Monday, March 28, 2016

Springtime, gotta love it!

Ok, one more quick reflection and then I'll be caught up for awhile (a few hours anyway).  It's amazing how the transition from winter to spring seems to hit us all of a sudden.  Everything is growing, especially the project list!

Jason and my dad got the last major inside project done this week - a loft in the garage for storage for us and them.  It was one of several creative solutions stemming from our decision to not build the pavilion.  While I wasn't out there much of the time, they seemed to enjoy themselves and the girls thoroughly enjoyed checking out their progress (including climbing up the ladder and exploring the loft).   It was my kind of project in that it was mostly framing (no fancy finishing needed) and so the visible progress was fun to watch (it's not often that things go faster around here than I expected). With that behind us, Jason will turn his full attention to the springtime burst.

Alida was eager to mark her birthday by doing our pea planting. Though, on the actual day, she helped for a bit and then was happier heading off to the swing-set.  She was eager to call all the shots on her birthday so suggested we stop halfway through planting. That was where we drew the line - none of the rest of us were willing to only plant half the peas. So she had fun swinging and we got hull, sugar snap and snow peas in the ground (with mouths watering all the while!).  Other than one bag of snow peas in the freezer our supply from last year has been consumed (in just enough time to make us super eager for the first ones...).  Thanks to two grandmas around, I even got to take part in the gardening, which is a treat these days!  Terah would gladly "help" garden - as in put soil and leaves and anything she can get her hands on in her mouth.  Instead, for now, we let her join Alida for some swinging, which ended in her sacking out after awhile.
When I go outside with the camera right now I don't know what to take in first.  So much color and beauty.  Here's a few of the things we are enjoying watching bloom.  We watch the weather forecast closely these days hoping the peaches will get past their most vulnerable state before the next night when it freezes. We never had enough peaches last year to can or freeze, so we sure hope they are spared a badly timed freeze this year.  There's no guarantee of fruit until the juicy morsels are on our counter. The last two pictures here are two different peach trees - it's the one way I like pink!
This may be the last blog post for awhile!  We are nearing the end of a stint of having my folks around and are about to enter one of my two crazy months at work (April and August). That coupled with onions wanting to get in the ground, potato ground needing to be prepped and then planted, tomatoes needing to be started, and the weeding all over the place wishing for attention will make for a wonderfully exhausting time on the horizon.  Jason also has some lingering brush pick up and chipping to do from the winter clearing for the access path. Despite the work feeling a bit daunting, our spirits tend to also rise at this time of year (the vitamin D from more time outdoors can't hurt anything). And, after enjoying eating from our root cellar, pantry, and freezers for months, it's so fun to start heading out in the mornings for handfuls of green stuff to consume.  Right now we are enjoying spinach, garlic and onion chives, parsley, oregano, and we had our first stinging nettle eggs with perennial onion scapes this morning from breakfast.  Yum!

We have a 5 year old in the house!

The birthday chain was down to one last loop Saturday - the days of eager anticipation were over and the day long awaited for had arrived. Alida was so eager for her birthday this year, and her birthday party.  The week included all the fun of preparing for her special day (making a welcome sign for the door, decorating the front room, going to the co-op for Easter egg fillers and other party supplies, making cupcakes with Grandma, watching chicks hatch, seeing a little stack of pink packages appear in the front room, picking out her party clothes and those that Kali and Terah would wear, and occasionally hopping around the house exclaiming how she couldn't wait for her birthday and asking numerous times how many days until her party).

She was surrounded on her birthday afternoon/evening by 20 or so big and little people who all think a lot of her, as well as about 15 adorable fuzz balls!  She heard how we love her spunk, creativity, humor, and good storytelling abilities.  She got to run around outside with two baskets in hand finding plastic filled eggs with her friends.  There was time for swinging and playing outside, most notably with her new soccer goal and ball (thanks Aunts K&S!).  I think she was too excited to consume a lot of her planned menu of canned green beans, rice, lentils, black olives, chips and salsa.  The ice cream seemed to slide down pretty easily, but she didn't make much of a dent in the quarter of her tiny round cake (that she had wanted me to serve her all of).  I thought it was just that she often hasn't seemed to be much of a cake gal, but in the day or two since the festivities she has had no trouble downing several cupcakes at a sitting. So I'm back to my "too excited to eat a lot" hypothesis.  She made it to her actual birthday (9:08 p.m.) but was pretty drowsy when I went to inform her that she was now officially 5 years old. She was sound asleep within minutes of being 5!
Like all our daughters, her entrance into the world was amazing and wonderful. After a day of canning cherries with Mom (thus the cherry trees planted in Alida's garden with the placenta that are currently in full bloom!), she arrived just minutes after we got settled in at RMH.  And she, like Terah and Nora, was welcomed eagerly by her Daddy, me and an incredible big sister.  That big sister, at this week's family meeting, suggested, in response to Alida's request for an allowance raise, that they switch allowance amounts. She noted that she wasn't really needing much money for things.  What a kid!  We encouraged her to reign in her generosity ever so slightly and in the end we agreed on them both getting $1.50/week (well, ok, Alida wants $1.51).  So Alida gets a raise, Kali gets a decrease and Jason and I save a bit each week.  All seemed happy with the solution, and I'm still in awe of Kali's generosity, and so happy with her contentedness in what she has.  What an example for all of us!

