Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Alida is 2!

Exactly 2 years ago I was experiencing a lot of relief - Alida was about 8 minutes old and I was happy to have her journey to the outside world complete!  Here are a few pictures of how she spent her second birthday:

On the eve of Alida's birthday Jason loaded up the incubator - chicks in 3 weeks!
We started the day by decorating the front room with balloons and streamers - Kali got her stickers out and wrote "Happy Birthday" on a balloon for Alida's high chair.
It seemed fitting that our walking iris flower had two blooms on it today!
Alida's birthday brunch was enjoyed by all: broccoli quiche, chicken sausage, maple yogurt with apples, cranberry lemon muffins, and chocolate persimmon muffins - as you can see we are clearly "suffering" from having given up grocery shopping for Lent!
Kali had the idea of taking a picture of Alida and making a puzzle out of it, which she did. Adorable and a big hit!
Time for a birthday nappy walk!
Enjoying a birthday snooze - she's so big!!
Kali, Alida and I played scrabble at Kali's request.  I felt like I was competing against myself as Alida almost beat me!
As always the creamy pesto pasta was a big hit - she ignored the chicken tenders once the noodles appeared on the scene and had no interest in the beets...
Opening a present from Mommy and Daddy - but worth noting was her birthday outfit which she selected for after her birthday bath!
Not 1 but 3 sing along CD's...
Girls trying out the dancing floor with one of the CD's.
Now the day is winding down.  Alida is cuddled up with me nursing (hope she isn't ready to grow up completely yet!) as I type.  We may try to squeeze in a game together before calling it a day.  And there is some leftover birthday cake that we might put a dollop of sour cherry pie filling on for the sentimentality of it (Mom and I were canning cherries until hours before Alida's birth and we still have some!).  The other activity of the evening still underway is getting peppers, tomatoes, basil, eggplant and some other seeds started (because the snow will go away sometime...).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kali and her animals...

Buttercup is getting lots of flying practice these days.  Surprising to the adults in the household, she doesn't seem to mind it at all:

Her ducklings are not flying yet, but they are getting some swimming practice:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring has officially arrived

...even if there is another snow storm in the forecast.  It feels springlike today anyway!  I'm inside while Alida finishes up her nap and then hope to join Jason and Kali outside for some more gardening - time to get the onions in the ground!

In the meantime, this "virtual scrapbook" needs some serious updating!  Here goes (though I should note that I'm going to dwell more heavily on the last week - which has been most enjoyable - and not the week previous to that - which was not - in which Jason and I were walking zombies with very unpleasant colds that caused us to miss a very much anticipated date night):

One of the biggest highlights since the last posting was having my mom around for a week, while Dad was off birding in Texas.  It's amazing how wonderful it is to have another set of hands around, particularly when they are a grandma's hands (complete with a desire to soak up our girls' sweetness!).  The week just felt a lot "roomier" than most.  It was fabulous to cross off one of those long term projects that never had risen to the top of the list.  While I was at work and Mom hung out with Kali and Alida, Jason was able to finish up shelving/cabinets in the laundry room, as well as make a bench for Mom to sit on while weaving (she was weaving the air with much excitement when he brought it in for her to try out!).

All around it's been a very upbeat week in the Myers-Benner household and there has been plenty of excitement to go around.  The most recent news is that Kali is officially a soccer player.  After the first round of practices were cancelled due to snow and bad field conditions, Kali got to meet her team this morning for a first practice and a short scrimmage.  While she was with her team, Alida and I played soccer on the sidelines.  It's a beautiful day out and it was so fun to watch Kali out there running around (and kicking the ball sometimes) and to watch Alida kicking the ball along the sidelines while saying "dribble, dribble, dribble." The gal can in fact dribble a soccer ball quite well!  Kali talked nonstop all the way home about it, including the things she noted that she will need to work on (she noticed that she needs to do more running at home because sometimes the ball would be kicked and other girls would get to it before she could).  She was clearly taking it all in.

