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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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The grieving process - can you really finish it?

I have been asked occasionally, "Have you finished going through the grieving process for Lilly yet?"  For some reason, several people have asked this lately.

I don't know how to respond.  Do we ever finish grieving someone we loved deeply?  And what is "the process?" 

All photos in this post credit to: Steve Rubin Photography
I have a stack of books on grief that people have kindly sent me and they stay untouched.  I am afraid to open them.  Does this mean I've barely grieved at all?

I don't cry every day - or even most days - anymore.  Does this mean I have "completed the grieving process?"

Maybe it's been this question, or maybe it's just time, but Lilly has been EXTRA heavy on my heart and in my mind lately. 

 For some reason, that brought to my mind some things that the great reformer, Martin Luther, said when his daughter Magdalena died at the age of 13.  (All quotes below are from Queen of the Reformation by Charles Ludwig (p. 160).)

When the carpenter was fastening the lid of Magdalena's coffin shut, Luther, through his tears, said, "Hammer away! On Resurrection Day she'll rise again." 

Later, Luther addressed Magdalena in her coffin:  "You will rise and shine like a star, yea, like the sun. . . . I am happy in the spirit, but the flesh is sorrowful and will not be content; the parting grieves me beyond measure. . . . I have sent a saint to heaven." 

"Happy in the spirit, but the flesh is sorrowful."  That sums it up perfectly.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Goodbye flu and happy 1st birthday puppies!

Thankfully the stomach flu seems to have run its course and Tabby, Hunter, and I are almost back to 100%.  I've decided I'd much rather go through the pains of childbirth than have the stomach flu.  Tabby wins the prize for the highest puking score this time around:  27 times.  Poor thing.  Hats off to Solomon and Frank for coming through it all completely healthy and unfazed.

Hunter and I got in some extra reading time together this week, while laying around.  We are reading Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.  This was one of my favorite books when I was a child.  I still love looking at the illustrations by Garth Williams.  Hunter has been enjoying the book and has laughed so much.  The book has not turned out to be what he thought it would be.  When I told him we were going to read Charlotte's Web he thought that it was a book about a website by a girl named Charlotte therefore it would be really boring!  LOL!  Only a kid in this day and time would associate "web" with the "world wide web" instead of a spider web.

"Hilarious indeed!" agrees Solomon
Tabby is our usual "animal care specialist" and goes out and feeds the animals every morning.  However, when the wrath of the flu descended upon us, Frank took care of them Monday.  Then I have been able to the rest of the week.  I have found I LOVE being outside early in the morning, breathing the fresh air, seeing the sun coming up, and being surrounded by the animals.  I told Tabby today if she ever wants to switch - she can handle breakfast and inside morning chores and I will take care of the animals.  Unsurprisingly she said "no thanks!"  Phooey.

This morning I took my camera out with me and got several photos of our birthday stars of the day:  Exhaust Pipe and Sherlotta.  Yep - the puppies are 1 year old today.  If only their mama were here to celebrate with them.  :( 

Exhaust Pipe - he seems to still be getting taller!
Sherlotta aka Bomb-lotta
 Tabby has pictures of our two pups in a post on her Goat Chick blog today - including a funny thing she did with this picture (click here):

"So ... what's our present??!!"
"All creatures great and small, the Lord God made them all."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Organization: My most useful lists

January is considered a month of fresh starts, cleaning out, and organizing.  Though I haven't actually done any of those things yet, I do have high hopes too soon.  (Tabby, Hunter, and I have been battling stomach flu the last few days.  NOT exactly something to make you feel very productive.  Nor does it give me a clear head for thinking - so if what I write is "off" please forgive me!)

Each year I like to read one organizing type book - just to see if I can pick up any new tips and get gain fresh motivation.  Recently a dear friend told me about a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  She gave me the highlights, but I want to read it too, so I put in a request to my library.  I'm still waiting on it, but my anticipation is growing as I am hearing about this book about every where I turn lately!

