Little Bits of Life

This fall has been beautiful. As a chronic complainer about all things less than 75 and sunny, I can't complain. Three days after Halloween the apple orchards were still open and the trees still producing apples and the weather was warm enough for short sleeves. It was miraculous and life-affirming.

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For the first time Cookie chose to not do soccer, and it was the best fall of my parenting life. I didn't realize how much I didn't enjoy soccer as a parent until Cookie tried football. The kids, coaches, parents were all FAR more positive, far more focused on fun and sportsmanship. It was amazing. My little blondie was the youngest and smallest on the team but he loved it and I will definitely be keeping him in this sport for now, hopefully dragging along Tsega and Brady too next year.

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Blue is still the best dog in the world, and every night he still helps Tsega go to sleep peacefully.

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Recently I caught Cookie making what appeared to be a sweet note to a girl in his class. Upon close inspection I had to remind him that BOO-B is not how to spell what a beating heart does. He was only slightly embarrassed at his spelling error and carried on with the message on the back.


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When I found this I forbade him take it to school, and also threatened that he wouldn't be allowed to read Calvin & Hobbes anymore for real this time I am serious.

Cookie had the pleasure of going to a beautiful children's book store in Dedham, MA called Blue Bunny Books, founded by Peter H. Reynolds. Cookie was able to speak with him, do some drawing and of course have his book signed. He was quite star struck by this wonderful author and wanted me to tell you "You should TOTALLY go to this bookstore, it's so cool!"
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Speaking of authors and my kids being star struck, Mimi also recently attended an author event and got to meet Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming, a Newbury Honor Book. I will let the glow on her face tell how she felt about this.

Guesses as to who is easier to manage in Target. Blue, Tsega or Brady?

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If you guessed this one, who doesn't move a muscle during check out, you'd be right.

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Life is carrying on. I have been sleeping poorly, coping with what I would call Severe Mediocrity. I suppose this post is just documenting these lovely little moments that make everything worth it. I hope you find your lovely little moment today.

And if you don't, may Cookie's note to poor Alice bring a smile to your face.


All Hallows

I think my parents only took us trick or treating twice or three times in my life. Every year this day rolls around and I feel conflicted, it can feel like a waste of time and money and effort in order to collect candy, something I hate. I missed out on this day for the most part as a child, but my kids love it. They enjoy the creative process, thinking a long time in advance on what they want to be. They love dressing up so much I can't help but catch their spirit. And this year they looked amazing. I won't lie.

Brady was a knight, and took it very seriously. At many of the houses he asked You see any dragons? I will kill dem for you!


Tsega chose to be Darth Maul, and his costume included a scraped up face from whoknowswhat.


I present to you Draco Malfoy of House Slytherin


My piece de resistance was a last minute costume for Mimi who decided three days before Halloween she wanted to dress up. I give you Storm, from X-Men.


Go head, pin it. You might need it later. Such a powerful fun character for her to be, and ultimately, not that hard.
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My battery died right after I got my cute little Cat Woman, so glad I got one photo!

Samantha was at gymnastics so she joined us right before we started hitting up houses. My little Minion had her leotard on, a shirt and pants and we just threw her costume over all of it so we could get on with the fun.


Final reflections. I hate the candy. I don't touch one piece of it, and as a mom who reads every single label of all food that passes our lips, I am inclined to build a fire to burn all of it. However, the kids are getting old enough to know why we make the food choices we do, and to have a say over what goes in their bodies. So this year I didn't force anyone to throw away anything, or guilt them about it. And you know what? I've seen them toss some of it. Tsega, the most conscientious brought me his bucket and pulled out every single piece that had red dye in it and tossed it, keeping the chocolate bars. I was so proud of him for wanting to feel good and not eat poison. I just poured on the praise for possibly being the only five year old around who stopped and thought about what he was willing to consume before tearing into it.

