the big apple

i’ve been feeling funky, i’m not gonna lie. maybe not coincidentally, i’ve been quiet around this here blog, so i think i’m going to make a point to get back to writing, in the name of self care. i think i’ll start with the story of our trip to new york, since i only really posted the photo tour version of that so far. this one will have more words… and also plenty of pictures.


friday, september 9

we departed our house, picked quinn up from school early, and headed to rich’s daughter’s house. we ate pizza and she and quinn compared pokedex (is the plural of pokedex pokedexes? pokedices?) before she drove us to the airport. during the first leg of the flight (all the way to jfk) i performed some knee levitation. at one point sleeping  quinn was putting his legs over on sleeping rich and i was basically holding quinn’s leg up in the air trying to help them both. we all joked about it later on.

saturday, september 10

billy joel crooned she’s got a way over the airport loudspeaker as we arrived in syracuse. we got our bags, and as we were renting a car called an outlander quinn asked, “is it an off roader?” we got off the interstate a few exits early to stop by the coffee place and buy good coffee beans for the week, and drive some back roads to the farm. quinn got a not so hot soy milk and rich and i got coffee so we felt more perky by the time we arrived than when we had landed. it seems that the people of central new york don’t get many kids who want warm soy milk with no flavoring.



we wasted no time in embarking upon the first of many apple excursions, starting with tree #1, with grammy, grampy, rich, quinn, uncle t, mario and luigi. the boys and men rode behind the tractor on the hay wagon while i drove my mom in the jeep. because she had hurt her knee and wasn’t getting around well, the boys would pick her the apples and bring them to her, and she would number each one by tree so she could identify their varieties.



grampy grilled burgers, hot dogs, and speedies for dinner. uncle t made potato salad. i took a random walk up in the field, and took lots of flower pictures heading towards sunset. it wasn’t the most spectacular sunset ever, but the lighting was wonderful.




sunday, september 11

i helped my mom get to church in the morning,  and as we were about 5 minutes late for the start of the service, it just happened to be “meet and greet” time when i walked her inside, so i ended up getting about 16 hugs, then ducked out to go back home for coffee in my groggy state.

i did quite a bit of cooking during the week, but breakfasts were really the only thing i had to think about, because otherwise the menu had been planned ahead, so i just had to execute the plan. i made biscuits and gravy one day, and used up random bits of beans and chips one day to do my standard huevos rancheros that i make a couple of times a week at home; egg sandwiches on english muffins, raisin toast, apple cinnamon oatmeal. quinn had good choice cereal which is the generic form of life cereal, one of his faves. grampy and mario both love good choice, too.

grampy started a new “path” with his tractor from the top of the orchard down into the heart of it… right off the cliff, essentially. he got sort of stuck because couldn’t go back up the steep hill, so he left tractor in place and decided to continue clearing his way down hill the next day until he made it out at the bottom of the orchard.


he’s a special guy.

that night we had lasagna for dinner – grammy had prepared a whole bunch of food ahead of time… lots of it frozen and ready to toss in the oven, such as the 2 pans of lasagna.  all i had to do was turn the oven on, toss a salad, slice some bread.

after dinner we had a bonfire that night.




recording such mundane facts as what we ate for meals was a comfortingly odd juxtaposition to the reflecting i was doing regarding this being the 15th anniversary of 9/11. i had been there on the farm for the very same week in 2001, right in between a west-to-east road trip back from my summer job in the trees of washington state, and an east-to-west road trip to my new job among the whale molecules of berkeley. when my brother’s friend joe called, i was up a ladder painting the trim around this window:


which i’m pretty sure has been replaced since that paint job. i got down off the ladder to answer the phone and he said, “you have to wake b up. you guys need to turn on the tv,” which was more words than he had ever said to me. so many memories, so much processing to do when i arrived in berkeley all alone with what i could fit in my corsica. i filled journals that year trying to make sense of it all.

