Tag Archives: family

summer vacation

Since the children are now in “year round” school, our summer break is quite a bit shorter than usual.  We only had 6 weeks of break, which seemed like a fair amount of time, but which also flew by quickly.  Summer always does seem full, no matter how long or short it is – of work, play, gardening, adventuring, vacations.  It can feel too packed, too full – can-you- really-relax full.  Sometimes I want to have everyone stay at home and just be.  But, I also feel the urge to get out and do – while we can and the weather is good! Three (!) children start school on Monday and we’ve filled this last week with those perfect summer activities (tubing on the river, hiking, waterfalls, friends) and balanced it with days and home and quiet evenings.

Summer is one of my favorite seasons, and summer break is a special time.  I get slightly anxious thinking of all the things I want to accomplish each summer, all the places I want to visit, all the activities I want to do or have the children do.  It can be overwhelming.  But, this summer, though we did not travel much, we made it to some special places.  First, the three oldest went to Elizabeth City with my mother for a week of YMCA day camp.  Anne was supposed to have surfing camp but it was canceled due to the shark attacks (fyi, you are more likely to be killed driving to the beach than by a shark at the beach).  They had a great time at camp, though, and playing in the river each afternoon.

Then, the girls went to manners camp again this year, or ,as the incredible 85 year old director calls it, “House Parties for Young Ladies and Gentlemen”.  Their cousins (my cousin’s children) go to manners camp with them each year, and it is a special time.  Manners camp was delightful, as always, and I know the girls enjoyed it.  It is certainly a Southern Experience.

We left from manners camp to drive right to the Chesapeake Bay where my cousin and her husband have a house.  We spent nearly 4 days there and thoroughly enjoyed it.  We played in the water and on the beach everyday, walked, biked, paddled, and ate great food.  I think this was the most relaxed I’d ever seen William on a vacation.  We’ll need to do it again!

That weekend capped a great summer, not too exciting, but pretty perfect.

In pictures:

fig

Figs at my mom’s were just getting ripe.  We ate some everyday – just perfect.

boys

hythe

fish

south

William and the boys fished on my aunt and uncle’s bass pond in Elizabeth City.  They caught 4 good sized bass and had a great time.  The little spiderman rod has pretty good action!  I sat and watched them and realized we were sitting, on a summer afternoon, in the shade of a trailer, fishing for bass in a pond, drinking cold beer from a can – it was a perfect Southern moment – and was just wonderful.  Fiona, a cousin who is visiting from France enjoyed it (not the beer, though).

manners

girls

camp

anne

We did not see the girls for nearly 2 weeks, since we arrived in Elizabeth City after manners camp started, which may have been a bit much for them.  When we arrived at camp for the graduation tea, Anne burst into tears when she saw us, hugging us and sobbing (while smiling, I may add).  These girls are so sweet and I love the pastels and bright florals on everyone at this camp-closing ceremony.  The house and setting are beautiful and I’m glad they’ve had their time there.

boat

crabs

icecream

steve

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steven

baymarsh

sunset

White sandy beaches, on the edge of a Nature Conservancy property, with mild shallow ocean – had to beat.  We ate great food (including steamed fresh crabs, cleaned further than “Yankee” clean – thanks Will), had great (and plentiful) drinks.  Lots of family fun time on the beach, on walks, bike and golf cart rides, and paddling.  And, a salt marsh at sunset.  It was a wonderful time.

 

 

legacy

This past weekend I attended the memorial service of an uncle. Uncle Peter was my dad’s brother. But, it is a little more complex than that.  My “dad” was actually my step-dad, married to my mother when I was 8 years old and when my real father had been dead for a few years. So, Dave eventually became my “dad” – a wonderful man whom I admired and respected. He passed away 4 years ago on October 8th. My mother wrote a wonderful short description of these two brothers, and I am going use her words for a bit:

“It is interesting to me that that Peter and Dave’s service will be just one day apart… and four years. Those feelings from 4 years ago are flooding forward as I reflect on Peter’s life this week.

Peter and Dave were so much alike in many ways. They were very principled men. They led by example and quietly loved all of us. They knew the importance of community and giving back to those around them. They both had a need to give of themselves to the wider good of humanity.