After collecting their loot they traded with cousins, had massive bowls of steaming hot chili which I was happy to say was raved over by all (my love language is feeding people good food) and then they turned on a silly movie that last approximately seven years. Frankenweenie, thank you for giving me quiet time Halloween night and also, keeping up my kids way too late.

I love these little worms, their fun creative ideas, and I look forward to tossing whatever candy I find hanging around in 48 hours. Clock is ticking, dear ones.


A Day

7:50pm Matilda by Roald Dahl for Tsega, a few of the other children wander in and listen, it's their warm up. Hubs takes Brady to rock and do his own story
8:18pm Tsega is taken away to bed by Hubs, Blue dutifully follows, staying with his boy. He just knows.
8:25 I grab a 20 oz jar of ice water and settle in with the four older children for Prisoner of Azkaban.
9:00 We go over the morning plans. I ask everyone to set out their clothes for tomorrow, including Samantha getting her gymnastics bag ready and locating her novel, The Penderwicks and throwing that in her bag. Cookie complains he finished his book and he is rudderless. I know the feeling.
9:15 I load dishwasher and hear children still talking. I remind to get in bed asap.
9:45 I make five sandwiches, freeze tube greek yogurts, pack granola bars and clementines and rice cakes. Saute green beans, tomatoes mushroom and two eggs for my breakfast. Leave under lid on stove, I won't have time to cook in the morning, my breakfast will be fine at room temp. Crock pot the kids' breakfast of steel cut oats with flax seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon, coconut and vanilla. Cover and set to low. Everything should work, Right? Wash pots and pans.
11:15 lift weights
11:40 read my book club book in bed.

12am: I should be asleep but I am nervous. Get out of bed
12am: print math worksheets and coloring pages and spelling pages and collect four clip boards and pencils, put in bag. Make myself a lunch for tomorrow, salad with romaine, peppers and tuna, tupperware in fridge.
1am: back to bed. sleep.
6:40am groggy as all get out. I hate mornings so much. Even if I went to bed at 8 I would hate getting up. I hate getting up. I linger.
6:50am get up. Drink 20oz jar of ice water. Forget the new iron supplement I am supposed to take because I am apparently wildly anemic.
7:10am the kids are moving like molasses. We are supposed to be out of the door in twenty minutes, this is bad news. Lots of me saying "chew dammit" under my breath. Tsega cannot find his shoes obviously.
7:30 we are not in car, but close. Mimi is staying behind she offers to finish clean up as we rush. I make myself a smoothie for mid morning and throw the veggies and cheese and rest of the cold stuff for the kids lunches in the bag. It's freezing, everyone scrounges for coats. Samantha runs back in to grab her spelling book and Cookie's handwriting books.
7:42, finally backed out of the driveway, 12 minutes behind. GPS gives terrible news. A normally 50 minute trip is looking like 90 minutes. We are going to be woefully late in this traffic.

I did so much. I prepped so hard. I stayed up and cooked and had clothes set out and had things in frigging bags, ready to grab. There were bowls and spoons on the table and I still couldn't do it. On my gravestone will be inscribed: It took longer than she thought it would. And when people ask What took longer? My spirit will haunt them and say Every single thing she ever tried to do ever. 

8:15am  My hopes that GPS was wrong and traffic would clear up (which does sometimes happen) are dashed. I text the neuropsych my apologies, tell her our ETA and pray she doesn't cancel the appointment.
8:33am curse all school buses and the way I manage to drive behind them on their morning routes when I am running late
8:58am arrive for our 8:30 appointment. She ushers Fikir in, I run back outside to the other children waiting in the van and feed the meter (Thank you Boston for having a parking spot for my 12 passenger van right in front of the doc's office. That was my one lucky break) and we bring in all our gear. Snacks, school work. And we get comfy.

This is how we do it. I want a freaking award. 

