Hildene

Abraham Lincoln had one child who lived to adulthood: Robert Todd Lincoln. RTL loved Vermont, and had a summer home here outside Manchester, VT. Nonni, Poppi, the oldest cousins, and I had a lovely morning exploring the mansion and grounds around Hildene. The weather was ideal, and the place is simply beautiful.

Snuggled up to Nonni.

Snuggled up to Nonni.

Letterbox treasure found.

Letterbox treasure found.

Stamping

Stamping

Oh, Gina, I couldn't remember how to fix this magic, but my boy still looks cute.

Oh, Gina, I couldn’t remember how to fix this magic, but my boy still looks cute.

Picture of photographer and poser.

Picture of photographer and poser.

Heading to the house.

Heading to the house.

Yessa in the middle of a brick square showing the size of the cabin where Honest Abe was born.

Yessa in the middle of a brick square showing the size of the cabin where Honest Abe was born.

A stunning car owned by RTL's daughter...an amazing woman.

A stunning car owned by RTL’s daughter…an amazing woman.

The formal gardens at Hildene.

The formal gardens at Hildene.

The Falcon Club walked by us.

The Falcon Club walked by us.

Waiting to board the Luxurious Pullman Car.

Waiting to board the Luxurious Pullman Car.

All ABOARD!

All ABOARD!

The car could sleep 20 people, and was so elegant.

The car could sleep 20 people, and was so elegant.

We also visited the Hildene Goat Farm and watch them milking, as well as investigating the rectangular pupils on the goats. It’s TRUE, Ms. Paula, they were rectangles.

Another great day.

Kids say the darndest things…

If you quickly tire of hearing/reading about other parents and their stories of the funny things their children say, pass this post by. This is one Buds and I will read in 20 years and it will bring us a laugh and smile.

The Buster had two gems lately.

He played his first round of mini-golf ever on a little course at Bromley Adventure Park while we were on vacation in Vermont. Buds, Poppi, and Buster played a round while the big girl cousins, Nonni, and I had one last run on the the alpine slide.

When we got back to the gentlemen, The Buster was very excited to show me other sections of the mini-golf course he had found to be beautiful or interesting. He was particularly pleased with a hidden waterfall and footbridge, tucked away in the back. As we were walking down from the tiny sanctuary he said, “Many of the water features are designed as hazards, Mom, but this one is just aesthetically pleasing.”

Yup…it is.

On another day on vacation, The Buster gave me an intense stare and the following question:

“Mom, if you could only pick one thing in the whole universe to keep, what would it be?”

“What do you mean ‘one thing’? Do you mean only one person or only one physical object?”

“One thing, only.” he said firmly.

“So, I have to pick between you kids or Dad?!”

“Yes.”

I thought fiercely for a minute.

“I can’t do it. I refuse to do it. I just can’t. What would you do?”

The twinkly look he gave me was priceless.

“I’d pick a device that gave me more picks.”

Sweet, wonderful, magical logic.

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Literary Highlights

To gather a stack of books and audio books for the long drives on our vacation, the kids and I headed to the big downtown library. It was love at first sight for all of us. The museum-type building is huge and beautiful, and they offer so many amazing programs.

Ginnie's Phone_000868

Ginnie's Phone_000870

Ginnie's Phone_000869

Ginnie's Phone_000871

We spent an hour wandering around, learning locations of beloved books, choosing music and books and cds for the drive. Then we checked out the cafe, which we promised ourselves we would return to with Dad.

A snazzy mouse house in the children's section.

A snazzy mouse house in the children’s section.

Buster declared this chair, "Really cool, but not very comfortable."

Buster declared this chair, “Really cool, but not very comfortable.”

Finally, checking out our treasures, and heading home.

Monkey passes the time while we check out.

Monkey passes the time while we check out.

Yessa handles the computer  process.

Yessa handles the computer process.

This is what a receipt for 67 books looks like.

This is what a receipt for 67 books looks like.

Another Nashville find…

What do you do after you move into a new house?

You go on vacation, of course!

We’ve had two weeks of trips planned for a very long time, and despite the acknowledged insanity of leaving a home partially unpacked, throwing the clothes you can find into a car, and heading out for two weeks…that’s what we are doing.

