Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

A Christmas Gift.

Posted on | December 27, 2013 | 8 Comments

Well, it’s all over except for the tree burning ceremony. Since no one has watered the tree since we put it up (just like last year)(and the year before)(and, yeah,…you guessed it), I’m expecting the fire to be even brighter than the Christmas lights.

This year The Other Half managed all the Christmas shopping.  Including shipping, handling, and hiding.  And on the big night, while I was at work dealing with drunken domestics and brittle diabetics, he was up late reading Christmas tales to the kids, wrapping the presents, and arranging the stockings for Santa.  By the time I got home in the morning there nothing left to do but sip coffee and watch the annual display of shock and awe.

Everyone was pleased with their gifts.

Although the Kindle for the boys from my brother was one of the biggest hits.

By evening my parents had arrived with another bulging sack of gifts.  Plus, my dad brought his homemade lasagna for dinner.  With 5 lbs of cheese and 5 lbs of meat in it.  Joy to the World, people.  Joy to the World.

So, as things turned out, it was the men in the family that were the Heroes Of Christmas Present.  Let’s hope they’re up for Christmas Future, too.  Because it was awfully nice to show up just in time for Christmas and sit back nibbling on the Turtles that Santa left in my stocking until the lasagna arrived.  Peace on Earth, people.  Peace on Earth.

Good job, gentlemen.

But by the day after Christmas I was ready to get out of the house and away from the new electronics.  Since I hadn’t done much in terms of Christmas gifts, I thought I’d treat the kids to a special outing at a special place.  So we loaded up the dogs and headed for a hike at my old stomping grounds.

You see, before The Other Half arrived on the scene, it was just me, my friends, our dogs, and a little house in the city.

Which meant a lot of our time revolved around drinking sleeping late eating out taking the dogs for hikes on the park trails.  And we photographed them on the hikes as if they were our children.  Because to us, they kind of were.

I mean, if you could take kids on a walk and then leave them to their own devices while you’re drinking sleeping late eating out doing other things.

When The Other Half showed up, he just brought his dogs along, too, and we walked miles and miles of trails tucked in and around that house in the city.  On one of those trails, while the dogs chased sticks in the river and we sat on a large rock, he asked me to marry him.  And we’ve got miles of marriage behind us now.

The kids couldn’t wait to hike that trail and visit that rock.  The excitement was almost palpable.  It was like Christmas morning all over again.  Also, once I unplugged the wireless they had nothing else to do.  Hah!

They were intrigued at the site of the old mill.

The dam was impressive.

But it was the river and the landscape itself that sent them scampering eagerly along the trail.

There is something about water and trees and big, big rocks that makes the screen world pale in comparison.

Of course, there were some changes.  I swore to the kids that there was a little footbridge to cross the river.  Then, on the other side and after a quick trek through a stand of trees,  they’d find a rope swing over a pool of water and another wide section of water, filled with scattered boulders.  Too bad that the footbridge appeared to have washed away.  We backtracked along the trail several times to a section of water that looked narrow, shallow, and vaguely familiar to me.  But there was no footbridge.

So we went old school and settled for a fallen log.

Big hates crossing on logs and Middle ended up with one wet foot.  But Luna had the hardest time.  We had dropped the dogs’ leashes and set them loose for the crossing.  When we go to the other side, we called them and Orion bounded right through the water to us.  But Luna raced frantically along the opposite bank, unwilling to cross.  Only with a lot of encouragement and the shame of her usually clueless and timorous littermate looking on from the other side, finally got her over on the rocks.

Since we had to search for a log to get over the water, we weren’t in the place I used to cross and I couldn’t find the trail through the stand of trees.  We walked along the water and sewer access for a bit and the kids almost lost faith.  OK, they completely lost faith and complained that we were lost and that I had no idea what I was doing.  Kids are capricious followers.  One wet sneaker and a washed out bridge and there were mumblings of mutiny.  O Come On, Ye Faithless, O Come On!

Right before I was impeached, I found the trail.

And the rope swing, the pool of water, and the rocks were just around the corner.  Exactly like I told them.

Ah, a Christmas miracle.

Immediately the children began begging to swing on that rope.  Their first plan was to swing from the small rope out to the big rope and swing back.  Uh, sure.  I think they might have been confusing their avatar’s abilities with their real life skills.

Then Little spotted the “stairs” leading out to the limb supporting the big rope.  He claimed he could simply climb up the tree, out on the limb, and pull the big rope in.

Those “stairs”.

To that limb.



Absolutely not.

But Little wanted to swing on that rope really, really bad.  He kept on and on and on about that rope.

Until Pretty said she would just swim out and get it for him.  On a 40 degree day.  In frigid river water.  So they could all swing.

Eh.  OK.  The girl is tougher than the other ones.  Plus, she had on layers.  Also, there were no other trail hikers around to judge my parenting.  So she stripped down to the basics….

….and jumped right in, swam out, and brought the rope back.

Then I dried her off with my barn coat and put her dry clothes back on.  All done.  Easy, peasy.

Then we took off  Little’s socks and shoes, loaded him up….

….and sent him on his way.  Wheeeee!

Oh, what fun!

This is awesome!

Huh.  We all looked at Little.  Out in the middle of the water.

“Wasn’t he supposed to swing back?”  I asked.  “Why didn’t he swing back?”

