Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fall musings

I already know that this is going to be a post with no particular focus but which will include a whole smattering of things. So here goes - consider it a few pages in our 2017 scrapbook, done hastily at the tail end of Terah's afternoon nap after I ran out of steam for my "office work" for the day!

Our "baby" Terah continues to love all things "baby," whether they be human babies or animal babies or baby balloons! And her desire to hold babies normally outlives the baby's desire to be held! And it seems anyone younger/smaller than her can constitute a baby so she still occasionally asks to hold her cousin "baby Ivy" who can now do very well on her own two feet! Here Terah is soaking up a little cuddle with one of our newest baby friends on a recent visit. It still feels like about the only thing that calms her down, though in her excitement she is apt to kick her little feet with the sheer pleasure of having her hands on the "very, very cute" little person! I am already anticipating that we are going to have some challenges over Thanksgiving with the newest "very very tiny" and "very very cute" cousin that joined the Benner family this fall. There are going to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc... who are all going to want to soak up time and snuggles and Terah is likely to want to have her all to herself. We're hoping for the best!

It's startling at times and also fun to note the ways our "baby" is growing up and is really not a baby anymore. She still loves snuggles, still loves mama milk, and still is in a fairly demanding stage of development. But in other ways, she is changing and growing up faster than I'm almost ready for, but in very fun and entertaining ways. Her exploding vocabulary is so fun and she chatters almost constantly. She also has a cute sense of humor. The other night while Jason and I were out and my folks were hanging out with the girls, they were talking about eating things while at the dinner table (very appropriate topic of conversation). Terah said something about "eating mama" paused and then said, "not a good idea!" I agree!

She is really getting into playing with other children, but it is still kind of hit or miss. Sometimes she clings to me and doesn't venture into the kiddo-chaos. Other times she will disappear for awhile and I get to enter the adult conversation happening. That was never so stark as recently when we hosted Alida's soccer team for a post-season potluck. Families were arriving that we didn't know that well other than hanging out on the sidelines together. This is normally the perfect situation for Terah to do her "I'm a tiny bit anxious about what's happening so I'm going to be mommy's little monkey and climb all over her." It may not surprise you that I don't find this to be all that enjoyable. Instead, I realized all of a sudden that I was standing in the kitchen getting to know one of the sets of parents and talking with them at length with no interruptions. We happened to be talking about our children (this seems so very typical!) and were noting that our youngest children were the ones that had humbled us, making it quite clear that it was nothing in our particular parenting genius that had made our first child be so chill (or comparatively chill). About that time, their youngest and our youngest tromped through the room. Terah had found a bosom friend (one a few years older than her but nonetheless they were connecting!). The two of them hung out most of the evening, ate at a little table together, put puzzles together, and Terah pretty much didn't need me all evening. I'm still in shock over it, honestly! (Since that night I've thought back to the very beginning of the season and if I'm right I think this was the same little girl that came over and talked with Terah at one of the first games and lured her over to their family's blanket with a bag of animal crackers - I'm thinking Terah maybe remembered that better than I had!).

Speaking of growing up, a few other tidbits: Terah can actually be somewhat helpful in the kitchen now, though still needs close supervision. And she does not always dress appropriately for the tasks, but one can't be too picky! She's a pretty cute nude cook. She likes to stir things, peel garlic, put things in the pigs' scrap bucket and open the fridge door (often and unnecessarily). She also really likes to try grinding corn. Here she is at our NEW pecan table (made from trees from our homestead). Yay for winter projects coming to fruition! It has already been used multiple times as a grinding station and I'm a fan!
The last update from Terah's world that I'll offer is that she got her first haircut. She was/is very proud of it. The other day when she had some impressive "pillow head" I noticed that she had a "tail" of very long hair and then a shorter section that kind of looked like a higher shelf. It was an odd but probably decently fitting look! But she took to the idea of a haircut immediately and so we did it (despite her eldest sister even getting a little teary at the prospect - it was just going to change her look and she loved her baby sister's look and so that was hard to adjust to - and very tender of her). It was all of a few snips to remove the little tail but it changed her look considerably. She's been talking about it ever since! She sat perfectly still and was the model customer at her mother's salon! It always feels like a big deal - that first haircut! But now it's done and we'll move on to other firsts...
Maybe I'll move to a quick update on our eldest. She hasn't lost her fire-starting skills and is putting them to good use now that the weather has been more consistently fall-like. We are needing some cold weather as we are still working on last year's firewood supply. It's nice to have a supply such that anytime Kali feels chilly she can get it fired up! I do love the atmosphere a wood fire provides - as soon as Terah wakes I hope to get one started for our evening at home together! In other news, Kali had her first braces follow-up appointment this week; got her bands changed and the braces tightened. All seems to be on track and she is now sporting orange and yellow bands for fall/Thanksgiving before she moves to the Christmas colors theme next month. They sure do try to make braces as positive an experience as possible!

