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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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Making red-white-blue angel wings & decorating for July 4th/Lilly's birthday

Yesterday was my day to decorate the house for Lilly's birthday - and July 4th.  It was special that she was born on Independence Day.  I love all the cheerful "Lilly colors" - red, white, and blue.

I decided I wanted red/white/blue angel wings.  I couldn't find them anymore (always shocking when I can't find something on Ebay!) so I made my own.  I got out some angel wings I already had and my trusty cans of red and blue spray paint, and went outside.

I used paper to block off the parts I wasn't spraying.

The paint did not saturate the fluffly top feathers as much as the "regular" bottom feathers.  But I was still pleased with the unique results:

I thought the wings added a nice touch to the mantel area, where I have some Independence Day decor arranged, along with Lilly's birthday decor. 

Lilly's birthday present for this year is a little vintage angel girl.  (I just love the little figurines that Japan produced in the 1950s.)

Lilly's Crazy Sock Monkey has his pinwheel and is ready to remember her and celebrate too:

Crazy Sock Monkey sits over Lilly's tree, which is covered in 4th of July decor:

The finishing touch is outside, where I hang bunting on the railing of Solomon's portico.  (Our second story porch.)  I love this bunting, and had it when Lilly was still alive. 

Here is a picture of Little Firecracker, taken just a few days after her 1st birthday.  I loved holding her! You can see the bunting in the background:

I wonder what it would be like to be celebrating Lilly's 5th birthday with her in person.  What would she be like?  It makes me smile to imagine.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Eye of Tabby: photography for the week of June 28

I continue to be impressed, amazed, and inspired by how Tabby views the world through her camera.  So, I thought I would try doing a weekly (or so) blog post showcasing her recent photos.

Enjoy this week's picks!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Yesterday's animal antics

Animals are like children.  There's always something going on!  Though unlike children, you can leave them unattended for awhile.  ;)

Yesterday I woke up to the sounds of pouring rain and thundering.  I was just sure the rain would would wipe out the last 3 guinea keets we had.

But later that morning ... I was delighted to see that they had survived.  Yay!  These three are almost two weeks old - so I am hoping they will make it.  (I've read that once keets hit 2 weeks - they are pretty hardy.  They will be 2 weeks old on Sunday.)

Leah Rose and Rayford are ever watchful parents
the keets appearance is starting to really change
 Later in the evening, I glanced out the window and Pippi and her kids looked an awful lot closer than normal.  Ooops!  Someone did not close the gate all the way and the goats had all made their great escape!

The kids and I pulled on our boots and ran out.  Thankfully Christa, Nutmeg, Pippi, and all 4 babies were nearby and didn't protest too much about going back into their pen.  They're probably still talking about what the world is like on the other side of the fence.

"Hello!  We just came for a visit!"

This past Sunday night, we moved the Bloods and the Crips (aka the youngest chickens) into the coop with the older hens.  The two young gangs have united and stick together for the most part now, which is great.  They are doing well and enjoying free ranging.  However, there is a learning curve in getting them to go into the coop at night.

Three of the young chickens checking out some freshly cut cedar wood
 Hunter has proved to be a valuable assistant in the round up.  He plays the extremely important job of bouncer.  He stands very still right inside the coop door and once a hen comes in, he does not let her leave.  I go around in the yard and herd the young chicks to the coop.  That can take awhile!  Still though, they are learning pretty fast.

However, last night was a problem.  I kept hearing lots of thrashing in the coop and Hunter finally called out that one of the hens was bullying the young ones.  I went in to see who the culprit was.  It was Beru!  My eyes narrowed as I glared at this murderous hen.  (She is our one chicken that I wouldn't mind if someone else (not me!) killed and plucked and I cooked her for dinner.)  I finally picked her up and tossed her over the fence into the area where Tabby's chickens are.  Within minutes, Tabby's roosters were ganging up on Beru pecking her and basically giving her a taste of her own medicine.  That was some satisfying, feathered justice to see.

