Wednesday, April 30, 2008

After the Bath... or Big Hair Is Back

I sincerely hope your screen shows this hairdo to its maximum effect. I am going to look at it every time I think I need product for fuller hair. Yes, this is just how hers dries naturally.

Wednesday's Word

I do love Amy Deanne's blog... it's such an encouragement to me. So I keep stealing -- I mean plagiarizing -- I mean joining in for her great ideas. And this post is of course not based on my idea at all, or even Amy's, but God's:

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”- Ephesians 4:15

I love this because it speaks so directly to what I've been walking through lately. It is hard to say the truth sometimes, when avoiding conflict or disagreement is my main life's goal! But when we speak the truth in love, we are walking in Jesus' shoes. Surely many, many people didn't like the truth he spoke, and yet that soft answer does turn away wrath.

I hope you have a blessed day!

Random Rural Sanity Savers Called To Order

I tried this morning to get my farmchicky girlfriends within a 30-mile radius to join me in a very important meeting... at Dutch Brothers. But to no avail.

I am as predicted still working on my endless laundry tackle from yesterday. Good news, though. I found Sarah's lucky pants three-quarters of the way down hamper number 410. She has been singularly unlucky since the day she took them off in a huff in the laundry room. I'm not sure, actually, why she calls them "lucky," since every time she wears them she has a spectacular accident.

(Sarah's middle name is not Grace. Grace's first name is, but it didn't work.)

So the lucky pants are psychedelic, as all lucky pants should be. The pattern is a swirly paisley in pink, blue, yellow and orange. Her former lucky pants were orange bell bottoms with big brown flowers on them. This girl has style. Anyhoo the first lucky pants went the way of the dump after Sarah ripped them out from waist to rear pocket during an Olympic attempt at exiting the tire swing using nothing other than the immense momentum of the 40-foot swinging arc.

I got in big trouble for telling her I had to throw those away. Doncha know I should have framed them for her wall? This is exactly what she suggested when I insisted they were not able to be repaired.

The current lucky pants I thought I had buried after she skidded on the gravel and tore her kneecap open in a wound so gruesome that the school must've been afraid to call me. Because they didn't call, they just put a big bandaid with the sticky part mostly on open wound and ground-in gravel bits. So I had the supreme pleasure that day of soaking, picking out the gravel, considering home schooling.

I thought to myself, these darn lucky pants give the baby girl too much confidence. I can't afford another trip to the ER over lucky pants chutzpah (not sure if I use that word right. anyone?) So I buried the pants. But not deep enough. I honestly had forgotten about them as well as I could with Sarah asking for them every other minute. So I accidentally unearthed them and then washed them last night... discovered a new hole in the knee region... told Sarah she'd have to choose new lucky pants... lost that argument... and then fought with the iron and a flocked red heart-shaped patch for half the morning.

So she wore them to school today. With a striped purple and green top of course. I better not go to Dutch Bros after all. I'll probably be needed at home when the school calls.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I think it was a blatant attempt to get more praise on this blog, but last night, the Eng-Gen-Eer FOLDED LAUNDRY! I made one little complimentary comment about him having a cruddy weekend hauling heavy stuff while I played baby shower and horseback riding lessons... and now he wants MORE kudos.

Seriously, I can count on one hand the number of times my husband has folded laundry. As is recounted in this blog (kind of a lot), he is an extremely hard worker. Farm-like work and work-like work, well, those are his gigs. We never sat down and made chauvinist lists or anything, it's just the way it worked out.

Anyhoo I blogged yesterday about getting a head start on my Tackle It Tuesday (just love this idea, thanks, Amy Deanne. My laundry room needed tackling and then one of those, you know, excavators. I did take "before" photos as a form of self-flagellation and I may post them if the "after" pics are stunning enough (and if I get done before next Tuesday!).

Back to my husband.

I do believe he's been reading this blog as a way to understand me better. Gee, no pressure or anything. This really funny girl at 40 something crises was just blogging about her husband's desire to connect with her the way she so clearly connects with all of us mommies through her excellent blog. Well, my husband has simply decided to read what I am thinking. It saves so many phone calls during working hours.

Case in point: Yesterday he brought home two boxes of Diet Coke. Now, I really don't care what his motivation was, because that was a Good Thing (purposely not linking to Martha here).

And then, just when I thought the gestures of husbandly sweetness could not stretch further, I caught him folding tiny t-shirts in the den. The Giants were on TV and the 0-3 month onesies were in his hands. Also lumped up in a pile that resembled folded laundry. Holy clean clothes.

I am so sure today is going to be a good one. Hope yours is too.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What I Wouldn't Do

What wouldn't I do right now for a Diet Coke? That certain fizzy, aspartame-and-caffeine high. If you're my mom (hah, congrats on getting on the Internet, mom!), I quit Diet Coke months ago. Everyone else: feel like driving to my house to deliver?

I have tried everything to avert the craving, to no avail. The baby is asleep, the big girls are planning their outfits for the upcoming Fairy Festival, and I am trying for a head start on "Tackle It Tuesday" in my laundry room (pit) whilst scheming on how to get a Diet Coke into the house.

