home and away

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“The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, ‘I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.’

‘That is because you have no brains,’ answered the girl.  ‘No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful.  There is no place like home.'”

-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In a recent blog post I shared all about planting our garden, only to discover on this past Saturday morning that the bulk of what we had planted had been eaten by a family of groundhogs.  Our entire day Saturday was spent rectifying the situation, digging a 1 ft deep trench around the garden and putting up fencing.  It was an all-day slog, half of it done in pouring rain and in between nursing and napping babies and feeding children.  It was a ton of hard work and come Sunday, I just wanted to get out of the house.  It can be a point of tension for Brandon and I sometimes on the weekends–he, working outside of the home and eager to be home and rest and work on projects here.  I, working inside the home all week, eager to get out on the weekends and be refreshed elsewhere.  On Sunday he agreed to drive up to a favorite spot of mine on the parkway for a hike and picnic.  No sooner had we hiked to the top of the ridge and he took a few photos for me of my finished Timber cardigan, when the skies opened up and began pouring on us again.  We got back to the car muddy and soaked (again) and ended up eating our picnic in the car at a pretty overlook.  It was fun and refreshing.  But still, when it was all said and done everyone was eager to go home and get cleaned up.

It’s funny how our ordinary days can feel so gray and blah sometimes and we are eager for more beautiful country, but in the end there really is no place like home.  In the end most of our lives are lived in the ordinary moments, and it’s these I’m convinced we’ll look back on with the most fondness.  All the glory we didn’t realize was such until later. I think that’s why I teared up when I read that quote from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz while reading to the children.  Sometimes it feels like we aren’t doing enough, sometimes I feel like I’m not giving them enough, like I’m not enough.  Like these days are too gray and dreary for them compared to all the fancy and exciting things other families are able to do for their children.  I’m hoping that this proves true–that there’s no place like our home for them, our simple ordinary growing-up-together years.

We are wrapping up our final official day of school TODAY (!!!) and with tomorrow’s fresh new month begins our “summer break.”  Now, of course, I don’t plan to quit all things educational, but our schooling will look less like ploughing through the necessities and more like soaking in our curiosities.  I hope to do lots of reading on a blanket in the yard, lots of adventures and hikes and exploring.  Learning along the way, delving deep into whatever strikes our fancy.  Making time for crafts and fun, garden discoveries and kitchen experiments, field trips and camping.  Sadly, these are the things we have so little time for during ordinary school days.  I read a comment by a fellow homeschooling mom recently who said they don’t take breaks for summer because schooling is their way of life and they don’t feel the need to take a break from it.  I’m trying not to feel “less than” upon reading that.  The reality is, the last couple of months have been quite a challenge with Phoebe and getting our work done and she and I both need a break.  I don’t think a break or a shift into more passive learning is a bad thing or gives schooling a negative connotation.  The reality is, learning is hard work sometimes, and taking a break can be refreshing.  Just like escaping to the mountains for a rainy hike makes coming home all the sweeter.  I so want to recapture for her (and I!) the joy of learning and discovery and remind her that learning is a part of every facet of daily life.  But at 7 years old, I don’t feel the need to constantly call everything we do “school.”  I believe that giving the children a wealth and breadth of experience and information will enrich their minds and souls.  I still think they need long stretches of play, free time, time to explore, imagine, and discover on their own.  What better time than summer for such things?  So yes, we will keep practicing flashcards and we’ll keep reading books together, but mostly we are hoping for some fun and some adventures.

settling back in

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I love being home.  Our family trip to upstate New York was fun and restful in some ways, chaotic and exhausting in others, but regardless, it is always so nice to come home.  When we drove in from NY on a Monday afternoon, Brandon had about two hours to quickly unpack and then repack before his flight left for a week-long work trip in California.  So, even though we had a week back at home, it didn’t quite fully feel like we were “back to normal” without Brandon around.

This past week it was good to get back into our usual rhythms.  I’ve noticed that I don’t quite feel settled into a place until I’ve been cooking or baking in it.  Making that first loaf of homemade (gluten-free) bread and filling the house with that smell feels like coming home.  I was busy this past week making gelatin gummies for the kids, a big batch of granola for Brandon and I, bread and “snack bars” galore.  Phoebe has stopped eating her usual Lara Bar snack in the mornings and so I scramble to find something she will eat in place of it.  She is pretty limited with what she will snack on and we are trying so desperately to increase her caloric intake, so for her to drop a favored food always sends me back to the drawing board and results in lots of receipe testing.