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am a List-Person.  So today I wanted to share a few of my lists that have been very useful in helping me to be more efficient and organized.  'Cause every little bit helps.

NOTE:  I know these pictures aren't the best.  If you want to see one more clearly, I'd be happy to email you a pdf.

The first is my grocery shopping list.  On my computer, I typed up a list of the things we typically buy, putting them in the order that they are found in my normal shopping route through the store.  I keep a printed copy up on our refrigerator at all times and whenever someone in the family needs something or notices we're about out of something, they can just circle it on the list.  When it's store day, I grab this list, write on or circle anything else I decided we needed, and go!

A basic packing list for trips is a big help too.  I started this when Lilly was still alive.  There were so many little essentials and back ups for her that would have been dangerous to leave home with out.  I was so nervous about forgetting any of them, that I finally sat down one day at the computer and listed them all out and saved that document.  I ended up adding basic lists for each of the children and me too.  It is such a help when we do go anywhere - I just print those pages out and add on anything else we need for that particular outing.  Then I mark each thing off as I pack.

"Are you going to pack us?!" - Billy, Pippi, Nutmeg, Christa
Last year I got so tired of my desk being covered with sticky notes and other scraps of papers with lists of all the things I didn't want to forget to look up or handle online.  Some were priority and others weren't and it was just a big mess.  So finally I made a "computer to-do list."  I got a half-sized clipboard that I had, and used half-sheets of paper.  I typed up my basic form on the computer and then hand wrote in the rest.  And ... of course I had to embellish by adding a little picture to the corner of each.  :)  I've tweaked the categories some and as of right now I currently have:  research, check on, check on Ebay/Etsy, create, backup, print, blog ideas, and classes.

I have found it a big time saver to have Tabby's chore lists pre-printed for each week, as many chores remain the same, depending on the day.  I can add on anything additional or delete with my pen.  I worked for awhile to come up with a format that didn't make her feel overwhelmed by looking at the list.  (Hunter's chore lists are still just handwritten each morning on paper as he has less to do and they change a lot more than Tabby's do.)  I broke Tabby's chores down into morning and afternoon, inside and outside:

Tabby likes when I add extras to her list - noting if it is a legal holiday and also whatever the "wacky day" is.  (See this link for the 2015 listings.)

A couple years ago, I put together a "Home Management" binder.  This put a lot of useful information at my fingertips.  I need to re-do it some though, including giving it a more interesting name!  But it currently houses tabbed sections containing lists of: projects, books, goals, chores, my Trisomy 18 ministry, benevolence, etc.  I also have several of the business card page protector sheets with the business cards of repair people, etc. that we want to be able to contact easily.

The one problem with my above binder was that it has gotten so big that I didn't like it for daily handling.  And that was an issue because in the front, it housed my daily to-do lists.  And I wasn't happy with those daily lists.  But then enter the ...

 Isn't "daily docket" just a cool name?  So official sounding.  :)  I got the idea for my "daily docket"  from Trina Holden.  A couple years ago she did a series of blog posts on her home management binder.  Her post on her "daily docket" section was the answer to my problem!  I followed Trina's basic format and added in things to personalize it for me.  And of course I had to add a little embellishment to each page.  (Oh how I love google images!) I divided up my sections as:  priorities for today, homemaking, home education, on the computer, paralegal work, food, and misc.  I also have a brief list of the daily routine, a section to check off how many glasses of water I drank, if I exercised, and a chart to try and remember the 5 love languages for each of my kids. I can not tell you how much this has helped me organize my days and stay focused!

usually my pages have a lot on them! I like to write in black and cross off in blue

I have 4 weeks printed out and each page is in a page protector.  I use WET erase markers to write on the pages.  At the end of the month, I just take a damp cloth and wipe the pages off, then start all over.  Of course I could just keep re-printing new pages out, but there is something about the feel and look of the page protectors, and writing with the wet erase markers, that I just prefer. 

