Monday, September 17, 2018

Home alone - what a strange, strange feeling!

Monday, September 17, 2018 and Jason and I find ourselves at home alone without either of our three children! They headed out earlier this afternoon for their long awaited trek to West Virginia without Mommy or Daddy. A gift to them, but actually me cashing in a coupon from my last birthday before the next one comes around in a matter of days! They handled departing with way more composure then I did. I tried hard to let them get out of sight before the tears rolled but did not escape Alida seeing me cry. It was hard to do the lunch dishes through my tears. I love those girls an awful lot! And I knew I couldn't focus on catching up on the blog until I knew they were safely at Grandma and Grandpa's. My whole body relaxed when I got this picture of Terah sacked out in their garage. Yay!
So it feels like a day of firsts and also potentially some lasts. I've longed for this day many times over the past few years - or maybe better said I've longed for the night ahead - a night where I can sleep uninterrupted all night long. Then it comes and like most things it is not quite as neat and clean as what you long for. It's all mixed together with the feelings of change and with change comes some loss too. It was lovely to go for a long walk with Jason this afternoon and to do a wood finishing project together in the garage without interruption - we were able to finish our sentences! We will enjoy the time together. And we will miss the girls a lot! For me, it also could be the end of nearly 15 years of being a lactating mother. Terah was pretty set on the idea of being done nursing. Even today when I offered to nurse her one more time before she left, she eagerly climbed in my arms and nursed unenthusiastically for a few minutes. She was ready to go! Am I ready to let her go?

In many ways it feels like this time apart kind of snuck up on me. It's been on the calendar for months and then this past week had so many things thrown into the mix with wondering how the remnants of the hurricane weather would impact plans and then minor viruses running through our household. The weekend was full with hosting a house concert Saturday evening and then a grape juice making party all day yesterday. So it really wasn't until I was giving my last goodbye hugs that it really hit me. And these things always hit me kind of hard. The tears were not so much about saying goodbye to them for two days. I mean I will miss them but it's more the fear of the horrible what if's that plague me and then my mind going to situations of parents being separated from their children forcefully. I was letting my children go for a fun adventure to West Virginia with loving grandparents who they adore. I cannot imagine having my children taken from me and not knowing what they would face or how they would be treated. I am not quick to use the word "evil," but I want to here. It breaks my heart and makes me feel so angry. Yes, my mind and emotions are pretty full right now and I have some space and time to feel them!

However, I do not plan to spend the vast majority of my time without children here writing about them or sitting in front of this computer screen. So it's time for a quick update so I can sign off this machine for a bit!

We have just enjoyed another stint with Mom and Dad upstairs. We will likely go through withdrawal in October when they won't be around for most of the month - though we look forward to a new Tangly Woods temporary member joining us for a few weeks soon (more on that and if you are reading this post, know that we are looking forward to welcoming you!!). Alida may go through backgammon withdrawal, as it felt like at least half the times I went upstairs, she would have conned Grandma or Grandpa into a game with her. She has gotten some good practice it appears as she has more or less beaten me on every game we played recently!

A few other snippets to accompany the photos below: 1. I'm still always surprised at what shows up on the camera when I download photos. Alida was enjoying getting some cloud shots the other day. 2.  I'm being converted into a flower bouquet lover and am enjoying the flowers in front of Mom and Dad's deck immensely! 3. Our two younger kiddos are too cute a pair sometimes! 4. It's cover cropping time and sometimes we find ourselves racing the sun. The recent rains have actually been welcome for germination of lots of new seeds! 5 & 6. Terah is great at shelling dry bean seed and extracting okra seed. She loves the feeling it seems of being a productive and contributing member of our household! 7. Kali continues to pull more than her weight and here is pushing a lot more than here weight - they are moving our pigs from woods to the nut grove and were having a time of it since the pigs were more interested in the clover patches than the process of walking across the yard.
Here's a few photos from our house concert the other night. Last year we went back and forth and back and forth the day of the concert as to whether to risk being outside or go inside. This year it was nice to be very clear that we would be inside. It was our fourth time hosting the Clymer Kurtz band and hopefully not the last. What a great turnout and a fun mix of neighbors, folks from my work, friends, band followers, Ktown neighbors, family, and others that got the invite from one channel or another. We had over 30 seats in our front room but had folks spilling out into the kitchen and porch and back kitchen and lingering around the snack table upstairs or hanging out in my parents' place and hearing music through the windows and then kids running all over the place! What a lot of positive energy!!

