Vermont-Part 5-The End

Due to The Buster’s feeling icky, we changed plans and decided not to potentially share germs with Aunt Liz, Uncle Tony, and Norwich Cousins. Though we were sad about that, it made for a very relaxed last morning at Nonni and Poppi’s.

There was some sledding, packing, playing, packing, and pictures.

Frozen ice mud stomping to start the day.

Then some sledding:

The snow had grown so icy, Poppi and I were reminded of the nearly catastrophic time Zoe went hurtling down the ice hill at that old hotel in the Poconos, and Buds had to run like a gazelle to keep her from crashing into a tree. It was funny when it was over. Thank goodness Buddie is fast.

After some sledding, a little time inside, and Monkey finally woke up for the day.

Trying to get a final cousin shot.

Surely we can all look one direction at the same time?

All faces going one direction anyway…

For the love of all that’s holy…

What if we put some adults in the picture?

Nope…doesn’t seem to help…

We’ll call this a win!

Great visit, and only 5 months until we all meet in Vermont again!

Vermont- Part 4- Birthday Boys

For 22 days, Poppi and The Buster are exactly 60 years apart, which is really cool to think about. (It also reminds me that Buds and I are going to be so incredibly old when we have grandchildren. Why didn’t we start young like Nonni and Poppi?!)

Anyway, the goal was to have a lovely dinner, share the cake Nonni and the younger girls made, open presents, and generally make revelry on our last night together.

Revelry was made, but not by The Buster.

The girls decorated the table, wrapped presents, made a beautiful cake, and did everything they could to create a festive environment.

Let the baking begin. (This may actually have been the girls making breakfast pancakes on Saturday morning, but it fits the storyline to have it here. 😉

Let the decorating begin.

1/2 for Poppi, 1/2 for Buster

The elaborate and luscious cake. Yessa made sure to leave part of Buster’s half “decoration-free” to help make sure he would like it.

Buster managed to sit at the table to open his present, but he didn’t get excited about his present until the next day when he felt better, then he loved it!

Opening up…

Magical…

Sorry I didn’t catch pictures of dinner or Poppi’s present. Distracted by The Buster being upstairs in bed.

It was a lovely party, though.

Vermont Fun- Part 3- Around The House

Although we spent lots of time outside the house, sledding and sugaring, we had lots of time inside the house enjoying Nonni and Poppi’s company, playing with cousins, and in The Buster’s case, being a little sick for one day.

Monkey took great pleasure in settling in various places around the house, snug and warm, reading a book. When I found her nestled in on the bed her father slept in as a child, absorbed by Harry Potter, I thought about this full circle of life.

So reminiscent of her father as a child in this house, I suspect.

Reading in front of the fire.

Yessa suggested a puzzle at the start of our visit, and she was intrigued by a 1000 piece puzzle, but we all decided a new 200 piece dinosaur puzzle was the perfect choice this time around.

Starting the process.

Puzzling it out together…

The finishing touches.

In addition to the puzzle, lots of stories were read and games were played.

Creating a musical instrument. The kids have always loved this toy.

Looking through a family photo album.

Yessa decided that the rolled up place mats made an outstanding baby, and those were played with by all the children throughout the visit. Poppi helps care for the baby in these pictures.

Poppi holding “The Baby.”

Careful with the baby.

Buster and Yessa had pooled their allowance to purchase “Piperoids,” and then Nonni and Poppi chipped in, too, for Buster’s birthday. The package arrived at Nonni and Poppi’s just as planned, which made for a fun day of construction.

Ready to start crafting.

So excited.

Showing Uncle Scott the creations.

She’s crafting incognito.

Cousin Meg came over on early Friday afternoon to have more time to play and to stay overnight.

Cousin time

Log rolling

The Buster did fall prey to a “tickley” throat, cough, and fever on Friday. He slept his way around the house.

We knew something was up when he slept for a couple hours in the middle of hubbub and laughter.

