Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kali is 10 & a moment worth documenting!

Despite having more time with my foot up, I haven't exactly had much leisure time.  Alida is pretty much over me not being able to carry her around (and I'm getting close).  But right now all is quiet in the house.  That is because Kali and Alida are out hanging laundry.  This is happening without any pleading, begging, or payment and 100% at Kali's initiative. 

We had a planned family meeting last night that was really fun.  The agenda items included Kali's desire to get a checking account (which has been approved by the parents and Alida, whose only contribution to the conversation when asked what she thought of Kali getting a bank account was "good") and Kali's interest in talking about having more chores/responsibilities around the house.  She offered the suggestion that she be the one to do laundry - in its entirety.  Not a whole lot of discussion followed on that one!  She was even reasonable enough to tell us that we didn't have to wake her to get it started but that she wanted to do whatever parts she was awake for.  So she and Alida just headed out to hang the load Jason started while she was still slumbering.  The timing for this inspiration on her part could not have been better.  Laundry seems to me to be one of those household tasks I would have little hope of accomplishing right now, other than the folding part...

Just another note on the family meeting before focusing a bit more on Kali's birthday.  Our family meetings start with appreciations and then are followed with the agenda, announcements and advertisements.  The appreciations section can sometimes be the most challenging part because Kali finds it very difficult to verbally express gratitude, especially directed towards other human beings, which I find disheartening (at best).  Alida, on the other hand, was into it last night.  I was writing just as fast as I could to keep up with her response when asked if there were things she appreciated or was grateful for. I think I got this pretty close to verbatim:

"I'm thankful for the food that we eat and glad for the cherry tomatoes to get ripe and glad for popcorn to grow and then I'm glad for raspberries to get ripe and I'm happy for, I'm glad for, anything that we eat and anything that we don't eat."  And the amazing thing was that that clearly inspired Kali who added her own list of being "glad that the chicks and momma hen weren't too hard on Buttercup's chick when integrated into the flock and for rice, spaghetti, parmesan cheese, strawberries, peaches, ducks, climbing trees, water, purple, yellow, brown, grass and swingsets."

Kali also likes birthdays even though it didn't make it onto this list. This year she chose not to have a themed birthday party but to just have a sleepover with her closest friends.  So the week was filled with a Tangly Woods night at the Rockingham County fair, her birthday evening at home with just our family and then a sleepover complete with pizza pockets over an outdoor fire.  She seems to be adjusting pretty well to being ten - no magical disappearance of all unreasonableness but some glimmers of budding maturity and a continuation of her overall kind and helpful disposition (accentuated right now by her being a gopher for me quite often).

In honor of her 10th birthday, here are 10 of the things I love about Kali (and you might guess that in some cases the things I love the very most about our eldest can be the same things that make me fear losing my sanity, but for today I'm focusing on the love aspects of each):
  • Her appreciation for and knowledge of the natural world and how she'll be playing outside and all of a sudden disappear into a climbing tree.
  • Her fascination with animal breeding, especially her rouen ducks.
  • Her love for learning and enjoyment of conversations about all sorts of theoretical math problems, black holes, and all sorts of hypothetical situations that seem to have little bearing on our life in the here and now.
  • Her ability to completely lose herself in a book (to the point of being awake reading at 2 a.m. with no concept of the time).
  • Her enjoyment in being a big sister, and her advocating for her understanding of Alida's best interests.
  • Her beautiful long brown hair and confidence in her body and the way it works to allow her to take part in the things she loves to do.
  • Her creativity and excitement about new experiences, discovering new places and new information about the world around her.
  • The fact that she places very little importance on the acquisition of particular material goods that are deemed important by external sources.
  • Her strong sense of the need for justice and her ability to stick up for herself and especially Alida when she feels that something is unjust.
  • Her absolute delight in the simple things of life, like an evening at the county fair. Here she is upon arrival:

Picnic foods chosen by Kali: pesto sandwiches, corn chips, mint tea and of course black olives!

Kali could hardly contain her excitement long enough to eat and I cannot interpret Alida's facial expression.
I think this was the "tornado."
This was one of Alida's favorites, just about the right speed.
Visiting the calves at the fair from the farm where we get our milk.

Kali's birthday dinner: mint tea, roast duck and chicken, fresh tomatoes, green beans and the best mashed fresh potatoes I've ever tasted!
Her chosen birthday "cake" - no bake chocolate peanut butter cookies.
She wanted to decorate her own cake for the birthday party and clearly has watched her grandma closely!
Pizza pockets!
This was not staged - I just happened to see them piling up by age and was lucky enough to get there in time - if only the laughter could also be recorded but it's not hard to imagine.
She even got in on making her very own pizza pocket. :)
In addition to her love of the natural world, she loves some synthetic things too - yes, this is a very large marshmallow!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Amazing girls!

