You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2013.

When it comes to physical modifications for the purposes of beauty, I am conservative. I have exactly one pair of piercings (ears), no tattoos, never have had fake nails, never have dyed my hair. I am just me, more or less how I came out the chute. It might have something to do with my family culture, although I am much further over on this physically conservative spectrum than almost all the rest of my family members. I do fix my hair almost daily, and I do wear a bit of make-up. I also give myself pedicures and shape my eyebrows and generally keep groomed and tidy.  I like to feel pulled together, and although Bill swears by my appearance au naturale (and I believe him), I do like to give myself a bit of an assist at times.

As I sit here mulling over my words, I realize what an impossible post this is to write. How we decorate our bodies—and whether or not we do—is so personal, and there are so many forces that wish to control aspects of that self-expression. As soon as I reveal what I have done to myself, or not done, there are all kinds of assumptions then about what I might (but probably don’t) think about what other people do to themselves. Believe me when I say: I really don’t judge (or frankly much think about) what other people do with their bodies. Certain forms of expression may not be for me, but I understand (and so do you?) that any form of gilding is all on a spectrum. Any modification may be no more or less a modification than any other. Even permanent modifications (tattoos) may not really be permanent in this day and age.

I guess I have found artistic satiation more in my writing than in changing my appearance. I am a Jane Eyre as far as that goes, and I am okay with that. I’m just…me. Plain, beautiful, average, or whatever. The most pleasure I’ve ever received from creating my body is actually happening right now, in fact, as I fine tune its mechanics and strength and precision. I’ve always loved playing with my clothing and trying on different moods with different textiles. But that’s about it, really. Pretty boring on the outside? Generally, I am so deeply involved with my inner self that I don’t often give much attention to my outer shell. I happen to think my husband is more handsome than I am pretty, but either way it is our minds that came together and the physical attraction was a (albeit important) bonus. It is the inner self that makes someone most appealing to me, anyway. People tend to become more beautiful to me with every word they speak or write, or less so.

This paradigm has worked for me since just about forever. Then along came Katie. I fancy myself one kind of artist. But she? She is another.

Katie must express herself outwardly all the time. With her voice. With her clothes. With her dance. With her tears. With her drawing. With her writing. I love it. She’s big. She’s colorful. She wants to live, breathe, and be her art. She loves to dress up (who doesn’t?). It is her world to paint.

Here comes the other reason why this blog feels impossible to write. Parents of the world, I submit before you now a parenting decision I have made. Reader, I hope that you are not one of those judgmental types of parents reading this right now.  I hope you tend to be like my friends and I: in possession of straight up respect for the right of every individual parent to think rationally through a decision that is in the best interest of the child and to act on it without a committee review.  If anything, my point in writing this particular blog is essentially this: my child is not me, and I gave her her freedom this afternoon.

Sure, I have boundaries. I almost set a boundary here, in fact, with what she wanted to do. We had some conversations about how much she loves herself, how beautiful she is naturally. She knows she is “playing.” This is part of a performance for her. It is her expression, and this one is safe. I am not naive, though. I know there might be some readers who will exclaim, “You let her do what?? Shouldn’t children be all natural until age ____? Won’t it affect how people see her?” I know, because there was a time in my life years and years ago when I might have exclaimed the same thing.

Four or so months ago, a girl Katie knew from choir received her first box of hair chalks. Katie fell instantly into an enamored state. This girl is older, talented, and kind to the little ones. For the past many months Katie has been begging for hair chalks. Hair chalks are like pastels which temporarily color the hair. They come in all different colors, a big set of rainbow. She has been asking almost every day.

At first I resisted: not old enough. We have age requirements for ear piercings set in our house. Clothing comes under scrutiny, too. Color your hair? When I’ve never even colored mine?

Then I started to think. Really think. And I also had some craftier reasons at work, too. Katie is a hair chewer/hair sucker. We’ve been working on this with gentle (and some frustrated, sorry to admit) reminders for months. Nothing is working. We put her hair back, she takes it out. Suck suck.

