This may be somewhat of a theme of this post, but I'm getting ahead of myself. We aren't just looking back we are also looking forward to new things on the horizon. I should note, before getting too far in, that one of the things printing the blog does is helps us realize how we might better organize this space for future printing. So I will still share videos occasionally but they will be more of an addendum to a post so that when we print it, it doesn't leave an awkward blank space! I also may try to do a better job proofreading my posts, though I think the girls are getting a kick out of pointing out all my typos!
So January is here and we are definitely in "winter on the homestead" mode. We got our onions seeded on schedule, which was great. And, not so great was the germination. Hopefully we'll have enough to fill the garden beds but we'll see. It was a tough year for onion seed but Jason has put out a lot more seed onions for the coming year so hopefully we'll have a better crop of seed for future years. Makes me feel extra thankful for all the perennial onions around! Planting onions is about the only garden-related homestead task Jason has done recently other than spreading more ashes last evening. He's been deep into building cabinets mode!
Our winter construction project this year is finishing out the back kitchen - is this really the last big project planned in the original house? We still have the possible wood cook stove and there are a few smaller furniture/cabinet projects, but this one has been the big long awaited project - the one Jason has been storing supplies/wood for for years now. It looks like he'll have enough wood for the project from trees we have needed to take down on our property. That makes them extra special. And an added touch is that some came from a log that our neighbor Samuel gave to Jason from a tree that came down in a storm that was very precious to their family.
Jason has moved his work space over to Emily and Jonas' garage, which is a much larger space for such a project. He's grateful for the roominess and has had to bundle up well on some of the recent chilly days! He even took over our extra composting toilet so that he now has a very rudimentary bathroom in the space! We did our normal time projections on the project, which were a good reality check for us. Not sure where we are at since, like most projects, now that Jason is into it the order of operations is adjusting as it makes sense for the actual flow of the project. The hope is that he will be ready for installation in early February when I'll clear out with the girls for a little winter jaunt to Grandma and Grandpa's in West Virginia.
It feels like the holiday festivities have been quite spread out this year, with our final gathering with friends and a white elephant gift exchange happening tomorrow evening. We still have one string of lights up and our stockings for the occasion. As of last evening, I've now gotten to enjoy a date alone with each of my daughters! I'm quite sure that those were my favorite Christmas presents this year, even though they were supposedly presents for them.
Kali and I enjoyed a morning of a bunch of errands, with the "date" part of the morning being some shopping (two new coats found for her at Gift and Thrift and new work/hiking boots for both of us) and lunch out together at the Little Grill! Could Kali be a more delightful 15 year old to have around - we had a lot of fun! Since our return, Alida has been suffering from "fuzzy hood envy" since one of Kali's new coats has a fuzzy hood and none of Alida's coats do! It seems that the current phase includes feeling pretty envious of anything that Kali can do or has that Alida doesn't. Thankfully Kali is quite gracious and doesn't take it too seriously while also trying to offer Alida a more balanced perspective!
Terah got to experience similar feelings last night when she realized I was leaving after dark with Alida for our date out. She said with a quavery voice, "I just feel like I want to go with you." Sweetheart! I told her that that was a completely normal feeling but that I was looking forward to having a date with each of my girls. She had Kali for a playmate so the longing didn't last too long and she happily said goodbye to us as we left. Alida and I got to enjoy the musical "Me...Jane" at the Forbes Center. It's the story of young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.
After the performance they did a little Q&A with the 5 member cast and it blew my mind that most of them had never met each other before their first rehearsal together 3-4 weeks prior. I think I may have heard a small collective gasp when they shared that, as it was a pretty impressive performance with some incredible choreography. Alida and I came home dancing and singing, "Animals, animals, animals, animals..." While we love family times together, these one on one times feel extra precious (probably in large part because of how rare they are).
It was also Alida's month to design our family night. We all commented on our way home last Wednesday what a great evening it was - we kicked off the night by eating out at Gray Jay Provisions (thanks Karen and Sue for the birthday present!!) and topped off our meal with gelato before heading to Funky's Skate Center. Yes, we all went roller skating! I was honestly a bit surprised with myself. I was a little rough for the first few minutes but it came back. I don't think I have been roller skating for 25+ years. I felt literally transported back to middle school: all those skate parties where you knew the couples skates would be coming and you'd have sweaty palms wondering if someone would ask you for a skate. How fun to skate a few laps hand in hand with my hubby of almost 20 years! The girls were all zooming around by the end, Kali and Alida unassisted and Terah with her little walker. So cute! Somewhere in the middle of our time, a song came on that was one of my team's basketball game warm up songs. So I moved from middle school to high school. I had to chuckle when my family was all off the rink taking off their skates and ready to head home and I was asking to just do one or two more laps. I came off the rink and staged a little "I don't want to go home yet...do we have to go" routine, which amused them.
