Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alida's birthday festivities

Well, our baby is ONE! While I think she had no real concept of what all the hubbub was about the last few days, she thoroughly enjoyed it. And one of her highlights was that she was granted some tastes of ice cream. If you don't believe me, check this out. It seems she may have the Myers taste for ice cream. She is certainly enjoying her ability to shake her head "yes" and "no," but she often still gives mixed messages. There are a few times, however, that she seems to have a very deep desire to make sure she communicates VERY clearly that she likes something. This would be one of those times:

A quick recap on the events surrounding the celebration of Alida's first year of life, even if it is very hard for Jason and I to fully believe that she is already a year old.

Since I had the "pleasure" of spending most of Alida's birthday in meetings (I think I like the birthing kind of labor better than laboring in meetings!), we begin celebrating a day early with a birthday meal with many of Alida's little friends. There were 18 of us gathered, 9 children and 9 adults! There was a lot of cuteness in the place, with the chicks adding to the fun. Alida is no longer all that interested in the chicks ever since Jason added the bedding - she wants to spread the bedding around or climb in with them!

She enjoyed some of her favorite foods - though it seems that now when homemade green pasta is around, few things can top it (she does take after her big sister in that realm, as well as having black olives be near the top of the list!). Gone are the days when she will consume most of a jar of canned green beans. I happen to think they look an awful lot like green pasta but she has no trouble distinguishing and the green beans often are flung off the side of her tray, while the noodle pieces are happily consumed! She had no interest in tasting her apple/banana cupcakes, but enjoyed mushing it in her fingers and flinging it off her high chair.

Then last evening, her actual birthday evening, we spent time together as a family. We planted two little cherry trees in honor of her birth-day, the day Mom and I spent canning sour cherries. The placenta is now out of our freezer and underneath one the cherry trees. Kali had a lot of questions about the placenta, and our favorite moment was when Kali asked why we didn't can it rather than freezing it. We had to admit to her that it hadn't crossed our minds until that very moment!

We came in and enjoyed a cherry crisp with some of the cherries we had canned one year ago. She also enjoyed playing with a little dinosaur puzzle and small wooden car Jason found for her, as well as clomping around in her new monkey Robeez that her big sister picked out for her. It seems that it won't be too long before she is clomping around on her own. Her new fun yesterday was practicing standing up with no hands. We didn't catch it on film before she had already been practicing for awhile, but you can get a taste of it here. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hatching success

Janelle told you I am often to be found in the rocking chair by the chicks...I might dispute that claim, but perhaps that's because I've wanted to be found here more that I have been!

The hatch went superbly, from my perspective. No runts, so far as I can tell. 30 chicks out of 40 eggs is not a bad hatch rate, and what I'm especially pleased by is that none of those that made it to hatch day seemed to struggle in hatching (beyond the usual, that is), and none of them showed signs of illness. Sometimes a percentage of them will die within the few days before hatch, will become sickened as they are hatching, or become too dry (sticky instead of wet) from tarrying too long in the half-open shell and never make it out.

I won't bore you with the details of why I find this hatch genetically interesting...suffice it to say that I'm fascinated by the percentages of the different comb types that are emerging, and the color differences between those coming from the same rooster but different hens, especially the fact that it's been so consistent. Also of interest is the fact that most of the black chicks hatched a bit early, whereas the light chicks centered around the expected time of hatch, but were spread out over a longer period of time.

These chicks represent the first hatch in my second breeding experiment, where the goal is to come up with a chicken ideally suited to free-range production of both eggs and meat in open, agricultural landscapes where both winter cold and summer sun are challenging. I intend the birds to be large in size, but not necessarily massively heavy, light enough in color to reflect some of the sun's heat but not so light as to make too obvious a target for hawks, tall and long of leg (then they can step through and see around well in tall pasture easily) but not thin and bony, strong in frame but not heavy in bone. I could write more, but you don't really need to know about all the details!

What most of you (family and friends) really want to know from me is what this means to me. I'm having fun. I can't say as I am getting so emotionally invested in this batch of chicks as I may have some others...maybe it's that I've done it a few times before, maybe it's that I've got enough other caregiving competing for my affections, maybe it's that I'm taking the breeder's mindset where analysis and observation are more dominant in my thinking. But I have to admit that the first peeping audible from the incubator brought a smile to my face, and I couldn't resist checking the progress of the hatching chicks like a hyperactive kindergartener!

A busy, rainy day awaits as we prepare for A's first birthday party, and breakfast is on...gotta run!

Spring has sprung!

Ready or not, it seems that spring is here. The last few days have felt more like summer than spring. Maybe that is why it seems like we are a month or two behind on the home front - the weather doesn't match our experience of the date in past years. Here's what is popping out on Fruit Farm Lane.

Kali is enjoying feasting on red bud flowers again. We have offered them to Alida and she looks at us like, "Are you really wanting me to eat this?" How this gal will pick up anything off the floor and put it in her mouth but will not eat a little flower when offered? So she has yet to form an opinion about them but I couldn't stop smiling last evening when I ate a fresh spinach salad with red bud flowers.

The world around us just feels like it has been painted - Nora's garden has the first tulip blooming. Yesterday, Kali came in and said, "the table needs some flowers" and went out to pick a bouquet. Her Grandma Myers would be proud!

We all worked as quickly as our fingers would let us last night to get peas in the ground before dark - snow, sugar snap and hull peas are all tucked in and are now enjoying a good soaking rain this morning that should continue through most of the day.