But these hair chalks? One result might be that she feels big enough and free enough and that her hair is special enough to stop chew chew chewing along. Maybe she needs this expression, something to feel big and in charge of herself. Maybe she won’t want to ruin her pink/blue/green/yellow hair. Maybe she will like her awesome colorful hair so much that she will feel an extra glow inside that will make it so that she doesn’t want/need to chew.

Maybe she will feel loved for her free and wild self.

Maybe she will feel like I am not micromanaging her. Trying to make her me.  That’s the difficult part of parenting: we have to say, “Live by my values but also be yourself.” That’s a balance I am still trying to achieve.

IMG_1206

Katie was thrilled as I put the pink chalk into her hair.

IMG_1215

The back…

IMG_1217

Okay, and then I got carried away and we gave Eric green hair tips.

IMG_1218

They love, I love it, and I may or may not have a colored streak in my hair as well.

This was a difficult decision to make, and I had to reflect quite a bit. I’m standing by this one.

Advertisements

It’s summer! Swimsuit weather, days at the beach, and nights along the coast… I always say that fall is my favorite time of year, but these long days have a charm all their own. We have been making the most of time with friends, extended family, and Bill (who is on summer vacation).

 

We loved a Splash Pad date with the Bergon family:

969175_10100692034294523_559344850_n

 

We had a family date in Encinitas: San Diego Botanical Gardens, Hullabaloo concert, and dinner at Swami’s:

IMG_1019 IMG_1029 IMG_1077

 

 

Chelsea’s first birthday party at the beach, followed by a poolside after party:

IMG_1103 IMG_1107 IMG_1121 IMG_1130

 

And another family daytime date to La Jolla:

IMG_1148

IMG_1156 IMG_1188 copy IMG_1189 copy IMG_1197 IMG_1199 IMG_1235 IMG_1241 la jolla

 

Love,

Sarah

As twilight softened the edges of heat on that Shipshewana Sunday, we were freshly showered and no longer smelling of lake algae, not yet terribly hungry for a cheese, bread, bean soup, and applesauce supper in our suite. My mom and I decided to take Katie and Eric on an evening walk past the Amish houses and farmlands of Shipshe. It had been a quiet Sunday, for everything closes in honor of family time. We had picnicked and enjoyed three lakes in Indiana and Michigan that day, stopping to catch tree frogs and lady beetles, to collect tiny acorns, to explore old bridges covered with vines.

During our walk we heard laughter coming from family dinners shared with friends. We saw middle and high school Amish boys and girls (still in their dresses) playing a game of volleyball. There were two small children riding a miniature buggy with two small ponies. Wash lines hung high and empty. An Amish girl jumped on a trampoline. Horses nuzzled in the golden light.

IMG_0859

Passing by one home, Katie saw a stiff yellow finch lying on the ground. Knowing it to be dead, she began to cry. Something about the loss of this beautiful creature touched her in a way profound. I still do not know exactly why. I tried to console her in any way that I could, resorting to the rather tried and true: Honey, sometimes when birds fly they knock into things which can stun them. Perhaps this bird is just stunned and will get back up and fly in a moment.

A little while later (shortly after I took the above picture, actually), Katie saw another yellow finch fly past her. Sunshine! she exclaimed. (She had already named it). Sunshine did not die! She was just stunned, Mama! 

I almost wanted to believe it myself. Oh, the pretty tales we tell ourselves for comfort. I wanted to believe it, but the next morning I took my final run in Shipshe and happened to run right past the spot where the finch, still dead, still lay. Sunshine had not escaped her fate, and I had not escaped knowing it. I could spare my child, but only for so long, only from so much.

In the time we’ve been back, I keep up the falsehood. Katie has mentioned Sunshine a couple of times. Where do you think she is now, Mama? Oh, probably flying past Lake Shipshewana. Wasn’t that a beautiful lake? Do you remember?

