Little Red Car

7.30.2011
Beep! Beep!  Look at those black feet!
Jed's new loves this week: riding this little red car and playing with his uncles.

Smith Family Reunion 2011

7.25.2011
Zion's National Park

It’s weird to think that our life in New York is a memory now. Whenever I think of home, I catch myself thinking of Miner Farm and our duplex there. I miss it already! I guess “home” will be a relative word for now until we find a place to rent, move in, and start our new lives. I’m looking forward to it. However much I miss New York, it feels great to be back among family and the familiar dry mountainous terrain.

Jed was a champ on our long plane ride from JFK to Salt Lake City. He slept the entire 4 ½ hours! My rear-end was sore and my left arm tingled from holding Jed’s heavy head, but I didn’t care. My baby was peacefully asleep! I actually enjoyed cuddling him.

Jed’s routine is in total upheaval. The only thing familiar in his life right now are a few of his belongings and me. (We are missing Bron for two whole weeks!) Jed is doing all right though. Jed is a happy good-natured kid. However, he screams and screams when I put him down to sleep in the pack ‘n play my mom bought for him. Maybe he will become accustomed to it in a few more nights. But until then, we’ve developed sort of a bad habit. I take Jed to bed with me and lay down with him. He snuggles his face right up next to mine. He plays with my nose and mouth and laughs. Then he starts to make his tired moaning sound, strokes my hair, and finally drifts off to sleep. It takes less than five or ten minutes. That’s when I scoop him up and put him in his own bed where he sleeps peacefully all night long. For some reason, I love it.

View from our hotel

The incredible red rock inside Zion's.
You know you want to visit now too.

Our first few days out west have been a blast! We made it back just in time for the annual Smith Family Reunion. This year it was held in Zion’s National Park in southern Utah. We had a family reunion there eleven years ago in the summer of 2000. Being there brought back so many fun memories! We cousins have all grown up since then and so much has changed! It’s kind of neat that I now get to take my son to the reunion: another generation.

We stayed in a hotel just outside the park and took the bus up into the canyon. After dinner our first evening there, we all went on a “short hike” that turned into a slight fiasco when the sun set behind the steep cliffs leaving us stumbling in the dark. We always have to have a disaster at a family reunion. It’s a rule. Thankfully, this year it was minor.  (It doesn't hold a candle to flipping a jeep, getting lost in the desert for hours, or having a brush with the law!) We all made it out without any incidence.

Ready for our hike!  Jed was still suffering from jet lag.

Hiking along
My cousin Rachel (36 weeks pregnant) with Grady (2 yrs)
Ty and Grady

Water, greenery, and red rock = pretty!

The next morning most of us headed into Zion’s to hike the Narrows: a trek up a river between two towering walls of rock. Amid the sweltering dry heat, the freezing water feels amazingly refreshing! It is a super fun hike! And I was the equivalent of Amazon Woman—minus the snakes and testosterone—because I carried Jed on my back all day! We even waded through chest deep water together. Jed didn’t make a peep. In fact, he loved the ride! Jed talked to me and pointed the way to go. What a stud.

And did I mention the animals?  There were wild animals that weren't scared of people at all.  We even yelled at them.  The deer didn't blink.  And the squirrels walked on their hind legs inches from my legs begging for food.  It was cute but a little scary because all I could think of were their tiny nails and flesh wounds.

The Narrows
Hiking the Narrows!
Some of the gang: Ty, Tyson, Devin, Emily, Megan, Kathleen, Jessie (me), and Jed
I totally spaced it and didn't wear the right attire, but it was fun anyway.

The speedy cute thangs, Kathleen and Megan
The water looks swifter than it really was

My little brother, Michael, taking on the rapids in his Indiana Jones hat

That night we celebrated my Aunt Becky’s 50th birthday. My Aunt Mari reserved a room outside for us at a restaurant where we gorged ourselves on an Italian all-you-can-eat buffet. When everyone was finished, we gathered the chairs around for a short family meeting that turned into chatting and kids playing on the floor for a few more hours. (By the way, I have no idea how Jed found TWO packets of honey. What a sticky mess!) It was the perfect gathering place for us all and a great end to a fun weekend.

