Friday, December 31, 2010

The Joy of Destruction

In the last month or so, Jeff and the boys have spent a good bit of time down at our property. As is typical with us, we bought the land with a great vision. It seems we have the ability to ignore the complete ruin something is in and envision it as something completely different. Well, with this piece of property, even I had a hard time seeing past the mess.



I did not have the same "love at first sight" feeling with the land that I did with our old house. The first day we saw it, we drove to the end of a dirt road and stopped in what Jeff described as "shanty town". A full grown turkey literally puffed up and wanted to fight us. Chickens and ducks ran around everywhere. I took one look at the dilapidated old nothing of a shack, as well as the surrounding area, and decided that there was nothing left for me to see.

Luckily, I have a very persuasive husband. When we first pulled up and saw what was a house long ago, we were on a very small section of the property. Jeff drove back beyond the depressing structure and managed to take me back to see the rest of it. I couldn't believe he actually got me out of the van. Just as he suspected, I opened up a bit once I was out walking the property lines. The hardwoods were gorgeous and I saw spots that I would want to clean for pastured chickens, turkeys, maybe a cow or other animals that could join an intense rotational grazing plan. I could start to see it... the paddocks, the fences, the chicken tractors, the possibilities. Now, mind you, all of these ideas are coming up a we walk through an overgrown disastrous mess. We didn't see all 25 acres, but we saw most of it.

This was taken when we bought the place.  Ivey was a baby.  I LOVE the look on their faces in this shot!

Work doesn't scare me. Regret scares me. We have two goals with this move. Goal #1 is to build a great home with our own hands, in whatever alternative manner that can get us in with no additional debt. We've looked at everything from permanent yurts, concrete structures, shipping container homes (a possible winner), building with cordwood, bagged earth, hay bails, and the choice that has Jeff currently enamored, timber framed homes with wood that we mill ourselves. Goal #2, to be able to raise more of our own food. Instead of milking my two fabulous does, Gretta and April, why can't I also milk a small Jersey cow? Why can't we raise heritage breed pork and my own turkey for Thanksgiving? I would love to know exactly what the food in our freezer was fed and how the animals lived.

Right now, we are in a goat milk slump. Both of our girls started drying up a few months ago. We bred them last month and they are due in April and May. It's very annoying to now have to go purchase 3-4 gallons of milk per week. Heck, the kids had to readjust to the taste and consistence of cow's milk. One day, I would love to have a better system down. Not just for us to provide for our own needs, but to be able to have a place where the family could come for holidays and where I can give homeschool field trips. The public health educator in me, and the homeschool teacher in me, get themselves all fired up just thinking about the possibilities!

So, all the dreaming aside, Jeff and the boys just finished tearing down the kitchen, pulling it over with a truck... much to the delight of all of my boys and the dismay of the hen that was laying eggs in there. Asa and Addison spent a day pulling off siding with the claw of a hammer. Don't all seven year-olds do this stuff? There's a long way to go... a very long way to go... but wheels are in motion. It's not the destination, but the journey, right?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

I'm sitting here at 7:30 in the morning, by the twinkling lights of the tree.  Everyone else in the house is in bed, recuperating from a whirlwind few days of too little sleep, too much food, and just the right amount of magic.  As the rest of the house is silent, I sit here, while Olive plays and coos in the pile of used wrapping paper, boxes, and of course, toys (although the unopened box of drill bits seems way more exciting than any battery operated excitement).  I am putting in my time... later on I plan to pass this baby off for some serious snoozing of my own.

Much to all of our surprise, we had a white Christmas in Georgia!  It was the icing on the cake of a seriously wonderful week.  Like every year, we kicked off the Christmas festivities with the Christmas Eve-Eve Open House.  But, unlike other years, I actually live here this time.  I was able to send Jeff and the kids to his parents for the night while Mom and I cleaned and prepared until 7:30 in the morning.  The party was a big one this year, and it was awesome to see some faces that I haven't seen in ages... including my childhood best friend that I haven't laid eyes on in 20 years.  To top it off, we had sitters to help with the kids, so parents and kids could all have a wonderful night.  If that's not magical, I don't know what is!