Hand Over The Baby

Doesn't Connie look happy? Can you see Donna just waiting ever so patiently for her turn?
The ladies of our church threw a baby shower for Laura yesterday afternoon. It was the funnest thing ever! They are so sweet, and Laura will henceforth be the most beautifully dressed girl with the best collection of homemade lovely things. And this is how it went:
We walked in to a room beautifully decorated in vintage lambs and bunnies and little sunbonnet girls. I handed over the baby, ate cake, opened piles of presents and didn't get Laura back for two hours! She slept like an angel through grandma after grandma's arms. Connie, Phyllis, Donna, Kathy, Marge, Kay, Helen, Martha... they were all so happy to have a cuddly little one to hold. In fact, my own mother couldn't even get a turn with Laura. It is making me grin ear to ear just thinking of how lovely and loving those ladies are. Truthfully I should have let them throw a shower sooner, but I thought they were only saying they wanted to, and I didn't want them to feel obligated to buy gifts. Let this be a lesson to me.
Our weekend was the typical whirlwind.
The weather was beautiful, and the the big girls were at Grampa and Gramma's Friday night and Saturday. I hear they had a bonfire, roasted marshmallows, shocked the pool for the season, watched some neighbors come out and hunt turkeys, and rode horses. I am tired out just describing the first half of their weekend!
While they were gone, the Eng-Gen-Eer and I rented a movie, "3:10 to Yuma," which was pretty good. My heart was beating fast with adrenaline, so does that count as a workout? Anyway I cooked stir fry and rice, we watched the movie and generally felt like the house was empty.
Saturday morning the Eng-Gen-Eer made his way to the office and I headed out for my basket making class, which was unfortunately canceled because attendance was too low. So, making the best of it, I called my girlfriend Carolyn and we met at Fleur de Lis, a new Cottage Grove bakery. Super yummy! Then we stopped at an estate sale, where Caro bought an antique sideboard for $10! I exercised extreme restraint, given my family history of furniture disease, and only purchased a vintage typewriter for my small but growing collection. Five bucks!
Then Caro took Laura and me out to her farm south of Cottage Grove, and divided up her celery and garlic starts for us. What an awesome friend. She and her husband Kyle are making a really unique country garden. He carves cedar into benches and scuptural art, and she plants in unusual containers, including a full-size restaurant sink. It all comes together and looks fantastic.
To wrap up my "day out," Laura and I went back to Lorane for another friend's Tupperware party. By the time I was through overspending there, everyone was back home and waiting for dinner.
Sunday brought the usual church freak-out about doing four heads of hair in 20 minutes. Then we went to the sweet baby shower while the Eng-Gen-Eer helped my brother move about three tons of granite and landscape rock (my weekend was so much nicer than my husband's). He even drove the girls to horse clinic for me and had to leave as soon as I arrived to move more junk, I mean building materials.
Finally, we wrapped up Sunday with a big crockpot full of taco soup and our good friends' company. I do believe I need another Homebody Monday.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Yummy! Cherry and Apple and Grape... Wood?

Ooh ooh ooh! Today I am going to the Grange to learn how to weave baskets out of fruit wood saplings. This is the Napa of the North, remember, so everyone has grapevines galore. Our Rural Arts Commission (yes, there is such a non-profit) is active and overbooked all Winter with screening art films in the Grange Hall, organizing poetry readings and talent shows, and all manner of indoor artistic activities. Finally, it may be something like Spring outside, and so I get to CUT flexible TWIGS!!! and make something useful/interesting with them.

I will do my darndest to post pictures afterward.

This morning the Eng-gen-eer is out hauling hay from the shop to the barn. I do love him.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Who Me? or The Perils of Lulu

Again I have to apologize for a maudlin post. Yesterday I was just plain stinkin' thinkin' about why do I have to... why doesn't so-and-so... if I could just blurt it out I'd say... and on and on! How ridiculous, really, to dwell on that sort of thing, when I have huge news to report:

I was followed by an unmarked car! For all we know, government agencies with lots of initials are tracking my every blog move now!

Before you decide this is all melodrama, you have to know that I wear many, many hats. Prolly like y'all. Anyway, in my capacity as Girl Friday for my eng-gen-eer husband, I was called upon this week to drive out to the airport for photos. I have performed this photog duty before, it wasn't stressful at all. Heck, no! There was even a Dutch Brothers on the way, so I was glad to go.

In fact, the airport was a relief to me. Any other day my subject might have been a stinky poop--I mean wastewater treatment--plant, or a huge, loud underground pump station, or a brushy, blackberry-bramble-impassable hillside, or a boring subdivision of McMansions. So Grace and Laura and I happily buckled up in the 'burban, and took off for the airport, just 40 miles away or so from home.

These photos didn't have to be fantastic works of art (good thing, 'cause it's wordy little Miriam, not Ansel Adams, you're saying), just representative of the vast project the company had completed last year. I have been attempting to get said eng-gen-eer honey to expense a fancy new Canon digital SLR camera with unbelievable zoomability, but this is not in the immediate cards.

So lacking (VERY IMPORTANT) zoom lens, upon entering Mahlon Sweet airspace, on the ground of course, I had to get sorta close to my intended subjects. I pulled over to take a picture of the airport sign for the proposal cover. I carefully framed a pic in which the sign was fully legible and the tower was in the far ground. I mighta blocked traffic for a minute. But who's gonna hit a huge white Suburban with its hazards on?

At this point I didn't notice the unmarked burgundy Crown Vic behind me.

I slowly cruised around the end of the long-term parking lot, trying for an angle -- and this is not easy to do while 3-month-old is starting to fuss for her next feeding -- that showed some cool runwayage as well as a plane or two. I shot a few pics, then moved on to chain link fence at the edge of the short-term lot for the piece-de-resistance: terminal photos. Ha ha.

Now, right about here in the story, I thought the annoying guy in the Crown Vic might need to pick a parking spot rather than vulture around after me already.

Finally, the perfect vantage point in which the runways looked like silver stripes, the "arrival" and "departure" signs were evident for context, and a few planes were posed like models for scale. The contractor to whom we were submitting this bid would think a professional -- no a TEAM of professionals -- took these photos. They would think there is no other choice but to sub out to us. Really.

The baby's fussing turned abruptly to piercing cries. I decided I was done, with good timing. I turned off the camera, stowed it in the passenger seat. Turned off the hazards and glanced in my rearview mirror.

Oops... Crown Vic guy is still with us. And he's getting out?! I always did like a man in uniform, but there's no need for him to come over to greet us. Oh, there is?


So, dear readers, let me tell you that taking multiple photos of all the approaches and perimeters of a smallish city airport is not the least suspicious thing you could do in a big white Suburban.

