Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Winter is not a great time for egg production.  In the spring and summer months, our chickens produce between 12 and 18 eggs per day.  In winter, we're lucky to get four.  So we know that most of the chickens are just free loaders for the winter months.  But this takes under-achieving to a whole new level.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Pla Shee!

Today is Pla Shee's 11th birthday!  To celebrate, we made sugar cookies and decorated both the cookies and later ourselves.  Lots of giggles ensued.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

North Park Mall

A trip to the mall has become a major excursion nowadays, and most of the time it is a lot more trouble than it's worth.  But as a person who goes stir crazy after staying home with three kids for more than about 24 hours, I had my fill yesterday, so today we ventured to NorthPark Mall.  I'm not much of a "mall" person, and I'm definitely not much of a shopper, but North Park is special because it's the mall that I used to go to as a kid.  And while it's changed A LOT, it's also very much the same.

There's still the big fountain where kids drape themselves over the concrete rim.  There's always that one kid whose parents either don't care or aren't watching who runs around the rim and with the slightest misstep could fall face first into the fountain.  When I was little, I think the fountain used to have lights in it that made it change colors, and I thought it would shoot water really high sometimes, but it doesn't do those things any more.  Maybe it just seemed bigger because I was little?

Anyway, there's the fountain.  And there's Scrooge, who is a puppet that leans out of the window at the top of his house jarring and joking with his adoring fans every hour during the holidays.  But most importantly, there's Santa.  Otherwise known as "THE REAL SANTA."  He's the Santa that's been at North Park for more than 20 years.  He has his PhD in Counseling.  According to Pla Shee's explanation today, the other Santas (the ones at other malls, the one that came to his school, etc.) report to this main Santa, who comes to North Park during the day to meet with children, and flies back to the North Pole in the evenings to get his sleigh ready for Christmas.

Needless to say, we were looking forward to putting in a good word to Santa today.  Unfortunately we were not the only family to have this brilliant idea.  When we got to Santa's photo studio at the mall at 12:30, we were told that our assigned time to have our moment with THE REAL SANTA would be 8:30 this evening.  On to Plan B.  Plan B=Take a handful of pennies, close your eyes, think of all of your Christmas wishes, and chuck the pennies in the big fountain.  Legend has it that Santa gets the message that way, too.  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Silly boy!

Yesterday evening as I was helping Pla Shee put the final touches on some of his handmade Christmas presents, Kai was playing in the living room and Ruby was hanging out in her bouncy seat.  Then Kai walked into the kitchen pleading, "Zip me, Mamma, zip me"!  Turns out "zip" also means button, snap, or fasten.  He had found Ruby's sweater and pants in the dirty clothes, managed to put both on correctly, and just needed some help with the finishing touches--the buttons on the sweater.  He was so proud of himself!

 Later in the evening we headed to Pla Shee's basketball game and yes, Kai proudly sported this lovely outfit in public for all of Venus to admire. He is such a silly little guy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A tired little boy...

On Sunday I left Aaron at home with Ruby (Pla Shee was in Dallas visiting his first family), and Kai and I braved the cold to do a little Christmas shopping.  This year 95% of the gifts we give will be homemade, but the presents from Santa will be purchased.  I neglected to take into account that our shopping excursion coincided with Kai's naptime.  As you can see from the picture*, he did not let shopping interfere with his napping plans.  He was sound asleep! :)

*Please note that despite the fact that the cart is from Wal-Mart, we were not actually shopping at Wal-Mart.  We were at Big Lots (which probably isn't a lot better, if we're being honest).  If you want to know more about why we boycott Wal-Mart, check out the excellent (and entertaining) documentary below.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mondays are the new Friday

It just so happens that Aaron's day off is on Monday, and today I stayed home too because Ruby had her 2 month check-up this afternoon.  It was so nice to hang out in our pajamas all morning, especially since a huge cold front blew in yesterday and brought a lot of nasty weather.  Here's my Roo at 10 weeks old this morning:

She was 10.8 pounds, so she's doubled in size since she was a week old.  Kai had better look out...we have wagers on when she'll surpass the little guy on the scale.  It shouldn't be too long, at this rate!

This is Kai hanging out in his pj's this morning and cooking up an apple for brunch.  He's just recently gotten into a lot of pretend play, so we do lots of "cooking" on the kitchen set that Pu Lue built, which now sits in Ruby's room.