It was rainy/drizzly most of the evening but made for beautiful clouds on the mountain and didn't seem to dampen anyone's moods. Terah was a tad more on edge than sometimes due to her cold, but she did well for us welcoming probably 60 or so folks into our home. When the band was packing up to leave she was begging to go to bed. She carted around in the Ergo for awhile and then I took a break from clean up to get her sacked out before moving furniture back in place. When I came out, I found Kali lounging in our living room! She too was a bit under the weather so was enjoying a few moments of peace and quiet after a big day!
We couldn't exactly leave clean up for the next day, as the next day we were processing lots of grapes with neighbors. House concerts are really fun. BUT food processing parties...that is our kind of thing! What a fun, sticky, yummy day of work and play and connecting with neighbors and friends. There were 18 of us total at various parts of the day and not a dull moment. I love watching kids run around together and enjoy themselves. There was a secret clubhouse happening in the back of the house much of the day and the youngest grape juice party attendee had just recently become mobile; I loved all of a sudden seeing her scooching into the kitchen to check out the action!

By day's end, we had more than 68 quarts (a few jars held more than a quart) of grape juice sealed on the counter, several quarts of unsealed and multiple quarts had been consumed over the course of the day. We also had gallons of grape pulp with seeds and skins strained out. What a delicious second product! The remains after that went to the pigs and they expressed deep and many grunts of gratitude!

As I looked at the pictures, I realized I didn't really take any of the juice. Maybe that points to that being just one of the byproducts of the day. It's a great excuse for spending a wonderful day connecting with neighbors and friends, enjoying a feast at lunch together of things we all contributed and having lots of chances to chat while pulling grapes off stems or waiting for the juicer to finish up a batch. No fingers scalded by hot grape juice this year and lots of good memories of our time together!
Jason is now sitting here beside me and promised he is not looking over my shoulder while I type (he knows I can't concentrate when he is doing so!). But the pigs are slopped and the eggs collected and put away, so my time is up (voluntarily of course!).

I'll end with a short video from lunch today when Terah came up with a new way to ride her bike! That girl is never lacking in ideas:

Sunday, September 2, 2018

We made it - September is here!

It's hard to believe it but here we are - September 2nd! We have successfully made it through another August - new student orientation at my work over is through and I pulled cucumber vines this morning! We are still harvesting a large vessel of beans every other day (they just won't let up), but are now enjoying sharing them around as we really can't fit too many more in our freezer! The tomatoes are coming to an end - way before our shelves have all the tomato products I'd like for the winter, but not before I'm about out of steam to deal with more of them! The last crock of dill pickles is fermenting and we used the last of our cabbage for one more round of sauerkraut. All but the clean up remains from last evening's all-CJP potluck with my work colleagues and friends - Kali is upstairs sweeping as I type this! What a lovely evening, with rain welcoming everyone but then it clearing off for a luxurious meander around the property. Cleaning the front windows probably wasn't necessary after all but I'm enjoying the view more now!

I keep wondering if my low energy and some "off feelings" are related to just general stress and busyness or something else. Now that September is here, we'll see what kind of groove we can get into as the main harvests come to a close and we start focusing on getting cover cropping in the ground. Despite having some anxiety about whether something health-related is going on for me, there have been so many lovely wonderful family times of late. And we've laughed together a lot. Whenever we can rope in visitors to play Apples to Apples we do!

The girls have gotten into a Free to be You and Me kick and listening to it brings back many fun memories for me - I've got most of the songs memorized by heart. The other day it was on while Alida and Terah were peeling the LAST round of tomatoes for salsa. They were so intent on the job but then I noticed that Terah's little head was bopping around to the beat. I didn't get her in her prime with it, but you can get a sense of how adorable it was! I didn't peel a single tomato with those two as my assistants!!

