January brought many things. The New Year, a series of weeks that felt more like late spring than mid-winter, and the wrapping up of the Blu Buck project which opened up my schedule to, well, anything.
I love wrapping up a great big challenging project. The sense of accomplishment, seeing it with eyes that are not looking for the next task, but can take in the whole and appreciate the distance traveled to get there, etc.
That feeling is wonderful, for a couple days.
Luckily, when I look up from an all consuming project, what I see is the amazing gifts I have been blessed with, that have been with me the whole time, waiting for me to snap out of it and pay attention to them.
This has meant lots of time wallowing in my family. Solo time with each of them, focusing entirely on all the little parts of our time together that will pass and leave behind the Cat's in the Cradle soundtrack if I'm not careful.
So while Annaliese went on a girl trip with Ms. Dixie to celebrate her birthday, Caspian and I spent a boys morning wandering around town, doing a little exercising in my office, practicing ping pong, and whatnot.
Ms. Dixie didn't forget Caspian, and brought him a new hat.
My girl. I'm glad she is equally obsessive about her projects. We understand each other.
Annaliese turned 7 on the 6th of January. Our Epiphany baby. The birthday party was scheduled for the weekend, but on Weds. night she requested macaroni and cheese. Alexe takes over on birthdays, because she loves them, and made the best macaroni, topped with crumbled bacon.
Caspian did his very best to be the supportive, un-jealous little brother. Annaliese had set the bar very low on his birthday, with her screaming and crying, and he was doing very well.
It was not easy. At one point she received a card with a $20 bill in it. I looked over at our money-obsessed little boy, and he was wiping tears from his eyes but keeping the fit down.
And yet, thankfully, she's also our little girl who wants multiple tucking-ins each night, likes to be cuddled in the mornings, and has a love/hate relationship with clothes.
Olive and Goldilocks.
As a present to myself I kept Jeremiah on staff for a week to help me fence in the back pasture.
The official birthday party was Saturday morning. Annaliese requested a chocolate cake. Note the picture of Alexe and Annaliese in the cookbook. There may have been some tears shed over the little girl in the picture being all grown up.
There were pancakes, trampolining, cake and presents, and true to the tradition our kids have established when they have many friends over at the same time, tears.
Family walk through the woods. We enjoy the 400 acres of city owned forest behind our back pasture.
Beautiful girl. Don't mind the soup splatters on her forehead.
u.Nicholas and a.Emily sent Annaliese this teacher set. We have sat through many a family classroom session. She's very strict on behavior, but I've never seen her give anything but an A to her students, with the exception of her brother. That B was mean.
A new lunch counter in the front window of the BTC.
With the Blu Buck project being in the waiting-on-tenants status, my schedule has become unbelievably pleasant. A relaxed breakfast in a quiet house...
Then it's on the tractor, and heading into the back woods.
This back section of our land is a standard Mississippi thicket, with trees and vines and sumac all tied together into a prickly wall. Cutting a tree down does not mean it will fall over, because it is woven tightly to the neighboring five trees by a rats nest of vines.
It's unpleasant work, and slightly dangerous. A tractor makes it a thousand times easier, as hanging trees can be pushed or dragged until they free up and can be managed on the ground. However, a tractor needs space to move in, so for this thin high tensile fence line I ended up cutting a path 25 ft wide. It will make maintenance much more civilized in the future.
Getting ready to go to Riley's birthday party. She specifically asked me to give her a side pony, because sometimes she likes to look pretty, and sometimes she just likes to be cool.
Which made for another Saturday morning of boys hanging out. I took my son to a booth at the BTC, and we had breakfast, read books, played Uno, and then learned this new one. Think the opposite of Jenga. Talk about quality time.
Eventually we attracted the attention of every kid in the BTC. And eventually I bowed out and Caspian took over running the games.
We ended up back at the farm, and as per my negotiations with Caspian, he picked our activities.
Annaliese eventually came home, tuckered from swimming at the Ole Miss indoor pool party, and we dealt with the competing jealousies. (She got to go swimming! You've been playing with him all day!)
We headed to Oxford where Alexe was recognized at a function held by the owner of Square Books, and we made a night of it with dinner on the square. The food was...we still miss L&M.
Home, PJs, a fire and probably a snack, and in bed.
The next day was a family day.
This tractor has taken a beating as I have cleared the fields and put in the fencing over the past couple years. I'm not all that apologetic, who in their right mind would make a tractor out of plastic?! However, Alexe kindly pointed out that had we hired anyone to instal our fencing, we would have spent far more than I did on buying this tractor. So even if it fell to pieces, we'd be ahead of the game. Which is a nice way to look at it, because every piece of plastic body work, which is every piece of body work, is broken and/or missing. So not pretty, but mechanically still fine.
A.Caitlin sent us a highly compressed package of feather boas. She was cleaning out her closets, and decided to share. I held firm that these were not going to be played with in the house, so the first sunny day the kids released the boas in the trampoline.
Several hours of admittedly fun play time, followed by an equal amount of time picking up all the blasted neon feathers.
Alexe, gathering manure for her garden, and dealing with a bull with a crush.
I have to be careful with this kid. I keep offering him a quarter to do some impossible thing, and he will not give up until he gets that quarter. He rolled this chunk of tree all the way through the woods to the barn, with minimal help.
A successful family day: kids completely worn out, and fond of each other enough to have a sleep-over. Annaliese has been hard on her little brother this year, and it's a treat when she forgets to be mean and they have a genuine day of companionship.
Case in point. That word on the left is "kict" not "lict". We all have a collection of these notes from Annaliese. I'm going to miss her mocking laughter written as "hohoho."
January, and we snuck in a nap on the upstairs porch.
We upgraded Caspian'd bed. This bed has a long family history, originating with a family member way back having it custom made to be super long. Before I ever met Alexe u.Mike lent me this bed for my apartment in Annapolis. a.Jenny gave it to us as a wedding present years later. When Caspian outgrows his twin mattress, which is what you see sitting on top of the box spring, we'll have to have a custom mattress made that fits the bed.
Because we know this adorable little man is going to grow until he makes that bed look small.