And most notably, on the "popping out" front, we now have 30 baby chicks! Jason is proud (we'll see if I can get him to do a "guest post" sitting in the rocking chair beside them, where he can often be found)! An incubator full of 40 eggs, was down to 32 by hatch date (we took 8 out on our second candling as they had not progressed). So that means that just 2 eggs did not hatch. The last 7 worked extra hard to get out but did it with no help from us. They are pretty cute little buggers! Kali is loving holding them and Alida sure would like to get her hands on one of them also. She points at them, which is the sweetest thing!

Speaking of sweet things, she now says, "moo" for a cow sound. She scrunches up her little nose and puckers her lips. Take a look!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

love it

This is, hands down, my absolute favorite moment of the day! I really do try to follow the speed limit on the way home as much as is humanly possible when I just want to snap my fingers and get to the moment of reuniting:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Living and dying...

Today I walked around our yard for a bit after getting all the laundry in off the lines. Just a week away from home and many changes around the yard - most notably the daffodils. Each spring, they are such a welcome sight. The bright yellow is so cheery and seems to shout the change of the seasons and that new life will be springing forth all around us. I walked down to Nora's garden and enjoyed the various colors and sizes of daffodils blooming. We've thought about Nora often over the last number of weeks as her life and death are our best frame of reference for being closely connected to living with a loved one that is dying and then journeying with that loved one as they let go of life as we know it best.

As we left for our week away we knew that P was declining rapidly and wondered if we would still find him living in the in-law quarters when we returned. I feared that we would not, but did not know how best to say goodbye. Alida and I visited the evening before we left and I treasure the moments of watching Alida and P's hands touching and then hearing him note that our visit was "just great."

On Tuesday, we went to the Virginia Air & Space Center. While I marveled at much of what we have "accomplished" as human beings, I was also distraught by the celebration of what we have "accomplished" in the way of war machines (they had bumper stickers in the gift shop that read, "I love warbirds."). Alida and Kali were playing in a little airplane in a toddler area when I noticed that I had missed a call from P's daughter. I sat there looking up at the military plane that most disturbed me as I listened to the message, learning that P had died early that morning with his family surrounding him, loving him, cheering him on.

As I shed tears in that space, for his family and for him, I felt like I was also feeling the weight of so much loss. I thought about all that we have experienced (beauty and pain) in our journey with Nora and in the aftermath of her death. I thought about P's family and their grief journey as it continues. And then I looked up at the various military aircraft suspended above me and thought about their ability to alter the lives of so many (taking life and leaving others to grieve the loss of loved ones). I feel so saddened and perplexed that with all the creativity and intelligence that was reflected in the various exhibits we saw in various places on our trip, that we have found no better way to date, as a species, to resolve conflicts than what was represented there. I know there are many wonderful things happening around the globe and I am grateful to be part of one of those pockets of people using all their creative powers for a more peaceful resolution of conflict, but it was hard to focus on that in those moments as I sat with grief weighing heavy.

We returned home last evening and the place didn't seem the same knowing that P was no longer physically present. We were able to attend a memorial service today with many others joined together to grieve his death and celebrate a life well lived. I realized that in 3 months we only brushed the surface in getting to know the extraordinary person P was. I'm grateful for the moments we did share. While experiencing much sadness over his death, I also sat near Mom who today celebrated 9 years since she underwent a stem cell transplant for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was such a mixture of feelings - sadness, gratefulness, wonder at the complexities presented to us as we work and play at living and dying well.

Our week at the beach

By the "new time" I have just under an hour until Sunday, when my computer is to be turned off. Jason suggested I make an exception and work on the blog tomorrow since I've just had an entire week without the computer and since Alida was very eager for her mommy to focus exclusively on her! But she is now sleeping next to me and so unless a coughing spell wakes her (yes, she got the cold that has gone through the whole family) I may actually get a few things posted. We'll see!

We left last Friday for First Landing State Park along Virginia Beach. We reserved a little cabin there for the week and were joined by my folks for about 3 of our days there. We enjoyed a mixture of sun and rain and a lot of wind. We wore hat, gloves and coats for a good number of the days and Kali and Alida played in the water on the sunny days (my feet ached the water was that cold). We loved the fact that there was very little competition for spots along the beach and no need for sunscreen most days since almost all of our skin was well covered! We didn't so much enjoy the proximity to a military base and with that what seemed like almost constant noise from low flying aircraft. However, it was great fun to watch Alida explore the outdoors and she rode around in the pack for hours a day as we hiked about on the beach and the various trails in the state park. It was great to see Kali regain confidence riding bike and ride for miles while we hiked, as well as wading far into the shallows of the bay "fishing" with a net she bought with some of her precious vacation spending money (most of which she returned home with because she was so cautious about spending it and painstakingly processed each of the few purchases she made).

We packed a lot into the week, but were glad that we had a few days where we didn't venture beyond the state park at all - those were the "true vacation" days for Jason and me. Though we both recognized that without little people around we would also have arranged our time very differently - as one example I would have taken a good number of naps, of which I enjoyed none - we also loved having time to soak up time with both girls!

A few of our activities included checking out the Charlottesville Children's Museum, the two Children's Museums in Richmond and Edible Landscaping on our drive to and from First Landing. We took day trips to the Virginia Aquarium and the Virginia Air and Space Center. We hiked a lot, walked along the beach, made s'mores, and enjoyed just being together. Here is Alida enjoying a few of her moments on the beach! There are many more clips not pictured here - once she got introduced to the water it was very hard to keep her out!