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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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Nature study jackpot

What do wildflowers, a lizard, and tadpoles have in common?   Joy in learning!  They brought excitement and smiles to Hunter's and Solomon's face yesterday.  And we found all three of them, in only about 15 minutes.

Once a week we head outside for "nature study."  This spring, the boys have mainly wanted to look for new wildflowers that appear in our yard or along the road each week.  We pick a bunch and then bring them in and identify them.  The boys and I all have vases we put our weekly bouquets in.  It gives me that little thrill as their homeschool teacher and mama to hear them be able to identify all the flowers they have in their vases.

Hunter's collection:  bluets, purple and yellow sorrel, dandelion  
Solomon's vase also has bluets, purple and yellow sorrel, dandelion

mine: Atamasco lily and yellow sorrel (the boys always give the lilies to me when they find them)
Yesterday when we first walked out onto our front porch, we saw a lizard.  Yipee!  Unexpected nature surprise.  The lizard had stripes and a blue tail.  We got out "critter catcher" and got Mr. Lizard inside.  We tossed in a clump of weeds for him to hide in if he wanted.  A later internet search identified this type of lizard as a young Southeastern Five-Lined Skink.

the skink and Solomon watched each other as Solomon ate lunch
When we walked behind the chicken coop, we peered into the old kettle.

We saw a lot of teeny tiny tadpoles and globs of frog eggs.  I decided we should take some inside for observation.  So we scooped some out.  One scoopful gave us an awful lot.  And we also ended up with the jelly like masses full of frog eggs on our hands.  That felt interesting.

We set up the tadpoles in the dining room and I put a magnifying glass by the little tank.  I also printed out a frog life cycle picture and hung it up next to the tank.  (Hunter likes studying diagrams of any kind - no surprise.)  The boys have been running back in to "check on" the tadpoles frequently.  Yay!

(Ugh - the blurry pictures.  Found out the refurbished camera I bought last summer is broken.  :(  I thought I was just didn't know how to use it properly, but when Tabby tried using it for her photography elective, we found out the lens is broken. Soooo sad.)

I joked with the boys that if all the frog eggs hatched and the tadpoles survived, it would be like the Egyptian plague of the frogs around here!  We had fun imagining that.

On a still school related but different subject note, I am in possession of a super cool book for geography from the swap shop at the dump.  We don't have trash pickup where we are, so we take our trash to the dump, a couple miles away.  There is a "swap shop" there where people leave "nicer" stuff for free.  A lot of the stuff that comes home from the dump is just junk, in my opinion.  Though of course treasure in the eye of the beholder.  ;)  But Frank recently brought home a stack of books and one in particular was a real gem.  True Stories About Children of All Nations, published in 1906! 

I thought about selling the book because it is worth something, but it is just too good to part with.  A perfect "living book" to use for geography lessons. (One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that I get to learn, right along with my kids.) 

Aren't you glad there is so much to learn in life?  :)

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere." - Chinese proverb

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Stop Hunger Now, Hunter's new motor friend, and a little duct tape embellishment

A big THANK YOU to everyone that donated to Tabby's Stop Hunger Now project.  It occurred yesterday and was a big success.  Tabby said that when her 9th grade class finished packing meals, the school's total was at 71,000 meals.  And there was still the 11th and 12th graders to go!  I don't know the grand total of meals packed yet.  UPDATE:  over 100,200 meals were packed!  Tabby said thinks they were being sent to Guatemala.

I took these pictures right before leaving for school.  Tabby is wearing the official t-shirt for the project.  I am also in possession of several pictures of Tabby at event but she asked me not to post those because she also had to wear a hair net.  ;)   (She said since all the kids who handled food wore the hair nets it was ok - but no need to share with anyone else.)

