Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kali wants to go to bed!!

This is headline news in the Myers-Benner household. Kali just said, "Let's get to bed." This was after explaining how she was willing to go to bed after we finished our game of Sequence since that meant an extra long Matilda story and that Christmas morning would come sooner. We have one VERY excited 8 year old in our home. It's been a very fun-filled day with us together here at home. I had just commented to Jason out in the kitchen how our girls are really the best Christmas presents ever when Kali, who was in the living room playing with Alida, exclaimed full of joy, "I think Alida is making this the best Christmas ever." We couldn't agree more. And to prolong our suppertime tonight we gave her first present (a great $1 Gift and Thrift find). Here's what she thought of it:

The next stage of the present opening will get added to this post on Christmas - afterall Kali is wanting to go to bed and the video is still uploading!

Merry Christmas all! Well, Kali is still sleeping (she doesn't take after her Aunt Anna on Christmas morning). Here's the next stage in the Christmas present opening last night. I think we were all right about what part of the presents Alida would like the most.

Now she really did end up having a good time with her duck, once I had to take the tissue paper away as she was attempting to consume pieces of it...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Family times

Yesterday we started putting the rocks into the "water recharge pit" in Nora's garden. It felt really good to work side by side as a family again, this time with Alida along for the ride. I'm not sure what it is, but it seems that we all get great pleasure from collecting rocks from our rock pile and moving them to another location. Soon after Nora died we build our parking space by hauling load after load of rock from the pile in the woods to their designated spot near the house. Hard work! Good times! The same was true of yesterday, though Jason was the main one who worked hard. After a number of loads I took the girls to the swingset and then in to make lunch while Jason carried on with the task. But it was a taste of things to come, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Last evening then Jason and I enjoyed an evening just with Alida. Kali had a sleepover with friends and I was initially going to write that we enjoyed a quieter evening than normal, but then realized that would not be true. Alida seemed to want to make up for the lack of Kali's noise in the mix. She also was enjoying having Mommy and Daddy's attention all to herself. So much so that she didn't sack out to almost 10pm. Here she is doing her "old man voice" at dinner and then a fun game of peek-a-boo an hour or so after I thought she would be ready to sleep. Jason and I are both convinced she was calling for Kali to come say goodnight for awhile. I tried to walk around the house with her to let her know Kali was gone until the next day, but I'm not sure it soaked in.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kali update!

Well with all the changes in this household with the rapid growth and development of a baby, there is another gal who is growing and changing by leaps and bounds. Below are a few snippets that I don't want to lose.

On Nora's fourth birthday my dad had sent Kali some "math problems" on email and here they are with her responses. Kali continues to be a pretty "private" gal and does not often open up regarding her feelings. And she rarely talks about Nora. Her answers to the adding up of various persons was all I needed to see on that day.

242 + 242 =you must WHIET it DIFRETLEY
242 – 242 =0 of corse
242 X 242 =you must WHIET it DIFRETLEY
242 ÷ 242 =1
Kali + Nora + Alida =little kids
Jason + Janelle =groenup kids
Jason + Janelle + Kali + Nora + Alida = a famlae
Grandpa + Grandma =birds&flaowrs
Sadie + Milo =doggies
Write 1 trillion as a number = 1,000,000,000,000,000

The other day I was working on an excel document and Kali saw me. She had never seen one and she got quite interested in making her own. I have no idea how to put an excel spreadsheet here but what she wrote amused me! Here are the columns separated by commas.

favorut math thing to do, why do you like to do it

multuplay, don’t know

do calcualadr math, it,s easy

find aainguls, brack from numbers stell math

find pattrins, it,s fun

do anneything, freedom!

do puzzles, brack from numbers stell math

long diveigon, don,t know

Currently the big project around here is Kali working on Alida's Christmas present. It is the first year that Kali is really getting into giving gifts - and ones in which she is thinking more about what the recipient would like than her own tastes and preferences. That combined with her keen interest now in sorting and getting rid of things is a huge breath of fresh air for one of her parents. :)

So the other day she cooked up the idea to create a book for Alida in which she will help Alida learn the difference between "pet" and "pat." (see previous video). So far the lessons have been completely unsuccessful - Alida is great at "pat" and amused by Kali's attempts to get her to "pet" something. Anyway, we've been taking photos and making plans and I think it has the potential to be about the sweetest present ever.


These videos speak for themselves. Loving watching these two gals love and enjoy each other!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Baby's slacking...

Or maybe just balancing out a bit...

We just returned home a little bit ago from Alida's 8 month appointment. I wasn't too surprised to learn that her growth has slowed a bit - the girl is burning calories these days! She is ready to go, go, go most of the time! She shrieks, babbles, wants to face out if she is facing in and get down if she is facing out, kicks her little legs, rolls and ooches all over the living room floor, and is becoming better at pulling herself up onto her knees. Watch out plants!

