Monday, January 28, 2013

Aurora and Phillip

A little bit of perfect arrived on our little farm the other night.

 Meet Aurora and Phillip, the two sweet kids that were born Saturday night.

We went out to feed at 6:30 and could tell Justice was starting to go into labor, but she lacked all the signs that would have made us think she was very close to delivering. She had torn up the barn stall, digging up the straw and creating little 'nests', but she still ate like she was starved and wasn't dilated or having noticeable contractions. But when we went out again in an hour to see if she'd progressed, there were two tiny baby goats in the pen with her. The little boy came first, standing on wobbly legs next to his mama. The baby girl had just been born and wasn't even standing yet.

We were sad to have missed the birth, but thrilled that she had no trouble and didn't need us. Both babies eventually stood up, and it wasn't long until they started nursing.

Justice is a wonderful mother, and knew exactly what needed to be done.

We helped dry them off just a little bit, but she did most of the work. She didn't mind having us in there with her, holding them and petting them and working with them a bit, though as soon as a barn cat comes near she threatens to butt it across the stall. 

We stayed out for a couple of hours, making sure they were nursing and showing them the warming barrel where they could sleep (and dry off some more. Wet babies plus a cold night is a little disconcerting.) Within two hours, they were hopping around on their shaky newborn legs, reaching around and then falling down only to get up and try again. We could have stayed and watched longer, but by then it was long past bedtime for little girls, and they were cold and tired.

The girls are both thrilled, as is to be expected. Chloe got all teary as she watched Aurora stand for the first time. Cora was shaking with excitement. As soon as we dipped their cords and determined their genders, Cora announced their names - apparently she had had their names planned for some time and had just been waiting to tell us what they would be. Aurora, you know, is Sleeping Beauty's name, and Phillip is her prince. Okay, so it's not my first pick, but it'll do. Chloe has adopted Phillip as her very own, and he's already taken to following her around the stall and nudging her leg when he wants his head scratched.

Aurora immediately became Cora's, and while she is not so fond of being petted, she seems to love being held close to her girl's chest.

For two goats who came from the same mama and daddy, they sure do look different. Phillip has long, floppy ears like a nubian with a cream colored head and spots. He's stocky, the larger of the two.

Aurora is dainty and nearly pure white, with tiny la mancha ears, like a little pixie.

Phillip is outgoing and playful, sticking his nose between the slats to sniff the dogs or trying to get Liberty to play with him (much to Justice's chagrin.) Aurora is more shy, preferring to stay nearer her mama, occasionally jumping around but only half-heartedly. It's like she's trying to pretend to be grown up, while he's all rough-and-tumble little boy.

While we were waiting to see whether Jussie would have boys or girls, the expectation was that we would keep a girl, but would either eat or sell any boys. Yeah, well. That was before we saw Phillip. There is No Way I am eating him. I've just accepted that we now have two more goats. Besides, Chloe loves him. Clearly, we're going to have to work on this attachment thing. It's not so bad with feathered animals, but these furry ones melt your heart the moment you set eyes on them!

Welcome to the farm, Aurora and Phillip!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Twirly Girly

Since I vowed to make more cute things for Littlest One to wear...
The Twirly Girly skirt, in mixed cherry prints.
I love it. She loves it. It uses an insane amount of fabric (the bottom layer is twice as long as I am tall.) But it's worth it. Because it does this:
And because it makes Littlest One smile like this when she puts it on:
In fact, it turned out so cute that even The Oldest asked if I could make one for her(!!) It was all I could do not to rush to the fabric store immediately.

And since I had scrap fabric, and Pinterest is awesome, I used this tutorial to make a flower for her hair. I made the back so that it can attach to a headband (her favorite) or you can slide a clip or brooch pin in. These flowers are addicting, by the way. If you have scrap fabric, and you make one, well, you won't be able to make just one.

