In May

I know! What would be a month for us when we didn’t add animals to our farm?

We added two new calves on Friday! It was so fun to hang out in the barn and meet these new guys. It’s easy to not hang out in the barn and do other things, but we always appreciate it when we do. See BenBen below…

P1140187

The animals know that he loves them!

On the farm, we have talked about leaning our enterprises and doing only what we value most. We might get out of goats. We might go to more beef cows plus one dairy cow for us. All just ideas. We never talk about getting rid of cows altogether! The only definite change is selling a bunch of laying hens. We want to have our own eggs, but at $3 a dozen, we are losing money on any we sell. So we’ll keep only enough to feed us and stop selling them.

It’s finally play-outside weather here! Last night, on a wonderful, short family hike, I felt so content. Sammy can hike himself now, which leaves just Micah to carry. The kids know that we hike and they love it. I felt excited for the adventures and fun ahead of us this summer.

And I guess that is where I am today…excited for what is ahead. Overall, I am trying to be faithful with what I know I should do. I often want to hold onto everything (I love adding more!) and keep going forward but at times, I have to let go too. I want to hold onto the goats for various reasons, but if we need to, I can’t know what opportunities letting go will open up. We aren’t getting rid of goats right now, but it’s a possibility that I have worked through.

I am trying gardening for someone else. We are trying to make transition with our rental properties. I am still cleaning things out of our house, because that is what I do.:) I saw a friend’s house that is on the market and it looks so fantastic…and pared down. I love the lightness of entering a simplified house. I want to be more proactive in loving the people around us. It’s all good stuff.

I am not someone who works in fits and starts. I am the person who plods along at a steady pace and I love doing a little bit every day. Most of our activities have only a month left until they end for summer, and part of me feels sad because I love what we do. Hannah has her goal of what to finish for this school year. The recitals are on the calendar. And then everything will change again!

What’s ahead this month? A visit from friends in Colorado! Hosting a tea party. Running club. Book clubs. Seeing Mary Poppins as a play. Gardening. And hopefully a few hikes and picnics.

From the bookshelf:

  • The Shepherdess of Elk River Valley by Margaret Duncan Brown
  • 12 Journeys in Maine by Wesley McNair
  • Free to Parent by Ellen Schuknecht and Erin MacPherson

Are you ready for the end of school and activities? What are you looking forward to this month?

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Spring trip 2016

As much as I love our annual spring trip to see my parents, it is never easy to get out of the house and accept getting out of my routine. I love traveling, and I mean LOVE….once I am doing it. Getting ready to travel and anticipating travel are not things that fill me with affection.

But we did it! I dragged myself out of the house, and we had a fantastic time.

This year was different in several ways. One, John drove down to North Carolina with us, spent a couple days there, and flew back. He couldn’t be gone as long as the kids and I and it was much more manageable to set up chores for someone else for only a week, instead of two. Having him with us was a blessing (of course!) and it felt like a legitimate vacation since we were a family.

Another difference this year was that we broke up our driving days with mini-adventures. Instead of driving driving driving, we drove and explored, drove and explored. It changed the feel of the trip completely. Yes, it took us 3 days each direction instead of 2 big ones, but that was well worth the price. I am thoroughly convinced that this is the only way to travel with kids. We spent 3 hours in New York City and 3 hours in Washington D.C. on the way there, but really, that was enough. We wouldn’t have used our time well if we’d been there longer- the kids were tired and there is only so much active exploring you can soak in in a day. On the way home, we spent 3 hours on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and again, this was ideal. We did everything we wanted to do…because we have 4- and 6-year old attention spans!

P1140092We rode escalators (!) and the subway into New York City and walked around Times Square, then rode the subway back out (plus escalators again!).

In D.C., we enjoyed downtown Bethesda, and got to ride escalators and the subway (do not underestimate how thrilling this is!), and then walked around the D.C. monuments.

On the Outer Banks, we visited the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island, which the kids learned about in history this year, Kitty Hawk, and played on the big sand dunes of Jockeys Ridge State Park. The other driving highlight was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. A couple of my kids will tell you that was their favorite part of the trip.

As always, we got in a great friend visit on the way home in New York that wasn’t nearly long enough. I had to be back for an activity on Tuesday at 11:30 am, and we arrived in town on Tuesday at 11:25…we stretched it out as long as we possibly could!

Yes, I have already planned our stops for our trip to and from North Carolina next year!