She weighed 22lb 2oz, measured 30 inches long and her head was 17 3/4 inches around. She has "fallen" to the 97th percentile in weight, still above the 100th in height and her head is catching up now at the 90th percentile. It's nice to see her continuing to thrive in the height and weight categories - that means something to us. But we are much happier even to report that she is an active, vibrant, creative, fun little gal. And she is a bit too smart to be tricked at the doctor's. She got fussy the second the nurse tried to measure her and as soon as the nurse left the room she started talking up a storm to us and the butterfly hanging from the ceiling. She is not impressed at all by a measuring tape being put around her head, being stretched out on the table to be measured and sitting on a hard cold scales naked. Can't blame her!

She endured two shots and is now sacked out in the front pack catching a late evening nap - which is enabling me to put up this update but may not bode well for the night sleep ahead!

To end I'll share the picture Jason took of me after Alida was "done with me" last evening. While she may look innocent, she is not!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Family picture

Prior to our exciting afternoon, officially beginning our stint as the adoptees of Happy Valley Road, we attended church together and then had a family date eating lunch at the EMU cafeteria. While I did have my camera along, for the purpose of getting a family picture taken (we finally felt ready to have a new family picture taken - sadly without Nora, happily with Alida), I did not take a video of Alida during church (mostly because I was occupied with her until she sacked out nursing). The clip below, however, is a little taste of what she did during most of the service. I'm glad our gal is finding her voice and ready to use it in church, but she was rather loud this morning. It is especially cute when she "sings along."

Conspicuous Altruism at Home

Our family's highway adoption has been...I'm searching for the best word...consummated?

That is to say we just picked up trash from our road's margins for two and half hours this afternoon, which is something we've done sporadically ever since Janelle and I married in May of '99. The difference is that this time we got to use fancy orange trash bags and wear the glowingest reflective vests I have ever squinted at.

It was every bit as fun as we thought it would be. Kali was veritably leaping down the road at first; her enthusiasm was so intense as to cause her to overlook nearly every piece of trash she passed! This could be because she was spending more time gazing at her snazzy vest than scanning for foreign materials. After she developed her eye for it, and as her exuberance mellowed into mere eagerness for the task, she became quite good at spotting beer bottles, aluminum cans, fast food detritus, and matted paper.

Now, I will admonish you not to confuse eagerness with a drive towards efficiency. For once any particular object was discovered, it then needed to be submitted to a proper inspection and perhaps processing before being relinquished into the yawn of plastic film at the bag's mouth. Certainly no aluminum can could escape its due flattening, which when performed by an eight-year-old's foot is not an especially quick and merciful kind of demise. Even wadded-up paper napkins or faded candy wrappers could not be submitted briskly, but merited a curious few moments of gazing as they teetered on the edge of a tender, gloved hand...then toppled in.

Janelle and I called it "meditative trash pick up." At first it was actually kind of relaxing. I mean, how many times in adult life do we really slow down and appreciate the moment we're in like that? But then again, I was spending quite a bit of time standing at the side of the road in a goofy vest holding a giant orange trash bag in each hand and trying to be patient as my daughter picked away at some unit or other of waste matter, gingerly freeing it from the built-up soil and tangled vegetation. It got a bit old, but in a good-natured sort of way.

By the time we made it back to our driveway we were all pretty worn out, but none the worse for the wear! In the end we had a bag each of trash and recycling redirected to their proper end, and could enjoy the satisfaction of having contributed to the well-being of our neighborhood...officially!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Today was a fun day!

I'm writing with Alida sound asleep in the front pack, Kali playing with a friend in her bedroom and lots of happy sounds coming in from the fire ring outside where Jason is, along with lots of the youth and mentors from our church community.

I know that what I'm about to write won't be near as interesting to anyone else as it will be to me, but I feel like writing and I have the time and two hands to do so! If you would like to get the scoop on the details of today, read on. I gushed to Jason on the phone as I was heading back to Keezletown about what a fun day I was having. While it is not unusual for my days off to be fun it felt like this one contained a bunch of mini-miracles that made a very "normal" day extra special and fun. So here is the run down.

What made it so different than most Fridays of late is that it was not a Friday at home. I love being at home but the list had been growing of "in town" things to do, some of which involved Kali being along. And with Alida being just shy of 8 months, it seemed high time we try doing one of our "put all our errands together" days. We did. We had loads of fun!

Alida must have known it was going to be a big day. She sacked out on our chilly morning walk together around 8am and slept until after Kali was awake and chomping at the bit to leave (around 10am). That allowed me to get all the laundry on the line and get the car packed and ready to leave. After a milk snack for her we headed to our first destination.

Kali redeemed her Mr. J's gift certificate from her birthday and enjoyed a toasted sesame seed bagel with cream cheese for breakfast (and even bought two bagel bites so she could share one with me). Alida only got to gnaw on the wax paper that came with our bagel bites but she seemed pleased enough with that. We left the restaurant with a baker's dozen of bagels to enjoy in the coming days. A great bday present, even if it took us over 3 months to cash it in.