**Skirt pattern is another one from Little Girls, Big Style by Mary Abreu, made in a size 6 with a size 5 waist for my tall, skinny girl.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You've Got Mail!

Truth: Kids need to be told they are loved. They need to be encouraged. They need to be thanked for doing as they are asked, or going above and beyond. They need to be reminded that they are a very important part of their family. They need to hear things that make them confident in who they are. And they need to feel comfortable talking to their parents and telling their mom and dad what is on their hearts.

Enter: The mailbox system.

I have been waiting nearly a year for Valentine's season to come around again. As far as I know, it's the only time to score these fabulous little tin mailboxes. I found mine for a dollar each in the Target Dollar Spot. Sweet.

Some sparkly black stickers in mixed fonts on the front, and we have our own little way to communicate with each other, aside from just the usual spoken words, which are sometimes too easily forgotten.

When we have something nice, or encouraging to say to one of the kids, along with saying it out loud, we can write it down and put it in their box. That little note - while seemingly small and unimportant, can then be saved in a special place and looked at years from now... or tomorrow... whenever the need arises. Dramatic little girls often say things like, "You never appreciate ANYTHING I do!" or "I don't ever do ANYTHING right." Well, this is written proof that they must be wrong.

I put the boxes right at the bottom of the stairs on a little shelf, where each of us passes by several times each day. The plan is that if one's mailbox flag is up, they have mail. (And just in case you don't see it, there is guaranteed to be someone saying "You've Got Mail!" all AOL-esque.) So far I have received a lovely picture of Chloe and I having a picnic and watching chickens peck the ground, and a letter from Cora that says "Cora Mom Lowe". Because it's easy to mix up W and V when you are five. But that's okay, I'll take it.

Even The Daddy got in on the game, leaving a note for each of us before he left for work the other morning. I can say from experience that hearing kind, edifying words from one's Daddy means The World to little girls. I also remember how much easier it was to write things than it was to say them - and The Oldest is already proving that point is true for more than just wordy people like myself. Anything she needs to say that she doesn't feel like she can voice out loud, she can write down and deliver at the mail center. This also makes good use of her "Check yes or no" letters that she is so fond of writing.

All in all, it seems like a fun way to say a few sweet things to each other, and to open up another line of communication for our girls - because there can never be too much communication!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Patience has never been my strong suit. In fact, my husband just had to sing the Patience Song to me last night while I was waiting for the fire to warm up.

I remember being pregnant with Littlest One. I was so sure I'd have her at least a little bit early. My due date came and went, with no signs of labor. And then impatience took over. I cried constantly, so tired of feeling like a whale, tired of being kicked in the groin every time I sat down, tired of not meeting my baby. I mean, it was really miserable.

And now here we are, not waiting on a little human baby, but on little goat babies. Wondering if they are doing okay, wondering how labor will go, or whether we will have girls or boys, anxiously awaiting the day when we can finally meet them.

And the wait is making me crazy!!

Poor Justice is showing no signs yet, really. Her belly is so enormous I can't figure out how she manages to walk. I can tell she can't get comfortable when she settles down to chew her cud. But no babies, no labor.

Everyone jokes that she'll do it in the middle of the night, and I'll walk out to find babies in the morning. I had a serious talk with her yesterday and let her know that that is definitely not allowed. I want to be there. I want to experience the miracle of birth on our farm, and I want my girls to experience it too! That, and it's so darn cold out at night that I want to be around to dry off the kids so they don't freeze to death before morning. Having kids in January, up in the mountains, is no joke.

Getting dressed for the barn is no small feat - hats, scarves, gloves, wool socks, muck books... and I'm doing it six times a day when I go out and check on her. I think she's tired of me constantly touching her rump, feeling for the telltale softness of impending labor. If I was wise, I'd just leave her alone. And if I was patient. Which, you know, I'm not.

