Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Family Meeting -- It's Time

We're trying it.  The Family Meeting. We were putting it off until the kids had enough maturity to make it worthwhile, but that was a moving target for sure.  Tonight marked the second Wilson Family Meeting and I just had to document it here for all those who are trying it with their families and are getting discouraged.

There are a lot of great resources online about how to run family meetings.  I read several articles, took notes and tried a lot of their suggestions.  I created an aura of excitement with professional invitations, included dessert, and kept the meeting reasonably short.  I listened patiently when they had difficulty staying on topic and used the mommy skill of gentle redirection.  I made sure to balance serious discussions with playful ones.  It was going pretty well.

During one part of our meeting, everyone was invited to share a concern or a need that was bothering them, openly and without repercussion.  I'm not sure they quite understood, because one of my children reported they needed new underwear and another told me we were out of homework pencils.  To illustrate what I meant, I expressed how I would love it if Daddy would stay awake during family meetings.  (Nice, Drew.)

The meeting quickly disintegrated.  They talked at the same time, they interrupted each other, they enjoyed the pulpit a bit too much and attacked each other with smirks on their faces as they "got away with it" in the spirit of open disclosure.  They were fixated on who's turn it was to make dessert next and whether or not mom was going to make them set goals again for next week.  But then it was time for questions.

One of the ways my mom and dad used to get us talking was with the Ungame  -- a collection of thought-provoking questions for all different age groups.  I decided to use these same questions at our meeting to help our kids get comfortable talking about real and sometimes difficult topics.  As you can imagine, they were nervous and cracked jokes when they should have been attempting an answer, but they'll get better at it.  This is what Drew would call a "stretch goal."

Then it was my turn and I got the question, "Describe an experience of answered prayer."  I started crying immediately as I tried to describe a moment of answered prayer I would never forget.  And then I told another one.  And another one.  I think they would have sat there all night watching their mommy in tears, describing how real God is to her.  They weren't laughing anymore. They were still and respectful and curious and hopeful about this God who speaks so loud. I will try to remember this night when future meetings fall apart and seem like a waste of time.  Little nuggets of Truth and Love are going to sneak in when we least expect it.  All we have to do is show up.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Upstate Beauty Unfolds

I forgot how exciting it is to see the seasons unfold for the first time in a new/old house. So far I've only known this property's spring and summer face, and its fall one is full of surprises.  With the leaves dropping, I can see more of the mountain framing our property than I ever expected. I had no idea we were nestled on three sides!  It's an entirely different scene than that of summer and I can only imagine what it will be like in the winter with a full view of the escarpment blanketed in snow.

Sydney ran down the stairs the other day screaming for us to come see the "cotton candy mountain".  When the sun hit the escarpment that morning it had a completely different glow with the changed leaves and a scattering of our season's first unexpected snow.  It was so difficult to capture on camera (because of my skill), but the last two photos will give you a tiny glimpse of the beauty that greeted us that morning.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Inside the Farmhouse

It's almost impossible to describe this place.  I didn't set out to find a historic home so it continues to surprise me, like a gift begging to be opened by someone who's never experienced Christmas.  How can I explain the secret storage place behind the coat closet, or the narrow winding staircases, or the memorial marker by the boarded-up well? How can I describe the 6" long iron key that we actually use to lock the front door? Or the beehive bread oven next to the original fireplace that kept a family warm and fed 216 years ago at the very beginning of this country?  I can show you pictures of how my furniture fits (or doesn't fit) and what a country breakfast looks like in our sweet kitchen, but I can't easily show you the richness of the wood beams marked by the cuts of an axe.  I can tell you what historic paint color I'm going to use for the family room, but I can't begin to describe what the original plaster ceiling with the huge crack feels like when you sit underneath it.