It works. She believes it. Some part of me believes it, too. At least for that finch, I have an answer. Not so for the questions she has been asking since age two. Are you going to die, Mama? What about Amie? 

Sometimes I am tempted into a boldface lie. Other times, I choose my words with the artful dodginess of the ancient Greek rhetors, or at least today’s politicians.

How can I say: There is no easy way to teach you about death, daughter of mine, and even if I could I don’t know where to begin. 

How can I say: You will lose people who are so much a part of you that you will at once both ache and rejoice at the slightest of memories. 

How can I say: Losing someone you love never will get easier, but your choices about how to allocate your time will get clearer. You must sow the memories today and not wait. You must open yourself fully to the beauty of loving so many people and living with vulnerable intensity, and you must do this even while knowing that all of life is loss and mourning when time takes us all. You must love and hold nothing back, and then you must accept the pain that comes from having chosen to live so fully. 

Our beloved Nana, the last of my grandparents, is dying. Although we knew that her health was faltering, and although this knowledge was the primary factor in my decision to end our music class this year in order to free up days of the week to visit her more in the coming season, we did not have any idea about the extent of her health concerns. Since we have returned from Indiana, her health has been rapidly changing and, with courage and acceptance, she has decided to forego treatment. It has been an emotional few days, especially yesterday, as final decisions and end of life care were determined. Although we were with her in the hospital all day yesterday, she has now returned to her home under hospice care and an around the clock caregiver.

The grief comes in waves. What I have learned over the years about grief through my own reflection and observation of others is that grief cannot be sustained without moments of levity and stoicism to break it up. Grief cycles. It comes on strong, then subsides, then returns. And somewhere in those waves, we take the hand of the person we love and we say what we need to say. We look deep into their eyes and see that there is a connection that can never be undone, not even by time. We might even take a run and feel the tears so tight in our chest that we can hardly catch our breath along the streets by our house but then we find that our body breathes through those knots. We know this is a promise that we will be okay in the end, that we will find a way to be both sad and happy at once for the rest of our lives.

“Mama sad and not happy today?” Eric wanted to know.

I am very sad about Nana, but I am happy, too, about so many memories we have and the time we have left and so many other parts of life. People can be both sad and happy at the same time, did you know that? 

Sad and happy at the same moment…try that on for size, my sweet almost-three-year old. How can that possibly make sense? Figuring out how to lead and teach my children through this time beguiles me. How can I explain any of this? I have no idea, and so I turn to what I know: books and the construction of our family narrative. We read Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs by Tomie de Paola (a favorite author of ours, we have several of his books), and I bawled. I am really sad and am going to miss her and don’t want to lose her, but I will be okay, you guys. 

And we go on being active authors in our living family story. This time is part of our history as a family, too. We have choices to make about what actions we take, how symbolic we make them, and whether they call back to other actions and therefore form meaning. We make conscious decisions about what we do during this time—just as we have made some key choices this year—and what becomes deliberately weighted with importance in the years when we look back on this time. We know the pinwheels I bought from Nana’s Ralph’s today will still be spinning next year, and we will remember playing with them at her house this week. We know that we will pick up Eric’s favorite Christmas story (The Grinch) in a few months and will be connected to ourselves in time reading it today. We know there is significance in choosing to take a walk to Amie’s elementary school this afternoon while the ambulance was bringing Nana home.

We know the story has to be written until the page changes:

IMG_0975 IMG_0989

We brought our suits and swam in Nana’s pool today. It was a symbolic act. I have taken Katie as a young person but somehow never got around to taking Eric swimming there yet. I spent hours in that pool with my cousin, brother, and Uncle Eric. At one point, we would come at least once a week. Eric needed his turn in the family pool, and I believe Nana enjoyed hearing the happy sounds of us playing again in a place so much associated with our childhood. I told my children all about the games Uncle Eric used to make up in that pool.

