

We've had some backyard visitors lately.  Rose-breasted grosbeaks have been dropping in.  We managed to catch the female at our feeder.

Also, a pair of bald eagles have been swooping over lately.  This is the closest the girls and I have ever seen eagles before and it was an awe-inspiring sight.  What's better than a front row seat to gigantic birds of prey?!

The green of spring has certainly been enjoyable.  This lilac hedge grows more beautiful with each passing year.  This has been a fantastic season of blossoms, in comparison with previous years.

The day of the play finally arrived last Friday.  I felt nothing but relief and excitement... and some butterflies too.  To see over a year's worth of work come to fruition is overwhelming, to say the least.  What a team effort!  What did I learn from it?

Let the children do it.  
We let the children get down and get dirty in this play.  Because of that, it reflected them.  Well do I know that "stand back and let mama get this done" sentiment.  I will honestly say that I am tempted in that way far too often.

That's not a philosophy that yields good fruit though.  I fight it in our daily parenting and I fight it in our education.  Just like Jesus trained the disciples, children really do learn by doing.  

Blossom1: Narrator
Blossom2: French Press
Blossom3: Coffee Cake Muffin
Blossom4: Adorable Audience Member

Children live up or down to your expectations.
I saw this often in youth ministry and in coaching gymnastics.  It proved true again in this play.  We practiced hard, even to the point of redundancy, but we kept encouraging, encouraging and encouraging.

They knocked it out of the park with a stellar performance, better than any practice we'd ever had.  I shouldn't have been amazed, but I was.  Apparently I needed a refresher course in that particular principle.

Lead by example.
I feel like my girls especially had a front row seat to Mama doing a hard thing.  This play wasn't easy.  It was months of work.  Many times the kids would ask me how we were going to do something.  I told them honestly, "I don't know, but we'll figure it out."  I felt like they saw problem-solving, creativity, and perseverance.  They experienced it right along with me.  I may be a grown-up, but I'm not too grown up to do something I've never done before, to try hard, to put my whole self out there, to give it my best shot.  It's funny, that's something I remember from my childhood.  My mom figuring stuff out, being creative, taking on anything.  I think it's called courage.  

I want to keep being courageous every day in this journey of life.