A very beautiful day

Today was indeed a beautiful day. It began with Jacob, Natalie and I piling into the car at 6:45am. Okay, granted the day did start with some bickering about whether or not Natalie could actually borrow Jacob’s San Francisco Giants baseball hat. After some mean Mama growling about the indecency of not sharing…..then, yes, the truly beautiful day began. We drove up the 405, to the 118 freeway. I don’t recall ever having driven on the 118. It was beautiful! There was one very picturesque area with tons of rocks and hills of rocks along the freeway. Before we knew it we had exited on Los Angeles Ave. and were headed to Somis, on a two-lane road through farmland. I felt sooooooo removed from city life. It was a great way to start the morning! We had our praise music playing in the car and I felt like we were on a mini-roadtrip.

We arrived at the Underwood Family Farm, with half hour to wait for their 9am opening time. As we stepped out of the car, the smell of farm greeted our noses. Aaaaah, it sure is awesome getting to treat my kiddos to the great outdoors. Natalie was ecstatic to see that they had pygmy goats, sheep, chickens and an alpaca out front. We encountered 3 itty bitty just-born rabbits that were in the dirt right outside front the farm entrance. Two of them had just been run over by a car that had pulled into the parking lot. The other one was there breathing. Not a single hair on their bodies- just plain pink fleshy bodies. What a sight to behold! The smallness of their bodies. And wondering how in the world these tiny newborn bunnies found their way to this dirt parking lot. Just then our friends, the Chans and Bakers arrived. We purchased two small bags full of chopped up carrot pieces, which the kids happily fed to the animals.

And off we went to the berries.

Blueberries. I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly sweet and amazing these blueberries were. Nothing like store bought blueberries. Nothing at all. These were pure heaven on my tongue. Sweet, sweet plump yumminess.

This was a very different picking experience than last week’s cherry picking. For some reason I found today’s blueberry picking more peaceful. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it’s because it required such delicate fingering of each piece of fruit. Or perhaps because we had the sweet melody of chirping birds in our presence. This farm didn’t go to the extent as the cherry farm had, with ‘noise bombs’ and ‘hawk-killing’ recorded sounds to keep the birds away. The sky was gray with cloud cover, we were crouched low in the blueberry bushes, birds were chirping, my fingers were carefully pulling off these blueberry beauties……I was one very happy soul.

The kiddos learned today to appreciate the time-consuming work of picking berries. We pondered how many hours of labor it is to provide berries for markets. We wondered if there are machines that shake the bushes to get the blueberries out. But we came to our own conclusion of ‘no’ when we found out that Natalie’s running between aisles of blueberry bushes, resulted in blueberries being mashed from the side-to-side jostling in her plastic container. They must all be hand-picked and ever so delicately. I have a newfound appreciation for blueberry picking and the workers who toil so that I can purchase these with ease at the store.

Picking raspberries is even more delicate! You have to pick with just enough force to remove them from the plant and, yet, not too much force to squish them. Delicate work for the fingers indeed.

Watching Jacob and Natalie walk in and among the berry plants, happily and intently focused on the selection of ripe berries and the careful removal of them from the plants, left me feeling like one very, very fortunate mama. I am SO SO SO thankful that I have a husband who encourages these types of efforts! He and I both believe so strongly in the power of learning through experience; I am grateful that we are one in that belief. I am so thankful he is willing to go to work and work so hard to provide for our family!!! His smile and celebration of our homeschool outings means the world to me. Sooooooooo thankful for him! I feel truly blessed when I see my kiddos crouched down low beholding the small, barely breathing life of a newborn bunny…..and when I hear Jacob say grace at lunch: “thank you God for the farmers who were willing to welcome us into their land and share their blueberries with us”…….and as I beheld Natalie’s blueberry stained lips and teeth today…….knowing that all of us had our tummies filled with glorious sun-ripened blueberries…..our fingers marked with the evidence of purple juice streaks…..oh this is glorious motherhood. This is fun. This is living it up as a mama. These are days I would never exchange for any other.

