Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday's Word (Be Still)

This morning I had a little Monday-esque fun, which was a bonus since it's Wednesday already. We are getting ready to take Sarah to sleep-away camp and I am drinking my eighth cup of coffee. No spiking allowed because I have to drive an hour one way to get her delivered... speaking of delivery, her original delivery was 14 hours long and I am not getting any points for that. Still.

In the middle of washing her sleeping bag and camp clothes, the power went out. As I clearly should have expected, it being the middle of July with no wind or snow or storm-like power-outage-causing phenomenon. So she may go to camp with a new wardrobe and sleeping bag. Yay.

Then the nice people who rent our former home from us -- you know, the one I never wanted to leave -- they called to say the downstairs bathroom ceiling has collapsed. They're sorry they didn't mention anything sooner, it just seemed like a little leak under the upstairs tub. Um, yeah, my beloved clawfoot tub that we had installed just before deciding to move to the country. That one.

So I decided to go on battery power (for the laptop) and upload this Word for Wednesday (which is much more powerful than a battery :)):

Psalm 46:10. It's a good one. Also, if you're looking for more encouragement today, be sure to click over to Amy Deanne at the 160 acre woods.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frugal Schmugal

Laura has now, completely against direct orders, uttered two words. "Baby" and "Dada." I think you will all understand when I create a lovely hand-painted sign and picket the front of our little hobby farm, because I am going on strike.
While I am on strike from that corner of my life called unappreciated motherhood, I decided to get going on the clothesline. So I went out and dug a hole and mixed up some concrete (just kidding! What I really did is start hanging clothes to dry on the picket fence. Funny how that happened, me turning into a redneck simply by moving to the sticks.)
The EGE is ever so much more engineery than I, so he witnessed the jeans drying on the fence, interpreted the data correctly, and quickly dug a hole and mixed and poured the concrete base for my new old clothesline. It has a clever PVC pipe buried just to ground level. Said PVC pipe is slightly larger in diameter than the clothesline, so we can bring the clothesline into the shop for the winter.
This brings me to the story of how I came to possess this new old clothesline and how important a good friend might be if you are wanting to procure a free clothesline or anything else that's lying in a junk pile somewhere.
Not that we go dumpster diving or anything. That's another blog and it's under the name Martha Stewart, I think.
Before the birth of Laura, my fourth child, KL and I used to be able to cruise the backroads of our rural county(ies) with all of our combined seven kids in her mammoth nine-passenger Sub.
These days we have to procure babysitting because none of us owns a 15-passenger van (well, my dear father-in-law does, but it's been to the Grand Canyon and Mexico and back a few too many times with far too many college kids, and that's just too schmutzy for even a frugal girl such as myself).
To prepare ourselves for whatever adventure was in store, we'd detour into the nearby college town (okay, only 30 to 50 miles out of our way) for Dutch Brothers mochas and a boatload of Italian sodas in kid-size rocket-shaped cups. Then we'd mainline the caffeine (I don't really know what mainlining is. Probably don't want to.) and choose a road.
One day last summer when I was still cute-ish in second-trimester pregnancy but cranky as all get-out, we were out and about on such a cheer-up mission. My coffee may or may not have been half caffeinated. Could this be why Laura is so precocious?
"Look!" shouted Headlong. "Gracie's eating my quesadilla!"
"Stop!" shouted Headstrong. "There's a plant nursery ahead!"
Which child do you think got the gold star?
KL carefully applied the brakes and none of the children's lunches flew threw the air as we deliberately and cautiously (this is how I remember it) made the turn onto the farm drive sporting a hand-lettered "organic geraniums shasta daisies columbines strawberries just $1.29" sign.
Perennials, herbs and kitchen garden starts for $1.29. This, my friends, is why I moved to the country.
After we loaded up the way-back and all of the children's laps with precious plants, KL was preparing to back out of the yard when I spied it.
Every self-respecting farmyard has a pile o' crap. Mine doesn't have any exposed piles (except right now as I wait for the leftover garage sale stuff to go to St. Vincents), but especially the two- and three-generation farms will have a lot of good junk in those piles. On this particular day, standing sentinel over this nursery/farmyard pile was a perfectly miraculous umbrella-style rotating clothesline.
Just like my Grandma used to have.
I immediately coveted the clothesline, but as I was already buried in plants and sucking down more fortifying (half) caffeine, and as I was with baby bump, I turned to my true friend and asked, "would you mind asking whether they are going to throw away that clothesline?"
For just one moment my friend had pity on my baby bump, and she got out and asked the elderly gentleman. He said, "Take it! Any other trash you want to haul for me?"
So then I disentangled myself and roped it to the top of the Sub, squishing the baby bump in the process but too elated to care. A free clothesline! Just like my Grandma's!
Just a little over a year later, the EGE is installing it. I will have crisp linens and clean-air-scented t-shirts. (I draw the line at outside drying of undies.)
I do have some flashes of guilt (because I am, after all, a mommy, in whom guilt is probably hardwired even when on strike) because it later came to light that KL was after just such a clothesline. So yesterday when I was in the hardware store buying new line to string on the new old telescoping pole, I priced those bad boys for my dear friend.
Yeah, that's when I remembered I'm broke. I mean frugal.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Remember Vacation Slide Shows?