Now she is outside enjoying the sunshine and playtime with Buttercup, her pet chicken. And what a pet it has become.  Yesterday Kali was taking worms to her while we were prepping the soil for planting potatoes. Kali was skipping around happily commenting how Buttercup sure likes gardening days (as do we). Not long after that we noted that Buttercup was "free ranging herself" having snuck out from under her pen.  Well that gave Kali an idea.  She hung out in the garden picking her up and putting her in the leaves to scratch around. Then she wanted to see if she could fly.  Well initially she would put her up on the trellis and watch her flap down. Then it seemed to her to make more sense to just fling her in the air.  I don't know all that many chickens but she sure seems to be about one of the most patient and tolerant chickens that I can imagine. Kali flings her up in the air with all her might and Buttercup flaps down, lands on the ground and immediately starts scratching around to see what treat she might find at her newest landing spot.  And then the routine is repeated. 

The other excitement is watching her ducklings grow and grow and grow. We can hardly keep up with their food and water consumption. They are now enjoying fresh grass in their outdoor pen.  Their sounds are changing and it is hard to believe that they had all just wrapped up hatching 2 weeks ago.  We still have all 17 but Kali and Jason have crafted an advertisement that we plan to circulate to see if there are others who would enjoy having ducks!  We strongly recommend them!!  My favorite thing is to come to their pen and talk to them and see their little heads tilt to the side to look up at us.  I also think that as their sounds get louder, it seems that sometimes the adult ducks (their parents) can hear them from their pen down the hill. Kali took a duckling over to them once to introduce them - it was hard to tell what they thought of the encounter.

In gardening news, we have lots of things growing indoors - sweet potatoes, cilantro, lettuce, kale, parsley, onions and a few little apple trees.  Yesterday we planted four long rows of potatoes from ones we had saved form last year - white, red, purple and fingerlings.  It was in a new area below the garden that J and Jason have worked hard to clear this spring and then the chickens have run over some of it to give us a head start on working the ground.  But there was still plenty of work to give all of us a good upper body work out yesterday afternoon.  Another gift of Mom's presence here was that I enjoyed several hours of working alongside Jason, J and R.  It's a rare thing for Jason and I to get to work together on the same thing at the same time and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Not only that but there is nothing quite like entering what is normally Jason's "domain" on the home front to give me a huge dose of appreciation and admiration for what an incredibly hard worker he is.  Let's just say that I'm aware of some muscles today that don't get a lot of attention on a daily basis.

As I took bucketfuls of rocks to the rock pile in the woods I thought about the family work project we did the year after Nora died.  We hauled trailer load full after trailer load full of rocks from that pile to create our parking space.  I still can remember how good it felt to do that project together - talking some, silent often, engaging together in hard manual labor that was predictable and productive.  It was healing work - a good "working the grief out" project.  I wasn't thinking all that deeply yesterday as we worked out there together in the sunshine, but I could feel my spirit being soothed and strengthened.  This week marked the 7 year anniversary of the fire next door. I felt closer to the memories this year, as Alida is the age Kali was when it happened.  We also gathered on our Tangly Woods night this week to plant a white currant bush in P's memory.  And Nora's garden is coming to life again with the first bright yellow daffodils.

There have been a number of special gatherings this week - some that I knew about and some that came as a major surprise! Last Sunday we celebrated St. Patrick's Day with neighbors, S & M.  The evening, of course, included a green meal (which was much easier to plan now that I make bread and pasta regularly with pureed greens).  We also enjoyed some after dinner music - listening to S play dulcimer is another of those soul soothing and strengthening things in my life.  Sometimes when I close my eyes I travel back in time to the night they made the trip over to UVA with a home cooked meal to eat with us as we stayed by Nora's side.  That evening ended with Nora, along with the rest of us, being calmed by dulcimer music. 

The event of the week that I had not anticipated was a surprise half birthday party, planned by none other than my sweet husband!  I not only had no clue anything was in the works, but it took me almost 10 minutes to get out of my state of complete confusion to a point of clarity about what in the world was going on as close friends trickled in our door.  Jason supposedly has had this up his sleeve for a few years now, but has been solidifying the plan in his mind since sometime last fall.  He figured, which is probably true, that the only way to surprise me was to do something like this at a very unexpected time.  It worked!  And it worked even better in that he planned it on a night that I had also planned something (our Tangly Woods community meal and the tree planting).  I went from feeling confused to feeling overwhelmed by the love and care of those gathered around me as I read the various halves of birthday cards given to me.  The evening ended with a few lively games of ping pong - I haven't beaten Jason in a game yet but I can be credited with helping him perfect some of his spins and I did hold the lead 2x in one of our games.  He knows better than to "let me win" even at my own half birthday party.  A very fun and special evening and we don't have a single picture to show for it!

