Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Blood Drive in honor of Nora's 11th birthday!

Next Tuesday will be Nora's 11th birthday and as we normally try to do we had scheduled a blood drive on her birthday. As it turned out, Virginia Blood Services has been bought by the Red Cross and the future of that blood donation center has become uncertain (at least to the employees there!). So we moved up our drive and were the last group in there before the close for a complete clear out, training, and then hopefully re-opening. At this point we don't know if we'll be able to host blood drives as we have in the past! As this one approached, I wondered if maybe folks are tiring of this ritual and if maybe we've "milked this one" for all it's worth. After the event I have come to the conclusion that I don't think so!

Once again the evening felt like a celebration and a wonderful gathering! Despite 6 of us (Jason and me included) were not able to give since we were not "symptom free," we still had 16 successful donations throughout the evening. There was lots of great kid energy, wonderful snacks to share and some splashes of orange.
Without my mom there to help, I was trying to balance keeping the snack table loaded, getting some photos, and keeping track of kiddos. So it wasn't exactly an event that provided a lot of space for reflection, but I did have one deeply heartfelt moment. At one point I looked over to the table where I had put our two books about Nora for folks to take a look at. I noticed that Phoebe was there reading the blog and went over to see if she had found any pictures of herself as a baby. Sure enough, she was right near a page of her adorable baby self! She sat there for a good while reading excerpts and I felt my heart swell. She was Nora's only baby friend and it means the world to me that she seems to still feel interested in being part of Nora's continued story and presence in our family.
I have been grateful for two the opportunities this birthday month to share aspects of Nora's story and our journey with her. Earlier this month I spoke to a group of undergraduates taking a senior seminar at EMU on suffering and loss. The only problem was that the class was only an hour long. Today I was on a panel (of 2 of us) for biomedicine students at EMU to share in their "Patient's Perspectives" forum they do yearly. Both times I felt so grateful for the chance to talk about Nora. It seems as the years go by, there are less opportunities to do so, so when I get the chance it's kind of hard to get me stopped...especially if someone wants to talk about palliative care! I can get just a tad fired up! 

I was reflecting on the way home today that I still feel her birth month more in my body than I do the month of her death. I think there is something always so striking about the change of seasons occurring at this time of year and the colors around us changing as well. So here we are in October again!! 

10 days and I'm behind!!!

Well, I just sat down to do a blog post about Monday's blood drive and realized I've got a few other things to catch up on here. So here's some random tidbits:

Soccer season is now fully underway and here are the girls in action! Jason has mostly had a break from coaching Alida's team this season, though he is on board as the lead coach for this week. They are both enjoying it and Wednesdays are now really full as they are both also taking a homeschool art class downtown on Wednesday afternoons. So when it gets to 10 p.m. on a Wednesday evening (or after as it is now), this family is ready to call it a day! Terah has already sacked out...
But it's not quite time to turn in yet for some of us. We just lugged all our trays of sweet potatoes down to the back kitchen for Jason to weigh, sort and tuck away in the root cellar! The curing in the 3-season room is complete and it was time to put that room back to order (turn it back over to Mom and Dad in other words!). We don't get to tuck many nuts away just get, thanks in part to these little guys, but we do plan to enjoy a good number of sweet potatoes. The figures are just in - we have 179 lbs of mahon yams and 179 of beauregard sweet potatoes. Yep, it's kind of fun when it works out that way. Alida just came and said, "that's not very much" and then I told her that was 358 pounds of sweet potatoes, to which she replied, "whoa!"