So, the Suite family went to the lake for the day, courtesy of a birthday bash for KL's daughter Fidget of Katie's Calamities, and now you will be seat-belted into your chair and forced to enjoy photos of some of our fun.

Gracie wasn't sure about all that lakeness at first. That's Headstrong (or Headlong... I always confuse the bloggy names of KL's boys) out in uncharted waters. Incidentally, Grace tends to approach everything the way she did the lake. She observes and calculates risk and watches her big sisters make all the rash decisions and amends, and then she joins the fun. It is so great having big sisters and not just because they have to make your bed for you and carry your laundry upstairs.

The EGE and Laura spent the day on a quilt in the shade. She was teaching Daddy a few things from her book. This trend should continue for the next 18 years or so. Maybe longer.

The three cuteketeers reapplied sunscreen at least half a dozen times. My Maddy turns a lovely nut brown, but KL's Fern and my Sarah have the milk-white skin of romance novel damsels. Also, Sarah has quite the way with the movie star sunglasses. You may be seeing more pictures of the camera-shy Sarah since she has not discovered that we can still see her when she has those glasses on.

Little did we know that Laura was working on that tooth I discovered later Saturday evening. The pictures told the tale. Tomorrow she'll be eating steak.

Double trouble... Gracie and her cohort Headlong (Headstrong? Either one could apply.) along with a new redheaded applicant to the crew of calamities. Who knows what they were planning. One time HL convinced Grace to dump an entire large container of baby powder all over herself and her room and finally, him. They looked like little ghost children with white-white hair and eyelashes. I still sweep up talcum powder from her hardwood floor. Another time HL and Grace found themselves fully clothed in the bathtub, mysteriously covered head-to-toe with all of my shampoo and conditioner. Last I watched HL, he and Grace staged a duel to the death (of my peonies) with croquet mallets. They managed to stay out of trouble at the partay, but there was a really good adult-to-preschooler ratio.

I almost didn't upload this lovely photo of Fidget blowing out her candles, because that sweet girl on the right was, um, scratching the inside of her nostril. But it was the only photo of the candle-blowing moment. Plus I am still juvenile enough to think nose-picking in a lifevest is funny. And, she's not my child.

Gracie and the birthday girl get into their chocolate with gusto. As well they should if they ever want to graduate to be real grown-up girls. Why do you think there are no photos of KL and me?

Does this water make my pedicure look fat?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Caution: Woman Working

You'd think from the blissful look on her face:

... that she was eating chocolate.

Or is that just me?

Laura has a tooth breaking through. I'm not sure whether to throw my arms up in despair or keep raging against the mad dash of time. Not sure at all. Her little tooth is very cute, and I am in a bittersweet mood anyhow, so we'll go with a third option: celebration.

