Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sunday Drive

With the top down, we backed out of the driveway in the red convertible on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  The back roads were quiet. The sun kissed our faces, and then as we cruised beneath the towering shade trees, the cool breeze lapped at our faces.  

The feel of fall finally arrived in the air, but Chayse noticed, "Someone forgot to tell the trees, Mom."

I suspect the colors will arrive soon.

Our destination for the afternoon was Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home.  In 1816 his father moved the family from Kentucky to Southern Indiana after staking claim to 100 acres.  Abraham was 7 years old.  Here he would grow into a man over the next 14 years.  Survival was hard work.  The loss of his mother at age nine was even harder.

Abraham helped build the coffin, and his mother was buried humbly at the top of the hill south of the homestead with probably just field stones at the head and foot of her grave.

In 1879 a local businessman would erect a headstone in her honor (though the exact location of her grave is unknown.  Later Abraham Lincoln's oldest son would donate $1,000 dollars for the care of his grandmother's grave.  This lead to the purchase of the land that would be developed into the park.

As we strolled down the quiet trail farther, we discovered the original homestead had been excavated and the hearth stones uncovered.  A bronze casting of the logs and stones now marks the site.

A few more steps and we came upon a log cabin.

It was surrounded by all the outbuildings and split rail fences. 
  A cow bellowed in the barnyard.  Sheep grazed quietly.  A fully re-created 1820s homestead.

Upon our arrival, I discovered my camera battery was dead, so I was using my iphone and at this point the battery died.  

We put away all the electronics and meandered the homestead.  

The brown cow continued to bellow as she tried to swish away the flies bothering her.  She came close enough to be say hello and get a quick scratch, but the kids were cautious as when she swung her head her horns were dangerous.

The day was quickly fading, so we reluctantly returned down the graveled path.  The brisk air and closeness to nature was refreshing.  Kiahra began dancing down the path~she leaped and turned gracefully with nature as her stage. I will treasure the moment forever in my heart.

Chayse scampered down the trail with her brother on her heals, and I walked briskly behind enjoying watching our children just be playful kids beneath the canopy where long ago Abraham Lincoln and his sister were children too.

I wonder if his mother sometimes paused as she toiled and watched her children scamper playfully too.

I hope so.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

No Ordinary Vineyard

As our time ticked away in San Francisco, I felt an urgency to visit the Tuscan castle nestled in Napa Valley.  European visitors come to California just to see the carefully replicated castle by skilled artisans, and I decided it was an opportunity that my South Dakotan and Alaskan visitors shouldn't miss either.  
All ten of us piled into the vehicles early on Saturday morning for our trek into Napa Valley.

At 9 AM we turned down the quiet, vine-lined lane.  The castle was nestled into the rolling landscape like it belonged.  

I eagerly stepped back into time in the picturesque setting.

As we approached the castle, we were welcomed by the pig in the 13th century barnyard.

My heart fluttered with excitement as I looked ahead to the stately castle as the early morning fog lifted with the moat serenely wrapped around the outer walls.

 Crossing the drawbridge past the huge solid wood doors made me feel like a little peasant girl giddy with anticipation of a long awaited visit to place in which only stories had been told.

The peasant girl had forgotten to send a messenger to announce our arrival though, but we were granted a tour in one hour, so we were free to roam until then.

The oldest cousins enjoyed the warmth of the rising sun, as they were still rubbing the sleep from their eyes.

The traditional stone workmanship and attention to detail left me gaping in awe.

The kids strolled the grounds around the castle as they waited~meeting this rooster who seemed to be scolding Kade as he followed him around at distance.  It is a big job, so I was entertained by the "help."

The peacock strutted around the grounds.

The emus kept guard up and down the fence keeping a close eye on the Kade~wondering if he was a long, lost cousin?

The curly tails of ducks bobbed in the moat.

The baby goat loved climbing the tree as the sheep grazed peacefully.

No detail was overlooked in the design and presentation of the castle.

 My romantic nature conveniently overlooked the labor intense work required to make everything work.