10am Tsega has total meltdown over crayons and tiredness and we start to pack up. Doc says it's fine to leave, she will keep Fikir busy until 11:15
10:25am arrive at the kids' home school singing class in Watertown, luckily only four miles away. Brady has thumb in. Not a good sign. We enter his singing class and discover his normal teacher on jury duty, there is a sub. He is having none of it. I ask him to try so I can move the illegally parked van, and I assure him I will come to check on him. I go park.
10:40am I peek in and see Tsega and Cookie participating. Brady has thumb in still, curled up in fetal position on a chair, facing the wall. I laugh out loud. I love his "screw this" posture. I pull him onto my lap and whisper in his ear. It's ok, let's just listen. I will sing with you. He shakes his head "no" and squeezes his eyes shut. He doesn't open them the entire time.
11am. I ask a friend to keep an eye on the boys when the class gets out as I have to go back into Boston and pick up Fikir. All the children usually stay after singing class and play tag outside anyway (poor, socialized home schoolers). Brady elects to come with me as he is refusing participation I let him come.
11:15 on the nose I enter doc office. Fikir did great. Doc is kind. We schedule next appointment. Back to singing class in Watertown.
11:40 Sun is shining. I uncurl on the grass, phone and a few of the frozen yogurts by my side. I am immediately approached by Cookie who takes a break from tag to ask if there is anything to eat. I wordlessly hand him a yogurt. Tsega is playing beautifully. I love that he is so good at making friends and playing now. Fikir, Cookie rope Brady in and I have ten minutes to chat with the other mamas.
12pm Samantha's older-kid class lets out. I give her five minutes to run herself silly with the other children.
12:10 we load into the van. I distribute sandwiches and veggies and inhale my pre-made smoothie.
12:20 we drive to the private school where most of the kiddos take classes in the afternoon.
12:50 arrive. Samantha runs in as does Cookie. I drive to the back of the school where the playground is. Let out Fikir, Tsega and Brady. They play for two hours. Two sunny wonderful hours. I curse the evil that made me forget my book. What a complete and utter waste. I respond to emails on my phone, I take a brisk walk twice around the school property, eat my salad and curse the wasted time.
3pm Samantha, Mimi (who was at classes almost all day today, got a ride in the morning while I was gone with the other children) and Cookie come out of the school, load into the van. Samantha has a snack, and while driving changes into her gymnastics clothes, puts her hair in a bun.
3:30pm drop her off, head back home with the five others.
4:14pm home. finally.

The rest PM: dinner, Hubs brings Samantha home at 7:15pm (yes she trains for three hours at a time), more Matilda and Azkaban, goat milking and chores, bed time for the younger five, braids for Mimi (it's taken four sessions to get box braids in, I should have paid someone), an attempt to work out that fizzled after ten minutes, emotional exhaustion, friend texts to say she is bringing over a treat. Then eating something I wish I hadn't to try to deal with my emotional exhaustion. It was so good.

11:30pm sleep.



I love five children who rally around their sister, the one going to public school. It can sometimes feel like Fikir is now "the outsider" who goes on a bus away, early, and everyone else has a slow, lovely morning together, eating and studying, doing chores, art, and then getting ready for later classes. She's not part of the family "culture" as much as before when she was home schooled as well.

She's not here for studying Ancient Egypt, learning about pyramids and hieroglyphics. She is missed.

She's not here for visiting friends' farms and loving on animals. She is missed.





In the afternoons, we head to the private school the kids attend part time and where I am the "librarian" for the K-Second Graders every day. (And where I sometimes fall asleep after story time and Tsega documents my narcolepsy)

It's a family affair. We all go and come home together, except Fikir. Fikir has been home, dropped off by the bus twenty minutes earlier when we arrive. And I feel both awesome and awful about it.

You see, some days I feel totally absent from her life. Part of that is the long hours away but also because she cannot easily answer questions like "What did you do in class today?" So I really truly have no idea what she experiences. I don't know what she is like in class. I only know what she was like here, which I have to admit, was not thriving.  I know most kids go away all day from their parents, so I probably come across dramatic about this, but when she and I are still in "relationship building" (finding?) phase, her being in school all day and the other children not, has brought up great guilt that I am sending her away. It feels as thought I gave up.