Mmm... bittersweet chocolate sounds good.

Today I wanted to give y'all a little tour of my office.

The Chinese brush paintings Madeleine and Sarah did for me:

Along with a little bit of fairy portraiture.

The girls' longstanding favorite fantasy is fairyland. They have discovered a fairytopia in the back corner of our property, complete with an enchanted apple tree, a magical rope swing and grand arches made of brambles. Madeleine built a little bench for sitting and waiting to glimpse -- something. They ferret broken china out to use for fairy huts and pavilions. The fairies pay them back in inspiration.

On the other wall of my office I have kept for far too long the girls' New Year's Resolutions. Sarah's reads: I will put the canned food away. Madeleine's says: I will work on not back-talking my mother.

This completely enchanted me, since Sarah loves to put the groceries away. It's her favorite OCD activity. Please don't be offended if you have OCD -- Sarah may or may not, but she's certainly obsessive about putting food away in alphabetical order with all the labels facing correctly. It's a strange choice for a resolution, since she didn't have to change anything to succeed in the Year 2007 and beyond.

Interestingly, Sarah's resolution for 2008 (can't find it -- Laura was being born when it came home) read: I resolve to:___________. Blank. When the EGE questioned her about it, she answered, "Ms. M says I'm perfect just as I am." Oh. Glad she was done with self-improvement at the tender age of 7.

Madeleine didn't make a new resolution for 2008, at least not on posterboard. She is an exceptional goal-setter, and 2007's "not back-talking" was evidently the suggestion of her teacher after she had resolved verbally to "do the barrel pattern in under 15 seconds and beat the whole under 9 group in pole bending and learn to drive Grampa's John Deere." The teacher gently guided her toward working on her respect skills (or forced her, if that's possible.) I appreciate all the help I can get. A few times during the year I reminded her of the goal. Oh so gently. How do you think that went for me?

Here's the girls' new kitten, Dewy, sleeping in a fishbowl in front of part of my vintage typewriter collection: I was wishing to buy a fish, because I thought it might calm me down. You know, gazing at the guppy? Isn't that meditative or something? But after I saw Dewy in the drink (calm down, PETA, the bowl is actually dry) I realized this house is just too upside down to contain one more live being.

My church-turned-farmhouse is small, but it's home. We have four bedrooms, and all the girls sleep in one (I am sure this will change as they approach the teen years). We have a "great room" and a laundry room and a little den. And... I have an office.

I have an office, which is otherwise known as the Mommy Zone. If the forcefield is in place, I can usually rely on approximately 45 seconds of uninterrupted time when I sit down in the Mommy Zone. I am going to explain to my children (and myself ) the irony of a quiet space to work in which I am surrounded by children's artwork, children's long-past resolutions, eight quirky and nostalgic manual typewriters, my husband's engineering texts, a handpainted door panel that says "6 Week Old Pigs" and... last but not least... a view of the bed and breakfast next door.

Maybe I could get some work done if I booked a night over there? I hear they leave chocolate on the pillow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I Was Gonna Water It, Mom

I was going to find out what the word is for when you use a word that's spelled like the way we speak, all slurred-together-like. I was gonna.

But then I got good and mad about getting dumbed down and decided if I researched that word, it might give me license to just start, you know, getting dumber.

As if. With, like, a smaller vocabulary, and more use of "like" in my written life, and not as in, "I like ice cream too much," but more along the lines of, "I was all, like, sheesh, and he was all, like, unh-hu-uunh." I wasn't even raised in the Valley.


I had a call today from a longtime friend who was raised in Phoenix, which I'm pretty sure isn't a valley -- don't they have a mesa there? -- but Phoenix was very Valley-esque in my 1980s day.

This friend (we'll call her Carolyn) had the raddest hair. It so totally did not gag anyone with a spoon. In the late '80s, Carolyn's bangs stood straight up in a most wave-like manner. She was edgy and way cooler than me. She was cooler than everyone except Wav-O Am-O, a sweet girl whose hair could stand a little taller than even Carolyn's, and who embraced New Wave music and had a couple thousand safety pins in her leather bomber jacket. (I was a secret Air Supply devotee with an ever-so-practical Land's End ski coat. How uncool is that?)