I was feeling optimistic about the day and about the moods of both gals and so, with Kali's enthusiastic support, we headed next to Gift and Thrift. Here is where a mini-miracle took place, or several. Kali loves to help me shop for clothes, but we haven't done it since I was pregnant. Most of my shirts are getting thoroughly stretched out from nursing a very energetic little gal who likes to tug on them from all angles. And it seems with each baby my body gets back to its pre-baby weight but everything feels like it has been positioned differently and so clothes just tend to not fit like they once did. So I've been eager to find a few things for work and Kali loves to pick which color rack I look at - today it was the purple rack (surprise, surprise). And when we had a handful of things from that one she wondered if we couldn't look at the brown rack too - which we glanced at briefly before taking our armload of items to the dressing room. Alida was quite interested in what was going on and she sat in the corner of the dressing room and accepted my offerings of hangers to play with while I attempted to rapidly try on the armload of things that Kali and I had picked out for me to try on. Here's the mini-miracle - I did not return a single pair of pants to the rack. Okay, it won't seem like a big deal to anyone who doesn't know 1. how much I hate to shop for clothing and 2. how often I try on many things and leave with one or none and 3. how pants seem to be the hardest of all. It was a 10-15 minute trip in and out and I left about $30 poorer and with 5 pairs of pants and 3 shirts to wear to work. Huge thanks goes out to Kali, who I have told I always want to have with me when I need to look for clothes. At the end of the day, she noted that that was her favorite stop right up there with Mr. J's and Dairy Queen.

We had heard back from Kali and Alida's aunt K who was excited to have us stop by her work. We enjoyed a short visit, allowing her co-workers to meet Alida and see Kali again, who had probably grown a foot or more since we last stopped by. It was also a good pit stop for a diaper change and a milk snack for Alida. Thus far (and for the rest of the day) there was little to no fussing in the car, despite many ins and outs. Kali provided great entertainment!

From there we went to Finders Keepers in search of organic food at discounted prices, particularly organic cheerios (Alida is at the cusp of being ready to do that cute pincher grab at a cheerio!). No luck on that but we found a bunch of other things for co-op day lunches for Kali, and managed to come out of there with two bags of stuff. The best find of the day was 66 good quality quart bags for $1.45. Jason had added that to my list last evening when he found we were nearly out and there was venison ready to grind and freeze. Kali wondered if I really needed four boxes.

After another milk snack for Alida and some organic gummy fruits for Kali we were on our way to Sharp Shopper. I was proud of myself for hoisting a 50lb bag of prairie gold flour into the cart with a baby in the front pack (as well as then hoisting it into the car and then from the car into our pantry). You do what you have to do! Alida was starting to bang her head against me and "talk" loudly in Sharp Shopper. She didn't get upset, just vocal about the fact that she was part of the shopping crew and had some opinions to offer. We left Sharp Shopper with more than two bags and definitely more than $30 poorer. But we are well stocked with quick lunch items and while neither place had organic cheerios we found plenty of other things that made the drive feel worth it. And even if we hadn't found much of anything, we were thoroughly enjoying each other's company. I had almost forgotten how absolutely fun Kali is to do errands with. I marvel being in a store with her and how pleasant she is and how much she likes to help me look for things and how she really never asks me to buy things. She was so happy when I tossed a bag of marshmallows into the cart - shocked, probably, that I was going to buy them (she had been talking so much about roasting marshmallows over the fire and I was not envisioning getting into making homemade ones anytime soon!).

We stopped at the store next door to see if they had paints and markers that Kali wanted to purchase with her money. They didn't have the brand she was looking for - she wanted good quality ones, I think - and so we headed out; this time after Alida nursed, fell soundly asleep, transferred into her carseat and settled in for a snooze. It was just going about as smoothly as I could have imagined.

Kali had one more free ice cream cone from the library's summer reading program so I made my last trip through the Dairy Queen drive thru (until next year's reading program most likely). Kali enjoyed her chocolate vanilla twist cone while we made our way to our final stop. Michael's Arts and Crafts had the markers and watercolor paints Kali was looking for. She excitedly took her purchase to the check out, only to find that while we thought she was short a few cents she was actually going to get change since they were buy one get the second half off (which wasn't advertised anywhere that I could see, so we were both surprised). That was the icing on the cake for Kali, as she had turned in all her change to me that morning for a $10 bill in hopes that that might mean she would be given change when she made her purchases.

Alida was awake again and with both girls buckled in one last time, we headed home. I had to chuckle as I drove along with Kali happily loudly humming Deck the Halls. It wasn't long before Alida joined in with her own variation. While I don't often feel giddy with happiness when I head home with a trunk load of things that I just spent money on (in "no buy november" of all months), I admit that it had been one very fun outing with my gals!

And the day continued pleasantly, with Kali drawing a beautiful tree picture with her new markers and then settling in to watch one of her new movies from the library. Meanwhile Alida and I got the laundry in off the line and put away, mixed up some green kale rolls and started baked lentils with cheese for dinner. Alida was so pleasant as I was unloading the car that it wasn't until the baby bjorn started to feel a bit damp that I figured it was time to check her diaper. She got an unplanned bath, which she was quite pleased about, since she was soaked through and through!

After enjoying dinner all together, Jason headed out to get the fire started for the evening gathering and to make the day even more special, Kali got to roast a few marshmallows before the guests arrived.

