to The Hills of Kansas

After a two month lull, I finally have the time to blog again. With last-minute trips, late night talks, many (oh so many) phone calls, we planned, packed, and moved with no time to blog, no time to eat, no time to sleep.

But we are here in Kansas – boxes unpacked, pictures hung, and exploring new nitches here and there. And time to look towards sharing it all online again.

As for this blog, I hate to say good-bye, so I will focus on the new and moving ahead.  I invite you to join me and my family in Kansas at my new blog, The Hills of Kansas.

Good bye Indiana, hello Kansas.

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the best day in many days

Today was very full but very satisfying. I was able to forget we were moving and focus on the moment. Despite having a sick fevery boy, I got to get on my bike (after wiping the inch of dust off, hm). Since I have been running the past few weeks, biking felt tremendously good. Normally, I am huffing, mentally beating myself up, and turning back at the first real hill. Today, I felt like I was flying and it was so relaxing to be out riding alone, focused only on how nice the river was, how perfect the wind was, and how I felt taking each hill. Lately the focus has not been about how fast or hard I seem to be running/biking, but my own personal goal setting and breaking. That is so much more satisfying and, ultimately, I perform better.

Later, I ran errands, which normally are less than joyful. And some were not all that fun – give up a little blood, off to discuss ‘issues’ at the sweeper store where I got my new vacuum, return an item elsewhere. But deciding to look at mud kitchen supplies was rather uplifting and exciting. I found some sweet scores at the local Goodwill and, perhaps feeling nice toward me because of the blood donation bandage I was sporting, the clerk made the deals even better with some extra discounts. Wonderful!

We have been admiring the mud kitchens at a few blogs (here, here, and here). I told Elliott as soon as we moved we would set it up. But we are putting a lot on hold here for The Move. When we move we will: live on a farm, get chickens, build a banging wall, make a mud kitchen, get out all the toys we have packed away, get out your work table and tools, and so on. And with many things likely to remain in boxes while we face a possible year in an apartment, I felt tired of saying “when we move”. Plus, I got to enjoy myself finding these treasures and seeing the delight in little boy’s faces.
But the best treasure and surprise for my boys was a little wooden pink table. It was marked $9.99, but the senior discount knocked it down to $7. Elliott has been saving free paint samples we got online – a buttery yellow he picked out – to paint an item all his own. Again, this was something I kept saying we would do soon, once we moved, once we found the right piece of furniture.

When I arrived home, Oliver was in a funk, so I allowed him to dig right in to the giant bag of pots, utensils, and baskets. He was delighted and immediately set to transporting some items right to the mud kitchen. His delight makes me so tickled inside.

 

Elliott jumped in too, forming an attachment to the beeswax pot I got. (Finally, a dedicated pot to melting wax and candle making, which was Elliott’s idea after a visit to Conner Prairie.) He also wanted to organize the shelves and remove stickers to get them ready. It was hard to convince him that tomorrow he would feel more like painting shelves and dipping candles. He was ready to set to work today, fever and all.

 

To put the icing on the cake of a day, my food processor and immersion blender arrived early. Whipped cream for our fruit at dinner and cracker making in the near future made for a very satisfying end to the day. And a little boy’s delight in the packaging was just fantastic.

Now, off to a glass of wine and playing Ticket to Ride with Mike!

that’s where you’ll find me…

Somewhere over the rainbow, in Kansas that is. We are officially moving. After many discussions, time mulling and fuming, disagreements, and some tears, at least on my part, we are accepting Mike’s new position at Kansas State.

I had three big wishes for our next move. Well, they were more than wishes – more like absolutes, which are now not such absolutes!

1. a great Montessori school

2. a farm or land for animals

3. ocean

Well, Kansas is only a short drive from the ocean, right? So for the times in between our jaunts to the beach, we can make do with the local rivers and reservoir. And farm land should be plentiful! In fact I am now questioning the desire for peace and solitude as I will have that in abundance, I am sure. The trickiest part of making up our minds was the Montessori school. Manhattan, Kansas is lacking in alternative educational options. To start a school would be a challenge, one I am not feeling up for and would totally miss my children by the time I was established. And homeschooling I fear would not suit me for the long haul. A year or so, maybe, but I am learning it is not something I feel I can do well, or let just happen as with unschooling. After many searches and changing of plans, we found Montessori schools in Topeka (1 hour) and Lawrence (1.5 hours). They even have elementary programs in Lawrence!! We are now considering living on the outskirts of Topeka and each commuting, hoping that I can find employment at one of the schools to reduce tuition for the boys as well. Mike was told today there are people who do this in architecture department so maybe he can even ride share.