for me, the new york skyline will always be remembered as i saw it from the deck of a ship, circa 1998-2000:


we each have our memories of that time period, our “where i was” story, our meaning we’ve made from what happened. even those of us who didn’t lose anyone close to us, were only a degree or two separated from the near misses and tragic losses of our fellow americans, and even that required time to heal. i am so grateful for another september 11 passing when what to eat and whether to take a walk were the heaviest topics to be addressed.

monday, september 12

i woke up super early… 6 am, before mom or dad was up, but dad got up a few minutes after me, and mom maybe a half hour later. I sat on the couch in the living room and snuggled kitties with a mom quilt on my lap and worked on pictures on my computer. i felt kind of out of it, but a few hours later I was better. perhaps because it was only 3 am oregon time… sigh.

mario and luigi went to school.

since we weren’t ready to go up to the apple orchard when dad was ready, he got up on the barn roof and started pounding nails…


dad, rich and I went up and finished the new path/road; dad used a pole saw (a chain saw you can reach up and saw limbs with) and rich used a chainsaw… manly stuff and bonding and brainstorming ideas of strategies to get the tractor out. at some point i walked back down to the house and left the two of them to work at it some more.

instead, mom and i looked at my mom’s wedding dress. she had me get out the boxes from her closet, and she was sitting with her feet up, so I pulled out the dress and laid it on her so she could wear it. she was laughing. I got out the veil too, which was “fifty miles long” as she describes it, and she put that on her head too. i won’t be wearing her dress (couldn’t if i wanted to) for my own wedding, but brought it back with me in case it can be incorporated into our wedding in some way. neither of us is very “girly” but it was fun girl time. she also spent some time trying to find a mother-of-the-bride dress for our wedding, her main criteria is that she wants it to be fuschia, a.k.a. red violet. aww, mom.


dad finally emerged from the orchard, victorious, on his tractor.

the boys came home from school.

i went outside and worked on pounding nails into the barn roof with dad. rich highjacked my camera and took a bunch of pictures of my butt the roof work.

that night for dinner, uncle b and aunt c and kids came up to share the other pan of lasagna; i did the cooking/reheating again but took frequent breaks for photographing the magical light coming into the barn, etc. uncle t had the boys up in the hayloft playing basketball.


i took contraband pictures of all 5 kids playing together on the wagon. as anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows, i utilize pseudonyms (i know you’re shocked to learn my younger brother did not actually name his offspring luigi and mario) and nicknames (e.g. rich’s granddaughters are pancakes) for kids other than quinn. i’ve decided to refer to the new cousins as andy and molly, not their real names, which might be obvious if you got the toy story reference to the older brother/younger sister pair. i don’t know them well enough yet to know if they even like toy story, but i haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t, so i’ll go with it and hope for the best.

molly is a little tomboy in some ways, but with the perfect balance of girly; obviously it’s novel for our family to have a girl child in the midst. she loves to draw animals and rainbows, practices cartwheels while the boys play ninja jedi games, and then jumps in as a ninja jedi, too. she told me about her really cute swimsuit, in great detail. both kids are wonderful, and they both fit in so nicely with the other cousins. i love them both immediately in a big way.

when it was 8 and time for all the kids to come in so andy and molly could go home and so luigi and mario could get to bed to be up for school in the morning, i announced to all the kids that it was time, and when they didn’t all come running, i specifically addressed quinn, saying, “i expect you to be a leader and set an example of what needs to be done because you are one of the older kids.” quinn came running then, and right on his heels was andy. it delighted me to see them both rise to the “older cousin” occasion like that.