By far the most precious thing about life right now is watching Alida and Kali enjoy one another - and there is a lot of that to savor.  They both are growing up on what seems to be an hourly basis.  It looks different with both of them, but it is equally amazing to observe.  This past week I brought my breast pump home from work and Alida drank her last bottle of "mama milk."  I'm so glad she still enjoys nursing.  But even that doesn't have the "put her to sleep" magic anymore.  So as we find ourselves trying to be flexible with each new stage of the journey of parenting, Jason and I find ourselves in a new rhythym that has been wonderful.  Night walks are the new "magic" for Alida sacking out within minutes (if not seconds).  As soon as I wrap a blanket around her in the Ergo, she puts her little head on my back and is easily lulled to sleep by our footsteps and our voices debriefing from the day as we walk.  While I wouldn't mind those night walks happening in the 9-10 p.m. range rather than the 10:30-11:30 p.m. range, I am very grateful for the time of connecting about our day that Jason and I have been enjoying.

This will soon be too long to hold anyone's attention, so I think I'll go join Jason and see if we can't get some onions in the ground before the next snow storms hits.  By the time I write again, our baby will be 2!  It should be a fun week with a number of low key mini-celebrations to be enjoyed.  She's already enjoyed opening a few presents and as I type is sitting on the counter chattering while Grandma ices a doll cake for her (we'll see if she can bear to wait 24 hours to lick the icing off the doll). I'm especially glad that unlike her first birthday, this one lands on a Tuesday so I'll get to enjoy it with her in person.  And while much has changed in the last year, some things haven't.  Green pasta will once again be on the menu for the birthday meal!  It's nice that some things stay constant for more than a week or two!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snow and ducklings!

What a week this has been!  It was our second week of a planned "staycation" for this spring - knowing that post spring break my work would ramp up considerably and there would be no opportunity for using stored up vacation time before the end of the academic year (when I would lose it!).  In addition to our short stint in Charlottesville, we had grand plans for our week at home - namely getting the ground ready for a big spring planting push. 

That was before 1-2 FEET of snow came into view in the forecast...

So there was one work day with the ground bare and in that day Jason and J got kale, spinach, chard and maybe a few other things in the ground, where they are now covered and slowly soaking up moisture from the melting snow.  We hope that makes them especially happy!

The rest of the week did not go as planned and both Jason and I had to admit multiple times to feeling rather disoriented by the shift in plans.  The best unintended bonus of the need to do some indoor work is that the laundry room now has lots of shelving in it.  Very nice, especially since that is one of the room all of us living at Tangly Woods share. It has already made the space more user-friendly - I enjoyed starting laundry this morning more than usual!

But the purpose of this post is mostly to comment on the highlight of this week and try to focus on how this week was viewed through a child's eye - pure joy!  Could Kali have asked for more in a 3 day period: watching 17 baby ducklings hatch, watching snow pour out of the sky for a total of about 20 inches, and at the end of the hatch and after the snow had finished falling a sleepover with her two best friends?!  If she wouldn't have had to deal with the adults in the household who were struggling to view the snowstorm as pure bliss, she would have been fully in heaven!

I don't think we dampened her joy too much though.  She did not stray long from the back kitchen from Tuesday to Thursday (often eating by their box).  She did take breaks for some sledding adventures.  Here' a few photos from recent days:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pilgrimage to Charlottesville

 It is probably a bit too early for me to think that my thoughts and feelings about our 24 hour trip to Charlottesville would be very coherent (complicated also by entertaining Alida and monitoring her with a scissors while I type), but for me processing tends to go best when I get some initial thoughts out when they are still somewhat raw.  Jason may be processing the trip yet internally for awhile (I'm secretly hoping that there may be a poem formulating out the whole experience but one can't plan for that - I just find I benefit so much when I get a glimpse of his process through writing).

For the short version - it was a VERY good trip, once we got on our way!  As can often be the case, I think my internal array of emotions about the trip (I was looking forward to it but also wondering what it would all feel like) probably only fed into the girls' morning blues yesterday as we tried to pack up and get on the road by late morning.  I was happy that Alida woke at 6:45 a.m. (unheard of for her) because she needed to nap on the way to the UVA women's bball game or it would have been a LONG afternoon/evening.  She did, which was great.  But she was up about 1.5 hours before she really wanted to be and it showed...

