Monday, October 30, 2017

Nora's 10th birthday, fall beauty, soccer coming to a close...

After welcoming a day yesterday of rain and clouds and wind, today has dawned bright and beautiful. The colors outside are spectacular and the air is fresh and has that rain-washed clean feel to it. Not that I have been out in it much, but that is the reward dangling in front of me for just as soon as I get this post published! You see we hope to start the week out right. Recently in a family meeting, we all contributed to a list of things we'd like to include in each week. With the days shortening, we have had a hard time squeezing in a few of them. So we are going to head out in the middle of the day for some family badminton before Terah's afternoon nap. Here's the list: a mommy-daddy jog, family walk and/or bike ride, mommy reading Alida to sleep, family game, music time, dedicated "school-related stuff" time for Kali, and most recently added is outdoor/yard time together. Somehow it doesn't seem like it should be hard to fit these 7 things in one time every 7 days but it has proved to take considerable intentionality to do it!

Today feels like a day to prioritize one or more of those items. It feels like a day to do as much together as we can, to savor being together, to enjoy each other. Ten years ago today the future felt pretty uncertain and, for both Jason and I, there were some very dark moments. We welcomed little Nora Lynne into our family and wondered what the future would look like for her and for us. Ten years later, I feel lots of emotions. The grief has morphed and changed over the years. There is still sadness and some tears, but also a sense of gratitude and fullness. Our lives are beautiful in so many ways, and some of those ways are because of Nora and for that we feel really grateful.

Nearly 40 others joined us last night for a very orange party; each one present has been an important part of our journey over the last decade. Some knew Nora well, others never got to meet her and know her only through our sharing of stories. As I went around the room and introduced who was in the circle and how we knew them, I felt like bursting: here all together were friends, family, the triplets I gave milk to, the woman that hosted us in Charlottesville and provided much more than just a bed to sleep in, Nora's playmate and buddy on the cusp of turning 10 herself, friends who journeyed with us as we tried to decide whether we had the courage to try again, some of my women bosom friends who have walked with me (literally) over these years and helped me navigate life's ups and downs, and of course my own dear family (my lover and life partner who has shared all of this with me and our larder full of three beautiful gals! 
In the weeks leading up to our blood drive and last night's gathering, Jason and I have both done what we do best it seems. I've organized and planned and prepared for the gatherings we have hosted, throwing myself into the details and into corresponding with those joining us. It has given me a chance to think about and share stories and engage with others, which is always meaningful for me. Jason has spent parts of multiple days digging soil, heaving around heavy rocks and forming the fun climbing/sliding and waterfall feature in Nora's garden. In evening times, he has learned a new song Garden Rose that reminds him of Nora. While he felt no performance urge, he was willing to share the song with those gathered last night. I could listen to him sing it daily! Below are his slightly modified lyrics. I think it won't be hard to tell why he thinks of Nora, and all our daughters, when he sings this:

I have lived as a garden rose,
It is the only life I’ve known.
I’ve felt the touch of tending hands,
I get my rain from a watering can.

Now from the time I was a seed,
I have had everything I need.
And I grew strong and I grew tall,
Until the day I could see past that garden wall.

I always thought that my life was enough,
Till I saw your face so brilliant and so rough.
You were shining right back up at the whole sky,
Handing out smiles to travelers passing by

Now tell me something little wildflower,
Can you make some room for me?
'Cause I will climb out of this garden,
And put my feet down in the weeds.

Now if those oak trees all were acorns,
And if caterpillars turn to butterflies,
Can you give me one good reason,
Why a rose should not become a weed by and by.

'Cause don’t the sunshine lay the warmest,
On the shoulders of the wild?
And don’t the breeze touch the sweetest,
On the face of its own child?

And tell me something, little wildflower,
Have you made some room for me?
'Cause I will leave these walls forever,
And lay me down among the weeds.
A little wildflower I will be.