Moved to the chair for a change of pace.

Snuggled in with a book for awhile.

He headed up to bed around 5’ish, turned on the fever, slept through the night, and woke up the next day back to normal.

Finally, Nonni pulled out an old-style pinball game she’d gotten from her grandmother. Yessa was very intrigued.

Here’s how you play…

Good old fun!

Still to come, the birthday boys celebrate…

Vermont Fun- Part 2- Maple Syrup

Finally, after trying for a couple years, the children and I headed up to Vermont to learn the process for sugaring and to help where we could.

Nonni and Poppi have been sugaring for so many years, they have a simple, fool-proof system in place. But, the weather and the sap still have to do their part, and you just never know what each year will bring.

Our timing proved to be perfect this year. The sap had stalled out while Nonni was down in Virginia with grandkids (more on that in another post), and as soon as she returned home it started back up again. By the time the children and I left on Saturday morning, about 60 gallons of sap needed to be boiled down.

Here’s how the process works:

Take the garbage cans and sled off to whichever trees need to be checked.

Haul the buckets back up the hill. Notice the buckets with their “roofs” hanging on the trees in the left of the picture.

They can get really heavy!

Holding the buckets upright becomes critical as the hill gets steeper.

PULL!

Once you get to the “Sugar Shack,” the metal buckets get dumped into the plastic garbage cans to wait their turn to be boiled down.

In addition to tapped trees all around, some trees have tubing tapped into them, which then runs down the hill into plastic cans by the Sugar Shack.

The tubing running into a plastic can.

A fire is stoked up in the sugar stove at the start of each day, and the large metal pan on top is filled with sap. This boils and steams all day long, with someone going out to put in more wood and refill the pan every hour or so.

The sap looks like water when it comes out of the tree.

Steamy sap

The beautiful fire.

There’s something so satisfying about going out to check on the sap. I loved the simple pleasure of filling the fire box, pouring in more sap, enjoying the warm breath when you open the sugar stove door. So soothing.

Headed off to gather more sweet goodness.

After the sap has boiled down to a caramel brown color at the end of the day, Nonni and Poppi pour it out of the giant pan off the sugar stove into a pot to take into the house to complete the process of boiling it down the rest of the way, which requires watching it a little more closely, then bottling it up to seal it until it is needed over the year ahead.

Delicious!

Vermont Fun-Part 1

The kids and I headed to Vermont on Wednesday of last week. The goal was to spend time with cousins, help make maple syrup, play in the snow, if mud season hadn’t already settled in, visit Uncle Tony and Aunt Liz’s new house, and for me to get to snuggle new cousin Juliette.

We were mostly successful on all counts.

The drive up was quick and easy. We stopped to look for some new pants for all three children. Found some for the girls, which was very exciting for them. Monkey looks so grown up in one of her new outfits.

First pair of jeans…ever…

We arrived at Uncle Scott and Aunt Rebecca’s just as Megan was getting off the bus, so perfect timing. Hours of playing and dinner together followed.

Miles as a kitty in a basket.

Yessa was thrilled to be with Cousin Megan again.

Construction Time

Buster was so excited to play “Jurassic Park” again.

Two cousins and Ninja Boy

Since the kids and I left home at 3:45 a.m., we said a loving goodnight to cousins, and headed to Nonni and Poppi’s for a good, long rest.

Second Horseback Riding Lesson

Monkey had her second lesson today. They got to ride free rein in the ring for a bit, which was a step forward, and they went on a trail ride, being led by some of the helpers.

She declared it “great” once again.

We have to miss the two sessions next week due to our trip to Vermont, but Ms. Sarah said we’d try and make those up in April.

Out of the paddock!

Headed off on a trail ride.

Seems like she’s still in love.

Oh, and she wore her winter boots today, but her feet still froze…Hopefully lessons in April will be warmer.