Today Carolyn is the mom of two teen boys, so you know she is reduced to the uncool, definitely not "phat" or whatever they call cool these days. (I still think you're the coolest, Caro, even if your hair is at way lower altitude now.)

Anyway Carolyn called me today to tell me about a high school reunion. It's a big one. I graduated a little early so most of the really cool kids from my day were a lot more adult at graduation than I am, say, now.

But I still am apparently getting dumber.

The call took me right back to that day of Guess jeans and Cyndi Lauper (sp?) hair and, like, bandanas wrapped around wrists and all. I'd show you a picture but I don't have a scanner. And that's probably more pleasant for all of us.

I was jolted out of my quick trip down locker-stuffing lane by the sight of a Wisteria my mom gave us. It's all crispy and unhappy in the heat because I was completely irresponsible and put it out of the regular watering path while I was trying to decide where to plant it. My first reaction was to run into the nursery and buy another one (!) so my mom wouldn't know that I'm still that distractible and flighty.


I was gonna water it, Mom.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Free Association... Complementary Too

I have a little pet peeve with the complementary thing. It's peevish of me, really, to need to point his out. But I can't seem to stop myself... so here we go...

My dear, sweet husband the EGE purchased for me a Queen For The Day gift certificate. You know, the kind that includes spa pedicures, manicures, facials and massage? Awesome gift! If you are a husband type lurking around here, your wife type would love this gift. She would shower you with compliments even amongst her girlfriends with whom the hubby-dissing might be more commonplace than you'd like.

So you see, I am the recipient of this lovely gift and it has check boxes next to all of the things that come with the package: All of the complementary services. And it is driving me up the wall that they spent good money on design and printing these beautiful cardstock brochures and used the wrong word, complimentary, in each and every place that should have read "free," included" or "complementary."

I just can't seem to get over it.

Yesterday I used the pedicure part of the certificate and got lots of compliments on my cute red toenails and callus-free heels throughout the afternoon. I had to beg for the compliments, but I'll still take 'em. Now as soon as I'm done blogging I'll run out to the garden barefoot and undo some of that baby-smoothness. Sigh.

But back to the free association.

Last night we were enjoying family dinnertime but could not for the life of us find the Parmesan cheese. Spaghetti and salad with no Parmesan? Or, as Gracie calls it, "stinky cheese." We gave up after a few minutes of searching and sat down to eat and visit as a family. This has been sadly kind of rare lately, as the EGE is working lots of late nights.

Ten minutes into our conversation, 4-year-old Gracie randomly piped up, "Maybe it walked upstairs."

"Maybe what walked upstairs?

"Maybe the stinky cheese did walk itself upstairs."

Sure enough, she raced up to her room and brought back the Parmesan.

Then the EGE somberly asked her to please not take any more food for walks. And she quickly replied, "Then can I have a dog for my birthday?"

Now our dog stinks, but this is a pretty free association. And not so complimentary if you know what I mean.

So in the spirit of speaking well of the dog... he's getting kind of old. And I'm feeling bad about all the times I didn't take him into the groomer but just washed him with a cold water hose and flea shampoo in the back yard. Because it's not as though I dislike the dog. I'm just exhausted (and a little disgusted) by his doggy antics. And his odor.

This morning my Suburban, my dear, dear Suburban, is sitting in the driveway awaiting its fate. Or waiting for the mechanic to have time for it. And I had to run around town in the EGE's (relatively) sexy little black sedan yesterday while the sweet EGE and the dog had to go in the stinky extra crew rig. It smells way worse than the dog. Even worse than Parmesan.

So I'm stuck at home today with only a couple of extra kids, planning a sewing project or two as soon as I can get over the word choice errors on my gift certificate.