Week one is being spent in the Green Mountains with Buddie’s family. We keenly feel the missing family unit that had to stay behind in Nashville. Zachy especially misses his best buddy, but we are having great fun getting to spend time with all the other cousins.

Zoe is proving herself to be a master storyteller for the younger set, and Sweet Juliette, for some unknown reason, is preferring Uncle Chris to Aunt Jennie. Buds and I are having a work morning at the house to get some breathing room for the rest of the week, and this is a gorgeous setting to work in.

The beginning of Gems Week:

Generations enjoying time together on the porch.

Generations enjoying time together on the porch.

A bumblebee rolls down a hill.

A bumblebee rolls down a hill.

A bumblee's cousins roll down a hill.

A bumblee’s cousins roll down a hill.

One of the August birthdays gets sung to.

One of the August birthdays gets sung to.

Nonni takes the cake. ;-)

Nonni takes the cake. 😉

The three August birthdays.

The three August birthdays.

No words for this.

No words for this.

This, also, cracks me up.

This, also, cracks me up.

Game time!

Game time!

No skill required except an ability to laugh and spin.

No skill required except an ability to laugh and spin.

Hair Salon

Hair Salon

Monkey spins a tale.

Monkey spins a tale.

The cutest sweet guy.

The cutest sweet guy.

Planning for the week ahead.

Planning for the week ahead.

We've enjoyed pretending we all know how to play pool.

We’ve enjoyed pretending we all know how to play pool.

A dad, an uncle, and the cutest spriteling in the house.

A dad, an uncle, and the cutest spriteling in the house.

Uncle Chris must look enough like Dad to help her be comfortable.

Uncle Chris must look enough like Dad to help her be comfortable.

A quorum of cousins.

A quorum of cousins.

Time at the beach.

Time at the beach.

Paddle boats are fun...for the children who get to just ride.

Paddle boats are fun…for the children who get to just ride.

Polkadot mudder

Polkadot mudder

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Mud baths

Mud baths

My own sweet centerfold.

My own sweet centerfold.

Paddle, paddle, paddle.

Paddle, paddle, paddle.

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Turning himself into a sand golem.

Turning himself into a sand golem.

Sand sister

Sand sister

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Movie stars

Movie stars

Sand angels.

Sand angels.

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Hair washing

Hair washing

Yessa needed help getting all the sand out.

Yessa needed help getting all the sand out.

We are officially residents of…Hell.

Actually, we are residents of Tennessee, but the process of becoming official was not an easy one. We all went together on Friday to get Tennessee titles and registrations for the vehicles, then we went to get our drivers licenses.

The Title and Registration process took approximately 20 minutes. Two people in front of us in line, beautiful office, fast efficient, comfy chairs for Buds and the kids while I stood in line. Buds and Yessa watched the big screen television, and Buds made up stories to fit the pictures of the soap opera that was on. One of the soapsters, an adult woman, was wearing fairy wings, so I can only assume he was able to spin a tale that intrigued Yessa.

We were all feeling so hopeful and light-hearted as we headed to the DMV for our licenses.

Imagine all the funny skits and jokes you’ve heard about the DMV, then make the weather hot and sticky, and have three children in tow, and you’ll come close to what our 3+ hour time at the DMV was like. Yet, in true TN fashion, everyone was very friendly and helpful, including the employees. They are obviously under-staffed, and they were all working hard.

Highlights included:

Buds has now napped in another new place. He was able to find a seat against a wall so he could lean his head back and snooze.

Our kids continue to prove themselves awesome and patient.

Yessa and I got to hear prayers chanted up close for the first time. The man next to me couldn’t leave his place in line to go anywhere for prayers, so he stayed in his chair next to us and had his introspective time.

Texting during a driving test will get you called out in front of a whole room of people.

Humor comes from the unexpected. The vast majority of the room had wait numbers that began with an “A,” “B,” or “C.” When an “F” popped up on the “Now helping” board, the whole room gasped, then laughed. It was a combination of realizing how completely surreal and out of our control this whole experience is, and we all wondered, “What the heck kind of problem does an ‘F’ have?!”

I don’t remember what this process was like in VA or IA, but if you are disorganized or poor or homeless, jumping through these hoops would be absolute torture. If you have to choose between taking a day off work to go renew your license, which leads to not being paid, I can understand the appeal of driving without a license. And as organized as I am, I still was concerned about having the “correct,” circuitous documentation they were looking for. From talking to my SIL, who went for her license on the same day, at a different location, the information she was given was different than the information we were given. This system is broken somewhere.