Bullying Beru is broody again

On a sad note, Tabby's pretty white Silkie Bantam hen, Marshmallow, drowned yesterday, in the children's pool.  Tabby was disappointed, of course.  She'd rather decrease her rooster population, rather than the hen population.

On the topic of flowers, Lilly's garden continues to look dismal.  I was surprised, the other day, to find two lily bulbs that had been dug up and were laying on top of the dirt.  What?!!  I thought they were all gone.  I buried them and am hoping there are more in there.  I hope to plant more lily bulbs this fall (in a way to protect them), so her memorial garden will be beautiful in the spring.

The day lilies, in other parts of the yard, are doing well:

Finally, here is a picture of a dragonfly that I took this afternoon and was completely surprised with how well it turned out:

I love looking at the world around me.  It's an amazing little break for my busy/worried/over- analyzing mind.

"But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?" - Job 12:7-9

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Silkie Roosters for sale & Toddler activities with mint tins

Tabby has finally decided that FOUR Silkie Bantam roosters are just too many.  Especially because it seems that two of the four Silkie chicks she has are turning out to be roosters.

So ... if you are in the market for a fluffy rooster that thinks highly of himself - and adds a wonderful cockadoodledoo to your yard - Tabby has two you can choose from. 

See our CraigsList listing here:

It's been awhile that I have posted any of the Montessori activities that Solomon has been working on, so I thought I'd share a few. The first two incorporate my love of using mint tins.  (I've made many mint tins for angel children now - see an example of my first one here.  I've also pinned a lot of mint tin ideas for one-day-when-I-have-time-hahahaha on Pinterest - see my page here.)

The first was inspired by an activity in the Montessori Services catalog.  (Solomon and I LOVE looking at this catalog and getting ideas from it.  I can't afford to buy much so we make a lot.)  For this "hammering tees in a tray" activity, I got an empty mint tin, filled it with clay, got some golf tees, and Solomon got his hammer:

This was a quick activity to make and Solomon enjoyed doing it every day for awhile.

The other activity I used a mint tin for is a great one for fine motor skills.  Solomon used the mint tin with clay, then pushed in toothpicks.  Then he dropped Lilly-colored pony beads onto each:

Solomon worked very carefully and silently (great activity while I am schooling Hunter).  He also repeated this every day for a bit.

My older kids and I are studying Monet for art picture study right right.  We are using the picture study portfolio from Simply Charlotte Mason.  I introduce a new print each Friday, and then we hang it on our refrigerator for a week.  Solomon got so interested in it, that I made him little cards using the same Monet pictures we are studying.  I printed and laminated two sets, so that he can match them.  He also likes just laying them out:

We are also enjoying looking at a book called Monet's Passion: Ideas, Inspiration and Insights from the Painter's Gardens by Elizabeth Murray.  The author is my step-mom's cousin who worked in Monet's gardens for almost a year.

The boys remain interested in our weekly nature walks.  We're still focusing on identifying wildflowers we find on our property.  They both enjoy picking some to bring in and put in little vases at their places at the dining room table.  We found the below flowers growing along the road.  I was not able to figure out what the flowers were - some sort of wild rose maybe:

Concentrated holding!  The thorns on the stems can hurt!
Here is another idea for the knobbed cynlinder blocks.  I took about 30 seconds to trace several onto a piece of paper.  Solomon matched the block to the right sized circle:

Finally, Solomon has never liked stringing things, so I put away the strings that came with these large wooden beads and just gave him a tray for sorting.  (It's a vintage wooden silverware tray I found on Ebay, dirt cheap.)  He sorts the beads by color and also by type:

Solomon loves his Montessori "work" and I love when he focuses hard, he is building character.

"From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward." - Proverbs 12:14

Friday, June 19, 2015

The book list - May & The declining Keet population

Though bringing foreign things to our country might seem interesting, I don't know that it is necessarily a good thing.  At least if left uncontained.  Living in North Carolina, one example that comes to mind is Kudzu.  This highly invasive climbing Asian vine was introduced to the U.S. in 1876.  I have seen areas completely taken over by it.  Kudzu has been dubbed "The vine that ate the south."