It's cover cropping and seeding time around here - we like to have that done by the middle of October but it looks like we'll be glad if we get them all in by the end of the month. It was a big relief this past week to get both the garlic planted and also our fall spinach!
This week we enjoyed having some additional hands around and were able to get some bed reshaping done (to hopefully help us handle excess rainfall in future years better than we did this year) and a rye/vetch/winter pea cover crop in the root patch.
I do enjoy days when lots is going on around our place - even if sometimes it can feel like too much of a good thing. One of my favorite moments on Tuesday was coming out with Terah on my back to get laundry in before the dew made it wet again. I was working on dinner inside for the 10 of us, but outside I found this scene - a lively bball game happening on 1/2 of the concrete pad and some threshing happening on the other half! I think we are making good use of that space!
The pigs have been tanked up on sweet potato vines and other weeds, but after a harder frost this week the weed supply is diminishing rapidly! So we were happy for an apple cider pressing day at the neighbors to provide us with lots of buckets of apple scraps. The pigs LOVE their apple/yogurt slop. And thankfully they have all stayed within the bounds of their electric fencing recently. One night when Jason was away I did the evening rounds and was feeling good about getting some things done for Jason in his absence. I was taking the pig bucket back to the shed when I looked up and saw one of our red pigs walking towards me. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on as it was rather disorienting to see a pig trotting towards me out in the open. It's nice they are tame!! AND I got her back in. I was impressed with myself and then the pig was out again minutes after Jason got home!
We've still got a fair amount of threshing and winnowing to do, but the amaranth is all harvested and we just gleaned sorghum from our neighbor's patch before it is mown down! Other than a few raspberries, nettles, tea and a few herbs, this year's harvests are done. We'll be eager to turn our attention soon to "leaf harvesting."
So hopefully that means we are moving towards a bit of a slower time. I know at least the parents in this household are just a tad TIRED! It doesn't help that we have had a cold virus of some kind moving through our home for well over a month now! It's not been the kind of sickness that changes our day to day plans, but sure has made our nights not as restful. But there is still plenty of happiness and sweetness around, especially where these two are concerned!
The highlight of this past weekend was Alida and Kali taking part in a Heidi play that their friend wrote and directed! It was so fun seeing the kids enjoy themselves both at the practice and performance. Lots of giggles!
No mishaps at all, other than Kali and her co-servant almost dropping Clara. :)
They were happy and it seemed maybe a tad proud, as they should be. It was great entertainment! They were already talking about the next play they might want to put on together!
Terah enjoyed the fact that while the big kids were practicing and also on performance day she got the large trampoline all to herself! That was until the "cast party" when the herd of performers came tearing over. She wanted out of there fast!!
p.s. We have a YouTube video of the performance if anyone is interested in seeing it, let me know!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Terah's 3rd birthday - a smashing success (as are the sweet potatoes)!

We'll get to Terah's birthday celebrations but a few other tidbits before getting to her special day!