The First Snow of Spring

We were lucky enough to have what will probably be our last snowfall of the season. It happened just a couple days after the first day of Spring, which was a nice irony. Oh, and it was the first day of Spring Break for our neighbors, which was also funny.

The littles had great fun bundling up to play in the back for awhile.

How’s this for a snowball?!

“Throw it at my butt!”

After a time inside to warm up, they moved to the front for some snowman making and sledding.

The ground quickly grew a little muddy.

It was a wet, heavy snow, and they came in soaking wet, but happy.

Anatomy Of A Haircut

Monkey has been asking me to cut her hair for awhile, and with Buds and me heading out of town for the weekend, and Monkey acting as one of the child demonstrators for the CrossFit Kids Certification training this weekend, it didn’t seem fair to her or the Little Mother to leave them to deal with the tangled nest her hair had become.

When I cut her hair, I always check out the same book from the library:

The book

It’s clearly written, simple drawings, works great for the no-nonsense hair cuts we do at our house.

Then I realized I could rid myself of the stall tactic of having to get the book from the library. I can make myself a tutorial for the next time I need to cut anyone’s hair. Well, Yessa and Monkey’s, anyway. Buddie seems to have taken over the job of keeping the Buster’s hair under some semblance of control. I’m good with that.

So, here’s our step-by-step process for cutting a single-length bob, which tends to be Monkey’s preference.

Before

The back…before

Divide the hair into 4 even sections:

I only have 3 hair clips, so grabbed a fridge magnet to sub in. (I crack myself up with things like this.)

Four sections

Take the clip out of section 1 and divide it in half horizontally, clipping the top half back up. Have your victim sit with her chin down to ensure a straight cut.

Sections 1 + 2

Half of section 1

Do the same with section 2.

Section 1 and 2 divided in half, ready for the first cuts to make the “guideline.”

Cut across the hair at the desired length. This becomes your “guideline” where all the other hair will be cut to.

After cutting the 1/2 of each section 1 and 2, unclip the rest of section 1 and cut it to the guideline.

The rest of section 1, ready to cut.

Then do the same with section 2.

Voila, back half of hair all cut.

Now, to cut the front and finish the job.

Remove the clip from section 3 and divide in half.

Section 3 unfurled. Section 4 has already been cut in this shot. (I can never totally follow directions.)

This would have made a groovy haircut.

After all 4 sections have been cut to the desired length, comb it all over and check for any stray hairs. Make sure the sides are even, brush off the neck, and congratulate victim and barber on a job well done.

How’s that feel?

“It tickles my neck.”

So very, very copper.

The partial pile

Sweet, sweet face…and no more knots.

While Monkey and I were playing barbershop, the littles were out front, bundled up on the cold and sunny day.

Now to clean the house to get ready for L.M.’s visit! Another great weekend ahead.

First Email From Monkey

It was a complaint, but regardless, I was tickled to just receive my first email from our eldest:

Dear Momma,

I was wondering why it keeps saying files are being added to my dropbox folder. Its getting annoying.

Love, Zoe.

P.S.
It really is getting really annoying.

I’m at the office today, and since she’s taken over my personal skype account and also, apparently my personal email address, it was a bit of a shock to get an email from myself.

Still, pretty cool to witness this child growing into a young lady.

So lovely…

Being Nothing

My friend, Kelly, had this on her wall today: “If only you knew what bliss I find in being nothing.” –Rumi

In many ways I love having tags to hang on myself: Homeschooler, CrossFitter, Unitarian Universalist, and because with those tags come beloved communities, they bring me a feeling of love and purpose.

What if we had no tags? What if people didn’t see a white, middle-aged, relatively affluent, liberal, soccer Mom-type, when they saw me tooling around in my car? What if our eyes were blind to stereotypes and preconceptions? What if I had to get to know you to know you?

I’m trying. I’m trying to take those stereotypes when I recognize them and bring them into the light. They often turn into puff and smoke. And when the smoke clears, there stands the other person, with a welcoming grin. Ready to welcome me, the real me.