When not preparing for Nora's 10th birthday, we've been getting in the fall/winter groove. Jason has started the yearly fall cut back, we've started sorting dried beans and shelling corn will commence soon, we are harvesting the last of the fall raspberries and still picking up persimmons to pop in our mouths when we walk down the path to the yard, and we have been trying to use as much veggie amaranth as we can consume before it freezes (the girls enjoyed making a large batch of green noodles the other day and I mostly survived the project without pulling my hair out)! And, finally, the girls are savoring the last weeks of fall soccer. It's been a fun and good season for both of them. 
Jason is tending 100 plus chicks, with the hopes of having at least half of those turn out to be females (for an order of 50 hens that he hopes to fill of his Shenandoah breed - yay, for someone catching the vision for that breed!). He was able to hatch chicks over four weeks and has mostly integrated those hatchings successfully. We had one sad attempt at having a mama live at peace with her brood and another and were able to remove her quickly after she had pecked just one chick to death. Hate that! Another night they got too cold and piled up on each other under the one heat lamp we had (have since borrowed a second) and we lost 8 that night. Hate that too! So last night as the wind was blowing, Jason went out and lowered the heat lamp and also put up some plastic and other wind barriers. They all made it through the night and I think he has a set up now that will keep them all comfortable as they grow!

Ok, things are breaking down in the front room (probably time for a diaper change, a nursing break, and getting this family on to another activity). I'd say that next activity is to move to the outdoors for some sunshine! In closing, don't want to forget to mention that we continue to enjoy special times with our niece Ivy (and of course her parents too!). We enjoy the routine meals together, but also are happy for times that forge new special memories. This past week we trekked up the hill behind their home together to sit and look at the colorful mountain in front of us, visit Blake's tree, and watch the girls tear around after each other or the little ones toddle around on the blankets and flop in the grass. While we are aware of our biased opinions, who can deny that this is a pretty adorable quad of gals?!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Our 11th blood drive, a beautiful hike and more chicks!

Last evening we hosted our 11th blood drive in honor of Nora - and this time in celebration her 10th birthday! After we got home from the event we were having fun looking back at pictures from previous blood drives and also were doing a little historical digging to find out when we started giving blood after Nora died. Looks like I started October 15, 2008 at an EMU blood drive around what would have been Nora's 1st birthday! I wrote this in February 2009, a few times into giving blood regularly: "If someone had told me two years ago that one day donating blood would be a healing ritual for me I would have wondered what turns life would take to bring me to that place. And that is where I find myself. Sweaty palms, shaking cold hands and all, I find myself dreading and eager to partake in this simple yet profound ritual of facing this relatively small fear in honor of a little person who so greatly impacted my life." This picture is one of the first times Jason and I gave blood together. For a while we looked around for blood drives happening through the Red Cross until we learned about Virginia Blood Services, then located at RMH (which was so much easier and nicer to do together and with Kali in tow, as she could come in with us and they even had toys and a little table and chairs for her to enjoy).

Then in November 2012 I wrote, "This year as her birthday approached, we thought about how we wanted to mark it together and who we might wish to invite to join us. Ever since we started giving blood regularly in Nora's memory after her death, I thought it would be 'fun' to have others join us. It still seems odd for me to connect the word 'fun' with being stuck by a needle...Well the evening of her birthday we had about 20 persons join us at Virginia Blood Services, plus some great kid cheerleaders! And it was fun, but much more than that. It meant a lot to both Jason and me to have others join us in this ritual that has become very meaningful for us. Some that gathered knew Nora well and some didn't know her at all. Some had given blood regularly for years, for some this was the very first time. Just as I overcame my intense fear/minor phobia of needles, we saw others do the same (or at least get started!). There are many pictures of the evening, of both strained and relaxed faces. We'll treasure them all... As we gathered the leftover snacks, Nora's memory box, and headed home with Kali and Alida we felt energized and grateful for a very memorable marking of Nora's birthday. It really was a party! Thanks to all that joined us. We plan to do it again - and may not wait a full year to do so..."

And do it again we have! Every birthday and every anniversary of her death since. Now when I'm there for a blood drive the staff ask, "Do you want to get your next one on the calendar?" So June 4, 2018 is it - mark your calendars and plan to join us! I could say many of the same things about it as I did that first time - it continues to be meaningful to have others join us. The main things that have changed is that kids have gotten a lot older and bigger and my fear has diminished to being nothing more than a few butterflies, which are now mostly associated with worrying about my veins not cooperating.