I'm guessing the screaming baby, wide-eyed preschooler and multiple carseats didn't say terrorist recon to him. So you see, working with your children in tow is valuable on so many levels. And at the risk of getting busted (again), I'll confess here that my visit with the law shook me up enough to stop for a second mocha on my way back to upload the pics, which are now safely embedded in the proposal for survey work.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Go Fly a Kite

First let me thank my blogsweet friends for helping uplift Madeleine this week. She had a crushing disappointment when one of her schoolmates insulted her physical appearance terribly in front of the whole class... and even in the face of that, her first thought was to help the little girl who was likewise crushed by a no-show birthday. You are right, Misty, true friends are hard to find at any age. My hope and prayer is that our girls are growing up to be encouragers, loyal and true. And it's a blessing beyond words when they exhibit those wonderful character traits.
My wise father-in-law counsels that in the face of adversity (and I don't know how many of us are facing conflict and adversity, but I hope someone relates!), we must act from a point of knowing who God made us to be, not "react" to the hurtful words or actions of those on the other side of the table.
However, I often slide into the trap of rehearsing what I "should have" said to really GET my point across. Tough conversations play themselves over in my head like a broken record, with different endings. Oh! Like the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from childhood. "Choose Your Own Confrontation."
If I'm the only one who struggles with this, feel free to click away and come back tomorrow for a Friday Farmgirl craft or garden project... but I'm in an obsessive mood about this subject for today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Miss Madeleine

If I had to tell you about Madeleine Sahalie in 500 words or less, I'd run out of words before I was half done. My 9-year-old daughter is named after Madeleine L'Engle, the late author of the Wrinkle In Time trilogy, The Two-Part Invention, A Severed Wasp, and many of my very favorite books spanning the genres: poetry, young adult and adult fiction, theology, journals and more.

Our Madeleine goes by "Maddy" with some of her friends, but at home she is usually her full, formal self. She is a serious girl, very introspective and caring, and so her streak of humor is delightful when it breaks through. Upon learning that she was on TV (where her full concentration was evident), she broke into full-on ironic disco moves, singing "I'm so famous/I'm a big star now/I'm so famous/It's a Maddy show."

Recently she independently made herself a chore chart with multiple chores for every day of the week, carefully planned out so that she would be as helpful as possible with the animals and hobby farm tasks. She proposed in writing a $2 a week payment for what amounted to hours and hours of work. We told her we agreed that she is ready for money management, and an allowance is in order. Several hours later, she came back with a verbal request for a raise: "so... would $2.50 be too much?"

She is dramatic and mature, beautiful and smart, talented and kind. She is a brave little horsewoman who broke both arms in a bad fall last September and is now literally and figuratively "back on the horse." She is a friend who cares deeply, and an analyst who dissects problems with great care. She is concerned with others' feelings, and is often the first to signal me that one of her sisters needs some encouragement or guidance but isn't herself able to articulate the need.

I am so grateful that God sent us Madeleine. I wrote a letter earlier this month, saying to her newborn self what I would have said in the first hours after she was born. That letter didn't begin to describe how much we've gained by parenting our oldest daughter, and neither does this post. I am keenly aware that our time with her at home is going more quickly than I'd ever imagined. And yet, she remains at the core the sweet and earnest baby girl.

There is no way to write about her sweetness without referencing Madeleine's opinions. She is, after all, very opinionated! Sometimes this is a source of great frustration for her, because small children's opinions are often dismissed. And she does NOT like being dismissed. We tell her that her strong ideas will serve her well when she expresses them carefully and with forethought.

Finally, I have to say something about the incident that spawned this post: her compassion in action, she spontaneously sat down last night to paint a freehand sign for a classmate whose birthday party was attended by no one. I am so proud of her.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Accountability Sewing

Okay. I know it would have been fun to contemplate the feed bag purse for a while, then let the feedbags stack up in the barn until Ryan went ballistic about saving g-a-r-b-a-g-e, then finally acquiesce and send the bags to the dump with another "I coulda made such cute blankety-blanks" sob story. But then KL threw out the "get real" challenge. And I had a serendipitous homebody day. And the baby took a good nap. So...

The feedbags are woven oilcloth-like fabric. The designs are fun and graphic. It sews together really easily with a regular weight needle. The only real challenge I had (other than not making a plan before I started, lol) was that it is pretty stiff. It was important at the corners to notch it like the picture shows.

I lined it with the red calico, 100% cotton fabric I pulled out of one of my fabric bins. I was planning to have the lining just inside, but because the feedbag didn't press back like a fabric seam, I folded the calico over. It doesn't look as tidy from a seamstress perspective, but I think the red showing is pretty cute.

I originally cut up a pair of Osh Kosh overalls to make handles, but they didn't work very well, so I used some yellow grosgrain ribbon that I had on hand. I was tempted by the memory of some great purse handles I had seen at JoAnn fabric on my last day out with Sarah, but in the spirit of farmgirl frugality (and to avoid putting off what can be done today or forgot about forever), I used the ribbon. I think it looks fun!

Homebody Monday

More snow on daffodils that I shoveled out of the new horse paddocks straight into this old wooden trug. Note the careful placement of an upside-down sprinkler.

Cousin Makayla and Sarah... very happy to find eachother at the big ballet class.
And Gracie, super tired out after plies:
The Sissonettes, freezing in their leos outside of the class.
Sarah's superthick braid. She gets her hair from me:

Eugene did it! On Sunday afternoon the girls and I helped set a Guiness World Record for the
"World's Largest Ballet Class."

We enjoyed another whirlwind weekend. It snowed ... and snowed... and rained... too yucky to be outdoors, but a great weekend for dancing in the University of Oregon's Mac Court for an attempt at the World's Largest Ballet Class. The numbers were initially a little low, so even I stood at the barre for 45 minutes, attempting plies and developes with the crowd of 580 or so. Holding Laura on one shoulder to boot! I guess I've still "got it." Plus 20 years. As one of the instructors put it, "young dancers have the bodies, midlife dancers have heart."

In other news:

Our church's search for a new pastor continues. We are eager to find the right person since the parsonage is across the road from us. The girls really miss having a family live there.

Grace and Laura and I are having a (sort of) day off. I am calling clients and writing yet more company bios today from home today. Tomorrow morning I get to show property and goodness knows what the rest of the week will bring, so we needed a homebody day.