I've thought a lot about Keets (baby Guinea fowl) this week since our Sunday surprise.   This bird hails from Africa and thrives in a hot, dry climate.  Though once they are big enough, they are hardy and do fine here.  The trick is protecting the babies to get big enough!  They are so water sensitive they can even drown in the dew.

Sunday we had at least 15 Keets.  The next day we had 8.  Then the next two days we had 7.  The weather has been perfect Keet weather overall - HOT and humid.  We're talking 99 degrees in the shade.  (Whew!)  Last night though, we had a storm.  The earth needed it desperately - I haven't seen plants look so sadly wilted in a long time - but I couldn't help worrying about the Keets.  Sadly this morning, there were only 3 left. 

In the future, if we are able to find one of our guinea hens sitting on a nest in time, we have a plan on how to catch her and relocate her and the eggs to a safe place.

I was able to get some not very good pictures the other day of these cute little Keets:

I was able to finish three books in May, two of which I've been reading a bit at a time for months.  Most of my reading time was consumed with the 464 page utterly gripping novel Redeeming Love

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers - I don't read a lot of fiction (except historical fiction with Tabby for school) but I am so glad I read this amazing, haunting, and thought provoking book.  It is a modern retelling of the book of Hosea from the Old Testament of the Bible.  (Hosea was one of the prophets - one who I always felt really sorry for!  God told him to take a prostitute as a wife.  She, unsurprisingly, did not remain faithful yet he went and got her and brought her home again.  Their marriage was to show the parallel of how horribly Israel was treating God and how He was still loving and forgiving.)  Redeeming Love is set in 1850, in California's gold country.  Angel was a prostitute that had been sold into the business as a little girl.  She hated men and hated her life.  An upright Christian man, Michael Hosea sees her one day and feels God calling him to marry her and to love her unconditionally.  Though shocked, he obeys.  He rescues Angel from the brothel in a very dramatic way - after she had been beaten almost to the point of death - and marries her.  It takes years for Angel to heal and trust Michael, and to become a child of God herself.  Many turbulent years, including times of her running away and Michael bringing her back.

The parallels of Michael and Angel, and like the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer, are not unlike us in our sinful lives.  They are all reminders of the way that our God loves us unconditionally, redemptively, and all-consumingly.   This book just made me thank God over and over again for this.

Blurry picture - but you get the idea.  They enjoy duets!

The Joyful Child:  Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three by Susan Mayclin Stephenson - I continue to be fascinated with a lot of the Montessori methods, and Solomon continues to enjoy and learn from them.  He often asks for new "mont-ssori activities."  Though I found some little parts of this book a bit weird, overall much of it was very interesting and made so much sense.  It will really make you rethink giving all the plastic toys with the "bells whistles and lights" to your baby or toddler.  I love how the Montessori approach focuses on so many aspects of a little ones life, including practical life skills.  In America, kids (and many adults) just dread "chores."  But Montessori, work is given a high importance and children taught skills early.  In everything from dressing themselves to cleaning up after themselves to just doing more for themselves.  Guess what - our young kids are perfectly capable of all these things and actually LOVE it.  I think Solomon's very favorite kind of play is helping us with our chores!

On a funny note, I have to say that teaching them skills can sometimes backfire.  Last week, we met our field trip group at Jordan Lake.  We first heard a presentation on bald eagles.  Then we all stayed to have a picnic lunch and to swim in the lake.  When it was time to get ready to swim, I turned around to gather our things to take to the bath house to change.  When I turned back around, Solomon was standing there without any of his clothes on!  All ready for his bathing suit.  Ooops!  Not in public, buddy.

The author of this book has written another for older children:  Child of the World: Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+.  I look forward to reading this one, hopefully later this year.