An extra mini-adventure we squeezed in was staying at an Air BnB on the way down. John came up with this brilliant idea, but none of them are targeted for families that I could find. I found a potential location, and then messaged the woman if it was okay to stay with 4 little kids. This one was an apartment within a home, so she would be there too. She said yes, and I booked it before she could change her mind! The kids loved that we were headed for a house instead of a hotel. We stayed in a fantastic neighborhood with an easy walk to downtown, an easy walk to the metro, and it was totally affordable. I highly recommend this!

P1140123In North Carolina, my kids went to their first baseball game (Durham Bulls). We went to a couple playgrounds. We learned how to geocache and found a few caches. I hit on some great garage sales. And we played ball in my parent’s backyard, always a favorite activity.

On the way home, the kids had me laughing as they discussed how “we never do chores or school in the summer”, talking as if it were the present, and I was like, “Wait a minute! It’s mid-April, guys; I don’t think that qualifies as summer.” Nice try!:)

Have you stayed at an air bnb? Any favorite mid-trip stops you’ve made with your family?

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In March

When I sit down to write, my dilemma is always where to go. So much happens in a week or a month and there are at least a hundred topics I could expand upon.

Which leads me to my favorite habit- journalling. I committed last summer to writing 2 pages every day (because when I said once a week, it wouldn’t happen at all), and it is one of the best things I do. One thing about having kids is that it forces me to put a price on various ways I spend time away from them. Writing every morning makes the cut. As so much happens in a day, there is always much to process. Each weekend, I look back over my week at things I learned or cool things that happened and I am every week amazed that it has only been a week. None of my days seem extraordinary in the middle of them…I’m a stay-at-home mom! However, there are countless lessons within each day and had I not written down some of them, those lessons would pass by unlearned and unapplied.

There are lots of painful truths about myself that I have uncovered through journalling every day. I can’t say that it’s fun to realize that you are controlling or self-absorbed, but it’s better to recognize those things than keep going blindly forward. It’s not all bad though- I also recognize when something happens that I’ve been looking for or positive changes.

Another exciting happening this week was completing my months-long thrift store challenge. Beginning at the middle of last August, I resolved to take at least one bag to the thrift store every week through March (our spring trip) and I have done it! I have not missed a single week. It’s kind of mind-boggling, and although we still have plenty (PLENTY!), the result is that we are relevant (as opposed to minimal). Our home reflects who we are and what we need and use in this moment. We have bins of lego and duplo and a car set, but that is because my kids play with those things every day. The pictures on the walls are the ones I really like and not just something kept for sentiment. The books are the ones we use and that bring us joy. We have cases of canning jars but we use them all. That being said, I see this as a constant process. We outgrow things as well as clothes. I have a pile of things that can be sold that I need to deal with still, but this was a huge accomplishment. Every week I would drop off my bag (or 3) and have no idea what would go the next week. Once that bag was gone though, I would see the next layer. Yes, it’s likely I will continue…how could I stop now!

Lots of fun happenings this past month…we did a murder mystery party with friends, we watched a fantastic kids’ orchestra concert, my violin teacher and I have been playing duets at my lessons (which fools me into thinking I’m making progress!), we watched dog sled racers as they started, we roasted marshmallows on a family ski trip, and I rode our friends’ work horse around their pasture.:)

My latest hobby seems to be book clubs. I had never been in a book club before last summer, and at the moment I am in 3 (plus Hannah wanted to do one with me…4). They all have a different flavor so it makes it interesting, it expands me into different reading genres, and we have outside-of-the-ordinary conversations. We might talk about community, or Medieval mysticism, or living according to your convictions. This is fun stuff, folks!

From the bookshelf:

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Book of Margery Kempe
  • Gonaway Lake by Elizabeth Enright (my book club with Hannah)
  • The Joyful Christian by CS Lewis
  • The Weir by Ruth Moore

Anyone in a fun book club? What is your topic? Do you journal or do something else that helps you process and think?

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The last weeks of winter

Here in Maine, the last weeks of winter, are the very best.

It’s not as cold (and we are used to cold…40 degrees is total windows down and wear t-shirts weather). We get more sunshine. The skiing is great. The sap might be running. This is the good life.

Sadly, I don’t take pictures anymore. I know some people are into living in the moment and not taking pictures, but I love photos and it was not a conscious decision. I just don’t remember it. So, I don’t have pictures of my kids smiling while they ski, but I know they have smiled a lot.

Hockey is done so we have more free afternoons. We ditched the ski club at the school because they started traveling to ski instead of skiing in town (too much running around). Instead, I committed to myself to take the kids skiing and snowshoeing more. That’s more fun anyway.