Petting Exhaust Pipe - he's fully recovered from his coyote attack
Last Saturday, Hunter went along with Frank and Solomon on their run to the feed store.  (Hunter usually stays home to work on projects.)  When they got to Southern States, Hunter noticed an old motor that was not being used.  He is currently obsessed with collecting motors and has been praying for more.  He wondered if the feed store didn't need it anymore, if he could have it.  Frank told him to ask.  So Hunter went through the ranks of employees and he said the 4th guy he asked - named Antonio - said he could have it!  (Hunter can tell the whole story of asking everyone in a rather dramatic and funny way.)  Antonio told him that the motor used to be used to power their conveyor belt which took bags of feed up to the second story storage area, but they have a different motor for it now.

This is Hunter's heaviest motor - 45 lbs.  (He only weighs 5 lbs. more but he can carry the motor.)  I think he has about 13 motors of various sizes/kinds now and so I called him "motorhead" but he wasn't impressed.  (That's OK.  I saw the old rock group Motorhead perform once.  I don't think Hunter would have been a fan - he doesn't like loud music!)

I blogged once about Tabby's decorating with duct tape.  She still uses it.  She recently got a binder with lots of pockets and flaps that was going to be thrown out.  It was a boring color and scuffed up some.  But she covered it with a collage of duct tape and it looks really neat now.

I took inspiration from her recently, and covered a super boring looking coupon holder I had recently bought.  It was made from that annoying slippery material and was such a boring color.  So I used three different duct tapes I had:  cherries, red bandana, and sugar skulls.  It's funny how much more I enjoy using it and looking at it now!

By the way, if you grocery shop at Walmart, you can print regular manufacturer coupons from their website here.  I am so thankful for this since we don't buy a newspaper.  I don't use a lot of coupons but can still save several dollars a week at the store by printing and using coupons.

"A penny saved is a penny earned." - Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tabby's puffed sleeves nightmare returns

By the time Tabby was two, she had developed strong opinions about clothing.  All tags needed to be cut out.  Socks could only be certain colors and the sock line had to fit just so.  She couldn't stand for socks and pants to touch, so she only wanted to wear capris or dresses.  She didn't like long sleeves on her arms or jackets.  She didn't like clothes that "bunched."  Etc etc.  Her biggest enemy?  Shirts or dresses with puffed sleeves.

Tabby was the flower girl in my brother Patrick's wedding.  She loved her flower girl dress - there were no puffed sleeves!  But ... evil mom that I can be ... I packed my favorite play clothes of hers to wear on that wedding trip.  And - at least one of the shirts had the dreaded ... puffed sleeves.  My mom, aunt, and I still remember how after being forced to wear the outfit, Tabby's face contorted into pure disgust and she pulled at the sleeves and announced through gritted teeth:  "I hate puffed sleeves!"

Here are two pictures of Tabby, taken shortly before she began her battle against puffed sleeves, wearing dresses with little puffed sleeves: 

Happiness is holding a lizard!
Though Tabby has gotten over most of her clothing issues, she still doesn't like puffed sleeves.  So imagine how funny some of us thought it was when she was given the dresses to wear as Margaret, in her school's upcoming production of an adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility".  The dresses had PUFFED SLEEVES. 

This is just one of the dresses.  The others are at school and I haven't seen them yet.
Tabby says the sleeves look puffier on her
If you live locally, and would like to come out and see the play, and support all the girls wearing puffed sleeved dresses!, just click here to see cast lists and purchase tickets. 

There are four productions of "Sense and Sensibility" which run April 28 - 30.  Tabby is in the play on Friday and Saturday nights.  She's looking forward to it, but bummed she'll miss a track meet Saturday night.

Tickets are selling fast!  So if you'd like to come, be sure to go ahead and buy your tickets now.  And if you see Tabby there, tell her how much you like her puffed sleeves.  ;)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Where has time gone lately?

It seems that since early March, life has sped up to breakneck speed.  Hunter and I are homebodies and just keep wanting a full day to stay home.  But looking at the calendar I'm not sure when that will happen.