Taylor and Cameron spent the night with Asa and Addison, which I has become a tradition that I absolutely love.  How fun to have a sleep over with cousins the night of an extraordinary holiday bash.  The next morning, we woke to a yummy breakfast and presents with my brothers, sisters-in-law, and all of my nieces and nephews.  Ivey was amazed by the whole thing.  She sat, quietly, deliberately opening every present.  She was soaking it all in, as she does often in the same silent, wide-eyed way that she did the day she was born.  Asa got the remote controlled helicopter that he had been asking for and Addison was in video game heaven!




After the bits of wrapping paper had settled, Hal and Jen and my entire crew headed over to Papa's for lunch.  Usually, the family has dinner on Christmas Eve, which always conflicts with church, dinner, and presents with Jeff's parents.  This year, we were able to go, stay, and enjoy ourselves!  I had such a wonderful time seeing everyone.  We have really been missing out all these years and I am thrilled we were able to go!



By the time we made it to Jeff's parents' house, it was way past naptime.  I was able to get the girls in bed, but we had to wake them up less than an hour later so that we could go to church.  This went as well as could be expected... Ivey really likes to wake up in her own sweet time!  Jeff complained that we were going to be late.  We were.  By 15 minutes.  In my opinion, that's just 15 less minutes for me to have to work my tail off keeping two babies quiet and still!  We piled our gaggle of children into the pew and I proceeded to entertain, give a bottle, fix a show, take off my necklace to give it to Ivey, draw stars on the back of an envelope, juggle babies from one side to another... one person to another... on pew to another.  Toward the end, Ivey made it back to sit with Papa, where she was very happy until the last three minutes of service... when hot wax from the candle dripped right on her long skinny little finger.  Needless to say, it didnt' go well.


I know that in a few short years, we will have four children who should be perfectly capable of keeping relatively quiet for 45 minutes.  This phase of constant baby care and perpetual motion will no last, and I am sure I will look back and miss the days of Christmas Eve service baby juggling.

On the way back to Jeff's parents' house, we went to see the Christmas lights at the Gaddy's. The girls weren't the only ones completely exhausted.  Twice that day, Asa had fallen asleep in the van!  As tired as they were, everyone perked up when we made it back to Randy and Linda's house.  Addison asked me if I could please "eat fast" so they could get right to the presents.  They were bouncing off the walls!  This year, Jeff and I went in with Mike to get the boys' Christmas present.  I wanted to get them a telescope.  Mike wanted to get them a telescope.  Well, when we combined our efforts, I quickly realized that Uncle Mike would get a way cooler telescope than I ever would.  So, he took the reins.  When he walked into the house with their gift, my jaw dropped.  I swear, we could set up our own observation center with this thing!  It was cold outside, but we went out and checked out the band across Jupiter, Jupiter's moons, and then the next night we got a seriously fabulous view of the moon.  I was blown away!  Leave it to Uncle Mike to make a Christmas present super cool.



On the way home, I was all smiles.  The van was full of wonderful noise... The boys were asking us to hurry and talking to each other about how they needed to go right to bed so that Santa would come.  Olive was cooing and holding out those long droning notes that means she is one step away from sleep.  Ivey was singing "Santa Claus is coming to-niiiiiiiiiiite" to herself over and over again.  The sweet sounds of Christmas Eve.

Although I was completely and utterly beat, I managed to jump out of bed when Asa and Addison came up to get us at 7:00.  Like last year, we did Christmas morning in rounds.  Ivey likes to sleep in, so we were able to focus on Asa and Addison (and Olive) first.  They hit the jackpot, with LEGO kits and Wii games and K'NEX sets galore.  This Christmas, they acquired over 4000 pieces of LEGOs.  Luckily, they are ultra organized!  Addison got the new Harry Potter LEGO wii game he was hoping for, and Asa got the roller coaster set that he wanted.  They also got a surprise from Santa, an 80 foot long slack line.... but with the wet, cold weather, they will have to try it out another day.