Stay tuned. For the sewing projects, not the end of my ranting ways.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cowgirl Up

Last year we were full of confidence. We thought speed was the best. After all, why walk when you can gallop? Why ride in the barnyard when the trails beckoned with water hazards and log crossings to boot? Why hold onto the saddle horn at a full run when you weigh a whopping 61 pounds (soaking wet) and your thigh muscles are 40 pounds of that, so you can clearly hang on with your legs alone? You sorta get the picture. We'd barely hold still long enough for photos like this:

This year, although we'd never, ever admit it outside of bedtime tuck-in time whispers, we have lost our edge a little:
That's yesterday. Madeleine spent most of the afternoon sitting beside our friends' horse trailer, feeding graham crackers to her horse, who has spent the last couple of months at a trainer. So we're horse people.

But we're no chickens:

We're cowgirls. And those chickens can eat our dust. Because yesterday Madeleine got back in the saddle.

Of course she has ridden since the big accident, but she hasn't gone near Seven, the horse who threw her after being stung by a hornet as they practiced barrel racing in our back yard.

There's courage. And then there's guts.

Nine months ago, she broke both of her arms in a characteristically dramatic way (how else?). Being the parent of a severely injured daredevil who knows better than you and her team of doctors, now that's not easy. But being 8 and having little to no use of your hands for months, now that's a lot harder.

It takes time to sand off the razor sharp edges of an apparent Evil Kenevel heir. But it can be done. I'm just not sure whether the whole experience bent Maddy's spirit.

Another child rode Seven in the barrel races yesterday, took third place. So we know Maddy's competitive spirit is alive and well: she made sure everyone knew it was her horse, and that boy? He didn't know how to lean into it, or Seven would've taken him in first place. "Easy."

Speaking of hard, I thought it was hard watching her ride other (completely bomb-proof, swayback, never-going-fast) ponies at riding lessons the past season. But encouraging her to get back on Seven --even for a little walk around the rodeo grounds -- and watching her brave little 9-year-old self gut it out, now that was darn near impossible. Bock-bock-bock--bb-aah-ck.

This is how I know I am in no way prepared to be as brave as I need to be. I am sure I have the courage to put my baby back on the literal and figurative horse. And I'm sure I can hold her hand until she gallops away and denies that she ever wanted my support.
But this:

Now that I don't have the stomach for. In this rodeo arena I am the weak-kneed, lily-livered pansy who will lock her children up after wrapping them in cotton batting. Oh, please, someone stop this wagon train before my daughter gets old enough to want to sit IN THE LAP of a 16-year-old cowboy between youth rodeo events.

Oh. My. Word.

The best thing I can say about that photo is that it took my mind off the possibility of the girls getting hurt (in a horseback riding accident) ever again.

We know both of these kids: They are strong, awesome teenagers who respect adults and get good grades and treat animals and small children with care. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with them. I'm just sayin'. I knew that boy (manchild bullrider) when his favorite toy was a plunger. He preferred it to a stick pony. I know this sounds odd.

And I'm not afraid to tell that girl about that particular phase of his childhood if it will stop the public (or private) display of affection before, say, age 24.

Does everything have to go so fast?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gender And The Jobs

A Paradise Valley view not too far from our home:

If that doesn't allow you to breathe a big sigh of relaxation and ease, I don't know what to do for you. Watching horses graze is poetic to me because they are intent on that patch of clover and grass. Sometimes their eyelashes are so low as they graze that they appear to be sleepwalking. One horse is usually noticeably at attention, guarding so the others in the herd can graze worry-free. If there's a gelding, he's elected. But even a group of mares will take turns.

A blissful view in our own backyard:

A friend told me about some research he read in which it was somehow proven that a mother has a huge serotonin rush after looking at a picture of her own smiling baby. I submit that a picture of a relaxed or sleepy -- better yet, sleeping -- baby is a much more powerful drug. I could nod off just looking at those sun-soaked babes up there.