I few other home life tidbits of late:
Terah is more or less done napping. That is connected to another transition I'll mention a bit later on. It feels monumental in many ways. She seems to be settling into a 9-10 p.m. bedtime and 9-10 a.m. wake up time routine. It means needing to adjust my home schedule, including finding new and creative ways to structure my office work time. So far it feels a bit rough, but it's new and we'll find our way. I do enjoy the early morning quiet and the fact that she is sleeping really well at night! No great loss without some small game, my mother would remind me! On a day that she wakes early or seems extra tired, a jogger walk is probably the only trick up my sleeve at this point!
There's been lots of coupons going around in our home, which is fun - the sharing of things we like to give to each other and do together. Alida used her "cooking with mommy" coupon the other day to make bierrocks (pizza pockets). She is becoming quite the cook, and seems to have the knack for kneading bread dough. She is at the perfect age for doing projects with - she soaks up the attention and loves doing such a wide variety of things. It's why she loves the times when Grandma is upstairs and there are crafts and puzzles and projects happening in abundance!
Sometimes when grandparents have been upstairs for awhile (we are all enjoying an extra long January stint!!) it seems my kiddos forget how well they can entertain themselves and/or each other. They seem to have a one track mind and sometimes Terah will hardly have her eyes open in the morning before she'll ask "can I go upstairs." It's cute and sometimes a tad exhausting then when they seem unable to find anything to do in our own home (which is not lacking in things to do, I promise!). So I'm enjoying the groove Terah and Alida have gotten into this morning - according to them it's currently Christmas day! While I like alone time, I can enjoy just as much puttering away with the happy chatter of kids all around me.
On recent playdates with Ivy, I've hardly been needed other than the occasional potty help or for snack or drink distribution services. We love seeing Ivy running up the front walk and when we open the door she shouts "surprise" every time! It's fun to see her enthusiasm for hanging out with us and we are on the cusp of giving it a try having her spend a full day with us. The girls are excited about it and now that it appears I don't have any nappers in our family, it makes our days a tad more flexible. It is probably good timing in that Alida is eager for more social engagements so we are attempting to arrange for some additional playdates, the first of which is happening at noon today with a former soccer teammate!
It has been clear for awhile that Terah no longer does much "pining for Mommy" when I'm at work. Normally when I come home from work on a day she has spent upstairs with Grandma and Grandpa, she puts up quite the fuss and cries, "I don't want to go downstairs." While flattering for the grandparents, it's not great for my "mommy-esteem" when it happens repeatedly. I figured our trip of 2+ days this past weekend would cure her of that for sure and she'd eagerly run into my arms. Well, let's just say that Alida and Kali ran over for hugs and Terah burst into tears and didn't want to go home (downstairs). Since then I have felt loved and wanted and gotten some great snuggles but in that moment the idea of the end of their almost 3 days of fun, complete with lots of outdoor snow play, was too much for her!
So where were we? This was Jason's third year attending the VABF conference and my first. The last two years, Kali has gone with Jason while I stayed back with kiddos. This year my folks graciously agreed to keep all three gals and take care of the animals so that I could go with Jason. We went to Richmond a day early so that we could walk the Richmond Slave Trail. It was something that felt important to do and, since I had never been to Richmond before and didn't know when we would be back, it felt like a good opportunity. It also felt like an important way to prepare ourselves for the conference and conversations/connections we might make in that space. We also had our first experience of staying in an AirBnB - nothing worth noting there other than that I have a new appreciation for how odd it can feel to let yourself in someone else's home, stay there the night, and leave in the morning without ever meeting the host!
The slave trail walk and the conference could each be long posts all on their own so I'm having to remind myself that this is primarily a scrapbook. So here's a few brief reflections:
The slave trail starts along the James River and goes into the heart of Richmond. While there was not a lot of completely new information for either of us, it feels very different to read about the history of slavery in a book vs. walking on the very ground that slaves were forced to walk to holding pens until they were sold. Feels very different when it is not just a museum that attempts to recreate a period of history, but when it feels like you are walking in the present day that is so deeply impacted by the history we were reading out. How do we respond to the collections of sleeping bags and personal belongings in various places along the way or the homeless persons asking for money? How do we take what we learned that day into our conversations about food justice and sustainable farming?
It wasn't too hard to keep that as a focus of our reflections all weekend, thanks to both a session and a keynote address by Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm. She started the session by asking us to talk at our tables about the practices we use on our farm that stem from African traditions. It was a great way to help us identify and own our ignorance! It seems a first tiny step all of us who are white need to take is to educate ourselves and start giving credit where credit is due. She shared the story of her grandma's grandma's grandma who braided seeds into her children's hair before they were kidnapped and sent across the ocean on slave ships to an unknown future. It was a story of hope, hope for a future where those seeds would be needed. I don't know that I will ever plant okra again without thinking of the wisdom, resilience, foresight and courage of those African grandmothers.