Once Ivey woke up, she walked into the room and entered into her quiet observation stage.  She knew Santa had come and she wanted to see the one thing that she asked for.... CANDY.  She inspected her stocking, picking out a package of M&M's.  She knelt down on the floor, picking up one little M&M at a time, trying to wake up and absorb all of the craziness around her.  Less than an hour later, she was bouncing off the walls, ecstatic about the candy in her stocking, as well as her parents' unusual willingness to let her eat it.  She was having a blast.  She began to realize that there were tons of toys all around her... all for her.  She had a kitchen set, books, a puzzle... she loved Olive's toys as well.  It may not have been Ivey's first Christmas, but it was the first one that she truly understood, enjoyed, and immersed herself in!






Later that day, the Registers came over for dinner.  Ivey was still having the time of her life.  For her, the parties could just keep on coming!  Each group of people we saw presented her with a whole new crowd of candy possibilities.  We spent time with my aunts, uncles, and cousins... eating another great Christmas meal.  Although I ran out of steam, Mom's energy seemed to come straight out of Mary Poppins magic bag.  Her ability to pull out a new buffet of holiday food was simply impressive.


For Olive, it was a great first Christmas.  She may not understand any of it, but she sure enjoyed all of the wrapping paper, boxes, and toys that littered the floor!  There were people around to smile at and lots of arms to hold her.  She ate up the attention.  Jen was a lifesaver for me.  She and Hal stayed here at the house for four days, and Jen jumped in and took a lead roll in Olive duties.  I had worked myself into a state of extreme sleep deprivation (and some pretty bad dehydration, actually), and it was an awesome Christmas gift to have her help!  She is a natural... She even handled being completely drenched in regurgitated milk with grace!

It was a wonderful Christmas, and for all of my stress and worry that I wouldn't be ready in time, it went off without a hitch (or at least without a very noticeable one).  Now, I just need to settle in for a long winter's nap!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trouble with a capital "I"


Ivey is really stuck on getting candy for Christmas. I asked her if Santa was going to come and bring her toys.

"Candy!" She replied. "Bring me candy!"

I reminded her that Santa only brings toys and candy to good boys and good girls.

"Have you been a good girl?" I asked.

She was in one of her silly little smiley moods. She grinned super big, complete with a scrunchy nose and said, "Nooooo!"

"No?" I asked.

"Noooo!" She playfully announced. "Asa 'n' Addison good!"

"But, Ivey's not been good?" I pried.

"Nooo!" and she erupted into laughter.

At least she's aware of the problem. Is that step one?

Speaking of which, the other night, Ivey decided to sneak into my bathroom and get into my make up. It was hard for me not to laugh, and I know I didn't do an adequate job of discipline in the situation. However, she was just so ridiculously funny with my lipstick all around her mouth, standing firm in her denial. Unfortunately, she used my L'Oreal Infallible Color.... which claims, accurately, to stay put for 16 hours. It didn't come off in her bath or with her excessive OCD-style face wiping. (Have I mentioned that she wipes her face 800 times a day, walks around with a wipe in her hand, and even goes to bed with a wipe so that she can wipe her mouth as she drifts to sleep?) Luckily, we had nowhere to go and she could look like a clown in the comfort of her own home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A few little letters...

The other morning, the kids and Mom and I were standing around the kitchen fixing breakfast when out of the blue, Addison asks, "What is PMS"? Mom looked up at me and said, "Where did THAT come from?" with her eyes as I explained Premenstrual Syndrome without skipping a beat. Hey, I didn't get that Health Education degree for nothing. After explaining that it was something that happens to women that makes them feel bad, Addison looked puzzled. Asa did, too. Asa was just about to delve into the topic deeper when Addison asked why on earth that would be in his Line Rider game. Now, I was puzzled. After a few minutes of rattling off possible other acronyms, we determined it was FPS, or "Frames Per Second", which immediately ran us into a conversation on pixels and frames. Within minutes, we discussed hormonal shifts in women and measuring motion in computer and video games. Although this is pretty typical for me, I think it blew my mom's mind! That's a lot to go on before breakfast.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How to Train Your Reading Habit

Poor Addison.  He reads faster than most adults I know.  Why is this a problem?  The poor kid cannot keep enough books around him to satisfy his immense reading appetite.  After consuming the Hobbit, he decided to wait until another big book really sparked his interest before committing.  I bought some chapter books like the "... from the Black Lagoon" series, the Horrible Harry books, and other 100-130 page books, but they literally take him an hour or less to complete.