So that was my day in a nutshell (okay, so a rambly account of it - while I have time to write, I don't have time to do much editing since I'm currently one-handed again...) I even managed to have time to play a little ball with Alida this afternoon. Enjoy the clip below!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Jason and I were initially suspicious that Alida's fever this week was teething. But when it hit 103.6 we figured that was impossible since our main source for answers to our "baby questions" noted that normally a baby doesn't have a fever over about 101.5 with teething. So we nixed that hypothesis and (her mommy at least) worried about other possibilities. But it seemed like an odd illness, with fever being the predominant symptom other than one morning of diarrhea. I finally got a good look in her mouth this morning when she swiped an envelope from me (which she was quite happy about) and set to eating it. She does not have one new tooth on top, or two new teeth on top. The little gal has cut three new teeth on top this week.

Glad to be on the road to health again!

It's been a bit of a long week on the home front. I'm not sure I'm ready for the winter months and the germs that seem to come along with the cold, long, dark days! One day after church this week (when Alida was getting her mouth on all the shared toys) she spiked a fever. She had a fever for about 2 days with no other symptoms (other than the general crabbiness that comes with having a fever over 103). We suspected teething initially as she had a new tooth cutting through on the top. But as of yesterday morning her fever was down but she had diarrhea and so we now are concluding it was a tummy bug of some kind. I was so happy to see smiles and hear her giggles last evening. She really handled the whole thing amazingly well, but I come to the end of this week tired. I deemed one of the nights a "Nora night" in that I didn't clock in more than an hour straight of sleep. I'm still not sure how we did that night after night.

In other news we are "tucking in" the garden for the winter. I've enjoyed raking leaves with Alida in the pack and helping to clean old vines off the trellises. Below you will see Alida enjoying the last watermelon that Jason found in the garden and which we finished consuming just a few days ago (yes, watermelon in November!). Kali is finishing off last year's popcorn!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Things fall apart

I think I'm starting to get a handle on what a depressed state of mind feels like for me. Ok, so there are probably 10,000 blog entries that start out that way being published today, nearly none of them bearable to read. If you'll bear with me, I hope the writing that follows can justify the narcissistic introduction!

Generally as I travel through my life, looking out at the world passing through my gaze, I tend to accumulate a concept of the world that is bountiful and synergistic. That is to say I tend to see the way things work together to be more than the sum of their parts. I see ecosystems building, trees growing, people connecting and learning. Over the course of this week, that vision of the world sort of steadily eroded into more of an entropic viewpoint. That is to say I developed the feeling that systems were failing, people were ailing, the ecosystem around me was beginning to degrade.

Of course, a person can find plenty of examples and support for either of those two viewpoints. In reality both are true. In my more dry and sober concept of the universe, I recognize that while life appears to contradict entropy, actually life on earth or anywhere else could not possibly exist without it. As the multitude of components in the cosmos make their transitions from greater to lesser energy states, the energy they were carrying becomes available to other components. Self-replicating molecules have proliferated in their staggering array of diversity by taking advantage of this dynamic, allowing the energy coursing from our spectacularly degrading sun to flow through and animate life on earth; life's way of making a living is throwing up a sail to catch the solar wind. So it's not either/or. But sometimes it feels that way.

I hit my low point on Friday, which was the day I finally started to acknowledge to myself that I was feeling generally bad. There was a moment in which I was occupying my mind with some sort of imagined, potential conversation with one family member or another when the hypothetical conversation turned towards the subject of Nora. In a cathartic rush, I found my spirit articulating something in my mind to the effect of, "I really miss Nora." From that point I was able to begin my ascent back out of the pit I was in.

And speaking of pits I was in, I had spent the end of last weekend finishing the soil moving project we began some months ago...a groundwater recharge station (pit) filled with loose rock and topped with two stone benches in Nora's memorial garden is the idea. So far just the pit exists. It has been a bit odd but somehow o.k. for me to note somewhat far along in the process that perhaps what I was trying to accomplish was to dig Nora's grave. We chose cremation for her, and that was good, but perhaps I hadn't recognized the cultural import of the grave-digging process. I had even begun emphatically stating that six feet or so was the proper depth for the hole before thinking about the correlation.

Friends came over two different times for evenings of digging and ping-pong, which is how the majority of the soil was extracted, but I finished it myself. It's a strange (but in this case somehow gratifying) experience to recline in the bottom of a six-foot pit. I will venture that you've never seen autumn leaves against a blue sky until you've seen them from that perspective. And perceiving the entire, grassy, round rim of the hole in my field of vision from the bottom made the pit seem all the more like it's own cool and quiet little world. I liked that.

Today would be Nora's fourth birthday. If we hadn't gotten a bit of a freak snowstorm this weekend, I'd have been hard at it pouring the footer for the brick well that will form the center core of the pit, and then possibly beginning to brick up the sides and fill in the rock around it.

As it is, our whole family has basically been presented on a platter the opportunity to do something we so often neglect to do: relax. It is our tendency on these days worth commemorating to try to think of something we'd like to "do" to mark the day. I suppose the lessons from Nora's life have yet to be fully incorporated, because I can think of no better way to celebrate her coming into our lives than to just "be" together.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Alida's favorite bear & Nora's birthday

Technology has not been my friend today (though I have finally learned to embed a video on this blog - see below)... I don't have the energy to recreate the post I just finished, only to be kicked off blogger and have it gone!