As I looked back over photos last evening it was fun to see both the "regulars" that have joined us for most blood drives (complete with their expanding and growing pack of cheerleaders), as well as remembering the many who have joined for a first time or who have made a choice to face the fear of giving in Nora's memory. It's not for everyone! I get that and am totally ok with that!! But I do enjoy seeing someone else experience what I have over time - the empowerment of doing something you thought you couldn't do and the transformation over time of it becoming something you don't dread but eagerly anticipate. I will say that there was a stint of a few years in there where I really struggled to give and it became something that included more dread than excitement. There is nothing worse for me, in the blood donation realm, than trying to give and not being successful. Glad to be in a good groove again, working back up my confidence that I have good veins!

Last night felt like a record. It didn't quite top our highest number of donors every (I saw 18 noted on one of our drives). Due to 3 cancellations, we didn't quite crest 20, but all 17 donors that made it to VBS with the intent to give did it successfully! That is a new record - no one turned down for low iron, or illness, or needing to be stuck twice. And we had a couple that had never joined us for a blood drive before, including a few that have struggled to give blood in the past. We tried to layer on some additional support and extra cheerleading. The spirit in the place was wonderful and it was lovely to see people leaving with smiles on their faces! Hope we are nurturing some new regulars! I realized this evening that Kali could be eligible in 2 years to join us - just 4 blood drives from now. Wow! She'll be the first in the pack of cheerleaders to be eligible, but if we keep going at this soon enough our cheerleaders could slowly join the ranks of donors. Now that will be fun to watch if it happens! For now they seem perfectly content to hover around my mom at the snack table!
Last evening when we got there and were setting up the staff noted to me that they needed to get me through early on. That was fine with me, and the way I like it - so I can be done and just focus on visiting, bringing snacks to people, watching kiddos as parents check in and give blood, etc... What's cute is that the woman who always sticks me had to leave early and so they wanted to be sure I got through before she had to leave. I'm not sure why I got a reputation for being a hard stick (well, I know it was during those couple years when I had trouble), but C thinks I have good veins and she has never missed or had a bit of trouble. So we are matched and it's a good match! I do not look forward to the day she leaves! As we were talking during my check in last night she reminded me that she won't easily forget Nora's birthday because it is also hers. I think it is special that the person who has become my "blood drawing buddy" has the same birthday as Nora. Yes, I find meaning in these little things!
Now we shift our attention from blood donation to a gathering we plan to host with loved ones this Saturday, on the eve of her birthday. Jason is finishing up the rock work in Nora's garden, and hopes to do the fall weeding/cut back and plant a few things in it today. It feels like the timing of Nora's birthday is coming this year as we truly start to settle into fall mode. The cover crops are in and Jason's last round of chicks has just finished hatching. I can't help but include two videos of Terah enjoying a few more snuggles before these went out under a mama hen.

And I'll end with just two photos from my recent hike with friends to Hensley's pond. It was my birthday quarter to decide what we did together and what a lovely walk/talk we enjoyed. The four miles felt super short as we filled the space talking about all the things that make our lives what they are. These friends are some of those mentioned earlier that are regulars at our blood drives (and show up in my life at many key times). I am eager for many more quarterly gatherings where we share life's joy and challenges and surprises and questions. I treasure these friendships so much!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cell phone: to have or not to have...

Yep, that is the question of the week in this household! When I dropped my phone on rocks and shattered the screen while hiking with Kali and Jason last Friday it felt like a disaster. Not long after it happened I realized that I was not only distraught that I had broken my phone but almost equally distraught about how distraught I was about it (follow that?). I felt close to panic as my phone dinged, alerting me that someone had texted me and there was no way for me to tell who was trying to reach me through my shattered screen.

As we hiked down the mountain, we talked about options and tried to get Kali to weigh in. She, thus far, has about as much interest in electronics and fancy devices as her parents (that is, very little!). We talked about what it would mean to go down to one phone, to go back to a landline, to give up phones altogether, to just replace my phone and carry on as before, try to try to find an old phone from someone to repurpose, etc... We also pondered out loud what modern technology might be doing to us!

As someone who likes to live authentically and as closely in tune with my values as possible, I was experiencing once again the angst of being faced with what feels like one of the many compromises I make on a daily basis. I think we know more or less that the phones the vast majority of us use are made in part with rare minerals that are mined by adults and children in very poor working conditions (ok, so probably something akin to slavery). So the way I connect with loved ones and work colleagues and friends is through using something that was made by doing harm to others. Is that said too bluntly? I'm usually open to ways of looking at things that make me less culpable but I'm just not seeing another way around this one. And it's not that it is new information; I've known it. And it bothers me. But it slaps me in the face again when I have to choose to invest more time or more money in acquiring yet another one of these devices. I agonize all over again...