But there is no doubt she is happier than when she was home schooled. And this kid deserves to feel happy. And facilitating the other children's studies is easier. She expressed that being one in a class of twenty six children is comforting: she can be unnoticed when she wants, be well behaved and fly under the radar when she wants. That is impossible at home. My attention on her actions, work, the way she spends her time was tumultuous at best. So to school she goes, and we are so proud of her for working on finding herself there. I am not a fan of her school, I continue to have totally aggravating experiences. (Lawsy I am not a good public school mom, I am the worst.) But in direct conflict with the bee in my bonnet about stuff, I am grateful she has her teacher, her classroom, her schedule, her precious anonymity when she needs it, her time without me up in her business. It was just too hard for both of us. You can ask anyone else in this house, (please don't though, seriously) I was doing a terrible job trying to educate her. Now, we can work on being peaceful caretaker, and peaceful child. We needed peace.

I never should have given Cookie and Tsega Calvin & Hobbes to read, they now makes ridiculous faces in pictures, because that is what Calvin would do...
I love how it is so simple for the children, all six of them. They just love, easily, effortlessly. From day one, the first day the big girls came to our family it has been that way. Fikir and I have a field of trauma and loss and communication challenges between us. But the kids just play, love, and bicker like normal humans. I am so happy they have each other, especially through my failures. Fikir is truly the bravest, and what a wonderful cheer leading squad she has.


And Then There Were Babies

..Not human ones.

Hubs and I still haven't recovered from having two babies at once. But goatie babies are a totally different matter. They are playful, joyful and the kids are having a blast. Fall is always ominous to me, I don't enjoy it nor do I embrace it the way other people do. Give me 80 degrees every day no matter what I would be just finethankyou. But still, if the days must grow shorter and cooler, at least let there be these little sweeties around.



They are three weeks old now and so much fun, our goats Moxie and Wisco each had two kids and everyone is healthy as can be, we feel so lucky the labor and deliveries went off without a hitch. Both are great mothers, too.

Yesterday one of the goats, (ahem, Wendy the mastermind)

opened one of the gates and let everyone out into our clover patch, which is fine because it's for them to eat anyway and they never stray. I came home to everyone grazing happily in the warm autumn sun. It felt so idyllic and serene, I ran back to the house to grab my camera.

Our sheep, Shaun and Star.
IMG_5131Star had two lambs this spring and both are at new farms now. It was fun to raise the babies and then it was time for them to go. I noticed Shaun is looking a little chubby,  pear-shaped "robust" under several inches of wool...



This is uncle Max, who jumps up on everyone like a really naughty dog begging for hugs and treats. His greatest love in the world is food and he's extremely sneaky.

Little Prince, learning to eat grass!

Cupcake, a doeling, looking shy though she's not at all

Scratching an itch

In fact, lots of itches out there in the clover. Penelope girl finds a way to brush off a fly as well.


Eating is hard work, so Maisy takes a break.


I was overcome with emotion as Tsega helped watch over the babies while they fed outside the pen with the grown ups. There is a 100% chance he would be currently shepherding goats if he were in Ethiopia right now. The boys in his village do exactly this. Exactly this.


I asked him to bring everyone back inside the pen and he, only age 5, knows exactly what to do and feels totally comfortable handling the animals. It's pretty amazing.

Once back in the pen Penelope and Prince go straight for a drink from Wisco.

Up on the hay feeder

And playtime!

That platform is taller than it looks, and Penelope was scared to come down so Tsega went up to show her it was no biggie.

There we go!


And safe down on the ground again.

Make no mistake, I am not looking forward to another winter with a farm. And yet, every moment the children spend with the animals learning to care for them and and learning to work and be responsible and connect their actions with the welfare and well being of these sweeties is priceless.

Not embracing Fall. But good thing there are other things around here to embrace.