Friday, May 29, 2009

Unwelcome Neighbor

Kansas Dad called me to the front room this morning and pointed to the porch. We watched the black and white fellow meander across, nibbling some cat food and sniffing around before climbing under the porch.

Will cats chase a skunk off? Perhaps he's just wandering through...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pictures from the Road

By the miracle of spring, I've already finished going through all our vacation pictures. (Superb weather had us outside a lot and outdoor pictures don't produce red eyes.)

Here's the short version:

My dad flew to Kansas and then drove me and the kids to his house. It takes my parents about 10.5 hours to make the drive. It took us 15.5 hours. All of our stops were a bit slower than usual because I was handling all the car seats. (Those buckles were not designed for grandfathers.) The real complication, though, was First Daughter. Remember how she decided to potty train? She quickly figured out she could get us to stop anytime by saying she needed a bathroom. She did really well the whole trip, but my dad was bemused at best when she wanted to stop twenty minutes after we finished lunch (where we'd been "resting" for two hours).

We had a relaxing day with my parents before driving to Chicago for my sister's convalidation ceremony and a lovely reception at her new house. We stayed overnight there and spent the next day touring some local sites, including this great playground.

We also took advantage of our local science museum membership to check out a museum in the Chicago area for free. First Son and First Daughter loved the area where they could "dig" for fossils. Playing in the sand is always fun.

We drove back to my parent's house and rested for a few days before heading to another local science museum. We've visited this one before so I knew the kids would love it, though they didn't remember it. We spent the bulk of the time in the bones exhibit, but here's a picture of them painting on the glass gallery with Gram.

We had dinner with some of my high school friends and their twin girls. Pizza outside and lots of make-believe. Then we rested for a day at home. Here's the view out my parent's living room. Isn't it lovely? The weather was fantastic, so the kids ran around outside quite a bit. They loved going in and out the sliding glass door by themselves.

First Son and First Daughter had their first fishing experiences. First Daughter lasted about twenty seconds before running off, but First Son enjoyed it. He didn't catch anything, but it was a pretty windy evening so the prospects weren't great. (They also didn't take the time to dig any worms, which would have been more enticing.)

Then we drove to another city to visit my brother and his family, who had missed the ceremony due to illness. We spent the afternoon at the zoo there (discounted admission, thanks to our local membership). The kids spent the bulk of our zoo time running through sprinklers, but we did get to see them feed the sea lions. We visited my youngest sister at her new home and then headed to my brother's house for dinner. They very sweetly planned a surprise cake for my birthday (a little early). Second Daughter was crawling around under the table and came out covered in cake crumbs, so here's a picture to commemorate the event. (I've always wanted to feed cake and ice cream to my kids for the first time on their first birthday, but somehow they always seem to snag some by ten months.)

The highlight of the trip was driving back to Chicago to meet Kansas Dad after his conference for a visit to Shedd Aquarium. First Son loves "all the sharks and all the whales and all the dolphins" more than anything else and the Shedd was practically heaven.

It would have been even better if First Daughter hadn't gotten sick while we were there. Twice. We couldn't leave so we just let her sleep in the stroller. She seems to remember the visit with pleasure and says she liked the sharks the best, though she was sleeping for most of the big shark exhibit.

We drove back to my parent's house to spend Memorial Day with them and my brother's family. First Daughter kept saying "I need to go outside to play with my cousins." It was wonderful to watch them racing all around. First Son also loved playing with their puppy, which reminded us of our plans to get one for the Range this summer (while Kansas Dad is home to help house train one).

Finally, we made the drive home, Kansas Dad at the wheel this time. It was a speedy 13 hours 15 minutes. We spent quite a bit of time in the car over the course of the vacation, but the kids were amazing travelers. We may even go for another visit someday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Already Helping Out

Second Daughter was chewing on something. Again. I dug around in her mouth and found a specialty Lego piece. I called to First Son, "Look what your sister had in her mouth. You need to be more careful..."

"Oh, thank you! That's the piece I've been missing all day!"

Home Again, Home Again

I missed these irises.

They bloomed right after the kids and I left home. But the roses were in full bloom when we arrived home late last night.

Our trip was wonderful and I'll hopefully have time to share more about it later tonight.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Catching Up and Heading Out

I have a brutal headache and a lot to do tonight, so I'm just going to throw all these pictures together in a single post.

Kansas Dad has been hard at work on our garden. It's coming along a little slower than he'd hoped with all the rain, but hopefully he'll have a lot of time to work on it next week.

Second Daughter loved the chalk. Of course, you have to keep a close watch or she eats it.

We have a few beautiful clematis flowers. The vine as a whole needs a lot of pruning. Only four flowers so far, and two of them are hidden in the back. I have yet to identify the variety, which we need to do before we start pruning. Let me know if you know what it is!

First Son has discovered Legos and he's hooked. He has a few Pirate sets and will put them together (following the instructions) and then take them all apart again. Over and over.