Our family loooves to eat!  And that's an understatement.

Grandma, Aunt Becky, Mom 

My cousin, Necia, with the cutest rolly-poliest baby boy, Traejan (6 months)

Family Party!

Trying on Great-Grandma's old jewelry.  Yes, even some of the boys!  We all look so great, it makes me speachless!  haha

I love my family and I love our reunions. I feel so lucky that I have so many awesome memories with my cousins and aunts and uncles. And I am glad that we will be carrying on the tradition, at least for a few more years. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa! We love you!

The Last...

7.20.2011

Our last days here in New York have arrived. I have gone on my last run, ridden my bike around the lake for the last time, and walked around the farm one last time. We’ve also filled every day with friends, picnic parties, and our favorite activities. I think we have made the most of our last days here.

One night this week Bron and I took Jed to the beach at Point au Roche. We had fun as a family playing in the water and digging holes in the sand. It was a picture perfect evening.

Saturday was the annual Miner Institute Summer Picnic Party at the park. There was catered barbeque food, a bouncy house, water balloons, and lots of yard games including volleyball and corn hole. It was a fun afternoon with everyone.


We love being parents.


Sunday was our very last day in the Plattsburgh branch at church. Hooray! Bron and I were grinning from ear to ear. It was kind of weird to hear the phrase, “Have a good life!” But it was said by folks who really meant it and I appreciate that. I had only one moment of weakness when I said goodbye to Gina. I’m glad she and her family made a hasty exit because I think I might have cried. It’s sad to think I might not ever see her again; she’s been such an awesome friend.

Another night we got together with some of our favorite people here—Anna, Roxanne, and Natasha (Bron jokes that we are his harem)—for kabobs on the grill and ice cream at Creamies. Against better judgment, Jed got his very own ice cream cone. Before I knew it, Jed was slipping across the bench on ice cream. So I let him run around and he covered himself in chocolate stickiness and gravel. Jed had the dirtiest bath water I’ve seen thus far in his life. But he was so cute and happy!  After Jed went to bed, the girls came over and we just relaxed in the living room and chatted for a few hours. We are really going to miss them!



Finally, we went to an official farewell party for Bron and a PhD graduate. Great food, a few games of volleyball, and a happy little boy who played with the big kids’ tractors, made for a wonderful evening out. The community here at Miner Institute is one-of-a-kind. I feel privileged to have been a part of it!

So New York, I guess this is good-bye. Our two years here have flown by in a blink of an eye, and yet, so much has happened too.  Our time here has been both a challenge and an adventure. We have learned and grown in ways I never would have dreamed for us. We have made some incredible memories too. I am glad that we can claim a little bit of you, from the autumn foliage to Jedediah’s birthplace. Some of the people we have crossed paths with will always hold a special place in our hearts. I feel blessed to know them. I don’t know if we will ever be back, New York. The thought of a final ending here makes me sad, but I am also very excited to begin our new life.

Farewell, New York! I’ll be looking in the rear-view mirror as we drive away, but I’ll be facing forward too.

My Busy Boy

7.18.2011
Jed has finally reached a stage that can be challenging to both Bron and me. Our boy is in a state of perpetual motion. I swear my child is secretly an octopus bent on destroying everything in his path. He is so fast! And he is EVERYWHERE! If there is one thing in the room he is not supposed to touch, he wants it. And whatever Jed touches gets thrown, torn, dropped, eaten, dragged, or a combination. Jed has quite the rigorous schedule. My only respite from his chaos of motion and mess is when he suddenly lays still enough to sleep. However, when I sneak into his bedroom to peak at my sleeping baby, my heart melts. There is something precious about a sleeping child.

Jed's new toy: my alarm.  Jed knows how to turn the music on and off!  Smart kid.
(Fact: I've had that alarm since I was like twelve.  Hence, the stickers.) 