I wish I could say that my concern was solely for those that are extracting the resources from the earth to manufacture phones for us. If I'm totally honest, what has brought me up short this time was a realization that this small hand-sized object was controlling me way more than I wanted it to. It had the power to divert my attention, distract me from my family, keep me in a constant state of high alert, constantly feel like there was something I could or should be doing if my hands were free, and making it very hard for me to work at being present to my life now, here, in this place, at this time.

Then I got kind of angry. This is not the way that I want to live! My anxiety has been building these past few years, alongside feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed (to a breaking point at times). I've chalked up some of that to low sleep. That can still have some of the credit! I have attributed some of it to our offspring outnumbering us. Yep, they can have some of the credit too. But I think that this is another piece of the puzzle AND one I have some, maybe more, control over. I can work on sleep to some extent; it's improving slowly. Of course, I fully intend to remain outnumbered by our children and rather than get rid of them I want to fully soak up the beauty each one adds to my life. So maybe it's the device that needs to go, at least for a time.

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon within myself the last number of days. As we debriefed my cell phone's demise the day of, I noticed a large amount of panic within myself and just a glimmer of relief when I thought about not being accessible to the world 24/7 for a bit. As the days have gone by I've noticed a tipping of the scales. The panic has lessened and the relief has grown. Today as I was processing this decision out loud with someone before heading home from work, the image went through my mind of going home and telling my family that I'm giving up my phone. I had this little inspiration (which I did not act upon) to jump up in the air and kick my heels together - there was a feeling of lightness or freedom. I'm trying to pay attention to that, even as the questions rush in and at me when I get serious about "pulling the plug."

The day my phone broke I sent an email to hundreds of my contacts letting them know how I could be reached. At the end, I added: "If anyone has any suggestions for making ethical decisions that one can feel good about with regards to using cell phones (or how to deal with the feedback one might get from going "backwards" and choosing to not have one) I'm all ears!"

I got some wonderful responses! In addition to hearing from a few people that I seldom hear from (which was worth the email blast in and of itself), here are a few things I heard:

"We all seem to be way too attached to cells, and I have no useful suggestions for their deletion from my life, though I certainly consider it! "

"That's a bummer -- but perhaps a blessing in disguise as well."

"Yes, it is easier not to have a smartphone in the first place.  I have a TracFone... This means I can go for walks and never carry a phone because it does not work in our area.  No phone, no broken screens, and I can listen to the bird song without interruption."

"I'm with you, Janelle! Although I have a cell phone, I am a reluctant user. I carry mine in my purse when I'm away from home, otherwise, it's mostly on my kitchen counter where I often don't get to it in time even when I hear it. Likewise, I often don't hear it when I'm in public so I mostly try not to give out my number. I still like to assume that the phone is for emergency use and the number is private. (And emergencies are to be avoided, whenever possible.) All this doesn't really address your question about reversing how you relate to your cell phone--it's just an example of somebody resisting what supposedly is progress!"

By far my very favorite - which I feel inclined to cross stitch and frame on my wall was from my dear great aunt who wrote: "OH ! I.m sorry Janelle, that is a loss I,m sure.    I hope to never have that happen as mine is still fastened to the wall.  and it never gets lost, like partial plates; hearing aids, watches, scissors.pens, etc....     chin up.   you will do good.   I really do care." 

I've had multiple conversations with people in the last few days about the quandary of our relationship to the various kinds of devices that flood our stores, homes, schools, workplaces, etc... How do we relate to technology and "screens?" What kind of example do we want to leave for our children? How do we want to be spending our time? Are our relationships assisted by these devices or hindered? What does it look like to set healthy boundaries around their use? 

And I add to those some of the things that often plague me: Who will I let down if I let go of my phone? Will I not be able to be there for someone quickly when they need me if I'm not available 24/7? It is irresponsible to take this step? And to the latter one, I again will resonate with Beezus, of Beezus and Ramona, who at one point in a rare moment of "rebellion" pierced her ears without her parents' permission. This surprised them, which they expressed to her. She responded having a little fit in which she exclaimed something to the effect of, "why do I always have to be the responsible one?" 