i think quinn took the older kid/example thing to heart, leading by example throughout the week. he got into kind of a caretaker mode as well, with grammy; he was very attentive to her, delivered her drinks or her cane or piles of folded laundry, emptied the silverware out of the dishwasher, with no grumbling, only sometimes a kind of jokingly “aww man do i have to” comment as he was heading to carry out the request, and then only if it wasn’t to help grammy specifically, because when helping her, he was very earnest. at bedtimes, he listened to his audio story (at the moment he was working through the heroes of olympus series and was listening  to the mark of athena) and there was so little i needed to do to get him to bed. he put his pj pants on, brushed his teeth, used the bathroom, got into bed and popped on his headphones. it was very helpful to me, so i didn’t stress as much about interfering with the cousins’ nightly routine. cousin quinn gracefully ducked out of the situation with no fuss, and i inwardly said three cheers for age 9 and a half!



tuesday, september 13

we went back up to the explore the newly opened territory in the orchard with grammy and quinn along this time, too. we explored and tagged trees 63-69 and also 70-71 on the top field. trees 70 and 71 had ginormous puffball mushrooms growing underneath them.


Q and i rode along to school to pick up the  boys (so they didn’t have to ride the bus, so we could have a teensy bit more time with them).

we went to uncle b and aunt c’s for dinner. c made yummy corn chowder and we had sandwiches and fruit and veggies (carrots/celery) and it was simple and really good. the kids swam in the pool before dinner. watching andy put on sunscreen and then automatically turn to put it on his sister really struck me as symbolic of how he has guarded over her in their lives so far; she just holds her arms out and he sprays them. they have a system, it’s so sweet and yet… he’s a little parent, at such a young age. they had so much fun in the pool. uncle t actually got in and swam, i put on my suit to be a lifeguard if needed,  but i didn’t get in. the kids used the noodles as fishing poles and caught “t fish” and “andy fish” and so on. squeals and giggles and lots of splashing.

andy and quinn get along great. they chatted pokemon, star wars, who knows what else. it’s an adjustment for me, to be so out of the loop on conversations my kid is having. i was out of earshot for most of his cousin conversations and it’s not yet comfortable for me. but then when i do overhear things, i realize, “okay, he’s a good guy. he says good things.”

during the days, quinn played some minecraft on my computer, some phone games, and drew on his graph paper (i suggested making maps of apple trees but he did not, he made up video games) and watched baseball. when in new york, do as the mets fans do. i think that must have really felt like vacation to him, so much “yes” from me in the screen department. he was also outside so much and helping out, and so i felt like he earned some game time. he even got to play super mario on the wii by himself while the boys were at school one afternoon.

i kept referring to him as a “certified ____ technician” when i asked him to do a chore or a task: “congratulations, you’re a certified shoe fetching technician or a certified silverware technician and he would laugh and groan and go ahead and do the job.

he took exactly one bath, which i’m sure also really felt like vacation since i normally make him take a few more than that in a week. he was fascinated by the glug of water in the bathroom sink when the tub was draining, and afterwards, he explained to me, “the tub and sink go to the same drain just like your nose and mouth go to the same throat.”

he was very solicitous to grammy, helping her up and down the two wide steps to the porch, and at one point he answered her statement of, “i’m fine” with, “well, i’ll go with you, because we don’t want to take any risks.”

grammy and i both thought he sounded an awful lot like me just then. the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!


wednesday, september 13

we explored the trees on the far eastern end of the farm. q took his rainbow pictures and climbed big mama, a.k.a. tree number 21.



a clump of joe pye weed and a young elderberry were dug and replanted down near the house for grammy.


rich and quinn and i went for a drive to get sweet corn and some other random items (like ice cream to go with apple crisp) at farm stands.

i notice that luigi and mario both naturally gravitate outside, from the looks of it to my auntie eye, to regulate emotions. i saw luigi go out all alone and just kind of… boy around, picking up sticks and climbing around on things, lurking around tree trunks.  mario is also very into being outside, and would probably be out all the time if he could. he’s a little naturalist and knows all the plants and animals and what the plants are used for, whether they are edible or medicinal.

dinner involved the whole family again- meatloaf, corn, potatoes, and apple crisp. mom had made the meatloaf ahead and put it in the freezer, so i just popped them into the oven again.


