One of the things keeping me busy this spring was the need to read through the proofs of my book and create an index, as final stages to this decade-long endeavor. This, then, is what my spring break looked like:
We’re nearing the finish line, though. The book comes out in July.
Sydney was away for several trips this spring, so the kids and I took off for local hikes before the weather turned hot; today, and for the foreseeable future, Kentucky is predicted to be in the high eighties and humid. In March, we hiked up and down the Jessamine Creek Gorge (and along the creek), and, in the last picture, enjoyed the view from the lookout at Tom Dorman State Nature Preserve.
I have not done a lot of hiking with the kids by myself before, but their legs are getting longer and everyone can now carry his or her own water/gear. They also get that collapsing or despairing mid-hike is not going to save them; I can no longer carry them out! I measured the kids today, and Nathaniel (8) is 4′ 6 1/2″ and Katherine (10) is 5.’ They both wear adult shoe sizes, and Nathaniel inherits my sneakers for play shoes. All of that growth has now made them fun hiking buddies.
Part of the reason for our lack of blogging this spring is sheer busy-ness (more on that later), but part of it is also that the kids are getting old enough to spend significant time cooking, hiking, and farming with us. That’s been a lot of fun! They’ve also really gotten into read-aloud time in the evenings (we’ve worked our way through a lot of books that way) and, surprisingly, picking pieces out of the Mennonite Hymnal to sing together. Now we’ll have to see what non-stop together time this summer does to our family dynamic.
Nathaniel constructing his birthday present, which combines two of his favorite things, Harry Potter and Legos:
Katherine in her favorite hat (which made for hat hair nearly every day this spring):
Katherine dutifully attempting homework while Domino “helps”:
For our last hike of MLK weekend, we stopped by Dog Slaughter Falls (near Cumberland Falls). Sydney had the camera so that he could capture some of the water-and-ice sights that made us stop every few minutes on our hike. And, as we pulled out of the resort to start the drive home, a barred owl swooped over the road and perched on a branch just off the road:
This is by far our favorite family vacation so far: time away from the world, a distinct lack of whining and dragging of feet (thanks, kids!), Sydney in charge of planning, challenging outside hikes, and warm soup and tea when we made it back to the cabin. The spring got busy very soon after this, but this was a great, unexpected break from it all.
Over MLK weekend (yes, in January: I’m playing catch-up), we took off to Pine Mountain State Resort Park, just a couple of hours south of here. We’ve decided that, on the whole, slippery winter hiking is preferable to insufferably hot summer hiking. So we thought we’d go hiking when Kentucky was settling into a snowstorm!
We stayed in a cabin that was built during the Depression. The thick logs nicely kept out the cold on single-digit nights–as long as we kept the single-pane windows shuttered.
The kids have only recently gotten into board games, so they were excited about the combination of outdoor adventures and inside games. It probably didn’t hurt that I made regular rounds of hot chocolate and tea to keep everyone toasty. The kids also made use of their new sleeping bags, so everything felt like an adventure.
For our first outing, the park roads were closed, so we hiked up to the Pinnacle Overlook at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. The kids really enjoyed seeing multiple states from up there. On our second day of the trip, the kids worried we’d lost our minds as we took them into Blanton Forest. Note to self: for winter hikes, more shoe traction is needed. We didn’t have all the right gear for getting soaked in winter, but this was also our favorite hike: big forest, old trees, and terrain of a size that could make us feel very far from the rest of the world. It was beautiful!
Despite best efforts, we’re definitely feeling it to be a full spring. I just got proofs for my book today–which come with a four-week turnaround time for proofing and indexing–and have papers and exams to grade in all four classes. Additional manuscript edits just came in for another article last night.
Sydney is slowly working through his book-length translation project, with a chart and countdown posted on the fridge in the kitchen. But he’s also building a greenhouse (!) and juggling several other writing projects, in addition to his classes and the many students who want to meet. And yes, farm season is starting up already in Kentucky.