It is not what I wanted and what I have dreamed of this whole time we have lived in Muncie. But at a time like this, we have little choice and will have to find ways to see the advantages of this move and the place we will call home. I am trying (though not well) to not dwell on the negatives – losing so many good friends for the Mike, myself, and the boys, moving so much farther from family when the boys are just coming to remember and love their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins so much more, moving to a rental and the uncertainty of selling our house, and the packing and moving and unpacking (UGH!!!). And the list could go on. (BUT, ona positive note, we do get to live closer to Aunt Michelle, Uncle Keith, and cousin Shane! Yeah!)

This year we will also reduce our garden planting and have to double up our work efforts on repairs we did not finish last year when we thought we were listing the house. Oh, I can already see this spring and early summer playing out… busy, busy, busy. Especially with two ‘helping’ children!

I want to be a Radical Homemaker right now!

I am currently reading the book Radical Homemakers. I am loving this book… really, really loving it. Generally, well, my interpretation, it is re-examining the way we live and saying we need to return back to the family and working as a family to care for ourselves for greater satisfaction in our lives. It covers what steps I have made towards a different way of living already and what I feel I want to change to get to how I want to live. But today I felt overwhelmed by my inability to change things right now. I tend to live this way in my spending, my work, my leisure even. If I cannot get something done at the very moment I want it done, I tend to want it done as soon as possible. But what if it is not possible? What if it takes months or years? Then I tend to get very down on myself or the goal and have often given up or settled for less. With such lofty goals and what I see as a modern-day of attitude of right now, I am struggling with how to plan for a future and continue to make the steps towards it.

You see as I read this book, I was working out at the Y and just this morning made a purchase on Etsy for something I could have made because I wanted it right then. And I justify why I am at the Y and why I get things I could make and why I do not make all my own food and why we have three cars in the driveway and so forth. But in these back steps, I need to start recognizing forward momentum towards the goal and start making plans for taking bigger steps to get where I actually want to be, even if they are years down the road.

oh, sanity

Oh, Sanity! Where have you been?

A weekend of peace and self-determined plans gave me an ounce if it back.

The weeks leading up to this trip had me thinking a great deal about a person’s need for breaks, regardless of gender or their job. I was rather bothered and, the more I thought about it, angry to realize some people (um, other husband’s) would be bothered by the idea of their spouse vacationing without them, even to the point of fighting or not allowing it. After a simple bit of logic with my spouse, he agreed that I should take a break. I pointed out that he had been a numerous trips lately for days at a time and I would appreciate the time to myself – to sleep without interruption, to eat a meal without getting up and down to serve anyone, to do a few activities of my choosing for as long as I like, to use the bathroom without having to worry about what a little toddler was exploring. And like that a promise was made for a whole week!

Sure there are lots of concerns. Can the family financially manage it? Can the other spouse take time to care for the children? And if those are issues, such as they were and are for us, the trip can be (and was) shorter. Or childcare can be found so it may not necessarily be the spouse watching over the children. But beyond these issues, I have tried to figure out why it would ‘not fly’ in other people’s homes, as one person said to this idea. Why? Because it money spent on one person and the other misses out? Because a spouse might cheat? Because a spouse thinks that the other one is not working that hard at their job? Would the feelings be the same if it was the husband wanting a mini-vacation or day away alone? Everyone working either a ‘real’ job or who is home with kids (or both!) works hard. And if someone wanted to cheat, they would find the time one way or another. Really, what real reasons can someone give for a flat-out refusal to a request for a break? Serious. Maybe I am overlooking something… Any reasons out there I am overlooking?

Sanity savers are important for everyone. Yes, everyone! Mike and I have found ways to exchange time with each other so we each feel we get time to ourselves or with friends. I have Sunday knit nights with the ladies after the kids are in bed. He goes golfing occasionally on Saturday mornings with a friend. If I want to run an errand alone, he will play with the boys. And this time, since he had business yet relaxing trips alone, I got a weekend to myself.

I finally settled on a weekend at a country B&B, Tryon Farm Guest House. I shopped at every antique shop I could find, visited Lake Michigan, and changed my plans on a whim if I wanted.