Over the past 6 weeks, I've had ideas of things I want to write about but just not the time.  Now I've forgotten about those ideas and suddenly can't think of anything to write about. So I was thinking again about just giving up blogging.  But it's amazing - every time I think about that - I run into several people within a week or two who say "I am still reading your blog!"  Then I remember I like that connection with people, and I like writing, and I like how therapeutic this is for me, and OK.  I'll keep blogging as I can.  And hey, I love seeing Lilly's smiling face in the header every time I open up my blog.  :)

three of our four goats

Mornings have gotten busier for me as I have taken over Tabby's position as the official dairy maid.  Yes I am the one milking our goats.  (Thankfully just two of them.)  This is one more of those things in life I never imagined I would be doing one day.  But really, it is nice to be outside in the quiet of the early morning in the fresh air, and to see the sun rising behind the trees.  And there is something very satisfying in seeing those streams of goat milk going into the bucket.  Solomon comes out with me if he is awake then and he find milking time delightful.  He loves drinking goat milk!

Here is the current view of the top of my refrigerator:

That is all four of our goat milk soaps curing.  It's a satisfying and beautiful site to me!  We are going to be vendors at Hand of Hope Pregnancy Center's 11th annual Walk for Life and will be selling soap, Hunter's vintage Mason jar lamps, and possibly some children's jewelry made by Tabby. This event is happening Sunday, May 1, 2016 from 1:00-4:00 at Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary, NC.  There will be a walk or if you are runner - both a 5K and 10K.  (Tabby is considering running the 5K.)   There will be entertainment, food, and vendors.  If you want to participate, just go to Hand of Hope's website, and pre-register.  A couple friends from church and I have rented a vendors tent together.  I'm really looking forward to it!

Tabby has been busy with track meets and rehearsing for an upcoming school drama performance of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility."  Tabby has the role of the youngest sister - Margaret.  It's a good role for her as she is spunky, like Margaret, and she gets to be in a sword fighting scene.  She's glad to not have a lead role, but really, the perfect role for her would be Marianne.  Tabby is so much like her!  She artistic, is very emotional, etc etc.  I remember re-reading Sense and Sensibility when Tabby was younger and thinking "She is so much like Marianne!  And I am like Elinor.  She needs to read this book one day and we can use it for some discussions on character."

Here is a picture of Tabby at a recent track meet.  She runs relay races and in the 3200 (2 mile race).  She likes it but says she likes running cross country best.

Next Thursday is the last day to contribute to Tabby's "Stop Hunger Now" fundraiser.  You can read about it here.

If you would like to help sponsor Tabby's participation in Stop Hunger Now, you can make a tax deductible payment online on her school giving page at:  Note that ALL the money that Tabby raises will be used for the Stop Hunger Now project.  Plus, for all the money she raises, she will get credits towards the cost of her Senior Service Practicum.  This is a missions trip that the senior class goes on to Costa Rica.

Hunter has been busy with experiments and projects of all kinds.  Yesterday he built a house for his collection of motors.  It was just made out of cardboard but even had real working lights!  I told him it was a shame that he didn't have a little sister around so that he could rig up lights and plumbing in a doll house for her.

Earlier this week, Hunter fixed our broken essential oil diffuser.  He dictated the explanation of how he fixed it to me:  "I cut the plug off at the end, and stripped off some of the sheathing, and examined the wires. There was one red wire and one black wire and when I stripped a working adapters cable, there was one red wire and one white wire. So I connected the white wire to the black wire and the red to the red by splicing and wrapping with electrical tape. Since it is 24 volts that is low voltage so this is OK. Then when I tested it and it worked!"

Solomon stays busy playing with trains, reading books, and helping me with chores.  He really likes helping look after the chicks.  They are growing so fast!  And there is always some antic going on.

Solomon also likes me to take pictures of him acting silly:

Monday, April 4, 2016

It does NOT take a village ...

