Well, I think 2008 was a pretty good year, in any case. We had some lingering medical problems above and beyond the typical viruses which were a little difficult to deal with, but other than that... we had the biggest garden we've ever had, we raised chickens for the first time, and we made the most progress school-wise I believe we've ever made. The thing about life is that it's not really like a box of chocolates. It's not like reaching in and pulling out a piece filled with coconut and you hate coconut, so you make a face and nibble away the chocolate on the outside and pop the offending coconuttish center in the trash can. Life is more like... a garden. It's a big, wild garden, tangled with weeds and hollyhocks and thistles in the hedgerow and the first tiny white blossoms of strawberries. It's slogging through the muck of a thaw in December and freezing the tips of your fingers to pull leeks from the icy mud... but it's also resting in that moment between sunset and dusk as you stand to crack your back and watching the pink-rimmed silhouette of a pair of geese winging their way over the ridge.
And so, yes, I would say that we had a pretty good year... not a perfect year, and sometimes things got tough, but the tough wasn't as tough as we've seen it before, and mostly we kept our heads above water. And sometimes, life was even downright beautiful.
A quick check of the archives reveals that I don't often do retrospective posts, probably because I generally lack the time to retrospect properly. But this year I thought I would try to do better. And you know what? It's been helpful. Because as I cruise back through my archives in search of posts to add to this retrospective, I realize the truth of what I wrote above. There were some tough moments last year, but -- there were wild apple blossoms, too. And the apple blossoms made me smile.
In January of 2008, we started off with a resolution to eat local and we made our first trip to a winter farmer's market. As the year progressed, I kept meaning to post and update of our progress, but I never got around to it. So how did we do last year? Well, I think of goals like this as a spiral path. Sometimes you go forward, and then there's an obstacle in the path so you loop back around, appearing as if you're going backwards, but then you finish that loop and come out ahead of where you started. I think that probably most people are like this -- I mean, in the real world and not in the books you read about people who decided not to eat anything outside a 100 or 200 or 50 mile radius. After all, we have 6 kids, and sometimes they're not on the same page as we are about eating turnips, say. So when we started out we stopped buying bananas (for instance), but then we realized that our kids survive on fruit, so we added bananas back in. But I recently realized that I've bought no grocery store meat for over a year, and I have a pantry full of our own potatoes and onions, local squash, turnips (yes, turnips), and sweet potatoes which will last us a while, and in the freezer we're still eating corn and beans from our garden. So it's progress.
February brought an early Lent, and Gareth made a King Cake for Mardi Gras all by himself. We also celebrated Chinese New Year and participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Then we packed for almost a month away from home, where we visited family in Tennessee. Driving 2000 miles with 6 kids (3 under 3) is -- needless to say -- an adventure, but we were glad we made the effort... and more so now. When we stopped in northeastern Ohio to see my aunt and uncle, we did not know that my uncle would pass away within a matter of months. Being able to see the kids brought him a lot of joy, and I am grateful that we were able -- so simply -- to provide him that comfort at the end of his life.
We returned home to an early Easter, with patchy snow. We tapped our maple trees again, started a mushroom kit, and I answered some questions about our "Choice Time". Choice Time has continued to evolve at our house so that it now looks a little different than it did when I wrote about it in March, but that's to be expected as the kids grow and our lives change. (And I'm not sure I've understood this until just recently, having searched so often for the "perfect" solution. More likely, the solution is whatever works at this moment in time.)
In April, I had fun using my camera to capture all the small things, in a photography project initiated by Jennifer at the S/V Mari-hal-o-jen. We ate the mushrooms we started in March (and they were yummy) and joyfully put many hours into planting onions, potatoes, spinach, and peas. Farmerboy turned five and got glasses, which were just what he needed to conquer stairs and pedaling bikes.
May was a tough month. Katydid turned 9 (and helped make her own Strawberry Heaven Cake, but she also got strep, and a headache that still hasn't gone away completely. She suffered through tests for Lyme Disease, leukemia, and mono, which were all (fortunately) negative. She sailed serenely through an MRI, which (fortunately) showed nothing abnormal. She submitted to neurological medications which turned out to be worse than nothing at all. Special tinted lenses in her glasses and vision therapy have helped more than anything else, but she is still enduring patiently and hoping the headache goes away on its own. Katydid's trials are what I remember most about May, but a cruise through my archives reveals that May was the month we brought tadpoles home, the month we had a snake in my bedroom (how could I forget that???), and the month that the Baltimore orioles came to roost in the wild apple trees.
June brought with it strawberry picking, fishing, and the packing away of the old school year (along with a discussion of file crate organization). And -- how could I forget? -- June is when the chickens came! (I have to tell you, though, I flinched a little looking at the picture of Katydid's rabbit... poor Zita, who was killed by raccoons.)
July is the month the garden finally starts to produce more than spinach and greens. It's also the month the kids play summer soccer and hunt for crawdads down at the creek. I did a litte more planning than usual this July... and I also started having problems with asthma. July was a busy, tough month. Our biggest accomplishment, I think, was finishing the chicken coop/tractor so that we could finally get the chickens out of the laundry room!
August... what I remember from August is wheezing. But I did make a discovery. And we went to the Syracuse Zoo. And Chipmunk turned one! (We also watched the Summer Olympics in Beijing, but I didn't really post about that much...)
October is a big birthday month -- Pip and Pop turned three, and Gareth turned twelve (and made his own birthday cake, too.). Fall foliage was spectacular this year, but we also got a big snow before Halloween.
Shew. Actually, 2008 was quite a year after all.