The chicks are almost completely feathered out. I need to take more photos. Ryan wasn't able to finish the chicken tractor over the weekend, again thanks to snow.
The feedsack purses are the craft project du jour. I will post photos this afternoon, good or bad. I understand there are some sewing challenges going on in blogland. KL at is determined to sew something today with her unbelievably vast stash of fabric, which I understand grew more over the weekend. Misty at is also (I think) tackling some sewing. Anyone else?
We were blessed last night by our good friends cooking us dinner and dessert and sharing a very special drink to celebrate our business purchase. That was fun!
I think that's all the news that's fit to post. Have a blessed day all...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Big Plans for Today

Some daffodils through a tangle of grapevines. Last year we pruned the grapevines very severely... and a little too late in the year. We had grapes the first year we were here, but last year we didn't get any. They hadn't been pruned in about 20 years, so we had a lot of raw material leftover. If I'd been on top of things I could have made wreaths, wattle fencing, what have you. This year we'll leave the grapevines alone and see what we get. The octogenarian who owned this house for 50-plus years told us there are three varieties. He and his wife also planted my lavender hedge... another favorite thing.
Speaking of raw materials, the girls and I are going to make purses from feedsacks. This is a very farm chic-y thing to do, methinks. In my grandmothers' day, feedsacks were fabric, of course, and saved for everything from dresses to dish towels. We ferret these out at rummage sales and antique shops. But I'm talking about a new tradition (well, if they turn out). Today's feedsacks are tough woven material that's wipeable and water-resistant. They are printed with livestock photos and bright graphics. I'll keep you posted on how that turns out.
Yesterday Laura and I went to my dad's and dug about three dozen strawberry plants. Hurray! I would be out planting now... but it's snowing again. I took some pictures of snow on the pansies, which I shall post later. Maybe with the purse pics.
Today is a big day. We have church, then ballet, then the horse clinic, then KL and the Inspector General and their gang for dinner. KL is bringing spaghetti sauce. I am boiling noodles. I like that division of labor!
I hope your day is blessed and your adventures bigger than life.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Lego, A Popsicle Stick, $1.13 in Change

A Lego, a popsicle stick, $1.13 in change, a button, a "special" rock, and a soggy end of a carrot. All of these can be yours for performing the simple task of cleaning out the filter of your washing machine. Yuck! I'm sure it's occurred to you that I could have gathered this collection had I just cleaned out the pockets prior to running the wash. But of course then I would have missed out on the joys of lying on my tummy fighting with the the teeny (nearly invisible!) little screws that attach the cover of the machine just a half inch off the floor so the screwdriver can't go in a complete turn but has to be repositioned each time. And who would want to pass up the chance to sift through grody sodden lint to find such treasures?

This brings us to the subject of my laundry helpers. The Lego was a gear piece, and you know someone had been needing exactly that piece to finish a creation. The button was off a favorite sweater. And the carrot was saved from lunch to bring home to the horses. The special rock? Irreplaceable, found on a trip to the coast with Grampa. You can keep the change, Mom. It was probably Daddy's. Oh, no, I'm keeping it ALL. I have to have proof that I fixed the washing machine by myself. I even replaced the cover!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

But You SAID!

I can't resist this:
Tonight Ryan had to work late. I served shepherd's pie to the girls for dinner. This is usually one of their favorites. Anyway, Sarah didn't like the dinner because I used too many carrots and not enough snap peas. No kidding. Also it was leftover roast beef shredded instead of cubed pork roast. So, in short, not the usual. She asked whether there was anything else to eat. I had a mommy moment and said, "nope, if you don't eat that, you'll be going to bed hungry." I know, I know, not my finest moment.
Five minutes later I noticed she still hadn't eaten anything. I said, "Sarah, take a bite."
Without pause she retorted, "but you said I could choose to go to bed hungry!"

Talk about a stinging review of dinner! Sometimes all you can do is laugh and make toast!

Two Years Later... Still Moving On

Here's our farmhouse from the back garden. I love the way the bare trees' shadows make patterns on the lawn. Our home was built as a Baptist church in 1887; that's my favorite thing about it, even though I didn't know the history until after we bought it. It had been my romanticized dream since I was in my teens to live in a renovated country church building. Ryan and I used to take long date drives through the countryside back roads, looking at old churches and older barns. We loved Craftsman architecture, and five houses ago we owned a lovely Craftsman bungalow in an urban Portland neighborhood of bungalows, foursquares and infill lofts.

When we decided to leave the city for the college town of Eugene, it seemed the only vintage houses were also crack houses. So we bought a couple of deeply unsatisfying ranchburgers in a row and then a new construction mcmansion with a nice garden and a view of the mall, followed at last by a move to a wonderful Dutch Colonial in small-town Cottage Grove.

The 100-year-old grand dame had a huge yard, an enormous covered back porch, family and living rooms, an office and four bedrooms, not to mention the smallest bathroom possible outside of an RV bathroom, and a south-facing bay window seat that could seat 12. I truly loved that house. It might seem as though in renting half a dozen places, followed by owning five, we've had some wanderlust. Or house lust. But I did believe the Dutch Colonial was our "last house."

So of course it wasn't. Because, on a detour during his commute, Ryan drove past this farmette. The sellers had nailed a "for sale by owner" sign to the picket fence, the woodwork was gleaming, the maple trees created an oasis of cool greenery... it was the quintessential vintage farmhouse in a tiny old-fashioned community. It was within walking distance of school, church, grange, "general store" and more. The horses could stop boarding out and I could stop working real estate. This house, it seemed, dropped from heaven as an answer to our long-ago wishes and prayers.

We made an offer with lots and lots (even more than a Realtor would normally) of contingencies. I didn't want to move. I was happy where we were, the girls' school was unbelievably excellent and friendly, we had too much STUFF to move, etc., etc., etc. I threw out fleeces left and right. I really didn't want to move, but I knew I needed to seek God's will. And of course I liked Ryan's vision of our lives in the country. Even more than that I liked that he had found the house and taken the lead in the decision-making. I loved that he believed he could provide this whole new lifestyle for us, and that he wanted to stretch in that way. I really didn't want to move, but I wanted the things I saw on the other side of the move.