 

driving north through Indiana

Most of my highlights are my feelings of concern being let go. While shopping at my first antique shop, I kept feeling the ‘pull’ of children. Typically I cannot linger to take in all a shelf has to offer or I have to pass all the breakable nooks. I had to shake that feeling off and realize I could take as little or as much time as I wanted, looking wherever I was interested. Later on the trip, when I decided to pull off to a trail head, I just did it. I did not have to be concerned that it was 5:00 and the children would be hungry. Typically, on a family trip, we would have had to either plan the trip out better to have food with us or miss stopping right then. Because I could go on a whim, I felt such a rush making my way up the dune and saw a great sunset.

 

antique shop in Chesterton, Indiana

The trip was also time for me to reflect on my family, myself, and everyone else in the world. Oh, I know that sounds big, but when one can follow their ideas uninterrupted, you can get beyond the day-to-day picture and mull over bigger issues. Time to reflect is good. And again I will say it – it is good for everyone.

 

near the Tryon Farm Guest House, Michigan City, Indiana

My highlights of the trip:

  • lounging in a feather bed in the morning
  • having an utterly beautiful gourmet breakfast prepared for me and not having to worry over the prep or dishes
  • finding some sweet treasures – bead stringing beads for Elliott, a wool blanket to keep Oliver warm, an apron and bracelet for me, a lovely ornament to add to our unique holiday collection, and more interesting cloth napkins for everyday use
  • finding utterly smooth rocks at the lake to admire or make into rock houses, people and animals for the boys (uh, yes, rocks for Christmas!)
  • running up Mount Baldy at dusk at Indiana Dunes to catch the sunset shimmering on Chicago’s buildings
  • grabbing a late night chicken marsala dinner at a little Italian joint and watching it made from my table (I saw the mushrooms chopped, I saw them coat my chicken!) and savoring each bite
  • seeing alpacas up close and taking home a small bit of them (in the form of handspun yarn!)
  • trying and loving a small town café’s invented Honey Nut Latte

 

 beads for Elliott

rocks at Lake Michigan

Mount Baldy with Chicago in the distance

Here is hoping everyone gets the break they need and deserve.

(Oh, and on a totally separate note… my smart phone saved me so many times when I got lost, when I needed a place to eat, when I wanted to find coffee or antiques. Normally I curse my dependence, but my phone proved its worth this trip.)

today’s thrill

Despite it being Halloween, today’s thrill had nothing to do with scary costumes or silly tricks. Today was the day we said goodbye to the garden for the year. That in itself was not thrilling. We had to rip that last plants – the tomatoes, the Brussel sprouts, the okra – and harvest what was left before we mixed in compost and tilled the soil. This also was not exactly thrilling.

Bringing in the okra pods for their seeds, harvesting a large bag of swiss chard, and finding just a few more yellow tomatoes to pop in our mouths was thrilling. Elliott’s delight at finding more caterpillars camouflaged in the veggies was thrilling. Showing Elliott how to carefull use a knife to cut the okra from the plant and turning the job over to him was thrilling. Sharing the same excitement with everyone in the family when we found a small patch of forgotten carrots was thrilling. Working as a family and finding ways to have Oliver be part of it was thrilling.

Today I felt happy with the garden and with the hard work the family has done all season long. I had doubts in the garden this year, but it proved me wrong. My freezer can attest to its success. 

While sharing the day with flocking starlings and the last caterpillars, we all felt very pleased even though it was a full work day and we had to said farewell to the garden. I hope you had a thrilling day in your own way.

Take a tour… part five

For the fifth, and final, house tour post, I will start with Elliott’s room. Once Oliver was crawling, we had to find a way to keep him safe from small toys. Elliott learned at a young age some items were not for eating, and I believe Oliver will be quick to figure this out. But right now, everything is sampled and felt with his mouth. Legos posed a real hazard. So once we determined Elliott had long enough legs (with the help of a stool), he got a gate for his room. On the other side of the gate is the stool so Elliott can step over and get in and Oliver cannot walk off with the stool. Oliver loves watching Elliott play and listening to the music from Elliott’s CD player. And I love not  running over every five minutes to supervise. In case you are wondering, we cannot just close the door and have it click shut because of Elliott’s door slamming ‘habit’. To curb that, a few months ago we put thin foam tape along the inner edge. Right now, it does not close completely and, when slammed, it slows down just right!