In short, it seems that we find ourselves experiencing a backlog in many areas of life right now - which is noted in part by the lack of posting on this blog lately! There is much to say, plenty of pictures to share, and the hours in the day do not seem to be quite enough for all we'd like to fill them with.

And this week Jason and I have both had days of pacing around feeling distracted. Nora would be four tomorrow. I was laboring at UVA at this time four years ago. The emotions are complicated and strong. And tomorrow on the day of Nora's birth, Alida will be the exact age Nora was when she died. She is such a special gift to our family. Here she is enjoying one of her favorite "friends."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Watch out - we can now post videos!!

For those that haven't discovered this via a recent email or through facebook, we now have a camera that takes videos. We are grateful for a "hand-me-down" camera, the only payment required being to share plenty of cute pictures and videos. Here's a recent one:

Some things are clearly not changing around here - Alida still adores Kali and vice versa.

Some things are changing - Alida got her first tooth a few days before her 6 month birthday and another one is following. Gone will soon be the toothless smiles and her mommy has mixed feelings about that! Someone is growing up TOO fast!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where was she when I was in eighth grade?

Kali wrote a poem today:

The sun is first, shining and bright
Then there is mercury, hot with its light
Venus is hotter, but next on the chain
Earth is the only one with Africa or Maine.
Mars comes next, with caverns below
There is an asteroid belt, escapes seem to glow
Then there is Jupiter with its big, red spot
And Saturn, which doesn't seem to have a dot.
Far out Uranus, how little we know!
Then there is Neptune with winds; how fast they blow!
Poor little Pluto, he just seems to moan
We'd call him a planet, if only we'd known.

I believe she is going to take after her father in the poetry realm!!! I am still scarred by my "C" received for my 8th grade poem written about my cat Pepper.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September news

Most days the thought "I want to put this on the blog" goes through my mind at least once. And then by the next day I can't remember what that inspiration that flashed through me was. That feels like how life is in our household right now. I'm soaking in a lot of it, but it also seems to be going so so fast! (and half the time I sit down to write and then get interrupted, as in this case, and don't get back to it for hours or days...)

So I'm now at the end of the day rather than the beginning and bed is calling louder than most other things. Just to mention a few of the things that haven't left my mind since earlier today:

Kali is now not sure what she likes more - art or math. This would be a big switch in our household. While Jason was feeding Alida the other day, he suggested she might write an essay while he was busy. She did. About art. It reads:

"Art: Probubly the eseist school subjact for most tiaps
Panit Draw Colur Stamp Cut n Tape Skalpt
Can be Framd
Can be done with pen marcr craon paper pensul leaf sesors stik grass
Looks like this (sorry I can't easily show the pictures)."

Her spelling is still not fabulous, I can actually understand it now (a big change in the last few weeks) and it is cute to see her enjoying communicating through written words - sometimes.

Alida's big news is that she has been working hard on something and it has paid off. A TOOTH!! As of this morning the first one has cut through on the bottom. I'm hoping very much that her desire to bite and chew on me lessens now that the bugger has cut through. We'll see!

The big news for Kali and Alida is that Daddy has completed the swing set and they are both very pleased. Kali and Jason just went out for a little night swing ride. I think Kali would swing a dozen times a day if there weren't other things that took her away from the swing set - like playdates, home school co-op days, books that beg to be read, stuffed animals that need their harnesses changed, cookies that want to be baked, games that are fun to play, etc...

And Jason and I are just trying to keep up with and soak up our growing girls and our growing farmette. The most recent canning project was my all time favorite one - grape juice (liquid gold is often how I refer to it). I feel so rich as I watch the deep purple liquid flow out of the steamer. FUN! The next canning project will be tomorrow night - following up on Jason's chicken butchering evening a few days back. I keep thinking we are almost done and then I bring in enough basil for pesto, enough green beans for several days of fresh eating, enough tomatoes and peppers for another batch of sauce... There are butternut waiting to be harvested and a few final watermelon in the patch. And we have been eating lots of sweet potatoes in various forms (partially due to the fact that Jason half cooked some of them in an attempt to cure them in a room with a space heater).

While Jason was washing sweet potatoes down by the garden, I took in and enjoyed some of the lingering color in Nora's garden. I can't always sort out all my emotions about the many things that have transpired in our 6 years on Fruit Farm Lane, but the enduring and overarching emotion at many moments right now is gratitude. And a big bundle of the gratitude I feel goes to Nora. So we enter a new week and one in which both Jason and I will celebrate another year of life - what a year it has been!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

It just keeps giving...

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to any of our faithful, or even not so faithful, readers that I'm typing this to the sound of two canners busy at work! Just when I thought the garden was slowing up, Jason came in with three baskets of green beans. There are 7 pints of dilly beans in one canner and 7 quarts of green beans in the other (and three bags of snipped green beans in the fridge). But that isn't the food processing project I'm feeling most pleased about today. When we were out putting the chickens in last evening, I noted that our rhubarb plants looked fabulous, and in need of a trim! And we had peaches that were also needing to be used. I wondered (after having recently been given some tasty strawberry rhubarb jam) if I could find a recipe for peach rhubarb jam. I did. I made it. It's yummy and pretty!