This picture of the kitchen set was taken before we painted the walls and rearranged the furniture, but you get the idea.  Kai gladly hopped in Ruby's crib this morning to show off her cute hand-painted walls, courtesy of Gigi (Ann-Marie Barker).  Ann-Marie is a really talented artist, and you can check out some of her recent work on her website.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Big Brother Kai

Kai created this whole set-up for Ruby to "watch tv" (it's really just a music box) with him.  What a sweet big brother!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Living with guilt, and counting our blessings

It's been four months since Kai's injury, and we've made it through two major surgeries and over 30 visits to four different doctors.  By all accounts, he is a thriving and vibrant (and very lucky!) little boy.  Despite the skull fracture, there was absolutely no injury to his brain, and we feel extremely blessed that this is the case.  His right eye was not so fortunate.  We learned about a month after the initial injury that his retina had detached, so he had surgery at the end of August to re-attach it.  Now that it's been about 3 months since the surgery, we had another follow-up appointment with the pediatric opthamologist, who has encouraged us to patch his "good" eye for 3 hours each day.  Apparently this will help his brain to realize that it needs to try to use the right eye again.  Looking at him, you wouldn't know that there was a problem--his eye tracks and looks just fine.  But when we patch it, it is clear that at least right now he doesn't have vision in his right eye.  It is really hard to do the patching each day because it brings back all of those awful feelings of guilt associated with the accident.  Also, he doesn't like not being able to see for three hours a day (imagine that!).  But we're trying.  And we're REALLY glad that Pla Shee is such a loving big brother, because it takes a lot of energy to entertain Kai when he can't see! 

We go back to the doctor at the end of January to reassess things and to get fitted for glasses.  Kai's a big fan of accessories, so I think glasses will go over well.  :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankfulness wrapped up

I think I officially failed on my thankfulness postings...but I warned you that that was a strong possibility at the onset.  I managed a grand total of 7 postings about thankfulness.  Here are the links to the posts, in case you missed them and wanted to catch up:

1) General thankfulness
2) Pla Shee
3) Kai
4) Ruby
5) Aaron
6) Family and Friends

  I think I'll wrap up the thankfulness theme today with a few specific thanks that are on my mind today.  First, a gratuitous picture of Kai and Ruby.  I am thankful that I was able to capture her smile!

I'm thankful for...

my job.  I am on faculty at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work, where I teach and conduct research about health and social work.  I love what I do, and I love that my job is flexible enough that I can be a mom to my kiddos and also continue working.  I've had the luxury of bringing Ruby to work with me since she was two weeks old, which has been wonderful.  It's meant that I've been able to spend quality time with her these first months while also maintaining my involvement on projects like this one:, a social enterprise project with refugees on which I'm an evaluation researcher.

Here's a pic of Ruby hanging out in my office one day last week:

our farm.  Even though I don't get to spend as much time as I used to playing with the animals or growing veggies in the garden, I know that this will change again over time.  I love that we live out in the country and can raise our children in a small town.  I love that we don't have to buy beef, chicken, turkey, eggs and milk from the grocery store, and instead know exactly where our food comes from and what it was doing before we ate it.

 our church.  I am grateful that we found a church family in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff.  It has become a wonderful community of caring and support for our family, and a true blessing in my life. 

my mom.  She is best friend, role model, mentor, counselor.  I can't usually go much more than a day or two without talking with her, and it kills me that we live four hours apart.

everything and everyone else.  I have so many amazing blessings in my life.  I've lived a life of full of unearned privileges, and I am grateful for the life I've been given.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I am thankful for: family, and for friends that are like family

Growing up, I always knew it was special that I had 8 grandparents rather than just four.  The fact that my parents divorced when I was an infant and then each remarried by the time I was 3 meant that I had not only four parents that loved me, but the number of aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course sisters and brothers multiplied as well.  As an adult, I've been blessed with another amazing stepmother and stepbrother, and all of the additional family that comes from this union as well.  All of this to say that I am surrounded by an incredible network of support that extends from here in Texas to Virginia to Boston to St. Louis to Michigan to Hawaii and beyond.  I'm thankful for friends that I've managed to keep from elementary school, to friends that have remained friends despite great distances, to friends that live nearby that would do anything for me and my family.  When Kai was injured, and we sat in the children's hospital waiting room at 3:30 in the morning wating for him to come out of surgery, I looked around me and saw my family and friends sitting with me.  When I posted on facebook about Kai's injury, over 50 of our friends sent notes wishing for his recovery, and countless others called, prayed, and visited.  We received the same outpouring of support when little Ruby was born in September.  So, thank you to all of you who love us and care about us.  We are truly blessed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Kai video

