30 September 2017

Meaningful Milestone

Another milestone has come. It may be unimpressive to others, (especially successful bloggers who see the kind of traffic that I've seen in five years in one month on their site) but to me, it is satisfying to check it off my 2017 goals. More than simply numbers, having over 750,000 pageviews is an encouragement to continue writing, which, when it boils down to it, is a personal journal for our family and a way to share with family and friends, near and far. So, perhaps unimpressive, but still a meaningful milestone.

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26 September 2017


Happy birthday Kate!
Every time a birthday rolls around, it brings on some serious reminiscing. With Kate, we remember our time in Iowa, which is now coming up on five years since we left. Kate was the last of our Iowa babies and she was born at a very stressful yet exciting time. Literally. She showed up in the wee hours (on my sister's birthday) and between ISU's career fair and Jack having several important, career-deciding interviews. To say she was a happy miracle in our family is a gross understatement.
Our sweet, beautiful girl!
To sum up any child would be impossible and Kate is no exception. She is bursting full of contradictions and is one of the most passionate people I'm privileged to know. When she's happy, her squealing laugh is contagious, when she's mad, she balls up her fists and screams with rage, when she's sad, there's no stopping a waterfall of tears, if she's nervous, she trembles with fear. But that's not even scratching the surface of who Kate is.
Considering her costume choices.
For one, she loves, loves Halloween. Is it the candy? The dressing up? The staying up late? She lives for it all.
Feeding Dolly during a milking.
 Kate is one hard worker. But, she must be prim and proper and probably wearing a dress while she does it.
She has a real gift with animals. I've seen her tame more than one wild-eyed beast with her persistent, patient, waiting-for-the-pet-to-come-to-her technique. It's like she's a real-life fairytale princess.
She has a knack for all things beautiful and she's done it all from fixing hair, wearing fashion-forward attire, painting her own nails, to picking out paint colors for the house...
...to creating heaps upon heaps of crafts. If she could, she'd spend about 90% of her day drawing or coloring or painting.
We celebrated her birthday as a family a day early since Jack had to fly out to a convention on her actual birthday, so we did the traditional cake and ice cream and presents. Using her skill for aesthetics, she insisted on decorating her own cake, only to decide it would be better if her older sisters joined in on the fun. Kate is definitely always one to think of others.
Like when she picked out her birthday ice cream. She only agreed to choosing out a flavor as long as Henry had a chance to pick one also. Two ice creams? No arguments here.
So many choices...
After dropping off Jack at the airport, her actual birthday was much like any other day here on the farm. We worked and did chores and took care of animals and at the end of the day, played and raced the dog and rolled down hills...
Kate and Claire would make some good stunt doubles!
 ...and, of course, got wet and gritty with sand in the pond (have to enjoy it while the warm weather lasts!).
We are enjoying our last year before Kate begins fledging from the nest and is off to school with her big sisters. Until then, we will watch her blossom, serve others, brighten spirits and spread joy to whoever she comes across.
Happy birthday, Kate! We love you!

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18 September 2017

How Did We Get Here?

We've been at New Harmony for a couple of weeks and things are settling down (a little...). Now that it's starting to feel more like home, I've been reminiscing. We've been married ten years and in that time, have lived in eight different places, three of those being houses we've owned. So, just how did we get here?
Remember our first homestead in Iowa? Yeah, it was pathetic. Like, really horrible. We're talking missing windows, rotting floor beneath the leaky toilet, warped flooring, chipped plaster, tiny, steep stairs, you name it. It was a haunted shell of a home that had stood for just over a century but was tired and unhappy. The husband had been deployed to Iraq multiple times, the wife had a car accident and suffered a stroke, and the children were doing the best they could but when it came to it, it was time for them to sell and I think we were the only ones crazy enough to make the investment. What can I say? I really wanted to have Stoney live in my backyard and Jack humored me and we didn't have any kids yet.
It sometimes feels like a lifetime ago that we finished our beautiful Iowa home.  We started off with the possibility of having no children, having tried for two years without any success, to having three beautiful daughters in four and a half years, on top of Jack receiving his degree in Aerospace Engineering. Though it was more work than I care to remember, it was a stepping stone to buying a house that was nearly three times larger than the house we left in Iowa.

Maybe, after seeing the first photos of our Indiana mansion, that's not saying much...
 ...but, with another round of sweat equity, that poor, rundown, weirdly decorated, rat infested, smelly house became a thing of beauty. We had purchased it as a foreclosure against some house flippers in a fairly tense bidding war, which we eventually won. The previous owner had died of Lou Gehrig's disease and his daughter and grandchildren, who lived there with him, tried to keep up with the house payments and repairs on the behemoth but it eventually became too much. Again, it was no small feat to restore the house to a glimpse of its former glory but with its sale, it allowed us to upgrade once again.
At the beginning of the year, the thought of moving seemed comical and didn't even cross our minds. A few months into 2017, a realtor mentioned someone was wanting to buy our house with cash on hand. We laughed again and shrugged it off--I mean, the house was really starting to look good, Jack had a great commute, and we were about to have a baby. That all changed with a neighbor decided to sell his farm, adjacent to our house, to the encroaching warehouses. That sale to was a bit too close for comfort and that's how we ended up at New Harmony. The house is comparable in size to our first Indiana home but this time, the land is nearly three times as many acres as we had. There will be some repairs that need to be done but it's fairly superficial to what we've already tackled. As with other houses we acquired, it occurred due to sad circumstances. This time, divorce. It was met with resistance by the owner who didn't want to leave and after being here a few weeks, I can't blame him. I wouldn't want to have to leave either.
I told Jack I felt a bit disheartened that every time we bought a house, it was due to something tragic, almost like we are continually taking advantage of people but he said he said he sees it as helping people out of houses that otherwise, no one would want to buy, then turning around and making the world a more beautiful place by renovating and restoring them.