Elliott’s drawers in his dresser do not allow him to be independent in dressing, so I selected seasonally appropriate clothing and organized it out on his shelves. He has 10-12 long sleeves, 8-10 pairs of pants, 4-5 t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 2-3 sweaters, and a variety of warmer and cooler pajamas. He is able to open his sock and underwear drawer so those remain in the dresser. Because our weather has been all over the place, we still have a mix of clothing. Once winter hits, we will remove the lighter clothing and add more warm choices. For months, this has been a wonderful solution. He has just enough items to choose from and I no longer worry the drawers will fall out on his toes.

Under Elliott’s bed are bins of trucks and cars and stuffed animals. He also has an old stereo to play CDs on, set low for ease of use on a Daddy-made table . This is another big attention grabber for Oliver. He loves buttons, even if it messes up the tune he was dancing to. Yet another reason to keep him at a distance, just watching and dancing by the gate. Elliott has one of our two fish tanks in his room to keep him company and is a very responsible feeder – with a very tiny scoop and tiny container of food. On the Daddy-made Lego table there are always new ‘special’ Lego vehicles being built so it always seems to be rather busy (messy). Next to that is a selection of books, which get changed every month or so. Of course we need a cozy space to read and the guest futon serves nicely for that.

In the laundry room, we keep the child-sized broom, dust mop, swiffer cleaner (easy to adjust to child size by removing middle snap-in section), dust wand, dust mitts, window cleaner, spill cloths, and a small vacuum. These used to be out in the living room, but as furniture was rearranged and Oliver began pulling up, we moved it behind a closed door. These supplies are fabulous… Elliott sweeps his lunch crumbs, washes windows whenever he pleases (typically when we have guests!), and occasionally dusts a few shelves. The best part is that he is completely able to clean up most messes without an adult.

 In the bathroom we have pulled out Oliver’s small potty to begin that fun-filled stage. We started about this same age with Elliott and found that while overall the process took longer, we were daytime dry earlier than typically expected. We followed a lot of the advice found in Diaper Free Before 3. And it was just right for Elliott… he was so proud of himself and eager to take part in learning this life skill. I am hoping for an even smoother transition since Oliver has such a good role model! Not visible are the baskets of underwear, spares for all the changes we will be making each day. The stool pictured is the lower one that Elliott can use now. We are saving the first stool Elliott used, the taller, two-step stool, for when Oliver can be sturdy standing at the sink.

In the corner we have a towel at Elliott and Oliver’s height and the mirror hung low, for checking a goofy grin or brushing teeth. We left one drawer without a child lock for wash cloths and toothbrushing items. Elliott is quite good at washing his own face on nights we skip a bath and is working towards flossing and brushing independence. He wants a little too much personal time though, slamming the door and practically yelling at us if we suggest he needs help. Unfortunately, when it comes to his teeth, he still does need some help flossing or brushing well.

 

Oliver’s room is by far my favorite for lighting. He has four window to see tree branches and our tall grasses swaying. But the winter is harder because it is the coldest room in the house. Aside from his dresser and cabinet (both complete with pinch-free child locks), he has a floor bed, a low book shelf, his walker wall, and his toy shelves which are just below the towering children’s ‘library’. While he is nearly beyond the use of the rail on the walker wall, he delights in himself, walking towards the mirror and laughing. The floor bed has gone as well for him as it did for Elliott. He occasionally stays up to play, but will fall asleep when he is tired. In the morning and after naps, he can easily self-entertain for at least 15 to 30 minutes since he has access to toys and books without any hazards for us to worry about.  Oh, and see that sweet little pillow? Elliott designed it after he saw the one I made for him room. It is an island with volcanos, trees, and a sun. Oliver is so lucky to have a brother like Elliott!

 

It has been fun showing you my home,  a bit of what the boys are up to, and how we try to foster their independence with our home environment. Because of the efforts put forth, I love our cozy little house and the feeling of security I have when we are all home together. I hope your home, whatever kind and wherever it is, makes you feel peaceful together.

 

follow up on the yelling

We let the yelling jar go a bit beyond a week, to fall on a day of the week when we could fulfill the counting and family activity together as a family – a Sunday. To recap what we are doing, visit this post.

Total counts for the first week:

big E – – 19

mama – – 7

daddy – – 6

We found we had to find a way to throw a few extra stones in for Mike since he is gone during the day time. Even with the amount we decided to add in, he still came out with less. He decided we would play bocce ball on the front lawn, since little O desperately needed to get to bed. Next week I hope we can make sure we can all really be present and little O is not just known as part of the family by his snoring over the moniter!