I was so moved by this house and the enormity of our responsibility should we own it, that I felt I had to tell the owners the condition of my heart before they even considered our offer.  In my letter, I wrote,

We can’t imagine fully what it will mean to own a piece of history, to fall asleep under the covering of a roof that sheltered so many others, and to lovingly play the role of caretaker to something that is not completely ours.   It is no small thing to become one of the names on the list in your kitchen  -- a list of families who have accepted the important role of steward of this property.   We also can’t imagine the responsibility you must feel in the transfer of that role to another.  We wanted to let you know that we felt something when we entered your home that we have not felt in any other.   It was a feeling of respect:  respect for you in how you have cared for it, respect for the families before you that protected it, and respect for the country that bore it. 
So with all of that said, as I walk you through the house, please remember I am merely a custodian of this amazing estate.  My goal is to protect it, to preserve it, and to modestly improve it so it can shelter many families long after we are gone.  (And if I can make it cozy and beautiful for my family in the process, all the better.)  I promise better pictures soon after I figure out how to light this place!

To the right of chaise lounge is a butler's pantry that leads to kitchen.

Family / piano room

This is previous owner's decor.  Wanted to show the fireplace.

Guest bedroom
Foyer hallway and stairs with 2-story, hand-painted mural.

There are built-ins everywhere!

I absolutely love this kitchen.

That's it for now.  There's an office, a workshop, mudroom, two bathrooms, three stairways, and a really scary basement I'll have to show you another time!

Next up -- Shalom, Dorcy, and Daffodil

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We Found a House!

You know when I take a break from blogging something crazy must be going on.  So here it is in a nutshell:  we've moved.  Again!  We made a commitment to upstate New York and to this community through an actual house purchase.  I guess we're not on vacation after all.  I know now that the rental house was a precious bandaid from heaven as we all took some time to "heal" into our new surroundings.  And to continue the metaphor, God ripped that bandaid right off in June and gave us a place of our own. We were ready.

Remember my love for contemporary architecture and clean edges and openness?  Remember my desire for a full, finished basement for the kids?  Remember my need for enough bedrooms for guests?   And space for a studio?  You'll never believe what we just bought.  A 1795 historical Federal Colonial farmhouse with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, no A/C, a basement we pretend isn't there, smaller proportioned rooms that barely hold our furniture, and a musket over the fireplace.  It is awesome. Who knew?  God knew.

Here are few pics of the property.  I'll show you the inside tomorrow, but you'll have to ignore the decorating because we just moved in and I simply had to stick my belongings wherever they would fit.  Even in its current state, though, it is absolutely perfect for me.  Because it is perfectly imperfect.  Like me.  Now this is a house with a soul.  Who knew I could love a house like this?  God knew.  He just had to rip off the bandaid.

The house is VERY stretched out as rooms were added, barns were converted, and front doors became back doors.  We're still not sure how to get in.  This is the front. Or is it the side?  Actually it's both right now.
This is the original main entrance that is not currently being used.  

This is the back.  Sort of.  That dirt pile is our new septic tank which we had to install the day after we closed.  The original one collapsed during the home inspection.  No kidding.   
Here's a diagram to show what's what.  Click to make it larger.

The house is nestled near the base of the Heldeberg mountains.

It's hard to show the whole yard!  It goes on forever.  Six beautiful acres of rolling lawn, forest, and creek.
There are beautiful stone walls throughout the property.
View from Syd's bedroom window.


That gives you an idea of the property.  Tomorrow we'll go indoors.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sheep Shearing Day

Finally the day came for the sheep to be freed from their heavy coats before it got any hotter.  We city folk grabbed our chairs and our popcorn and lined up for the spectacle.  But it wasn't the jovial occasion we were expecting. Sydney and I both nearly cried as we watched our poor little sheep man-handled and thrown around until they were rendered immobile on their @$$.  They were stripped of their dignity right in front of us. We had to look away.  It just wasn't right.  The chairs and popcorn were completely inappropriate.  

