Chesed

Covered

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…. in visuals of flooring pieces.  I love helping David rack flooring.  Today as I traded this piece for that one I said, “Don’t laugh, but I always had favorite boards at our house in Virginia.”  He chuckled a little and said, “I’m not surprised.  That’s why you like laying it out and it’s the beauty of natural wood.”  I think I’m finally understanding his purist love even when composites are more durable and sometimes less messy.

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…. in dust as the hours of sanding go on and on and on and on and the air is so thick we choke on it.  In spite of plastic, everything feels covered with a fine layer of dust.  Anywhere not covered is glazed over in white like donuts only far less appealing.  Speaking of donuts, I’m ravenous.   And thirsty for anything that doesn’t taste gritty.

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…. in amazement that David turned me loose on the flooring for a little so he could work on other things.  I like playing with power tools even if I’m slow as molasses and sometimes had to cut a board four times (shh!).  Pretty sure no one would hire me except David (pretty sure I’m not even remotely tempted to put in an application for more than a few hours either).

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…. in weariness after painting til midnight and working hard all day.  These are the hours of endless days and blink of an eye nights.  It’s a good kind of weariness though.

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…. in stain samples.  The cheapest flooring we could find was a lot of white ash someone wanted to get rid of.  It’s very pretty, but tends toward cooler tones so I’m trying to mix stains for a warm but non-orange look.

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…. in gratefulness for a baby who blips through like a champ and boys who help so very much with clean up and entertaining Zara and good attitudes in general.  Construction sites are not ideal for babies.  The noise of air compressors, floor sanders, and huge power nailers are relentless.  The level of dust and the smell of stain isn’t exactly healthy either. Zara is blipping through like a mini construction queen.

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…. in role confusion as I switched from hanging out laundry to painting to nursing Zara to pounding flooring.  If the hat fits, wear it.

…. in grace.  There are obviously people praying us right through these awful days.  On Tuesday when I was on the verge of breaking down Liam looked at me and said, “I really appreciate you being such a joyful Mom.”  (Sometimes his word choices kill me.  Wherever did he hear the word joyful????)  ”Oh, really,” I said.  ”Does it help you put up with all this stuff?”

“Yeah, I’m getting kind of bored with this but it helps me feel happy when you’re joyful.”  Little does he know it takes a circle of joy going around to keep everyone’s tank full.  A few minutes later I had to run to camp for ice and I asked Miss Esther if she has any oozy gooey chocolate.  She handed me a container of fabulous spoon-worthy under baked chocolate bars to pull from and wrapped me up in a big hug.

But seriously, it feels as though God is just enveloping each of us with a supernatural cloud covering of grace.

…. in hope that two weeks from now I’ll say it was totally worth it.


Kitchen Remodel

Let the mess begin.

When we first walked through this house with the owner he took a look at the kitchen and said he’s fine with replacing it before we move in.  We needed to get in months before as soon as possible, so we opted to move in and do things as we could.

Here we are, nearly two years later and oh, so happily tearing out.

July 14_0712 [I will not miss these cabinets one iota.  Not the countertops that weren't attached and had to be readjusted because they tended to slide off center.  Not the cabinets that were never set on the level and so eggs and rolling pins rolled right off of them.  Not the countertop edge that kept coming off and finally had to be screwed into place and still managed to snag my clothes.  Not the inefficiency of the layout.  Not the interior that crumbled or the raw plywood replacing a missing shelf or the rotted out cabinet under the sink.  Goodbye cabinets.  I'm not even shedding a tear.]

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I could not wait to see the carpet go.  The house still has a funny smell, particularly noticeable when we are gone for a day or two and I’ve been blaming the soiled carpet.  Now, I’m not so sure it wasn’t the cabinets.  The cabinets were all crumbling, but the sink cabinet was badly rotted out from a leaky plumbing system.  When we pulled it away from the wall we discovered mold. :(  I took a plastic container and some cleaning supplies to the basement to store during the remodel and every time I walked down the steps I could smell that smell.

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David came up with the absolutely brilliant idea to store the dishes in the existing cabinets.  I’ve been getting rid of more and more boxes since the basement is finished and hadn’t bothered to keep the empty ones around.  I have no idea how he dared to stand there holding up a cabinet while I stood on tiptoe behind him with a power drill to unscrew them, but he did.  He balanced them and when they were unscrewed we carried them out to the deck where we recreated the kitchen.

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This is perfect! Quick and easy. No need for boxes.  No room full of boxes and dishes and chaos.  We’re planning to not cook and to use disposables, but in the event I need something, I know exactly where to look.  David covered everything with a tarp to protect it from rain, but I still opted to keep cookbooks inside.

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The boys are nearly swaggering around in their sheer delight at wearing tool belts and being involved in demolition. Adam ripped up the metal divider between the old linoleum and the dining room carpet.  You always expect to see a huge difference in flooring where it’s been protected, but it still never fails to shock me at just how nasty carpet gets!

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We’re rearranging the kitchen layout a bit so that the stove has cabinetry on either side of it and so that there are outlets accessible anywhere on the countertop.  Since he had to cut drywall and re-wire anyway, David is running wires for under cabinet lighting.  He’s also getting rid of the very poor ceiling lights and installing can lights. I am so proud of that man.  He is not afraid of hard work, but he is also not even daunted by a project he doesn’t know how to do.  In the basement project when an electrician couldn’t come, he called his dad who used to do it years ago and the two of them figured it out together.  He did plumbing the same way and taught himself how to drywall.

Zara is the one having a hard time with all of this.  She hates noise and makes displeased noises if Adam tries to practice piano when she wants to go to sleep.  The loudness of construction tools has pretty much put her over the edge.  Thankfully, there was a lull this afternoon while David fished wires so she could take one long nap.  If cutting drywall did her in, I’m thinking she and I might be walking the road in a stroller the day the hardwood gets installed.

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People often ask, so how does this work when you remodel?

Camp didn’t have funds available to purchase the property at the time so an individual purchased it to rent to camp for now with the long term goal of having camp own it at cost.  In the event that for some reason it would be sold instead of going to camp (unlikely since camp desperately needs more staff housing), the additional revenue would be donated to camp.  If donations are not available for needed improvements, the owner pays for needed supplies. He is seriously one of the most unselfish, giving men I’ve ever met.  David and I provide the sweat equity.

What makes you do it if you aren’t going to live here long term is usually the next question.  I have no idea. :)  Maybe it’s just in our blood by now.  The truth is, we have no idea how long we’re here.  I sometimes think we might get all the repairs made in time for the next person to enjoy it. Maybe we’ll live in it for a few years after that, who knows.  But in the end David keeps saying, someone will benefit from this.  And the truth is, why not us?  Someone is going to have to live through it.  It may as well be us. David is a master craftsman with wood and he doesn’t do a shabby job with the other parts of it.  I think he actually likes the chance to work with his hands again.

Is it different working on something that’s not your own house?

Yes and no.  Yes, because of course it is.  When you work on a house you own, you always feel as though you aren’t working only to improve your own life, but to improve your equity if you sell it so you make decisions accordingly.  We have been given a great deal of leeway regarding style and design; but we always try to make decisions that would best benefit camp.  We consider what we like, but we also try to always choose the cheapest of the acceptable quality options when making purchases.  Because a $13 dollar light that works and still looks nice is going to benefit camp more than the $30 one I might have chosen to splurge on in my own house. We also try to be very conscious of the longevity and style of purchases in hopes that we will choose things that will hold up and be unobtrusive for the next person who may have completely different tastes.  It’s different in that you don’t choose whether to sub out parts of the work versus doing it yourself.  You just do all of it.

While we have been budget friendly in our purchases, we have been completely blown out of the water by some extremely generous donors who gave way above and beyond budget friendly to this little part of the overall camp project. A nursery in Virginia donated gorgeous shrubs for the landscaping here and at the other staff house.  After searching for a cabinet donor and finding one for the unfinished boxes, David contacted the company he used to sell for.  They volunteered to donate the entire project.  I can’t even describe how thrilled David and I were.  We both love their cabinets and think their quality is superior to almost anything on the market.  A business in Pennsylvania is donating granite tops.  Yeah, not the kind of stuff you look at when you’re shopping on a limited budget.  I loved the granite tops in our house in Virginia.  Not only are they gorgeous, I love that you can pull things straight out of the oven and plop them right on the countertop.