My dream-come-true Joseph's Coat rose peeking through my other dream come true: a white picket fence:

There's a heck of a lot of work in tending flower and vegetable and herb gardens. This may be why you don't see more pictures of my garden -- I just haven't been weeding at all this year. So the Queen Anne's lace and dandelions are sharing space with the roses and lavender and pineapple sage and it's just a big hillbilly jumble. But it still makes me happy. In fact, I wander around at night with the soaker attachment on the hose and water the weeds and the flowers and enjoy that particular scent of herby goodness and never even think about whether I should get out the hoe. The EGE did weed my raspberry beds, and that was lovely of him.

But most of the summer, the EGE has been working himself to the bone while we all play gardening and waterfight and horses and chickens. This has me thinking on the subject of gender roles.

I have never been married (hah hah) to the idea of Henrietta Housewife and Jobful Joe. Throughout our 16-year (next month!) wedded life, we have shared the traditional and non-traditional roles pretty equally. (Well, the EGE does hate to do dishes, but that's incidental to the big picture.)

Last night a wonderful mentor of mine stopped by our farm to bring us a gift of new towels. (Yay! Towels!) Linda's a neighbor, rurally speaking, and I've known her my entire life. Still riding horses (and fixing fences and mucking stalls and bucking hay) at 63, her ranch savvy surpasses any that I might hope to attain. I can remember when I was a teenager I used to watch her work horses and marvel at her strength and poise and command.

When Linda goes to town, she is the picture of a country doctor's wife (which, in fact, she is). Every blonde hair in perfect place, her pedicure polished and her clothes meticulous and stylish. But on the ranch or running around our valley on her missions of kindness, you'll see that she can pretty much outwork anyone half her age. Her jeans and t-shirts and boots may have been blue or white or black at some point, but they are usually covered in a fine mist of horse sweat and sandy arena dust. If you are a horse person, you think this smells good. If you aren't, you want to know whether Linda has a particularly rugged twin sister.

So the other day a mutual friend said to me, "Linda works like a man." This was meant as a compliment. And it kinda got to me.

I haven't thought very much about feminism since my undergraduate days, when it annoyed me to no end that there had to be such a movement. In my tiny little world, there were Lindas, and there were soap-making stay-at-home dads, and they were all good. Or bad. Or whatever they were, but they certainly weren't defined by their gender. When I went to work in the news business, I was shocked to learn that my editor hesitated to send a "girl" out on a fire call, even when there were no other reporters available.


I didn't think I was a feminist, but I was.

Then a couple of years ago, when the EGE was starting a business (read: building his client base and working really hard but not making much money) and I was working a lot of hours in the white hot real estate market, we attended a New Year's Eve party at the home of some very good friends. All of the dozen or so children present were playing and the adults were enjoying homemade salsa and guac and lazing around toasting random wonderful things, when a man I consider one of our "people" started to apologize to me that he had listed a rehab house with another real estate agent.

Well, what he was really doing was trying to get me to say this other (male) agent wasn't doing a good job. But it started out as an apology, rambled around to criticism of this other agent, and then ended spectacularly badly with a gender jab. "It just doesn't seem right that you're the woman and you're working so d--- hard." (Upon which his gorgeous, multi-degreed stay-at-home wife and mom to his four children elbowed him HARD in the ribs and said "You didn't say anything about that when I was working two jobs putting you through grad school.")

So we are still friends with this couple, close enough to say the dumb stuff when there's been too much champagne, but I kinda look at them differently to this day. I can't wrap my brain around the fact that someone I love who could be that entrenched in gender roles. (Prolly even harder for his wife.)

We are raising four girls here at Farm Suite. I just don't know how hard to hit this issue. It's still rolling around in my brain, and I'm guessing not gathering a lot of moss.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Peeps

Look! Laura's sitting up. She's six months old today. And it wasn't her best hair day, but we'll try not to mention that. I was a little frazzled myself and couldn't be bothered to find a hair bow for her, because...

Today was also the dolphin fiesta. Fourteen children plus a little ice cream cake plus a little swimming plus a lot of face paint equals a little wine for mommy after everyone under 10 years old is crashed in the den watching a movie and denying exhaustion.

There's the birthday girl a little overwhelmed by her friends' expression of joy through song.