Pepper - time for fresh cold water

What Mary & Joseph Knew About Parenting:  Surprising Insights from the Best (and Worst) Parents in the Bible by Rick Osborne - I admit - it was the title that intrigued me to buy this book.  I found this book a big help in picking apart and giving good insight into parents in the Bible.  The author did a great job at this.  I am not very good at really reflecting deeply and getting a lot of insights from what I read in the Bible, though I do try.  (I also often need help with practical application.)  I've often wondered why, for example, that King David had some really rotten children, since he was "a man after God's own heart."  Rick Osborne focused in on a particular verse in the Bible about David and after reading it I thought "Ohhhhh!"  I had never really thought about it.  This book has lots of short chapters.  First the Biblical story, then a discussion of it.  Then practical application on how to incorporate the lessons learned into your parenting.

The biddies are getting big!  And getting curious about that yard out there.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Sunday surprise

Yesterday when we got home from church, we were surprised - and delighted! - to see Leah Rose, one of our guinea hens, parading across the side yard with at least a dozen tiny baby keets following her.

Look close to see all the little brown fuzzy balls following Leah Rose as Rayford, the black male guinea leads the way

Roger Williams (the chicken) jumps in to photobomb
Frank recently found a nest of guinea fowl eggs but we didn't know anything would come of it.  So what an exciting surprise.  From what I can tell from online baby guinea photos, the keets are about a day old.

Because we really don't know much about guineas (we only got ours last summer), I got online to learn more about the babies.  That information only served to worry me.  Guineas are native to the dry areas of Africa.  During their first two weeks, dampness is very dangerous for them.  They can die just by going through dewy grass!  (I'm suddenly thankful for the terribly hot and dry weather we are having.)  If they make it past about two weeks of age, they should be fine, as they are probably one of the hardiest domestic land fowls.

All of the blogs/websites I came across said the mama and babies needed to be kept in a coop or brooder for those first two weeks.  Ummmmm - how do we catch wild birds?  These guineas completely rejected the coop we worked so hard to train them to go into and don't stand around waiting for us to pick them up.

So I guess we'll have to just pray these adorable keets survive.  I don't know that we have to worry too much about predators.  Rayford, a male Guinea, has been standing constant guard over Leah Rose and the little ones.  It was fascinating to see every time I went out to look at them yesterday.  At one point, Leah Rose was resting with all the keets under her, and Rayford was standing on guard a couple feet away.  Sherlotta (our black puppy) got too close and Rayford attacked her!  Sherlotta shrieked and ran as he beat her.  (Honestly she deserved it.  She's crazy!) 

In other news, Tabby made me so proud on Saturday when she killed a copperhead!  It was in the stall where we keep the goats hay.  She grabbed a shovel and cut off its ugly head.

the decapitated copperhead
We had to go back into the goat pen to find the snake's head.  I was worried one of the goats might step on it and get poisoned.

"Thank you for ridding the ground of those poisonous fangs!"
Our baby chicks are getting so big. They will be moving out with "the big girls" before too long.  As their personalities continue to emerge, I've named two more.

This is Ameila Earhart.  She is a Buff Orpington and loves to fly up on things.  Whenever I bring in food for the chicks, she always flies up onto the feed container or my hand.

Amelia Earhart
One of our Black Austrolorp chicks is about half the size of all the other chicks.  She has been struggling with "pasty butt."  (Yes that's a real chicken problem!)  Of course my heart went out to her since she was a sort of "special needs" chick and had to have some treatments.  I think she's better now though.  But because of her problem, she ended up with the name "Icky".  It's short for "Ichabod."  Like "Ichabod Crane."  (Ichabod fit her black feathers somehow.)

Icky (Ichabod)
When we first moved here, I planted bee balm in the spring.  I never got to see it bloom though, because chickens bit off the buds.  Same thing happened last year.  This year we have success, thanks to wire around the garden.  First bloom opened last week:

Finally, here is a boy and a dog.  So sweet how they love each other:

Solomon and Exhaust Pipe at a funny camera angle

“Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” ~ C. S. Lewis