I had purchased the "How to Train Your Dragon" book a while back, and I pretty much forced him to read it.  It took him a day and a half.  He read it at the restaurant, in the car, walking from the car to the house.  He read it in the middle of the house while bustling life was going on around him.  He loved it.  The next day, I took him and Asa to Target and let Asa buy a book and Addison got books 2 and 3, "How to be a Pirate" and "How to Speak Dragonese".  He read book two that day, finishing at 10pm.  He woke up early to read book 3 at 6am.  He finished at noon. 

After that, we went to the library.  Much to our dismay, they did not have the series.  Addison stated that he simply cannot read a different book in the middle of a series.  So, I jumped on Amazon and ordered books 4 through 7.  This was 11 days ago.  That boy has been begging to go to the mailbox every day for over a week now.  He asks 50 times a day if the mail has come, only to look completely heartbroken when his books have not arrived.  Darn that USPS Media Mail.  In the time it has taken to receive the books, he could have read each one twice.

Right now, he is with Jeff and Randy at our property... dismantling an old shack or stomping through a creek or finding cool old rocks to fill his pockets with.  I have, in my possession, the long-awaited books 4-7.  This is going to be one happy, and one very quiet, little boy.

In My Room

Although it is not completely finished, I have been working some magic in Olive and Ivey's room lately.  First of all, I hung the wonderful letters that Jen made for them.  I also found some great wall decals for a steal!  In our family, all of us girls are botanical.... Holly, Ivey, Olive... so I just have to have a little girls' room that is based on nature.  Luckily, the room upstairs at my parents' house is already painted an excellent shade of green.  Once we get a few pictures hung and another crib in there, it will be finished!  (Of course, with the way Olive wakes up and cries all. night. long I doubt she'll be moving in any time soon.)

When Ivey saw the new tree, birds, and butterflies decorating her walls, she loved them!  At first, she didn't say much.  Once Jeff and I left the room I heard her say to herself, "What going on my room?".  The girl's a riot.  After that, she was full of "wow!"s and "beautiful!"s.  She definitely approves.







Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ho Ho Ho

With a raging two year old and a finicky baby, my expectations for meeting the big guy were low.  Much to my surprise, Ivey warmed up and, although she didn't smile, she didn't scream either.  Actually, if we hadn't made her sit on his lap, she would have loved the guy.  She was all smiles when we got there, and she reminded me how Santa is going to give her candy.  She's getting the hang of all this!  Our letters have been sent, our picture has been taken... now, we just have to make some cookies and wait for him to slide down the chimney!


 When Asa told Santa how he wanted LEGOs for Christmas, Santa approved wholeheartedly.  He said he loved LEGOs because they last forever and never wear out!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Beautiful Sights That Be

Ever since I had the boys work on memorizing the poem, "Wynkin, Blynkin, and Nod", I have wanted to make a video for it.  I had an idea in mind, but I wasn't sure it would actually happen.  Well, today it happened.  We had an entire day of crafting, videoing, and playing with Anna.  With the daily distractions of Olive's bottles, Ivey's whining, hunger, poop, animals to feed, and all the other time leeches surrounding us, it took us a full 9:00am to 4:00pm day to get it accomplished.  We had glitter and glue guns and paint and a whole refrigerator box at our disposal.  I must say, I am pleased with the result!  Now, art and drama is over and we'll get back to the regular school day tomorrow.  Oh, wait... Ivey's having her preschool Christmas party in the morning... I guess we'll be having the normal irregular school day tomorrow, instead.




Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Party Like Its 1997

In the last two weeks, I have had the remarkable privilege of escaping for a quiet retreat, staying up all night partying, and going on a picturesque nighttime Christmas tour of homes-- complete with light snow flurry accents.  Yes, there is a reason we moved.

Thanks to some fabulous family members, Jeff and I packed our bags a couple weekends ago (okay, so I packed our bags) and headed to his parents' mountain cabin.  It was freezing.  We got there in the middle of the night, threw the futon mattress on the floor in front of the fireplace, cranked up the fire, and watched movies.  It. was. awesome.  It felt so great to be somewhere with absolutely nothing to do.  Not only that, but I didn't even have to feel guilty that I should be doing something.  We could have grabbed some steaks and cooked ourselves a nice quiet dinner... but that would be work.  Instead, we picked out a frozen meal, whipped it up in 12 minutes, and went back to sleep.  Fabulous.  I am prescribing this for myself on a quarterly basis.

