Three Amigos

We had such a great time in Whitefield visiting with everyone, especially Kai!

Our annual pilgrimage to Polly’s isn’t complete without a ride on Trot Trot.

Riding the reindeer at Santa’s Village.

More Santa’s Village.

Lots of cousins playing an intense game of Kids vs. Adults.

More family game time.


3-2-1 Blastoff!

Special wagon-tractor ride with Grandpa.

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Now We Are Six

Our amazing boy is six years old. Here is his birth story and some pictures.

When he was four months old, I typed up his birth story and pasted it on the back of the framed icon I used during labor that is now in his room.

Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Love you so much.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Dear Declan,
I’ve been meaning to get these thoughts down on paper since you were born, and with you sleeping in my lap in the family room as I write this, I have decided it will be the last thing I do in 2003!
This icon was in front of me to focus on for most of my labor with you, and after you were born, it became clear that it is rightfully yours. It holds a lot of meaning for me because of the various ways it has figured into my spiritual journey, especially your birth.
I bought this icon at the Bethany Retreat House in Highland Mills, NY as a souvenir of my first retreat session (that I led!) at Wellspring there, in May of 2002. I find the image interesting because Jesus is located apart from Mary, a position I hadn’t seen before. It was part of my worship center ever since, and during my pregnancy with you the following November, it reminded me of the sacredness I held inside.
From your conception, and daily since your birth, your father and I have always considered you a gift from God. A soul that has been entrusted to us on this Earth to help you, and to help us, reach our fullest potential and become our highest selves, as led by God.
The time had finally come, and my water broke here at home on Monday, August 4, at 3:58 p.m. It’s an easy time to remember because your father always had meetings at 4:00 p.m. on Mondays and I wasn’t able to reach him by phone to tell him, so I had to leave a message. Your Grandma and Grandpa Salerno happened to be here with me, and we were so excited! When your Dad finally got the message, he rushed home.
That night, we timed my contractions with a computer program your Dad wrote for just this occasion. They were irregular, then they eventually stopped. I knew I would be put on a Pitocin drip when we reached Northern Dutchess Hospital, which worried me because I was afraid that it would lead to other interventions and eventually result in a C-section. I prayed to God for guidance and help, and all I got back was “Trust.” I couldn’t believe it – what was there to trust? I wanted assurance that I would have a drug-free birth, and God was not delivering. I was devastated. When the Pitocin started, our doula, Mary, hung an origami crane from the IV pole, and your Dad named the pole Jeff, which helped me to keep a healthy perspective.
This icon was in front of me, no matter what position I was in or what direction I was facing. I visualized you coming outside of me, just as Jesus was outside of Mary in the icon. My “active” labor lasted about 12 hours, but since my water had broken more than 24 hours prior to your birth, there was a lot of pressure on our caregivers to intervene. I was so happy to be in the birthing tub with you, and during my “transition” phase, I literally went into a zone of quiet prayer and meditation. With Mary, our midwife Donna, your Dad, and your godmother, Tracey around me, I started to push and pray you out…love you out…I kept repeating that focus, those words, like a breath prayer.
Everyone said you were so close to coming out, that you were crowning, and I could actually feel your head, but I was unable to push any longer, and I had no more strength left. I was completely spent, uncomfortable, and incredulous that you were so close without more progress. I prayed to God, but I did not sense any response, which made me feel sad. I stared at the icon, praying you out “like Jesus” and visualizing you on the outside. I had no strength left and was 100% sure that God had deserted me. Mary looked into my eyes and told me that you were going to come out on the next push. Well, that helped me to focus and you eventually came out. (It turned out that you were crowned for a very long time but they let us do it on our own because every time they measured your heart rate to check against stress, you were stronger than the last reading!). I did it. We did it! We were in it together, and out you came! Of course, God had NOT deserted me, which only reinforced my faith. He showed me that even in the darkest, most hopeless moment, He is there. Through the grace of God, I was given the strength to birth you on Pitocin without pain medication and to push you out despite my weakness at the end. So, your Dad “caught” you and put you on my chest as he introduced you to me with one of the two names we had chosen (boy/girl). I could not believe it – you were actually here!!
I sang “I Love You Lord” as I was stitched up, a song I had also been singing during labor, and when I found out your awesome weight, everything made all the sense in the world! If you had been born a week or two later, on your due date, you probably would have been too big to be born vaginally, so God was right all along. It really DID come back to “Trust”! My faith was so tested during this experience, and it has been reinforced tenfold. Just because the experience did not look the way I had expected, had nothing (or perhaps everything!) to do with the sacredness of the event.
God is so good, Declan, and we are so blessed. We love you so profoundly and so deeply and it has only grown over these past four months together. I will remember and feel the empowerment of your birth story for the rest of my life. I love you.

Photos of one of D’s special birthday mini-celebrations doing his favorite things….