And just like that, we make choices every day about when and how to jump into the family narrative. I believe we must immerse ourselves all the time, becoming part of the story, and making active and daily decisions about how to perform it.

IMG_0999

Eric watered Nana’s plants: “Nana like me water her plants!”

IMG_0963

Eric visits with Nana.

At the end of the day, I gave the kiddos some dinner at Nana’s kitchen table. Aunt Debbie and I played “crazy piano” just like Uncle Eric used to (he was quite a good pianist but would also make up wild songs for us to dance to). I also gave Eric and Katie a bath (just as we did during our sleepover in October and at Christmas) in Nana’s tub. Eric always loves that.

It was a good day. I cried so much yesterday that today I tried to set my mind on enjoying our time and making memories with her and in her home which was so much a part of my childhood. In this way, too, my children are connected to my aunts and uncle and cousin. Many times we said, “Remember the time we…” We are so grateful for our almost-weekly visits and the chances we had to help out with the marketing or just the simple things that needed to be done.

The hardest part of the day was when it was time to go. Little Eric had his heart absolutely set on spending the night with Nana tonight. “Me not want to leave Nana. Me want to sleep at Nana’s right now! Me want to stay here.” He was crying from his heart. He has such a special, special bond with her. I know he will always remember her, “my fren Nana.”  Every night as part of our bedtime routine we say how much we love her, and we look at the moon and think of how we saw it over her house the night of our sleepover with her.

Sunshine and moonlight…somewhere in between must be a way to guide my children, and myself, through this season.

I had never before packed exercise clothes or shoes for a vacation. Vacation? Vacation? Before my lifestyle overhaul in June 2012, a vacation meant a holiday from any kind of work, inasmuch as possible. Vacation from making my bed. Vacation from tidying the bathroom. Vacation from self-control? Isn’t a vacation supposed to be about eating as much as I can and convincing myself it would have no effect? Why would I want to have any self-control? After all, self-control means work. Constant work. I can’t work on vacation. Right?

It is a testament to how much I have changed mentally and how much I value my health that I packed my running clothes and running shoes in my carry-on as we made our way to Shipshewana, Indiana this past week. Caring for myself and attending to my health are gifts I give myself every day. As my friend Ashley says, that hour or so of exercise in the morning is as important to me as breathing. It is fundamental. Responsible calorie counting is also a part of who I am now. I can no sooner forget about that obligation to myself than I could forget one of my children at the airport.

Shipshewana would really be my first test. Sure, I counted in the Bay Area and in Idyllwild this past spring and winter, but I didn’t take my running clothes. And Shipshewana is Amish country. Amish food is head-over-heels delicious and comforting and social. Amish peanut butter. Freshly baked bread. Fall apart beef roasts. Pie. Pie, pie, pie. Banana cream, chocolate mousse, cherry, peanut butter, shoo fly. Yep, a definite test.

At first I thought I would just roll out of bed and do the bare minimum (2 or 3 miles) and get on with all the other activities. Yet on that first morning of my run, I discovered something: this was a special time to explore the countryside and little town. Wherever I could run, I could go. Within a mile of that first morning, I never wanted to stop. I realized how much more intimately I could know this place by running it. The sounds, the scents, the changes in the morning sunlight, the pace of life: I could become part of these all just through being present in my run and letting my feet and body go as far as it could. How can I have never run a new town before? Why did I not run on the beach in Hawaii? To know the streets, the byways, the details of a new place is to put it forever into my mind and heart. I know now that, no matter where I go in my travels, I will run it. I will run it, not just for exercise and my health, but also because it is through this effort on the land that I can make the place partly my own. I have never experienced more intimacy with a new place than I experienced on this trip.

I ran five mornings out of the six mornings we were there. I took Sunday morning off, out of respect and deference. Even so, by twilight on Sunday my mom and the kiddos and I took a three mile walk right before dinner. That was proper: as we walked past the Amish homes, many of the children were playing (hammock, volleyball, running games) while we could hear the adult chatter and merriment coming from shared dinners near kitchen windows. So really, I exercised each day.