The other night I found Ivy and Terah playing doctor - actually Ivy was playing doctor and Terah was trying to avoid a check up. But for a moment, Ivy had the stethoscope on Terah's heart and it was almost an exact replica of a photo we have in my baby book of me with a little friend playing doctor. It was just one of those heartwarming moments, that I was unable to recreate for a photo opp!
The oh my! I'm feeling more than a tad frustrated with the rain pouring down right now (which was not on our radar - or on the weather radars we had checked when making our plan to plant garlic today), but the cloud patterns with the rain and sun the last number of weeks has been impressive!
I don't know who most looks forward to our little neighbor Aria's visits. She is about as cute as they come and this past visit she was cracking both Alida and Terah up - she was especially fond of grabbing hair and noses.
The year has been going along at a pretty fast clip and we were in danger of not keeping our Adopt-A-Highway commitment if we didn't get a second road pick up done before the end of the year! It seems that large cans of Natty Datty won the not wished for "prize" of being the most littered item along our road. Just days after completing our trash walk Sara and I saw three "fresh cans" on the road. We are still hoping for a day we work ourselves out of this job! In the meantime, Terah is pretty cute in her reflective vest!
More fun than picking up trash is definitely digging sweet potatoes. Each hill holds surprises - great or small! And there were some pretty impressive ones!! Mom and Dad's 3-season room has been temporarily turned into a curing room and we've got ours in there and harvests from two friends making use of the space. Many wintertime meals in that room! Mom and Dad, I hope you will accept rent pay in sweet potatoes. :)
Sometimes when I'm out with the camera I stop over in Nora's garden to catch a glimpse of what is blooming. The canna has captivated my attention this year, but the marigolds are a close second right now. I love the fall colors!
They are lovely, but not as lovely as my little helpers. That is, when they are in "we want to be helpful" moods. Here they were eager to get in on my new experiment which I'm pretty excited about. How is it that we have had spicebush as one of the main understory trees in our woods for years and have never experimented with the berries? You can dry them and grind them up as a pepper and/or allspice substitute. I did one small batch with a tree that didn't get harvested when a friend came to pick them. Next year, we will still share some with the pigs but we'll be drying a lot more!!
And now the birthday festivities! Terah was really anticipating this birthday for some time! Her day started by opening a present from me and Alida and immediately following enjoying a birthday pre-brunch snack of her multi-grain squares. She has amazed me with her generosity - happily giving out portions of her various treats to others (especially Alida, who always wants to know if she might like to share...and she normally does!).
With a little snack in her belly, she and Alida helped me work on the birthday brunch while others were doing morning chores. She had requested waffles, chicken sausage AND bacon. No one in this family complained about her menu choices at all! At breakfast there was more present opening, as she had very little interest in "spreading it out." So we didn't - she was the birthday girl after all! And she then had the day to snuggle up in her new fuzzy blanket and take pictures with her camera and munch on her birthday cereals, rice cakes and chocolate.
I did a marathon nursing session and finally got her a birthday nap - I knew how much more she would enjoy her party! She was raring to go upon waking and happily helped her sisters decide what to wear for her party. Somehow this has become a transition in this household - that the birthday girl gets to choose what her sisters wear on her birthday. Thankfully it hasn't transferred to dressing the parents too!
We were sad the her cousin Ivy wasn't feeling well enough to join, but we still had a table filled with friends ready to celebrate with Terah. She planned another menu that went over well: roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and green beans and then folks help cranked vanilla ice cream to go with dessert. There was also chocolate frozen mousse, frozen wineberries and blueberries and pecans. I don't think anyone went away hungry and Terah was probably most excited about everyone singing happy birthday to her. I think my favorite part of the evening was her choosing "You've Got a Place at the Welcome Table" for the meal time blessing and wanting us to sing a verse of "The birthday girl's got a place..." It was a touching moment for me to hear this chorus of voices singing to Terah - what a powerful message for this little gal to take in! I hope she always feels that way!!
The evening ended with a game Terah really wanted to play that we learned at Ivy's called "Peacock," or that's what she calls it. One person goes out of the room and everyone else chooses a peacock. When the person comes back in they close their eyes and everyone says "1, 2, 3, squawk" except the peacock shouts, "peacock." The person with their eyes closed has to guess the peacock. Lots of noise and laughter and a funny way to end her special day!
She has been trying to milk "the birthday card" a bit in the days since - noting that it is still close to her birthday. :) She does get to anticipate the fun of one more celebration with my folks later this month. I'm REALLY hoping that she'll be sleeping normally again then and not hacking half the night each night. She is completely fine all day but as soon as she falls asleep she coughs and coughs. She is doing just that on my chest right now as I type. Even when she can sleep through it, I cannot!

Well, I better close this for now and try to lay her down so I can get a few more things done before bringing this day to a close. We are sure hoping the weather might cooperate tomorrow to allow us to get garlic and spinach planted. I am taking a vacation day since I miraculously didn't have any meetings planned and seem to not be finding time to use my vacation time right now...

I LOVE working on the farm at this time of year. There is something so satisfying about tidying up the gardens, doing the final harvests and planting cover crops. Sara and I chopped up lots of trombone vines the other day and I did remember to take a before and after photo of the trellis. My only regret was not wearing gloves - I'll write it down here so that maybe I'll better cement in my mind that not wearing gloves means my hands will be very irritated for a few days, and feels like they are burning up when in hot water (which I have my hands in a lot each day). Did I learn my lesson? We'll see if I remember a year from now...I just get so eager to get rolling on a project and if I'm finally in the garden with happy children, I just can't bear to go back up the hill for gloves. I should know better by now...