Patience! Today I will sing the Patience song to myself over and over, and remember that, just like with human babies, these kids will come when they are good and ready. I just hope they are ready soon, because we sure are ready to meet them.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Littlest One's New Dress

I had a moment of panic the other day when I realized....

My Little Girls are growing up!

They are developing their own personalities, their own styles, their own opinions. How did this happen??

Thankfully, Littlest One's style still involves Mom's homemade dresses. And since that could change at any given moment, I decided I better start enjoying it a little more while I still can. So I made her a new dress.

When I am making dresses for her, she gets so giddy about it. I call her to try it on as I go, making sure it'll fit, and she happily comes in and strips down in the sewing room so we can see how it's coming along. And then she jumps up and down again with her enormous smile, hugs me, tells me she loves it, and twirls around a bit.

The best part about this dress is the fabric, check it out up close:

It's Snow White! Disney princess fabric is always pink and purple and gaudy, but this is actually a really nice print. I was excited to find it, since she's been wanting a princess dress for awhile now, but I couldn't stand the pink and purple. This was a great compromise, and since she just saw Snow White for the first time recently, it was kind of special.

The pattern was from Little Girls, Big Style by Mary Abreu, a positively delightful book filled with super easy patterns for kids this age. For the cost of the book (about $25) you get dozens of patterns in sizes 2-6, and they are easy to adjust for larger kids as well. If you sew for little girls, you should own this book.

The trim fabric was some dark red corduroy I had in my fabric stash, which I think ended up complementing the main print perfectly. And the lining on the bodice is one of The Daddy's old shirts, one that had a stain and a tear and he couldn't wear anymore. I just used the good part of the fabric to cut out the pattern pieces. Littlest One now has a piece of Daddy's shirt inside her dress, and this pleases her tremendously.

We went to the mall yesterday to run a couple of errands. It was early, and there were mall-walkers everywhere. When you take a little girl into a mall in a dress that makes her feel positively princess-y, she is likely to skip and sing everywhere she goes. And the mall walkers - generally older folks who seem to like kids - smile at said bright-eyed little princess. Any time she saw their smile, she would stop, hold the sides of her dress, and present them with a grand, sweeping curtsy before continuing on, skipping and chattering and all that other cuteness that is a little girl. This, of course, left many mall walkers with even bigger smiles.

The thought that these days are quickly coming to an end makes my heart sigh. It's hard to imagine a day where my little blonde princess isn't curtsying at strangers and skipping everywhere she goes. I vow to make the most of this time, and sew as many fabulous dresses as I can possibly turn out over the next few years.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To My Birthday Girl

Dear Chloe,

Happy Birthday, sweet 10 year old! How it happened that you went from being my tiny, fragile little baby girl to a beautiful, smart, strong ten year old so quickly, I will never know. I remember when you were born, being nearly afraid to hold you, being so afraid of what the world might bring to a little girl born so early. I remember holding you amidst monitors and feeding tubes and oxygen masks and IV's, you just seemed so completely fragile. I remember carrying you around, along with bags to hold all of your medical equipment. I thought that would never end.

And somehow, now, you are so strong and grown up! Ten years old is special. You are no longer my baby girl, but quickly becoming a lovely young lady. And thinking back on the past ten years of your life, I am so proud of who you are becoming.

But my job as a mama is to worry - it's what I do best. And as you get older, and you experience more and more of this world we live in, it scares me to think of what it could do to you.

Much of this won't make any sense now. You are still young, and sweet, and innocent. But I can already see you growing up, forming your own ideas and opinions. Save this letter, sweet girl, and read it again - when you are fifteen, when you are twenty, when you are thirty five. What I have to say will never change, no matter your age.

I LOVE who you are! I hope you never change, and I hope you never let your experiences in life, or the people you meet, change the beautiful soul within you. And so I want to offer just a few bits of advice, from a Mom who was your age not all that very long ago, and who knows you so very well.

First and foremost, remember that you can do anything. I love that you set goals for yourself and realize them. I love that you want to be just about everything under the sun when you grow up. I love that you dream of what the future will hold, and you never doubt that you can do anything you want to do. Don't let anything change that! Some day, your interests will settle and you'll know what you were really meant to do in life. Once you know for certain, in your heart, chase that dream with unending endurance. Don't let doubt get in the way.

Be careful to keep your temper in check. When you were just a baby, you would get so frustrated you would hold your breath until you passed out. That temper hasn't ever left you, though happily you've managed to stay conscious through most of your outbursts for several years now. It's wonderful to be passionate, but never, ever let your anger get the best of you. Stop - breathe - and start again, with careful thought.

I hope you always have the love for animals that you do now. Not just anyone can empathize with them the way you can - you truly have a gift. Some day, you're going to realize that every single person in the world will, at some point, disappoint you. People will hurt you, or turn on you, or leave you. But no animal ever will. Loving animals offers you a taste of one of the truest kinds of love. They'll always be there for you, will always love you, and will stand by you in ways no friend ever could. Do all you can never to live without at least one furry friend... and hopefully many more than that.

Every once in awhile, face one of your fears and do something that scares you. Remember the way it felt when you and Angel ran across the pasture for the first time together? There will always be things that scare you in life. It's okay to avoid them most of the time, but every so often, face one of your fears. Each time you do, you grow as a person.

Never, EVER stop reading and learning. My hope, above all hopes, is that home schooling will instill in you a life-long love for learning new things. Yes, school will be over when you are seventeen or eighteen. But that's just the beginning! Don't forget how you love to question things now, how you figure out the answers. When you get bored, pick up a book and devour it the way I see you do now. No matter how old you are, go to the library and get lost in the aisles, just once in awhile.

Don't ever stop writing, either. You have a true gift, my dear, with a pen and paper. I've never known a kid who can write like you do. It doesn't matter what you write - just write. You may not feel like your own story is exceptional, but it is. Your life, and all the little things you do, are so meaningful. Take a few minutes now and then to write down a happy story about something you've done. When you're an old lady, you'll be glad you did.

Cater to your love for nature, all your life. There may be a day when you live in a big city, surrounded by concrete and tall buildings and bright lights. But don't ever miss the passing of a season and the birth of the next one. As you do now, always take time to walk through knee-high grass, or to sit in the snow in silence just listening to the world around you. I hope when you are thirty years old that you still can't help but put your bare toes in the mud. And always grow something - a flower, a tomato plant, an acre garden, it doesn't matter. Growing anything puts you in touch with the world around you, makes you see changes that you might otherwise  miss. Be sure to go camping at least once a year, and look at the stars above you, cook over a campfire, wade in a creek, listen to the silence.

Embrace the tomboy inside you, but don't hesitate to be girly occasionally, too. There are great parts of both. Keep shooting your guns and getting dirty and playing hard, but once in awhile make sure you still put on a fancy dress and high heels and make-up, too. 

Choose your attitude. No matter where you find yourself, what you're asked to do, what life throws at you - choose happiness. Choose cheerfulness. Choose to make the best of it. Right now it's dishes and putting away laundry, some day it will be a whole lot more. But you can always choose how you react. Please don't forget that.

You already exude a confidence in your character that is rarely seen. You know who you are, and you're proud of it. You don't let anyone else try to make you someone you're not. You don't worry what other people think of you, or worry about being as good as anyone else. You will always be good enough, don't forget that!

Never doubt your place in this family. You will forever be The Oldest, the older and wiser big sister. I know she will get on your nerves sometimes, but your little sister thinks the world of you and will look up to you for the rest of her life. Stop to listen and talk to her sometimes, no matter how old you two are. Have patience with her, hold her hand, help her when she needs it, the way you always do now. There will never be a time that she doesn't need you.

Above all, I hope you never, ever doubt how much I love you, and will always love you. I never knew what "unconditional love" was until I held you for the first time. Nothing you can do will ever change the love I have for you. Yes, you will make me angry. Yes, you will hurt my feelings. But that won't take away the love for you that is so deep in my heart it can never be taken away. Don't hesitate to say you're sorry, and know that you will always, always find forgiveness. You bring me a joy that I can't explain, you make my life complete.

I am so unbelievably proud of the young lady that you are. All of these things I've mentioned - it's who you already are, what I already see inside you. It's nothing you'll have to learn, just things you'll need to hold on to. And sometimes you'll have to hold on for dear life - but never let them go.

Happy 10th birthday, sweet girl. May this year, and all the years hereafter bring you happiness, and love, and fulfillment.


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Winter Birthday Party

 The Oldest's birthday is two weeks after Christmas, in the dead of winter. This has never made birthday parties for her easy. It's hard for this mama to even think about planning a birthday party when we've just managed to get the Christmas decor down, and starting school is right around the corner.

However, now that we live in the mountains (and have a house that's a little bit bigger) this has all changed. What fun she had yesterday!

We kept it super low-key and easy, which made it less work for me, and all the kids had a blast. We had everyone bring snow clothes and sleds, and with all the snow on the ground, that was all it took. I didn't need to worry about planning games, kids of all ages could enjoy it, and the parents could hang out inside where it was warm, with hot tea and coffee.

Several of our friends from The Big City drove up. I had a blast watching some of the kids, who really weren't sure they wanted to be out there in the cold, getting their first taste of sledding. And some of the older girls, who are usually too "cool" to play like little kids, were snow-ball fighting and faux-snowboarding like the best of 'em. Watching kids play and laugh and scream is good for the mama-soul.

We warmed them up with some homemade hand warmers and from-scratch hot cocoa, then the birthday girl got to make her wish.

Presents were opened
(and obviously, a ten year old girl's birthday party isn't complete without a new shotgun.)

and then back out to the snow they went, to play until they were all worn out (and probably frozen through.)

If it's this easy to have winter birthday parties now, I will be looking forward to the next one!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Books for Girls

I've always been a voracious reader. I think I get it from my dad. Since I can remember, books have shaped and formed my ways of thinking, have inspired me and taught me and changed me. There are some really great  books out there. I'm always fascinated by children who feel like reading is a chore. I guess I just never understood that mindset. Reading was the best form of entertainment for me, from the time I was old enough to read the words in my picture books.

There is also something to be said for books that are written purely for entertainment, not for creating any life-changing thought processes. We live in a home without any TV channels, and only the occasional video. And it's darn cold  outside right now. That means we've got to find other forms of entertainment, and books usually come in first place.

When I was a girl, my favorite books were The Babysitter's Club. I realize they aren't exceptionally written, they aren't profound, they really don't offer any actual benefit to the reader. But sometimes, books like that are okay. They never did me any harm, either. They were just fun. My two best friends shared my BSC obsession, and the three of us could talk for hours about what Claudia, Stacey, Mary-Anne and Kristy were doing in the latest books. At ten years old, I'd rather my daughter be talking about that than some of the stuff girls talk about these days.

I loved those books so much that I kept them. I moved them with me in a big box when I left my parents' home and struck out on my own, and I kept them through the years, hoping there would be a day I'd have a daughter that would enjoy them as much as I did.

That day has arrived.

The Oldest is now devouring BSC books at the rate of one every other day, and coming to me and sharing the stories of all those friends I remember so well from my own youth. What fun it is, to re-hear those stories in the words of my own daughter! As she gets older, I find there are so many opportunities to share some of the same things that I enjoyed with her, so many memories that I get to re-create with her.


