This year we decided as a family to aim for one "family retreat day" a season and to co-plan them this year, rather than having each person design one of them on their own. As has been our history, normally the things we hope to fit into the day are more than naturally fits into our waking hours. Amazingly, though, it often seems on these days that things feel a bit more spacious. I was unsure how today would go and, as the day comes to a close, I realize we actually fit in even more fun than we had planned ahead of time - some spontaneous and last minute additions! And the fun continues. As I type, we are jointly writing a story together. Stay tuned!
Family retreat days are not supposed to include things from our "to do list" or meant to be spent doing what is traditionally thought of as productive. It is, however, a day that we often get around to doing things together that we don't often prioritize and take time for on most days. Today included 3 such items:
1. We finished up the new garden fence weeks before and had yet to celebrate and mark this milestone. We had decided that it would be a perfect retreat day activity - each person choosing one activity to do related to the garden fence.
2. In our kitchen deep clean, we found a cast iron waffle iron that we were on the fence about whether to keep it or not. We decided our retreat day was a good day for a waffle brunch!
3. Also in our kitchen deep clean I came across a homemade finger paint recipe, just when I was about to get rid of my unflavored gelatin (which is a key ingredient in the recipe) and when we were pondering where to get finger paints that we could feel happy having the girls have fun with (and get all over their skin). Another great family retreat day activity!
So those three items formed the outline for our day and here's how it went. (If you don't want the details, here's the summary: it was a lot of fun! We are all tired and wind blown and we'll see if legos can keep all the rest of the family happy until I'm done this post!)
Jason was up until after midnight last night cleaning up from a record chicken butchering day - 37 birds in one day (with three persons who joined him for parts of the day to learn the skill). It had been a good day, but a long one. That said, Jason was the first one out of bed and I followed shortly after, giving us time for a mug of coffee and a planning session before any of the girls woke. Not exactly retreat-day material other than the coffee, but the planning session eased and cleared my mind to be ready to focus on the day ahead.
Alida and Terah filled the Easter eggs (a hunt inside the fence was Alida's chosen activity) before we finally convinced Kali to get out of bed and join the fun. We all headed out for chicken and duck chores and to have the first (of many) Easter egg hunts of the season. I got the best job with Terah of letting all the chickens out to free range for the day. We also fed the ducks and collected their eggs and then helped Alida hide all the plastic eggs. Terah was so very excited - she is old enough now to really get into the fun of egg hunts! Once chores were done, the hunt started and proudly together we successfully found all 30 eggs!
It was now time to fill some hungry tummies. The chocolate chips and pecans from the eggs made it onto the table for waffle toppings and soon we had sorghum, rye, barley waffles on the griddle and a smorgasbord of toppings! While Jason did the dishes from brunch, the girls made finger paint with me. Fun and easy and with what looked like promising results. We left them to cool and headed out for the rest of the "fence completion celebration."
We decided to go from the least active activity to most, letting the waffles settle a bit before bouncing around too much. Jason chose us cutting autumn olive shoots and weaving "2018" into the largest garden gate! That done, we had a hilarious round of follow the leader. Each person (me and Terah were a team) got to lead one lap around the fence. On our turn, we were a different animal for each length of the fence. Jason and I were cracking up thinking what it would like if at just that moment a neighbor happened to drop in, finding us waddling and quacking like ducks around our garden.
The grand finale was a family relay race. It was perfect with 4 long lengths of fence and one very short length for Terah. We did four races, trying to beat our time each round. Our times were 52 seconds, 47 seconds, tied at 47 seconds again and finally 44 seconds. We won! And I'll likely be sore tomorrow. I just don't find myself sprinting a lot these days. Thankfully no one twisted an ankle on the rocks that are yet to be picked up outside the garden fence. Here's two tastes of our garden fence celebrations:
All that fresh air should have tired Terah out and maybe she was tired but she was also very resistant to taking a nap - this is a new, emerging and unfortunate trend. So it took a lot of convincing and a long time nursing for her to finally sack out, only to be awake less than an hour later. This is very unlike her and I can only chalk it up to her knowing how much fun remained to be had in the day!
Jason and Alida had done a few minor outdoor tasks (oyster shell to chickens and finishing up fertilizing the blueberries) and then worked with Kali on her bed for just a little during Terah's short nap - I guess you'd have to call that a small burst of productivity that was quickly abandoned when the call to finger paint came! Since I needed to put my "CJP hat" on for a bit, it was easier for me to do that knowing that everyone else wasn't enjoying a nap without me! The verdict on the finger paints: they worked and were fun! We might even have to invest in some more dye so we can add red to the line up and greatly expand our color options.
Around 4 friends joined us for a hike to the lake. While waiting for them to arrive, I realized that our peaches are on the cusp of blooming. It was a beautiful breezy day and it was so pleasant to hike and chat with friends, while watching our kids hike in front of us hand in hand. They have all grown many, many inches since becoming friends...Good friends are such a gift! And, at this stage of life, it is so nice when we enjoy hanging out with the parents of our kids' friends and our kids enjoying hanging out with our friends' kids.
While we ate, we worked on a "Where I'm From" poem inspired by our day. I'll share it with you here:
I am from pruners and from the waffle iron and family retreat days.
I am from the sunny front room looking out upon the mountain and gardens.
I am from autumn olive twigs and daffodils.
I am from squash testing and playfulness, from Terah, Mommy, Kali, Alida, Daddy and Nora.
I am from the family that works hard and plays hard.
From "If they can make it in the factory we can make it at home" and "We could never eat like this if we had to buy our food."
I am from the importance of family times and nurturing relationships.
I am from Keezletown, homemade crackers and blueberries. From kids hiking up the mountain trail with friends holding hands, Alida timing our relay races around the new garden fence and Terah's hand-prints made with homemade fingerprints.
I am from silly timed family photos and our Encounters with Sustenance blog, our family's scrapbook.
And to end the day while Jason did dishes and I cleaned up food stuff and did a bit of prep for taking a meal to friends who just had a baby recently, we wrote a story together (taking turns line by line). For those of you who haven't had enough yet and would like to hear where our creative juices took us at the end of this day, here you are:
It came to pass that a little girl planted a seed in the ground. She planted it inside the garden fence, because what it was was a mystery to her. She planted it in the middle of the night when the full moon was out. Seed after seed, she planted until the sun came up. Exhausted, she went inside, and slept until sundown of the same day. When she woke up, she remembered nothing from the previous night. She rushed outside to see 5 tall potato plants, bigger than she had ever seen. "Hey Mom," she said to her mother, who was sitting under one of the potato plants. "What did you do with that packet of mystery seeds? It's empty."
"Honey, I don't know, but where did these potatoes come from?"
"I don't know..." her voice trailed off. She had started looking around, and it seemed like everything was extra big! But also, everything was green, rather than the colors it usually was.
"Somebody must have planted those seeds!" her mother said. "But we don't have time to figure that out now. These plants are growing so fast, I soon I won't be able to get out of this garden."
"Mom!" the girl yelled. "Look! Look! You have wings! And so do I!"
But then she woke up, noticing that it was all just a dream. She rolled over and looked out her window at the brick wall of the apartment building next door. "Why does my life have to be so boring?" she groaned. Just then there was a knock at the door. It was the owner of the apartment she lived in. "You asked permission to plant mystery seeds in the yard."
"I did?" she said. Remembering her dream, she said, "I think I would like to grow tulips instead."