A big brother who tolerated a photo-happy sister more good-naturedly than usual~but what are sisters for if not to push the boundaries a bit??  Grateful we captured these special memories.

And in another rare moment, I paused with my parents and husband on the wall walk.

Finally, the greatly anticipated tour was ready to begin.  We met in the chapel before we spent the next two hours exploring the magnificent castle.  

From the courtyard to the dining hall my imagination came alive in a time long ago.

Then we descended into the cellars.  The underground labyrinth was cooled naturally and wine barrels lined the rooms and walkways.  

Along the way we learned about the art of winemaking, and our inquisitive 14-year-old son was fascinated by the process of creating wine and absorbed all the information better than I. 

 The torture chamber did not leave much to the imagination and reminded me a bit of the Tower of London.

 All too soon, the tour wrapped up in the tasting room.  The kids toasted with the finest grape juice to a fun-filled day!

A winery that welcomes kids is rare, but a winery that embraces kid and makes history comes alive is extraordinary.  It was the highlight of their time together.

As we drove back down the lane, tummies were rumbling, and we accidentally discovered a park that made for a perfect lunch.  The kids enjoyed the freedom to run and play (even the big ones) before we reluctantly headed back home again.

My Castello di Amorosa fall wine selection will arrive on Saturday, and we will toast to the fond memories of the day they welcomed our family into theirs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

She exits with grace and style.

It isn't as easy as she makes it look~

leaving behind four years of growing up.

On the final evening she and her friends skated across the empty floors as their laughter bounced against the bare walls.

They sat in the familiar bedroom, legs dangling from the second story screenless bay window with backs to the room now devoid of belongings.

The truck driver commented that is was hard to watch the sweet teenage girls try to find a way to say farewell.

Heart wrenching.

The tears that rolled as we pulled away from "home."

Heart breaking.


The final dance is always wrought with emotion.

She pours her heart into her performance.

The movement of her body beautifully exhibits her love of dance.

During her solo the woman behind me whispered in an awe-filled voice to someone next to her,

"She is beautiful."

Sometimes those unknowing, genuine words nurture the soul.

Reminds me to be generous in my compliments.

It is too easy to sit quietly in awe.

Too oft we don't speak the good things.  

The final performance gives us that opportunity.

In our farewells.

In our dance.

Sunday, September 7, 2014



Spiders love them.

I do not.

Nor do I love spiders.

I am tired of unpacking.

I can find any excuse not to open a box.

But...I want it done.  Paradox.  Parabox?

Amidst the cardboard and chaos at the end of the day, when my family gathers around the table, it is all worthwhile.

Plus last night it finally cooled down to 70 degrees.

Cool enough to gather around the fire pit...finally!

We love to sit watching the flames dance in the evening.

It offers something for everyone.

The boys tackled starting the fire.

Then the little girls showed up  wondering how long until the roasting could begin.

I found my favorite chair and watched as the flames slowly grew and lapped at the moist wood patiently.

Kade settled into a chair and whittled a few marshmallow sticks.

Jaxon tried out his new fireside seat and observed with curiosity.

He was merely three months old the last time he joined us at the campfire.

Finally it was time to start roasting the clouds of sweetness.

Jason settled on my lap (good intuition on who spoils best:), and I stuck a marshmallow on our stick and tried to toast it.  I got it too close to the fire, so that speeded up the process.

Jaxon watched me carefully as I took two graham crackers and squeezed the marshmallow off the stick.  I presented his treat to him.  He didn't hesitate to nibble on the marshmallow oozing from the crackers.

As he discovered the wonderful world of smores, the girls returned.

Kaiya may have been a bit tentative about smores last year~prefering the chocolate, but she is a pro now!

The sticky sweetness was good to the last bite!

Then the teenagers gathered around the fire for their gooey goodies before disappearing into the dark to play hide and seek with their trustworthy flashlights.

Cozy fireside memories quickly displace the card"bored".

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mile Marker 2647

My baby boy started high school a few weeks ago.  He rolled away nonchalantly with his sister at the wheel.

No first day of school photos.

