Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Alida's 8th Birthday!

So we are on our way to another fun combo of kids' ages. We left the 2 x 7 = 14 awhile back and now are headed towards another fun one. Alida is now officially 8, Kali will be 16 in August and Terah will be 4 in October. We will then have a 4 year old x 2 = an 8 year old x 2 = a 16 year old. Yep, I'm still fond of numbers!

Did Alida have a good birthday? I guess you should all ask her directly, but all signs that I've been observing point to a confident YES! I think her birthday met all the goals I can think of for what feels most important about celebrating one's life - it was fun, she was surrounded by many of her favorite people, she enjoyed some of her favorite foods, she got to make a rainbow of cupcakes with Grandma Myers and I believe she felt loved and appreciated. And an added feature to her actual birthday is we agreed to let her "be the boss" for the day.

That was particularly stretching for the oldest in our family and the youngest. People wanting to boss other people around and use power because they have power gets Jason, as well it should. Alida was actually a pretty benevolent dictator but still. Kali was the best at calling her "your highness" and remembering to ask Alida's permission before doing things. Terah said a few times during the day that she didn't like when it was Alida's birthday/when Alida was in charge. But she didn't really seem distressed by it in the least. We all made it through the day just fine, and thankfully we all enjoy a lot of the same things so overall it was a good day.

But I'm getting ahead of myself (probably because I have a sleeping little gal on one side of me and a sleeping hubby on the other and the sound of them both sleeping is increasing my sleepiness tenfold)! Her celebrations were rather spread out this year with kickstarting them with her birthday party last Friday. So Friday was spent decorating her cake, decorating the house and preparing for her party - somewhere in there she filled Easter eggs. While this year's birthday doesn't fall that close to Easter, she was not deterred from planning to include a hunt like last year.

In the end my dad and I had over 200 eggs to hide and I'm impressed that we only couldn't find a small handful of them. Most recently I found one yesterday when getting out a fresh t-towel. We'll see when the others resurface - our next deep clean?
 Alida also had designed a "pin the tail on the bunny" game, which was good for some laughs.
We had a full table for Alida's chosen dinner of venison and lentil burgers, roasted white and sweet potatoes, pickles, cheese and then cupcakes and ice cream. On her birthday morning I read her my account of her birth and her daddy's. I thought it was funny that my last meal before she was born hours later was potatoes and lentil burgers and while in labor we made a chocolate 0th birthday cake, which is still her favorite kind of cake! After dinner, those that could linger joined for some rounds of Apples to Apples. All departed by bedtime except for one friend that slept over and joined us for Alida's chosen pancake breakfast.

So her party wrapped up Saturday morning, but her "day in charge" was yesterday - her actual birthday. Jason and I were just about to have hot drinks just the two of us when the boss woke! So instead a tea party was enjoyed until it was late enough to wake Kali. Alida decided we'd have her breakfast of ponhoss, eggs and applesauce before all going out to do chores together. Probably wise so no one got cranky from hunger - a good choice by our leader! She also was thrilled to get to establish the dress code for the day which included a lot of pink and red. Some of us had to borrow clothing to be acceptable!
Thankfully Alida let me get a load of laundry started. :) And we all noted how fast hanging a load goes with 5 helpers. We were done in no time and off to take care of the animals. 
It was very hard to come inside after chores. It was a perfectly gorgeous day out but the birthday girl could not be convinced that a hike sounded like more fun than playing the Farming Game - or that "real farming" would be better than the board game version of it. I might have gone bonkers if my mom hadn't just gifted me with some cotton yarn for knitting dishcloths. An entire dishcloth later, I had managed to become a full-time farmer. It's not that the game is awful, it just is much more fun on a rainy day or after dark when the possibility for playing in the real dirt is not there!

After a meal of sausage gravy over sweet potatoes, we did get a short walk in before field hockey practice. Week 2 was as successful as week 1 - Alida really enjoys it. Back home we enjoyed birthday cake (made by a friend and not with Alida's birthday in mind but what perfect timing) and played some enthusiastic rounds of Boggle. I held a steady lead until Jason warmed up and then I was losing my steam and my winning streak! I showed what a horrible sport I am by being clear that we had to keep playing until I won a round. What a horrible example I am!! Thankfully it was all included with ample doses of laughter.
SO, Happy Birthday to our sweet, creative, spunky, strong, sometimes cranky, funny, tender, intelligent and all around marvelous 8 year old!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Spring planting, field hockey for Alida & the end is in sight for Kali's braces!