Even in the midst of uncertainty and the lack of selling our beloved Dutch Colonial in town, I declared the first Sisson Year of Peace. Whether it was the declaration or just the fulfillment of God's promise (probably both), I had never felt more peaceful and content anywhere. Possibly we all romanticize our memories a little, but the experience of moving here was exactly as I remember it: fully conscious that we were making a leap of faith, I believed that God would bless our trust in Him. I believed that God would bless Ryan's desire to give me the home life I'd always wanted. I didn't believe that it would take this property to do that, but I knew that we had sought God's will quite exhaustively, and we believed we followed it.

Now, before you think I'm moving again (!), I want to say that (as far as I know) we're staying physically put. However, I have experienced a shift away from that time of profound peace and rest. Even though in this past two years we have experienced a very sad miscarriage, some financial disasters, challenges with vindictive neighbors, the negotiation for and purchase of a business, the girls' first heartbreaks as we realized the difficulty of being "new" in a centuries-old community, to name a few difficulties -- even through all of this, God was amazingly gracious to me. I lived for most of the past two years with a feeling of being shielded. Peace beyond my understanding padded our lives.

I maybe shouldn't blog this. I struggle to put words to the way that I feel, the shift that I recognize but can't name. I know that God is still our Protector and Provider -- I am profoundly grateful for that. I am afraid that the Year of Peace is over, has been for a while now, and I am trying to wrench it back from the jaws of the monster who stole it. The struggle is antithetical to peace. If I could name what the new year is about, I'd be better prepared. Should I proclaim peace again -- would that work? Or should I wait and see. Be still and know... what? That God is God, unchanging and unmoving.

Of course it's normal. I know there's a time for everything, that stasis is boring. Heaven forbid I should get complacent rather than content. But I do miss the peace, and I want it back, in whatever form our lives are taking now.

Oh! And the news for today: Yesterday's meeting was OK. It was contentious, as I feared, but I am happy to report that we came out the other side not only unscathed, but with our heads held high. My hope was that I could say the hard things without being hurtful, and I really feel blessed that I did so. There was even an awesome confirmation afterward! We should not be afraid to continue stepping out in faith. It's just that those steps seem to get bigger and scarier. Of course the same God who can move me physically when I don't really want to move can move my heart to do things I couldn't fathom otherwise.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Psalm 55 NIV ... better than anti-anxiety meds

1-6 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest....18 He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. ...

Dread and the Prozac(tm)

Today I am dreading a few things. It's on my list, right at the top: Things To Dread And Avoid Until It's No Longer Possible.
Oh, yeah, I'm "avoiding" too. These are actions, you know, and take some time to plan out. If you are hoping to embark on my same route, you'll need to have a thorough agenda. Possibly a flow chart, since unpredictability is a big factor.
The picture to the left has nothing to do with my post. I just like to look at cute pictures of my kids, so I thought you might too. Isn't that a cool carving? To do it justice I should have zoomed out, since it's a full-sized horse head peaking around a stall front to sniff a kitty cat. And it's all carved out of one massive piece of wood.
So back to the day's work:
What I'd like to do and what I get to do and what I do leading up to what I get to do, these are all possible topics. This morning I get to do some real estate: email some property photos to Hawaii (I'm willing to hand deliver...), call around about custom signs for a new subdivision, do some market research and call the client with price analyses, get signatures on a listing to renew. Then I get to tidy up my house a little, 'cause my mom is coming over to watch the big girls while I go in to Ryan's office for a meeting. Then I get to get dressed office-appropriate and drive to town for the likely contentious two-hour affair. Thus the dread. Oh, don't forget: nurse, burp, change, play with baby three times each, evenly spaced amongst the other stuff. Deliver at similar intervals to 4-year-old juice, crackers, coloring books and clean clothes.
I notice when I am really, really beyond stressed, I tend to break things up into super small steps. And I'm not sure whether that's healthy or obsessive. I don't really take Prozac (tm), YET, but I joke around about it all the time.
HEY! they ought to dispense anti-anxiety drugs at Dutch Brothers along with the mochas! (note to self: cool marketing idea, just figure out a way to get around the pharmacist/doctor thing.)
I am juggling too much. Did I mention I have a 3-month-old baby and a 4-year-old at home too? That our oldest two are in school until 2:05 each day, so at 1:35, I DROP EVERYTHING as though my home were on fire, and DRIVE LIKE A MADWOMAN back to Lorane so they are not walking to an empty house? I know I've detailed the horses, rabbit, errant Golden retriever, baby chicks, etc.
Did I mention that I've not been away from Laura for more than 20 minutes yet? That's something to be proud of, to be sure, but the juggling is taking its toll. The business is doing great. We have so many new contracts that we're booking them months and months out. But today, I am worried. I am looking with trepidation at each and every step I must make today, unsure whether the ground will hold. I long to simplify my crazy life and just sit on the couch and look at Laura's eyelashes growing.
Best to quit dreading and jump in to doing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Space Heaters

So we live in a 120-year-old church-turned-farmhouse, which is not super insulated. In some remodeling genius past the woodstove was removed and replaced with electric heat, which makes for a chilly abode in all but summertime (when it's cooler to sleep in the barn). And just when you'd think (it WAS 80 degrees last Saturday) that it is safe to sleep in just one layer of sweatpants, IT SNOWS AGAIN. In April. In Western Oregon.

Yes, dear readers, we woke up to snow all over the ground again this morning. I didn't take any pictures because it's just not fun anymore.