With winter almost done, it was also time to kill our pigs. We took the advice of a friend who has harvested lots of pigs…she told us to kill and gut the animal ourselves and then take the carcass to the butcher. No stressing the animal. No loading a live animal (especially tricky with a pig!). Killing and gutting are the quick part. And all the mess is outside.

John had a couple guys help him yesterday and he felt like that advice was great. They were done in an hour and a half!

The goat babies are back to eating off their moms, but the interesting part is that after 2 weeks of being separated, the moms did not recognize their babies at all. They were complete strangers. It surprised us because all the moms had licked the babies off and fed them colostrum! But it’s perfect because now any baby can feed off any mom, so everyone gets enough. What remains to be seen is if 2 weeks in the house changes how the babies respond to us as they grow up. Our hope is that they will be more friendly, but we can’t know yet.

We didn’t get the trees across the road tapped this year for syrup, but we have helped friends collect sap and boil syrup a couple times…that might have to do for us this year.

And I have to get back to taking pictures! Poor Micah…

 

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The barn time warp

Barn time is different than real time.

The barn is its own world, contained within four walls, filled with life. What seems to be 10 minutes in the barn is an hour in the real world, and I’m left scratching my head how all that time passed.

This past week John was gone for a few days and although things like chicks are in my normal realm of care, the life in the barn is John’s domain. If he’s gone, I can pinch hit…I am a poor substitute, really, but the animals put up with me!

I will confess that the second day of him being gone I woke up feeling really overwhelmed with my responsibility. Sammy had tummy issues and had kept me awake part of the night, Micah had a cough,….and I had all these chores to remember. I felt nervous that the animals would be angry with me because John wanted me to thrown them an extra bale the night before and I hadn’t done it because I am afraid of the skunk living out there. I usually want to overfeed the animals to appease them and make them love me and I had done the opposite….dah!

Of course doing the chores is well within my abilities and I had to go back to remembering one thing at a time. An hour later, I could laugh at my worries.

I felt thankful for getting to do the chores. The barn may be a time warp, but it’s fun and totally different than house-life. Micah might have been tearing the house apart and Sammy having a meltdown while I was out there (Hannah was in charge of the house and BenBen helping me), but I didn’t know about it. Ignornace is absolutely bliss. I had some sweet work time with BenBen, who has become quite the farmer. I got to pretend that I, too, was a farmer. I spent some totally enjoyable time throwing hay bales and filling water buckets and helping baby goats to eat and collecting eggs and doling out grain.

When I’m in the house and doing my normal routine, adding barn chores feels like a huge burden, but when I get out and do it, there is nothing else I would rather be doing.

Maybe someday I’ll be a real farmer….stranger things have happened!

Have you ever experienced a time warp doing an activity? What was it?

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Little intentions

I try to be always ready to hear what I can be doing better, especially if it’s from someone thoughtful…and some people, you just can’t put too much thought into their comments! In this scenario, no one criticized me, but a friend was sharing what she had learned about unconscious choices, the choices we make without recognizing we are making a choice. In fact, probably if you told us the choice we were making, we would be shocked. We don’t recognize it at a choice…it’s just what we do.

Realizing these choices could be life changing or it could just be a thing, but the first thing that popped in my head was that I am always late. This is certainly not deep or life-changing, but it’s a choice I make all the time. Do I want to be the person who is always a little late? Nope. I don’t know what exactly compelled me to change, but I thought I should at least give it a go of trying to be on time. Not expecting perfection, but it’s well within my ability.

So, this past week, I jumped in and tried to be on time. Was it life-changing? Nope. But my kids really loved it. They were thrilled, in fact, that we were on time for a couple things we are ALWAYS late for. It shocked me that they cared about being on time because never once have they complained when we weren’t. But they thanked me sincerely and I felt pretty humble.

This is a little intention that is clearly worth cultivating.

In my world, I love grabbing onto new intentions and habits, and sometimes it’s hard to know which ones to hold and which ones to fold. For example, intermittent fasting is, for me, one to hold…I have no plan of going back to eating breakfast. But this week I did fold an intention that wasn’t working…getting up at 4:30. It worked for a few months, but then it didn’t. In theory, I get a lot of time for reading and journalling when I get up that early. Instead, I wasn’t getting out of bed consistently when the alarm went off and half the days I did, I needed a nap in the afternoon. I really struggled to let this one go. I am still getting up early, but not as early. Yes, I give up a little time to myself but I’m trading it for consistency and ability to function during the day. Good trade!