Yesterday I went outside with my camera to take pictures of our handsome rooster, Fowler.  Unfortunately, this rooster is getting too big for his britches (feathers!).  He likes to chase and attack young boys, namely Solomon and Hunter, which has led to them being afraid to go outside.  And boys that won't go outside?  Well that just doesn't work.  (Hunter tried using a big stick to beat off Fowler but Fowler just flew up to Hunter's hands to peck him.)

After behaving perfectly for his photo shoot, I walked away and Fowler suddenly attacked MY legs.  Lovely.  Add to all the bloody scratches from Tabby's roosters.  My legs look like I've been running through the briar patch.

So yes Fowler, I'm sorry.  It's time for you to go, since I'm too big a wimp to wring your neck and pluck you and cook you myself.

So - Fowler is now listed on CraigsList at the bargain price of only $0.00.

I find it fascinating watching animal mothers.  I've written before about some of my observations of our mama dog and a mama chicken.

I've been doing some mama chicken observations again as we currently have two hens that are raising chicks.  The first is our experienced mama, My Precious.

Precious and her dozen chicks
The other is our hen Beru, who is well ... psychotic. 

Beru and her brood of 8 chicks
Both of these mamas are attentive to their fuzzy babies and pretty much do the same things.  Talk to them, keep them warm, teach them things like scratching and pecking, call them for food and water, and keep them close by. 

However, the way in which they do it isn't just the same.  Precious is so easy going and patient.  She keeps her clucking even and her behavior is very consistent.  She keeps a careful eye on her dozen and the only time she raises her voice is when one strays too far.  She is kind yet firm when necessary. 

Beru on the other hand, leads, clucks, and teaches, but she is just so erratic in her personal behavior.  She will suddenly just shriek and act psycho for a moment, then is OK.  She loses her temper easily if Precious or any other chicken gets too near.  If we are trying to give her food, water, or even her chicks - she has no hesitation in pecking us.  It's just bizarre to watch her pecking and eating with the chicks, and then suddenly have what looks like a little tantrum, and then fluff up and carefully allow the biddies to snuggle up under her.

Another thing I've noticed, is that in general, mama hens do NOT want help with their babies.  Neither Precious nor Beru want any other hen to get near them or their babies.  And they do not even like to get close to each other.  One day Precious and Beru faced off in a fight where they acted like roosters - jumping at each other.  So in the world of chickens, their little brains do not think that it "takes a village" to raise their chicks.

Bingo is the little grey chick - it had some physical issues the first few days (which made me love it instantly of course) but it seems just fine now
After taking pictures of our fine feathered friends, it was so nice outside, I walked around and took a few more pictures.

Here is Lilly's garden.  I had transplanted a bunch of daffodils in her garden last year and even though you can see all the green, not one flower opened up.  I was so disappointed!  Maybe it was the weird winter weather of unseasonably warm mixed with cold days.

If you are reading this and live local to us, and you have an Easter lily in your home, when it dies, instead of throwing it away - I would love to have it.  I plant the bulbs along the fence behind Lilly's garden.

The boys and I have enjoyed finding wildflowers in our yard or along the road, picking them, and identifying them with the help of our NC wildflower guide.  Then we put the flowers in vases around the house to brighten things up.  Here are some that are blooming now (hopefully we've got the names right):

Trailing Phlox (pink)
Trailing Phlox (white)

Downy False Foxglove
Exhaust Pipe barking up the wrong tree?:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"A mother never forgets ..."

In The First Four Years we learn that Laura Ingalls Wilder's second child was a boy.  However, he only lived several weeks before he died suddenly after having "spasms." 

There is a book series called "The Rocky Ridge Years" which is about Laura, Almanzo, their daughter Rose, and their life in Mansfield, Missouri.  These books were written by Roger Lea MacBride.  MacBride was like a grandson to the adult Rose and she told him many stories about her growing up years.  MacBride later took these stories and turned them into the book series.

Recently while reading New Dawn on Rocky Ridge, I found myself tearing up at a chapter called "A Mother Never Forgets." In this chapter a family that are friends with the Wilders lose a baby boy.