Since we were only a 15 minute drive away from Steve’s grandparents’ home, we decided to stop in and visit with them. That just made the day even better!! What incredibly welcoming and loving people. They have always made me feel so genuinely loved and truly welcomed into their home. They have a gift of being able to make someone feel like a million dollars, welcoming us into their home with the biggest wide open arms of welcome. As soon as we crossed the threshold, we were in their arms of warm, tight hugs. And smiles. True, sincere, beautiful smiles. Oh, what an incredible way to be greeted. I hope and pray I am able to make people feel so welcomed when I see them. It truly is a gift they give us time and time again, whenever we visit them. And oh the gratitude and joy at the sight of the hand-picked blueberries. Such truly delightful grandparents of Steve’s. What a treasure that Jacob and Natalie get to know their great-grandparents. Oh how I pray that days like today get locked in a special place of their memory forever and ever.

We sat together around their kitchen table. Learned that Great Grandpa used to raise rabbits, he was in his last year of high school when Lou Gehrig made his farewell speech, he used to collect newspaper pictures of baseball players and put them in a scrapbook (it was a pastime of his and his cousin), that cousin used to invite him when their family went on vacation to Manhattan Beach. The two of them would walk in the alleys picking up discarded newspapers, to leaf through them and find the printed photos of the baseball greats. Great Grandpa made his very own first radio- a “crystal set”- which only required some wire and a tiny crystal. He recalled reading his very first book and his 1st grade teacher Mrs. Fulture. We learned that just this morning there was a cottontail rabbit sitting in their backyard- and Great Grandpa chased it away. Great Grandma made us really yummy iced tea!! It was so yummy it didn’t even need any sugar in it! And then she made us laugh our heads off when she popped up a WHOLE lot of popcorn…..but ended up putting in too many kernels into their popping machine so it was just coming out and out and out. It was hilarious! Lots of laughter was had. 🙂 Times like these are precious. I’m so thankful we had time today to stop and soak up these beautiful people.

Then off we went home. The kids fell asleep in the car. I love it that even at the near age of 6 for Natalie and Jacob being 7 1/2, that they can still nap. Ohhhhhhh how I love that! When we arrived home and I unbuckled Jacob, I realized it really won’t be too long when I truly can not pick him up anymore. I can barely pick him up these days. I picked him up and awkwardly lumbered into the house holding his loooong legs and heavy, grown body. When I lay him down on his bed, he opened his eyes and smiled this super super playful grin. “Ohhhhhhhh you little stinker!?!?! You were awake!!!!!” “Mama, I just wanted you to carry me” he grinned. How could I not just melt in that moment? He acted asleep so that he could still feel the joy of being carried in. Those days are numbered indeed. I was grateful today that I had the muscle strength to do it. And that his body is still one I can barely pick up.

When I went around to Natalie’s side of the car, with her head completely covered by her fuzzy soft pink blanket, I was sure she had to be asleep. Nope. That one too had woken up when I had pulled into the driveway. As I was unbuckling her seatbelt I saw the ever-so-slightest curling of the corner of her mouth into the beginning of a smile. She was caught!!! “Natalie, you’re awake, aren’t you?” I jested. “Yes, Mama. Yes.” So I helped her out of the car and walked hand-in-hand to the front porch. “Mama, I wanted to be asleep just so that you could still carry me.” Awwwww, my heart melted again. These kiddos love being carried. So I asked her: “would you like me to carry you to your bed?” She quickly looked up at me and her big, beautiful eyes sparkled with excitement as she said “ohhhhhh yessss Mama, yes yes yes!!!” So I scooped her up in my arms, she wrapped her arms around my neck, I held her in tight, gave her a kiss on her head and walked her into her bedroom. She was so thankful, it was precious. Oh Lord, I pray that on the day when I physically can no longer scoop them up into my arms…..that the two of them will know that I will forever still care for them like they were my precious little babies that I brought home from the hospital….able to hold their tiny bodies that didn’t even span the length of one of my arms. Oh Lord the growth of their bodies is a daily miracle before my eyes. It is unbelievable to me how their bodies grow. It happens so easily. So naturally. All part of your beautiful design. Oh Lord you are such an incredible Creator. Incredible. Thank you for teaching me about your power and creativity and design simply by having me watch them grow up.