The other thing we woke up to was not a some*thing*, but some *children* in our bed. Now, I'm all about the family bed, but we have four children now. The oldest two are not of insignificant size. Our bed is a King, but Ryan isn't a little man. Laura needs a buffer zone around her tiny self so she isn't near the quilts or pillows, and I have to police that all night. Throw in a couple more who got chilly in their own beds, preschool- or elementary-age, and someone is not sleeping well. Namely me.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Clinically Speaking

The girls (Gracie too!) started their big horse clinic yesterday. All of KL's kids were there as well, so it was a saddle club extravaganza. Three Sunday afternoons this month, MSG will be working on their riding skills and horse knowledge (that's their teacher leading Sarah on Touche, with KL's Inspector and Nicole and Madeleine following).Here's Grace Hannah. Such a big girl, riding a full-size horse! Check out the boots, too. Tony Llama-o-Rama!
And the unofficial South Lane/North Douglas chapter of The Saddle Club. L-R: Nicole (the girls' BFF), Madeleine and Sarah:

Much more horse fun to come. This coming year, Cole and Maddy will be old enough for Equestrian 4H. Sarah will undoubtedly piggyback on their first year to give herself a "leg up" for the next year.
The pictures are cute, and the kids all had a super great time. But I hafta tell you, I must need some anti-anxiety medication worse than I knew. The idea behind spending the big money for this clinic is that neither KL nor I has to organize, groom horses, make curriculum, be responsible, etc. But... it got started 40 minutes late and ended an hour late (argh), the crafts were not entirely age appropriate and there was next to no academic value. The administrator in me was going bananas. I resolved to say something, then resolved to be polite and let the teacher do her job. I vacillated between my two options and decided to grumble blogwise. I'm sure next week will be more organized and informative. I'm sure my heart palpitations at having to bite my tongue will subside.
I may edit later. The negativity is not good. But the pictures are!

Fun With Numbers

I am at work at Ryan's office this morning, as Carri called in sick. Boo hoo for her and me! I had big plans to work from home, writing all-important marketing materials while uploading more pics of our super fun weekend in the sun. Horseback riding clinic, gardening, laundry galore (this was not part of the fun), Gracie's birthday dinner with Grandma and more. Photos TK.

I am so encouraged by the health of our transplanted seedlings. In my experience, transplanting cosmos and zinnias doesn't work out as well as direct seeding. The girls were excited to start seeds, though, so we went ahead and planted what we had. The lettuces and brocolli are so cute in the salad buckets!

Today it is hailing and raining. Wish the weather would get its act together.

More later from this farmgirl stuck in the office.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun

I love how the girls labeled every single one of the cosmos starts. It is 80 degrees and the sun is shining. Just two weeks ago we had snow and frozen ground, but the starts are finally going in the ground today!

Other plantings of note today: Romaine and Butter Crunch lettuce starts in the "salad bucket" planter off the back porch; sugar snap peas and brocolli; the lemon tree; ivy geraniums and hollyhock starts.

Ryan had big plans for putting in our new raised beds today. However, he spent the day digging up dirt and pouring in a new concrete foundation and box thingamajig for the fire department's water shut-off valve. The volunteer fire department is next door, and their water valve is on our property. Last summer they were having water problems and had to replace the valve. At the time, Ryan was less than impressed with their contractor, who failed to compact the earth after installing the new valve. A-hem.

So here's where I have to admit that it's all my fault. I have been asking Ryan for months (ok, a year) if we could pretty please store the canned ham (our super shabby cute 1959 travel trailer) and the horse trailer behind some gigantic native rhododendrons on that side of the property. All I wanted was some space in front of the shop for a hitching post. A couple of times he said he didn't feel comfortable driving over the aforementioned valve box since it had an obvious saggy baggy soil problem. But yesterday I convinced him that it would be fine if he put some boards on top. The canned ham made it over okay, but the Suburban, he had to stop short of attempting that passage.

Hence his afternoon of digging, pouring concrete, constructing a degage valve cover box out of concrete blocks that were behind the shop. Of course during his hard labor two of the fire department board members and the founding father of the fire department were all across the road at the Rebecca Lodge for a 50th anniversary party. They were all dutifully impressed with his engineering expertise and gratifyingly thankful that he was correcting a problem which it turns out they had recognized all along.

Meanwhile the canned ham is stuck in a funky spot at the edge of the property, even more of a sore thumb in our picturesque view than before. As soon as the concrete sets up (R says 14 days or so), he will fill the hole appropriately with gravel, replace the soil, move the trailers, plant some grass seed and never listen to my naggingly "good ideas" again.

M, S & G were at Grampa's farm playing all day, so Laura was my only helper. She is too small for the stroller! We took walks to see the horses and the neighbors. At 7:40 we booked down to the General Store for dinner. Marti and Lorena were still serving a bunch of day trip bikers and cyclists and we managed to keep them open until half hour past closing. Yummy mushroom burgers and fries and town gossip about who might be the new pastor.

Friday, April 11, 2008

From the Depths of Despair

From the depths of despair to the pinnacle of perfection. I need a better alliteration for a fa-bu-licious day.

To update you, I am sorry for the bloghorror of yesterday. I truly felt SO MUCH BETTER after just one paragraph of counting my blessings. So possibly it was cathartic to write it all out, and possibly it was healing to turn away from the negativity to fake contentment. Or some combination of those two things. In any case, I am back to my own self.

The sun is shining on our nonlawn of English daisies, clover and mixed grasses. The paperwhites are opening, the Big Leaf Maples are budding out -- hurray -- and the horses are dozing in the sunshine. This weekend promises 70 degrees and sunny all Saturday and Sunday, and I am so excited and ready for that change of attitude too.

For the news portion of the blog:

This morning Grace and Laura and I ran into town. My sister Maureen is working the phones at the office today (bless her) and so I was able to deal on my new (well, not mine yet, but probably soon) Suburban. It has a DVD, which I swore I'd never do. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. I first read that phrase in Auld English, and so every time I think it, I think it in that tongue twister way. ... gang aft aglay (go often wrong).

After sitting in the car dealership office (even THAT didn't dampen my new mood) it was back to the office for me, then zoom out to Lorane to show property for an hour, now home for 20 minutes to wait for the girls to walk home from school. Then we hope to head back to Eugene for a family night movie.

I would do anything other than stay home and fold laundry!

Oh! By the way, click here for a cool giveaway at a website near you named Simply A Musing Blog ... looks like a kindred spirit to me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not Ready to Make Nice

The other day my 4-year-old, Grace Hannah, spent an entire time-out muttering that she couldn't kick the grumpies. It appears she came by that stance quite honestly. I am, in the words of the immortal Dixie Chicks: not ready to make nice/not ready to back down/still mad as hell/not willing to go 'round and 'round.

