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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The book list - January 2016

Hunter experienced a huge disappointment at the library yesterday.  He excitedly signed up for his own library card, carefully selected 6 books, then marched up to the checkout.
The librarian (one whom I've never seen before) looked at me and said, "These are adult books.  He can't check them out.  There are no kids books here.  Why isn't he checking out kids books?"  (Unfortunately our favorite librarian wasn't there.  She totally "gets" Hunter and loves to see what he is reading.)
I carefully contained my annoyance and handed her my library card to put them on.  (I felt like I was buying booze for an underage kid.)  She said he couldn't check out "adult books" until he was 16.   Hunter stood there trying not to cry and said "Then what is the point of me having a library card?!  Just throw it away!"
The offending books?  The topics are:  wind energy, woodstoves, solar water heating, A/C, refrigeration, and plumbing.  Oh my.

We'll speak to our favorite librarian about this next time we see her.

How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage by Milan & Kay Yerkovich - A bit over a year ago, I read about this book on Trina Holden's blog.  I have always been fascinated studying personalities and why we are the way we are so the idea of this book - that the "intimacy imprint" we receive from our family when we are very young, shapes how we love and interact with others when we are an adult - intrigued me.  I didn't get around to reading this book until earlier this winter and I am so glad I did.  I would rate this as one of the most helpful books I've ever read in my life.  It was written by a Christian husband and wife that work as counselors and is based on attachment styles.  When I read the chapter on the "avoider style" I felt like I was reading my autobiography.  It was amazing.  For the first time ever, I feel like I truly understand why I have always had the particular challenges I do in relationships of all kinds.  There are five "love styles" described in the book.  The book focuses on marriage and how our particular styles bring challenges to our marriages.  However, knowing your "style" will help you understand ANY relationship better.  The back section of the book is a workbook, with many questions to help you dig deeper and then bring awareness and healing where you need it.

Some of Hunter's book knowledge (and things he's learned from repair videos on YouTube) came in handy last week when he helped me fix the freezer in our refrigerator.  Again.
Solomon's book recommendation: All my children have loved the McDuff book series by Rosemary Wells.  They are books about a little white terrier named McDuff, and are written and illustrated by the author of the "Max and Ruby" series.  I collected used copies of the books when Tabby was little and she loved them, Hunter loved them, and now it's Solomon's turn.  He was fascinated by the special treat McDuff would get to eat - vanilla rice pudding with sausages sliced on top.  So we decided to make some.  He thought that was so exciting to help me make the pudding and serve it for supper.  Turned out, none of us really cared for the rice pudding, but the sausages were good and it made a fun memory. 

Solomon eating "vanilla rice pudding with sausages sliced on top"
Ishtar's Odyssey: A Family Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide - Several years ago I came across a book called Tabitha's Travels: A Family Story for Advent.  How could I not get that book?!  (Tabby's real name is "Tabitha.")  It was a book that had a small reading each day for the Advent season.  It was about a girl named Tabitha and her adventures leading up to the birth of Jesus.  The author is a master storyteller and we really enjoyed the daily stories, each ending with a scripture and though provoking tie-in.  After reading that book, I learned that there were two other books in the "Advent adventure series": Bartholomew's Passage and Jotham's Journey and we read those too.  I was happy to discover a new book in the series last year, Ishtar's Odyssey.  I read it aloud to my family most nights of the Advent season (we missed some and finished in early January.)  This particular book focused on a son of one of the wise men.  Of course these books are fiction, but they seem to be very well researched, and really make you think.  And it's fun how the characters in the different books meet each other.

NOTE: Arnold Ytreeide also wrote Amon's Adventures: A Family Story for Easter which we also really enjoyed.

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati - I read this book during Tabby's recent hospital stay for some "lighter reading."  I had wanted to read it after learning it was spin off of my all time favorite movie - The Last of the Mohicans.  The author mixes both fact and fiction in this historical adventure book, which picks up when Hawkeye is a grandfather.  This book was both interesting and annoying.  The historical aspects and story in general was interesting.  But I didn't realize until I had begun the book, that it was "historical romance."  I never read books like that and found it annoying when the story would keep stopping for some light romance.  The book is 876 pages long and could have been knocked down a couple hundred pages if all those descriptions were left out!  My apologies to those of you that enjoy those books.  That's fine.  They just aren't what I choose to read.  ;)  I was very glad to finish the book right before Tabby was discharged from the hospital. 