Kali also gave Alida a very fun birthday present. She and Alida had shopped for puzzles for Grandma's birthday at a thrift store. Alida had seen a 100 piece puppy one that she wanted to get but others suggested Grandma could benefit from a more challenging puzzle. What Alida didn't know was that Kali then purchased it for her.  She tucked a $5 bill in the box and wrapped it up. The surprise for Kali was that when Alida and Grandma put the puzzle together for the first time, it was not puppies at all but a white baby lion.  Fun and surprising!

Alida's birthday falls at one of the prettiest times of year around here.  The red buds are about to burst into full bloom and the girls are just chomping at the bit for the first red bud spinach salad.  We are just days away!  On the inside, we've got lots of little seedlings prepping for transplanting out.  It's also the time of year when our walking iris shares its delicate flowers with us that last just one day. I thought it was special that on Alida's birthday there were 6 flowers (her age and 1 to grow on).  Her life has added a lot of beauty to our household and we are so glad she's a part of our family!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

March family book report by Jason

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (presented at Sunday reading night)

Persepolis was recommended to me several years ago by Mommy’s cousin Suzanne, who is an old friend and classmate of mine and at the time was a professor of English at the high school level and is now a college level professor, teaching teachers to teach English.  I had good reason to respect her recommendations, but never got around to buying the books she recommended until this year.  Persepolis is a graphic novel, which means a novel written in the form of comic strips that are joined together to create a longer story.
Ms. Satrapi created this graphic novel to tell the story of her childhood.  She grew up in Iran during the period of extreme unrest and political transition that happened during the late seventies through the early eighties.  As is typical of political unrest and transition, things were not stable in her social and educational environment, and it was not a straightforward question of a new political party winning power, but rather a swirling, unpredictable, chaotic interplay of many different political and religious factions and ideologies all competing for followers, power, and control of the public discourse.  Sometimes people would ally themselves with a faction that seemed to promise some desired result, assuming that once the particular goal was achieved the disagreements that might emerge could be worked out.
This proved untrue, and the results were often dangerous.  Marjane’s family was politically involved and active even before the period of change began, and watching them navigate the complicated social and political environment constituted the most important part of her education.

Also interesting and striking was to see how Marjane coped with the challenges herself.  While many of her peers capitulated to the emerging social pressure and chose to adopt strict religious practices which never had been part of their lives before, Marjane eventually decided her strategy was going to be to stand up for herself and—paraphrasing her—to shout louder than her oppressor.  This got her into trouble many times, of course, and some of the things she chose to stand up for seem to me to be not especially worth it.  For example, she loved American popular culture and persisted in trying to acquire, listen to and wear the trappings thereof.  It’s strange to think she was risking her freedom or even her life to wear a Michael Jackson pin on her denim jacket in public.  But the point was not the specific things she chose to do to express herself…she was standing up for the right of a young girl to make those choices.  And that I admire deeply.
Eventually her parents could see that such a firebrand of a daughter was not going to last very long as a free or even alive young woman in the place that Iran had somehow become.  They arranged for her to live “temporarily” with a relative in Austria.
Reading this book did not take very long.  I knocked it out in an evening.  Which was good, because it filled the function Mommy thought it would be good for…satisfying my March book requirement so I could keep going on my next one which will certainly take longer than the end of March to complete.  But the length of the book does not indicate its impact.  It was deeply stirring to read…a person’s heart goes out to little Marjane trying to make her way in such a troubled society.  It makes one deeply thankful for our relatively peaceful context and causes one to think about what might be done to safeguard the level of peace and autonomy that is so easy to take for granted in our lives.

Looks who's growing up!

It seems that growing things is what we've got a lot of around here right now - whether you are referring to plants, chicks or children. The focus of this particular writing is our littlest gal - you can see here that she will soon either roll out or pitch herself forward out of our treasured blue seat (gotten by her Aunt A for Nora - thanks again!). It's been a big week for her, and one that has brought some lovely surprises for her parents!  I will admit to entering the week with a bit of trepidation. I was going to work for the first time without Terah and it was a week in which I had to go in two days. As of Monday morning she had yet to take any substantial amount of milk from a bottle - a few sucks was her best trial run with Jason.

