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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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Snowmen and grief revisited

We got more snow Wednesday night.  It had rain mixed in and was slushy.  BUT ... it was good enough to make a small snowman.  Solomon was thrilled!  He has had a hard time understanding why none of the recent snows were "snowman snows."  Every kids book you look at that has snow in it, always has a snowman.

Solomon thought his John Deere hat was the perfect hat for a snowman.  (It was mainly for photo purposes though - couldn't leave it there or the puppies would tear it up!)

Then Solomon took great delight in smashing the snowman.  Ha-ha-ha ...

The snow and snowman made me remember Lilly and a picture I have of her by a snowman:

Lilly - December 2010
I don't know if Lilly ever saw that snowman - the snow was so bright she wouldn't open her eyes!

"Oooooh!  That's bright!  Mama - where are my sunglasses?"
Yesterday I was heartbroken to read that little Mary-Margaret had gained her angel wings very early that morning.  (Mary-Margaret's family received one of our "angel box" donations last year.)  Mary-Margaret had Trisomy 18.  She lived 5 months and 1 day.  That is a life that was way too short and yet for a baby with T-18 I know she lived longer than most.  Please pray for her family.

sweet Mary-Margaret
I always feel a sad, sharp pain whenever I read about a child with Trisomy 18 dying.  (Any child's death is sad, but the ones with T-18 are just so close to home, I guess that's why those hurt the most.)  It's like a wound that can never fully heal gets stabbed again.  Because I know what it feels like, I just hurt for the family.  I think of what they must be going through.  And then I end up with flashes of what we went through when Lilly died.  I think of our babies in heaven.  So awesome for them.  So sad for us.

But I guess it's all "normal."  Sigh.  Just because it's "normal" doesn't mean I like it. 

I'm sure many of you reading this understand.

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." - Psalm 34:18

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Our 4 Thieves Goat Milk Soap and Snow Fun

Germs germs germs ... I became extra paranoid about germs when Lilly was alive, due to her fragile immune system.  I still get freaked out about germs.  So that is one reason I am loving the new goat milk soap that Tabby and I made:  Thieves.

Recorded in the Royal Archives (Britain) is a story what has become known as "the 4 Thieves."  This dates back to the time of the Black Plague in the 15th century.  A group of four thieves, reputed to be spice traders and perfumers, concocted a special blend of garlic and herbs in vinegar to use on themselves.  Thus protected, they entered the homes of dead and dying plague victims and robbed them.  The thieves stayed healthy and protected.  When they were finally caught, it is reported that they shared their recipe.  Then the story is confused - they were either set free for telling it - or killed anyway!

"Thieves, spices, and herbs?  Now that is crazy sounding talk!"
There are several recipes for "Four Thieves" to be found.  We chose one that uses the following essential oils:  Eucalyptus, Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, and Rosemary. The other ingredients in this goat milk soap are:  goats milk (from our goats which I milk!), olive oil, palm kernel oil, rice bran oil, coconut oil, Shea butter, palm oil, and castor oil.

The milk in our soap is from the two white goats - Pippi and Christa
Each bar of Thieves soap costs only $4.00 each.   You can order from Tabby's Etsy shop - the Goat Chick.  Or just contact me.  :)

If you like the smell and/or cooling sensation of peppermint, we have still have several bars of peppermint soap in stock.  Didn't Tabby stage the photo nicely?

On a different note, Tabby has been drawing pictures of the dwarves from The Hobbit on her Goat Chick Blog.  If you liked the movie, be sure to click into her blog and scroll down to see them.  (It would make her day if you clicked the "like" button or left a comment!)  She is not quite done and still has some more to draw and post.  Here is a sample - this is Bofur.  I continue to be amazed with how accurately she captures the faces she draws:

Finally, yesterday is snowed for much of the day.  It didn't STICK most of the day though.  But we still got a pretty dusting.  After our school work was done, the boys and I went out for a romp before Solomon's naptime.

"Hey big brother - that's a funny snow joke!"
making snow angels
I noticed that the chickens did not mind the snow like they did last weeks ice:

"What are you gawking at?!" (Bard, the Barred Rock chicken)
Tonight "they" are predicting we might get a foot of snow.  As I type this, it is snowing!

Tabby - not feeling very happy about the snow
"For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ . . . ." - Job 37:6

Friday, February 20, 2015

Re-thinking Montessori activity prep

It's been a little over a month since I've done a post showing the Montessori activities that Solomon is currently working on.  In January I put together a number of things for him.  But I felt a bit frustrated when he would dutifully work on something for a few minutes and then not touch it again.  I've got a lot going on this year and don't want to feel I am "wasting time" putting together things that he doesn't care about.