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O, Canada

The four of us headed up to Niagara Falls, Canada recently for a wonderful unschooling conference. We had a terrific time, between the conference, the scenery, and the zillions of things to do within walking distance of our hotel. Declan had lots of “firsts” on this trip, including riding the Maid of the Mist with Mike, getting up close and personal with wildlife, and participating in a talent show with his cool magic trick. We were sad to say goodbye to so many new friends at the end of our time together, but were thrilled to learn that one family we connected with lives close enough to visit (less than an hour’s drive).

American Falls on the left, Horseshoe Falls on the right.

Water, water everywhere…The kids had a blast at the waterpark, which was right in our hotel!

The Hershey store was right in our hotel, too.

Here’s D doing his magic trick at the talent show with the volunteer he requested to assist him (sorry, it’s hard to see – the volunteer is standing on the left way up front, D’s on the right). The trick is guessing which colored-bead-on-a-safety-pin the volunteer chooses, without looking at it. In preparation for the show, we encouraged him a couple of times to practice, and he looked at us like we were crazy. He said confidently, “I know how to do it already.” It was his first public performance and he was great!

Quinn loved doing crafts at the conference.

I think these lorikeet birds are in love! Or maybe it’s just the cup of nectar D is holding for them…

Quinn really enjoyed bowling – what a cool way for her to join in on the fun with this handy tool.

We attended the group’s Ball on our last night of the conference. The kids got gussied up for the event, which meant D went as Batman and Q wore her crown. Here’s D dancing to the tunes.

Here’s Q dancing with Daddy at the Ball. The next day, the same room was used for saying our goodbye’s to the group. She got very upset that the disco ball/music/dancing was over and kept stomping her foot, saying, “I want more dancing!”

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Georgia On Our Minds

We drove down to Georgia over Memorial Day weekend to help celebrate nephew Kyle’s high school graduation. We drove down for two days, stayed for two days, then two days to return home. The last time we were down there, Quinn was two months old! We loved being able to see everybody. Declan and Quinn were doted on by loving aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins! D keeps asking when we can go back…

Geo-caching along the way to help break up the drive. (Geo-caching is like looking for hidden treasure using our GPS and coordinates on a geo-caching website. People hide these boxes with little trinkets in them, and other people find them, put in a trinket of their own if they want to exchange for one in the box. They’re *everywhere*!)

We stopped at a quiet, mellow game farm on the way down, giving the kids a chance to run around and play outside. At the end, we did the drive-through safari experience, where we could feed the animals from our car. We discovered early on that llamas and ostriches/emus are kind of aggressive around getting the food, sticking their heads in the windows looking for more. One paced us, running alongside the car as we drove away. The whole thing was hysterical. Here’s Mike wondering if this creature is “friend” or “foe.”

Quinny absorbed into Kyle.

Declan soaking up Andy.

A rollicking game of Go, Fish! with Kyle and Ian, using D’s new cards from Aunt Marsha, Uncle Steven, and Andy.

Quinny wearing her new princess skirt made by Aunt Linda and Gemma.

Soon after we came home, Mike turned 39. Again.

And, speaking of catching up with family, I went down to visit my very pregnant cousin Anna over the weekend to see her and her daughter Elizabeth (2 yrs.). She’s due any day now!

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Our Little Cupcakes

We attended a local cupcake festival recently. Here are our own two little cupcakes!

Here are Quinn and buddy N at the festival, dancing to the tunes of Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s. I love his music!

Afterwards, we met up with more friends at the playground.

Here’s our dancing princess striking a pose.

These two best friends collaborate on many things, including difficult surgery on absorbent, yellow, porous “life” forms.

Bitten by the violin bug.

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Hot Chicks In The Shower

We have hot chicks in the shower, baby!

Let me explain.

We picked up our mix of 8 baby chicks at the feed store, and we set up their nice warm home in our downstairs shower. The kids love taking care of the chicks, holding, and petting them. They’re growing fast and have gotten some feathers in already. We have 2 aracaunas (one brown, one grey, they lay blueish/greenish eggs); 2 leghorns (both brown, they lay white eggs); and all of the rest lay brown eggs — a buff orpington (the cute “typical” yellow chick, turns into a yellow chicken); silver wyndotte; golden wyndotte; and a black australorp. This is our third round of having chicks, and I love it. It feels routine, so easy, nothing to figure out or think about since we finally know what to do for routine maintenance. I really love having chickens.

So our current critter count is —
– 6 grown hens
– 8 chicks
– 1 hermit crab (we are so done with hermit crabs)
– 2 fish (we’re kind of done with them for a while, too, until the kids are older and stop dumping entire containers of food into their tanks)
– 2 bunnies (they’re still too shy to hold, which was what motivated D to want them in the first place, so they’re cute but there isn’t a ton of interaction)
– and 3 rats. The rats are great fun, but they’re not dogs. Which is what we are realizing is what we’re “good” at and like the best (after chickens). We look forward to adding a small dog to the menagarie after Quinn’s a little older.