I hope to always be an attentive, responsive, helpful and very present friend, mother, coworker, daughter, sister, and community member. I am not wanting to back away from any of that. Honestly, the decision to take a pretty drastic step "back" is actually because I have this sense that maybe I can do those things better without a "smart" phone. On the way home I was having fun thinking about making a goal of writing one handwritten letter a month for the next year. Who could I surprise with some personal mail in their mailbox? How often do we get the thrill of opening a "real" letter anymore?

I'm nursing my last baby right now. She just turned 2. If she takes after Kali she'll nurse on and off for another year. If after Alida maybe for an additional year. But she could also decide to be done tomorrow (ok, that seems highly unlikely but you never know...). When Kali was a baby and nursed, I did just that - nursed her. Now, that is a time when I am usually thinking of what else I could be doing and often I grab my phone - I can do some texting or glance over emails or scan facebook or look up recipes or.... It's all "productive" stuff right? It helps me "catch up" so I have more time later...or do I?

That's the thing. Each new piece of technology that is supposed to improve our lives and help us do things faster or more efficiently, doesn't seem to actually free up space. At least I have yet to feel like it does that for me. Maybe it is just that my personality is poorly suited to these gadgets. But how it feels to me is that each new steps towards greater speed and efficiency just means that we then ramp up our living to the next level and try to get more done in less time, plan more events, stay connected with more people (usually on a pretty surfacy level), and feel more and more and more spread thin.

That's what it's doing to me anyway. At our wedding, the friend giving the meditation noted my "gift of intensity." I haven't lost it yet and doubt I ever will. When I do something I like to do it right, or well, or with a great deal of care and attention. I put the same effort into "mastering" the art of using my phone to help me "run my life" better. And I'm ready to say that I am failing at it and that I think I'm almost ready to thank my "butter fingers" for dropping my phone the other day. 

I have not felt healthy, on an emotional and psychological level more so than physical, in recent months and have been troubled by it. I don't want to pass this opportunity by. Maybe it is extra poignant that it happened on a hike with Kali - the first "date" Jason and I have had with our eldest in years. She is 14, and not slowing up a bit on this growing up thing. The last, last, last thing I want her to remember in her final years of childhood at home is a mom who was super stressed, scattered and only semi-present, that always had a phone in her hand, that would answer her phone during meals, that never could leave it for a spell while we had family time, that was kind of listening to her when she talked but was always partially distracted. She's old enough that this transition probably won't be lost on her and that's maybe a good thing. There's also the chance that if we make some moves now to set ourselves on a different path, Alida and Terah won't even have strong memories of us spending lots of time on our phones. 

Jason and I were noting the other evening when we talked about how much of what we are doing and the choices we are making in our lives are ones that go against or at least are not in line with the dominant culture. Anyone that knows us even a little bit is likely to be able to think of multiple examples of this. It seems like it might just be time for us to get this area of our life more in line with our "out of line" posture on so many things. Like in other areas, we can enjoy thinking of it this way: there are many many people around with cell phones. If you need an example of someone with a cell phone, you'll have no trouble. What if you want to have an example of someone leading a fulfilling, fruitful, integrated life without one? Can you? 

Am I up for the challenge? Clearly, I'm considering it pretty seriously if I'm "going public" with my musings on it. This blog hasn't had a comment on it in quite some time. Anyone want to change that? Let me know your thoughts! Your reactions to anything I've said or your own musings on this topic. I'm very interested! We haven't made a final decision on which path, of the many options, to take. I'm living with the questions for now, and feeling out where this "break" will take me/us. So it's your chance to add to our process! 

And now it's time to get off this screen and into bed! I'll end with a poem by Mary Oliver that has come to mind often in recent days:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Whose birthday was this for?!

It's always hard to know what to get for a child who seems so very content with her life, and seldom asks for anything. Or might go as far as to try to convince me that she doesn't need more of something, even in cases where I might think her selection (say of clothes or shoes) seems a tad slim. That'd be our eldest for you! So when her 14th birthday rolled around we focused most on the celebrations and then gave her a few coupons. Her scythe is still in the box not yet assembled, but this week was the week for her to cash in the two others. Mom graciously offered to keep the two younger gals so our attention could be fully on Kali. And how delightful that was! It felt like my birthday!!