I may have a bum foot (Alida called it a "dumb foot" last evening when she meant to say "bum" but by that time I couldn't have agreed more), but I have two pretty incredible kiddos.  Alida is understandably less patient with my inability to move quickly at her beckon call and to wince when she wants to be a monkey on my leg, but both are holding up better than me (on the attitude front that is).  While this is different in so very many ways, it reminds me of my bedrest days and I am very grateful that Kali and Alida have each other to entertain.  They do love each other!!  I've just gotten a request to join them at the swingset so I'll try out my crutches on grass for the first time and see if I make it that far.  Here's a few pictures from recent days:
Horsey rides!
If only Kali was a foot specialist.
They've been practicing for sharing a room. Kali has even suggested we paint two walls pink for Alida and leave two purple for her. Shocking!
Feel the love!
Enjoying Kali's 10th birthday party - that is the next post in the works but for now off to enjoy a little fresh air.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Life threw me a curve ball!

There are piles of folded laundry to be put away, the aftermath of a play date in the living room, stacks of dishes piled high in the kitchen, several large bins of tomatoes on the counter and canned goods ready to be wiped off, labeled and tucked away and here I am sitting with my foot up.  Mind you, just one foot!  This is not normal behavior for me in late August and not chosen behavior.  I'm trying to keep in mind some of the sayings I heard quite frequently from my mother's lips: "Your attitude writes the script of your life" or "There is no great loss without some small gain."

The great loss is my mobility.  The small gain is that I might catch up on the blog this weekend (Kali is 10 after all and I've yet to share some visuals from our county fair adventures).  So for any faithful readers out there you might benefit from this hopefully minor and brief set back...

In short, yesterday morning I could walk just fine.  Last night I was using crutches.  The reason: I do not know.  That's right, I have no idea why a very minor dull ache yesterday morning intensified throughout the day to the point that I could not bear any weight on my right foot by bedtime.  I felt rather ridiculous showing up at work this morning with my foot wrapped and crutches and was grateful for my office move which took me to the back hall with very little traffic.  So I just tucked my "bum foot" (I just learned that Jason is calling it that when Alida said to me, "you can't pick ground cherries with me because of your bum foot?") on top of a box under my desk with a bag of ice wrapped around it .  I only left that spot when I had to pee so bad I couldn't think and then I managed with a combination of hopping, hobbling and using the crutches (which I've determined I don't have a knack for).

But let's not use all my precious blog time talking about my inability to move at even a fraction of the pace I'm accustomed to! I'll share some more enjoyable tidbits of news.  Here are three Alida stories:
  • The other day out of the blue Alida informed me, "I like peppermint patties better than squash patties."
  • She asked Jason to make her a cheese toast the other day and he resisted, telling her that he didn't want to do that because she always just peels the cheese off and doesn't eat the bread.  She thought and then in a very earnest and animated way informed him, "That's my job."
  • While my mom was with us Alida wanted grandma to reveal her belly button.  Grandma, as she well as the right to do, decided she wasn't in the mood and told Alida so, to which she responded, "Don't say no when I say yes."
Here are a series of videos that all kind of fit together - we've got food processing with kiddos (both helping and hindering) and kiddos enjoying non-food processing fun and providing entertainment through background music.

I've been drafting a "tribute to my mother" post in my head ever since her departure on Monday.  She came and spent orientation week with us and she has admitted to feeling very "useful" during her stay - she did not put her feet up very much!  What a difference an extra set of competent, caring hands made around the place.  I didn't realize until our first landing home after she had left how very, very, very much I missed her.  It was not only a huge assistance in very practical terms but a big morale boost to have her positive helpful spirit in our home for the week. Thanks Mom!  As you can see in the first video, she got to practice some serious multi-tasking (weight lifting and canning and granddaughter entertainment simultaneously).  

Impressive!  When Alida was not hanging on Grandma's leg or talking one of our ears off, she could often be found in the loving care of her big sister.  Sometimes it is hard to focus on getting tasks done in those uninterrupted moments because the girls are so precious to watch.  Kali is sharing all sorts of tidbits of information with Alida upon request, including little piano tips.

And here's Alida taking her piano lessons and adding her own twist!

Both girls are expanding their knowledge of and competence in household tasks, which hits me like a breath of fresh air sometimes.  Alida is very insistent on her capabilities and dislikes very much when I say she isn't quite ready for something.  The other day, I relented and let her stir the seeds she had so carefully extracted from a winter squash.  I was impressed, and as you will hear, she thought she was doing a pretty good job too!

Okay, I've used up my time (at least in which I will be able to concentrate). The girls are making me all kinds of soups and breads and being asked to guess the secret ingredients.  So I'll end with two pictures of food - surprise, surprise!
Nothing makes me feel wealthier than a bowlful of raspberries!
We are deep into tomato season - salsa and sauce simmering!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I thought I'd give a quick green tomato and purslane update before calling it a day - I miraculously managed to stay awake just now as Alida nursed quickly to sleep after "helping" us snip beans (not surprising since it was not too much before 11:30 p.m. when we finally curled up together for a story and some mama milk...)