It's the eve of Alida's 8th birthday and while I type Terah and Alida are enjoying some of the treats from the Easter egg hunt Alida included in her birthday party last Friday night - Terah has actually transitioned to rubbing my shoulders, playing with my hair and hugging me (I'm not complaining, but it is also a tad distracting). Kali and Jason are at their second to last pottery class. You can see some of the fruits of their labor pictured here. Kali missed last week's class with what appears to most likely have been her first migraine - she had a headache and threw up four times in about four hours and then was perfectly fine and has been since.

I asked her if she had been particularly worried or anxious about anything. She said not that she was aware of, but then it had only been two days since she heard her mother crash to the floor in the middle of the night. For a very quick back update - I'm better AND so grateful! Soon after I put my last post up, Emily and Ivy came to hang out with us as I was feeling pretty anxious about being home with the two younger girls alone. They hung out until Jason and Kali got home and then Jonas joined us for our St. Patrick's day green meal - and they all pitched in to fold our laundry. It felt like a little boost of support at a time I needed it most! By Monday, I was ok being home alone with all the girls but didn't feel up for driving yet so worked from home. By Wednesday, I made it to the office but was still struggling. Then I woke Thursday and felt I had fully turned the corner and it's been a up since then! Just in time for Alida's birthday and the push of spring planting - both things that I wanted to be fully present and involved in!

I'm going to wait until after Alida's actual birthday to report on all her birthday fun - which there has already been a lot of! I'll catch up on other tidbits here!

This week we enjoyed our last frozen hull peas. We had been given the gift of a quart of rice grown near the Chesapeake Bay by a new friend of ours. What better way to use the last of the peas than to have one of my favorite meals - rice, peas and cheese sauce (now made with our homemade cheddar)! It did not disappoint.  Now we eagerly await this year's pea crop and also the information we've requested on how we can purchase rice from our watershed! We haven't purchased rice for a long time so the meal was an extra special treat that we all savored!

It was also the perfect meal for Kali as we had it on a braces tightening appointment day. Two positive updates from the orthodontist's. The first is completely unrelated to Kali's teeth but Terah and Alida both were brave enough to pet Wally AND Hank - the two resident dogs there. It's great we have made good progress on that front as it appears we'll be having less orthodontist appointments in our future! They noted that Kali will have one more appointment and then assuming nothing has changed for the worse, they will schedule the appointment to take off her braces! It felt like so long when they went on and here we are nearing the end!

This week included a first for Alida - her first field hockey practice with the Purple Pups program at JMU. She is doing a Tuesday evening program for the next month or two that is run by their field hockey team. She loved the first week and is excited that her second one falls on her actual birthday! She now has a stick of her own that is her size. Now with my two sticks from high school, we have enough that our girls can play field hockey together. It was so cute yesterday to hear Kali exclaim, "Terah, you scored!" with a sound of disbelief in her voice. Alida followed up by telling me that Terah actually hit it well and got it through her legs.

One other highlight of this week was me having most of the day with just my two eldest daughters - thanks Mom! They tagged along with me for various errands, including some birthday preparation ones, but the feature of our time together was going to see EMU's musical production of Beauty and the Beast. After our experience taking Terah to James and the Giant Peach, we felt certain that it would be best to leave her with Grandma for this one! We were right - the older girls loved it but Alida had to avert her eyes a couple times and accept my reassurance that all would turn out ok! It was all school kids there and I loved the question and answer time at the end where kids hands shot up with eagerness to ask questions like: was that a real knife that you used? did you really kiss?

Now on to the really exciting stuff - WE SPENT ALL DAY YESTERDAY OUTSIDE AS A FAMILY IN THE GARDENS! It was more or less my favorite kind of day. I really don't think Terah came inside at all from when we went out at 9:30 a.m. until I collected her for a much needed shower around 6:30 p.m. or so. My back held up all day, the weather was perfect, the kids were (mostly) happy and helpful or at least able to entertain themselves, and we far exceeded our hopes for the day.