My body woke up right at 6:00 AM every morning, and I would get up and look out at the sheep and cows grazing on the farm right outside our windows. The sun would just be coming up. The inn was quiet, my children still sleeping and husband, too. Then it was out the door and into the Indiana morning. Most of the mornings were misty and not quite cold but extremely pleasant, cooler than where I live. The last couple of mornings were humid even at 6:00 AM. There was nothing but a feeling of sheer joy and magic to be running in that mistiness, watching the sun break to day, saying good morning to the cows and hearing the horses neigh. Birds were everywhere—I didn’t use my headphones and music. Almost no one else was awake, except for the Amish part of the community, and if I went far enough in the right places, I got to see some of the Amish already hard at work so early in the morning. Women were working in their gardens. Some would pass by in their buggies or on bicycles. I was one of the only “English” people up at that same time.

I would run past corn fields, beautiful in the light. In five mornings, I ran 26.08 miles. I didn’t gain any weight on this trip (I weighed myself yesterday, the morning after we got back…and today, I weigh even less than yesterday). I tasted many delicious things, but never went overly crazy. I never once felt deprived. I budgeted calories in the morning at the inn’s complimentary buffet and made choices about which food experiences I wanted more than others. I simply cannot eat it all, and that is okay with me. It’s just reality. The first day I was there, I went out and bought packets of tea. Life is about the choices I make and understanding that I cannot pin those choices on anyone—or anything—else.

Running in Shipshewana was about honoring that promise to myself, but it became so much more than that. I felt so connected to the land and the people. I know the map of that town like the back of my own hand now. At night when I go to bed, I imagine running my various routes. My heart aches a bit for them. I wonder when my legs will run that place again. Shipshewana has a big piece of my essence right now.

The first morning, I was a total noob. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. It started out like this:

IMG_0343

IMG_0347 IMG_0351

The run was great until about here. Oh look, a trail, I thought. Sure, until it reached a big cornfield. I could see our inn across a big field way in the distance. Later, I would realize there was a road I could have taken instead a bit farther down. But for now, here I was in the cornfield with a narrow puddley middle trail. I ran through several yards of puddles.

At that point, I was met with my first gate, metal with barbed wire. I should have turned back there, but I really wanted to be back at the inn by this time. So I climbed it.

Now I was in another field, trapped on all sides by fences. One side looked more navigable and very close to the inn but would have led me into a pasture of big horses. Uh, probably not a good plan. By this time I knew that I was on property I should not be on, too. What had seemed like a public trail had led dead into someone’s field.

I decided to cross a fence that looked high but was away from the animals. No barbed wire on that one. Whew, this will be easy I thought.

But as I came down the other side: ZAP! My thigh touched electric wire. It was an electric fence—and I had just been buzzed. If you have never been shocked before, let me just say: my, my, what an incredibly interesting sensation. My adrenaline was already going by this point, and the zap certainly increased it.

Still in an upper field by a barn now, I really wanted out onto the street that ran above it. I thought I might be home free, being by a barn. Wouldn’t there be an easy exit point? Apparently not. I climbed my third fence that morning, another barbed number that was exceptionally wobbly and hard to get a strong hold on. Which also meant I was less able to navigate the barbs with precision. Oh well, I told myself, you are going over this thing come hell or high water, because you aren’t going back over the electric fence…now stop standing here and get your butt over it. 

Another day I wanted to see if I could find Lake Shipshewana. It was a misty morning:

IMG_0444 IMG_0446 IMG_0447 IMG_0449 IMG_0451 IMG_0454

I found it! We would visit that lake twice more in the coming days.

Another day, I ran through the more industrial part of town and saw: the saddlery, an animal hospital, a feed store, a mill, the bank, the town hall and police station. That particular morning I wound my way through the small little town, which was completely quiet at that time of the morning. I loved seeing it without any tourists, with the sprinklers just beginning to go on, with a man getting ready to open the coffee store, with the lights on in the back of a little bakery.