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I've been continuing to read through the "Little House" series to Hunter and Solomon and they just can't get enough of the stories.  We read at least one chapter most every day, which makes me happy too!  In this book, the Ingalls family moves to Dakota Territory and Pa works for a bit for the railroad.  Hunter was fascinated with Laura's detailed descriptions of how the railroads were built.  After the railroad company moves on to the next spot to work at, the Ingalls family spends the winter in a surveyors house, joined by another couple.  What was it like to live like that with no one around for over 40 miles?  In the spring, Pa files for a homestead which ends the family's further travels west.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder - Through all the sickness in January, and then a long weekend of snow and ice, we got a lot of reading done.  This was the perfect book to be reading during the 4 or so days we had ice and a bit of snow outside.  Frank was home from work then and even he got caught up in hearing the story!  (So much so he now asks the boys every night at supper "So what happened in Little House today?")  In this book, the Ingalls family is living on their homestead in Dakota Territory.  A blizzard hits hard in October, and according to an Indian that comes into town, it will be the first of a long series of blizzards that winter.  Because their homestead shanty isn't well insulated, Pa moves his family into town for the winter.  He had built a store there and had rented it out, but the renters were gone and it was a nice, solidly built home for the family for winter.  I really can not imagine what this must have been like.  Blizzards, lasting 3-4 days at a time, with only a few days of sun in between.  Temperatures well under 20 degrees BELOW zero.  The trains cease running because of the snow and that means no more supplies.  The Ingalls family runs out of coal and kerosene.  They have to twist sticks of hay to burn in their stove for a little warmth.  By the end they are only eating bread, twice a day.  These stories are all so amazing, and are based on the author's real life. 

Hunter's favorite part is when Ma makes a button lamp for a little light.  As Ma tries to remember how it was done when she was younger, before their dependence on that "newfangled" kerosene, Pa understands how she is feeling.  He says:

"These times are too progressive.  Everything has changed too fast.  Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves--they're good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on 'em."

Ha!  I just laugh and shake my head thinking "Pa - if only you could see things now!"

Laura's future husband, Almanzo, is introduced in this story.  Several times the scenes involve he and his brother Royal, eating and making buckwheat pancakes.  This got Hunter wanting to try buckwheat pancakes so we found this recipe that was inspired by the book for fluffy buckwheat pancakes.  They turned out pretty good!

easy cooking on my electric stove
On a musical aside, the boys have really been enjoying listening to a set of CDs I have from "Pa's Fiddle Project."  Music was a big part of the Ingalls family and they sung while Pa played the fiddle.  Laura mentions well over 100 different songs in her books.  Some of these songs are available on these 3 CDs: Happy Land: Musical Tributes to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Arkansas Traveler: Music from Little House on the Prairie, and Pa's Fiddle: Charles Ingalls - American Fiddler.  (note the last CD is instrumental only)  There are some familiar songs, like "Oh! Susannah!" and some hymns.  But also some fascinating songs from that period, that are like little history lessons.  Just skim the lyrics of "Uncle Sam's Farm" and you'll learn some about the Homestead Act:

Uncle Sam’s Farm (lyrics found here)

Of all the mighty nations in the east or in the west,
O this glorious Yankee nation is the greatest and the best,
We have room for all creation, and our banner is unfurl’d,
Here’s a gen’ral invitation to the people of the world.

chorus - Oh, come away, come away, come away I say!
Oh, come away, come away, come right away!
Oh, come to this country and have no fear of harm,
Our Uncle Sam is rich enough to give us all a farm.

St. Lawrence marks our northern line, as fast her waters flow;
And the Rio Grande our southern bound, ‘way down to Mexico.
From the great Atlantic Ocean where the sun begins to dawn,
Leap across the Rock Mountains far away to Oregon.


While the South shall raise the cotton, and the West, the corn and pork,
New England manufactories shall do up the finer work;
For the deep and flowing waterfalls that course along our hills,
Are just the thing for washing sheep, and driving cotton mills.


Our father’s gave us liberty, but little did they dream,
The grand results that pour along this mighty age of steam;
For our mountains, lakes, and rivers are all a blaze of fire,
And we send our news by lightning on the telegraphic wires.


