Thursday, August 31, 2017

Academic seasons

Started school this week. In the woods.

The little boys play while the big boys study.  My life is infinitely easier with the trinkets of the forests and meadows keeping the youngsters entertained while the big boys absorb the stuff of books. Each of them is applying himself diligently and I have a good feeling about this academic season! :-) 

As we watched the littles playing this afternoon, Madigan said, "Mama, I really love Lochlan." I replied, "I'm so glad." "No, Mama, I REALLY love Lochlan. I didn't used to like him, when we lived in Nashville. I tried to love him, but I didn't like him. Now, I just like him and it makes it so much easier to love him." The honesty of this kid is potent. Lochlan is exponentially easier to adore, it's true. The remarkable changes in him have made all of life so much brighter and filled us with profound hope.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The first time I ran you over, I didn't mean to.

As these beautiful summer days meander toward fall, I savor each breath (sometimes harder to come by in this elevation ;-) and TRY to store the moments as they gallop past me. The meadows greet me as I ride out of the woods, beckoning me to stay and watch the forest creatures play in the dusk hours. Alas, life continues ever forward, with all it's rewards, challenges, adventures and complications. Dancing with the forest creatures will have to wait for another day. 

"Mama, I wuv you" he shouts out his window. 

Pey Pey J. Moose, as she has been affectionately dubbed by her boys.

Madigan to Kelton: "The first time I ran you over, I didn't mean to. After that I couldn't help myself." :-)

Mountain man. 

Madigan: "Mama, can I have some sparkling water?" 
Mama: "No." 
Madigan: "I'm going to keep asking because really bad answers are not a good idea."

"Mama, I love Lochlan." Looks like it's mutual. 

Charm bucket.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mudding and productivity

I've had so much trouble focusing this week. Productivity has all but halted, but you know life has this crazy way of going on, even if our hearts, minds and bodies don't wish to participate with full gusto. These smallish humans are inspiring - truly. They never stop wanting to learn, explore new places, try something different or simply continue perfecting the skills they've already mastered. 

So we are tackling even the mundane (schoolwork, housework, grocery shopping :-) with diligence. With the energy of the boy club propelling us forward, and the beauty of the outdoors ever beckoning for us to come and see and be, we find delight in what each day holds for us. The rain and subsequent puddles that have accumulated this week have only added to our enjoyment and probably to our truck's demise (who knew mudding could be so intensely enjoyable?!). :-) 

Yes, please. 

Note the mud on those cheeks! In his element. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Saddle up

and come ride with me! Having Fancy and Bobbi Devs here has brought us so many hours of delight. Teaching my boys how to ride on the trails through the forests is something I've always hoped I might be able to do, and actually doing it is incredible! They are beginning to understand and "read" the horses, anticipate their reactions in different situations, find balance in their seat, and even develop a better sense of direction (from wandering through the woods, often following elk paths). 

Lochlan is so comfortable on the back of "his" horse and this is undoubtedly where he is most content. 

Paugie's first trail ride - he excelled! And Mama horse was a rock star.

All is as it should be... 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Off the grid. Living the good life.

We've been living off the grid - entirely solar powered - in my parents' cabin for the past year. We have found this lifestyle to have many merits and a few inconveniences. We've mostly loved it and I think it has only encouraged the mountain men in my midst to find their inner selves (including "Mountain George"). It has given us each a new understanding of what it means to conserve and value resources that we took excessively for granted in our previous life. 

Bucket baths have become quite popular (and necessary). We haul all the water that we are not able to collect from the rain. The cabin is equipped with a water collection system (metal slanted roof > gutters > drainage pipes > filters that then feed the water into the 2000 gallon water tank below the house). In dry months (except monsoon season - late summer), we haul frequently, but in the winter the snow melt keeps the tanks almost perpetually full. We haul water using 300 gallon tanks sitting on the flatbed trailer and fill up at a local well at the entrance of our neighborhood. Water has become a precious commodity to us and we use it sparingly. 

Laundry is a constant challenge, but I think any parent can attest to that. The particular challenge with off the grid laundry care is that washers and dryers eat up a lot of energy. We only wash on sunny days, and we line dry our clothes (more challenging when there's snow on the ground as everything has to be dried inside the house). Clothes dry fairly quickly in this dry climate. My kids frequently re-wear their clothes, which means you are likely to be greeted by grungier boys than might have greeted you a year ago. 