They were quiet men, and never proud or boastful, but when either one spoke everyone stopped to listen. Whenever either would both talk with someone they gave that person their full attention. They made the person they were talking with feel that they were the most important person in the room.

They would never correct anyone in public, nor offer advice that was not solicited. Dave knew how to handle most challenging situations but he would tell others what to do. He might make suggestions, and if one asked his advice or followed his suggestions things would come out right.

Dave and Peter both always encouraged doing the best you could do each day . . . again, by example. Then, you have no regrets.”

This is the example I try to live up to each day. Quiet leadership, wisdom, and service and love for my family, community, and fellow man.

traveling, traveling

I’ve been a little quiet on this blog for a few weeks because I was doing a little international traveling with my daughters and mother. I thought I might try to try to post while I was away, but did not get a good chance (or maybe I did not make a good effort). Anyway, I thought I would write a little about my perspective on traveling and about this particular trip.

My grandmother (BJ) took me on my first trip overseas, to London, England, when I was 8 years old. I knew that most children my age had never been out of the country—for that matter, most adults hadn’t either. I remember the excitement of a new a different place—learning new words and ways, figuring out that there were places very different from my home and my realities. On that trip, we walked through Hyde Park, saw castles and the Crown Jewels, learned about British history, and marveled at the largeness and modern-ness of a city.

That trip spurred my love of travel—of visiting new places. But, it also came passed down from my family. My mother loves to travel (she is still in Europe until mid-August). My dad was an adventurer who loved to seek out beaches and mountains all over the country. My step-dad, though he claimed to dislike travel, spent most of his career in the US Coast Guard, and later as a contractor for the Navy, traveling the world. I grew up hearing his stories of places he visited and lived and receiving postcards from various ports-of-call. My paternal grandparents traveled extensively, and my maternal grandparents valued seeing new places, though they did not travel as much. Even my grandmother’s grandmother (who our Evva is named after) spent a few years traveling around the world with her young daughter in the early 1900s—unusual for a woman at that time.

All this to say, for most of my life I have valued and enjoyed traveling. But, something changed when I had children. I still value traveling, but I do not enjoy it as much—especially if I have to do it with children by myself. With William (and the children), travel can still be fun and a great family time. But my anxiety level has increased (more could go wrong, more depends on me, etc.), and the thought of traveling for a long time with little children can sometimes be dreadful! Though, reality is not usually as bad as the worry. I also value a homeplace more than before children and it can be hard to leave it. Most of our children are older now and travel is becoming easier—long car trips or flights are not dreaded as much, and can be enjoyable, leaving home is only for a short time.

Almost 2 weeks ago, I left the boys and William for 11 days to fly to Paris and meet my mother and our 2 girls. My aunt, cousin, and her 2 girls were also with us. We spent a few nights in Paris, 4 nights in Normandy, and 4 nights outside of London. There were a few difficulties with the trip (as with any trip), mainly leaving my little boys at home for so long (I’ve never been away from any of my children for so long). But, the benefits of the trip were great. The girls saw and learned a tremendous amount from the experience, from impressionist artist to geography to Tudor history of England. They met their British cousins, learned a few French words, and marveled at Monet’s gardens. I hope they have also started learning the fun, adventure, and benefit of travel. It is easy to not go to the expense and trouble of traveling. It is easy to stay at home, but there is something missing if we did not get away from our known and comfortable place sometimes. An understanding of the world beyond ourselves.

And, so on to the trip.
All of our time in France was spent with my aunt, cousin, and her girls. Paris was full and fun—highlighted by a visit to Saint Chappell, Muse L’Orangerie to see Monet’s Waterlilies, and a children’s tour of the Louvre. We drove up to Normandy D-Day beaches where my grandfather came ashore in August 1944. It was moving to see the beaches, but as with attending church with children, you loose something of the experience when you have to keep asking the children not to roll around on the ground, stop kicking each other, or quit playing tag (in the cemetery). The girls loved the beaches, though, and waded right into the water, promptly soaking their lower halves in the cold English Channel.

Contemplating an ancient carving at the Lourve
Contemplating an ancient carving at the Lourve
Trying to imitate the Venus di Milo
Trying to imitate the Venus di Milo

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American cemetery
American cemetery

Honfluer

We stayed in a farmhouse outside of Lourvies which was a perfect, making us realize that while the big city is great to visit we enjoy the countryside much more. We went to a really wonderful market one morning, visited a distant cousin and her children at their beautiful old house, ate great food, walked around a ruined castle built by Richard the Lionheart, and spent a few hours in Giverny.