I also keep these pages in their own binder, along with a tabbed section at the back with calendars.  (The calendar for the school my husband works at, the Christian calendar, and my handwritten lists of birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)  This notebook stays open in a place I walk by a zillion times a day.  Even though it stays open, I just had to make a special cover for it:

Finally, the last thing I want to share is not a list, but it is something helpful for paper management.  As sadly, I am a paper hoarder.  (I still prefer paper form over electronic form.)  Oh yes, I have places to put said papers but getting them there ... that can be another story.  (Homeschooling mama with 3 kids on a little farm = constant interruptions.)  Last year, I read several blog posts on Organize 365 about "The Sunday Basket."  Ahhhh ... it seemed to be the answer to my paper piling problems.  Instead of a basket, I used an organizing utility tote from Thirty-One, an open top filing box from Staples, and a bunch of hanging files.

Now when I print something out, rip something out of a magazine, etc, - if I don't have time to deal with it properly, I just drop it into the right folder in my bag.  Some of my categories are: animal care, apothecary, business, classes, crafts, home/decor, garden, homeschool, misc.  This saves sooooo much time later because things are already grouped and I don't have to re-sort stacks of papers before putting them away properly.  Plus it makes things look so much neater.

Note that you are supposed to go through your basket/bag once a week (hence the name "Sunday basket") and put things away. Ummm ... confession. Sunday hasn't worked for me, nor any other day.  Yet.  My papers are all nicely sorted and patiently waiting.  Can I get one more day of the week please?

As seen on our chicken's to-do list:  scratch, peck, eat, repeat.
I still have much, much more in my life I need to get a better hold of.  But these lists have proved to be some powerful helps for me.  Maybe one or two can help you too!  And if you have any ideas to share with me - please do!

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." - Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More "Mont-sorri 'tivies"

The weather here has been cold, rainy and just plain yucky for days and days and days.  I'm forgetting what the sun looks like!  The mud and puddles in our yard are awful.  The mud is so deep in some places that my boots stick in it.  I feel especially sorry for the goats as deep mud isn't great for their hooves.  Thick mud, cold rain, grey skies = we've been staying inside as much as possible.

We took 3 weeks off for Christmas break.  After week one, Hunter asked "Can't we have school again yet?"  And Solomon asked me, almost daily, for "New Mont-sorri 'tivity?" (new Montessori activity)  Children obviously need to stick with routines and some kind of work for the most part!

Tabby filled some of her time with art and writing.  Here are some of her latest pencil drawings:

Thorin Oakenshield (from The Hobbit)
Tauriel - character that is in "The Hobbit" movie - but NOT in the book
I love seeing Tabby use her talent for others.  Recently she drew a picture for her best friend, Cassie.  The drawing is of Cassie's little sister Hannah, that lived 64 days with Trisomy 18. 

Tabby's Hannah drawing and the original picture of Hannah
Hunter, no surprise, has been busy building things.  Here he is with two furnaces, a thermostat, and a gas pack.  Notice that they all have happy faces:

Solomon was so happy when we got back to homeschooling last week, because I finally had prepared some new Montessori activities.  

A lot of pictures follow below.  I'm not trying to show off my kid!  But I know it helps me to see pictures of things people are describing.

When we are in the kitchen, Solomon usually helps me.  But if I'm doing something he can't help with, he likes to practice pouring water:

he has a tiny sponge to clean up any spills
The pouring has been a good exercise, because Solomon can now easily refill his water glass during a meal, all by himself:

Solomon has liked playing with this shape sorter ever since he was about 1.  I traced some of the shapes onto a piece of card stock and colored them in.  He matched the right shape pieces.  In about 30 seconds.

So I made a few more that involved a lot more pieces.  He still flew through them but he really, really likes this sort of activity, so he repeats it about every day.

Solomon can finally peel stickers off a page by himself now, so I gave him some truck stickers, crayons, and card stock.  The sticker part was good, but then he kept asking for help drawing tractors with the crayons.  That was not good, since I was helping Hunter.