I'm still feeling a little bit in awe that we have peach trees growing right outside our house, that grew from seed, and that are showering upon us delicious peaches. We have eaten lots, canned some, frozen some, made peach jam with some, and shared some. How fun!!

In other news, Alida is getting around these days. She likes to flop from her front to her back to her front and pivot around and is starting to make significant progress towards mobility this way! She is also discovering the joy of grasping something and then letting go, just for fun. Pick up, drop, pick up, drop, and on goes the game. She also enjoys banging her heel on the floor when she is laying down (nice percussion instrument that she has discovered) and shaking her toys to make them rattle. I couldn't contain my laughter today when we were laying together in bed and she discovered my fingers. I was holding my hand above her head and she got very interested. She grabbed a finger and shook my hand. No sound. She let go. She stared at my hand, grabbed again and shook. This "toy" was not working as she expected. She probably went through the routine a half dozen times or so. It's so, so fun watching her discover and figure out her world.

ps. Update on a previous blog post - Jason not only won a blue ribbon at the fair, he got a check in the mail today from the Rockingham County Fair Association...for $1.50. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A day of "puttering"

As I nursed Alida to sleep tonight I was feeling that my day had been rather unproductive (it was a day in which I felt like I had all kinds of "catching up" to do after putting in a 5 day/50 hour work week - and that included catching up with my family, particularly a rapidly developing now 5-month old). It was merely a fleeting feeling that came over me, and then I started thinking about the day and chuckled inside. Alida sacked out quickly and I came out to rejoin Kali and Jason and the canning projects underway. Jason was getting started on dishes and we started chatting. He laughed as he shared with me how he was just thinking about how nice it was to have a low key day at home, in other words a day where we were not pushing/ultra-focused on getting a lot done. We shared a fun moment recounting our day together. Here's a snapshot:

I woke to Alida wiggling beside me bright-eyed and smiley around 6:40am. She is officially done being swaddled at night and it is cute to see her going from being a tightly wrapped little mummy to a sprawled out big baby laying on our bed. After enjoying some morning smiles and a few of her raspberries blown in my face (a newly acquired skill), she was ready for her first nap of the day and, while Jason did chicken chores and then picked stinging nettles for our breakfast, we went for a nice long walk.

Jason and I enjoyed nettle egg sandwiches, watermelon and applesauce and then started on our day, doing inside tasks and slipping out anytime there was a break from the rain and wind. Jason harvested the following things from the garden: slicer tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, swiss chard and lambs quarter, basil, and watermelon (the cucumbers had been harvested and canned the night before, the beans picked and ends snipped for eating over the next few days, and the sauce tomatoes were also picked last night ready for us to process today).

The rest of the day included Jason and I working side by side making just shy of 40 pints of salsa and while Jason took the lead on much of the tomato chopping, I made several batches of pesto, a huge batch of green rolls, and made up a recipe for a potato crusted fresh tomato pie because I needed to think of a way to utilize the oven heat for more than just the bread I was making. We also made the butter from our milk share, Kali made chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies with a little help and I ended the day getting a large batch of pasta sauce started.

Fitting in all the cracks of the day were many diaper changes (as well as many diaper changes avoided by Alida still going potty much of the time in the sink) and lots of time nursing. And watching Alida could be a full-time activity and great entertainment right now. She is so cute laying on her belly - her favorite thing to do is to lift her legs and arms up so it looks like she is swimming. She thinks it is very funny when we imitate her. She also loves having her belly eaten and she will grab about anything within reach - watermelon is still a much loved snack, so it is a good thing we grew a lot of them!

Alida isn't the only one adding to the fun and laughter in our home. Kali got an idea from a book, "50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth", to write a letter to your senator about protecting the rainforest. And so she did, but she tacked on two additional items. "Ps. Rule about no tailgating...Pss. Help protect monkeys." Off it went and she is eagerly awaiting a response.

She has brought it up a bunch of times since then and is wanting her correspondence with the senator to have the greatest impact possible. Well when she learned about petitions she got to work again. Her petition now has four signatures. Jason and I were both happy to sign the request for our representative to protect both monkeys and the rainforests. But what I loved most of all was Kali signing on Alida's behalf. In case you can't read it, it says, "Alida (Too little now...Probably will care later)." So if you are in the Keezletown area and would like to add your signature to her petition she is ready to collect as many signatures as possibly before sending it off!!

Well, Jason is working on the mountain of dishes from today and I need to attend to the pasta sauce simmering on the stove and the last canner load of salsa. We didn't exactly put our feet up today but we reaffirmed for ourselves that 1. we make a good team and 2. we love food processing the best when we do it together!!

It's a pretty good thing that the rain nixed Jason's many plans for the day!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Growing up...too fast!