When all was said and done, we took care of everything in one day, we all survived, and we’ve added another tidbit to family lore. “Remember that time we were trapped at the DMV?!”

New joints…naturally.

We checked out the nature center that is right down the road during one of the days we were house-camping. First we had to go shopping for our picnic lunch.

Yup, we're in the south.

Yup, we’re in the south.

Cupcake picnic

Cupcake picnic

I'm not sure who is winning this battle...

I’m not sure who is winning this battle…

The Buster or The Cupcake

The Buster or The Cupcake

Cupcake definitely won this one.

Cupcake definitely won this one.

Then we checked out the beautiful nature center:

The big basin of bones

The big basin of bones

Monkey makes some unnatural birds.

Monkey makes some unnatural birds.

Rockin' and talkin'.

Rockin’ and talkin’.

And finally, the wonderful outdoor play space:

The beautiful outdoor nature play area.

The beautiful outdoor nature play area.

Water and dirt...

Water and dirt…

What more could you want?

What more could you want?

Mud bath

Mud bath

Yup, the mud won this one.

Yup, the mud won this one.

We learned the location of the hose for cleaning off after the nature play area, and we learned to take an extra change of clothes and wear shoes that can splash in the mud.

Great times ahead!

Monkey’s 11th Birthday!

It’s true! The girl turned 11, and what a wonderful 11 year-old she is.

We all knew it would be a different celebration than recent years since we were in a new city. Being the balanced, logical, thoughtful person she is, she knew exactly what she wanted.

“I want to stay at home all day, do whatever I want, decorate my cake, have Dad bring home dinner from a restaurant, have my cake, then go out for frozen yogurt.”

That seemed like a dream plan to me, so that is exactly what we did.

It was a wonderful day filled with calls from Grandparents and other loved ones, opening cards and presents, baking and decorating, lots of Minecraft, chicken noodle soup for dinner, eating cake, eating fro yo, and more presents.

Yessa and Mom made the cake.

Yessa and Mom made the cake.

Intricate and beautiful.

Intricate and beautiful.

Monkey does the decorating.

Monkey does the decorating.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Group Admiration.

Group Admiration.

All aflame.

All aflame.

Singing and wish-making.

Singing and wish-making.

Licking the candles.

Licking the candles.

Opening presents.

Opening presents.

Frozen yogurt makes everybody happy.

Frozen yogurt makes everybody happy.

Monkey, we admire, respect, and appreciate the person you are. Thanks for bringing so much joy, laughter, and wisdom to our family.

Happy Birthday!

Filling The Heart/ Filling The Soul

I’ve been trying to understand why this move has felt so good and relatively easy emotionally for all of us. It’s a huge hassle to move, and we haven’t gotten great sleep, and it’s good to get our own belongings back, but considering we vacated our Reston home on July 18th and then we moved from pillar to post until July 30th, you would expect we’d all be a little more emotionally frazzled.

Then I thought about how and where we spent those 12 days.

It began with Chris and Hayden coming to spend the evening with us loading up that last pod. It was long, hot, mind-numbing work, but Hayden kept our crew laughing and giggling and wrestling for hours while Chris went from a day of mowing out at Massadoah to hauling furniture like he did it for a living. A long day for him, and he did it with good will and great humor and tremendous generosity. That was the beginning of refreshing my spirit. Buddie and I were so grateful for his presence.

Then, we went from our empty, shell-of-a-house, to Paula, Kelly, Kate, and Betty. Their beautiful, comfortable, cozy home was our first haven. We shared meals and laughter and time, plus much Wii playing, so everyone was thrilled. More healing of the soul.

From there the children and I headed out for Mom’s while Buds set out for Nashville. He stayed with Z and A, which felt like going back to his roots. When he and Z first started the business, every other week for a very long time was spent in their basement as he flew back and forth between Iowa and Virginia.

As for the four of us, going to Mom’s is a trip to Comfort Land. She takes care of and opens her home to us in the nonjudgemental, “I’m just so glad you are here,” caring way that is uniquely her own. I could tell her I was going to set something on fire in the middle of the living room, and she’d talk through the idea with me. We also left Nutmeg there to visit for a month, and she settled in quickly, which helped a great deal, too.

