Hiding Treasure

Hun`ker Down (v.): To Take shelter, literally or figuratively; to assume a defensive position to resist difficulties.
I found this little guy on my stoop the day before the hurricane.

Seems to be a theme around our homestead this week - Hunkering Down.  First a 5.9 Earthquake on Tuesday and now a Category 2 Hurricane. And just incase you're not keeping score - God: 2. People: 0.

The earthquake on Tuesday was a first for our family and rattled more than the foundation.  When the house started to shake, I assumed that the washer was out of balance, but the problem was that no laundry was in the wash and the shaking escalated.  I stood up from my perch at the table (working remotely that day) and started to yell for Ben, unable to comprehend WHAT was happening.  Ben unfortunately was taking a shower, and the impact tossed him from wall-to-wall, forcing him to abandon the bath.  His experience on the 4th floor was vastly different than mine, seeing that the house was swaying side to side.  Freaky. Immediate. Complete.

Insert second act of God within a week: hurricane Irene.  This activity seems to be more our speed - wet, windy, and a system that gives us enough time to prepare.
The banana bread was supposed to be for the weekend, but at 8am, only 2" remain. Tested this recipe and added 1/2 C of chopped nuts and 1/2 C mini morsels. Heaven!

Ben completed preparing the boats by Friday morning, and we took cover with a house full of water and food and of friends and activities.  I wanted to make a Dark & Stormy in honor, but strawberry shortcake seems to be more my speed.

I won't lie.  It was fanDAMNtastic.
What I learned from the hurricane experience is not that we can easily weather a storm, but how much we as a community seemed to struggle without power. We were unplugged for 2 days - no power, no warm showers, no internet.  When I camp, I expect the unplugged factor and relish it.  Not so much with a house.  I do not like the sense of camping out in a modern abode.  It's just not my thing, and after a couple of days, the lack of conveniences compounded with PMS lead me to believe that everyone driving near me was a moron…but power is restored and so are healthy attitudes.
(Thanks to Shannon and Mark for inviting us over last night for power, showers, food, and internet.)
We are still taking in our bounty.  My windowsill is lined with tomatoes, and this week we enjoyed some carmelized sauteed carrots. Mmm..

I still have much to learn about veggie gardening, including why a crop of beets just fail to swell.  But the tomatoes delivered this year.  I lost count of the number of salads made with tomato, basil, & mozzarella in the past week, and after making sauce from scratch, I'm scheming to get my hands on a bushel of tomatoes in the next few weeks.
Our August Saturday nights have been simply amazing, breathtaking.  Mild evenings filled with golden sun, laughter, & low humidity; a rare treasure of atmosphere.
Captain Fabulous behind the grill.
perfect for celebrating with family and friends.

I simply adore my nieces.  I still can't believe they're almost grown up, and here I've held them since they were infants. We enjoyed time spent running through the woods, conversing (be that it's mature or immature topics), sailing, and swimming.  But where I see the shift is that it's less about teaching them and more about being there for them.  Sarah alone will be 16 in a week. Wow.

They love their littlest cousin who is finally less of a baby and more of a girl.

And that girl shares a special bond. She's a magician at making this strong man so vulnerable.
Last weekend Jana & Mike visited. Really, I don't need a reason to invite gaggles of friends over to enjoy, but hey, I'll say that Jana & Mike were my excuse.

Jana and Alex.

I love Jana's big, full-of-life, relaxed heart.

And watching friends making new connections.

And seeing kids absorb a summertime experience in their own unique manner.

Maybe it's the end of summer or the realization that that Alex is starting preschool next week.  But I'm becoming so sentimental about this moment in time. 

Taking cues from Alex, I want to fold summer into my pocket, squirreling it away with a treasure of stones, shells, and pennies; only to unwrap it in January, preserving and enjoying the essence of the present.


~this moment~ all smiles

"This summer I grew a smile as big as my head."

{this moment} -  A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. via SouleMama


A Good (normal) Life

It's been a great week.
Well hello eggs. I am so happy to see you too!

Really when you get your dinner smiling back at you on hump day, you know it's all good. It's been a week of breaking, growing, harvesting, and exploring. An (extra)ordinary week of the cream rising to the top.  
Speaking of eggs and cream, Alex and I spent some time in the kitchen making cupcakes.
She's got the baking gene from scores of women in my family.  It's amazing to see that passion unfold to a 4th generation.
Alex takes licking the bowl to the edge of drunk.