We are continuing to work on colors.  Solomon can match colors just fine but he still confuses the names.  A lot.  He likes this fish color puzzle:

I took some plastic dinosaurs we had and photographed several.  Printed on card stock, laminated, and cut them into cards.  Solomon loves matching them onto the cards:

I recently bought Solomon this shape sorter .  (Tip - I got ours for on Ebay for much cheaper.)  He has always liked the simple one we had.  (Very similar to this one.)  The new one has proved to be quite frustrating to him though.  Perhaps because there are shape cut outs in 4 sides of the cube and so many pieces.  He wants my help every time.

One day I gave him some tool shaped sewing cards we had.  He stuck with working on those for awhile:

Finally, two more color matching activities.  For the first one, I took some little rubber creatures that Tabby had when she was little, and some pieces of colored foam sheets.  Easy for me, and Solomon did activity repeatedly for several days before he was tired of it.

The other was to put little pom-poms into the appropriate colored cups.  (You can buy this same activity here.  Lots of good ideas on the website.)  Solomon has a lot of fun with this one.  Even Hunter was itching to try it when he watched Solomon the first time.

One last note - though Solomon usually works hard at his activities during part of Hunter's schooling, it does not mean that he does not interrupt Hunter's work.  Way more than I wish.  Hunter doesn't seem to mind, but it can be frustrating for me.  So that is something we're working on. One day was particularly bad and I thought "Goodness!  I should just send my older kids to school so they can work without interruptions!"  But then I started remembering about when I was in public school.  There were SO MANY interruptions.  Kids causing trouble, kids asking questions, kids getting sick, kids asking to get water or go to the bathroom, etc etc.  I remember in one high school class, the guy sitting next to me poured out some cocaine onto his desktop, chopped it up a little, and proceeded to snort it.  The teacher didn't catch him until he had just finished snorting.  Hmmmm.  Yes, I think I'll keep my kids home!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Saving a guinea hen and Solomon's new fish

It's always something with animals around here!  Last week, the day after Dixie was killed, Tabby came into the house with one of our gray colored guinea hens, that was dripping blood all over the place.  She said the guinea was just lying on the ground, bleeding and she was afraid it was freezing to death.  (The temperature outside was in the low teens.)

We wrapped the guinea in a towel, and after awhile, were able to determine that the bird was missing most of a toenail, on her crippled foot..  (If you've ever trimmed your pets nails, and cut too close to the quick, you know it will bleed like crazy.)

We decided to keep it inside.  Hunter offered to let us use his little dog cage.  (He actually bought a real dog cage, with his own money, for his stuffed dog Sam.)   We put the bird inside the cage with a towel, and put it near the warm fire.

Tabby said the guinea needed a name so she called her "Chloe."  (After a character named Chloe in some book.)

Chloe was pretty cramped in the little cage, but that was probably a good thing as it kept her still.  We had to put in fresh towels a few times and then her bleeding finally stopped.

Later that afternoon, when we were at the store, I decided to buy a bigger dog cage.  I figure we're going to have more incidents like this over the years if we keep animals, so we may as well be prepared with a good place to put them. 

 Chloe seemed happier when we moved her to her larger hospital room: 

We ended up keeping her inside until Saturday morning.  She got out twice, when I was changing the newspapers on the bottom of the cage, much to the delight of the boys.  She went running around the house and flying up to the ceiling to try and roost on something.

Saturday morning I took her back outside to join her other guinea friends.  It was interesting watching them.  Chloe started making her talking noise and all the 4 guineas came running to her and gathered around.  They rubbed their heads on her and answered back.  Ahhh ... a happy ending.  At least for now.

In other animal news, Solomon got his own pet.  A fish.  Named Nemo.  I read recently that fish care was suggested as a Montessori activity for 2 year olds.  Though Solomon helps with the other animals, I did think it was a good idea, for him to have his very own pet to take care of and be responsible for.  Of course we will help as needed.