The kids are not forgotten, however. They just have their own projects to juggle. Katherine is giving a speech on “How Not to Bang on a Piano” at school tomorrow, complete with illustrations. She loves projects, even though they can be overwhelming, so she’s really gotten into it. This has been sandwiched between events for Academic Team. She medaled in the district event, and she’s preparing for a regional exam next week. This, apparently, is what kids do on Saturdays? They go to school to take exams?? The parents are a bit puzzled by all this, but the kids seem to be having fun.
Nathaniel, meanwhile, is watching the rest of us with bemusement. He knows not to complain about the tiny bit of homework he receives in second grade, and is busying himself with craft projects and, when we let him, working his way through book after book by Rick Riordan. He also pesters me to let him in on more cooking, so this afternoon I think he’s going to bake his first cake without any significant help. After some discussion (he first wanted to try making the layered red velvet cake Nelson made for our wedding . . .), I think he settled on Grandma Dora’s carob sheet cake. We’re all excited about this!
Just after Christmas, Sydney’s brother Nelson and Nelson’s wife Kira came for a visit, bringing 19-month-old Allister with them. We hadn’t seen them since we spent Christmas at their house last year, and Allister has really grown. Sydney and I were amazed that they were willing to travel with a toddler; given how much his lung power is increasing and how much more mobile he looks to be getting, we won’t be surprised if they limit their traveling for awhile. But our kids thought he was much more fun to play with this time around!
We spent a lot of time in the kitchen, playing with bowls and wooden veggies and real veggies and cooking implements–and yes, that means both kids and adults. There was a lot of cooking that week. Given that Kira and Allister joined Nathaniel and me before the sun was up, and Nelson and Sydney are very much the opposite, the kitchen was busy most hours of the day. But we also visited Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati and the Bernheim Arboretum outside Louisville. And we took a number of walks around town, enjoying a mild winter week.
When they left on Wednesday, though, Sydney and I knew we’d better gear up for the spring semester, which begins on Monday. It looks like cold winter weather will be swinging in just in time to demoralize our returning students.
You can probably tell that it’s been a busy fall for us. Lots of teaching and writing deadlines for Sydney and me, lots of school activities for the kids, and lots of farming. We’re hoping for a much quieter spring!
In early December, Katherine celebrated her third year of piano lessons with a recital. Her teacher made everything feel special: reserving a space in a church, dressing up, and setting out a lovely reception. Katherine really enjoyed the chance to hone a few songs, rather than learn something new each week. She played 12 pieces in all. Erin
Music in our house is a bit of a delicate dance. Katherine has been taking piano lessons for 2 1/2 years, readily claims music as a big part of her identity, and draws music notes and pianos on her school folders. But when she needs to sit down to the piano bench to practice . . . well, it’s a mighty internal (and sometimes external!) struggle. She has, though, re-upped for lessons this fall, of her own volition.
Nathaniel has been watching his sister, and, until recently, made clear that he had absolutely no interest in following her into music. I’m guessing he understood that he’d need to hold up his end of the bargain and practice each day. But a few days ago he asked if I’d give him a lesson, “just to try it out.” He understood, as we talked, that this would mean following through with practice. So this afternoon we sat down and I walked him through a few opening exercises. “This is harder than I thought!” he said, but he didn’t seem dismayed. If he keeps a decent attitude going, this could be just the thing he needs to get him to learn more about what he’s capable of doing–with a bit of effort.
I won’t, though, let my hopes get too high: I know exactly how hard and long the music road runs! Still, it would be great if they could lean on each other for help and encouragement. And when he looked at the books Katherine had propped up on the piano, Nathaniel was clearly admiring of her ability to see anything in that tangle of black ink. To give her a bit of company, I’ve also dug out some pieces I thought I used to know, and have started working through them. I’m really rusty, but I’m enjoying becoming reacquainted with an instrument I stepped away from a long time ago.
Katherine is 9 and beginning 4th grade, and Nathaniel is 7 and beginning 2nd grade.
I asked them to hug each other, and they did! They’ve played a lot together this summer, and I hope they don’t lose sight of that once they’re back to other friends at school.