So this week is up there as one of my busiest work weeks of the year. New student orientation started Tuesday morning and as is normal in the mad rush of last minute details I put a long 12 hour day in on Monday. How it is possible for a little person to change so dramatically in that period of time, I do not know, but when I got home Monday evening I once again felt overwhelmed by how fast she is changing. She was doing all these new things, including what Jason has coined her "tough baby act" where she throws herself back, juts out her chin and makes these very cute but low rumbly baby grunting noises. Very, very silly!!!

I'm trying to figure out how to balance all the evening home tasks with my desire to both crash from exhaustion when I get home and soak in all the changes we are seeing as Alida continues to grow and develop. Last evening we literally walked away from the to do list and took a much needed family walk. Alida had the new experience of riding in the jogger and did not even make it halfway before falling fast asleep. We had a hard time finishing our walk since a little kitten at the neighbors' seemed much more interested in coming home with us than playing with the other cats around. Finally, after Kali got to hold and play with it for awhile, Jason dumped it in a bush and we all ran down the road before it could figure out what happened to it.

Then last night we hit another milestone of sorts. Alida has been getting out of her "swaddle sack" with greater ease by the night and we wondered when it might be the end of swaddling. On our walk we decided to wait until after we get through this particularly busy phase to shake things up any more than necessary. Well, she had different ideas. She was not going to have her arms tucked in last evening and promptly wiggled them out every time I wrapped her back up. So she slept for the first time in a little sleeper and no swaddle and it went just fine. Growing up!!

Well, the baby has just joined me and I want to soak in the morning smiles before heading off to work. Some day I may get to posting some St. Palentine's day pictures of Kali's recent birthday party...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Debut at the fair

Ah. I see what the problem was. I had wondered why, even though my rooster was clearly blue ribbon material at the Rockingham County Fair this week (It's hard not to win when you're the only contestant in your category), the little yellow "For Sale...Make Offer" sign garnered zero responses. Now seeing these photos downloaded, I can see that the problem was that my lovely golden rooster was perfectly camouflaged against his wood shaving bedding. Folks must have walked right by all week wondering where the chicken in this cage had gone. If a Chantecler chicken ever wanted to hide in a bed of straw it would have no trouble!

Though I've kept chickens for as much of my life as circumstances have reasonably allowed (or perhaps a bit more), this is the first time I've ever shown a chicken. Normally I am not one for formalities or orthodoxy, even with chickens, so the Standard of Perfection promulgated by the American Poultry Association (this lists all the recognized breeds and their corresponding Platonic ideal form) can tend to elicit a bit of sarcasm on my part. So what brought about this foray into conformity? As my friends might guess, I did it as an outsider with an angle. You see, the Chantecler chicken is recognized by the Standard, and has been since the early twentieth century. But only the White and Partridge color patterns have so far been accepted. Perhaps that is why they failed to appeal to me. I, of course, keep the unrecognized Buffs. What a renegade!

There is a small but passionate community of fanciers who have taken it upon themselves to promote the cause of inclusion of the Buff among the accepted forms of Chantecler because, as near as I can gather, they are convinced of its inherent goodness. This amuses me. Perhaps they are taken with their birds but are irked that they cannot win the coveted Best Of Show really big blue ribbon with them. I do not count myself among them. However, I am convinced that this strain of Gallus Gallus (the domestic chicken) has some unique and useful genetic expressions that offer much to the poultry keeper (especially the amateur...which is most of us). These traits include: frost-proof comb and wattles (nearly absent congenitally), general hardiness and vigor, good hatchability, calmish disposition, an ability present in some of the females to hatch and rear their own young, non-aggression towards humans, decent rate of egg laying, easier than average plucking (for a heritage breed), eminent roastability (nice shape and very tender), and feathers that are light colored enough to allow a clean appearance to the plucked bird but with enough color to not litter the plucking site with visible blotches of white for months after butchering day (a pet peeve).

As such I am loathe to see it slide towards extinction, which is the direction it has been headed in recent decades. One strategy for its preservation is to promote demand for it. One strategy for promoting its demand is for people to believe it is a legitimate breed...a breed that can win blue ribbons, nonetheless! One strategy for more people for believe in the breed's legitimacy is for it to be accepted to the Standard. One condition for its application for acceptance in the Standard is that it have appeared in a given number of poultry shows. I think you can close that logical loop.

Also, it seemed like fun. And it was. I got to see the back side of the Fair, and that was my favorite part of the whole evening. Even if I had to face down the stares of the poultry keepers who seemed able to smell a greenhorn a mile away, I and my pony tail marched right in there and asked all our dumb questions until we found the designated cage. Next year will be easier, and if I can talk our neighbors (the only other people I know who own Buff their eggs from me, of course!) into entering a bird or two, maybe there will even be some competition!

P.S. We named him Ferris.

Friday, August 12, 2011

10:22 a.m.

Did I mention different sleep patterns?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Our two girls at 12:03am. My do they have different sleeping patterns!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grief; learning from my daughter...again!