I started re-thinking my approach.  First off, this should be something that is joyful for us both.  I don't need to be getting legalistic about anything and/or feeling like I have to try every activity that listed in the books I have.  Also, the Montessori approach is "child-led" but within boundaries of "a prepared environment." 

So that means I don't want to take 10 minutes to put together something that Solomon only spends 3-4 minutes on.  But how will I know?  Of course I don't perfectly and I still want to expose him to a big range of things to try.  So I'm trying to study him.  For example, I have observed that he has never really been very interested in stringing things such as wooden beads or using the sewing cards. So I am done giving him variations of this.

This was a one-time activity for Solomon
 Solomon is my child that is most like me.  So I started thinking about what activities I liked as a child.  One thing that popped in my head was that I liked coloring books.  Neither Tabby nor Hunter have every liked coloring books very much - they are too confining for them.  But I printed off some Thomas the Train coloring pages for Solomon and he LOVED them.  Success.

Solomon tends to observe the rest of us closely and want to do the things we are doing.  So one morning when Hunter was cutting some paper, I decided it was time for Solomon to try.  I got out some special scissors and scrap paper for him.  He loved it:

Solomon likes transfer activities of any kind, so I gave him some nuts to work with.  A month later he is still enjoying variations on this:

Another activity was magnet play. I had a bag of magnets that I used with Hunter for science.  I dumped them onto a tray and showed Solomon how they worked.  Then he just sat and experimented for awhile.  (He didn't go back to this activity much, but that was fine.  It took me less than a minute to get out for him and didn't cost a penny.)

 Like many boys, Solomon is into construction vehicles.  And I've observed he really likes matching things.  So I downloaded some construction vehicles cards from Montessori Print Shop, laminated them, cut them out and gave him the stack.  (These are 3-part cards and I kept the word matching cards aside to give him when he's a little older.)  (The cards only cost $0.99 which was worth it to me for the time it would save me from making my own.)  Solomon likes to say the names of the vehicles while he matches them:

Wooden "knobbed cylinder blocks" seem to be a big deal in the Montessori community.  Because this looked like the kind of thing Solomon would really like, I decided they were worth the investment.  The regular sized ones were WAY out of our budget, I went with a set of mini blocks that I found on Ebay.  Those were very affordable.  I wasn't disappointed.  Solomon LOVES these blocks and plays with them frequently.  He first played with just one block at a time, but soon was playing with all four.  He dumps out all the cylinder blocks out then puts them back in place:

Another activity that I threw together in less than a minute was to get his set of bean bags and a toy spatula.  We lined up the beanbags on a table and I showed him how to flip the bean bags with the spatula.  (Good for learning to turn the wrist.)  He had fun with that several times, chanting "flipppp it over!":

One day I put together a farm "sensory bin."  I put in some straw and two kinds of beans and some of our plastic farm animals.  Also added a little pail and scoop.

Solomon added the tractor and took the animals for a ride:

To practice shape and color matching, I got out a game we have called Frog Fractions.  (I had gotten that game for about $1 at a used homeschool curriculum fair - it's so nice to think of lots of uses for things.)  Solomon played with this only for one day, but for a long time:

Ever since playing with the dinosaur cards I made him, Solomon has been interested in dinosaurs.  So I got out a few books we had and some plastic dinosaurs and we looked at the books together.  Then he wanted to try matching dinosaur toys to the book pictures.

One morning, Solomon found a padlock and key of Hunter's and played with it for a long time.  So the next day, I gave him 3 padlocks with keys to play with.  However, the novelty had mostly worn off I think, though he did play with them some:

Another "essential" Montessori activity is a set of wooden cubes, in graduated sizes, called "The Pink Tower."  Sure it would be great to have the nice official wooden blocks for this but there's that money factor involved.  Our little stacking blocks have been around since Hunter was a baby and are only plastic, but Solomon had so much fun learning to stack them from biggest to smallest.  So yay!

Finally, one activity I thought I'd mention is one that Solomon came up with himself.  He found a box of ziplock slider baggies (quart size) that I had.  He took several and started putting things in them.  At first I did not like that and thought he was being wasteful.  But then I looked closer.  He had gone through a basket of his toys and had separated things out into the baggies in a very organized way.  I was impressed!  So he got to keep the baggies and still uses almost every day.  I've realized they are also great for tossing a few small toys into and then dropping them into my bag when we're going out.