The promised text updates enabled me to slowly relax as my work days wore on. My mom was with her most of the time on Monday and Jason on Wednesday.  She did really well for about 6-7 hours both days, thanks probably to her great reserves.  She even went down for naps without much trouble - falling asleep dancing, riding in the jogger, or swinging.  She didn't do much more than a few sucks with the bottle, and plenty of chewing, but had a little breast milk by spoon. She mostly held out until I came home after her second nap each day.  My sense was she cried no more than when I am around.  I knew I was leaving her in loving, capable hands but it still felt like a big milestone for both of us. Kali and Alida were of course big helpers - they are the best entertainers!  And Kali, in particular, is going to have some good arm muscles if she keeps carting Terah around. This morning she basically put Terah to sleep for her first nap dancing with her in the living room.  Her eyes were practically closed when Kali handed her off to go take care of her ducks. I just plopped down in the recliner and she nursed into a deep sleep.
Back to the work week: I feel so grateful to have gotten through this first week. Like it often ends up being - the anticipation and worry were worse than the real thing.  She is only getting bigger, the list of foods she can play around with will keep expanding (right now it includes applesauce, squash, sweet potatoes, pickles, and dilly beans - the last two have just been sucked upon), her ability to be entertained (and distracted) keeps increasing, and the warm weather will make lots of outdoor time possible (which is a big hit with all of us).  My main goal was to survive the transition, and it feels like we are doing much better than that - there's even some thriving happening!  In many ways it felt like me taking Terah with me to work had gotten to the point of eroding our relationship.  I have felt more energy and patience and enjoyment of her in our times together.  Breaks are good. I wasn't getting any of those...  

I don't know all the factors but this has just all around been a better week for Terah - better naps, less fussing, better sleeping at night, more content times playing... It's such a welcome relief - and I hope a stage that is very long lasting!  We don't know all the factors but it seems like her first tooth coming through might have something to do with it - and the second bottom front tooth emerged today. She has been working hard on them - anything with in arms' reach is pulled directly to her mouth (whether that be a toy, my water jar, a blanket, the chair rails, the counter, the rope on her baby swing, Rook cards, hair, my face, my dad's head, etc...).  We are solidly and expertly in the "oral phase."  She would like to get a chick in her mouth too but we have not allowed those little fingers to secure their desired prize!
She's also no longer staying right where we put her.  She has learned to roll from front to back and also pivots around a bit when she is on her tummy, making some progress at getting somewhere.  I'm hoping she will have a little more discretion with the things she puts into her mouth by the time true mobility hits.  We'll see if we luck out on that front!  

In case anyone wishes to see proof of her rolling over skills, here she is!  The day she learned to do it, she would roll over and then squawk to be rolled back on her tummy. Then she would do it again. She did this at least a half dozen times. It was as if she had to do it enough times to feel confident she had mastered that skill and then she was ready to move on to other things.  She's doing a really good job attempting to keep up with her older sisters.  I'm loving some of the signs of growing up, but in other ways it is once again going so so fast!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Some tidbits...

After working long and hard to get Terah down for a nap, I was cuddled up with her in the recliner ready to enjoy some writing time, reflecting on recent days. It was not to be, I guess.  Terah's had one great nap this morning, a short nap on our hike, and now another short nap since our return. Not sure how this evening will go. But since we lose an hour tonight, maybe all the better if she is ready to bed down early tonight. Yes, I'm trying to find the silver lining in the cloud.  I sometimes wonder why I attempt to make plans these days, even little ones.  The girls are hoping for snacks and games this evening but I feel like the clock is already ticking on the time we'll have with Terah content.  For now, we are outside at the swing-set and she is watching Kali and Alida swing, while she swings in the baby swing.  She put herself to sleep the other day for the first time while swinging, so seemed at least worth a little more rest time for her...

It's been touch and go the last few days in terms of Terah's mood, and, closely connected to that, mine.  We had a few days where I was feeling like we had a content and happy baby who was oodles of fun to have around.  I was seeing a groove of sorts emerge and I must admit it felt good!  Then we hit another rough spot - a night of being awoken every hour or so, more fussiness during the day and difficulty napping well, and what seemed to be some intestinal discomfort.  The source?  That is what I'd love to figure out.  The only change I noted in my diet was the evening before the bad night and real fussy day I had gotten inspired to make homemade peanut butter from our peanuts.  Delicious!  I had not had peanuts in quite some time (we ran out of peanut butter and remember our Lent commitment to not buy food...). I've noticed that when I eat a hearty serving of peanuts or peanut butter I don't feel good.  So, whether or not those yummy morsels are the culprit, I'm off them 100% for now.  My next suspicion is dairy and while I've stopped drinking milk and have had very little cheese, I have not gone all the way and eliminated butter, yogurt and things that have a little milk in them. I'm more than ready to do so if we isolate that as the cause. If things don't improve a lot in the coming days, I may take the plunge once I'm sure the peanuts are out of my system and not the sole cause of her distress. It's so frustrating to feel like something must be bothering her and she wants to be happy but just has to complain about it.

