After Noah’s first smile, there were many more firsts. At Christmas Noah was ready for rice cereal. All three of my older kids, were exclusively breastfed their first year. We decided to let Mom feed Noah rice cereal, since she never got the chance to feed the other babies. We wrapped up a beautiful bowl, baby spoon and a box of rice cereal and gave it to her as the first gift of the day. Noah happily gobbled up the mixture and we all patted ourselves on the back for how ‘normal’ everything was.

As homeschoolers we had started our seventh year of learning when Noah was born. We would meet in the mornings, review lessons and assignments and then I would work one on one with whoever was struggling with the days task. When Noah started being somewhat mobile we changed schooling to our upstairs family room. There was a small table and chairs, a sofa and on either side Zoe and Marley’s bedrooms. It seemed the perfect solution!

As we started this particular day, emotions were running high. Farm chores were late getting done, the goats needed to be milked. No one got the chicken’s eggs and bickering was at an all time high. My level of overwhelm was climbing and climbing. As I worked with Malia on her reading lesson , Noah started banging his head against the wall. Thinking it was an accident, I moved him to the center of the room, and proceeded with the lessons. More arguing, pencils couldn’t be found, the eggs still needed to be gathered….then Noah rolled/scooted, shimmied back to the wall and started head banging again. That was it! Something broke inside of me. I quickly asked Zoe, almost 13, to watch over things. I got in the van and drove.

I needed air, perspective, a donut! Living in rural Delaware, I had few options, so I went to the only place I knew would be safe to have an emotional breakdown, the parking lot of Food Lion. I stopped the car in the far corner and cried. I had no idea what I was doing. Not only with Noah, but with homeschooling and ‘farming’ with marriage and teen years breathing down my neck. I was a hot mess. Knowing the only way through is through, I put the car back in drive and headed home.

Noah obviously didn’t want to be confined, so we returned to schooling downstairs. We sold the goats, got rid of the chickens and anything else that took up emotional energy and got back to basics.

This lasted for approximately one month. I was taking the trash out in our side yard when I notice a black lab was squeezing herself in between the fence posts carrying something in her mouth. Over and over she did this. I walked over and discovered she was bringing seven Labrador-mix puppies into our playhouse. She then left! The puppies were covered in fleas! Immediately, the girls got to work. Zoe, Renee, and Malia set up the baby pool and began washing the pups, while Marley and I got them food and water. What were we going to do with seven puppies? I had just gotten rid of seven goats and a dozen chickens, there was no way I could handle anything else that required care and feeding.

We set about finding homes for the brood. Six were black and one was chocolate. We called church friends, they took some, Renee asked her teachers at school, they took another, the archery store took one, until we were only, conveniently left with the brown one. Please, my kids begged. We will take care of him they wheedled. I finally relented and Choxie was ours.

Apparently those closest to me started making bets over how long I would be able to handle a six week old puppy, a six month old nursing baby, three kids homeschooling not to mention helping mom with Gram. Choxie and Noah must have conspired together , because if I wasn’t up breastfeeding Noah, the puppy was biting my toes, whining, or having an accident on the floor.

Noah was in and out of the doctors offices and hospitals every year from September through February with allergies which turned into croup which turned into pneumonia. Unfortunately for Choxie he came during one of Noah’s health spirals. After five days of no sleep, our little brown bundle was gifted to Renee’s favorite teacher and another rendezvous to Food Lion was averted!