Journeying into uncharted territory is tough, but he looked snazzy in his polo and shorts (a uniform requirement).

At lunchtime he sat down at a table, alone...surrounded by chairs that slowly disappeared as other students needed more around their tables until one lone chair and he remained.  He grinned charismatically as he recounted the tale.  (I wanted to cry).

The next day he got up and did it all over again with a sense of determined perseverance.  He understands you just keep doing what is hard, hoping it will get easier.

That is why hope was left in Pandora's box because sometimes that is all you have.  Hope.

Just over eight weeks earlier on June 12, 2014, he was gathering with his friends on a breezy California Bay morning as they prepared to line up for their eighth grade graduation ceremony.  He wore his humble roots proudly.

For the second time in two weeks, I watched as one of my children filed into the PAC for graduation.

The wait was long, but the grin told me it was worth it!

He was easy to spot in the sea of classmates.

His first congratulatory hug from his dad...priceless.

Surrounded by sister love!

A good friend.

Another good friend who would be relocating a few days later too.  With an adventuresome spirit they navigated their first day of sailing together on the breezy lagoon~smooth sailing it was not but laughter and determination persevered. I know that spirit will carry them forward again.

No matter where these young men journey, I know they have memories to last a lifetime, and I hope that someday their paths will cross again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Another Start

I have so much to say I do not even know where to start, so I haven’t.

Today I am forging forward to try to find my voice again as I gaze at my backyard with the towering trees and green grass rolling down to the pond and watch the hummingbirds flit to and fro enjoying our new feeder.  

I soak up the serenity, as my yard is trying to soak up the rainwater from the torrential morning storm.  The humid warmth that follows the rain is sweltering.  Nonetheless, I bask in the quiet morning.

I do not miss the roar of the city, as I prefer the chatter of the cicadas and other bugs that make my trees “talk.”  My niece asked me one morning~”Auntie Lori, why do your trees make noise?  Our trees are quiet.”  Pennsylvania taught me that trees can "talk," and there I learned to love my towering, talking trees.  On her first night, Nikela insisted on cracking the window so she could hear the cacophonous cicadas.

I do not miss the gridlock of traffic either.  The narrow lane that lends home is picture perfect in the morning as we stroll to the bus stop.  Chayse and the neighborhood kids scamper to and fro chasing squirrels or stop to check out a web, discovering the morning beauty of nature.

 New home. Sweet. Home.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lori's Boot Camp

After all the pomp and circumstance, the San Francisco adventure began with an early morning boat ride to Alcatraz on May 30.  The typically foggy, cool morning set the scene perfectly for our prison adventure.

Though the buildings have been battered by weather, the flowers and landscape are beautiful.

Nonetheless, the weathered buildings made for good black and white photos~my favorite cousins' photo!

The amazing audio tour of the prison was filled with stories and details of life within the walls of the most famous prison in America.  

With crazy eyes, he plays the prisoner part well.

A rare photo with mom and me!

A former inmate now makes a legitimate living in his old age selling his story to tourists~aka us!

After spending the morning hiking around the island, we cruised back across the bay to Fisherman's Wharf where we found a cozy table for 10 at Bubba Gump's.  We filled our bellies in preparation for the afternoon of city boot camp!

The hills of San Francisco are most memorable if you hike up and down them!  We paused at the bottom of Lombard street on our trek to Chinatown.

The bustling streets of Chinatown are filled with sights and sounds influenced by a homeland far away.  We explored the stores and visited the Golden Fortune Cook Factory and Portsmouth Park before finding the cable car stop.

We piled into the already full cable car for our ride back down to the water's edge. The boys snagged outside seats!  The rest of us held on to our bars and gratefully swayed with the car as it went up and down the hills!

The car emptied quickly as we made our way to Ghirardelli to enjoy ice-cream desserts beneath the iconic cityscape lights of an old landmark.

Our final trek was back to the car.  Twelve hours after we began our adventure we arrived home again, ready to rest our weary feet.

We have a photo album full of fun snapshots of the day, but it doesn't capture the banter of voices and easy laughter that makes family so fun!  

It was truly a memorable day.