Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween: October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!  The scariest part of our day was the breakfast meltdown, but he recovered in time to enjoy his pumpkin-eyed Martin's donut. 
The highlight of our day was a MOPS outing.  Schmidt Christmas Tree Farm hayride, snack, and park playtime was the best!  It was the first cold jackets-required outing of the season.  It was good to see the kids realize that their bodies needed the warmth.  Maybe Mommy won't be carrying those jackets around constantly now. 
None of the pictures of the reindeer were particularly good, but I've never seen a real one up close before.
The kids played so well with others, and nobody melted down.  It was so nice!  I think we're moving there.  Or at least coming back for a Christmas tree.
I didn't get a picture, but the highlight of my morning was watching Devon's face light up as he shouted "Gabe!  Gabe!" and seeing another little boy shout "Devon!" and run to him.  The two boys played together happily as I blinked back tears.  This is my boy who has been so, so lonely this past year.  The loneliness often made him too angry for playmates, a very vicious spiral.  Seeing him happy and making others happy is such a joy.  God bless school!
Here is our best Halloween effort: twincesses and a king that wouldn't wear his "too itchy" crown.  So glad they're still too little to want much more.  Even the trip to Martin's for festive donuts was because my car battery died and after the AAA jump start I had to go somewhere to charge the battery and I didn't need any groceries. 
We had the most excited trick-or-treaters imaginable.  As Daddy went back inside to find their treat bags, Mommy had to keep them entertained by making them run footraces around the trash cans and back.
We live in the most decorated neighborhood.  I've never seen people that care so much about a minor holiday.  We even have a spooky deserted house to complete the effect: a foreclosure languishing in probate after the death of the owner over a year ago.  We're seeing lots of drive-by activity lately, so I hope that means it's up for auction or similar and will change ownership soon.  One year ago, the neighbors were regarding us similarly as we walked over every inch of our property and wondered if we were up for the challenge.  I pray regularly that a family with kids our age will buy it and we'll have some friends in the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, the large family that needs the 5400 square foot monstrosity would ironically probably not be able to afford it, or be deterred by the monumental amount of work and money it takes to bring a deserted foreclosure back to life (which we well know).  I'm hoping for a miracle.

Carrie: This is the BEST TRICK-OR-TREAT EVER!!!  That man who answered the door was wonderful!  The moon is beautiful!  Our house is the best!  Trick-or-treating is AWESOME!
Melina: I want to go to trick-or-treat again!
Devon: Mommy, I don't want to go home!  No! No!

The best thing about 3's and 4's is they have no holiday expectations.  So when only one house of the three we tried answers the door and says they haven't had a trick-or-treater in the neighborhood in eighteen years, this is their normal.  They don't know that everyone else got bags and bags of candy tonight.  They don't know that most kids aren't allowed to eat their "entire bag of treats" and then cookies and hot chocolate at home.  Next year, we're either wrangling an invite or having our own party. 
We finished up the very pleasant evening with Pumpkin Putty from preschool.  It was so much fun that we're saving the pumpkin decorating for tomorrow.  Our implements of choice?  Washable markers.  We're still not brave enough to wield a carving knife while fending off six grabby hands.  Sorry, kids.  The sharpest object you get tonight is Devon's plastic sword.

Celebrating One Year: October 29, 2014

It's about time something in our house actually saved us some money!  This month we got the welcome surprise that the apples we noticed hanging on the tree out back were ripe and delicious.  As far as we can tell, they're a Mutsu (also called Crispin, traditionally).  We'd given up on a crop after a brutal Japanese Beetle season, but the apples were unharmed. 
Picking was usually Daddy and Devon's job, as the ladder was too tempting for the girls. 
 They were brought in by the bucketful, cleaned in the sink, stored in the fridge for eating, or made into all manner of appley things.  I have about eight gallons of applesauce in the freezer, ready to be rationed and used for baking.  My super sugar-free method was to cook the apples and a splash of water on the stove and puree them in a blender when done.  My lazy heart thrilled at not having to peel all those apples, and the clean eating websites make me feel healthy for leaving the skins on.  A win-win!!!  Our grocery bill was noticeably lighter as the kids decided they preferred the fresh, organic apples to just about any other fruit I could buy at the store.  It's so nice that they're old enough to eat a cut apple now! 
Speaking of our house, one year ago today we made the offer on it.  We are grateful that God gave us such an above-and-beyond wonderful gift in this house.  Every single day I appreciate so many things about it.  My cleaning hours are long and hard right now, but I shudder at how much, much harder they would be if the house were set up any differently than the perfect way it is.
This week my special blessing has been the mudroom.  Having the laundry room right off the garage means I can strip the filthy clothes off three muddy kids and get clothes in the wash and kids in the tub without wrecking the rest of the house, too. 
We finally curtained the impossibly huge den window, a twenty-hour chore that I am grateful is done.  Teaching the kids not to hang on the curtain has been the work of about twenty more, and probably not done yet.  Sigh. 
This was the last picture of me with "long" hair.  My hair changed color and texture the moment I turned thirty-five, and I finally had to face facts.
My old accustomed hairstyle was not working for me.  The only reason I was reluctant to break up with it was my fondness for throwing my hair up in a ponytail if I couldn't get it ready in the morning.  Which was turning out to be every morning thanks to the new preschool schedule. 
So this is the new me.  No more tendrils of hair dripping water into Devon's ham sandwich.  No more rubber bands around the house.  No more drying my hair, even.  Most days I comb it, add my one styling product, fix it with my fingers, and it's done. 
The girls have been needing a cut for a while, too.
I noticed it especially in this picture, taken to commemorate a very near-miss car accident.  While stopped and waiting to turn right, I heard THE SOUND and braced to be rear-ended.  We are thankful for God's protection, that the driver was able to swerve when her brakes failed and that the shoulder was big enough for her to miss us by inches.