Temper, temper.

All afternoon I've been the emotional equivalent of a preschooler. I can't reign it in, can't throw my grumpies in the garbage. Someone is bullying me and I just want to spit. Really, spit. How mature of me. But it's so primal, this ire, and why lie to compound the sin? I want to roll around kicking and screaming about how unfair is the situatuion. I want to make a scene and make a point and make a chocolate cake and eat it all by myself.

My mother-in-law used to listen to my stories of some small injustices the girls had to endure at school. I thought I was mad at that time, my mother tiger coming out with claws and such. My husband and my people KL and Caro have undoubtedly done more than their shares of listening to my slightly obsessive irksome issues with the real estate career resentment/predatory broker paranoia/horse and neighbor crankiness. But none of those have come close to truly hitting where it hurts in my life. When people call me a name or call into question my character, I feel a little rush of justifiable anger. When others bully my children, I know exactly what button is pushed. I have a few skills; I can swim with the sharks for finite periods of time. But this, this new venture, has taken me to a depth where it appears my snorkel gear can't save me.

And how many metaphors can I cram in the clown car anyway?

I am trying to explore this emotion without pointing any fingers or revealing any details that could come back to haunt me with the thought police. Suffice it to say, it's not just my kids being bullied or my commission pilfered. This time I feel the weight of ten families' paychecks and attendant mortgages and gymnastics lessons and grocery bills. I feel the lies we've been fed are poison that spreads by some unseen channels to infect even those who never were suckered by the bald mean untruths.

So sometimes on even the most picturesque, puffball-clouds-in-a-blue-sky-day, it'd be better if I never contemplated this relationship I must continue. It'd be better if I said to myself, self, you're just going to get madder than hell and spiral down from there. It does nothing for logical thought nor productive action. It makes you into an ugly version of yourself. So if you're not ready to "make nice," maybe you should do that other cliche you missed in yesterday's blog: fake it 'til you make it. Self, fake nice when you can't make nice.


The baby is asleep in my lap. The neighbors are mowing. C's husband changed the locks (six of them; talk about *nice*) at the office today. Shelly kept the big girls after school today while I was in town -- so they got to chase Shelly's boys around their property all afternoon. The beaver spared her plum and peach trees. My chicks are getting bigger and Two Spot's still gaining weight even though the vet said it might take the weather warming at night before he'd make progress. My list of blessings is long and good to contemplate.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I'm pretty sure they meant...

NaBloPoMo couldn't have meant EVERY day, right? I need to go back and edit the blog where I said it would be a piece of cake. Pride goes before ... what?

Anyway I don't feel like writing a letter today. I'm just not that clever, it seems, to find a way to do that for 30 days in a row. I just want to write in the cracks of time about whatever's on my mind.
What's on my mind today, you ask?

Negotiation. I wish I could say that it's the chicks (getting their feathers!) or the garden (going in this weekend!) or a new frog pond (still in the dreaming/pre-planning phase) or the girls' horseback riding clinic (Sunday!). But alas, it is negotation that occupies my farmgirl brain.

People skills, all the rage in the '90s. Thinking outside of the proverbial box, again, from my early career days -- I'd have to say I am pretty good at that. But my skills and my box are both stretched pretty darn thin these days. Real estate put the first stretch mark in, followed quickly by parenthood, horse people barn drama (you know who you are and what you did), neighboring Bed & Breakfast owners who ought to "move back to the state they came from" (the County planner's words, not mine, I swear).

Lately, it's Ryan's business pushing my overstuffed envelope. Note: I have a whole collection of cliches, and I may pull them all out today. I also have an unlimited supply of em dashes and parentheses, evidently.

Today I have even more negotiating to do. We are trying to trade in our failing Suburban for one with half the miles. I have to shovel it out first though. I write from my desk at the office, the one the crew uses when they come in from the field. I finished my employee relations duties and am now watching Laura sleep in her carseat while Grace plays puzzles on the other computer. Not super farmchicky at all. The big girls are at school.

Yesterday KL and I had an almost kid-free M0mmy Time Out. We did a quick Dutch Brothers run (where else?) and then followed a hot tip to find Fire King and Pyrex at a location I shall not disclose on the wide open Internet. KL found some, hurray, and I found FOUR pairs of Mary Jane shoes. Holy footwear. We planned our trip to The Farmchicks Sale in June. Caro's going too. We are saving our quarters in jars and bowls.

Then we drove like the wind back to the Grove to fetch KL's children from school.

I wish time were unlimited. I wish I could blog all day. But the knee-deep Suburban will not wait. I hope to post some new pics tomorrow of our garden spot, the chicks, the horses, Ryan's new tree, etc.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Good Gravy

Dear Dutch Brothers,
Congratulations on your market dominance of Eugene. Just last year I had to go out of my way to get a grande four-shot mocha. It's great that your business is thriving; I can find you on any number of my errand routes AND on the way to Ryan's office.


I am eating out too much. For example, on Friday night I had prime rib at the General Store. Two days last week I had fast food for lunch. And every day a sinful, who-knows-how-many-calories mocha, which is my new baby (as in: "baby weight"). In the interim I managed to stick to our family's relatively healthy, well-rounded, mostly organic diet.

So, in my considered opinion, if you weren't so consistently yummy and so stinking convenient, my waistline would be approaching non-stretchy-pant territory. Thanks for listening.
-Another Dutch Princess

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Dear Me

Oh, Dear ME,
Hold still.

The smallest of personally performed motion might make you throw up at any moment. You are in the vortex, I'm sure, of a storm the likes of which we'll never see again. Or possibly we'll see it every day until the children leave for college. But don't think about that now.

Three days ago our eldest daughter was in hysterics because the dog might die... in the next five years or so. "But that means he'll be gone by the time I'm 14!" she wailed. She has had tears for too many reasons to count in the ensuing days, and you know you are supposed to have some mommy wisdom for these 'tween crises: "Zoe made fun of my jump rope trick." "Mr. Robertson made the timed test harder for our group!" "I have more chores than the others!" Her highs are nearly as stressful as the lows, because her normally adorably gravelly voice goes shrill with excitement while her Mary Lou Rhetton-like body becomes a 60-pound ricochet of joy.