Another very fun thing of late is that I've had the privilege of "slopping the pigs" on a few occasions when Jason was otherwise occupied, and I could get hooked. I don't like that my first delivery usually lands on one of their heads but there is no getting them to wait patiently until I can pour some in for them. The chickens have learned that slop time is a good time for them to come around and see what they can snatch before the pigs get to it. The pigs race up and down, grabbing their favorite stuff and shoving each other out of the way. Here's a glimpse of feeding time:

Another big recent happening was potato digging! Our soil IS improving! This is the first year I helped with digging - doing 1 of the 3 rows and again being impressed by my husband's strength and endurance as I was plum tuckered out by then! I was also frustrated with how many potatoes I had speared and sliced in the process. That said, we harvested about 4 bushel of potatoes and nicer, larger more consistent spuds than ever. For that to have happened in our root patch on such a rainy year feels like a huge success and probably a big thanks to the biochar seam we had put in when planting.

Terah and Alida were not that interested in helping with the potato harvesting - Terah dug for a bit and Alida picked up for a bit - but they were both VERY interested in photographing the occasion. So here's potato digging from their vantage point:
 And then sometimes they wish to take pictures even when we are not digging potatoes!
Alida has been wanting to make a meal "all by herself" and we finally got that on the calendar for the end of August. She made lunch and was proud that hers was a step up from Kali's first meal for us of peanut butter toast and super sweet fruit juice. Alida was very excited and focused the whole morning on "staying on schedule" and of course garnishing for beautifulness things with mint tea sprigs.
We enjoyed a date night with Ivy this week and the girls really enjoyed coloring together. Alida has taken a strong interest in being the helper with the little gals. It's cute and wonderful to watch her nurturing those skills!
Terah has not lost any of her spunk since the last blog post. This hat has been getting lots of attention these days as Terah and Alida decorate it and prance around modeling it. Alida even roped me into rating her hats the other day with monetary amounts and before I knew it I had somehow agreed to pay her actual coins for her decorated hats. She's a sneaky one. She promised it would go into her co-op fund, probably for chocolate to share around. Sounded like an ok deal to me!
I can't end this very disjointed blog post without mentioning that I once again don't have pictures of this last long stint with my parents in their quarters upstairs! I'll have to snag some from their photos! They made the last two weeks of August not only bearable but enjoyable (especially for our girls). The girls enjoyed three outings with them: to the Luray Zoo, the Grand Caverns and the Green Valley Book Fair. The caverns seemed to be the highlight for them all and Terah was not even scared of the darkness. After they came out she reflected, "I'm grateful I didn't cry." This week Alida has noted that they left a bit too soon as one evening she got to watch a flock of maybe 70 or so night hawks flying over our property and the next day she spotted two pileated woodpeckers in a dead tree in our woods. She's got the birding gene!!
So Jason and I finished our Wendell Berry Sabbath poems this week and have started our next book together. I'll close with one of the poems that has been on my mind and heart a lot in recent days.

But do the Lords of War in fact
hate the world? That would be easy
to bear, if so. If they hated
their children and the flowers
that grow in the warming light,
that would be easy to bear. For then
we could hate the haters
and be right. What is hard
is to imagine the Lords of War
may love the things that they destroy.

Wendell Berry, 2003

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Kali's golden birthday and all that surrounded it!

This afternoon I finally downloaded the photos/videos off the camera. It had been over two weeks and Terah had a good number of stints with the camera in that time! There was nearly 400 photos/videos on it. I promise not to bore you with even a small fraction of them all, but there were some keepers too! I love seeing what she comes up with! This first picture here was one of my favorites of the many Terah took!

Now the focus of this post is intended to be on our now 15 year old who celebrated her 15th birthday on the 15th of this month, but let me share a few other snapshots before getting to the festivities:

Snapshot 1:

Thankfully I have no real injuries of late to report. However, Kali's last day of drama camp was on costumes and makeup and they learned how to make themselves look rather beat up. Kali's was impressive enough that the woman checking us out at the library on our way home from camp asked Kali what had happened. It definitely looked like it hurt - not pictured here was a pretty nasty bruise on her ankle to complement the other cuts and bruises. While this may not necessarily be a very important life skill, Kali had a really fun time at camp and she has now officially "aged out" of the Larkin Arts homeschool classes and camps. Our baby is outgrowing things for kids. How is that so? I love that she is still young at heart and enjoys playing with kids of all ages!