Carrie: Mommy, why are you crying?
Melina: Mommy, are you sad?
Mommy: No, girls.  Mommy is so happy.  She is thanking Jesus that my sweet girlies are safe and we did not get in a crash.
Carrie: We have to drive safely or we will get into a crash.
Melina: And then the policeman will take us away and lock us in time out.
Carrie: And there will be no money for Chick-fil-A.
Mommy: Yes.  Mommy is so happy that our car is not broken. Can we thank Jesus together?
Carrie: Yeah, that would be a great idea!
The girls' haircut was a Mommy special, terrifying and a bit aggravating to do.  The end result looks better than before.  Besides, who can tell the uneven places if they never hold still anyway?  The short-and-straight has also meant that the side pony is optional, so we go without it some days.
We've had some beautiful and eventful morning drives to preschool.  This was a favorite: stopping for a small flock of wild turkeys.  Mostly, we play an old VBS CD so the kids can "rock out", and I turn it down to pray for Devon and his day at school.  I sit and silently appreciate the Maryland and Pennsylvania countryside, the picturesque fields and barns, and the emerging fall colors.
Last weekend we decided to take a trip to see the fall colors.  What a huge leap of faith for us, as we hadn't been out overnight since the move.  Not an experience that I would look back on as easy. 
What a pleasant surprise to find how much our vacation potential has improved in nine months.  The kids LOVED the hotel.  Everything about it: television, breakfast, the elevator...
The fall colors were spectacular.  It was so hard to take pictures.
Our destination was Hickory Run State Park, the southwest corner of the Poconos.  The big draw was Boulder Field, a giant area of rocks to climb on.  
It was the highlight of the trip.  I'm so thankful we didn't try for something in Jim Thorpe, PA.  We were surprised to drive by a mile-long traffic back up due to some sort of fall festival.  All those cars were lined up to park in a lot already full.  I don't know what any of them did!
The kids traveled really well in the car.  Nobody really slept, but at least they were entertained.
We finished off the trip at Valley Forge.  It was free, so we definitely got our money's worth.  The kids weren't really feeling the need to sit for the historical video or stroll thoughtfully through the exhibits, but those two pictures of Devon made it worth the trip.

 If the exhibits were a bit much for the kids, at least it was a place for them to run around fairly freely, and for a few minutes practice staying with Mommy and Daddy and following directions.
Here is Carrie with Audrey and Margot.  She feels very close to them for obvious reasons.  Were mine ever that little? Awwwwwww....  Diana, their mom, is as calm as anyone I know.  I hope I was the same...
This is a hugely encouraging picture.  Devon's writing grip is improving so much.  We're still trying to sort out the issue of handedness.  We want him to make the best natural choice that he feels good about, which mainly means making him feel in control because he so stubbornly resists any sort of coercion on anything.  So he currently writes lefty, cuts righty, throws a ball underhanded right and overhanded left, kicks a soccer ball with his left, dribbles a basketball with his right, and bats right. 
The schoolwork tires him out.  No more crutching with the Leappad to get him to sleep at night.  Thank goodness!
We capped off the month with a visit from Carl and Nikki Hodsdon.  They're our very first friends from our new couple days.  Nikki was my college roommate and a bridesmaid in our wedding.  We enjoyed catching up as our kids rode bikes together down our long, long driveway.  So much fun!!!
Devon's still really into selfies, so we have lots of pictures like these...