It's about time for me to come up with some new things for Solomon to try.  I do enjoy this sort of thing.  (ha - can you tell?!)  If only I enjoyed meal planning as much ....  ;)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ice, snow, and Mardi Gras

ice on the pinwheel in Lilly's garden

Yesterday we woke to a little bit of snow covered with rock solid ice.  And it was cold out!  Our temperatures all week are supposed to remain cold so I don't know when this ice will melt.  The street in front of our house is like an ice skating rink.  And today there is a chance of more snow.

I do hope we get some nice fluffy snow!  Yesterday when I took the boys outside, Solomon couldn't understand why we couldn't make a snowman.

Since snow around here (central North Carolina) seems to just happen once or twice a winter - if at all - I always have to take pictures of it.  So here are some pictures from yesterday:

Solomon - Mr. Pink Cheeks!
I'm going to get you big brother!

It isn't polite to stare, girls and boy!
Exhaust Pipe
Sherlotta - she loved eating the ice!
Hunter cleaning off the gas pack - he's still obsessed with heating units
Sledding - on ice!

Our flock of 17 chickens did not care to come out of their coop and ice skate around much.  But Tabby's little flock of Silkie Bantums seemed to enjoy themselves:

I'm looking forward to the daffodils opening soon! 

When I was in 5th grade, my teacher went to Mardi Gras and returned with stories of parades and costumes and a big bag of plastic beaded necklaces and coins which captured my imagination. Then in the 1990s, I went with my dad to New Orleans for a court case.  The city was beginning to decorate for Mardi Gras and I thought it was so interesting to see it for myself.  At a dime store there, I bought a few things so that I could make my own Mardi Gras wreath when I got back home to Virginia.

Recently, my sister-in-law Nikki went to Mobile, Alabama for something for work.  She noted that Mobile has some of the earliest Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States.  Well that got me thinking about my Mardi Gras wreath in the attic and I thought I'd have a little celebration here.

the wreath is tired looking but still shiny
Years ago, Tabby and I used to make masks to celebrate Mardi Gras.  I found that bag in the attic and got some of those out:

We also made mini King cakes.  They weren't nearly as good as a real King cake.  Tabby and I had made one of those in the past but it took 2 days and I didn't feel up to that this year.

For lunch we had shrimp po' boys sandwiches and for supper we had red beans, rice, and sausage.  Yum.

I like how simple things can make memories. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lilly's Chocolate Heart & "What do you save when a loved one passes?"

There is comfort in simple traditions.  Every Valentine's day for the past 3 years, my children and I have read Kevin Henkes book Lilly's Chocolate HeartIn the story, a little rat girl named Lilly has a chocolate heart wrapped in red foil, which she received on Valentine's Day.  She searches for the perfect place to store the heart in.  She finally concludes that in her tummy is the best place!

When  our Lilly was in the hospital for a virus, the speech therapist that worked with us told me that her son's favorite book was Lilly's Chocolate Heart.  She read it to him every night at bedtime.  And every time, she thought about our Lilly.  (This dear woman prayed for our Lilly too!)  So I bought this little book, out of curiosity, and Tabby and Hunter and I all loved the story.  Now Solomon does too.

After we read it, we all get to eat ... a chocolate heart!  Sweetest ending to a story - ever!  ;)  Solomon and I made the chocolate hearts the day before, using some of Tabby's melting chocolates and heart mold.  When we had finished and I was cleaning up, Solomon decided to sample a heart, without permission.  The evidence formed a nice little "soul patch":

I like to read the blogposts on Organize 365.  Recently there was one that I have found myself thinking about off and on.  It is entitled "What do you save when a loved one passes?"  The author shared about things she has from her grandparents and father.  Then she wrote:

"You have a different relationship with everyone you know. The passing of a family member or friend is very difficult. Often, I see people fall into one of two camps. Either they want to keep every single possession that their loved one ever touched, or they default to saying,  'No, that’s okay, I don’t need anything.' And often the true answer is somewhere in the middle."

If you tend to say, “No, that’s okay, I don’t need anything,” I encourage you to think of one thing that you would like from someone who has passed away. It can be as simple as a button box. Or as complicated as a handmade manger. And, likely, what you choose will not make sense to those around you… and that’s okay. It’s all about you.

If you tend to want to keep everything, go ahead. 50% of the people I go in and professionally organize have lost a loved one in the last five years. The grieving process is long and individualized. The last thing you want to do is give up something you’re not ready to give up yet.

 Of course I thought about Lilly.  When she died I was one of those people that wanted to keep EVERYTHING our little girl had touched or that I associated with her.  It was months before I could even remove the sheets from her little bed!  (And really, I only did it because Solomon was going to be born soon and need them.)  Lilly's sheets and blankets, and the last outfit she ever wore, are still all folded up neatly and in a basket on the bottom shelf of my nightstand. 