I wonder at what age my independent princess is going to take charge of baking projects all by herself.  I was 5, trying to make brownies.  I had the double-boiler set up and I lifted the bowl of the boiler, and placed the chocolate and butter into the water.

Yes, Mom had to come to the rescue, but I remember the pride of wanting to do it all by myself.
We harvested our first potatoes.  

There's nothing like having a princess/Glinda/beauty join you in the garden. I never look this good while mastering dirt and roots.

I am very satisfied with the grow bag that I used for the spuds. The best feature: harvesting equates to dumping the contents onto a tarp, digging for gold, and then replacing the soil back into the bag.

We took our harvest back inside to make my Grandma Lyle's potatoes.  Bacon, onions, potatoes.  Mmmm…memories.

Some days I struggle with sharing my small kitchen.  I think it's more the concern of Alex hurting herself with one of the knives, the stove, or a hot pot than it is for the inconvenience.  The bite has made me  exceptionally wary of potential situations.  
I am not the overly cautious type, so I fight fears that cramp my mama vibe and give her the necessary space to mimic.  And as our arms entwine around a pile of sliced potatoes, we both learn to compromise.  I put my fears back on a shelf and give her the space to imitate with a play knife from her kitchen. 
Last week, a quirky little carnival was in town at the Knights of Columbus.  It's just big enough to thrill everyone with sounds and smells and tastes of childhood. 
Add carnivals and cotton candy to all things that make me savor summer.

On the other hand, Ben and Chera relish funnel cake. They were like 2 little kids on Christmas Eve, watching the cake being poured & frying to a golden brown.  The powdered sugar was flowing and then flicking into the air, smattering Bram and my camera with white flakes.
"Jen is this enough sugar?  How about now? Ok, maybe just a bit more."

Bram and Alex are getting so big.  Bram, I cannot believe that you're almost 2. You are so precious.
And this carnival was their first time experiencing swirling, whirling rides. Bram tested out the ferris wheel and Alex repeatedly begged to go on the Sizzler (reminds me of the egg beater).  The strange, but funny moment for the adults happened when Alex and I were going on the Sizzler.  Ben always jokes about the culture of carnies, but the gentleman attending to the Sizzler was stoned straight out of his mind. I think that I gave birth in less time than it took him to get the ride prepared. Oh boy.

Before leaving the carnival at a rock-the-house-hour of 8pm, Alex and Bram won fish.

And so both went home with their new pets, both aptly named Dorothy.

So even though work was profuse in volume and agitating at that, I end the week with my head teeming with moments of dirt & giggling and of friends & fish. It is life, the space with family and friends that forces the cream to rise to the top every time.

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift." - “Cold Tangerines" by Shauna Niequist.


On (Vineyard) Time

I used to have a small black Honda CRX that I lovingly named "spot".  If you know anything about manual cars, there's a part of the transmission called the synchronizer.  If the synchronizer is not working correctly, shifting in either direction generates a temporary snag like the grinding of teeth with a handful of sand in there to boot.  It used to make me jump, apologize to the car, and somehow gingerly try to continue shifting, forcing the car to move in the direction I so desired. Sometimes I feel my synchronizer is wearing out when I cannot achieve my set goals or focus on my tasks; and in the process of moving forward, I get caught by surprise.  And I resist, catching gears, grinding until I am forced to keep going.  Ugh. That's what my days are, frosted like a cake with a little one who won't go to sleep, resisting, grinding in her own measure.  I'm left deflated, defeated, heading to bed without time to recharge.  All things creative sit in piles.
If I don't have the time to sit and sew for a few hours, I can reset myself through a good run.  It's the escape from my surroundings, forcing fresh air into my lungs, exhaling the stress, flushing my head and body of all things negative.  As my dear friend Shannon said the other night, "You don't need much to run.  Just good shoes."  She's so right.  

So tonight when I came home stumbling in my own skin, I knew that it was time to strap on those shoes, and entice Alex to go along for the ride.
I push the Chariot (aka the BOB), pick a variety of flowers for Alex, and as I run, we talk about why we should only pick a few instead of her desire for "yots and yots."  
Nice bouquet, eh?
We hope to see a deer, a fox, or maybe a turtle, but sometimes just talking and being together is all we need. She's my girl.
Hello sunflower! So nice for you to greet us after our run.