And on the subject of books for young ladies - What on earth has happened?? A quick trip to the book store reveals the interests of young girls these days - wizards, vampires, magic, general evil. Babysitter's Club may not be profound literature, but at least it's not filling girls' heads with that kind of garbage. I went asking one time at Barnes and Noble for King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. The older lady that was working got a smile on her face as she said, "Oh! I remember Marguerite Henry! She wrote Misty, didn't she? No, no we don't have her books here. Kids these days just don't read things like that anymore." She proceeded to offer me a selection of books about teen girls that ride horses and fight over boyfriends. Really? This is the best that youth authors can come up with these days?

We have instituted a general rule in our house. If a book wasn't written before 1980, Mom has to read it first. And we encourage her to choose books written before 1965. (Bonus points for books written before 1900.) Those books were filled with great plots and strong, admirable characters. The difficulties were real life, and the characters overcame them not with magic, but with character traits that kids could really look up to and learn from. And they didn't feel like "school" back then... that was what entertainment looked like!  Seeing the drivel that is offered to kids these days to encourage them to read gives me little hope for the coming generation.

Okay, so I realize there are worse things than a kid sitting around reading book after book about vampires. I won't even get started on TV shows and video games, because then I'd really never stop. But seriously, how will our kids learn to deal with any problems that arise in life if all the books they read teach them to fight evil with magic? And how much worse is entertainment going to get, if this is the kind of stuff our nine and ten year olds need to feel 'entertained'?


Rant over. I'm afraid I'm going to start sounding terribly old fashioned if I keep going. If anyone has any suggestions of great books for young ladies that I can offer to my oldest, please feel free to comment. At the rate she's going, she'll have all these Babysitter's Club books finished in the next month or two, and then I won't know what to do with her.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Homeschool Science: Snow Stick

What a lovely break I've had from blogging! It's been years since I took a break for that long. And in fact, we're coming up on my ten year anniversary of blogging. But that's a story for a different post.

It's time to get back, to keep writing all the little stories that some day will spark happy memories for my children, that will remind me of all The Little Things we do each day that make life special. So I'm back.


And what better way than to start off with a homeschool post?

We've taken about a month off of school. We do every December, taking time to enjoy the holidays, to play in the snow and bake and craft. But even during a month off, little bits of school seem to just happen.

Some weeks ago, I discovered Shining Dawn books, a fantastic resource for reasonably priced nature study e-books. If you are a homeschooler, or just a parent looking for a bit of guidance when you're enjoying the outdoors, run to this website and check them out. We'll be spending the next two months of Nature Study using their Snow and Ice book, it's so chock full of activity ideas and information.

Our first little project, inspired by the book, was making and using a Snow Stick.

Simple stuff - a three foot long dowel on which we marked off every inch. (That means this is math, too!) Then the girls picked a few colors of acrylic paint and painted each inch a different color. (And art! And patience and understanding, if you consider how frustrating it was for The Oldest when she realized how imperfectly her five year old sister paints.) Then we used a Sharpie to number the inches up the stick. 

Then we donned our snow gear and headed outside with the Snow Stick and a pad of paper. We walked around to different areas of the property where we we could find snow that wasn't yet trampled, and we stuck the snow in the ground to measure it.

We discussed why there was ten inches of snow on the dirt road, but only six inches on the concrete steps (that's science!) and measured snow in six different places. (I was excited to find that, even with a few warmish days, we still have a good ten inches of snow on the ground in most places.)

Once we finished measuring and noting the snow depths, we came inside to fill out the Measure of Snow chart provided in our book:
A bar graph depicting the snow levels of the different areas.

Activities like this make me happy - fitting a few different subjects into one little study, therefore feeling like we accomplished a bit more school for just a little effort.

And then the Snow Stick became part of creative play - it apparently makes a lovely (if somewhat dangerous) sword for a child riding a toy horse and pretending she is a knight. :-)


Our new school term kicks off on January 7th. Fresh new math books, Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, garden planning, the Reformation, chemistry, and plenty of reading and creative writing. After such a long break, I think we're all looking forward to it!