Not to leave out our middle gal: she just enjoyed a few days at the Mountain House, savoring Grandma and Grandpa all to herself. She LOVES those times, and I'll admit didn't seem to miss us one bit! But we missed her and were glad to have her back, along with her cadre of imaginary friends, some of whom are about the best soccer players I've encountered. Her ability to keep them all straight, to someone who doesn't remember having relationships with imaginary friends as a child, is very impressive! She's also growing up by leaps and bounds and is cooking supper for us tonight solo. That is IF she can pull herself away from whatever puzzle Grandma has out upstairs. She has "the bug!" It must have skipped a generation and then hit hard as today she said something like, "I can almost hear it calling me back" when it was time to come downstairs for lunch!

The one other thing I'll mention about Alida is that she had a strong reaction to a yellow jacket sting recently (swelling that was a bit broader than just local to the sting and hives on her legs), which led us eventually to an appointment with an allergist this week. We are now the owners of an Epipen (which, after talking with the Dr. and learning how often these end up being used for someone other than the one it was prescribed for, I'm kind of grateful to have on hand). Alida seems to fall in a bit of a "gray zone" in that hives in a child are not that alarming and it is a tad uncertain if we could call her swelling localized or not. So we have the option of having her tested at some point for a bee allergy but they are having a hard time acquiring the bee venom right now to even do the testing so we have some time to think about it. In the meantime, I'm trying to make sure we don't scare her love of the outdoors out of her and help her be smart and yet still play, play, play in the fresh air!

Speaking of fresh air, now for a family update on what we are all up to - LEAF RAKING/COLLECTING! Ok, so it has mostly been Jason, but yesterday we were all out there for awhile collecting sheet-full after sheet-full of treasure! I love these win-win kinds of situations where our neighbors are grateful to us for raking their leaves and we are grateful to them for letting us have them (and I still can't get over feeling a little bad for taking away this rich resource, even if they don't see it as such for themselves). Jason came up with a new way of tying the sheet and making a backpack out of it so even Kali and Alida were lugging some noteworthy loads down the hill to our ever-growing pile. I enjoyed focusing on the pine needle areas and added a new thick layer of mulch under the swingset. Before lunch, we all landed at the leaf pile about the same time and enjoyed some leaf play (this week we have not been doing great at our 7 things and had yet to check off "family yard time" - this will have to do it for this week!).
Terah was mostly taking it all in, not sure what to make of her family members disappearing into the massive pile. But she was starting to loosen up and enjoy it by the end:

So now today: as I type Jason is washing up the last of the butchering equipment - probably some of the same bowls pictured here at the start of the today. This was the last of his large chicken butchering days of the year. It ended up being mostly Jason and my dad, with a bit of assistance from a friend and me in the morning. Leading up to today I was not expecting to be involved in the butchering. I assumed I'd be on kid and food preparation duty - especially if our last minute idea to make it into a workshop took off. It wasn't until this morning when the vat of soup for lunch was simmering and the girls had been invited to hang out with my mom off and on throughout the day that I realized I'd have a pocket of time available. And in that moment I also felt like maybe today was the day when I needed to summon up my courage to take the next step for myself in this process of living with and then butchering and eating animals that we have raised. While I have helped to pluck and learned to cut up and I now cook with chicken fairly regularly, I have never killed one. I now have. Twice.