IMG_0681

One of my favorite streets to run was Middlebury, a main street in town with brick-and-white-shutter houses, cornfields, and the public elementary school. Cozy, cozy school building!

Throughout the week, I also found the dentist (operating out of a home-turned-business), the Pumpkinvine Trail, and roads that weren’t labeled that connected to the highway 20 and which would later help us find our way home from the Dutch Market.

On my last morning, I ran for over seven miles, connecting portions of my favorite routes and saying goodbye to every part I loved. I didn’t want the run to end and wanted to go much further but I knew I had to get back to dress my children and finish packing.

I never knew what it could mean to run during a vacation. What began as a way to get my daily exercise has turned into a quest. Running has become so meditative for me, a way to be in tune with myself and my surroundings. I think about all I would have missed had I left my running shoes at home this time. Unthinkable. The memories I made while running are some of my most personal and favorite on this trip.

I know my legs will remember, too, and if we’re ever there again, they will celebrate at the sight of their favorite paths.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

SIMPLE GIFTS

Although this was originally a Shaker hymn, we heard this beautiful piece (which we know from our Music Together classes) played in Amish country during a museum tour of Amish and Mennonite history.

Last week (July 2-July 8) I found myself in the place just right. Shipshewana, Indiana: the land of my ancestors on my mom’s Yoder side. Never have I found myself in a place—in all of my life—where my values and preferences and personality make so much sense. Living on this land, meeting some of the Amish, and spending time with my extended family for the Reuben Yoder Centennial Reunion, I felt so much at home. We all did. Katie (and she’s not the only one, by far) has been making plans for us to move there permanently, and I have no doubt at all that this will likely be in my future at some point.

Traveling there felt like going home, to a home I had never seen, but a home that felt as if I had been there loving that land and those people my whole life. Although I am a 5th generation Californian, the way and pace of life there in Shipshe is in my blood. I think of all the family I met there—who opened their arms to us as if we were long lost out here in California and were so happy to see us and know us. Hard working farmers, kind Mennonites, a whole array of cousins and elderly kinsfolk with stories worth hearing and passing onward, they are on my mind today.

I have much to share about our trip, though right now I will write about only one small but beautiful part. To set the context, though:

My mom was a Yoder before marrying my dad. Her grandfather, the “adventurer” as our people call him, came out to California from Indiana. My grandpa was born here but would travel back often with my Great-Grandpa Ervin Sr. to see family. The Reuben Yoder descendants, for our side, go like this: Reuben Yoder–>Moses Yoder–>Ervin Yoder Sr.–>Ervin Yoder Jr.–>my mom Rebecca Yoder–>Me–>Katie/Eric. Reuben Yoder had nine children, though one died and one never had children. At the reunion, we were considered part of the Moses Yoder line, and even had a breakout “mini-reunion” with the Moses Yoder people. Moses Yoder had several children as well, sisters and brothers of Ervin Sr.

Thank goodness, there is a book to keep all the lineage straight! My husband and children are in the book, as well. Chris Yoder, the reunion organizer and part of the Samuel Yoder family, is an expert in our family history and lore and wrote the book that details all of this. I have been studying and studying it.

While we were in Shipshewana, we were able to tour my Great-Great-Great Grandfather Reuben’s farm, my Great-Great Grandfather Moses’ farm, and my Great-Grandfather Ervin Sr.’s farm. Of these, two remain in the family. Reuben Yoder’s farm is now owned by an Amish family.

IMG_0706

The 8th, 7th, and 6th generation to set foot on Reuben Yoder’s farmland. We are wearing our reunion shirts in this picture, which has a photograph of the eight surviving children including Moses. Hilarious. I adore it. I love wearing my ancestor’s face. This whole family reunion business and historical lineage? Right up my alley!