Cell service is non-existent at the cabin and that has been challenging. We can use the landline, but everyone has to call us via their cell phones as every call we make out of the landline would be pricey and would be billed to my parents. 

Internet is pitiful. We sometimes have it and we sometimes don't. That's an uncomfortable adjustment. 

We no longer watch TV because we decided when we moved to Flagstaff that we (and our boys) needed a fresh start in more ways than one. Now, instead of watching movies, they play outside, hike, ride their bikes, ride their pedal cars, ride their horses, feed their horses, play with building blocks, listen to audio books, read books with Mommy, work on schoolwork, play with their trains, play endless hours of make-believe with one another, pretend they're good guys vs bad guys, build forts, etc. 

We use minimal lighting, so we have adopted a much earlier schedule in daily living. We tend to go to bed at sunset or not long thereafter and we rise shortly after the sun rises. We sleep with our windows open, except during winter, because the house does not have air conditioning and the cool evenings do much to keep the house pleasant during the daytime. 

We use the wood stove to heat the house on cold nights. George became quite a genius at building up the fire and adjusting the damper to keep it smoldering into the wee hours of the morning, tempering the brutal cold of frigid mornings. We're hopeful that this winter our boys will be able to keep themselves underneath their covers, as that was a persistent issue this past winter. Freezing boys = awake boys. 

All of us have greatly enjoyed off the grid living and we would highly recommend it for at least a season. It has taught us to appreciate our resources and use them more efficiently, absorb the splendor of our surroundings, and it has even trained (forced) us to use our time more productively. 

We have been so monumentally grateful to have this cabin to reside in during this season of our lives... it has paved the way for more than we could have imagined. We are also incredibly excited that a new season in our lives is around a very short bend in the road (a couple weeks)! But, more on that next time... :-) 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Let me grieve

You may rejoice in my baby sister's decision to join a convent, but please let me grieve. 

Let me acknowledge the very real loss of her absence. 
Let me watch my parents as they bear their heartache with as much dignity as they can muster. Let me realize fully my inability to fill  the void created in the absence of one they hold so unspeakably dear - the one child they created together. Let me watch them age before my eyes. Let me feel the helplessness to ease their pain. Let me wonder what the years ahead will hold, with my sister no longer a part of the picture of our lives. 

Let me wrestle to steady my emotions as the uncertainty of her path hovers overhead. 

Let me come to willing acceptance that I am not allowed to communicate with her until the time is designated that I may. 

Let me force my heart to let go where I must. 

Let me helplessly watch my (twin) sister fight the loneliness that so marks this season of her life, while now also holding back the waves of grief that thrash at her. 

Let me feel the anger.

Let me feel the pain. 

Let me feel nothing but apathy. 

Let me grieve the life that we do not live alongside her. 

Let me watch my boys grow, suffer, rejoice, fail and conquer in all those seasons of life and let me grieve in her absence during those seasons.

Let me long to share in the memories we won't make together. 

Let me be frustrated and don't tell me that it could be worse. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Paisley, the new black

The season since losing Valiant has been a long and difficult one and her loss left a void that simply remained, painfully unchanged month after month. With the perpetual instability of our situation, we waited to start looking for a puppy. However, unbeknownst to us, my parents decided that our life needed a Scottie in it and that they were going to get us a Scottish munchkin, as soon as she was born. 

I vigilantly watched her progress (via email and photos) from birth until the 8 long weeks until I (FINALLY) got my paws on her, and she did not disappoint! She is tweet (sweet with a "t" for that tiny bit of tart, just like Valiant) and she has a streak of wicked (though she does try hard to be good... sometimes her soft white teefies get the best of her and she "accidentally" bites). She is extremely intelligent and she wants to please, but she also has a mind of her own and is happy to use it. 

She's got us ticking to her tock quite readily and she keeps us hopping (literally, as she bites our toes in the morning). The boys are in love with her and have all learned "puppy etiquette" (how not to torture the puppy 101) and she has little challenge keeping them in line. 


Day 1 as a McGary

Just, you know, posing... 

Sporting her Victoria's Secret jacket

When I took her into a coffee shop, the cashier asked her name. When I told him "Paisley", he said, "Oh, I have several shirts just like you!" I asked, "what, solid black?" :-) 

Roaming the wilderness... 

Designated driver. 

Fearless hiker

Her favorite travel position, sandwiched between Mommy and the console. 

Napping buddy. Yes Please.