The author of the blogpost continued:

"Five years seems to be the magic amount of time that needs to pass before full closure seems to settle in."   (read the whole post here)

Five years.  I found that so interesting.  Solomon was born 9 months to the day that Lilly died and then we moved 3 weeks after that.  It was hard to pack up Lilly's things for the move. Then when we got here I basically put up Lilly "shrines" all over the house.  I even took her favorite ceiling light form our old house and it is hanging in a corner of our bedroom here.  In the almost 2.5 years since then, I have been able to put some things away and feel OK with it.  And I have no problem with the kids using things like her g-tube syringes for science experiments or even just play.

I have a friend that lost a little girl at about 6 months.  (She had many complications from Down Syndrome.)  It happened over 15 years ago and she said her little girl's things all fit in one box now.  I remembering thinking "Wow ..." when she told me.  I've got so many bins of Lilly's clothing and things in the attic.

Where will I be at that 5 year mark?  I don't know.  All I know is that grieving is an unpredictable process.

Speaking of grieving, it seems our goat Christa is grieving. Yes, goats really can grieve.  I am pretty sure she had a miscarriage last week.  I found some blood on her and she was acting different.  She was actually being quite affectionate and clingy whenever Tabby or I went into the goat pen.  Now Christa is not ever mean to us - but this really was un-Christa-like behavior.

I've found myself spending a little extra time with her every day, just petting her and letting her lean against me.  I really feel sad for her.  My own miscarriage, from last October, came to mind of course, and I told her "I understand how you feel." 

The only way to be sure if Christa had a miscarriage is a blood test, which we aren't paying to do.  My friend K., that used to own Christa and still has one of her daughters, said that perhaps Christa only lost one of her babies.  (She had twins last time and that is pretty common with goats.)  So we will see this spring.

Honestly this isn't even something I had thought about.  Christa is a experienced mama goat and excellent milker.  I just assumed everything would go smoothly during this breeding process and then with the spring time births.

When am I going to learn that life rarely ever goes smoothly??!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hunter's new business: Hunter's Bright Lights

For the past few years, I have been bitten by the "entrepreneurial bug."  I have all kinds of business ideas and think of things I could make and sell that might be useful to others.  I haven't acted on it very much though, other than maintaining a big folder of ideas.  (I have been making and selling a green salve and muscle salve though - I need to post about those soon.)  It's been fun to see my children take ideas, produce things, and sell them.

Tabby currently has an Etsy Shop called The Goat Chick where she sells our goat milk soap (available in the original eucalyptus and spearmint scent and in peppermint.  Four thieves coming next week!), an Herbal Mix for Majestic Poultry, a frostbite salve for chickens, ruffle scarves, tie dyed baby onsie sets, and a few other things.  She recently made several beaded necklace and earring sets, but still needs to post them.

The Goat Chick's Udderly Naturally PEPPERMINT Goat Milk Soap
Hunter made his business debut last fall when he sold cinnamon scented pine cones.  (This required collecting pine cones - our property has plenty! - rinsing them, and then spraying with a cinnamon and clove essential oil spray.  Then he bagged them, adding in cinnamon sticks.)  At this point, I don't think he ever wants to touch a pine cone again!  But he did well, making over $150.00.

Hunter's passion is building things and he loves electricity.  He frequently assembles night lights or small lamps in various ways, so I asked him if he would like to try having a lamp business.  He said "yes!"  He said he needed money to buy parts and things for his experiments.  :)

So "Hunter's Bright Lights" was born.  (He came up with the name himself.)  We bought some supplies, and this past Saturday, he went to work and put together two different lights.

For one, he put a light kit into an old half-gallon Atlas canning jar we found on the property.  Then topped it with a "Lilly-colored" rooster lamp shade.

For another, he put a string of battery powered white LED bud lights into canning jar, then poured in a blend of spices:  cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, and black peppercorns.

He topped the jar with a sprouting screen, screwed on the ring, and viola! a pretty and yummy smelling "spice light."

Then we staged the photos, something I have much to learn about.  (Is there a good book out about this?!) 

The mason jar lamp with the Lilly-colored rooster shade sold before we could even advertise it!

Then 2 days later, Hunter sold the Spice Light.  However, he has everything he needs to make more Spice Lights:

Spice Lights are for sale for $15.00

If you would like to buy a Spice Light, they are $15.00 each. (Most of the money is for supplies, and a few dollars for Hunter.)  Just contact me and let me know!

I really like my children learning these skills.  They are fun for now and bring in a little spending money.  But they are helping establish survival skills for later in life too.

It reminds me of the old proverb:  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.