Next, to the Chandler’s! Always a place of great joy and fun for all of us, and they are the sort of friends that bring out our very best selves. Being with Todd and Gina makes me want to do more, be more, learn more, give more. Being friends with someone for 24 years can do that to you. It helps that our crew adores and admires their crew.

Pool Train

Pool Train (Photo by Todd.)

Plus, Gina puts up with my incessant need to have projects to do. It makes me feel so valued and helpful, which goes a long way toward upping my spirit.

The gnome behind the washer. (Photo by Todd.)

The gnome behind the dryer.

Couples that organize together, stay together.

Couples that organize together, stay together.

Huh?! Looky here what's in this box.

Huh?! Looky there.

This sign passed muster.

This sign passed muster.

When we do a project, we do it right!

When we do a project, we do it right!

Loving use of fridge magnets.

Loving use of fridge magnets.

We finally left the Chandlers and headed for Nashville. As always, the kids were great on the drive and we kept our misadventures to a minimum. It was such a relief to arrive at A and Z’s beautiful new home and pile out of the car to play with cousins. I know it was stressful for them, but having family move somewhere 2 weeks before you do to work out all the kinks is definitely something I would recommend to anyone.

Though thinking about our friends in Reston will still make my eyes tingle, I’m so grateful to all of you who helped make this move an exciting, relatively painless adventure. We won’t forget.

A Saturday Shoebox Update

Several more informative, long posts are in the works, but I wanted to toss out a quick Saturday morning post. It has been an eventful weekend already, and I love capturing these little moments of joy…or not so much joy.

We had our first family movie night in The Shoebox. We have the perfect little nook in the basement for movie watching, and we will be taking full advantage of it.

Settled in, ready to start.

Settled in, ready to start.

First movie night

First movie night

Aunt A and Cousin O stopped in shortly after the start of movie night. They had been out getting ice cream to celebrate O’s first day of school. His visit led to a quick round of wrestling, a little Minecraft Show-And-Tell, and promises of seeing each other soon.

The “soon” will have to be extended in definition because The Buster awakened at 12:40 a.m. with “the schooks.” If you are not familiar with “the schooks,” then you didn’t know my college roommate Sherri and her now husband, Kevin. This was a term for illness they created when they were in high school. Delicately put, having the schooks means, in car lingo, that you have negative emissions from both your engine and your exhaust.

The schooks are never, ever fun.

The Buster bore it like a trooper, though. They lasted until about 5 a.m. when we both were able to finally collapse to sleep for more than 30 minutes.

Yessa came in three different times during this period. The first two, I tried to go snuggle with her in her own bed until she could fall back to sleep, but Buster always needed me before she was zonked out. On the third visit, she came to our bedroom door, said, “Zachawee, I’m sorry you are sick. Mama, can I just curl up in a corner with a pillow and blanket to be close to you?”

And that is what she did. She made herself a little mouse nest and snuggled back to sleep on the floor.

Yessa's little pillow nook in the corner of our bedroom.

Yessa’s little pillow nook in the corner of our bedroom.

During one of the awakenings when Buster was in the shower, she woke up enough to tell me, “I’m sorry Zachawee is sick, but this is working out pretty well for me. This is quite comfortable.”

Lest you think Buds wasn’t pulling his full share, he was. He was up and down with us the first hour or two, but then finally we realized it would be better if he could get some sleep so he could be on morning duty. It ended up working out well because he got some solid slumber, then The Buster and I slept until close to 10 a.m. while Buds got up with the girls.

This morning, all is returning to normal. It’s a gorgeous day here:

A sunshiny start to the day.

A sunshiny start to the day.

Buds and the girls are out running errands, including buying our new housewarming laundry baskets from Paula, Kelly, Kate and Betty, and looking at furniture.

The Winning Basket!

The Winning Basket!

Buster is feeling better, or at least feeling grateful to be done throwing up. We’ll take our victories where we can get them.

More memories being made in The Shoebox.

Update

Thanks to A and Z’s amazing help, we had both pods completely unloaded in 24 hours.

I can’t figure out why I don’t feel more excited.

The first pod preparing to leave the Reston house.

The first pod preparing to leave the Reston house.

Our basement now.

Our basement now.

Our garage now.

Our garage now.