Our home
Our home
Wonderful meal with a view you can only get in Europe.
Wonderful meal with a view you can only get in Europe.
Our cousin's home -- a very old convent
Our cousin’s home — a very old convent
Ruined castle of Richard the Lionheart
Ruined castle of Richard the Lionheart
Giverny gardens
Giverny gardens

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Pool at our "home" (it was cold!)
Pool at our “home” (it was cold!)

In London, William’s aunt and uncle hosted us with great hospitality. We went to London one day to visit the Tower of London (Crown Jewels, armory – it was great). Another day had a big family BBQ where Anne and Evva got to meet cousins and play. They have 3 girl cousins very close to their age, so it was fun. Visiting with family and relaxing were the main activities and it was wonderful.

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Cousin doing a gymnastics show for the gathered family.
Cousin doing a gymnastics performance for the gathered family.

Traveling makes homecoming sweeter and now we will take our experiences (and our dirty laundry) and embrace the work and activities that make up our life.

our little man is growing up

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In the last month Steven has changed so much in subtle ways that only a mama (or daddy) would know, but the changes were big at the same time. He has been my pickiest eater, with a diet of mostly nuts, crackers, popcorn and yoghourt, and occasionally some granola or a fruit smoothie. We always offer him whatever we are eating for a meal, but he would never eat it, would not even taste it. This month, though, he has tried and eaten a comparatively huge variety of things: fish (which he loved, fried), strawberries (lukewarm), blueberries (dislike, though he will often eat frozen ones), mulberries (loved), eggs, green beans, etc. If he sees his siblings enjoying any kind of food he wants to try it and usually gives the same reaction they have about the food (yum!). It is heartwarming to see a child start to eat–good food.

Steven’s vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds too. He is repeating so much of what he hears, loves reading books, and pointing out things with words he knows (“moon, mama, moon”). He is speaking in sentences, though most of us cannot understand but one or two words of the sentence (“uh nah nit nah nah hoouuuch” means “I wanna sit on the couch”). And, after hearing his sisters often singing from the Frozen soundtrack, he even broke into song the other day playing blocks, “Let it go, let it go . . .”. He loves to count stairs, fingers, birds “two, ree, four, two, ree, four”. It is awfully cute and really amazing. I have always been awestruck by the way children learn language–so fascinating.

His personality has also developed a lot. He is quite a little flirt (look at all those smiles), and has very definite opinions about some things, and can be mischievous now too. He loves to play, loves his siblings, and loves his daddy. He adores Hythe, and when Hythe is lagging behind on a walk to the bus stop, Steven gestures at him and calls “Hythe, Hythe” until he catches up. He does the same thing for Tucker (the dog), and will get quite upset if he does not catch up quickly.

He is a sweet baby, and he is still a baby even though he will be two at the end of this month. A week from Friday I leave for Europe for 11 days, and will leave Hythe and Steven at home with daddy. That is the longest I have been away from any of my children. And, while I know William is perfectly capable of taking wonderful care of them, I am going to miss them very much, and I am sad about missing those little changes that happen so quickly in an almost-two year old.

We are lucky to be this little guys parents–and to be parents to his awesome siblings!

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Mom-mom and Dado: Dado

I am continuing the theme of family this Sunday (late as it is) and I am going to start with my maternal grandparents (and specifically, my grandfather).

These were the grandparents I grew up with. They lived close to us and we visited with them often, went to church together, spent holidays together—all in our small town. They usually kept us after school, and during the summer at their beach cottage, when my mother worked.

My grandfather’s name was Hythe Addison Reid. He was named after both his grandfathers, but the grandfather whose name was not picked as the first moniker gave him the nickname “Pete” which stuck with him all his life. He grew up within walking distance of that grandfather and a short wagon ride from his other grandfather, on a farm in Nixonton (near Elizabeth City), NC. Everyone in his family lived on a farm, and all his ancestors had been farming in the area since the late 1600s.