There are other benefits, too.  We don’t carry the financial burden even if we are cost-conscious.  If you’ve ever built or owned your own home, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  We also asked if we could eat supper at chuck wagon while the kitchen is dismantled.  We’d never have done that if we were working on our own house, but it took an eNORmous load off of me to only scrounge around for breakfast and lunch while the kitchen is raw.

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It’s not different in that we still work long hours and the dirt and dust and chaos doesn’t change whether you’re working for yourself or someone else.  One of the best things we did this time was to take a little staycation this weekend just before starting in on the project.  Our summer has been super full, just like everyone else.  It was such a gift to have this time with just our little family to rest and refresh before plowing into something big.  Because even swaggering little boys in tool belts start to quickly show the effects of a life disrupted when Dad is still mudding and taping at 9:30.

Still, I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy to enter a season of dirt and chaos.  Hey, at least this time I’m not doing school and I’m not attempting to paint baseboard at 38 weeks gestation either!


Is living in the country peaceful?

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So many times when people come to visit us they say, “Oh, my, it’s so peaceful here.”

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Saturday night at ten my mom said, “I just have to get used to this quiet.  I think I’ll go out on the porch and just sit there for a  little bit.”

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It is so quiet here.  It took me awhile to describe it as peaceful though.  For a long time I felt almost claustrophobic.  As though I’d been cutoff from the entire rest of the world.  People and crowds energize me.  While other Mom’s talk about being completely overwhelmed at a homeschool convention, I walk in and get more and more excited.  I love the feeling of a crowd.  I love busy intersections.  I loved being outside and looking up at any given time to see airplanes criss cross the sky.  I love the hum of traffic.  It makes me feel connected to the world.  Not just in my corner, but everywhere there are people going, doing, moving, living, breathing.

baby tree swallow{Baby tree swallow who had a little trouble learning to fly. His parents swooped down to feed him.}

This land is quiet.  It’s reeeeeaally quiet.  On an average day we might see six cars go past our house and I can pretty much guess who it is by what time they drive past.  On a nice weekend when people are heading back toward the Middle Ford we stop and stare at all the traffic. TWENTY cars in one day!  Airplane sightings are less common than seeing deer or wild turkey.

wild turkey {wild turkey create traffic jam when they all decide to cross the road}

Living in the country where it’s quiet doesn’t necessarily mean nothing happens.  In the last two weeks we’ve lost power for over 24 hours (which means no water either), hosted friends from out of town three times, and then had our well pump go out (another 24+ hours without water) while hosting one set of guests. Nothing like having ten people in the house and no running water.  I told David we must have had every appliance in the house go bad since we live here and he said, oh, no, not yet.  The furnace hasn’t quit yet.  Anyone up for a visit, say mid-January?

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But quiet {or peaceful, whichever you want to call it} can be delightful.

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I love that we get to see so much wildlife.  Besides the more common deer and turkey, it’s not unheard of to see a black bear.  Coyotes yip in the neighborhood and nearly every evening we are serenaded by the song of the whippoorwill. The birds are the best.  We’ve spotted hawks, woodpeckers and even an occasional bald eagle.  The boys both put up nesting boxes they made.  Bluebirds claimed Adam’s and tree swallows settled into the one Liam made.  Last year there was a wren nest in one of my ferns on the front porch, a robin nest in the cedar tree in the front yard, and a mockingbird nest in a pine to the side of the house.  We’ve always loved watching the hummingbirds, but this year we really got to see them up close and personal.  In the early spring when they were just returning from the South, someone found a hummingbird just barely flying in a building at camp.  It looked weak and exhausted and maybe sick.  It tried to fly but after several feet would collapse.  David had just hung a feeder outside his office window so he took the bird over to the feeder and tried to get it to drink.  The poor bird was too exhausted to lift it’s head.  He laid it on the ground and expected it to die. At lunchtime he checked on it and found it still alive.  After finding a medicine dropper, he syphoned some of the nectar from the feeder and fed little drops into the hummingbirds mouth.  Surprise, surprise, it was just enough energy to let the little bird take off!  Last month Liam found a dead one in our flower bed near the bird feeder.  It appeared to have been stabbed by one of it’s own. :(  Silly birds.  They could just share.  But then we’d only have half as much fun watching them.

tree swallow nest

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I love that there is so little traffic the boys can bike on the road in front of our house.  I can go walking on a paved road with a stroller and two little people on bikes way out ahead of me and the biggest threat is the black lab on the corner.  You would think I’d get exercise regularly.