Our days have been simple.  The weather has been roasting hot and humid (ugh), and the kids have still been busy outside, coming in with cheeks flushed with heat.  I don’t love summer, but I try to make the best of it.  Picking blueberries and flowers from local farmstands, and savoring the daily afternoon thunderstorms helps me endure it.  Our little porch garden hasn’t done very well, and I miss having the larger plot we had at our last rental.  Sigh.  Dreams for the future.  Yesterday we had a really informal “half-birthday” party for Phoebe and Noah at my parent’s neighborhood pool with their favorite little pals.  I didn’t snap any pictures (gasp!) but it was fun all the same.  Their half-birthday was really back in June (20th and 23rd) so when you celebrate the half-birthday late, what on earth do you call it?  It was such a treat for the kids, though, who often find it hard to have a party with their friends around their birthdays (which are the week of Christmas).  It was fun for me, too, to see the children playing and swimming together and gather with some of my favorite friends.

I’ve been busy finishing up a few knitted projects.  My brother and sister-in-law brought back some yarn from Iceland for my birthday and I knitted some slippers for myself with one ball of it.  I’ve tucked them away for winter but I’m already longing for those first cool wisps of fall air.  I also finished up the Antartkis shawl that I made for a lady I used to babysit for back in my high school days.  It was what I solely worked on during our trip to NY so I was able to finish it fairly quickly (for me) and she picked it up this week.  I loved knitting it, especially since there was no purling and it was a really simple/easy pattern and yet still interesting.  When I’m knitting something I grow attached to it in some way, all that time spent fingering the yarn and bent over it with concentration and enjoyment.  It’s hard to give it away or to attach value to it, but also such a sweet thing to be able to make something special with my hands for someone else!

Phoebe’s homeschool co-op begins in about a month (!!!!!) and so my mind is shifting to all the projects around the house and all my piles of clutter and unfinished business that I hope to have organized before our first year of school begins.  A friend has offered to give us a couple of twin beds for the kids, and so I think we’ll be rearranging bedrooms for the children.  I’m craving a major house purge.  I’m hoping to organize my desk area and clear out a little space that can be for schooling.  I’m also hoping to squeeze in a camping trip with some friends before school begins, too.  It feels way too soon to be talking about our first child going to school, and the sentimental part of me is resisting this big change, even though I’m super excited to begin, too.  So many books to read!  Curriculum still to pick out!  School supplies!  House projects!  And still, to fit in time to read long snuggled with children on the couch, to stay up late for fireflies and late evening walks.  I want to hurry through summer because fall is my favorite, but also am so mindful that this is our last summer EVER before our lives begin to revolve around school, and so I want to enjoy each muggy, buggy day.

the very favorites

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And yet in all of the festivities, these are the very best moments of all.

Morning coffee on the porch, everyone greeting the day slow, groggy-eyed holding warm mugs and snuggling.

Brothers bent over tackle box.

Auntie feeding nephew.

His little round tummy and bright happy eyes.

Sisters in a row, catching up and catching wind in their hair.

Sibling date (sans our kids!) in the town of Watkins Glen, getting pizza and Ben & Jerry’s and the most delightful little yarn store.

Walking the marina together.

Tubing and wakeboarding and running the boat until it ran dry.

Campfire gatherings in the evening, knitting and talking and playing guitar.

Squirt guns and barefoot bike rides and bubbles.

The boy coloring all over his body and face during nap time, “Line Man” as daddy declared him.

Mom and Dad stealing away for a tandem kayak in the whipping sun and wind.

Nap time watercolor quiet.

All the babies sleeping soundly under quilts.

Early morning glory in the sky and last sunsets set aflame with 4th of July fireworks.

All this glory, all these holy ordinary moments, hemmed in by sunrises and sunsets.  Morning and evening, days ticking by, and us trying to squeeze from them every last drop, us trying to savor this never-to-be-repeated now.  These are the very best moments of all, the ones we almost miss, the ones we pass over.  It’s all good, but these are my favorite.

(Other trip posts here, here, and here.)