Quinn has had her hair cut exactly twice. Once at a salon, which was a bad experience for her. Running into the gumball machine on the way to the chair didn’t exactly help. The other was in our bathroom a few weeks ago, when I trimmed the ends because they kept getting knotted. Last fall, I set up an appointment at my friend Stephanie’s home salon for her, but Quinn wanted nothing to do with it. Out of the blue, Declan said *he’d* get a haircut instead. I was shocked, but thrilled. D’s been seeing Stephanie ever since, and he loves partnering with her for his cuts. He had an appointment for a trim this week, and any time it was mentioned in conversation, Quinn would pipe up and say, “I don’t *want* a haircut!” which was fine, since I wasn’t planning on getting her one. Quinn went to the salon with us, and sat with me while we waited for D. As soon as he was finished, Quinn said, “My turn haircut.” I was shocked, and so was Stephanie. I couldn’t tell if Q was serious or not, and Stephanie had to tend to another client before coming back to us. I didn’t want to make a separate appointment that I’d have to pay for if she changed her mind, so I figured we’d stick it out. As we waited for Stephanie to finish her other appointment, Quinn got increasingly hyper and I felt trapped – if I left because she was too crazy, she’d likely be (allegedly) upset to miss the haircut; if I stayed, she’d likely be too insane to sit still for the cut. I opted to stay, since we were not disturbing anyone else. When it was her turn, Quinn sat in her “princess chair” (the spinning stylist’s chair), wearing her “princess dress” (the black hair cape), and she remained a STATUE for the entire haircut. I didn’t take pictures of the event while it took place, convinced I’d screw it up if I distracted her. Stephanie and I kept glancing at each other, like “How is this happening??” These kids sure keep me guessing!!

After the haircut, we went to this paint-your-own-pottery place we discovered recently.

We had a nice visit to Schenectady this weekend for a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party, a junior high classmate I hadn’t seen since 1983. The kids had a great time with Grandma and Grandpa! I also met up with my dear friend Darcy whom I hadn’t seen in 20+ years but reconnected with through e-mail last year. I loved spending the afternoon with her, just as easeful as it was when we were kids.

D teaches RNC the DS.

Gardening fun

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Easter 2009

We spent a relaxed Easter at home this year. The kids ran downstairs after they woke up to see if the Easter Bunny had arrived, raided their baskets, hunted for candy- and coin-filled eggs, then dyed some real ones. Mike made a yummy pancakes and bacon breakfast, I finished my book “Kabul Beauty School,” snuggled up with Quinny for a nap, then cleaned out the bunny hutches while Mike flew kites with Declan at the high school.

The Easter excitement continues into this week – we are planning to pick up our eight spring chicks on Wednesday!

These next three shots are from the sweet 4-H Spring Festival we attended on Saturday.

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Ciao, Cape May

We had a surprise, bittersweet, final visit to the Salerno’s Cape May cottage last week. We drove down to offer some support after Sal suddenly took ill doing some work on the house. Thankfully, he has made a full recovery (enhanced perhaps by Quinn’s tough-love approach? “Papa! Come here! Papa!!!!!!”), and we were grateful to be able to visit this special place one more time. After vacationing there for years, the Cape May house is under contract (yeah for Olga and Sal, especially in *this* economy!) and will be sold by the end of the month.

We drove down as soon as Mike could get out of work and arrived late at night. The kids were thrilled to wake up in Cape May!

Picking flowers for Gemma and Papa.

One more climb into the fig tree.

Playground fun.

Hanging around….

We got our money’s worth out of Sunset Beach’s mini-golf course. We were the only customers there that day and played several rounds.

Searching for seashells by the seashore.

Chasing seagulls.

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Declan calls sap, “zap,” so now we all do. Mike boiled around 40 gallons of zap over two weekends and yielded about 3/4 gallon of syrup.

D and Liv drinking sap straight from the tree!

Maple sap looks and tastes almost exactly like water. Here’s some of our collection, 20 taps total, around 17 trees.

Like father…

like son.

Quinn loves helping Daddy pour the sap into the boiler.

Man At Work tending to the boil.

On another note……how cute is this?? Quinn loves to dance around wearing her princess/ballet outfit from Gemma and Papa.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa! The kids are poised and ready to help Grandpa blow out the candles on his custom-decorated cake.

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Look Who’s 3! It’s Quinny!

Quinn turned 3 on Friday, March 6! We honored the day with lots of her favorite things – family, playmates, pizza, cupcakes, and ice cream. The festivities continued into the next day with an ice skating outing, one of her favorite activities. Here’s to another fabulous year, Quinny!

Quinny loved doing the Chicken Dance to Grandma and Grandpa’s musical card!

Declan loved helping Quinn open her gifts.

Decorating cupcakes with Callie.

Quinn wore her little jewelry box gift as a crown, then made Papa put on her birthday hat!

Ice skating fun!

She loved whizzing around with Daddy!

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