Dado, as we called him, was a little larger-than-life. He was opinionated and stubborn, kind and fun and he loved a good debate (as long as he won!). He always had a story to tell—of his golf game, of friends from long ago or of those he saw yesterday, of his family. He was a farmer and a philosopher (actually, I don’t think you can be a farmer without being a bit of a philosopher), and he had some radical ideas. He inspired my interest in agriculture, honed my love of the beach, and shaped my liberal political leanings.

These “family moments”, for me, are becoming a time for me to reflect and appreciate the influence my family has had on me.

Thanks!

Dado
Dado at the farm (by the grain bins)

christmas ham

When I was growing up, we always had a country ham for Christmas dinner in addition to the turkey and other fixings.  I would always take a few paper-thin slices and eat them with a roll or the dressing.  I did not LOVE the country ham, but I knew that the ham came from one of the hogs off our farm and my grandfather did LOVE it (plus it you could get a piece without fat–one of my biggest childhood(?) food dislikes).  So, I liked it fairly well.  Once my grandfather sold his hog farm and Smithfield implemented vertical integration, we did not have country ham at our holiday meals anymore.

Last year, we were visiting my cousin in Richmond at Thanksgiving and I saw a country ham in a Virginia agriculture products store.  It was a fairly upscale store, but the smell reminded me of those country hams from my childhood.  I have come to really like good country ham, especially on a biscuit or roll or in greens.  So, I decided to buy a ham, cook it and serve some at a Christmas party we were hosting.  I know we would have some left for Christmas dinner, too.  It was fairly expensive, but we took that ham home and I scrubbed it, cooked it, and William carved it.  It took most of a day to cook it and most of a night to carve it.  I had no experience cooking a country ham, despite some knowledge absorbed by osmosis at those long ago holiday dinners.  And, William had not experience carving a country ham.  We also realized we’d bought a very large ham.  It was really good, though, and it lasted us through the party, through Christmas dinner, through New Years celebrations (where we flavored everything we ate with ham), and through the next 4 months whenever we pulled slices from the freezer to use in meals.

Layden's Country Store

This year, I did not plan to buy a country ham, but we went to Layden’s Store in Belvidere when we were visiting my family for Thanksgiving.  When I saw his hams hanging, I decided we needed another country ham for the holidays.  These hams were smaller (and cheaper) that the one from last year, but I got them to cut it in half since I knew a smaller section it would be easier to deal with. William also had them slice a few thick slabs off to fry up for breakfasts.  I cooked this ham when we got home and William carved it.  We now have lots of sliced country ham in the refrigerator and the freezer.

carving the ham

carving the ham

I LOVE pulling out some to use to flavor a meal or to put on a roll with mustard and brown sugar.  I think of country ham as more of a condiment rather than a main part of a meal–it is so strong and salty.  But, I really like having it around.  I think we will make this something we do every year now.   Maybe I will try different methods of cooking it (I did not realize at first there were different ways to cook a country ham, but there are).  Maybe, one year, I will try to cure my own ham (I already have ideas).  But, we will have it and I hope my children will appreciate it as part of our tradition.

What about you?  Do you like country ham?  Do you have a secret to cooking it?  A favorite place to get your ham?

oh, christmas tree

on the way to get our tree

We got our Christmas tree this past weekend.  We drove to some family property where years ago, some in the family planted Frasier firs to be cut for Christmas trees.  This property is fairly remote, higher altitude than where we live, and really beautiful.  The headwaters of a river run through it, gracing it with 3 awe-inspiring waterfalls, and long stretches of peaceful pools and rapids.  We all love to come out to this property, William especially–it is a relaxing place.  We usually only come here to vacation, which is really glorified camping in a very rustic old house.

This weekend, however, we came for a very quick trip.  Our goal was to cut a couple of trees to decorate our house and a cousin’s house for Christmas.  Usually, we can drive over dirt trails and get fairly close to the tree “lot” even in a non-4WD vehicle.  But, it has been raining quite a bit lately and the trails were a bit overgrown.  We needed to walk back to the firs.