After baby Earl's funeral, Laura goes home and sits down at her kitchen table and cries harder than Rose had ever heard her cry.  Then Almanzo began to cry.  Rose cried along with them.  When Laura finally stopped:

"I'm sorry," Mama said.  "It's just I can't help remembering our own little boy."

Papa nodded, snuffling.  "I been thinking of it myself."

"When the preacher said Earl's name, it . . . it just tore at me that we never did give that child a name of his own before we buried him," she said mournfully. 

. . .

"Oh, Mama," Rose cried out, fresh tears wetting her cheeks.  "I'm so sorry."

Mama sighed heavily, gazing at Rose's hand and caressing it.  Softly she said, "A mother never forgets, Rose.  I might not speak of it, but as surely as you have been by my side, he has always been in my heart.  When a mother loses a child, she never forgets."

   - New Dawn on Rocky Ridge, pgs. 142-143.

Lilly - 4 days old

That of course is so true.  Every time I hear about a baby dying suddenly, I think of Lilly.  I assume it is the same or very similar for people who have lost a spouse, or a parent, or children that lost siblings, etc.  We mourn with whoever it was that just lost a loved one, and we mourn all over again for ourselves and who we lost.

Eskimo kisses with Lilly (1 year old)

"He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”  -
Isaiah 25:8-9

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Field trips and fruit loops

Earlier this month, my children and I met our field trip group at Stagville Plantation, in Durham, North Carolina.  The home was originally built in the late 1700s and by 1860, the family owned about 30,000 acres and 900 slaves.  This plantation was the largest in North Carolina.  I just love visiting historic homes and enjoyed our visit.  My kids - not as much as me.  But the boys really liked the hands on activities they got to do in the visitor's center before we took our tour.

I've been to quite a number of plantation homes in the south, and was surprised at how plain Stagville was.  However, we learned that the owners owned other homes.  Maybe those were fancier.

the Stagville Plantation home

back of home
 During our visit, we learned that the character Addy, from the American Girls book series, was based on Mary Walker, a slave who escaped from Stagville's owners in 1848.  (There is actually going to be a "birthday party for Addy" on April 9, at the plantation. Info is here.  If you live local, and have daughters that are big Addy fans - they can learn more about the real slave that Addy is based on.) 

Unfortunately we didn't get to explore the out buildings behind the house.  We next went to see an enormous barn on the property. 

Little fans - don't leave home without them!
The barn was so big!
Inside views:

Tabby - I liked the way the light came in around her
Finally we visited the slave quarters.  In order to try and combat sickness that the slaves suffered from - think hot, muggy summers with mosquitoes spreading illnesses - the owner had some really sturdy houses built for slaves.  Each house had room for several slave families.

Slave house
Hunter was frustrated because he kept trying to ask questions about the electricity or other modern things that had been installed in the home and one of the slave houses.  But the tour guides didn't understand and kept blowing it off with "Yes that was added later.  The original home did not have it."  Um, yes he knew that much ....

Recently Solomon went through a fruit loop crafting phase.  I bought a box of the Walmart brand of "fruit loops."  (Best $2.50 I've spent in a long time!) There were so many different things to make with them, thanks to Pinterest inspirations.  The first day I gave some to Solomon, he ended up eating a bunch after making a picture.  We don't eat "sugar cereal" in our home so I guess his body wasn't used to it!  After a while, the boy was totally hyper and loudly singing songs and being extra silly for a long time.

Here are some of fruit loop pictures he made (with some help here and there) over about 2 weeks.  This was a great activity for him to work on quietly while I was doing schoolwork with Hunter.

I cut out the plants and fish and drew the fish bowl.  Solomon glued everything down.  Hunter added the filter/pump.  

a sugary snack break
fruit loops onto a pipecleaner to make a candy cane

Solomon enjoyed the fruit loops activities so much that Hunter decided he simply had to try it once.  He made a Hunter kind of picture (I don't remember what kind of machines they are):

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." - Colossians 3:23-24