But by the time we arrived in Charlottesville the challenges of the morning had faded somewhat.  Alida watched big eyed through much of the basketball game and Kali was also transfixed (but aware enough of her surroundings to keep plummeting her hand into the large vat of popcorn purchased for the girls by Grandpa).  The home team won and it was an exciting game, but in all honesty we were there to cheer for one of the referees!

After being ushered back to say hello to Aunt S following the game, we headed to the home of the director of palliative care at UVA and the doctor who was on call when Nora was airlifted to UVA the week before her death.  We have stayed in touch with Dr. Crain ever since Nora's death and have bounced ideas off each other for some joint parent/caregiver writing projects but they haven't come to fruition yet.  Jason and I are inspired anew to bump it up on our priority list, but this particular evening together was centered around just enjoying being with her and her family (as well as in-laws), which we did.  Their children are 6 and 9 and about two hours into the evening Kali was playing with AND talking to them - they were soon shrieking and playing Huckle Buckle Beanstalk, hide and seek and some game about scrambled eggs. Kali's enjoyment of being there made for a much more pleasant evening for us as well. 

It was close to 8:45 p.m. when we got back to B & D's home where we were staying for the night. They had so graciously hosted us at different times during Nora's life - it truly was our home away from home.  It was so very good to be there and with them - in a very sweet, sad and meaningful kind of way. Both Jason and I commented that it was much more like a pilgrimage back than we had anticipated. The last time we pulled into their driveway was when we came back to the house to tell Kali that Nora had died and the last time we had pulled out was with all our things leaving Chalottesville without Nora.  I guess we both somewhat underestimated the emotional impact of returning, but we welcomed the emotions.

It is such a different kind of remembering when one's senses are fully engaged: the smell of their home, the taste of brown sugar and maple mini-wheats, and the light coming in the bedroom in the morning (those moments when it would hit me where I was and wondering how Nora's night had been) to name a few.  Walking into the bathroom in the middle of the night I almost found myself expecting to see my breast pump sitting there for me to pump as I had done many times.  And then pushing Alida on the very swing that I pushed Kali back and forth on as those initial strong emotions about Nora's death poured out.  We were very glad to be there and grateful to benefit once again from their general hospitality poured out on our family.  And glad that Nora was the reason for our paths crossing. 

We left this morning and enjoyed a stop at Edible Landscaping on our way home - we managed to get out of there without spending more than $100 but it was tough! Kali and Jason were at home just long enough for us to get the car unloaded and Jason to get the trailer reloaded for a marathon-errand run that Kali joined him on.  He is donating platelets now as his last stop before they rejoin Alida and me at home - so I better get a fire going.  Alida and I have enjoyed a nice long run/walk and then a little soccer playing.  While we meandered around the yard, we found these!  Our little trio of yellow flowers and some of the first purple and orange crocuses!

Alida and technology

Before too long Alida will likely know more about computers and cell phones than me.  One thing is for sure, she is highly interested in both!

Let's start first with her blossoming computer skills.  What I love most is that she has leaned out to imitate the clicking of the keys.  Currently, she is sitting on my lap as I type waiting "patiently" for her turn. See the end of this post for her contribution:

Just this afternoon, Alida was talking to her Grandma and Grandpa Myers on the phone.  She was giving them a verbal tour of the house and I have no idea how much of the conversation they understood.  But here is the portion of it that I was able to video (for their benefit and anyone else who wishes to learn the names of various items in our house:

And now for Alida: hhuh                        ujuuj6y567u           ]jjjjjjnj

The way our girls exercise these days...

and keep us in shape too!

We'll start with Alida.  She's hardly still unless she is sleeping.  But one of her favorite activities right now is dancing with Mommy or Daddy.  In this case what she wanted to sing was not related to the CD playing in the background. My favorite part is the end. 

The big news on the "Kali-front" as it pertains to exercise is that she has decided that she wants to sign up for soccer this spring. So we have registered for a community soccer team and she has been practicing soccer with us and even went on one jog/walk with me to get herself in shape. We took a little video of her dribbling the other day so that she could enjoy monitoring her progress!