When I talked to Solomon about this idea, he was excited.  He ran to my desk and climbed up into the chair and picked up a pen and said he needed to make a list.  (We are all list makers in this family so it was a thrilling moment for me when my 2-year old wanted to make his first list!  Ha ha - dorky I know.)  Solomon carefully "wrote" and said "Nemo" and then "fish bowl."

So, with Solomon's Christmas money and a gift card he received, we bought a little aquarium and some food for a Beta fish.  Tabby is walking Beta fish encyclopedia, having owned several in the past and reading every book she could find on them.  I assigned her the job of helping Solomon set up the tank.  He was SOOOOO excited.  Then yesterday afternoon, he picked out his Beta fish at the pet store.  He knew going into the store that he wanted a blue fish.  So that's what he got!

I just pray this fish lives for awhile.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

There Will Be No More Whistlin' Dixie :(

Sad post alert!  That is if you have a soft place in your heart for dogs.  If you already read Tabby's blogpost yesterday, you know what is coming.

 My high hopes for January faded yesterday morning, when I answered the phone at 7:00.  There was a very distraught woman on the other end of the line.

“I’m so so sorry - your dog Dixie - she was hit.  And she’s passed on.”

Oh no. 

My first question was, “Are you OK?”  I couldn’t handle knowing our dog had caused a wreck or harm to someone.

“Oh I’m OK,” she replied.  Then she angrily went on, “I’m a nurse and was coming home from work and the car in front of me hit her and that jerk ... that jerk just kept driving.  I couldn’t.  I had to check on her.  And oh I’m so sorry - she was already gone.”

“Oh no ...  Oh no Dixie ...  Where?  Where are you?”

The woman described where she was with Dixie farther down our road.  I was getting confused though as my mind was racing.  She asked if I would like her to bring Dixie to me.  (My goodness - how kind is that?!)

Since my kids were just getting up and I was feeling rather shaky so I thankfully accepted her offer.  I asked if she would please do so and said she could leave Dixie at the end of the driveway.  I thanked her profusely for calling.

Dixie - a German Shepherd-Collie mix
By the time I could get Solomon dressed, the kind woman had already dropped Dixie off.  I went upstairs to tell Tabby and burst into tears.  Tabby wanted Dixie’s collar.  Then the boys watched from the window as I went outside to get Dixie’s body.

I cried as I walked towards her.  I was so touched to see that that kind woman hadn’t just tossed out Dixie’s body on the driveway. She had wrapped her in some type of cover and laid her carefully in the grass at the side of the driveway.  I pray I get a chance to thank her properly one day.

I uncovered Dixie and petted her soft silky fur.  I took off her collar for Tabby.  Then I started to carry her to our barn.  Dixie’s puppies, Sherlotta and Exhaust Pipe, ran up to see what was going on.  I remember reading that animals understand death, so I knelt down with Dixie so the puppies could see her. I thought it was important that they know so that they don’t keep looking for their mama.

Sherlotta started sniffing Dixie’s face and kissing her.  Awwwww ...  Exhaust Pipe acted afraid and wouldn’t come near me at first.  Finally he crept over and sniffed his mama.  Lucia ran up and did the same.

Dixie and Sherlotta
I carefully put Dixie down on the barn floor and covered her up.  I wanted to bury her but the ground here is so blasted rocky that I just am not strong enough to dig a deep hole.  Thankfully our temperatures are very cold right now so I knew her body would be ok until Frank could bury her. 

I cried as I walked back inside.  Goodness, crying is just exhausting!

Why is it so very sad when we lose one of our furry companions?  I think it’s because our relationship with them is usually so easy.  Dogs especially are so loyal and ours are all so sweet, though the puppies are still very rambunctious and obnoxious at times.  So our feelings towards them are not all complicated like they are towards people.  People relationships tend to be pretty messy.

Tabby took many great photos of Dixie
Out of curiosity this morning, I looked up when we got Dixie.  I found my first blogpost about her.  We brought her home on January 12, 2013.  So that meant we had her just a few days short of 2 years. 