Okay, and she is so my daughter because she appreciates the cards as much as the gifts, and the handmade rhyming poem cards the most.

Sarah has a little quilt-covered storage ottoman where she keeps the photos she pilfers from my albums and every note she's ever received from friends and family. She also keeps her journal in there. Don't ask how I know.

Today, during the party, Sarah was busy scowling at my camera while she and some of the girls built sand castles in our little sand box. I asked (or begged, really, if you want to know the truth) why she couldn't just let me take some nice candid shots. Please? And then it wasn't Sarah at all who answered, but her friend Kylie, who said to the group in general, "Sarah doesn't like pictures because her mom will just blog it all."


I have only been blogging regularly for a few months, and already my children's friends are aware?

So this got me thinking on the subject of my kids' inner lives. It's already painfully clear that no matter how much journal snooping I might find appropriate and acceptable, I am slowly and surely moving out of the center of their worlds.

Today, Laura can sit up. And this means that tomorrow she'll be off to college. Today, Sarah celebrated her eighth birthday with a rowdy bunch of boys and girls with whom she shares how she feels about my blog. And this means that tomorrow, I can expect a boy on a motorcycle to ask her out and myself to have absolutely no authority to say no. (Because she'll be 30 before she can date.)

There are friends, and then there are your people. Maybe it's just your person. But even then, even if it's just one, your person is the world of difference between alone and lonely.

I have people. People who will pick up the phone for me even when they're in the middle of a meeting. People I trust to pick up my children when I can't get out of a meeting. People with whom I have history, who saw me through messy college roommate days and who saw my children born (Not the moment of. I'm not that close to my people.)

Do you have people?

There's a credit card commercial running now that features Ellen Degeneres and a pop star whose respective people are supposed to connect to get Ellen a concert ticket. Ellen, very funnily, relies on American Express to be her people. My people have nothing to do with credit cards. The only thing my credit card people can do for me is lower my interest rate. Hello?

I want my kids to have their people. I just really want to be one of them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More Camera Begging

See that smudge up there in the left hand corner of this picture? I can't blame that on the camera since it was likely on my Suburban windshield. Everything else wrong with the photo, let's say it was the camera.

What I wanted that photo to do and what it does are two different things. I wanted it to tell you how insanely tired and hot those field hands are. I wanted you to feel the lead weight of their legs, how they can hardly lift their arms after days and days of bucking hay in the 90-degree heat. How that ride on the flatbed trailer may be their only rest, because there's more hay in the next field and rain's on the forecast. (What does the photo tell you, in actuality? That I followed a tractor for quite a while, and went slow enough to take a picture through my windshield.)

I'm not a photographer. Back in my cub reporter days (don't you just love the sound of "cub reporter"? Say it a lot, over and over again, and you could kinda get hypnotized. Then I'd command you to read my blog daily and comment more than once each time you read. A-hem.)... Anywhat, back when I was a news reporter, I had a photographer all my own. Sort of like an entourage of one.

I covered an air base; that was my "beat." I was intimately familiar with F-16s and spoke daily with "flaks" and even got to go in a Stealth Bomber once. I can't remember much about it because the military wiped my brain afterward. Or maybe it was later pregnancy that made me forget. Also, motherhood made me ramble. I never did that before, I swear.

My trusty photographer! That's where I was. Even though cub reporters (cub reporter, cub reporter) were paid diddly squat, just enough to make the $225 monthly rent on a riverfront cottage while your husband finishes eng-gen-eer school -- despite the low pay, I didn't have to take my own pictures.

I had a Nikon film camera of my own that sat in its sturdy bag with its many pretty lenses. They were a prerequisite to looking the part. My first photographer, Todd, tried to teach me how to use it. I was more interested in learning his unbelievably fascinating backstory than paying attention to F-stops and the like. Todd was formerly a minister who got washed up and ran away to the West Coast to take pictures for a small daily paper. Man, that was interesting to me. But that was before I knew that lots of pastors burn out and choose another career before they really get a foothold in the church. Hmm. That's for another post.