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But the best part of quiet living is the moments stolen on the front porch.  Our ridiculously full calendar hasn’t made for too many moments; but when they happen, they are perfect.  Even if it’s just for a few minutes.  With a cup of coffee to sip in the cool morning air. (Yes, I said cool and it is July. We also have yellow leaves on the tree and few to crunch through on the ground. Don’t you dare say that word that reminds us of pumpkins.)  A few moments stolen to watch the rain roll in across the fields.  Sitting with a friend and watching the hummingbirds at war.  Or my favorite.  Those twilight moments when the world outside is going to sleep.  A few last drinks of nectar for the hummingbirds. The loud chirping of still hungry almost ready to fly tree swallow babies.  The lazy walk of a dog headed for her favorite corner.  The deepening pinks of the sky and then, there it is.  The call of the whippoorwill.

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It’s quiet

It is quiet in our house.

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The boys left on homevisit so David took Goldi to the vet to get her post-surgery stitches removed and Liam to the doctor for a throat culture.

My friend, Sheryl, just picked up Adam so he could join in on the first stretch of the staff canoe trip today.

Zara is sleeping and will probably sleep for another thirty minutes unless her cough wakes her prematurely.

For the first time in months, my brain is just taking in long, deep breaths of silence and exhaling them slowly.

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The funny thing is, I woke up this morning after an interrupted night and wondered if every mom gets up feeling so overwhelmed with love for her family.

But this quiet is delicious.  Even for a used to be extrovert.

 


Creating Community

That moment.

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That moment when you drive out the lane for a quick (1 ½ hour) trip to pick up the dog from surgery and the moment you drive out the lane a ferocious storm hits.  That moment when your mom intuition kicks into gear and a look at the tree gymnastics in the wind make you wonder what would happen if a tree came down and two hours stretched into three and you turn around to pick up your just fed baby so your husband doesn’t get stuck with a screaming, starving child.  That moment when the rain hits hard as you drive back in the lane and you are soaked completely through before you get her buckled.

That moment when you drive back out the lane for the second time and steer your nearly bald tires through debris as thick as your wrist and know you made the right decision even if the extra five minutes was what got you soaked.  That moment when you’re not even ten miles down the road and you stop because the right lane is the taken up with a tree that toppled and the left lane is taken up by the tractor trailer that wrecked trying to avoid it.  That moment when you realize the accident probably happened in the last five minutes and you tremble because had you not turned around, your baby may have screamed for her mommy for a lot longer than three hours.

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Sometimes God works in the tiniest, every day miracles through a little bit of intuition and the things that didn’t happen.

Sometimes community happens over a cup of coffee or a neighborhood cookout. It’s a hello wave and stopping to chat when you’re out walking.

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But the night you go walking and one neighbor lets your ten year old target practice with his gun and you band together with another to cut up a tree and clear the road …. That’s when you know you live in an amazing neighborhood.


Boy Quotes

Adam loudly fake belches in front of David.  ”Did that sound like real burp?” David: “No.”  Adam: “Well, Mommy’s a lot easier to fool than you are.” Comes to find me.  ”I think you must be a fish.  You can just cast some bait in front of you that doesn’t look natural and you think it’s real.  Actually, I think you’re a small mouth bass because you can be pretty feisty, too.”

I tried valiantly to teach both boys the German dialect I learned before I spoke English.  Adam spoke it until he was two and then suddenly switched gears and refused to use a word of “Pennsylvania Dutch.” I kept on, even switching to German halfway through a sentence; but finally I gave up.  It is HARD to speak one language when you’re always being spoken to in another.  It wasn’t that important to me that they knew this particular language as it seemed like a disservice not to teach them a second while it’s so easily absorbed.  One day when Adam was four my mom asked him why he doesn’t talk dutch.  Adam: “Men don’t talk dutch.”  Oh.  I tried again with Liam and lost out quickly.  Now that Zara is here, the boys are on my team.  They hate that I can call my mom and sisters and talk a full conversation in front of them without them knowing what I’m talking about.  Suddenly they’re all about learning.  Tonight at dinner we were learning words and sentences. **** Disclaimer: I only speak this language and have never learned to read or write it so I’m only sounding out words as they sound to me. **** We’d just learned, “Vit du essu,” which means, “Do you want to eat.”  Adam said, “Does, ‘vit du winky’ mean do you want a drink?”