quinn and luigi went up on the barn roof with grampy and uncle t just before dinner. they wound up the strings that had been guidelines for where to put nails in, because the nailing was done and the next day we would paint before the metal sheeting would be put on the roof.


the cousin quintet all played kickball with grampy before dinner.



thursday, september 14

we still had a few trees left to visit at the east end, so quinn, grammy, grampy, rich and i went in the jeep. we got some more apples for identifying. rich and i walked back together while quinn rode back with grammy and grampy. dragonflies and butterflies got their pictures taken. when we got back, quinn and grammy were settled on the porch, grammy with her laptop and apple basket and reference book, and quinn with his graph paper and pencil. i spent a few hours painting the barn with rich. the boys got home from school, so t got them changed into paint clothes and the two of them came up and “helped”. quinn also decided he was interested in helping and climbed up. in between all this, I was also taking breaks to make pizza dough and then when we got inside, the boys all helped me top the pizzas. quinn helped with additional things like putting silverware away and getting the table set.


that night rich and i went to b’s sanjuro fields rehearsal and it was super good. they have really improved as a band, and they are very efficient with their practices now, and it’s cool. 3 out of the 5 guys are parents so i think they have streamlined to: let’s get these songs rehearsed, have a beer, and head home to families. it was nice to get to talk to b one on one and hear him talk about being a parent…. so magical. he is a good dad.

b was saying how andy has really gotten over his initial testing of limits with them. he tested them, they held, he moved on. he is really a pleasant kid. nice smile, kind, playful, funny, fun sense of humor, good manners. miss molly could be described in the same way, but unlike andy’s brief limit testing, she is still working on it. testing, testing, testing. not in any kind of malicious way, but for example “she never remembers to put on socks!” he said she is off in her own world. (me: “ohhhhh I know about kids like that.”) i shared my strategies that i use with quinn (and rich backed me up on this – i have seen him do this more and more with quinn, it doesn’t come naturally but he really makes an effort) to join quinn in his world and somehow make the thing get done within that framework, such as we need to get in the car becomes “let’s jump in the millenium falcon” or put on your clothes becomes “get your robes on, the hogwarts express is about to arrive” b, who has been a parent for about 9 months was not convinced he could do that, but it was still fun comparing notes. i told him i think kids do that testing thing the most with people they trust the most and feel the safest with (which was always my interpretation when quinn would do infuriating things at a younger age) in hopes that seeing it in that light might help b be encouraged: he is doing it right.

rich could share insight too, since he had a boy and a girl roughly the same years apart in age, and sharing how he realized he needed to talk to his little girl a bit differently than he talked to his little boy. his son was pretty impervious and needed to hear it loudly and clearly, whereas if he said it like that to his daughter, she could crumble, so he had to take his time and explain more quietly with her. things like that. i love how he connects with each member of my family.



friday, september 15

one last apple excursion… dad had made another tractor foray into the thicket, and discovered about 3 more trees. we were able to get to two of them and collect “specimens”. quinn was helping hold grammy up, and being her helper. one of the two new trees we got to is rich’s and my new favorite because it’s got such a cool twisted gnarly trunk. i picked mom some more grapes for jelly.

it was a mellow day. i wrapped up my shadow box and finally got it shipped out to oregon via ups. this had really been an ordeal the year before, culminating in me melting down and shoving the whole thing back in the attic, but this year finished wrapping cardboard around it and got it all packaged up.

after school we took the boys on the mountain coaster at greek peak, and luigi rode with rich because he promised to go as fast as possible. i also had to go fast, as per quinn’s request. quinn had specifically asked that we go on the coaster again this year, so we made sure to make it happen. mario needed to ride with t. (i just love how he calls t by his first name. i don’t know why it makes me smile. luigi actually calls him dad more often than not, which i love equally, because it’s heartwarming seeing my little bro as a dad.)