Yesterday, Kali and I took off for a morning in town together. We were going thrift store shopping for a few things - namely a new swimsuit for her (even she agreed on this one that it was time!), a snowsuit (she has grown inches again this year), orange items for the upcoming celebrations for Nora and a few winter clothes. Then following shopping she got to choose a place to eat out. We had so much fun!

We joked about all the ways it was simplified to just have the two of us to deal with. I didn't have to help anyone in/out of the car. Kali didn't to provide entertainment on the way to/fro town. There were no diaper bags to lug, or children to keep from pulling things off shelves. It was so delightfully simple!

We went first to Gift and Thrift and left 2.5 hours later poorer and with barely enough time to get lunch before needing to be home again. Our trip was a success - if number of items purchased is any gauge of that (note the almost full laundry lines!). We both found clothes, lots of orange things, and a few fun housewares. We probably tried on 150-200 items as we went rack by rack and loaded up our cart. Kali is so fun to shop with. I do not enjoy clothes shopping (a subject for another, and preferably private blog post - oh, I guess that would be my journal!). But there with Kali it was actually enjoyable. Most notably, I love that she tries on clothes with a very practical outlook - are they comfortable, will she wear them, does it suit her taste and the kinds of activities she enjoys, does she need it? It's never about "how does this make me look?" Of course she looks great in all of it - ok, so she did try on a few sweaters that were a little odd. We also found ourselves laughing at some of the items we pulled out to show each other. Practical does not describe all clothing options on those racks!

We walked hand in hand down Main St and enjoyed an Indian buffet before heading home. We were looking for something with soft food options Kali could enjoy as she still nurses a sore mouth. She's doing great though and talking more clearly again! Just like when Jason and I are together without kids, we tend to talk about the kids. Here we were out and about without her little sisters, and they were the subject of good portions of our conversations.

Kali got back to back birthday coupons as today then was the day for a long hike just with me and Jason! She is so patient with Terah and Alida when we go for family walks/hikes together, but she is always eager to see what's around the next corner. So we decided to give her a long hike with just the adults in the family. And we made it to the ridge!

The only bad thing about our outing is that as we neared the ridge I agreed to do a quick time check. I got my phone out, checked the time and dropped it! Jason marveled later at how many drops that phone had already survived, but not this time. It fell on rocks and shattered the screen. It was hard for me to recover from that one - I wanted so badly to just shake it off and continue with our date morning with Kali but I needed a few minutes. And honestly, I haven't fully yet, in part because I don't know yet what I'm going to do about it. But that is also a topic for another post - possibly a public one as I'd welcome others to join me in asking some of the questions that come to me again as I try to figure out what to do. Fix it? Very expensive (I was told by the shop it's better to buy a new one). Buy a new one? Are there any phones one can feel good about buying? Do we ditch our cell phones all together and go back to a landline? What are the health risks of using cell phones? What are the risks to our relationships in using them? Or not using them? Is it fair to ask people to reach me by "old fashioned methods" and for me to be less accessible? Oh the list could go on and on, but again that's for a later time - dinner is ready! For this time anyway it sounds like friends might bail me out with an old phone I can use... So I'll end with a few more hike pictures. Happy 2 months ago birthday Kali - the whole point of this posting!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Garlic's in, braces on...

Catch up time! Girls to rejoin me momentarily and dishes waiting for me by the sink, but here I am eager to share an update before this news becomes history and we move on to our next adventures!