lichen on old apple tree

It is a pretty walk without much incline and not very far, but we had to consider our options when we realized we had to get 4 children and one heavy chainsaw to the lot and 4 children, one heavy chainsaw, and 2 trees back to the car.  The walking children started complaining pretty quickly about have to “walk so far”.  William thought maybe we should cut some white pines since they were so close to the car and we were not really sure how many Frasier firs were left or what condition they were in.
white pines
But, we went on–if only to get a little woodland hiking in that day and get children outside (in spite of complaints)–to check out the firs.  As soon as we got to the fir lot, complaining stopped and everyone enjoyed looking for the right trees.  We quickly found one that was right by the trail.  It was very tall, but since the lot is old, we often have to cut down a fir and cut the top out for a Christmas tree.  This one was also damaged on the bottom from bushhogs or other traffic that had nicked it and damaged the lower branches over the years.  William cut it down, cut it up, and cut off the top.  I realized then that if he cut another one of that size, it was going to be very difficult to get back to the car with two trees.  That tree was heavy–the trunk, even at the top, was larger than your normal Christmas tree trunk.  So, I picked out the next tree.  A scraggly, thin, 9 foot tall fir, bunched up next to some sapling poplars and right beside the trail.  It was not healthy.  It was yellower than the first tree and had dead needles in the center.  Most of the dead poplar leaves were decomposing in the branches.  But, it would not weigh much, it was the perfect height, was thin and tall, and I figured it would look fine when decorated.  The children liked it, too.

cutting the tree
got one tree
got two trees
carried the chain saw back

We got the two trees (I carried the chainsaw since William had the firs), headed back to the car and headed home.  Naps in the car on the way home helped everyone enjoy decorating the tree that evening.

tying on the trees

decorating

our tree

Isn’t it beautiful?  The children certainly think so.  I think we got the perfect one.

My family did not cut trees from the woods to use as Christmas trees, though I remember for a few years, my brother and I would cut down some small pine trees, put them in our room and decorate them. They took up all the spare space in our bedrooms. One day, I would like to have a red cedar as a Christmas tree–a wild and native one. What did my great-grandparents do for a Christmas tree? I never thought to ask.

gathering

Pecans on the ground
Gathering

We are visiting my family in northeastern NC for the long Thanksgiving weekend. I have gone over to see my grandmother, visiting with her, then going out to pick up pecans in her back yard/field.   I picked up pecans and put them in the ubiquitous empty Cool Whip container you will find at my grandparents house.  I have been picking up pecans there since I could walk.  Every year in November and December, my grandfather would order my brother and I to come outside and pick up nuts.  We gathered them and put them in paper grocery bags.  Each year was a little different.  Most years, like this one, there are a few nuts–enough to be make the searching worthwhile, but not enough to fill the freezer.  Some years there were virtually no nuts, and some years were mast years where the ground seemed covered.  You couldn’t walk without stepping on pecans.  When we had mast years, my grandfather would even recruit my grandmother to come out and pick up nuts (she was usually in the house cooking), and they would gather bags and bags of pecans.  In later years, they would send those nuts to a mechanical nut cracker in a neighboring county who charged a fraction of a dollar per pound to crack the nuts.  They would then go back in the bags they came in and my grand parents would be left with the large (perhaps monumental) task of picking all the meat out of the shells, and getting out the bitter.  But, most years they did all the work themselves.  I don’t think I ever ate store bought pecans when I was a girl.  I have memories of my grandparents and my great grandmother sitting at the kitchen table, newspaper spread out, cracking and picking pecans assembly line style.  I usually helped, and I still enjoy doing that meticulous work that brings out sweet meats.  It is really rewarding.  Food that you gathered, cleaned and can eat– for free.  Fresh pecans taste so much better.

You may wonder what we did with all those pecans.  My family was not big on pecan pie, but we did eat a lot of roasted pecans and we used them in cookies and fruitcake.  Most were stored in the freezer for the months and years to come when pecans were scarce, because, as my grandmother would say “they sure are expensive in the store”.  We did not buy food if we did not have to!

It is a common thing to see people out in fields and yards with a bag and a stick (to brush away leaves–some sticks have baskets on the end that will pick up the nuts for you) this time of year.  I think country folks are particularly good at gathering in food.  

This is also the time of year where we gather as family, and country folks are pretty good at that too.  I am grateful this year to gather these delicious nuts, and even more grateful to gather with my family, my mother, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, grandmother, cousin, aunt, uncle, great aunt, and friends from “back home”.  Blessings.  

 

 

 

 

Pretty fuzzy picture from the table taken with ipad.
Pretty fuzzy picture from the table taken with ipad.