Some things we noticed this week…

– Big E was quite honest and willing to admit when he had been yelling and to put in his stones. He even was willing to admit he had not calmed down and yelled repeatedly, so he put in two stones. (He actually said he should put in five or six, but I let that slide.)

– I also noticed that because big E would remind me that I was yelling, I was quicker to calm down, recognize I needed to rephrase, and felt better finding a way to change my reaction.

– Putting stones in for yelling did not change overall general nasty remarks or snippiness. As long as we were not yelling it, we had to let it slide, atleast for now. That may be what comes next for this family.

I realize that this is the first week so we were trying hard and really felt accountable. We will see what next week holds. Big E did seem to want to do better. Maybe there is hope.

whole lot of yelling

This is not the post I had in mind for today and I have been sidetracked many days now from posting what I wanted. I will be back soon with an activity idea for the 3-6 bracket… But for now, this has been our newest problem and hopefully I have found a solution.

This past week has been louder at our house. And the real trouble is, it is only getting louder. Big E is yelling more often and louder and little O is taking notes. He now screams his displeasure, worse than his brother did at this age. I feel confident it is three ‘wonderful’ role models setting a fine example! You see in response to our children screaming at us, we tend to yell out – louder and louder to make sure they hear us.

This family is not yet at the point of a swear jar. Well, mama is, but luckily, it only is when I am yelling! So in order to solve my problems of yelling and swearing and help our children curb their problem we are starting a yelling jar.

At first I wanted the two adults and big E to use coins to add in as we yelled and donate it at the end of the week. But I had my doubts this would actually get the desired effect. So instead, I did a quick internet search and found another blogger was in this same spot and had a different approach. With each person having a different color stone, each person adds a stone when they yell. Kind reminders can be given to help someone remember to put their stone in, but no one else can put one in for someone else. At the end of the week, the person with the fewest gets to choose the activity they want to do with the family. Unfortunately, little O will not ever have his choice of activities since he is not at the age to put a stone in, but maybe, just maybe, we will be better models for him. At least for the first week or two!

Our yelling jar and basket of colored stones (all on my newly fixed sewing table, hiding my lovely Singer, with my grandmother’s embroidered piece):

The stones in there now are just for example!  The jar goes into effect tonight. Wish us luck…

moving at a different pace

 

This past week has been a slow moving week, which seems to be the case when on vacation or visiting relatives. We have been living at my parent’s home for the past week, and will be for the week to come while working on a little project. The days get kind of muddled, worries of work at home are forgotten temporarily, and there is an ease to it all, even in our case with work involved. (Obviously it is different for each person – grandma and grandpa may not see it quite the same way!)

We are putting an architectural research project of my husband’s to real use as a pond-side cabin, a short tractor or truck ride from the real house (and real plumbing, real air conditioner, and real electricity). Many, many pictures have been snapped of each step of the way, but the results after a week of leveling, measuring, cutting, pushing, pulling, sweating, a little poison ivy, and a lot more swearing gives us the main body of the building and the structure of the deck.

 

         

While I got to take a break at home to face the reality of tomatoes in the garden and little tasks at home, I will head back out tomorrow to resume helping, though a lot is being done in my absence. Luckily, I missed out on the tar paper! What is left is metal siding and roofing to go on three sides, translucent plastic for the other two (the lattice sections), trim pieces to seal it all, windows, a door, a deck and a porch roof. And that is just the exterior.

Regardless of that amount of work, we are already dreaming of actual use and planning the interior space. We have the grand idea of finished inside walls, a loft, and a ladder. We have purchased tiles for the floor and the cabinet and countertop from the habitat store to make some storage and work space. We have Ikea chairs to relax in, solar powered lights to see by, and lanterns to make it cozy.

And while it is a lot of work (and I am not even doing the hardest and dirtiest of it), it is so pleasant to move at a different pace and enjoy the peace of the work. Being out there, working with my husband has been very satisfying (even when we disagree about stylistic points). And the variety of the butterflies checking on our progress is just a delight.

My nephew mentioned something to this effect upon seeing it: the cabin will be great because you just wake up and go fishing. I am looking forward to just such a lovely morning someday soon out there.

A big thanks to my parents for the letting us dump our shack on their property and use materials free of charge; to my Dad for all his help with getting the walls up and his generosity with his farm vehicles, tools, and time; to my Mom for helping so much with children (impossible to work side by side without childcare in this location and timetable) and for canning all along and still being willing to share it with me; to my brother for more free materials, coming to help, dispensing some advice, and drinking a few beers with Mike.

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