Now that I think about it, I agree. That's what we're doing.
We had a lot of time spent waiting in the car the past few months, which Kate used to practice her pen balancing skills.
So, after three days and multiple showings, appraisals, inspections, negotiating, a bit of threatening (hey, we're nice but we're not pushovers) and moving day finally arrived.
Zoey was a good sport, hanging out a lot with Evelyn and the rest of her siblings.
When I got really desperate to have someone watch the baby, Henry and his friend Blakely were more than up to the task. Zoey's not picky as long as someone's smiling at her.
Jack and Sterling figured out how to get that big, giant table downstairs without breaking anything!
Friends came and helped pack, sweep, mop, scrub out my fridge, wipe down the dirty drawers, wash walls, you name it. 
There was a lot of heavy lifting and Henry was the first to volunteer. Just stay out of his way with the moving dolly...
Once we got all of our household stuff packed up, the real work began. After having cut and chopped a big pile of wood, I couldn't very well leave it, now could I?
And all the chickens? They came too so we could continue to have a supply of fresh eggs. Of course, the move stressed them out and they started molting, so we barely get any eggs...but I think they're finally getting used to their new home. Sort of.
I think the cats have a sixth sense when it comes to moving. They woke up the morning we were going to transport them to our new house and promptly scrammed. We tried to bribe them with breakfast, with treats, with scratching along the backbone but they weren't having it. So we turned that job over to the girls and some of their visiting friends and before too long, everyone was securely in their carrier.
Ironically, the horses were one of the easiest things to move. Hook up the trailer, put on the halter, open the door, climb on, shut the door, done.
I think they were even easier to move than Jack's horse.
So, in a couple of days, we dumped all our stuff and we were officially moved. Cinch!
The next few weeks were full of unpacking and piles of boxes.
I wish I could say that the kids have their beds set up, but that would be a lie. They've been roughing it since we moved, since we'll soon be painting and getting new carpet. First, they started down in the basement...
Where's Zoey?
 ...but that was quickly taken over by unpacking. It had to go somewhere and at least now, they're in their rooms.
We've also been hard at work cleaning, enough to really wear ourselves out.
It's hard work living here.
There are also plenty of weeds to pull. Someday, I hope to be able to catch up with them. That may be wishful thinking, though.
It's not been all work though. We still have plenty of time to hang out in the barn (yes, it's as fun as it sounds!)...
 ...and groom the horses. The fence is perfect for climbing up and getting a good vantage point.
At the end of the day, we spend a few minutes playing pool. I think I'm getting better, though Jack may have something to say about that. He comes up with a lot of silly rules that seem to work in his favor.
I think it's safe to say we're enjoying things here, even if it's taken us a while to make it.

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12 September 2017

Hurts So Good

You'd better believe they make triple jogging strollers!
One of the activities I've lamented foregoing the past few months is running. I continue to have a love/hate relationship with jogging but I really love the feeling of being in good shape. The problem is, I have to get into shape before I can truly appreciate the feeling.
Raven loooooves running and she helps pull!
Once we got settled into the house, I figured I get back into the running routine. Believe me, I tried. I tried waking up early, but was met with rain or sleep deprivation because someone had a nightmare. I tried running after dinner but running on a full stomach isn't appealing and I can't seem to get my chores done fast enough before the sun starts setting. Believe me, I tried.
Zoey decided jogging isn't so bad!
Solution? A triple jogging stroller! I ran with our Frankenstein double jogging stroller up until Henry was born, took the single out with different kids after he was born, but with Kate missing the kindergarten cut off by a couple of months, I sprung for a triple, in-line stroller. It took a little adjusting but we were off, huffing and puffing on the streets around our house.

Here's to falling back in love with running--ugh, it hurts so good!

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10 September 2017


Everyone else wanted to clean stalls. Who am I to say no?
Yesterday was a day like most of our Saturdays. We slept in a little (and by a little, I mean about ten minutes) and after breakfast, we went to the barn to tidy up. The girls and Jack cleaned some stalls and loaded them with shavings, while Henry swept the aisles clean.
Everyone took turns babysitting (because babies like being in the middle of the action, too!).
Evelyn is going to replace me as mother soon...
We put pallets into the loft (because that's where pallets go on the farm!)...
Thank goodness for pulleys!
 ...then we put hay and alfalfa in the loft.
Thank goodness for hay elevators!
 ...then Henry cleaned up the loose hay because waste not, want not.
My little farmhand.
 Then we all climbed into the loft and swept it clean.

Oh, who am I kidding? We played in the hayloft.

And then we got a cow and her calf delivered.

(So much for waiting for spring to get a milk cow!)

More on Dolly and her little boy soon!

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