Snapshot 2:

It's still raining A LOT! So in 2017 we had about 5 inches of rain in late July. We followed suit this year but it just hasn't stopped. We get some sunshine and then rain and then more rain and then some sun and then storms. We have had MANY afternoon thunderstorms. But rain and sunshine often mean great rainbows too and we have enjoyed those immensely. The best was the one that we could see the full rainbow over the mountain in front of us and then the clouds came across making for quite the colorful display of sky beauty! 
 Snapshot 3:

Our kids love our friends! Alida will often ask, "Is anyone coming over today?" While they may appear reserved or shy upon initial meeting, they do warm up pretty quick. And it seems no one gets them out of their shells better than little people. So we soak up and savor our visits from our baby neighbor friend, who is now doing very impressive push ups/down dogs. Terah was attempting to copy her. On that particular visit, Terah and Alida were also deeply engaged in an exciting game of dress up. They are so silly! Soon thereafter some other friends came over for a playdate and the crew was quite spiffy!
Snapshot 4:

Our beans just won't let us. Where are the bean beetles this year? We have picked bushels and bushels - our freezer is stashed with gallon bags of beans and we've made lots of dilly canned and fermented beans. Our cucumbers have wowed us - 100 quarts or so of canned pickles, gallons of fermented and we have been eating and eating them. We have had plenty to share of both. I'm so glad for kiddos who enjoy helping snip beans (the eldest always, the younger two sometimes). Moods are highly unpredictable in our home these days but when we are in a groove of good moods and general helpfulness, the food processing scene is the best party I could hope for! Terah is often resident photographer of our parties!
The tomatoes have been horrible (in terms of amounts), but we have had a few crazy large ones - see below. Too much rain! I have canned some salsa, some sauce, some diced tomatoes and some paste, but nowhere near the amounts we would normally hope for in a year. Maybe it will be the saving grace of the weeks coming up to not be flooded with tomatoes, and we might just eat more beans and pickles this winter and less tomato products. Thankfully, I still have some left from last year! We have really enjoyed eating fresh salsa with our HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS made from our home grown corn. That may be the subject for another post sometime - one of those step by step recipes with photos. Stay tuned. :)
 Here's our great tomato peeler/choppers:

Snapshot 5:

Terah and Alida are something else. Have two gals ever adored each other and played so well together AND gotten on each other's nerves so badly (and thus their mother's?). The other day Alida came downstairs from my folks' saying she wanted to go where Terah couldn't interrupt her. Terah then wanted to go downstairs so she could interrupt. What a kid! They are both adorable and fun and exasperating... They will sometimes play for long stints together without any arguments and the center of that recently has been Terah's little bike. They discovered that even Alida could "fit it." Here's a short clip of that and then one of them being sweet together - it's not nearly as fun to video the grouchy moments! Finally, I decided to include Terah's newest use for a bag made of bag that her Aunt Emily made for me years ago. :)

Snapshot 6:

August is a month that is busy and full for us and very celebratory with a birthday and harvests in abundance. It is now also colored by memories of our neighbor Samuel who died a year ago. Without very intentionally trying to time it this way, it just so happened that this weekend was a large chicken butchering (and cheese making) weekend for us, in which we invited a few folks to join us and learn the ropes on both. So as it turned out, Jason was butchering many of the chickens that he had raised in the coop he got and rehabbed from Samuel on the one year anniversary of his death. Life and death... We still miss him so much!

Phew, this is already a long post and we are not even to the (almost) week of birthday celebrations. I better dive in and take you for a quick ride through before Terah tires of her bathtub play. Tomorrow also starts my 80+ hour work week with orientation starting Wednesday so I need to get more sleep than I've been getting!