Today the normally sunny seven-year-old has some sort of hypochondriaical tummy ache so severe that she's walking around at a perfect 90-degree waist bend. She can't ride bikes or run down to fairyland or check on the chicks, of course, due to this tummy ache. She probably expects you to do something other than Pepto-Bismol and water and a suggestion to use the bathroom. You cuddled her, you soothed her forehead and suggested she watch a movie and let the other girls stick to the rowdy outdoor play, and all you got for your efforts was a wailing protest that they shouldn't have fun *without* her.

Couldn't you think of a way to make everyone happy? Probably your motion would fix it, but DON'T GIVE IN TO TEMPTATION.

Don't move.

Yesterday the four-year-old changed clothes not fewer than six times, with several layers of clothing each outfit, and threw the discards in Mt. Washmore for your laundry enjoyment. At this moment she is hiding in the corner of the office mumbling "I still feel angry. There's no way to stop the crankies." Over and over again. Her five-year-old playmate refused to share a Barbie something or other and she quite understandably lost her temper. You want her to take the time out somewhere out of earshot, but the chaos out there is too much for her preschool self. She, like the others, changes moods even more often than clothing.

Take a cue from this. Hide out in the office as long as you feel is appropriate. Or legal.

Thankfully the baby is sleeping peacefully. Do not be lulled into believing it's a sign of peace and order to come. Today is bound to be your undoing.

So hold very still.

Speaking from Experience

Friday, April 4, 2008

Letter for yesterday

Any given date, any year

Dear God,
I'm sorry for stressing. I have heard that worry is a sin. I still worried, panicked and stressed. Of course You came through. The worry didn't make it so.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

National Blog Posting Month April #2

Hey, 30 letters in 30 days. A snap. I am writing letters I should've written.

December 20, 2005

Dear Sir:
Please accept this resignation in the sincere manner it is intended. As much as I have enjoyed working as an independent broker at your family-run company the last four years, it is past time for me to go. In my experience, staying longer than I know I should will not serve either of us well. I have learned much from you and I appreciate your willingness to share from decades of experience.

I also recognize that you have made huge efforts to accomodate me and my quirky desire for mentorship. I appreciate the yearly goal-setting lunches. I appreciate even more the times when you were truly too busy for me but took time to hear about my deal anyway. I know once I had your attention it was your full attention, and you attacked the challenges as though they were your own.

You often asked if there was anything you could do to help me be more successful. My answer was consistent: please help me figure out a way to be with my family more. It wasn't fair of me, of course, to bring it up so repeatedly. So I can't blame you for never having an answer to that particular request. Along these lines, I ask your indulgence one last time. I am leaving, and I hope to do so gracefully. I am really leaving, and I need you and your family business to realize that I am at last recognizing that what you have done is put your family first. You did answer the question by example, and so I hope you can respect my decision as a choice you might have made.

Finally Found Courage

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I don't know what this is. I read about "NaBloPoMo" on a good blog KL sent to me ( Rainy Day in May) and I had some fun guessing what this strange word might stand for. I could ASK, but that would be too direct. So I gather that there is a challenge to write a letter every day this month. And because I firmly believe that the art of letter writing is endangered, I am so excited. I am so *there.*

I think I will try to write a letter each day that I wish I had written during some other time in my life. Who knows if this is in the spirit of the challenge. I just wanna see if I can do it. And maybe if my kids and the dinner bell allow I will try to look up the NaBlo etc. thing later.

December 11, 1998
Dear Madeleine,
I said that word over and over again to you during your first moments in the world, your first precious minutes breathing air. You are our first child and we will share a bevy of firsts, so let me be the first to tell you how desperately I love you already. Mommy and Daddy love you, not the least reason being because we waited so long for you. But now that you're here it's all about you. We loved the idea of you and now we're in love with you. Your ten tiny toes and your smooshed nose and your head full of hair and ideas. Thank you for making us parents.
This morning is like the first bite out of a chilled apple. The landscape taut and defined, the views each framed by fog like a photographer's custom lens trick. On mornings like this I feel supremely blessed to walk around our farmyard acre, feeding animals and checking on plants.

I even woke up at a farmer's hour this morning. Ryan was up at 5, the baby and I shortly after. Madeleine and Sarah dutifully up at 6:15. Ryan asked Madeleine whether she slept in her clothes, so quickly did she get dressed. That girl was born organized. She always chooses her outfit the night before. Sarah is more of a mini me (read: *not* born organized) and spends her dressing time holding the baby, drinking her cocoa, finishing a puzzle. When it's time to go she will exclaim that she has no socks. Usually that is the least of her problems at that point.

Grace didn't wake up until 7:30, just as the girls were leaving for school. She is engrossed in Clifford, eating her circle toast (English muffin) and drinking her cocoa. Today she is going to "gramma 'nita's" while Laura and I go to work with Ryan.

Things at the office are weird. I don't know if that word is right. Actually, I know that word is wrong, but I can't put my brain on the right one. We are facing our second round of payroll, figuring out the cash flow, trying to stay positive as we wait for the busier season to roll around. The phone has started to ring quite a bit and we implemented a system for the estimates to get back out in a timely manner. Ryan is rolling right along with his city contract and trying to find time to do other billable work and get the office going. We have this last payroll check to pay for the sellers' vacation time, then the first payment on the note. We have to talk to them about employment going forward. The first couple of weeks of the new business Ryan was still at his old job and I wondered often whether I have the stomach for running a company. Well, that's a moot question, really. We just do it, to quote Nike.

So my second cup of coffee is almost gone, I'm still in my PJs/barn clothes (this is when I roll out of bed in my sweats and throw one of Ryan's shirts over the whole outfit, slip on my rubber garden shoes and call it good) and I am supposed to deliver Grace to the neighbor's house in 20 minutes. Better go clean up and put on office attire.