Seth got a discount. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Voorheesville Way

Voorheesville, New York, takes its history very seriously.   It's a huge part of the kids' school curriculum.  It's the foundation of their field trips.  It's on historical markers throughout town and in the neighborhoods. And as you can imagine, it was crazy here on Memorial Day weekend!  Community and national pride spilled over onto the streets during Voorheesville's annual Memorial Day parade.  From the veterans in uniform, to army cannons, to floats memorializing lives lost on 911, onlookers were reminded that "Freedom isn't Free," the theme of this year's event.  We felt privileged to be a part of a community that is unabashed in their open display of respect for those that paved the way for this great country.  And we feel like we've only scratched the surface on what this special New York hilltown has to teach us.

Seth on parade with his fellow classmates, singing "Grand Old Flag".

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Without Family

It's our first holiday without family and the feeling that something is missing is casting a shadow over this otherwise beautiful day.  I know that time is going to make it easier as we form new traditions and break bread in other ways, but we still have to do today, don't we?  I've never cooked an Easter meal.  My mom, in-laws, and siblings have taken care of that for me for 42 years. (Can I show my heartfelt appreciation to you all now?!)  I joked with Mom on the phone today that Taco Bell was on the menu because it's easy to fall into that "What's the point?" mentality.  But that's the cup-half-empty way of approaching this new season and I can't let that dominate.  My kids are watching.  God is watching.  The five of us will break bread together tonight, and talk about how great the food is in our rental farm kitchen, and how blessings continue to rain down on this family.  We'll talk about new beginnings and hope and freedom -- messages that echo today's Easter service and our family's journey.  We'll talk about how crazy an easter egg hunt can be across 55 acres of wooded farmland.  And we'll raise our glasses to the rest of the family we love and miss terribly on this important day. 

Here are some pictures from our hunt.  It was cloudy and mild, but the rain held off and it was perfect.  Even if we didn't find all the eggs.

Syd paid homage to the real progenitor (Drew's word) of eggs before we started.

Drew hid 88 eggs over a half-mile trail.  The kids found 77 on the first swipe.

Drew continues to remove any doubt that the Easter bunny is a farce.
Coyote candy.  Syd, seriously, put that down.
Thinking of you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What Does Drew Need?

After all this talk about silence for me, and the animals for Sydney, and the creek for Lucas, and the trails for Seth.... what could this place possibly offer Drew that he might need during this time of transition?

H  O  P  S  .

The nectar of Drew's favorite beer, IPA, grows on this farm.

Kurt is teaching Drew the fine art of home brewing.  It was only a matter of time. 


Thursday, April 14, 2011

More Farm Pics

Below are a few more shots of the Carriage House and the things we've been doing this week. We are now officially enrolled in the new school and the kids have seen their classrooms, met their teachers, and know where to go when they got off the bus.  Seth is thrilled that Kindergarten is only half-day (with no full-day option) and will only be in school for 2 1/2 hours (slacker).   Lucas is excited to have a locker and that his teacher leads the drama club.  Syd is giddy that she gets to change into shorts and t-shirt for gym.  Hmmm...was it really that simple?  

I miss you all. It's been a whirlwind for the past six months and I have been swept up by all the activity.  But life is simpler and quieter here, and I can feel the moment coming when I'm going to be blindsided by the truth of all we've left behind.  Having the kids home with me has been a blessing, but it has also helped me avoid the loneliness I know is coming.  I pray God will feather my landing the way he has feathered my children's with the beauty and joy of this farm.  I pray the solitude that is around the corner will force my reliance on Him even more, because that's when I'll know I'm going to be okay.  I pray the same for the friends and family we've left behind, an even more difficult place to be.  

Here are some more pics:

This place is cozy and clean and has everything we need to be a family.

There's a den in the back of the apartment we're using as the kids' playroom.  It's where they watch movies and play Wii while Drew and I carve out some time for ourselves.  

There's a small deck off of FR for coffee in a.m., wine in p.m., and grilling dinner.