It's a "normal" August night for us in that we started our canning project around 9 p.m.  I was picking beans until almost dark, with the sound of Kali and Alida giggling at the swingset in the background and watching the clouds turn colors as the sun set.  There is now a load of canned beans cooling in the pressure cooker and a load of dilly beans and pickles cooling on the counter.  And two of the pickles are green tomato pickles - we were not impressed with our ripe tomato pickle experiment from last year so we'll see how these turn out.  That's as far as I got with experimenting with green tomatoes but I think fried green tomatoes will be on the menu for sometime soon (if they don't ripen before I get to them!).

Now purslane - what a fun supper with it included in pretty much everything.   I found some fun websites and more ideas than I could ever make use of.  We had a venison gumbo over couscous that had onions, garlic, tomatoes, amaranth and purslane from our garden.  Then I made a salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and purslane from our garden (  Then I made pesto with purslane and garlic from our garden.  We also have a large jar of purslane covered in apple cider vinegar that is supposed to be quite tasty in a few weeks.  We'll see what we think of that experiment which came from

It's amazing how hard we have worked to grow things like spinach and then purslane comes along and before we know it we have a garden bed full of it without trying.  I'm pretty sure we'll be eating more of it! But for now it is time to sleep! 
Alida uses her little scissors to snip beans but normally gets distracted after a few and runs over to the counter to help herself to one of the tomatoes (she is already becoming a "tomato snob" - liking some varieties and not others!)
Here is our weirdest three-some of tomatoes yet.  We have a lot of "cat faced" tomatoes this year, which supposedly are more common when tomatoes ripen in cooler temps.


I can't think of anything more creative to title this post with but "August" - one of the busiest, fullest, most stressful and wonderful months of the year.  There is no way around the fact that three major things for me collide at this time every year - preparations for new student orientation, Kali's birthday month (turning TEN in 4 days) and tomatoes.  That, combined with the fact that I still am a little hesitant to take pictures and a bit blog-shy ever since the picture mishap, has made it such that I haven't felt very inspired to do much blog updating recently.  Also much of what I took time to report on in previous years is starting to feel like a daily occurrence around here.  Most of my days at home are a combination of picking things, processing things, and cooking things, with various other activities interspersed.

Some of the recent food processing highlights include refining my pasta sauce "recipe" with the newest addition of grated winter squash (adds smooth texture and sweet flavor), enjoying filling the freezer with gleaned corn from our neighbors, eating fresh red and yellow raspberries, and just this morning I filled the solar dryer with sage (now if the sun would only shine it might dry!).  I should not even consider complaining about rain, but what an unusual August!  This blog post has been interspersed with picking amaranth and tomatoes and then spending time exploring ideas online for what to do with green tomatoes and an abundance of purslane.  There is no shortage of ideas for either.  I find it particularly satisfying to find good uses for things often considered to be weeds but are highly nutritious and add new colors, textures and flavors to our meals.  It is also so very satisisfying to have a two year old who can identify more plants that I could when I was twenty.

It seems that even without the huge abundance of tomatoes that we normally have (bummer for the two late freezes) and with the bean beetles taking more than their fair share of the beans, things are growing and growing and growing and as we expand the variety of things we grow and harvest there is no shortage of things to tuck away for the winter months.

Alida isn't slowing up on her growth either!  Right now as I try to type this to her jabbering in the background she is playing with Candyland, her current favorite game (along with her obsession about talking of going to a candy store and buying pink candy for her and purple for Kali)...And I've been interrupted so many times already that she is now clambering to get on my lap and complaining about her itchy bug bites!  Anyway, here she is enjoying her first ear of corn:

She loved our recent weekend in WV (she was not disappointed with the abundance of candy snacks provided by her great uncle from Canada).  There were lots of new people for her to warm up to and many fun activities to take part in.  But I think by far her highlight was the hour spent in the river at Senaca Rocks.  The river play clearly tuckered her out and she didn't get to see the view from the top of the mountain this time around.  I was thankful for the cooler WV temperatures but I was still pretty well drenched in sweat by the time we got to the top!

Kali enjoyed four additional days in WV with my parents and her cousin.  There clearly was not enough time to do all they wanted to do, but we were happy to welcome her home a few days back. Alida seemed to enjoy being an only child in some respects but was happy to have Kali home again.  Okay, concentration time over.  Time to get my brunch contribution going to enjoy with our household (corn fritters are a must the day after corn freezing).  Here's a few other pictures to enjoy:
Goats enjoy when their pen gets moves as they get to go for a walk and find all sorts of treats!
Jason must have taken some flower pictures on a day I was working!  This is always a favorite - orange butterfly weed - usually at its prime around the anniversary of Nora's death but much later this year.
The goal that both Jason and I have is to savor life such that we notice butterflies on flowers.  I'm not quite there yet!
Here are the girls savoring each other. Alida kept wanting to give Kali hugs as we walked down the driveway to check the mail.  So very, very sweet!