i took pictures of mom taking pictures of apples. and of her lists of apple names, because i love them, especially in her handwriting. blue pearmain, chenango strawberry, winter banana, mother, wealthy, red astrachan, hubbardston none-such, jeffries,  rhode island greening, tolman sweet, newtown pippin, roxbury russet…

t helped the boys fly their kite, and they also tried to fly their millenium falcon plane, but it needed to be charged. it was so funny to hear mario laughing at quinn asking what it was made out of, “it’s made of stagger phone, silly!” (styrofoam, hehe.)

dad and rich worked on cables dad is installing to stabilize the barn. they’re a good team, and i think dad appreciates rich’s intuitiveness with the hands-on stuff. quinn played some more basketball in the hayloft while they worked.

we all ate dinner out at perkins, dad’s treat (all except b, because he had to work, but c brought the kids). quinn and andy ordered cheeseburgers and mac and cheese, and all the kids sat at one end, so again i have no idea what they talked about although I did overhear one thing where andy was saying something about his dad. quinn responded, “do you mean b? oh, you mean your dad, not your foster dad.” i could see andy appreciating the complete acceptance from quinn of “been there, done that” with multiple household families. on a questionnaire quinn filled out at back-to-school night, he put down “being a friend” as one of his strengths; i saw it in practice with andy. it seemed like andy felt pretty comfortable discussing whatever with quinn, knowing quinn would just go with the flow. I had noticed quinn wanting to sit beside andy the other night when we ate dinner at c and b’s, and they were side by side again this night, ordering the same food… pulling on all the heart strings.

when we got home i took pictures of the full moon by the barn. rich and quinn and i ran down to b’s work to hug him since we’d be leaving the next day.



when we got home, t and i got our (carefully crafted via discussions over email) oregon trail game going… role play with the boys was the goal, and it was achieved… when they got to what food they’d bring:

mario: i’m going to bring a sack of potatoes and a sack of punkins! and eggs!

luigi: i’m not bringing any eggs, i’m bringing the container for eggs! a chicken!

mario: i’m bringing a chicken that sometimes lays chicks and sometimes lays eggs for eating!

quinn “actually chicken eggs develop chicks only if they’re fertilized….”

hahaha i love how their age differences balance their play, this was something grammy also commented on at various times, how integrating kids of different ages is good for all of them!

the game was fun, though we only made it through the first river crossing, but they really got into the idea of the game, traveling to oregon, trading goods, repairing wagons, deciding how many oxen to have, deciding whether to ford the river or pay for the ferry or try to caulk the wagon and float it across… all kinds of fun, and it made staying up late making perler bead wagons worthwhile.

saturday, september 16

grammy and grampy were going to trinity valley farm store that morning as is their usual custom, to re-stock mom’s soap that she sells there. i had never been to it, so rich and quinn and i decided to get up early enough to go with them. it was a picturesque little farm stand store, and the owners are a sweet young couple. quinn helped grammy re-stock the soap. we bought fresh donuts and luigi had asked me to buy him rock candy while we were there, so quinn picked out green for himself and luigi, and reached way to the bottom for a red one for mario. kind of fun to know he is in tune with those things like favorite colors of his cousins.


the kids finally got to fly the stagger phone millenium falcon… we packed up…

we tried one last time to take “the picture” but mario walked the opposite direction, laid on the ground, and basically refused to be a part of it. so we called it a day and left for the airport.

we got to jfk and had a 4 hour layover, so we sat in the “deep blue” restaurant so rich could watch a ducks game, i could edit photos, and we could eat chicken teriyaki and sushi. quinn was the one who wanted sushi, which i love about him.

and then we were home. so ends the 2016 trip to new york recap. can’t wait to go again!

1 comment to the big apple

  • Camp boss

    And still reading the blog gave me more info then the hour long chat we had a out the trip.It’s funny that my pack doesn’t have knicknames!!

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