Here's some pictures and captions from the day, but here's the rundown: We planted onions, shallots, beets, lettuce, spinach and peas. We cleaned out the composting chicken coop and applied it on the garlic and onions and shallots. We broke into our next humanure compost (amazing stuff!) and put compost on beets, lettuce, peas, spinach and raspberries. We unburdened the figs and pomegranate and put all the leaves in Terah's turtle shell garden play house. And of course we had a picnic!
I think this is what garlic looks like when it smiles!
Terah was a big help emptying out all the compost. She loves using her little shovel.

Alida would do about 30 seconds of work and then exclaim what hard work it was and retire to the leaf pile for some rest and rejuvenation!
Getting ready to get shallots in the ground.
Alida did enjoy delivering little onion plants to Jason to put in the ground.
Despite the amount of moisture in the ground we still gave everything a good drink to help give the seeds and plants a good start!
I love how Nora's garden has become a good spot for a break or to play when the gardening gets long!
And then Alida gets the camera - I don't think Jason actually felt like this much of the day! We were a pretty good team and I don't think we even exasperated him all that much!
Here we were planting 2 pea seeds 6 inches apart - I would put one in and Terah would add "a friend."
What a good feeling to be together in the garden, putting seeds in, tucking them in, wishing them well, and already eagerly anticipating the harvest!
Lentil and venison burgers and roasted potatoes taste good inside but even better outside!
A little post picnic stretch was in order!
Terah's garden is taking shape - this year's weaving of the willows is done and with the tree in the middle gone, they will get more sun and so faster progress on her little turtle shell play house!
I think this may be my favorite picture from the day. This kid is a something else!!
We had poor spinach germination so our last task of the day was an onerous one - transplanting spinach - in the end we reseeded some beds. Hoping for a decent harvest!
Caught this moment when Kali was taking a break and Terah found her! Towards the end of the day, the girls went to the swing set while Jason and I finished up! We even came in with enough time for some rounds of Rook together before calling it a day! It was as close to a Sabbath as it comes for me!!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A new (unwelcome) experience at age 40!

It's been a bit of a rough week for the mama in this family! Always prone to anxiety, it's been high and I've struggled to maintain my equilibrium! I'm trying to practice my tools from the STAR training, but the backlog created by that week "off" has been stretching me. That said, the sunshine and warmer temperatures have been so welcome and getting to be outside for a few stints this week was helpful - even if much of the time I was struggling to be fully present to what I was doing, having a hard time not thinking of all the other things that maybe I could or should have been doing. Sometimes I wish I was not so good at thinking of multiple things at once - while I'm doing one thing, my mind is racing about lots of other things and thus robs me of the beauty of those moments. It's something I'll likely be working at for the remainder of my life! The weather has made it feel like spring is in the air and that makes us itch to get seeds/plants in the ground. This week included starting to prep for planting onions and shallots. While out working on that, I noticed that Nora's garden had the first clump of three yellow daffodils in full bloom. I was so in need of that small but poignant reminder of Nora's short life with us, and this particular clump reminds me of my Grandma Myers as they were from her funeral. I need I feel particularly in need of these reminders of life, beauty and resilience. I've tried to be outside as much as possible, even some days taking my laptop out to Nora's garden or to the porch swing to do my office work. Not a bad view, if I remember to take a moment to look up and breath in and out deeply!

The highlight of this week was no doubt my nephew's visit this weekend (along with his girlfriend and two daughters). We had so much fun! Our kids played hard together and got along so well. On Saturday, we spent most of the day outside. It was cool but sunny and so pleasant. We walked around visiting the chickens (AND chicks), ducks and pigs and the moved to a trio of outdoor sports. We started with field hockey, moved to soccer and then basketball. A definite change of pace and muscle groups engaged than most of us were used to. But it was so fun. The fresh air. The happy kiddos. Being with family we don't get to see very often. Laughter, exercise, and quality time together. It felt refreshing and I was even doing a good job "tabling" my massive to do list to be present to their visit. Success all around.
You may be wondering if a "but" is coming. It's not really a "but" but more of an "and." The weekend was wonderful and there was some sadness in all of us when it came to an end. Terah was crying asking when they would come back again. She was getting very comfortable with all of them and having a lot of fun. And for me that the weekend is going to go down in history as a very memorable one due to what transpired towards the end of our basketball game.