And then this afternoon Jacob had a huge surprise!!! What arrived in the mail?!?! A package from Alan R. Moon!!!!!! The Alan R. Moon!!!!! The game designer extraordinaire whose Ticket to Ride games Jacob has been madly obsessed with for the past 6 months. At Christmas time Steve and I gave Jacob the game “Ticket to Ride- United States.” Little did we know how much of an obsession this game would become for Jacob. He loved it beyond loved it!!!!! It spoke to his already long-lasting love of trains. So every day since Christmas we have played this 45-minute game at least twice a day, sometimes more. Then began Jacob’s quest to begin collecting all the Ticket to Ride games. He saved up his own money to buy the Europe version. Then we surprised him with the Marklin version. Steve came up with the brilliant idea of having Jacob design his own Ticket to Ride- California version which became one of our big homeschool projects. And then when we found out that our good friend Beth was friends with Alan Moon, she kindly reached out to him and requested his permission for Jacob to write him a letter. So Jacob spent time brainstorming a letter, writing a draft, editing it, asking Beth to revise it and then he wrote the final draft. He mailed that letter about a week and a half ago. And TODAY arrived a package from Alan R. Moon. A PACKAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not just a letter. But a package!!!!! In that package was a typed letter, answering the questions Jacob had posed in his letter. But also included were 3 games: a card game, the Alvin/Dexter edition, and TICKET TO RIDE-NORDIC!!!!!! Ohhhhhhhh my goodness. Jacob was on cloud 9!!!!!!!! Alan R. Moon sent him a game that he had been saving up money for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And now he received it as a gift from the game designer himself! With Alan’s autograph on the front of the box. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. This day kept on getting better.

But it doesn’t end there. No. Tonight was Jacob’s end-of-the-year music concert from Music Rhapsody. He has been attending this music school since he was 6 months old. Now he is 7 1/2 years old. We’ve been to quite a few of his concerts in the past 7 years, but tonight’s concert was absolutely incredible. They played such difficult pieces and were absolutely a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!!! I know that he, Teacher Ute and all the students put many, many, many hours of practice learning all the pieces. As I sat there tonight listening to the 10 pieces, watching all the kids walk around the stage to different locations for each piece…..I was struck by how truly complex this concert was! Each piece required students to be in different places. Sometimes they were dancing. Other times playing Orff instruments. Sometimes recorder. Other times piano. Also standing at the microphone for singing solos. Oh my goodness, there were SO many changes and places to be…..not to mention the complexity of the music pieces themselves. I was in awe. I sat there watching the happy faces, the dedicated intense look on Jacob’s face as he sang along to the songs, how his body grooved to the beat on some songs, how there was SO much talent represented tonight and I seriously just wanted to cry. This 30-year old music program that Lynn Kleiner has been running is absolutely phenomenal beyond phenomenal. They know what kids are capable of! The beauty of tonight’s music program was absolutely astounding. It was a solid hour of beautiful music.

And sitting there with Steve, Natalie and I were Grammy and Grandpa!! That was the cherry on top of it all. Here we are, blessed by having them living in the same city with us, willing and able to drive out to his concert.  To see Jacob’s beaming face as he looked out from the stage to see them; his cute hand waving a quick ‘hello’ trying to let them know he saw them and was happy they were there. Oh, what a beautiful end to this already beautiful day.

Oh. my. heart. is. full.

Thank you Lord for the gift of this day. This very beautiful day.

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