When Kali's bunny was declining I not only felt my own feelings of sadness, but I was heartbroken to think of Kali losing another loved one. Despite her mixed feelings at times about "Hiddley chores" she clearly loved her bunny. And I've learned in the past day just how much she loved certain things about having him - the feel of his fur when she petted him and his spots! So yesterday when I carried her to the front room and cuddled her as she woke up and then was given the sad news, I had no idea how the day would unfold. She doesn't often talk about her emotions, and I often struggle to know how to support her and be there for her when she is resistant to talking about things that are sad or emotional.

Sunday morning my Mom (once again) gave me a brilliant idea of writing a letter to Kali about Curious Hiddley since Kali is such a reader and it might be less daunting to read words than have words spoken she has to listen to. So I tried it and it seemed to be one of the things that opened up the ability for us to communicate and journey through this together. I am so grateful for that. Sunday we had two long stints with Hiddley - petting him and taking all sorts of pictures that Kali wanted to have. At the end of the evening we said our tearful goodbyes, as both Jason and I thought it unlikely he would make it through the night (and he didn't).

I feel like the words that kept coming to my mind last evening as we followed Kali through her own rituals of grieving and her last hours with Hiddley's body were, "A child will lead them." I was so glad we left much of the process to her to guide, as it was the most authentically sweet, silly, sad, and special funeral.

Here are a few of my memories:

Kali has none of the inhibitions that many of us adults may feel around death and dead bodies. She was very sad about getting to the moment where she could not be with him anymore. As we broached the subject of burying him last night, she expressed not wanting to bury him. When we talked with her about what would happen to his body over time, she then decided she wanted to retain a piece of his fur so she could always pet it. We processed this for a good long while with her and were willing to consider doing this, even when she explained that she didn't mean pulling out some fur but skin with the fur attached so it could be a part with his spots. In the end other factors and plans for how to proceed took precedence and Jason didn't have to do a minor surgery on Hiddley before burying him.

Kali's intense desire to learn and understand the world around her did not depart from her even at this time. She wanted to understand what was going on. She wanted to hold and "play" with Hiddley. She wanted to look inside his ears, check out his skin color underneath his fur, talk about why he felt heavier than he ever did when she held him before, hold him right side up and upside down and comment on the position his feet were in and why they were stiff but his head was floppy, etc...

Tears came and went freely, as did some smiles and humor. As we were waiting for Jason to bring the shovels from the shed, we were on the porch. Kali put Hiddley up on the slanted concrete slab and of course his body slid down the slope. Well, this turned out to be very entertaining for Kali (as I bit my tongue and watched). All of a sudden she piped up, "he's sort of like a penguin." Then, within minutes, she was carrying him tenderly to the drain field where she wanted one of her final pictures holding him and then asked with tears in her eyes and a tremor in her voice that we harvest orchard grass to line his little box from "the spot where [she] most often got it for him."

We made our way to the garden and Kali helped to dig a hole in her old garden bed from which the fingerling potatoes recently were harvested. She took a break to walk around the garden with Hiddley (after getting him out of the corn and squash patch where she had chosen to lay him while digging). She looked at him, then tried to balance him on a garden trellis, then immersed herself in further exploration and questioning about his body.

When it came time to tuck him in the box, Jason found a large plantain leaf to give him and Kali wanted it tucked just so in the box after laying it on his back for another photo. It seemed that by this point most of the tears had come for her and she solemnly placed him in the box and then in the hole and proceeded to put most of the soil back in the hole. When it was done, without a word, she walked towards the gate, turned around and gestured for us to follow her, and then walked slowly back to the house. The ceremony was over and she curled up with a Calvin and Hobbes book.

From all outward appearances she was "over it" but clearly her mind was still processing all that had transpired. When we got into bed and were playing a card game at about 11pm, she piped up that we really won't ever know for sure what day he died as we don't know if he died before midnight or after. So she wanted me to write his death date on my calendar right between the two. I can do that!

It seems so odd to me that in some ways (though I know Kali was a good bit younger than she is now) I felt that I had to guide her through or figure out how to help her grieve when Nora died. In so many ways it seems that she is naturally more comfortable with the idea of death or at least accepting of it than I am, as much as she clearly doesn't like it and clearly will miss her pet bunny. And I was even more in awe of the way she fully engaged the process and was not scared of it.

No doubt this week has brought back many memories. It is as if our bodies house the physical sensations of grief and when we experience those sensations, floods of memories from other times we felt similarly come back.

One of the biggest things I noticed last evening after our little funeral was how I was wandering around the house, not able to focus on much of anything (even though I had plenty on my list to do before bed). I had a hard time concentrating. I wasn't even consumed with thoughts about Hiddley, I just couldn't really think clearly about anything. And with it came a sense of disbelief that he was actually gone, when I did start thinking about him. I have almost expected to see him in his pen when I go outside, or hear the bell jingle as he hops out for whatever treat we are bringing to him. And I have almost stooped to pick plantain on several occasions for him.

Life continues, though, in good and meaningful ways. And Alida helps all of us smile and laugh! She didn't exactly get the "serious and solemn occasion" announcement about the funeral and added some shrieks throughout the process. She is so intent on figuring out her world right now and she is getting more vocal about the process of discovery. Very cute!!! And she has no doubt helped all of through this sad time, without even knowing it.