But it’s really not the motion or mess that challenges me. It’s that one minute Jed is independent and happy to be exploring the world on his own and the next he’s desperately clinging to my knees in insecurity. The constant change is giving me whip-lash. He’s also not quite old enough to know his boundaries. I must always keep a watchful eye or else he might fall off the porch steps, play in the garbage, or wander too close to the hot grill. Jed has also suddenly developed an opinion. If something isn’t going his way, he throws a fit. Sometimes he hurls himself onto the ground and cries. Other times he just whines. I do my best to help him or distract him, but he can’t always have what he wants. I don’t think it’s good for my child to always get what he wants. Disappointment is a part of life. For instance, we were standing in the check-out line at the grocery store when Jed finally spied the bag of grapes in the cart. He REALLY wanted them and let the entire store know it! I told him “No. You have to wait until I buy them.” Of course he didn’t understand, but I wasn’t budging on this issue. Grapes are bought by the pound and if he ate any grapes the bag would no longer weigh the same. These outbursts are making it more difficult to socialize in public at church or at summer picnic parties. Listening to him whine grates on my nerves. I am learning patience. Watching, holding, and distracting a small child is a labor of love but I am EXHAUSTED!

These next few weeks could be rough.

Bron's Trip to New Orleans

7.15.2011
The paddle boat cruise Bron went on in New Orleans

Bron just spent the week at a global dairy science conference in New Orleans. He sat in on seminars regarding the latest advances in the dairy industry and even presented two posters about his thesis. But we all know that these meetings are really an excuse for smart people to eat fabulous food and party!


The sights around New Orleans

Bron had a blast in New Orleans. He came home with a beautiful white sundress for me, some Bubba Gump Shrimp hats, and lots of new adventure stories. It sounds like New Orleans is a cultural experience that one must undertake at least once in a lifetime. Bron went on an evening paddle boat river cruise, explored the French Quarter, and ate lots of great food including oysters, alligator sausage, crawfish, catfish, pralines, and other southern delectables. Bron came home raving about a dueling piano bar called Pat O’Brien’s. He stayed till the wee hours of the morning listening to the piano band play any song ever composed. They were exceptionally talented!

But I think Bron’s greatest New Orleans adventure was when he, his supervisor, and her son drove forty miles outside the city to go on an airboat swamp tour! He didn’t even wear a life vest. However, I think drowning was the least of his worries. The crowning moment of the tour was when he came face to face with a twelve foot alligator named Big Al. What an adrenaline rush! My husband could’ve been lunch! I am grateful he came home alive. And I’m glad he had a great time too.

But I'm more glad he is home again.  I missed my man!

The totally insane airboat swamp tour

You know, just your typical everyday five foot chomper.  No biggie?!?

That land isn't really land.  It's floating mud!

Lily pads as far as the eye can see!  This would be more pretty if it weren't infested with alligators and other deadly things, don't you think?

The monster of a prehistoric beast

Ahhh!  I can't believe the alligator is climbing into the boat!

Me Riding a Horse

7.12.2011
Riding Redgy

My friend Natasha took me horseback riding last Saturday! I think I could totally become a horse girl after that experience. It was so much fun! We went out to the ring where Natasha gave me a lesson in real horseback riding. I now have a whole new respect for how much practice and muscle it takes to ride correctly! (I need a cushier rear-end!)

I got to ride Redgy, a well-trained gelding who is slightly lazy but has the smoothest gait on the farm. The Morgan horses here at Miner Institute are trained in the English style. Just a slight pull or small command can change the horse’s direction. Poor Redgy; he had to put up with me, a girl who had no idea what she was doing! We did some funny looking circles around the ring. After a while, however, I think we began to feel a little more comfortable with each other. Redgy walked, jogged, and even loped! Yes, I went fast! For a few seconds, at least. I’m so proud of myself. I want to do it again!

Thanks Natasha for letting me come play!

Love that barn

Walking...jogging...

loping!!!
Look at that mane swish!