Last weekend was the complete opposite in terms of energy level, but revitalizing all the same.  I actually wore make up for two days in a row... and not because I was too lazy to wash it off.  Jeff and I rode with some friends all the way to Athens, getting to the McLucas' Christmas party at 9:30 at night.  After we had partied all we could, and after I totally rocked on the tambourine, we returned home at around 4am.  I may have felt like I was going to die the next day, but it was well worth it.  The next night, Jeff and I went with Mom to the Senoia Tour of Homes.  Asa and Addison have been riding with Jeff down to our property a lot lately.  When Addison heard where I was going, he told me that I just had to see how beautiful downtown was.  My sweet boy was right.

The homes were gorgeous... but I did have twinges of sadness over leaving behind my own old house.  It's not in the game plan to live in a piece of history again, and I'm not sure I adequately appreciated those uneven floors, crooked doors, tongue and groove ceilings and just the feeling of antiquity that you get just from stepping inside.  I know that Jeff and I will come up with a unique, quirky, unusual home of our own... but I will always miss my beautiful old home.  Our new house has a lot to live up to, and I am sure it will be a canvas with our crazy personalities painted all over it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Olive and the Eatin' Mittens





Olive is a nut.  A crazy, funny, goofy little nut.  Her sense of humor has developed earlier than any of the other kids.  It's like she is just waiting around for something to make her laugh!  Today, I was taking clothes out of the washing machine and putting them in the top dryer.  I would bend down, with my head in the washer, and stand up to throw them in.  I heard hilarious belly laughter behind me.  Olive thought it was a riot.  Every time I emerged from the washer she would erupt into laughter.  This kid is funny.  When she and Ivey take a bath together, Ivey blows bubbles in the water just to see Olive crack up. The two are quite the pair!  I can already see that the two of these girls are going to have so much fun together... and luckily, I think Olive will be able to hold her own against our bossy, opinionated, creative, whimsical little Ivey!

Olive is now a super fast crawler, a seasoned couch and furniture cruiser, and is even letting go and standing for very brief periods of time.  I don't think it will be long at all before she is toddling around the house.  Maybe she'll put let things in her mouth if her mouth is farther from the floor?  Speaking of her mouth, with the eruption of her top tooth, she has developed this horrible habit of gritting her teeth.  Loudly.  This had better pass because I'm not sure the boys and I can tolerate the sound much longer!

The teeth gritting seems to go along with the part of her personality that causes her to pinch.  My sweet little baby has to comfort herself by causing pain to others.  When she is being rocked, held, and especially during a bottle she will pinch the snot out of my arms, neck, and face.  She has done it since she was a few months old... and it hurts.  We have some "eatin' mittens" that I keep with me to protect me from her claws.  Seriously, who else has to put mittens on their baby to protect themselves from injury!?  What an intense little girl we have... I wonder where on earth she would get such an intense personality.  My guess?  The same place she got her mouth.




Thursday, December 9, 2010

I got your back.


It's official.  Farm chores facilitate team work.  Although only one boy has to do the outside chores each week, they have made a deal with each other.... the inside-chore-doer goes out to protect the outside-chore-doer from the roosters in exchange for reciprocal protection the following week.  So, this week they headed out, Asa with a squirt gun full of water and Addison with a large cane that he calls his "staff".  Problem solving... check.  Working well with others... check.  Learning responsibility... check.  My work here is done.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What happens in the diaper stay in the diaper

The other morning, I changed Olive's particularly nasty diaper and found a plastic googly craft eye staring back at me from the poo.  Needless to say, it was a bit of a shock.  Later that day I found a sad little one eyed turkey in the school room.  Guess I need to do a better job of vacuuming.

On a similar note, unfortunately, I learned that telling a very literal two year old that we "put our pee pee in the potty" might cause one to find a dirty diaper that was once in the trash can floating in the toilet.  I guess I need to be more specific.