First backing up to the remainder of Terah's actual birthday. We celebrated the evening before due to our Wednesday evening soccer practice schedule. It rained the hour before practice and so until the last minute we weren't sure of the plan. Then it cleared off beautifully and the sky offered Terah a birthday rainbow to enjoy! Here's the trio about to head off. I think it ended up being the perfect birthday present for Terah - an hour where her mommy had no other responsibilities other than to be at Smithland fields in case Kali or Alida needed something AND puddles! Needless to say, baths/showers were on the agenda as soon as we returned home!
Terah's birthday was also a day in which I noticed things more around our place. I tried to slow up a bit and set my agenda aside, allowing Terah to guide our pace. We took two meandering trips down to the pigs, once with meat scraps and chicken bones and once with persimmon pulp and seeds. While Terah announced to the pigs that it was her birthday, I think they thought it was theirs! They were quite a fan of the birthday visits from us! And I must say that it gives me great pleasure to see them relishing our seconds with such gusto. They really do seem to love their life at Tangly Woods and I'm glad to provide a pleasant existence for them here! I also walked slow enough up and down the front walk to notice a date on Kali's tree. Always a special reminder of our first apartment on Hamlet Dr...
Before moving to yesterday and today, two more quick highlights. I love when our three girls are enjoying each other! I don't tend to run for the camera when Terah is screeching "go way ida" or trying to pull her off the recliner because she wants on. Or when Alida is hounding Kali about something to the point that even Kali loses her patience (long after I would have lost mine). But these moments when they snuggle up together to read or just be close to each other warm my heart (almost balancing out the others if my mind didn't forget so easily the tenderness in those other moments)!

In a similar vein, there is almost nothing I love more than working/playing with our gals in the kitchen. When they are in the mood, they are so fun to be with! The opposite, sadly, is also true! I've been savoring my daily jaunts out to our persimmons trees with bowls or containers in hand to pick what has dropped since the day before. I'm harvesting them daily and getting normally 1-3 quarts a day. What bounty!! Slowly the containers are building up in the freezer and for the first time this year we had enough to make it worth trying out the Victorio Strainer - IT WORKS! And works well - with our grape spiral and the pumpkin screen. So there will be chocolate persimmon muffins and yogurt smoothies with persimmons in our future. I also hope to try some persimmon leather sometime soon.

Yesterday was a work day in the office for me and I came home to a delicious smelling house. It was Kali's night to cook and she had decided to make bagels. They were the one thing on her "no no list" for eating while she has braces on that she thought she would miss. I thought it was a fabulous excuse to make bagels. :) She also made "dream cheese" which was a cream cheese like substance made with yogurt. We got to taste test a bagel but then had to pull ourselves away as daylight was waning and we had our work cut out for us! Jason had spent the day (thanks to my folks hanging with the girls!!) prepping the garlic field. It was time to plant!

And plant we did - by the end I would have to say we were more or less planting in the dark and hopefully we got the right side of the cloves down in the ground. We'll see what they look like when they come up. I am so eager for Alida to catch the vision of family work times consistently and for Terah to develop even the slightest ability to be patient for just a few minutes at key times. We made it, and mostly in very good spirits, but it took a lot of creative energy at the end by this "team captain" to engage the Myers-Benner team in beating the sun (my it sets fast at this time of year - or we are just not used to the short evenings yet).
 And now today! Kali went from this:
 To this:
 To this:
It has felt like a long process of discernment (we don't make these kinds of decisions lightly or quickly!). I said on the way home that at least we can't agonize about the decision of whether to go forward with braces or not. That part of the decision is now made! I can still agonize a bit on whether it was the right thing to do or not, but I'm trying to just settle into the decision being made and now making the very best of it. Kali makes it easy to do just that! Once it felt like we had exhausted our list of questions and were convinced that this was not just a plot to give Kali a "perfect smile" but that it was also an attempt to avoid some major dental issues down the road, she was at peace about it. On the way in today, she even mentioned being a little curious about it. That's our gal! She is so interested in the world around here and fully engaging with all of her lived experiences that she can even kind of look forward to a somewhat unpleasant experience for what she might learn from it.

So there is much to be grateful for. The office is a very pleasant environment. They are super family-friendly. They take a lot of time with us and never make us feel silly for asking questions. AND they now don't have one but TWO dogs as assistant office managers. This is not necessarily a positive attribute currently but I have a secret hope that our monthly visits to the office will slowly ease our two younger girls' fear of dogs. That would be worth a portion of the $5000 plus we handed over to them today! I am seeing an easing already in that Alida did not have to be held off the ground today and, by the end, Terah was even ready to pretend being Wally! Now that's progress! Stay tuned...

 Terah might be scared of dogs, but she has no fear of chicks! In that case, I believe the fear goes the other direction. But she is learning to be gentle, if she can just contain and curb her unending enthusiasm and adoration. Here she is "helping" to get the chicks ready to head from incubator to their swimming pool home last evening. All for now!