IMG_0729

The Amish couple who owns the farm had two granddaughters. Since I know the Amish do not like to be photographed, I will only share back views and side profiles of this four-year-old girl named Kathy. I did not know until going through our photos that she happened to be in several. She was observing Katie and Eric at first.

Then something beautiful happened.

My mom and I were talking with Luella (Kathy’s grandmother) about her flower beds and garden. She was telling us about making mint tea and also about the portable drying rack her husband had made for her. I realized that I didn’t know where Katie had gone, and so I went over to the chicken coop where I had seen her earlier.

Katie and Kathy were inside the coop with the chicks and fryers. Though Katie speaks only English and Kathy speaks only Pennsylvanian Dutch, they had found a way to communicate and were talking about raising chickens! We just got our chickens this year, and now here was a way to make a connection across language and culture on land that was part of my family starting eight generations ago!

They discovered their names were both Katherine, and they each drew out the letter “K” to show how they spelled it. I saw them use fingers to show the ages of their siblings.

Kathy took Katie up to the old barn. But first, Kathy, who was barefoot, pointed to Katie’s shoes as if to ask, “Why?” I helped Katie take them off and they went traipsing barefoot together. When they reappeared some time later, both girls were chewing straw. Katie told me that Kathy had shown her a little secret opening by which she could peek at the cows down below.

IMG_0728

Walking into the old barn…

IMG_0730

…which my people once built with pegs instead of nails, just like my children and I have read about… And still standing…

IMG_0699

The cows were coming in right when we got there

IMG_0713

Luella’s clothing rack, which her husband built last year. When it rains, she can roll it into the garage or shed. Very handy. In the back, the golden field is a collection of growing haystacks.

IMG_0716

Part of Luella’s garden, a lovely group of flowers. When we complimented her, Luella replied with humility, “I would hate to say that I am proud of it.” She prefers not to pick them but to enjoy them from her window. I told her that my black-eyed Susans (which she was also growing in the back there) were a gift as a cutting from my Aunt Debbie’s garden and were just getting blooms before I had left for Indiana. Sure enough, here I am back home and they are right on the cusp of opening. So many layers of connection.

IMG_0901

Katie (in pink) and Kathy (in a dress) playing near the barn

IMG_0750

Connections

Katie has been talking so much about her new friend. I am thinking about Luella and her mint tea. In fact, Katie and I made our own mint tea this morning from the mint in our garden and thought about this new family we had met.

IMG_0934

We arrived back in Temecula early Tuesday morning (12:30 AM) and spent yesterday catching up on our chores (laundry, gardening, and chicken choring). We cleaned out our girls’ run, gave them some lettuce treats from the store, and supplied a whole bed of new sweet-smelling shavings. The girls got big while we were away, my goodness!

I had to smile because I realize just how many of our hobbies and values as a family (gardening, quilting, sewing, raising chickens, homeschooling, not drinking alcohol, being more pacifist-minded, tending more toward being on the quiet side, my love-hate feelings for technology and its ills, etc. etc.) truly fit in with the Amish and Mennonite culture. It’s almost funny. Whereas in California I have always felt like I do not fit in entirely (and that’s totally okay with me—I lose no sleep over that!), there I was very much like many other people. There are many ways I am different, too, but the traits-in-common seem to stand out. I felt so at home with them.

IMG_0937

Katie harvested this jalapeno from our garden yesterday. (We don’t usually keep the garden boxes on the lawn, by the way, but I had put them there to make sure they got enough water in the heat). We’ll probably make some more jalapeño-cilantro-lime hummus with it either today or tomorrow.

We also made and jarred two kinds of applesauce yesterday afternoon, using some of our early-season apples from our tree and others from the market. Today we’re baking double challah loaves so we can give one to my mom when she gets home from Nana’s. Katie and I spent some of the day yesterday working on our cross stitch projects (she is working just on technique right now).

Even before I left, my friend Jeremy was teasing me when he found out I come from the Amish. “OHHHH! That makes so much sense now!” he joked. But it does!