Thursday, September 27, 2018

Last day in my 30's (ok, now make that hours...)

Newsflash: It's still raining! The girls' fall soccer season started 3 weeks ago and they have yet to step foot on the field. The only time practices/games were not cancelled was the one Saturday we were in West Virginia. So off to a very slow start!

I attempted to start this blog post much earlier in the day and got about as much as the title written before the day got busy and work things overtook any attempts at "virtual scrapbooking." But I told my family that if I didn't get time to do the blog post tonight, I'd have to come up with a new title (since I now only have a few more hours to enjoy being 39)!

We just arrived home from a fun birthday-eve time with my birthday buddy (Ivy) and her Mommy and Daddy! We met up at the EMU dining hall - I know, we are quite extravagant in our celebrating! It happened to be their local harvest meal, which was why we selected it (and it did not disappoint - though Terah seemed most excited about her first taste of Lucky Charms)...And I'd say the most fun was had in the empty lobby area afterwards trying to jump up and touch the ceiling or the little ones swinging on the coat racks. As of tomorrow, Ivy and Terah will get to enjoy being 2 together for less than 2 weeks, and I'll be 20x the age of my niece!

But now I'm getting ahead of myself. We are spreading out the fun and celebration this year (and I guess last year too - since we kicked off the celebrations with me cashing in my 39th birthday present of time with just Jason!). There are many pictures from this past week and I'll share just a small selection here. It was a full and fun week! Monday-Wednesday Jason and I enjoyed time at home just us. Wednesday we rejoined the girls in WV. Thursday-Friday we went to Cass Railroad and the Green Bank Observatory. We returned to Mom and Dad's Friday and Friday-Sunday enjoyed our annual tradition of a weekend with 3 generations of good friends. We came home Sunday full to the brim of good memories and gratefulness for precious friendships!

Here's a few more snippets from the week. I won't be able to sum up all the highlights, as I think I have about a 1/2 hour here (the three girls are making a vanilla ice cream custard to try for my birthday tomorrow - they are trying out a recipe for me that we will then use for Terah's birthday coming up if we like it!)

Jason and I missed the girls (a little) while they were gone, but once we knew they were having a wonderful time in WV and that Terah made it through the first night without me fine, we relaxed into enjoying our time together (which ended up feeling very precious and short)! We did squeeze in one game of Upwords on the second night. The scores were too close for my comfort but I pulled through with a 9 point lead at the end. And proved once again that I'm still a very poor sport when playing this particular game with Jason. Sigh! Jason sort of enjoys getting my dander up with games.

Wednesday morning was a flurry of getting ready to leave the homestead for 5 days and so our duo time didn't end on a relaxing note, and we both commented how completely crazy and chaotic it would have been had we tried to weave 3 kiddos into the mix. As it was, once we got on 33 headed west, we were able to take the trip over the mountains at a leisurely pace stopping for TWO hikes! We stopped at the top of the Shenandoah to hike to High Knob Tower and then drive over a few more mountains before stopping and hiking Senaca Rocks. We arrived tired but happy. Terah didn't quite make it until we arrived and was sacked out and only roused to give a little smile as she settled into my arms. It also meant we didn't get to talk about whether she was going to be done nursing or not and in the middle of the night she caved! So we are back to nursing at night and naps most days and that's ok by me!
Thursday morning we were off to Cass, WV. We had borrowed a minivan, which meant that my folks could travel with us which was delightful! It was really fun to not have to caravan but to all be in one vehicle (well, they may not have found it as delightful when kiddos were getting tired, but overall I think everyone did pretty well).

I had some misgivings about the train trip when it came into the station and started blowing its whistle and releasing steam (loudly). Terah got increasingly fearful of the train and was clearly doubting the wisdom of requesting a train trip. I was SO grateful our tickets happened to be for the last car in the lineup (the farthest from the engine) but it was still very loud and with the surprise factor of never knowing for sure when the sounds would come. Terah and Alida pretty much had their hands on their ears constantly and Terah had trembling lips and kept saying "I'm scared." It was hard for me to not bail. I even asked Jason right before we pulled out if I should. It was going to be a 5 hour trip and I didn't want to ruin the experience for our co-passengers, and we couldn't exactly get off halfway. Jason assured me he thought she would be fine...and sure enough he was right!
Maybe 15-20 minutes into the ride, we were standing at the back watching the mountains around us, and Terah was leaning on my chest. All of a sudden she said, "I'm a little more excited now." Relief flooded through me. And what transpired then was a great conversation between us about fear and excitement and how when fear is overwhelming, it is hard to feel excited. But as you get used to something and it gets a little less frightening, then excitement can make its way in. And before you know it the balance has tipped. In the end, she really enjoyed it.
Our trip took us to the top of Bald Knob. The view was incredible! Terah was sufficiently worn out by this point and sacked out on the way back down. I will admit to being rocked to sleep for multiple very short snoozes on the way back down as well. I am very glad we did the trip, but don't know that I'll want to do such a ride again. I think it was a good thing for me to reflect on the railroad and it's role in the development of the infrastructure of our country. I will admit that it was painful to watch the huge black plumes of smoke and knowing that our scenic trip was burning tons of coal. I think sometimes the things we are involved in that are very polluting are not quite as obvious as this was, so it was just a reminder to me of how many resources we use, sometimes very unaware, in work and in play!