Lots o' hugs
Dixie you were a good, faithful dog - even though you wandered a bit too much.  You were loyal and beautiful. You were so smart and such a help in rounding up chickens or herding guineas. You were Tabby’s special companion.  You are already much missed!

Sherlotta, Exhaust Pipe, Dixie

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Book List - December

Happy New Year!  I always love a fresh new year.  It feels like a clean slate and I always have high goals for myself.  (Not that they all work out of course.)  I'm not sure what to think of this year so far though, as I haven't even had time to sit and prepare my 2015 calendar.  And that has been a tradition I have had since I was younger than Tabby!

Yesterday Tabby and I went to the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh to see a new exhibit called "Starring North Carolina:  100 Years - 3,000 Films."  First let me say that we aren't big movie watchers.  In fact, I don't think even seen a lot of movies since my 20s!  I had seen some of the movies represented, vaguely recognized many of the movies and TV shows, and never heard of a number of them.  Nevertheless, we both enjoyed the exhibit, as we like costumes and movie props.

Ever since I saw the movie The Last of the Mohicans in 1992, it has remained one of my favorite movies of all time.  (And it's one of the few movies I liked better than the book!)  So seeing Hawkeye's costume and a number of movie props, and reading information about the making of the movie, made this part of the exhibit my favorite:

(A portion of this movie was filmed at Chimney Rock, N.C., and they have a display from the movie there too.)

Tabby was thrilled to find her favorite droids from Star Wars:

But as we talked about the exhibits later - neither of us could remember what the Star Wars tie in to N.C. was!

Now, onto my book list from December.  I read a whopping . . . 3 books!  And actually I can't even say I read all 3 in December.  One I had been reading slowly and another I simply finished what I had already started months earlier.  December was such a HARD month.  Lilly's angelversary, the tense craziness of the Christmas season, some difficult family issues, and my own battle with depression.  I didn't always have the time or energy to get in my hour of reading before bed each night.  Whew.  So ... glad ... December ... is ... OVER!

Selections from One Thousand Gifts: Finding Joy in What Really Matters by Ann Voskamp - Shortly after Lilly died, I tried to read Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  I had heard so many praises of this book.  But a couple chapters into it, I slammed the book shut.  I found the author's writing style so frustrating - she has an odd way of forming her words into sentences.  Plus I was at the part where she was dealing with her sister's horrific death.  Death death death.  I couldn't bear any more of it right then.  However, last year a friend told me that she had enjoyed Voskamp's smaller book, Selections from One Thousand Gifts because the excerpts were short and put with beautiful photos taken by the author.  I did by the Selections book and read a page or so a day.  It was much better, for me, in this way.  And the photos really were beautiful.  I also have been keeping my own blessing book where I write one or two a day.  (I am up to the low 100s and want to fill the book.)

Solomon riding a dump truck
 Iron Scouts of the Confederacy by Lee McGiffin -  This book was assigned reading with Tabby's online history course.  We both really enjoyed it.  The book is about two brothers who, during the War Between the States, join the Iron Scouts of the Confederacy.  The Iron Scouts job focus was to spy on the Yankees.  This book is full of adventure, action, loyalty, courage, and perseverance.  And the best part - it is based on a true story. 

Jar Jar Binks riding a dump truck
 The Home Ranch by Ralph Moody - This is the third book in the "Little Britches" series we have read.  My kids really enjoyed the first two, Little Britches and Man of the Family when I read them out loud.  But I stopped reading this one to them about 1/3 into the book, then later finished it on my own.  This book focuses on Ralph's summer working on a ranch.  Tabby and Hunter though, they just "didn't get it" in the part I read to them.  They don't know enough about cowboys and ranches for enough to make sense to them.  I hope they'll go back and read this book later though, because there were a lot of exciting things that happened in this story.  (This is an excellent series about the author's life, beginning when he was about 11 and his family moved to Colorado in the early 1900s.)

"Big Chewie" (Chewbacca) riding a dump truck

Finishing The Home Ranch on New Year's Eve brought my book total for the year up to 64 books.  That's one more book read than last year.  Very satisfying indeed!