Another little intention of late has been walking during hockey practices. I’ll make this clear, walking around the arena has labeled me as extremely weird…I can take it. Do I love walking laps around the arena? Nope. Although it’s not quite as bad as a treadmill…. But I love having walked, I feel great, and I have gotten a couple other people walking too. I know it’s helped my fitness level, it’s way better than the alternative of sitting the sidelines, and occasionally I get to walk with a friend and have fun conversation. Conversations are always better with movement.

In other happenings, we moved the goats out to the barn. And in that moment, our house felt so empty! Micah kept walking over to the trough, looking for them. We all thought the house was a little too quiet. The chicks have now taken the goats’ place in that same trough and they are cheeping enough to keep us satisfied that there is life in our house. You know, besides the 4 kids that live here!:) It’s hard to imagine now that we never used to even have pets!

Are there intentions or habits that lately you’ve tried to adopt? Or decided to drop? Anyone else struggle with timeliness?

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In February

When you hear “farm house”, this probably isn’t what you have in mind…a house full of farm animals!

Clearly having goats in our house long-term would not be a great plan, but having the babies inside has accustomed them to us (they watch us play cars and they eagerly watch when the kids do a talent show), has taken away fear the kids have about animals, especially Micah, and it’s also so easy to feed them. It’s funny and fun and why not!

This past week, we also had chicks hatch. My neighbor only wanted 6 in the end, so I have 8 to keep. After they hatched, all the kids became attached to one special chick that they wanted to be their very own, and it’s just as well we get to keep them. I wouldn’t have chosen to hatch chicks at this time, but we’re on our way, and I can put that behind me.

Add to that one needy cat, a tankful of fish, and 3 worm bins, plus my own 4 children, and I told John I live in a zoo!

It follows along with my thinking that it’s interesting to experience lots of things, but experiences themselves don’t change you- it’s what you dive into that changes you and makes you grow. This is when I laugh and say, it’s too bad we don’t have a science curriculum!:) Real life just beats it every time.

P1140051In other February happenings, we attended the World Pond Hockey Championships in New Brunswick. We found an amazing Thai restaurant in Canada that met the kids’ approval as well as ours (you have to understand our excitement, because we literally don’t even have a Mexican restaurant within 2.5 hours)….. Thai food was way beyond our expectations. Hockey is still great and the kids have gotten so much better on skates. We have skied and snowshoed every week.

Around the house, the winter focus has been John’s and my bedroom. It was the room in our house that collected all the things we didn’t know what to do with. Translation: it was full of plastic totes and piles of books and fabric and homeschooling supplies. Add tools and holiday decorations. You get the idea! It seemed acceptable because no one is ever in there except our family.

When we first moved into the house 4 years ago, we slept in an upstairs bedroom that now belongs to the 3 big kids. Although we moved out of that room 3 years ago, our clothes stayed. It was nice for putting away clothes because everyone’s things went to one location. However, having our clothes in our room seemed like a good goal (I might decide I like the other way better, but it is worth a try). So, we began with putting shelves into the closet so we can store our clothes there (we don’t have any dressers).

Then, there was a huge built-in cabinet that took up almost an entire wall of the room. From the moment we moved into the house, I disliked that cabinet. It felt big and heavy, but it felt practical too. Of course we used it, but we took the audacious step of removing it from the room. One friend who saw the transformation remarked that the cabinet before felt imposing, and without it, the room welcomes you in. I totally agree. And amazingly, this huge cabinet was being used to store things, but once we took it out, we realized that it wasn’t storing much for all its size. We have easily found homes for all but a few things with no additional furniture or totes! We aren’t completely finished and my big job is to make sense of how to best use our new and improved closet. Next up is changing our bed (John will build something) and then we’ll have a brand new room.

The crazy thing is I feel differently about our whole house with our room being more in order. I assume that I wake up in that room and if a mess is the first thing I see, that’s probably not a good thing. But animals in the house…that doesn’t bother me!

Hannah has turned a corner recently with school that has me so excited. She finally realized that she has her list at the beginning of the day of what she needs to do, and once she finishes it, she can do anything she wants. I kept telling her this, but school was dragging on and on each day. She had to figure it out herself. Two weeks ago, she started getting up each morning and just got to work. It’s unbelievable, and where before she felt like school took too much time, she realizes now how reasonable her workload is. It helps my energy because I’m not having to remind her all day to do the next thing and she has much more time to play.

From the bookshelf:

  • Old Maine Woman by Glenna Johnson Smith
  • Wildfire Loose by Joyce Butler
  • Confessions by Augustine

Have you read any interesting books lately? Do you store your family’s clothes all together or in separate rooms, or have you tried different methods?

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