There is so much more than could be said. We also learned things about raising grain and grass fed hogs and seed saving, but what continues to circulate in our minds and hearts and is keeping Jason up at night, is thinking about how we transform the unearned privileges we have enjoyed all our life to benefit those who have been hurt by the same systems that have benefited us. What does reparations look like for us? I can easily get very overwhelmed by the big picture, by the mountain we need to climb. But I'm going to challenge myself to just take the next step and see where that leads. As soon as Jason and I finish Braiding Sweet Grass we plan to read Leah's book Farming While Black together.
The setting of the conference was not comfortable for either of us. We could see our hotel from the slave walk. Our room was paid for due to Jason doing a session at the conference Sunday morning. It included complementary valet parking. I felt like a fish out of water! The woman at the front desk tried to make us feel comfortable by chatting to us about everything and anything. It didn't work. It did give us a very good laugh once in the privacy of our room when we reflected back to her asking us if the pictures on our travel mug were of our family - they were all pictures of sandhill cranes. Jason was quick on his feet when he replied, "well, sort of..!" We had also been informed that we had been "upgraded" to a corner room, away from the elevator with a river front view. When we looked out our large bank of windows we had to laugh. When I showed this picture to Alida boasting of our river front view, she looked and looked again and asked "where's the river?" Exactly! The thought that anyone would have paid extra for this view was beyond me.
So I was no doubt grateful to return home to our beautiful girls and the little piece of earth that we cherish so very much! I'll take this view over the one from our 10th story hotel room any day!
When we headed to Richmond Friday, I knew there was a possibility it would be a good opportunity to end Terah's nursing days. She was down to nursing once in a 24 hour period and I knew she wasn't getting much, and my small milk supply meant that nursing was increasingly uncomfortable. Clearly she wasn't "needing" my milk anymore and it was mostly a ritual that wasn't always working well for either of us. But she still seemed so certain of her need at times to nurse. When we got home from Richmond and she didn't ask and then fell asleep that night without it, it seemed like we probably should make the most of what looked like the chance for a completely smooth and easy transition for her. I was so focused on how this was going to go for her that I was completely floored by the tidal wave of emotions that hit me when the reality of what this means started to sink in. The waves are still washing over me!
The other evening we had a little "end of breastfeeding" party, complete with snacks and dancing and a (mostly failed) attempt at a family time of reflection. We toasted fizzy orange juice and a little wine glass with some milk I expressed for Terah's glass (her last sips!). The goal for having it be a celebration of this milestone for Terah was accomplished and she has seemed more or less completely unphased by it. We are nearing a week without nursing and she hasn't asked to nurse once. She has proclaimed on multiple occasions that she is done having mama milk at night and at naps. At least one of us feels confident!
I think I was not clear going into our party that I was also trying to meet some of my needs. So, in short, my emotions got the best of me but that led to better clarity on what I was feeling, allowed a few tears to find their way out, and got me googling things like "grieving the end of breastfeeding" in an attempt to normalize the rush of emotions I seemed unable to get a handle on. That was a normalizing activity! Articles like "The Last Drop: Grieving the End of Breastfeeding" helped me at least feel more normal. I could identify with this sentiment: "Childbearing women pass a lot of milestones...But there’s one significant milestone that we don’t talk about. It’s an intense, emotional moment that can be both bad and good all at once. It’s the day the last drop of milk we’ll ever make falls from our breast."
It's interesting how I remember when Kali was born thinking about how much I felt prepared for childbirth with all the reading, the classes, and the conversations with other mothers. I remember being floored by how painful those early days of nursing my first baby were and how I didn't know if I would have stuck with it if my mom hadn't been there to tell me it would get better and be wonderful. She was right and now here I am at the other end of it feeling like no one told me it would be this hard to move from this stage of life into the next. It feels in some ways akin to Jason's vasectomy. It feels like the last remaining connection to my childbearing years. And, while it feels "right" (whatever that means), I still feel so sad. I imagine I'll be checking each day to see when my "last drop" day is. Maybe when no more milk is able to expressed, I'll be able to squeeze out some more tears.
I was able to identify the other evening, that part of the emotions here may be related to the fact that breastfeeding was something that I felt like I did well. I felt like my body impressed me with its ability to produce nourishment in abundance for my babies and many others. There are so many aspects of motherhood that feel so stretching to me and that I often feel like more of a failure than a success at. And my relationship with my body has been hardly smooth over the years. So probably part of this is realizing that I won't have this little boost to my confidence as a mother and my feelings towards my body. My how life gives us many opportunities for growth! I may need to toast something stronger than fizzy orange juice as I embark on this next phase!!
Ps. If you have made it this far, here are two videos for your enjoyment - including Terah roller skating solo. The first may need a bit of explanation, though I actually can't remember when or how it began. We think that there was a time around bedtime that someone actually was really feeling misunderstood and said "you just don't understand" and flopped on our bed. It's now become quite a thing and a favorite night time game for Alida and Terah. They will do it over and over while the rest of us get ready for bed. We can't get enough of hearing Terah say "You just don't understand it!" and then get up on her tippy toes and flop on the bed, followed by giggles.