Kai cracks me up.  Check out his stellar stacking skills.  Who needs toys, anyway?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Okay, so I know the theme for this month is thankfulness, but I realized today that I don't think I've mentioned the turkeys, and since Thanksgiving is almost here, I figured they deserve at least a short posting.  We started off with 12 poults in May.  Aaron's mom raised them until they were a couple months old and less fragile.  Good thing, because here we are in November and we're down to a total of 6--two toms and four hens.  The others got "lost" along the way (probably eaten by coyotes or stray dogs).  They've actually been pretty entertaining to raise, as they're a lot more engaged and curious than the chickens or guineas.  Most of our friends and family who've come to visit think they're creepy, though.  Sometimes if the bedroom window curtain is open you'll open your eyes in the morning to see turkeys peering at you through the glass.  I'll admit it's a little weird.  They run to greet us when we come outside in the mornings and when we pull up in the driveway in the evenings.  And if you gobble at them, they'll gobble right back.  Kai especially thinks this is amusing.  Anyway, that's all I can think of to say about turkeys right now. 

I'm thankful for: Aaron

I met Aaron when I was 18 and a freshman at Baylor.  We met at a frat party.  I have a picture taken by "Flash" photography from the night we met.  We both look like we're about 3 sheets to the wind.  Probably not the ideal way to begin your relationship with your soul mate.  But it worked for us.  We started dating 3 weeks later and never stopped.  Now we've been married 11 years and it feels like forever (in a good way).  The most amazing thing to me about our relationship is that we've somehow managed to change together.  I think that's been the key for us.  I know I am a totally different person now than I was at 18.  I'm passionate about different things, I have different values...and the same can be said for him.  But somehow, in all of the changing that we've done as individuals, we've managed to change in the same direction. I'm not sure how that worked, exactly, but I'm really glad it has.
Aaron is my best friend and confidante.  He is smart and funny.  He is strong, emotionally and physically.  He is passionate about helping refugees and other people who are vulnerable and need help.  He is easy-going, flexible, and patient.  He has a super-human tolerance for pain (random, I know, but since I have the completely opposite gift, I thought it deserved mentioning).  He is a great dad and husband.  He answers to several names:  Aaron, Kai Pa (Pla Shee and refugees), and Daya (Kai--rhymes with "Maya").

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm thankful for: Ruby

Okay, it's Ruby's turn...

Honestly, even when I was a little girl, I always had this nagging suspicion that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant when I grew up.  I have no idea why, but I always just felt that way.  Maybe I was just a pessimistic child?  So, anyway, when I grew up and we began trying to start our family the traditional way and nothing was happening, I wasn't totally shocked.  We tried for a couple of years, and when we still weren't pregnant, we started our adoption journey.  We knew we wanted to have children--how we got there didn't matter much in the end.  So, you can imagine our surprise when we found out we were pregnant with Ruby a year and a half after welcoming Kai and Pla Shee into our family.  Three kids in 2 years--yikes!
Throughout the 9 months that I was pregnant with Ruby, I reminded myself to enjoy the experience of being pregnant, because it was something that I thought I wouldn't ever experience.  And I can honestly say I did enjoy it.  I felt great for the most part, and despite a blood pressure issue that required more frequent visits to our midwife and a partnering physician, everything went smoothly.
The birth experience was absolutely amazing, and I am so glad that I had the privilege of being able to experience giving birth in the way that I did.  I wrote a little bit about what it was like here.  Ruby is six weeks old now, and is finally out of her preemie clothes and into newborn size.  Today I'm specifically thankful for the fact that she slept all through the night last night--from 11 pm to 6:15 am!  It is amazing what a full night's sleep can do for my attitude.  She is a sweetheart, and I am enjoying getting to know her and figuring out all of her little quirks.  She's already changed so much in  the six weeks that I've known her, and I'm trying to soak in all of her each day.  One of the great things about my job (which I'll write about in another post this month) is that I can bring Ruby to work with me.  It's great, because I don't go stir crazy sitting at home, but I still get to spend a lot of quality time with my little munchkin each day.  Here are a few pics of "Roo" from the past six weeks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm thankful for: Kai