As we were playing, there were a few times I came down and slightly twisted my ankle or felt something that made the thought, "you aren't getting any younger" float across my mental landscape. But I kept playing, and was happy to feel good enough to score a few baskets. We were on the last point of the game, when I came down and felt a few sharp pangs in my back. I was done! And managed to hobble around for a bit trying to figure out what position to put myself in that wasn't excruciating, all the while thinking "shoot, that was dumb!" I was sure hoping to "shake it off" but that was clearly not in the cards. I got to the garage where I painstakingly made my way down to the concrete floor where I laid down flat. I stayed there and enjoyed a nice long conversation with Ashley while the rest continued to play bball.

I eventually got back to my feet and felt more like a grandma than an aunt or mother. I never had a good pregnant waddle, so here was my opportunity - but somehow waddling in pregnancy feels much more noble and worth it. I am not a good patient, do not enjoy needing help for simple tasks and am amazed once again at how important our backs are. They are quite essential to our mobility and if they aren't working, you just can't move in the ways you are used to. I was getting a crash course in that and it was rather unpleasant.

Being up and around actually seemed to help a little bit. I was stiff, sore and tired and the feelings went all down my legs, but I was able to keep moving around, just at a slowed pace. With an additional four folks in our home, I was provided with ample distractions and we managed to make and consume most of 5 pizzas and hung out until we were ready to crash. I was so tired and yet had no idea how I was going to get comfortable to sleep. Somehow I managed to fall asleep and slept until about 2 a.m. when I woke and had to pee. I laid there wondering if I could get to the bathroom. It took me a long time and took moving one way, coming to a dead end in my mobility and then moving another way. Little by little and with considerable discomfort, I made my way to the toilet, cringed as I lowered myself and wondered if I was going to get back to bed.

In retrospect, since my ears were closing in on me and the bathroom fan sounded really odd, this would have been the time to holler for Jason. But my ears have done that to me before when I've been having blood drawn or after shots and I've never passed out (or HAD never passed out). So I figured, I'd just try to get back to bed. That's the last I remember until I came to laying flat on my face on the back kitchen floor with Jason over me. I was so disoriented. We have only pieced parts of the story together but Kali was still awake having just stopped reading (yes, at 2 a.m.) and heard me call her name a few times. I remember none of that. Jason was woken by the crash as I took a very large plant down with me, along with a duck egg from the sink. My shirt was all wet from the plant water. And only after a few moments did we realize that I had also not gotten my pants all the way back up from peeing. Yep, this one's for the scrapbook so I'm including the details (that hopefully we can more fully laugh at the image some day but it's still a little fresh). I have been able to chuckle a few times at the scene but as the day wears on and I recount this, I feel my anxiety rising as I think of another night coming. It's not one I wish to repeat. I had such surges of adrenaline that I found myself shaking uncontrollably, but that hurt my back. Our recent trauma training was helpful for me in thinking of shaking as releasing energy and I tried to welcome it but the pain in my back made it hard to welcome the shakes. I have no idea how long I laid there, asking Jason if I was going to be ok, worrying that Kali was upset by the whole thing, wondering how in the world I "had time for this" and pondering just spending the rest of the night on the floor as the thought of rising was more than I could bear. Thanks to my hubby, I managed to get a dry shirt on, back in bed and rehydrated as my mouth was cotton dry! We were both glad that it was him caring for me rather than the other way around. I'm not sure I could have been half as steady if I had woken to him crashing onto the floor. I'm so very grateful for his calming presence.

I got another nap or two till morning came and I was ready to try getting on my feet again. Again, as I moved around it felt a little better. So I fried up another pound of bacon that disappeared before breakfast officially got underway, and we enjoyed eggs, chicken sausage, fruit, cornbread and homemade grits together. We enjoyed the rest of our visit - more good food, fun games, kids hanging out - before saying goodbye this afternoon.
This afternoon, the girls worked on making green pasta for our St. Patrick's Day meal - complete with being decked out in their matching green pickle skirts. Now the younger two are making a marble racer and Kali and Jason have gone downtown to see a musical call Not Made for This, which is based on Jourden H. Banks' narrative. Jourden was born enslaved in Rockingham County. I'm glad they have gone and I'll be very glad to have them return. It didn't feel fun to go over with Alida what to do if something happens to me. Never fun, but felt important to do.

I think it's time for me to think about something else! I think I'll lay prostrate for a bit before seeing if the younger gals are up for helping me get the laundry in and hang the next load. For now, here's our pickle skirt trio!