The first celebration was her birthday sleepover party! She decorated the front room herself! She made the bread for the pizza pockets! She helped make salsa the day of the party. The day before and day of she helped with the (not one or two but) THREE homemade ice cream custards. Yep, we went all out on this one! I'm so glad my kids insist on not being left out of the preparation part of their birthdays. I couldn't do it without them. The only hard part was Alida was as eager to participate in every step as Kali and was trying to steal the show from time to time. Kali is so patient! She let both Alida and Terah help along the way.

We enjoyed pizza pockets over an outdoor fire, homemade ice cream, and then late into the evening some rounds of Apples to Apples. Lots of laughter and good food and celebrating Kali and good friendships!
A few friends were able to bunk over and enjoy a birthday brunch with us and some games in the morning before departing.
In there somewhere between her birthday party and her actual birthday, I got a gift from Kali even though it wasn't my birthday! I had a coupon from YEARS AGO for "one footwach with lochon." We know it was a long time ago because her spelling is much improved, and I think her foot massages with lotion are also better than they would have been years ago - so I guess I got my coupon with interest. :) Another not really birthday thing but an outing the day before Kali's birthday was using some more summer reading program coupons - the last ice cream cone (and the best from a local creamery) and a trip (the first for the girls) to the Green Valley Book Fair. There we verified that Terah was in fact 3 ft tall and would be able to ride lots more rides at the fair this year. We also experienced once again that Terah cannot seem to eat an ice cream cone without biting the middle of the cone when you turn your back for a second!
So with new books, she was ready for her actual birthday! We enjoyed a fancy birthday breakfast together on the day of her birthday and then in the evening got to celebrate with my parents who arrived that day. Alida and Terah had given their presents to her at her party (Alida gave her a watch because Kali is always borrowing hers, a chocolate bar and 15 cents and Terah got her yellow piano books from Gift and Thrift - yellow is the essential part of that). I had saved our presents for her actual birthday - another book to read, many more piano books along with a coupon for a professional piano tuning and 15 piano lessons in honor of her 15 years.

Ok, bath time is over so here's a few pictures from our annual trek to the Rockingham County Fair. We picked the right night as the day after we were there power was knocked out by a storm and it poured. There were a few sprinkles but otherwise perfect weather! We looked at a few animals, went to the frisbee dog show and had a birthday picnic, but otherwise we rode rides, rides and more rides! Let's just say that by 11 p.m. I was very ready to just stay put on the carousel with my head leaning on a horse while Terah did it over and over again. Most kids were tucked in bed by that time so the ride was not in high demand and the guy running it just let us stay on. I think we did it at least 7 times while the older girls and Jason took in a few final rides. Jason and I were both very ready to be done spinning for awhile. We are not getting any younger! It was fun to meet up with Emily, Jonas and Ivy for part of the evening. Terah had been saying earlier in the day that she was not going to be scared on the rides but Ivy might be. In the end, the opposite was true! Terah was definitely not sure about some of the rides, and on one I even had the guy stop it so I could get her off, in part because I was worried she might throw up (but in the end, I think it was just fear and not nausea I was seeing on her face). Most of the pictures here are with Terah because the older girls were enjoying older people rides and I never had a camera on those! They both tried rides they were too scared to do last year. None of us did the "death drop" one. I think once in my lifetime was enough on that one!! So another fun excursion and I'm glad I have a year to recover before the next time...
And now here we are! I'm so glad that my parents are here for a few weeks around this time. It's so refreshing to me for the kids to have the fun of and special times with grandparents around when their mom is completely strung out! They are enjoying playing games and reading stories and now as I finish this up Terah is watching Mom do the finishing touches on the rugs she just took off her loom. Oh, and now Terah wants to bug Grandpa who is trying to read, so time to sign off and head back to our house! ...but Terah knows she can get a few more minutes of Grandpa's attention if she asks to look at some birds with him. :) Smart girl! So ending with a "thanks Mom and Dad for making this season of the year not only tolerable but much more enjoyable for all of us" - and only for my mom would I put a thanks at the very end of a book-length blog post, because my mom is probably the only one that will read this far!