Second Daughter has started crawling. Just today she figured out she could use this new skill to get somewhere. Not so convenient for me as I spent the day packing for our trip and had trouble keeping track of her. I don't have a video of her crawling, but I do have one of this snapping turtle running away from us.

Monday, May 11, 2009

We Can Check That Off the List

Last Tuesday, First Daughter had her first success in the toilet training arena. The next day, Kansas Dad adventurously put her in underwear first thing in the morning. Since then, she's had one accident. So I'm going to call it done. She's trained.

With almost no effort on our part, I might add. Sometimes my kids can astound me. (Actually, I'm astounded on a daily basis, but this one seems like a feat that might actually astound some other people, too.)

We're still putting her in a diaper for naps and bedtime, but that's only to be expected. At least twice she's been dry after a nap.

Of course, the kids and I are heading out of state on vacation in a few days. We'll have to see how she does on the road.

I have a few pictures on the camera (more irises anyone?), but no energy to deal with them tonight. I promise to get some posted before we leave on vacation (especially since I probably won't post from the road).

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Life Out on the Range

I'm so pleased the yellow iris is blooming! I think the two other irises in the same bunch are going to be a different color, so I'll have to see if I can clear some space around this one and baby it a bit. I do love yellow in the garden! It's also in a hidden corner of the garden. You have to be on the rough path from the house around the fence to the swing set. It's great for us because we walk that way nearly every day, but if I can get it to spread we'll divide it up and put some out front where visitors can see them.

Apparently, we have another whole bunch of irises that will be the same color as these.

And, as if yesterday's spider wasn't enough, they're breeding right on the porch. (I found another who gob of them in the former flower bed, currently gone to weed, I'm trying to clear so Kansas Dad can make an herb garden.)

Also, I think I was mistaken in the cat with the kittens. I saw a completely different cat wander by with an early dinner dangling from her mouth. She's about the same coloring, but much larger. (I thought the first one seemed small to have had such big kittens already.) So that brings the stray cat count on the Range to 3 adults and 3 kittens. Country mice, beware!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Color Blind?

First Daughter and First Son usually choose their own clothes. I don't often care what they pick, as long as I don't have to be involved.

Yesterday, First Daughter proudly announced, "Look, I match! Stripes and stripes!"

She was especially pleased that First Son also matched.

Now, I'm not particularly talented in the fashion department, but I think we may need to include a few lessons on the Range on what "matching" really means.

It's the Little Things


Over at Faith & Family Live, they're talking about the small successes again.

1. I cleared off the top of my washer and dryer. I hate it when there's stuff stacked there, not least because of an irrational fear something will spontaneously catch on fire. (All it took was one dryer warning.)

2. First Daughter is having successes of her own! (I know, they're not mine, but what parent doesn't take some credit for the accomplishments of their children?)

3. I hemmed light blocking curtains to hang behind our bedroom curtains yesterday - and hung them. One is a bit too short and one is a bit too long, but that's what happens when you don't measure because you want to go really really fast because you're ironing something that says in big bold capital letters in numerous places DO NOT IRON. And when you're trying to finish before your two year old daughter gets up from her nap. (Lest you think I was too successful, neither girl napped yesterday.)

Read more successes here and share your own!

Updated: One more to add -- I didn't completely freak out when I saw this guy staking out hunting grounds in the kids' room. I simply reminded myself he was catching the bugs I don't like even more and went about my day (after taking his picture, of course):

I did herd the kids away from the window a bit. I don't know's not like he's hunting them...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


It seems my last picture was of a mutant flower. Today when I went in search of the unidentified plant, all I found were these - with five petals instead of four. And there are a lot of them! From what I can tell, they are periwinkle. A little searching and you'll learn it's low maintenance and can be invasive, both obviously true here on the Range. We need to do some serious pruning, but I think we'll keep some of it around because it's pretty and supposedly will keep flowering until the frost.

In other news, one of the stray cats we've seen around the Range showed up today with three kittens. I tried to get a picture, but didn't want to get too close so this is the best I can share.

They are adorable, of course. I hope their mother teaches them to be good hunters!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The (Sort of) Sweet Smell of Success!

First Daughter was enjoying some diaper-free time when she wanted to sit on the potty. Kansas Dad and I were both dubious when she called and said she'd actually done something, but she was right! We all clapped and cheered and she called Grammy.

It was very exciting.

Our Irises, the Beginning

The Range is full of irises. They were obviously loved by a previous resident but have been untended for at least a few years. Nearly every bunch needs to be divided. Only two sets have started blooming. I'll have to post pictures of all of them as they open up. (I know we have some yellow ones on the way, but most of the others haven't even sent up their flower stems yet.)

Some Range Wildflowers

I haven't been able to identify these. All the wildflower sites tell me it's a bluet, but the flower is definitely shaped differently. It's got that little whorl to it. It also seems like it might be bigger than a bluet, but I'm not sure how big the bluets are supposed to be. I like these little flowers, but I think the vines are growing up under our siding, so much if not all of it will have to go. You know, when we get around to it.