Commencement

7.09.2011
Best Buds Jed and Des
We’ve been celebrating summer by going to the beach on Lake Champlain with friends. My friend Gina has five little “monkeys”. Her youngest is Desmond. He’s two. Jed and Des have known each other since, well, Jed was born. They look for each other, point, and grin. It’s really cute; they get so excited! Jed and Des don’t actually play together, just alongside one another. But they really like each other nonetheless.

This is both a beginning and an end.

I am packing all of our belongings away into boxes in preparation for our big move out west in less than two weeks. I hate packing. It’s miserable and overwhelming work. I am having a hard time motivating myself to buckle down and do it. The sunshine outside is calling to me; it wants me to ride my bike or go to the beach, do anything but stay cooped up inside and waste its beautiful rays. I can’t believe the time to move is finally here. It still doesn’t feel real. How can my routine here just suddenly end? But it will. I will wake up one morning, finish packing, say some good-byes, and walk onto an airplane with Jed on my hip. (Bron will follow a week later with his brother and a truck packed full of our belongings.) The thought of saying a final good-bye to this richly green place and all our friends makes me sad. I know I am going to bawl my eyes out. This is one of those times when you just know that this moment—that this certain set of people and the way things are right now—can never be the same ever again. We’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this unique community here at Miner Institute. I’m desperately going to miss it.

However, we’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time now. The year ahead of us holds lots of new stresses, changes, and adjustments. But it’s exciting!

Playing in the sand brings back so many memories of my own childhood. My brother and I used to dig big holes and bury one another. We also built elaborate castle keeps with walls and mountains. It’s fun to teach Jed how to play in the sand.


Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life. When I start counting my blessings, my mental jaw drops and I stand in awe. I am a wife to a man I love and he loves me. Bron is about to begin a great job in the area we dreamed about settling down in because it’s home; it’s near family and all that is beautiful and familiar to us. It seems that everything our family needs is procured. We will buy a house this year. The thought makes me giddy and scared. My blessings also include being a mother to a cute little boy. I get to stay at home with him and play all day long, every day. It’s work, but it’s the best job in the world! I am well educated. I am talented. I am well traveled. By the way, we are going to HAWAII in August to celebrate Bron’s big accomplishment!!! I am down-right spoiled! And sooo excited! At first glance, it seems that I have everything; that my life is perfect. And it truly feels that way! But that’s exactly what terrifies me.

I feel like I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Everything in life has its opposite: good and bad, light and dark, joy and sorrow. Because everything is going so well right now, I feel like something has to go unexpectedly wrong. But maybe the stresses and adjustments to our new life will be enough this year to balance out this good streak. Or maybe this is our “pay day” after surviving two years here. Or maybe things are simply just good right now and I ought to soak up every moment of it and not spend an ounce of energy worrying about the future and things I can’t control; just worry about how many more boxes I will need to finish packing. Yes, I think I will concentrate on the good things that are going on right now and leave the worrying to someone else. Life will always have its up and downs, but the downs seem to work themselves out most of the time. So no worries, right?

Isabel made a Twilight comparison regarding Jed and Desmond. Jed is blindingly white like a vampire. Des could be a werewolf. Haha!

We are ending a good thing here in New York. It’s been a blessing, a challenge, and an adventure. There is no doubt that I will miss some incredible friends and our lifestyle here. But we are beginning a new venture out west. We are about to embark on the journey of making our dreams a reality. Wish us luck! It’s bitter sweet, but so thrilling too!

Life's a beach!

Our Independence Day Weekend

7.06.2011
Jed at the strawberry patch

Summer is in full swing! We had heat on the grill and sunshine all weekend long. Even better, Bron had the entire weekend off! No work, no thesis, no stress. It was wonderful! The only bad news was that I had to feed calves every night. Fortunately, we could work around that. We had a busy but relaxing weekend. I wish we could get lots more of those!

We started gearing up for the fourth of July last Wednesday evening when we went strawberry picking at Rulf’s Orchard. This is my third strawberry season here and Rulf’s never disappoints. The strawberries were deep red, juicy, and just begging to be eaten! Bron picked more than a flat in less than half an hour. I mostly kept an eye on Jed as he stomped through the bushes and stuffed his fists and mouth full strawberries. It was fun!