Here's the FR with great views of the farm from both windows.  My computer station is set up (on left) so I can take it all in while I'm writing/reading.

Kurt taught Lucas how to drive his tractor (with Seth and Syd in tow).

Occasionally the kids get to join in simple farm chores. Here Lucas is taking pruned raspberry bush branches over to the burn pile.  Syd and Seth know where to find the eggs, "little farm miracles," as described by Joyce.  

The chicks have arrived!!  There are eight of them and Joyce described them as "cotton balls with legs."  As soon as she said that I knew Syd would have a friend in her for life.  They talk the same language. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

You Can Hear a Pin Drop

And a woodpecker peck.  And the sheep cry out for leftovers from their new friends.   I can see wild turkeys in the distance impressing their love interests with their full-feathered strut.  I can see the woods brimming with life and the field voles tempting the hawks that circle overhead.   This place is beautiful, but oh, the sound of it.  Most of you who know me know what sound can do to me -- it has the power to move me into a rage or in this case, to usher me into peace.  It is completely silent here except for the sounds of things of God.  I was prepared for the beauty, and the allure of the animals, and the quaintness of the carriage house, but not for the silence.  Thank you, Father in Heaven, for knowing what I needed. 

We are renting a 1300 square foot Carriage House that sits a few hundred yards back from the owner's main house.

The openness of the property and views is breathtaking.

The sheep and chickens have already warmed up to the kids and get all our leftovers.  I've never seen the kids eat so little. :)   Baby chicks are coming next week and we'll get to see them bond with a "foster hen" in a makeshift nursery.    While Drew is at work, the Andersons (owners) offered to take us to a nearby farm to see a 2-week old foal.

The owners have 55 acres of private field, forest, and rolling hills.  Mr. Anderson gave us a tour of all of it yesterday and showed the kids how to follow the stream home if they ever feel lost.  We learned how to identify different trees by their bark, and to watch the forest floor for deer and coyote tracks.  He is an Eagle Scout and loves to teach.  What a blessing.

It's hard to give you a sense of the topography with pictures, but there are ridges and ravines and mountains in the distance -- all safe for the kids to explore.

The farm is about 500 feet above sea level, but 6 miles up the road is the John Boyd Thatcher State Park, which is at 2000 feet above sea level.  The hiking is going to be incredible with the cliffs and the 300 foot waterfalls.  We aren't in Indiana anymore!

Pulled this photo from Wikipedia.  The Helderberg Escarpment is full of rocky cliff faces and makes for a beautiful backdrop for many Voorheesville homes.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I wanted to try to give you a sense of the place and our well-being.  This rental property has been an unbelievable way to start our season of change.  We have moments of tears and laughter in the same hour, but it's going to be okay. We are going to be okay.  Please don't worry about us.  God is speaking in the silence.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

First Stop Niagara Falls

Before writing any posts on how sad I feel to be moving away from everything I know and love, I wanted to start with some happy shots from our first family adventure. To split up our drive into two days, Drew looked for somewhere special to stay.  We knew it was going to be an emotional drive and we were hoping a "carrot" at the end of it might give the kids (and us) something else to focus on.  It ended up being the perfect call.  We stayed in a beautiful hotel overlooking Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side. The border patrol was perfectly scary as he slowly reviewed our passports and asked us to remove our sunglasses, adding great drama to the experience. The hotel was as amazing as its pictures online.   Though the town felt a bit like Gatlinburg with its casinos and souvenir shops, what was authentic was the closeness in this first picture.  The day was exhausting, and emotional, and not without its tense moments. But we're doing it. Bit by bit. Together.  I so appreciated the kids' attitudes and fearlessness and love for each other -- no small thing today.  

The first of many family moments in this adventure...

Kind Canadians gave us a premium (and free!) upgrade to help make up for our family's difficult day.  Those are the United States falls you see behind Seth through our bedroom window.

What's a trip to Niagara Falls without the staged "I'm falling!" shot?   Leave it to Sydney.