Big shook his head sadly.

“I told you he was too low on that rope,” he explained.  “Now the drag he encountered when his feet and legs hit the water kept him from returning.”

Oh, goody.  A physics lesson while I’ve got a kid stuck out in the water.  A kid who has just realized he is stuck.

There was nothing to do but swim for it.  Which did look kind of cold.  And uncomfortable.

I’d like to say we weren’t laughing at him.  But, really, if you heard him begging and begging to swing.  And then saw the look on his face when he realized he had to jump in the water.  It was like seeing words appear in thin air.

I don’t care if it is your youngest child and you’re supposed to take better care of the small ones.  That stuff is funny, people.

Although, Little was not as amused as the rest of us.

And the biggest problem was that unlike Pretty, he wore all his clothes, including his coat and gloves, into the water.  The only items sitting safely on the bank were his socks and shoes.

“That’s it,” announced Big stoically.  “Now he’s going to get hypothermia.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, ” I snapped.  “We’re not the type of people that get hypothermia.”

“Are you sure there’s a “type” for that?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure!  Just because he was immersed in cold water, his clothes are soaked, he doesn’t have an ounce of body fat, and there’s a bit of a cold breeze, does NOT mean he’s going to get hypothermia,”  I huffed as I wrapped him in Pretty’s barn-coat-towel.

Luckily the rest of us were wearing layers.  We stripped Little down and Middle donated his coat as a shirt.  And I gave him my sweatshirt as pants.  Yes, pants.  We put his legs through the arm holes and cinched the bottom of the sweatshirt around his waist.

“Cool,”  said Big, noting the neck of the sweatshirt left a gaping hole around Little’s nether regions.  “Now he could take a poop without even taking his “pants” off.”

That kid is a fountain of helpful information.

I have to admit, though, that Big’s paracord survival bracelet came in handy.  Big has made us all several of those bracelets.  And he sells them like hot cakes.  But I’ve never really been sure what kind of emergency can be resolved with 20 feet of paracord.  I suppose we could have unraveled the bracelet and tried to toss the end of it to Little.  But he’d surely fall off in the attempt to grab the paracord anyway.  Perhaps if we lassoed him with it.  If we knew how to lasso anything.  I guess if we were thinking ahead we could have tied the paracord to then end of the rope swing so that in case he got stuck we could haul him back in.  But if we were thinking ahead we might have had him remove at least his coat and gloves.  Or maybe just passed on the whole idea of the rope swing anyway.  Thinking ahead is so boring.

Besides, paracord bracelets are just perfect for cinching up sweatshirt pants.  Without even having to unravel them.  Survival at its finest.

Not surprisingly, Middle opted to remain as family photographer rather than take his turn on the rope swing.  And Big was happy just swinging on the little rope.  The one that didn’t leave you stranded out in the water.

Pretty had already had her swim and even Orion decided to pass on another dip.

There was nothing left to do but continue on to the engagement rock.  It didn’t look the same is it did that fateful September day when The Other Half popped the question.

But it was still there.

Hey, time changes everything, doesn’t it?

We trekked back to the car, opting for the easier trail on the ridgeline rather than retracing our steps along the river bank.  I’m not sure the kids really understood the significance of that place.  But they were wet, muddy, and full of sunshine and fresh air.  They’d spent 4 hours away from the Internet and climbed into the car vowing to return this summer for more of that rope swing.  So, all in all, it was a great success.

Hey, these are the kinds of gifts I give, people.

You’ll laugh.

You’ll cry.

You’ll test your courage.

Make your own path.

Flex your creativity.

And even get a little lost along the way.

But sometimes that’s what it takes to merge the old with the new.

To give us a link back to our past.

And make memories for the years to come.

Merry Christmas, kiddos.


8 Responses to “A Christmas Gift.”

  1. Janet silfeb
    December 27th, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

    What a great great great story.

  2. Sherry Herry
    December 28th, 2013 @ 5:39 am

    I hear that goats like to eat Christmas trees. Maybe you can feed your tree to your goats.

    That looks like a really nice place to hike. Where is it?

  3. Jill
    December 28th, 2013 @ 9:01 am


  4. admin
    December 28th, 2013 @ 9:16 am

    It’s West Point on the Eno.

  5. roanne
    December 28th, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

    FIVE pounds of cheese, and 5 POUNDS of meat??!!!! Is this a secret heirloom recipe, or something????? Makes my measly 5 lb prime rib seem like scraps!! Glad you had a wonderful adventure and meal. Locally, …..Someone mad at someone else left 10 slaughtered sheep heads on a front porch in the Freemont area of Seattle. Hey! Merry Christmas, y’all!!!! How will they top THAT at the summer solstice naked bicycle parade????? Happy New Year!!!!!!

  6. Ferne K
    December 29th, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

    What a fantastic way to finish off your Christmas celebrations! May the New Year bring all of you many more fun adventures.

  7. Aunt Peggy
    December 29th, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

    Merry Christmas – Happy New Year and many many more adventures! I only use 2.5 lbs of met and of cheese for MY lasagnas! love to all.

  8. Laura
    January 7th, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

    Your kids are SO lucky!! Between you and your other half, they are so covered. And you are a storyteller, so your readers are lucky, too.

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