And because we are moving so soon, I’m not making jam this year. Instead, we’ve been feasting on all kinds of strawberry desserts, including this strawberry pie! Yummm!

Delicious home-made strawberry pie!  (If I do say so myself.)

We couldn’t let a sunny day go to waste, so on Saturday we hiked Cascade Mountain with a couple of friends. It’s one of the high peaks of the Adirondacks. Bron and I hiked it last year when Jed was just seven weeks old. I remember it being a lot tougher of a hike—maybe because I just had a baby and was out of shape. This time around it was still a workout but very enjoyable. I totally underestimated how much I would sweat! I think Bron had the toughest workout though. Jed enjoyed a free ride up the mountain on Bron’s back. I made sure Jed thanked his dad by dressing appropriately: he wore his “I love Dad” t-shirt. In the end, our physical exertions were entirely worth the effort when we reached the top and saw the incredible view! Thanks for coming with us and making it a memorable day, Natasha and Jordi!

The climb to the top

View from the top of Cascade Mountain.  Breathtakingly green!

Jordi and Natasha at the top

To commemorate his trip to the top of the mountain, Jed decided to lick a rock.

Relaxing and eating some lunch

Family photo!

Hooray!  Jump for joy!  We did it!!!

On Sunday evening we headed up to Rouses Point for a hometown feeling Independence Day celebration. We arrived just in time to see the end of the parade. Anyone who is anything was in the parade, including the recycling man. It was just a lot of fun to see. Jed’s eyes were glued to the commotion in the street and his mouth hung open.

Eating a sucker and watching the parade atop Dad's shoulders

A view of Rouses Point, NY

After the parade we bought some ice cream and walked along the lakeshore to find a place to watch the fireworks. It was a short but sweet performance. Jed didn’t seem to mind the loud noises and enjoyed watching the sky light up! It was a perfect summer evening. (We even beat the ominous black storm could headed our way.)

Wind!  Ahhhh!
This picture makes me laugh.

A great family photo on Lake Champlain

The girls: Natasha, Roxanne, Anna, Jessie (me)

The fireworks!  (It's called significant camera shake.  haha)

Independence Day was spent at a church barbeque at Macomb State Park. We ate and talked and played in kayaks at the lake. While sitting at the picnic table my friend Gina looked around and asked with a hint of sarcasm, “You don’t really want to leave all this, do you?”

“Gina, all the cool people are sitting at this table.”

“Yeah. You’re right.” And we both snickered.

There are a handful of families in our branch that we've made meaningful friendships with.  I am really going to miss teasing and talking with Gina in the nursery while our boys play side by side during church and Jed snoops through her purse for better tasting treats.  I feel so lucky to have Gina (and all you other cool people know who you are) as a friend.   As for many of the other members of our tiny branch?  Well, let's just say that our time here has been a heap of misadventures that I will just have to tell you about in person.

After feeding calves in record time that evening, we got together with Anna, Roxanne, Natasha, and Jordi for some teriyaki chicken on the grill and other scrumptious foods. It was the most delicious grill-out I’ve been to in a long time! We stuffed ourselves silly. We are really going to miss you guys!!!

A barbeque with friends at home

Also of note, a busy weekend and teething accompanied with a fever caught up with Jed fast.  Poor little guy didn't feel well.  Here he’s sacked out on the couch in front of the big fan because it was sticky and warm.

My sweet sleeping boy

It was a perfect all-American weekend.  God bless America!

P.S.

My sister Lauren (and her husband Don too, of course) had a baby!!!

Meet Carter Wade Thompson
Born June 29, 2011
8 lbs. 10 oz. and 20.5 inches

I am such a proud aunt!  He is so cute I could just swallow him whole.  I am excited for my sister to experience all the joys of motherhood too! 

(And yes, I had permission from my talented cousin to post this picture.)