Yes!  We’re bound to beat the nations for our motto’s “Go ahead!”
And we’ll tell the foreign countries that our people are well fed;
For the nations must remember that Uncle Sam is not a fool,
For the people do the voting, and the children go to school.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Easy peel fresh eggs and various little updates

First  off, Miss Tabby is continuing to recover. Her lungs still hurt at times, but not constantly.  She still isn't up to her full energy level, but she's getting closer.  And she's put 10 lbs. back on, last time we checked.  She still has 10-15 more pounds to go, but she's doing good overall. She went back to school full-time last week and was even able to go to the school's "Snow Ball" Saturday evening.

She had the most wonderful dress, made by her friend Cassie.  (I've talked about Cassie on this blog before, and her little angel sister Hannah, that had Trisomy 18, like Lilly.)  Tabby likes satins and laces and steampunk style dresses.  So she sent pictures of several dress styles she liked to Cassie, along with the school's dress guidelines.  Cassie came up with the design and made the dress.

gotta have a goofy picture

Recently I came across a post on my favorite chicken blog - Fresh Eggs Daily - on how to get easy to peel FRESH eggs.  (If you've ever tried to peel hard boiled eggs that are less than about 2 weeks old - you know how frustrating it is!  If you buy your eggs at the grocery, they are probably about a month or two old, so you don't have this problem.)  The answer:  steam them!  I tried with eggs just a few days old and it worked perfectly!  See that post with instructions here.  I'm so happy about this, especially since our hens have finally finished molting and are now laying nicely again.

There was much rejoicing here this past Saturday when the Lowes delivery truck showed up with a new washing machine to exchange for our broken one.  (I lamented about our 2 month old broken washing machine under warranty here so I won't bore you with a rehash.)  Six weeks without a washing machine - especially when half that time we were sick - was NOT fun.  Frank spent hours and hours on the phone with Samsung trying to get the mess resolved.

I think the boys were a bit sad at our last trip to "Laundry Land" though.  They think the laundromat is great fun.

Yesterday during math time, I handed Hunter a penny for a little learning activity.  Then Solomon interrupted needed help with something.  When I got back - only a minute or two later - Hunter had hooked the penny up to test and see if it conducted electricity.  Yes!  Success.  He was able to get his fan to turn on with the hook up.

Both fans are from an old computer that Hunter took apart.  The bottom one is named "Sammy" and the top is "Dilta."  (The penny is between the red and green alligator clips.)
He then had to test the other coins to see if they conducted electricity too.  Then we finally got that math work done!

Exhaust Pipe is recovering from his (coyote?) attack.  I was a bit worried, but I've kept his bite wounds clean and have been giving him silver (for an antibiotic) several times a day.  I have also found that triple antibiotic ointment works marvels for healing and closing up wounds quickly.  I no longer had to wrap the worst leg wound, after using the ointment for just 2 days.  He still is mainly laying around as I don't think walking feels too good for him yet.  But his appetite is great and he is so much better.

Mr. Exhaust Pipe = one super tough dog
I like reading the monthly e-newsletter, "Insights," from Classical Academic Press.  The January issue linked to an article on Psychology Today's website called "Screentime is Making Kids Moody, Crazy and Lazy."  The article talks about six ways that electronics can cause mood disturbances.  It is really eye opening.  Kids today are being labeled with all sorts of mental health issues when it is really is their use of electronics that is causing their problems.  The answer?  An "electronic fast" so that the body's nervous system can "reset."

Something we probably ALL could benefit from!

Finally, yesterday I was reminded yet again of how unexpectedly grief can hit us.  A couple years ago, a mother that had lost a child 20 years previously, told me that she just never knew when there would be some sort of trigger that suddenly made her cry.  That happened to me yesterday when I read Hunter's poem of the day to him.  It was a poem that I had heard or read many times before and yeah it was a sad, but oh well.  However, life experiences have changed that "oh well" to something hugely significant for me.

Little Boy Blue - by Eugene Field

THE little toy dog is covered with dust,
    But sturdy and staunch he stands;
The little toy soldier is red with rust,
    And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,         5
    And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
    Kissed them and put them there.
"Now don't you go till I come," he said,
    "And don't you make any noise!"  10
So, toddling off to his trundle bed,
    He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
    Awakened our Little Boy Blue—
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,  15
    But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
    Each in the same old place,
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
    The smile of a little face;  20
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
    In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
    Since he kissed them and put them there.