It was another night at dinner with run of the mill conversation.  Liam counts everything right now and suddenly piped up with, “Well, I guess you’re the dad of three kids.”  David: “Yes.”  Adam: “Do you feel that responsibility pretty heavily?  I mean, pretty soon Zara’s going to want her own fishing tackle.”

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The boys are so different in personality and sometimes a little behavior issues break out when one person’s strength shows up another’s weakness.  Liam takes the brunt of this because Adam has an large age advantage.  When we referee the conversations, we talk about how different people have strengths given to them naturally.  They love this.  One night soon after an episode of the sort Adam looked at me and asked, “So what are you good at, Mommy?”  It was one of those days where you feel like you are never actually going to get one section of life pulled together and I was too tired to think.  ”Oh, the only thing I’m a pro at is being a mom to you guys.”  Adam shrugged a bit and said, “No, you’re pretty good at clearing the dishwasher, too.”  I’ll remember that the next time I fill out a resume.

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In May we traveled to Virginia for an ordination since David’s brother was in the lot.  If you’re not familiar with conservative Mennonite culture and customs, most pastors are ordained by lot as opposed to choosing a vocation and being hired.  The voice of the church is taken through vote and a pre-determined percentage of votes determines who will be in the lot.  It is a heavy week for all involved and since David’s dad is the bishop, he felt it all very keenly.  He is also a very poised man and always gracious.  We stayed with David’s parents for the weekend and on into Monday since David had to travel to Richmond to do family work.  The next morning Adam was downstairs eating breakfast and talking as much as he ate like usual.  They were talking about the ordination when Grandma said that Grandpa is very tired. Adam: “Why would that make you tired?”  Grandma: “Well, you see, it’s a lot of responsibility.” Adam: “I thought it looked like you were having fun up there.” Before the laughter had a chance to subside he added, “Isn’t that kind of deceptive?” (to look like you’re having fun when you’re not?)

The boys were riding with a friend who asked them what their dad does at camp.  Liam: “Well, he entertains the boys when they come to camp.” Adam loudly and indignantly: “No, Liam, he INTERVIEWS them.”

We were driving home from hanging out at the creek when Adam said, “I’m just so infewated with flyfishing.”  I knew he’d just had an unlucky afternoon but thought it was a little much to be infuriated.  ”What?”  Adam: “I’m just so into it.”  Me: “Oh.  You mean infatuated.”  Adam: “Oh, yeah.”  So there you go.  Need a new word? Try infewated.

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But now I am SIX

We celebrated Liam’s birthday a few days early while we were in Virginia since he was sure his fifth birthday was no fun.  ”Nobody came,” he told me over and over.  You know, little man.  I can remember one birthday party with friends when I was growing up.  I think we’ve been pretty spoiled having aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents so close; but the truth is, we all miss them. This time we decided to celebrate early to include some of them.

 

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Liam wanted a basketball cake and I, like usual, gagged at the thought of decorator icing.  So we made another messy cream cheese frosting cake.  Or rather Mom did.  She kept the boys and made Liam’s cake while David took care of Zara and I shot a wedding. I got back just in time to help with the fun part which was ridiculously unfair.  I decided to call myself spoiled and enjoy it. :) The cake actually looked pretty good immediately after we made it.  Unfortunately, I just had a hard drive issue and lost a ridiculous amount of pictures so the good picture is nowhere to be found.  By the time it sat overnight the colors bled like usual and David and I may or may not have felt snippety by the time we got it to the picnic table at the park with plenty of orange food coloring on us to prove it.  Then again, we got pulled over enroute for suspects of a stolen vehicle since we now have Maryland plates and haven’t pulled off the expired Virginia inspection sticker.  I’m sure the homemade cake I had to hand to David so I could pull the registration from the glove compartment showed us up as the hardened criminals we are not.

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Liam was thrilled as usual.  He loves to affirm and be affirmed and he ate up the gifts and attention like it was candy.

Afterward we got to enjoy the weak sunshine that felt like March instead of May and took the children to feed the ducks.

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Six feels like the big little boy version.  Still the little boy who loves having stories read to him and who loves bubbles so much he adds water to the bottle to stretch it.  But also the big boy who saved up his allowance to buy a carving knife.