I was a little relieved when we were all back safe and sound with no meltdowns and with fear transformed into enjoyment of a new adventure! After a stop off at the gift shops (where a little birthday shopping took place), we walked up to the "company house" where we would be bunking for the night. We enjoyed supper there before taking a walk back down into town and to a little park we had seen on our way back into the station. Terah had so much fun walking on the train tracks and got quite good at it! And, in all honesty, I think she had almost as much fun at the little play ground as she did on the expensive scenic railroad. Though I'm not sure the playground will be nearly as memorable. I wouldn't be surprised if she will remember the train trip for a really, really long time! I think it felt good to all of us adults to just see the girls enjoying a beautiful evening in the park. And Mom and Dad looked perfectly in their element with Dad watching for birds and Mom knitting!

A night's sleep later and full up on funny cake and shoo fly pie (thanks, Mom!) complete with an early rendition of Happy Birthday for me and Jason, we were off to Green Bank Observatory. Our girls soaked it up and Alida is traipsing around in her souvenir t-shirt as I type! And we were in luck! You could pay for a bus tour around the observatory so Terah got to mark "bus ride" off her bucket list as well. We were caught up, EXCEPT that when we noted that now she has ridden a boat, train and bus, she thought and piped up, "I don't think I've ever ridden an airplane."

The place was pretty incredible, and the girls especially enjoyed the museum with lots of interactive activities. We could have spent a whole day there easily. But after a picnic lunch we headed back to Mom and Dad's, since more fun was in our future (and more friends would soon be joining us).
This was the 6th year that we have gathered for a weekend with the same friends at Mom and Dad's. The slideshow Mom and Dad put together of the last 5 years together was a great reminder of all the changes that have occurred - on one of the pictures of the first year, Terah asked if she was there. She wasn't even dreamed of at that point and now how could we possibly imagine life without her! Now we are a group of 14 - 6 granddaughters, 4 "middle-age" parents (trying to try on this title and see if I'm ready to live into it), and 4 grandparents.

Such a special weekend. We kicked off the weekend by making pizzas in my uncle's outdoor oven on the mountain top across from Mom and Dad's. I enjoyed a hike up the mountain with Kali and Alida! The evening was comfortable, the food yummy, and we were glad that everyone was safely there! The next day dawned foggy and drizzly - not exactly what we would have ordered for our big outing day but it worked out great! We had a picnic breakfast on our way to Dolly Sods, where we enjoyed watching the bird banding and Kali even got to hold and release a bird. The rest of us got to look at them, and I had a little bird placed to my ear to hear its fast heartbeat. From there we were not tuckered out yet, so we went cranberry picking and then stopped by the Canaan National Wildlife Refuge where we enjoyed a picnic lunch as the sun peaked out from the clouds.
Saturday afternoon, Jason and I enjoyed one of two hikes with the other middle agers - those walks/talks were precious times for me! And it was so lovely to leave knowing our kids were not missing us in the least! We are in a bit of a new stage of life on that front. On the first day the kids all went into the woods to the labyrinth and it was clearly a highlight for most of them. On the second day they painted river rocks. Having fun and attentive grandparents doesn't hurt anything - but this year the girls were also tearing around doing their own thing for some of the time. It feels so good when our children are very fond of our friends' children. It makes get- togethers a hit for the whole family! The weekend ended too soon, but not before a time of singing Sunday morning and a short hike before packing up to head out. The cool rainy weather nixed our plans/hopes of a swim at Seneca Rocks or a hike up the mountain. Dreams are already forming for next year!

In many ways, we weren't ready to leave, but it also felt good to be going home all together. Terah had even asked partway through the weekend when we were going back to our real home. She had been away for most of a week, and seemed to be eager to get reacquainted with it. The van was much more loaded down than when we came over just the 2 of us. We had the three gals and all their luggage and then had accumulated cranberries and MANY apples. I neglected to mention that Kali and Jason spent most of Friday afternoon hiking up to the land above Mom and Dad's home and carting back buckets and then a wheelbarrow load of apples. What beautiful fruits! Thanks Mom and Dad for sharing your bounty!

They sat for 2 days to ripen a bit more because I had to dive back into a busy work week at the office on Monday. But Tuesday I spent all the available cracks in my day canning 28 quarts of beautiful WV applesauce. What a treat that will be this winter, and a reminder of a very special September week! I ended up doing the applesauce mostly solo on Tuesday since Jason had a full day of getting things in order on the outside of the homestead. I was grateful there were no hiccups in the food processing day as I needed to be ready to walk out the door at 5:30 p.m.!

For weeks I had felt uncertain about what, if anything, I wanted to do special for my birthday. Then one day a facebook event was shared with me and for some reason I clicked on it to inquire. JMU was putting on a play called Intimate Apparel, which happened to be showing the week of my birthday. It got my wheels turning and after a quick check in with Jason and pondering the options for a few hours, I found myself emailing some friends to see if a few might like to join me. A few friends didn't want to join...they ALL did! In the end, I had nearly a 100% response rate and the play morphed into these wonderful friends organizing dinner together before the play. As we stood in a circle around a table spread with the gifts of their labor and love and they each shared when we had met and reflected on our friendships, I got a bit choked up. I felt so blessed and so surrounded in that moment - and maybe just a tad braver about growing older if it means time for these friendships to grow deeper and fuller! The play was also great, but it was really hard to leave the dinner table in order to get there on time (in fact we almost didn't make it).

Well, the ice cream custard is cooling and Kali is reading stories to the girls but I think I better wrap this up and work at getting to bed before I turn 40!

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: