Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Potlucks, family gatherings, new friends, and maple syrup

Feels like a lot has transpired since I last updated the blog! I feel like I've been busier than usual, and am grateful to have now successfully passed the baton back to Jason on some things. He is 1.5 weeks post-vasectomy and is more or less back to his normal level of activity (except that he got a cold right on the tail end of the healing process and that has probably impacted his energy more than anything in the last few days). The procedure went smoothly, as has the recovery, for which we are grateful! And I got to exercise muscles that don't get near enough attention normally. My dad helped with chores for the first few days until he headed back to WV to work and then returned and had an ablation done on his heart (so I was on solo for about a week). I did it! And even mostly enjoyed it...It was reassuring to know I could keep the chickens alive and the compost toilet emptied without Jason if need be. But I much prefer life with Jason at normal functioning level as adding those things to the other household things felt a tad overwhelming at times (to say the least). It didn't help that Terah had another sleeping horrendously stint in the middle of that too. I'm happy to report that last night was the best rest I've had for a good while, and (surprise, surprise) I feel more positive about life today!

We've enjoyed lots of good times with lots of special people: family gatherings, a birthday celebration, a stint with Mom and Dad upstairs, hosting a work lunch for folks helping our neighbors, and a neighborhood potluck where our new Kurdish friends joined us.
Yes, much of this was happening while Jason was trying to keep his activity level low and his feet up as much as possible. I was very, very grateful for Mom and Dad's presence around to ease the load at multiple crunch points! And Jason got some good reading and writing time in, which is something we want to be finding time for regularly but was made easier by this "prescribed down time." I think the hardest time of day for me was evenings - when I was worn out (and worn down) and was trying to juggle the night time routine while he lay reading. I know it wasn't as enjoyable for him, since he knew I was carrying a heavier load, but I will admit here that it took me back to my sister having a hernia operation when I was little. I remember noting how nice she was being treated and she even had a fruit/candy basket delivered to our house. I secretly wished for a hernia (thankfully, my wish didn't come true and I'm clearly not in danger of getting a vasectomy)!

A highlight of the end of his recovery time for me was spending a few hours at our neighbors S&M together while my parents had the girls. Jason was tiling a shower for them to make one story living an option, and he needed help with some heavy lifting and mortar mixing. Well that only took me a few minutes so I got to spend most of the morning helping clean and rearrange furniture to make way for a bed downstairs. It was really a special and unique morning!

We have been trying to enjoy the warmer days when we don't need to bundle up to go outside, but to be honest it's as unsettling as enjoyable. If I didn't also find myself reading articles about human extinction within the next decade I might be able to keep my anxiety in check. The night that I read that particular article I found myself googling "is there any good news" and found some nice "feel good" stories to read before drifting off to sleep!

Kali is yearning for winter. Alida is happy with the warm weather. Terah will go out in ANY weather - dressed for it, or not. Yesterday when I was at work she had a full fledged LONG meltdown/tantrum for Jason when they needed to come in from outside. She didn't want comforting so he just let it ride its course. She's pretty good at them. I get them most regularly when I try to get her off some piece of furniture I find her perched on precariously. She really is not trusted to keep her own safety in mind. This gal has a serious climbing bug!

Our Free Little Library is now official - complete with number and easy to find on the world map: https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/. I know we've had at least two visitors (since I was with them when they extracted some reading material). We are trying to get the word out - as we need more visitors to work down our inventory (as we have several more boxes in the house to cycle through).
Valentine's Day was kind of an afterthought for me this year. We did manage to start the day with some heart shaped pancakes. But what really made the day special was our evening neighborhood potluck - it felt like a sacred and special evening to be able to introduce our new Kurdish friends to other neighbors who were eager to get to know them. The chaos of the evening felt so welcome and comfortable - lots of people enjoying being together! It seemed like they felt right at home, noting how often they have thought of returning home and how the evening with all of us took that thought away (temporarily, of course). I have found myself thinking often of late about the resiliency of the human spirit. I sure hope that if a time comes when I lose everything and must start over, I will show even a fraction of the strength and courage that I see in those around me!

The other evening we were treated to a family night planned by Kali. She had chosen a pamphlet from the visitor's center for an art gallery in McGaheysville. The idea was to stop there and then walk about the town and see what else there was the see. We were the only ones there and lingered as long as we could, before knowing we were soon about to spend a lot more money if we didn't get Terah out of the place (initially she was reserved and looking around from my arms but as she warmed up she wanted to explore and touch and hold everything). The girls enjoyed the old phone booth with working phone. They struggled with the outdated technology but finally managed to call me from it!

When we asked about other things to see in the area, we were pointed to the resort (which was the last place Kali wanted to go, so we headed to Harrisonburg). Until dusk, we walked around downtown, found some ducks to look at, some walls to walk on, a bridge to cross and then towards the end scouted out where to fill our bellies! We were about to head to a place we had gone previously, but I could tell Kali was kind of eager to try something new. I noticed a sign a few blocks away for Las Chamas and we headed over, glad to see a menu hanging outside for us to peruse!
After taking time to do a little convincing of our middle daughter to try it out, in we went. We were not disappointed. Actually every time I think about it, I ponder when we might get back there. The food was delicious (very different from the Mexican restaurant we tried on our last family outing). The atmosphere was simple and comfortable, the waiter kind and helpful, the food tasted authentic and freshly made, and it also brought back good memories. We started with fried yucca (to remind us of our Bolivia days) and some tostones (which I grew up having at home from my parents time in Puerto Rico). A great ending to a fun evening together!

That was Saturday evening and Sunday morning we managed to get all of us ready and out of the house shortly after 8 a.m. An impressive feat, let me tell ya! We were headed to Highland County for the day to hang out with new friends (who have taken on Jason's Allegheny chickens) who have bought 85 acres there and were doing maple syrup for the first time this year. Sounded like a fun outing, and it was!

They are housesitting for folks who are out of the country while they finish up their tiny house on the land. So we started and ended at the place they are currently living. We loved seeing the piglets! I enjoy mama hens with chicks very much, but there is something about watching baby mammals as they follow their mama around, grabbing a drink whenever possible. I chuckled when the mama finally found her way into the little house and laid down so the piglets could suckle more easily. It looked like she had tired of trying to walk around and do her own things with them tagging along and rooting at her. From one lactating mother to another, I understand!
Their land was beautiful - rolling hills, gorgeous views, woods, rock ledges, and the hint of a maple smell in the air. It's always refreshing to hang out as someone else's life project for the day - to just enjoy it and not have a project list running through my mind. It felt like a Sabbath day for sure! They have a little girl who is just a few months older than Terah and the two of them enjoyed playing together. Since we are (in some ways) pursuing a similar kind of life and we live 1.5 hours from each other, it's unlikely we'll get to do it often, but we'll enjoy connecting with them whenever we get the chance!
And finally, for anyone who missed it on facebook, here's our favorite little owl. She's about to wake from a nap, so I think I'll close for now:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Free Little Library and more

So life's about to get crazy again so I better get a few reflections/photos/videos up here before our numbers expand once again! Alida left last Wednesday morning for her week in wild, wonderful WV with Grandma and Grandpa Myers. To say she was excited would be nothing short of a major understatement! She had packed over a week ahead of time and had even put her trip on our family meeting agenda to talk about what she should take along and what things we would be doing in her absence. We've talked with her (or tried) each day, but we get a sentence or two about what game she has most recently beaten Grandma or Grandpa in and then she usually says "bye" and is off to have some more fun! We are looking forward to welcoming her home later this evening. It was even a long enough time away that we were able to send her a letter and we just got hers to us today. Pictured here is Terah helping me takes ours down to the mailbox - one of her favorite outings these days is a walk down the lane!

We didn't promise Alida we'd have no fun while she was gone, but we did offer to try to play the games she doesn't enjoy as much and work on projects that she didn't need to be part of. So we've gotten to enjoy Upwords, Boggle, Take One and Blokus with Kali this week. I will even be willing to admit that I lost to Jason AND Kali in Upwords last evening (and worse than losing is needing to admit that I was not a very good sport about it and was happy Alida was not here to see that her mother is not much better than her at losing certain games). I'm recovered now and am ready for another shot at it - though not sure Jason and Kali will want to play with me again so soon!