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He’s the lovey dove who makes up songs to sing to Zara and has music in his fingers when he touches the piano with his own compositions.  He is full of hugs and kisses and equally full of dramatic emotional swings.  He’s the one who most easily feels overwhelmed and copes by walking away and saying, “I just need some alone time.” He is darling.  But don’t tell him I said that.  Because he’s also big enough to not be cute or darling or anything else that might be remotely linked to babyish or girlish.

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Three Months

She’s a sugar lump.  Darling. Angel child.  There aren’t enough sweet words to describe her.

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She’s quietly snuggling into our family.

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She hardly ever cries (probably because we love to hold her so much).

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She went from sleeping a four hour stretch at night the day she was born to six hours by two weeks, eight hours at two months, and an average of ten hours at three months.

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She smiles and laughs and we all melt.

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Most times she wakes before I do in the morning.  On the rare occassions she doesn’t, I mutter, “Is Zara still alive?” before I’m even really awake.  Sometimes I feel withdrawal if I don’t hold her for an hour.  By the time we get reunited in the morning it’s like a family reunion. :)



April Funnies

Mom was making garnachies at our house and Adam watched her shake salt into the beans without measuring.  “You’re a professional.  You just season to taste.”

 

Liam while doing his schoolwork: “This one is unconscious.  My ‘e’s’ don’t usually look like that.”

 

I made these outrageously good granola bars.  Shockingly, they’re also outrageously healthy.  Adam tasted one and said, “Did you put nicotine in these?”  I must not be the only one who thinks they’re addictive.

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The boys were supposed to bring a wheelbarrow load of wood into the basement for the wood furnace.  The wood was under a tarp and, without thinking about the consequences, Adam would throw the wood to the edge and Liam would take it to the wheelbarrow.  The inevitable happened.  Liam got hit.  Adam brought him to the door.  I could hear his wailing the entire time they traipsed through the yard.  When Adam finished telling me the story I looked at Liam and the enormous crocodile tears and the tell-tale mouth hanging open (usually means I’m not really hurt badly but I am in desperate need of attention so I’ll milk this for all it’s worth).

Me: “Adam, did you apologize?”

Adam: “Yes.”

Me: “Liam, did you say, I forgive you?”

Liam: “No, I was too busy crying.”

And just like that it was all over and they tromped back to the woodpile a little wiser.

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Liam was setting the table when Mom was here.  “Hey, Grammie, I ‘setted’ you between my mom and dad.”  We grinned at each other and turned to look.  He wasn’t kidding.  The table that normally seats four had five plates on it.  Four in their normal positions and the fifth plate squeezed tightly between where David and I sit.  :)

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Mom bought shrimp for our supper one night while she was here.  This is a huge, huge treat for our family and they get carefully divided so everyone gets the same amount.  We were all enjoying them when Adam randomly announced, “Good thing these are invertebrates.”

 

Another day while we were studying health I was reading over the jokes they had interspersed.  Adam listened obligingly then said, “These just don’t hit my funny bone.”

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Liam’s newest vocabulary word is fair.  As in, “she slept a fair amount,” or, “There is a fair amount of paint left.”

 

Adam has been steadily making up jokes.  His most famous ones are what he calls the toothpaste jokes.

Q: What’s a hunter’s favorite kind of toothpaste? A: Aim

Q: What’s a surfer’s favorite kind of toothpaste? A: Crest

Q: What’s a carpenter’s favorite kind of toothpaste? A: Arm and Hammer

Q: What’s a farmer’s least favorite kind of toothpaste? A: “Cold Gate”

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At dinner one night Adam said if someone would tell him he could have one wish he would wish for all the wishes in the world because then he could wish for whatever he wants and he’d get it.  David  responded with the obligatory parental coaching.  “Well, you know you still wouldn’t be happy even if you got everything in the world you can wish for…..” Adam interrupted him.  “Well, then I’d just wish for happiness.”

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The boys do so well with Zara and she loves them to bits.  Some days I still crack up at how differently they respond to her than a typical girl would.  One day I had Adam take care of her for a bit while I was doing something else.  I walked back out to the living room to see him holding her horizontally out in front of him while he slowly made circles and “chop chop chop” noises.  Welcome to the world of helicopters and trucks, little girl.