Above and below you can see some of our lovely Dame's Rocket. It's a wildflower that (I think) was originally planted purposely in a few places here on the Range but has spread a bit randomly. I think it's beautiful and plan to transplant it to some more appropriate places. If we have time.

Last, but not least, an evening primrose. These are even more plentiful in our neighbor's yard and absolutely striking when they're all open and facing the sunset in the evenings.

A Gardening Break

Kansas Dad had a surprise for us when we arrived home from a birthday party over the weekend: two new swings so all three kids can swing at the same time! (This is also a very thoughtful present for Mama as the two daughters like to swing, and it's about all Second Daughter can do.)

He also built a little retaining wall for the mulch around our black currant bushes so hopefully the rain that continues to drench us won't keep washing it away.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Out of the Blue

We're driving along, looking forward to our day, when First Son starts chatting:

Mother, we had to wait a very long time for [Second Daughter] to pop out of your tummy.

I had to be very patient.

I'm going to pray to God for another baby to grow in your tummy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Prayer Request

Twelve years ago, a little girl was born to a mother who did not know how to love her. She moved from home to home, landing in the foster care system and, at three, in my parent's house. She waited for her "forever family." And waited. And waited. There were a few who tried, but she always returned.

Four years ago, feeling very much that God wanted her to remain in their hearts and home, my parents adopted her. The same week, she was baptized and received her First Communion. We are her godparents.

In all the years she has lived with my parents, she has brought them great joy and great frustrations, as all children can. In the past year, the troubles have been mounting. After much discussion, debate, prayer and bureaucracy, she is moving to a residential home. Tomorrow morning. The program usually lasts six months to one year. My parents can visit her and, after a time, she will be allowed brief visits home.

Please pray for healing for my sister, strength for the battle that lies ahead, and always the knowledge that she is loved tremendously by her family and God. Pray also that she will find joy in her temporary home.

Please pray for my parents, who will have a truly empty home for the first time in over thirty years and who will tearfully have to leave their little girl for a time.

Please pray for the doctors and counselors, that they would find a path for my sister, not just for the next few months, but for the life that lies ahead.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

Does anyone else have one of those vacuums with a red light when your floor is still dirty and a green light when it's clean?

There's some sort of cosmic wind in my house that keeps that light red just by the front door. Everywhere else it's fine...after a few sweeps back and forth it turns green. But not there.

So now I know that bit of carpet isn't really clean, even though it looks fine and those lovely just vacuumed lines are everywhere.

Next time, we're buying a vacuum without the lights. Then, you see, I wouldn't know.

Putting Our Homeschool in Perspective

Homeschool: An American History by Milton Gaither is an approachable history of home education and homeschooling in America. He covers the first centuries in a few chapters and then focuses in depth on more recent decades. I have been reading about homeschooling for a couple of years now, and was fascinated by his ability to place the books I'd read (or at least read of) within society and the political landscape.

I highly recommend this book. I read it very quickly myself and feel like I have gained some excellent perspective of the homeschooling landscape in America's history. I find myself looking at curricula choices in a whole new way, realizing better who developed them and why.

Reading this book also helped me think more about the reasons I want to homeschool, recognizing that we have come to this decision for a variety of reasons and that all of those have some value. Sometimes I find myself caught up in the reasons Catholics choose to homeschool. Not that other Catholics choose to homeschool for bad reasons, but here on the Range, we are Catholics who homeschool as well as Catholic homeschoolers. It is a journey I am glad to make now, rather than a few decades ago.

You can also continue to follow Dr. Gaither's research on his blog here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Fictional Ancestor

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich was wonderful!

I first found this book in the catalog from Emmanuel Books (I told Kansas Dad I want to order everything they carry) and was pleasantly surprised to find A Bess Streeter Aldrich Treasury on my bookshelf, inherited from my grandmother.

This book follows the life of Abbie Mackenzie Deal, and with it the story of the pioneers of Iowa and Nebraska. She marries just after the Civil War and soon finds herself a mother to one with one on the way in a sod house in Nebraska with three families as "neighbors." I couldn't help but compare myself to her and found myself sorely lacking in patience, strength and courage. Imagine living in a two room sod house for years!

In this book, we watch Abbie and her family grow along with Nebraska and the country. She lives long enough to see her children and grandchildren prosper and enjoy the kind of culture she desired but always deferred, sacrificing her wants for a better future for them. She sees everything arrive in Nebraska, from the very first settlers to airplanes. Her children travel even farther.

The author's style moves quickly over years then slows down for a space, telling some episodes in greater detail. It made me think of how so many of the parenting years are made up of the daily tasks of preparing meals and washing clothes. She could flit over them in a few paragraphs, but at the end of Abbie's life, those are the days she remembers with the greatest joy: her husband coming in after a full day in the field, dinner just ready to set on the table, the laughter and yells of her children outside in the prairie grass.

I've already read through much of the Treasury and, so far, A Lantern in Her Hand is my favorite. I don't really want to rush these years when my little ones are little, but I eagerly anticipate the days I'll be able to share this book with my own children.