It's lines 13-16 that started the tears and the rest of the poem was so bittersweet to read.

My Little Girl Blue
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." - Romans 12:12

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Book List - December 2015

I can't believe January is almost over!  These past weeks of sickness have not been a cheerful/productive way to bring in the new year.  But thankfully, we're almost all better.  Tabby felt well enough to go back to school yesterday.  In the days before, she tried to catch up with schoolwork. 

One thing was to practice her recitation of Mark Anthony's Funeral Oration for her rhetoric class.  Thankfully Hunter can read well, so he was able to help her.  It cracked Tabby and I up because at the end of every line she got right he would vigorously nod his head "yes."

"Friends, Romans, countrymen ..."
I read a quote recently that even shocked Hunter.  That is:  Only 15% of Americans read more than 5 books a year.

The perfect end to my day is to read a book.  :)   Here is my December list:

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder (edited by Pamela Smith) - If you've had an extended conversation with me since I read this book, I most likely started talking about it!  If you liked the "Little House on the Prairie" books - this is a must read!  Before the Little House books, which Laura wrote with her daughter Rose's editing help, Laura wrote her autobiography and tried to have it published.  She was never able to. 

About 2 years ago, I learned that you could get a copy of the autobiography on microfiche from a certain library and was looking into doing that when I stumbled across The Pioneer Girl Project.  I learned that a group had transcribed Laura's original manuscript and were annotating it and adding photographs.  It was turned into a massive, beautiful coffee table sized book that was published last year.

I have read the book - though not every single annotation - and want to go back and do that at some point.  Laura wrote her autobiography for an adult audience and so she mentions scandals and other situations that would not be appropriate in the children's books.  (Those times weren't really as innocent as we thought!). 

The scariest story in the book happened when Laura's family lived in Indian Territory (Kansas).  There were two women that ran a little house where they invited weary passerby's in for a meal.  The small home was divided by a sheet and the table by the sheet.  While the innocent person(s) were eating, one of the women would go behind the sheet, pick up her weapon, and murder them right through the sheet!  Then they'd throw the body(ies) into the basement and steal all that persons things.  These women invited Pa in, on his way home from a trip to the town of Independence.  Thank God he decided not to stop or who knows what Laura's life would have been like!  Eventually a group of vigilantes found out what was going on and went after the women - after more than 40 people had been murdered.  Goodness!  Can you imagine the horror movie this would make?  (Note - this is the last story in the book - Tabby and I both made the unfortunate mistake of reading this right before trying to go to sleep.)

It was so fascinating to get more details into Laura's real life.  Like about her baby brother Freddie that died at 2 months old.  And about when the family had to work at a hotel to make ends meet.  And - well I don't want to spoil all the goodies for you.  Just read this book!

Family movie night & Hunter's choice- he picked his favorite documentary:  Tesla: Master of Lightening . Tesla was so brilliant!

The Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide for Fitting Creativity into Your Life by Shana Cole - I don't remember where I picked this book up, but it really spoke to me.  I NEED to have creative outlets in my life.  And I have realized how much I like to create with my hands.  The book includes stories by a number of mamas who share how they fit creative time into their daily lives.  There are also a number of mixed media art projects to try, with step-by-step instructions. 

From the Tesla documentary - Hunter thinks these motors are "so cute!"
Math Works:  Montessori Math and the Developing Brain by Michael Duffy - Since Solomon likes Montessori type activities, I was curious what Montessori math methods were.  This book was a quick read.  It had good descriptions of Montessori math materials and how children learn from them.  It sounded pretty rigorous.  There was not any instructions on how to teach this math at home so if I go that route any, I would need another resource.

Pilipinto's Happiness: The Jungle Childhood of Valerie Elliot by Valerie (Elliot) Shephard - We recently watched "End of the Spear" with Tabby.  It is the story of Steve Saint, Jim Elliot, and a few other men and their families who worked as missionaries to reach the dangerous, primitive Eucuadorian tribe of Auca Indians.  The men were all martyred - speared to death.  Valerie was only 10 months when her father died.  She, her mother Elisabeth Elliot, and Rachel Saint, later moved in with the Auca tribe to teach them about God.  (How brave is that!!)  Valerie wrote this book for children, about her childhood with the Aucas, and it is really a fascinating story.  You can read all about how she learned to suck out fish eyeballs to eat and other interesting ways of life.  Valerie wrote that she and her mother ended up loving living with the Aucas because their life was so "simple, happy, and interesting."  (Unfortunately, this book currently seems to only be available as used, and is rather expensive.)