 

origins

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These are among some of my favorite pictures from our New York trip.  What special times they were, filled with a lot of significance for this family.  One of the goals for our trip was to see Brandon’s family’s roots, the places where his parents grew up and met, the schools and streets they walked, the trails they frequented.  Many of these places are also the soil for Brandon’s earliest and happiest memories.  For years I have heard stories of all of these places–what a thing to be able to visit them and to watch the next generation running through these familiar fields.

So one day of our trip we spent hiking Watkins Glen State Park right by Seneca Lake, climbing through the moody canyon.  The pictures speak for themselves, don’t they?  It was gorgeous and when we finished a huge downpour threatened to fall, so we made it out in perfect time.

Another day we drove to Breesport, NY and drove through the rolling country roads to the big yellow house where they spent their first years as a family, caretaking for a big abandoned asylum.  This house holds some of their happiest days, the house with the pond and a white duck named Ellen, who came when Brandon’s dad would call and laid eggs for their family to eat.  The swing set they played on and the sloping hill that is perfect for sledding.  From there we went onto Elmira, seeing Brandon’s grandparent’s home, visiting with them there, walking the grassy trail behind their house to the creek they caught crawdads and splashed in.

I count us fortunate to have been able to see and share these places with Brandon’s parents and grandparents while we still can!

a love worth traveling miles for

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As the shadows lengthened, we left the party and took the kids to a nearby little amusement park, just perfect for them.  They’ve never experienced anything like that, so they were filled with glee running from ride to ride with their tickets.  Philippa was obsessed with the “ore-sees” (horsey’s) on the merry-go-round and probably rode it several times over, eventually realizing the ticket was her way in, and just walking up to the gate with a ticket and waiting there until the attendant saw her.  They all loved it and every day after Phoebe and Noah asked me if we could go back.

arriving

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Earlier in the year Brandon’s parents began talking to us about a family trip to upstate New York (where they are originally from) to surprise Brandon’s grandparents for their 60th wedding anniversary.  We were really excited because 60 years of marriage is a huge accomplishment and worth the long haul to gather and celebrate.  Also, we looked forward to seeing all of Brandon’s roots and having some time together as a family.  Brandon’s dad offered to rent a large home on Seneca Lake that would house us all.  Since it is about a 12-hour drive from home, we decided to split it up into two day chunks.  The first day we drove (and by “we” I mean Brandon.  He let me knit the whole way!) to Luray, Virginia, met up with everyone (Brandon’s parents, brother + wife + baby, and sister) and did a fun tour of Luray Caverns.  We spent the night there, got up early and headed to Seneca Lake.  Isn’t it gorgeous countryside?

The home Dad rented was just perfect.  Absolutely beautiful and with an incredible sunrise view every morning, tucked away at the very end of a laneway situation behind a hops farm.  The kids had been anticipating this for weeks and were nearly beside themselves with excitement to spend a whole week with Baba + Nain (Brandon’s parents) at a lake!  After we arrived, we unloaded and promptly deep-cleaned the entire kitchen (making it a gluten-free celiac safe-zone for our Phoebe girl, such a gift to us!), the kids were out on the water.  Brandon took them all out for a paddle boat ride, and then Phoebe wanted to upgrade to a tandem kayak with Baba before deciding she would just manage her own little boat.  She is pretty amazing in the water, fearless and quick to learn.

The next morning Brandon was trying to sneak out of our room at the crazy hour of 4:45 or something.  He couldn’t wait to go fishing.  I crept out after him and literally gasped when I looked out toward the dock and saw the sun swelling up just ready to burst over the horizon.  I grabbed my camera and nearly ran out to get pictures and take it in.  It was so serene and stunning, we couldn’t help but get up at least by 5 am every morning to catch each sunrise.  It’s dumb, I’m sure–we should have been sleeping in on vacation–but we don’t get to see that kind of glory every day and in our minds, it was worth it.  Every day boasted a different sky, each sunrise and sunset entirely new.  It was pretty incredible and I relished the early morning quiet, reading, sipping coffee, knitting to the quiet sounds of the lake.

summer getaway

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We’re heading out of town so the blog will be quiet for a week or so, most likely!  We have a long drive ahead of us and a week by a quiet lake to look forward to, gathered close with family.  I’m looking forward to laughter, snuggles, sleeping a little later, having uninterrupted time with Brandon, reading, knitting, journaling, and reconnecting with loved ones!  Share all about it with you guys soon. ❤  Until then, happy summering in your corner of the world.