During my summer runs, I leave the Ipod on the dresser.  There's no need. We live near the water, so I like to soak in the noises of my surroundings.  The orchestra of cicadas clacking, the peepers and birds interjecting, the sound of airhorns blasting to signal the end of a weekly sailboat race.  By far, it doesn't suck.
Did I mention how proud Alex was to hold her first sunflower? She even gave it a little voice, & it had a lot to say.

We run through the woods near our house, and I say to Alex "Listen to that.  What do you hear?" and she says, "Oh Mommy, that's the sound of summer. Oooo."

And those woods may be limited, but they remind Ben and me of Martha's Vineyard.  The trees line a narrow two lane road, canopying the surface. Poison ivy blanketing the ground.  The wooded path that I follow parallels the road, and with the sun setting, I capture an Island moment even if only for a hot second. Oh it's good.

The Vineyard is the one place where I can go and feel balanced from the moment I step onto the ferry. Ben & I have been going there since both of us were children, long before we met.  His family vacationed there when he was a child.  And both of us and our siblings grew up going to FOCUS camps.  My dearest friend Christina and I met as leaders at a FOCUS camp 20 years ago. And Ben & I wed on the island 19 years ago, surrounded by just our family, celebrating our love.  Between Ben's sister and Christina, we have the opportunity to be on "Vineyard time" a few times a year.

And the best part about the Vineyard?  Limited cell service.  It's funny but an expected activity to watch all of the adults try to function normally without a signal.  It takes me the first day to adjust and then I gladly turn the phone off for the week. I can feel myself reseting, releasing, letting go, finding balance. See ya Verizon.
This summer's adventure did not disappoint.
 Within an hour of arriving, we grabbed buckets and nets and headed straight for the beach.  

Last year Alex was terrified of the surf and the noise it made rolling over the rocks.  This year, I had to drag her off of beach. Alex spend hours romping, running, singing, and dancing around the water.  Oh, my little fairy.

Alex simply loves Grey and Gunnar, and Christina and I cherish watching the kids grow up together. And as much as we use the kids as the excuse, Christina and I love to spend concentrated time together, hiking for miles, talking about garden design, business, & our families.  Just. Being. Friends. I love her so.

There was plenty of time spent at the beach.  The inlet at Menemsha at low tide is the perfect spot for children to hunt for crabs, moon jellies, and star fish.  It's childhood nirvana.

With the help of squid chunks, we were on the hunt.
Polly was completely disgusted handling the squid.  Gunnar, not so much.

Christina took the prize home for capturing the greatest number of crabs.  She took her job very seriously and shushed everyone away.


Oh, and I love this little one.

We spent another day paddling kayaks in the harbor.  

We all partnered up with a kid and headed off.

Polly was my partner and was keen enough to slither on and off the kayak without flipping the boat. Much appreciated sista!

Cari and I shared a funny "only with a kid" moment out on the water.
(This adventure is reason 224 as to why I should have a waterproof point and shoot.)

We returned to the beach to share pizza and the craziest chocolate chip cookies ever, and the kids got right to work. Grant & Polly created a minnow trap, and Alex and Gunnar focused on pushing Ben into the water.  

He's a clown.  He's only in a 1' of water. But oh how it made the kids bubble with laughter.

In order to maintain a level of sanity, I always bring a huge bag of supplies and toys for the kids.  Activities, crafts, distractions…call it what you want, but happy children = happy parents.  We did tie dying again this year and Grey got a one-on-one lesson on folding techniques.  After seeing his frustration last year, I knew he would appreciate the extra attention and could walk into the activity feeling confident and prepared. 
Seriously, does Tie Dying ever get old?
Alex decided dying her feet purple would be better than applying it to the cloth.  And why did I thing that Grey would use his skin as a canvas first?  Oh they share the same spirit for sure.

There were so many other moments that made this vacation, but seriously, the beach always wins.  
Longpoint is by far my favorite site - a fresh water lagoon and the ocean separated ever so slightly by a belt of dunes. 

And on the beach, kids only need sunscreen and shovels.  Their imaginations fill in the spaces between.

Have I mentioned my deep love for this child?

Oh girl, I love your more than chocolate and cake.

There were so many other moments at the Vineyard that made us laugh and forced me to find my center. I wish that I could feel that way everyday, but then again it's special to have those moments. So for now, I'll keep working through the kinks and hope that a combination of running and creative activities will help synchronize my soul and keep me in the moment without hesitation. I cannot lie.  It's all good.