It is impossible for me to express in words how much I love Kai, and how much joy he has brought to my life.  He is truly the most amazing blessing in our lives.  The day we adopted Kai and became a family of three was a day that changed us forever.  Having Kai in our lives has strengthened our bond as a couple, and helped us appreciate each other more. When Kai had his encounter with the donkey this summer, I literally cried for weeks.  I couldn't get over how close we could have been to losing him.  Even as I type this now, tears are welling up in my eyes.  He is such a precious gift, and we are so blessed that he escaped the incident with a scar and a story to tell.  He is such a sweet little guy.  Now that he's two, it seems like he learns something new every day.  He's talking up a storm, and loves to mimic everything that Pla Shee says and does.  He adores "Baby Roo," and is constantly tucking in her blanket or retrieving her pacifier for her.  No matter how overwhelmed I'm feeling, he always knows how to make me laugh.  He's a little tiny ball of energy with a smile that literally lights up the room.
 Kai at 2 months old

6 months old

 9 months old

 1 year old

 18 months old

 22 months old

 2 years old

And just for fun, a video of Kai singing his favorite songs yesterday.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm thankful for: Pla Shee

At the Texas State Fair a few weeks ago.

If you read this blog, you probably know that Pla Shee has been a part of our family for about a year and a half now, since May of 2010.  Pla Shee is 10 years old (almost 11, as he reminds me often), and is the youngest child of Pu Lue and Pa Moo, our good friends who are Karen refugees from Burma.  Pla Shee lives with us and attends Venus Elementary, and visits his family and friends in Dallas on the weekends.  Sometimes Pu Lue stays with us, too, during the week, so Pla Shee has lots of adults he has to answer to!

Pla Shee and Kai in November 2010

I am thankful for Pla Shee because he has added a tremendous amount of love and joy to our family.  He has a fun-loving, easy going personality that makes him fun to be around.  He's always cracking jokes and is literally happy 99% of the time.  Pla Shee inspires me to relax and reminds me to laugh.  He is an incredible big brother to Kai, who absolutely adores everything about his "ja ja" (big brother in Karen).  And Pla Shee is a calming presence to Ruby, whom he cradles in the evening as his "reward" for getting his homework finished.

Spring 2011

Waiting to receive the "Principal's Award" for his
outstanding effort in 3rd grade in May 2010

I am awestruck by Pla Shee's ability to navigate between two cultures.  He glides into and out of each almost effortlessly.  He's playing sports for the first time in his life, makes friends easily, and just rolls with the punches. We're blessed to have Pla Shee in our family, and we have a lot to learn from him.

Pla Shee's 10th Birthday Party

Being Thankful

Things have been crazy in our house as we've spent the last couple of months trying to find a new normal.  Ruby has thrown us all for a loop as we're finding out what it's like to have very little sleep, full time jobs, a farm, and now 3 kids!  Mostly, it's really busy, and often chaotic.  But despite the craziness, I catch myself at certain moment each day thinking "Remember this time...treasure this moment."  I don't want to get so caught up in the daily grind that I lose sight of the fact that this life that I have, right here and now, is amazing. So, to get this blog back on track and to keep me focused on all of the great stuff I sometimes forget to appreciate, I'm stealing an idea from a friend's blog and dedicating the month of November to "thankfulness."  No guarantees that I'll remember to post every day, or that when I do remember I'll have the energy to write something that's actually coherent, but I'll give it a shot.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Introducing...Ruby Nell Mitschke

The newest member of our family officially arrived on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 12:00 noon.  Ruby weighed in at 6 lbs and was 18.5 inches long, and was a full month early.  We're glad she decided to go ahead and join the outside world, and we think she's a keeper.  Kai and Pla Shee are absolutely in love with their new baby sister.
Despite having had some complications with my blood pressure during the pregnancy (hence, Ruby's early arrival), the birth itself was amazing and a really wonderful experience.  We are so glad that we chose the Birth and Women's Center for our birth, and are proud to report that Ruby was born without the assistance of any pain medication and labor lasted only 3 hours.  It was an incredible experience and we are honored to welcome little Miss Ruby into our family!