By the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I read this book to Hunter and Solomon.  They are as fascinated by Laura's stories as I was as a child - and still am.  In this book, the Ingalls family traveled to Minnesota in their covered wagon. They first lived in a dugout home.  Then Pa built a house.  Then their wonderful crops were destroyed by billions of grasshoppers.  Once again, as I am re-reading these books as an adult, I am so amazed at the family's resourcefulness.  I wish I had more of their skills and knowledge!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Eye of Tabby - Photography for the week of Jan. 24

Last Saturday, Tabby aka pneumonia girl, couldn't stand it any more and she bundled up, took her camera, and headed out into the snow.  She asked me to tag along to make sure she didn't pass out or anything.  She got so many pictures!  And she apologizes for how many there are in this post.  ;)

"Always" - tribute to Alan Rickman aka Snape

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snow and an attack

The children are all recovering from pneumonia.  The boys just have a little coughing here and there and still want to go to bed at night earlier than usual. Tabby's lungs still hurt and she is spending most of the day laying on the couch.  But she has been up and about some, which is progress.  And she's gained back 4 lbs.  Yay!  (I'm flashing back to when I used to triumphantly post that Lilly had gained another pound.)

The weather has been quite cold which means taking hot water out often to the animals.  We had some snow, then some sleet, and last night a little more snow.  Not much of an accumulation but the boys have been enjoying playing outside.  I just came back inside from taking pictures and thought I would post some.

our sweet rooster and hens enjoying the wood box
Tabby's Silkies like to hang out under the bird feeder so that they can eat the birdseed that the birds drop

"Hello" from Sundrop! (the goats seem to like the snow way better than all the rain and mud we had recently)

the Guinea fowl - a close knit group always marching together

deer track!  we have lots of tracks all over the yard.

trampoline fun

snowball fight!
view from the road

a wagon??!!  where's the sled??

frozen camellia buds/flowers - love the icicle effect

smile for the camera!

pneumonia girl, watching from safe inside

If you are squeamish about animals, then stop reading now.

The other night, I could not find Exhaust Pipe.  When it's cold, we bring the dogs into our enclosed porch so they will be comfortable.  I had a bad feeling because this was not like him to be gone, and especially to miss supper!

The next morning while doing the animal chores, I was calling him and praying.  I got a strong feeling that I needed to look in the woodshed.  I did and there he was.  Curled up and bloody!  I was horrified.  He had bite marks scattered over his body.  One leg in particular was quite bloody.  I picked him up but he was so heavy I couldn't carry him far.  Luckily he could limp along.

I got him to the enclosed porch and cleaned up his wounds.  The were big, deep bite marks.  I am thinking he got into a fight with a coyote.  (Exhaust Pipe most likely has a good fighting instinct - he is a mix of German Shepherd/Collie/Pit Bull.)  The wounds were fresh but cleaned up very nicely.  I only had to wrap the one on his leg that was still bleeding some.  I gave him a dose of silver, which is an antibiotic, and have continued with aggressive doses.

I covered him in warm towels and blankets and turned on the heat lamp to make sure he was extra toasty.  Then I gave him some chicken soup.  He drank it very nicely and even ate some dog food.

Just like the kids, he is slowly but surely recovering. (Thank God because everything is shut down around here because of the ice and snow.)  His wounds are there, but looking better.  He is drinking and eating.  And getting lots of rest.  I think I am annoying him at times by covering him with the blanket because when I check him a few minutes later, he's taken it back off.  He's limped outside a few times too.

Man.  As I was treating him (and then consulting a book to make sure I did everything right) I was thinking "I never wanted to be a vet!"  Then I thought about my kids and how hard I've been working to get them well.  "I never wanted to be a nurse!"  And that nurse thing - I sure was forced to have a crash course on that one when Lilly was alive.

You know what I wanted to be "when I grew up?"  Something safe and sensible.  First it was a detective.  Then a writer.  Then a probation officer.  I ended up being a paralegal.  And I tell you - working full-time as a paralegal was SOOOOO much easier than what I do now.

But I wouldn't change it.  :)