But let me not dwell on the negative any longer. My intentions for writing today was due more to feeling a lot of gratitude: for lots of fresh air and outdoor time this week, for getting to help seed and water lettuce, for a family hike to the lake today, for all the things sprouting and blooming, for happy chickens and ducks providing us with dozens of delicious eggs on a daily basis, for flowers reminding us of Nora, for family work times and play times, for delicious and nutrient dense food in abundance, for amazing daughters and a wonderful partner in this life we are living. There is so, so much I feel thankful for and want to keep those things at the forefront of my mind, even when the frustrations of daily schedules gone awry seem to take over my emotions, at least momentarily.

Here's a snippet of one of our outdoor times recently, followed by some of my favorite images of recent days:

Kali doesn't want to miss ANY gardening - we must remember as she gets sad if Jason buzzes out to try to sneak a little in and doesn't let her know.  I love seeing her out working in the garden, with her ducks close by!  She's hoping to start collecting hatching eggs for ducklings soon.  Have I mentioned loving this time of year?
The chickens are loving being out and about right now.  They are clearly benefiting from the bugs coming out and the grass growing, and in turn so are we as the yolks deepen in color and we ingest more omega-3's all the time!  Thanks chickens...And first candling on the eggs in the incubator showed great fertility - we candle the second bunch tonight.
The first blooming daffodils in Nora's garden.  I love seeing her garden come to life!  She is on my mind often right now as Terah reminds us a lot more of Nora than Alida ever did.  Some of her physical features are more similar, but especially some of her sounds.  The other night someone mistakenly called her Nora and I find that very sweet.
The girls (including Terah) would gladly eat outside whenever possible. We've had two picnics so far with more to come. But Alida is already getting large itchy bug bites.  Argh!  No pavilion being constructed this year and we are likely not purchasing a screened gazebo either. We are now contemplating a screened tent to put over our table or the kiddie pool to enable more eating and playing outside bug-free (and for a fraction of the cost). We'll see... 
The amazing daughters I mentioned!  We enjoyed a lovely hike to the lake today, complete with Jason and I having good conversations (uninterrupted) about our life and future hopes and dreams.  So good when we have time to actually talk!  And love how I feel like when we come together and get to share our recent musings, they line up so well together.  In short, we both really want to keep getting better at what we love doing here on our homestead, and we keep exploring ways to make that possible!
But turn your back on our eldest and she will find a tree to climb.  
I do rest a little more easily when her two feet are firmly on the ground. I have to just say again what an amazing gal she is!  I chuckled the other day when my parents were here and Kali was working on algebra in our part of the house. I mentioned she was welcome to go up with them to visit since they were only around for a short time.  She happily went but first noted that she wanted to finish her algebra problem. Yes, that's my daughter doing algebra for the sheer fun of it!
Some of Jason's recent grafting work. Let's here it for (hopefully) lots more fruit in our future.
We even got a few WV apple varieties and a pear one to give a try. Time will tell...
Enjoying a short and rare gardening stint.  Rare, clearly, from the fact that my legs were sore the next day from squatting and standing over and over while seeding a small area with Terah on my front.  Gotta get back into shape!
One of my favorite sights when I look outside - happy birds and happy husband , as well as the promise of amazing food just weeks or months down the road.  We will have our first fresh spinach salad tomorrow and more will soon follow.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Flowers blooming, trees coming down...

Thanks to spring break at EMU this week, I'm not heading into the office but instead working from home.  And since I've been working more hours than I need to be, I'm working a bit less this week to free Jason to enjoy the warmth outside and make headway on some spring projects.

I went out today to check out the project Jason and Kali were working on, and enjoyed the little purple iris blooming along the front walk.  I love watching the world around us become a beautiful array of colors again!

Kali was getting some practice with her ax today as Jason was taking down trees that had the potential to compromise our drain field. Some of them were pretty painful trees to cut down - healthy trees we'd love to keep but it was not worth it to think of needing to pay for expensive drain field repairs due to their roots getting into the pipes or drain lines.  So we will be grateful for firewood and some lumber of the trees, but still feel sad to take them down.

And, for anyone not following my limited facebook activity, here is what Terah thought of Alida saying "hi" to her at lunch today.  Silly gal!