During the days that I was at home and with Terah, Kali and Jason had the goal of finishing Kali's birthday present (it was about time before we are closer to her next birthday than her last one). We had given her a coupon to build a Free Little Library with Jason to put at the end of our lane. Kali has photographed the process in extensive detail but here's just a few to give you a sense of the process and the final product, installed today! We are waiting for our official plaque that we ordered to arrive and for Alida to help Kali fully stock it, but there's a sampling of books now just in case someone stops by. We also hope to plant daffodils under it to spiffy it up even more - not that it's not already pretty cute! It's been really fun to see Kali and Jason getting lots of time just the two of them to work on a project together.
It worked out really well that they were at the caulking/painting stage of the project when the weekend came around. They were able to fit this in in the evenings, since the daytime was occupied with helping with the hog butchering up the hill. We were so generously assisted by neighbors when we butchered in the fall and were happy for a chance to help out in exchange. I should clarify: Jason helped with butchering, I made food! It was a large group gathered on both days and they worked up 7 hogs. Jason enjoyed himself thoroughly. The first day I didn't linger long with Terah and Kali (in part because I feel shy at these kinds of events when I don't know many people and partly because a good number of folks had brought their dogs and with multiple dogs milling around I wanted to make sure Terah didn't experience more "dog trauma" before she gets over some already unfortunate experiences). So we had a short visit and then decided to come back for more the next day. Sunday was so nice to linger for a few hours and join the crew for lunch before heading home at Terah's nap time. I joined the inside folks of mostly kids and our neighbors S&M. As our neighbor S's mobility decreases due to advancing prostate cancer, I welcome and savor any and all time that we get to enjoy together. They feel like family to us and so the times feel both sweet and sad!
On Saturday afternoon, Emily, Terah and I enjoyed a walk with a very unexpected ending. Due to Emily's bravery (remember my aforementioned feelings of shyness), we stopped in to meet some neighbors we have wanted to meet for months (actually it's been close to 2 years since they moved to Ktown we found out). We were so graciously welcomed into their home, served a Kurdish feast which we enjoyed with them, and visited for close to two hours before heading home. We look forward to reciprocating soon and are grateful for new friendships and to be able to extend a warm welcome, especially to neighbors who are no doubt hearing messages of exclusion, unkindness and discrimination. It was amazing to me how well Terah did in this new environment, completely won over when they offered her a banana. Maybe she also sensed how special and unique the time was. 

As this week without Alida comes to an end, I feel glad for it! I feel grateful for her special time away building memories with grandparents. I feel grateful for more concentrated time with Kali. And I'm eager and ready to have Alida back in the mix. I was once again amazed by how the complexity seemed to drop by way more than 1/5 just by removing one member from the household. There is some sort of tipping point between 4 and 5 that seems to exponentially change things. While we remained quite occupied this week (because that's just what we do), it felt calmer in some regards. That is good, since once again Terah is in a stretch of sleeping horrendously! Maybe she needs Alida to help wear her out during the day. Let's hope!

Ok, I can see the color changing on the mountain outside as the sun starts to set. Terah and Kali are hanging out some laundry to give it a head start on drying tomorrow. I better take over so that Kali can get a little carrot digging in before dark. I'll end here with a few videos for your entertainment!

Kali's pet chicken Buttercup is spending her days with the ducks. I think she is starting to think she is a duck. This video was taken right after I caught her trying to strain her neck to get grass out of the water pan like the ducks were doing. Silly chicken!

Terah is still giving me near heart attacks several times daily. You turn your back and she is trying to get on some piece of furniture. She is insatiable! It's funny sometimes and frustrating at others. She would spend as much time on top of the dining room table as we'd let her. It has made working in the kitchen nicely in that she pretty reliably enjoys joining me there sitting on the counter while I cook.

And, finally, while it was a little calmer this week, Terah did her best to make up for Alida's noise missing. This is not a calm or quiet child! She is so funny right now loving to scare us by coming up and saying "boo" which sounds more like "ba" when she does it. And when we act very scared, this tickles her to no end. She does love her life (when we aren't keeping her from climbing) and I'm glad!