I don't feel happy or proud of it. I don't feel eager to do it again. I don't envision it ever being something I like to do. It wasn't easy and I don't want it to be. But I'm glad I did it. I'll maybe find more words to say more over time. For now, I'll just say that somehow, for my own personal pursuit of living with integrity, it felt like a step I needed to take, even if I was weak in the knees doing it.

I will end with something I did feel proud of - that aforementioned vat of soup! Our 21-quart canner was full of a piping hot Tangly Woods soup for lunch today (and to eat and share in the days to come). What made it so special? It had all ingredients we grew or processed except for the spices, AND one of those ingredients was dried black beans. I love these little milestones when it feels like we have gotten to a new level in our pursuits of sustaining ourselves off this little piece of land. Granted I used all the black beans we grew, other than what we saved for seed, but it still was pretty special. In addition to the beans, it had a mammoth squash I had missed during the growing season until near the end, diced tomatoes, lots of onions and garlic sauteed in lard, chicken, and corn we had gleaned and frozen. Yum!

Now to get Alida started on her dinner. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to some that she'll be incorporating the boxed macaroni and cheese that she bought recently at the co-op into her meal!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Soccer over...for now (and fun cousin times)

There have been some fun times in recent days worth sharing about! We've had a string of large hosting things, with more on the horizon. In between those times, we are moving towards more of the fall/winter pace - full of projects but at a less hectic pace, with a bit less urgency behind each moment. That is welcome! Recent rains have even given Jason some much needed shop time and my cheese press is complete! We've also enjoyed more than our "required" 1x/week outdoor yard family time this past week and enjoyed a few stints of basketball playing as a family. Those have been highlights for me, and I know for the girls too!

Having the days a tad more open, also lends itself to a bit of spontaneity that is rather unusual for our household. So last Friday when I happened to see that Emily was looking for somewhere for Ivy to hang out (so she could have two hands-free for a bit), we jumped on the opportunity for a play date! And what fun we had. Terah was just waking up when she arrived and Alida needed about half the play date to finishing waking up (our girls seem to have a lot more of Jason's morning tendencies in them than mine!). But we still filled the hours with lots of fun - seeing the chickens and pigs, reading books, dancing, and Ivy's favorite, lots of slinky fun.
At one point Alida was reading to Terah and Ivy but neither were paying complete attention. Terah can't take her hands off Ivy, and continues to be rather enthralled with her! Ivy continues to be mostly patient. My favorite Ivy part is when the rooster crows catching her attention. I love her imitation of the sound (we've watched that part just a few times!!):

The following day was the grand finale of the soccer season for both of our older girls. They have really enjoyed playing again and by the end of the season, Terah was a pro-cheerleader, spontaneously saying "good teamwork" from the sidelines! Kali is nearing the end of her soccer career with SVU unless she chooses to move up to the co-ed high school team. She has one more season on the all-girls U12-14 division and then we'll see how she is feeling. Yes, her mother has some reservations - mostly just wanting what has been so fun and stress-free for her to remain that way! The high school team plays at the same time as Kali's team on the field just beyond them so I've been paying attention this season. Kali has become a much stronger player but I'm still not sure she would enjoy what appears to be a faster and more competitive game.
Alida's team ended up being extra special this season. After the initial disappointment of her coach having to cancel after the first practice, all of us parents joined forces and took over coaching responsibilities and it worked out great! Such that we might just do it again in the spring and try to keep the girls together. They were troopers on Saturday, playing through the rain. And I thought it was pretty special that on their last game day each of the girls scored at least one goal. Fun! They really have started working well together and I get even a tad choked up when I see them looking for each other to pass the ball to. Silly me!
We also learned that one of Alida's teammates is also homeschooled so we are dreaming of some playdates in the future to tie her over to next season. Alida does awesome with her cadre of imaginary friends who often are found playing soccer with her in our front room. But I know she would also be happy for more time with friends who come with some flesh and bones! We look forward to hosting as many of her team's families as can come this week for an end of the season gathering.

Ok, I've got a baby nursing in my arms and have about 15 minutes to get myself ready for work. Not my favorite scenario - how to extract myself from underneath her without her waking and then being sad that I'm leaving. Here goes! I'll leave you with a cute moment from the other evening. These two... :)