My second photographer was named Lou. He's still, 15 years later as I blog, taking fantastic pictures for the Associated Press. At that time he liked to take pictures of falling-down cabins and barns along the way to the airfield. He also liked -- a lot -- stopping at the local bakery on the way there and back. Don't tell our editor. I learned my love of rural landscapes from him.

Took this one a month or so ago on a back road on the way from my farm to KL's. Dang if I didn't wish I had my old Nikon (I hear the song, Nii-kon Ca-mer-a, love to take a pho-o-to-graph, every time I type that). Because if I had been carrying my old SLR, you'd be able to tell there's a stock-still doe standing at attention between the trees. Her eyes were huge! Her ears were bigger! And yet it looks like a random photo of some reprod timber. Sigh.

Lou? Are you reading? Any tips on how to take a decent photo with a point-and-shoot digital camera? Any tips on how to remain in the state of contentment with said loaner camera? Any tips on how to get my blog on the AP wire? (Just kidding about that last one.)

So I'm not a photographer, but blogging pays even less (if I'm wrong, email me to tell me how) than a small daily paper does, and it does not come with a sidekick photographer to chronicle my mommy days. I have to take my own dang falling-down-barn pictures. And I need a new schmancy DSLR camera to do so. Anyone giving one away? Nikon? Canon? I'm not choosy. (But I could be ever so loyal and blog about you every day. Just mail me the camera and I'll mail back my contract to promote your camera shamelessly.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Feathers Ruffled, Wet Hens Included

There's Grace Hannah going out to feed the chickens. You can't fully appreciate her ensemble in this distance shot, but let me describe if for you: She's wearing a daisy-print sundress approximately four sizes too big; she's barefoot and she has someone's Disney memorabilia, also about four sizes too big, on her head. Note the henhouse is only painted as high as the girls could reach. I am letting go of my control freak nature. One breath at a time. Also, we've been a little busy with the nonstopness of summer. In through the nose, out through the mouth...

Surprise! There was an egg. The FIRST egg! Oh, it's a big day for a little omelet chez Suite.

Here's the sweet Cochin hen we believe responsible for the beautiful egg. Thanks, Shelly, my chicken guru!

Here's one of the Kookoo Moron chickens. I am not kidding about them being hard to love. You thought it was just poetic license, me renaming the Cuckoo Marans, didn't you? If you could see this hen in action, you'd wonder that my Lamaze breathing can get me through with such WEIRD chickens.

She's all wet. Literally. Someone dumped out my failed Friendship Bread batter for the chickens. Sigh. I had kept it alive for months, but then when our relatives were here.... well, I forgot to stir it. Or feed it. It's a good thing it's just yeast and not a pet or anything.

Anyway this Moron chicken got batter all over her. I saw her when it happened, and sort of shrugged it off. Well, apparently she couldn't do the same. A few hours later (alright, the next morning) she was covered in a hard candy shell of baked-on sticky mess. Doesn't it make you want to run straight for suburbia?

Then I had to chase her around the little chicken yard, because she's not that bright.

Then I had to wash her with soap and warm water. I felt like a member of the Audobon Society, only with a less lovable rescuee.

All cleaned up. But still madder than a wet hen. Also Kookoo. Have I mentioned that?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Sarah

I have never known anyone who lived in the moment as well as you.

You'd rather be home than anywhere.

Outside at home is better than just at home. But anything's better than going to town.

Luckily we have a fairyland right here at home.

You are so generous and kind.

And much, much cuter than a bug's ear.

As soon as I get all melodramatic and wistful, you know something or someone is gonna slap me upside the head.

The thing is, I happened to drive by my family's homestead the other day. The newish owners cut down about a dozen enormous, I mean gigantic, colossal, heritage-sized Maple trees. My Karmann Ghia branch is in a little old woodpile that could heat the White House for a couple of years.

My brother's and my swimming hole? Completely exposed to the sun... no sheltering trees or shrubs at all... and the amateur hydrologist in me says it's not long for this swimming world. The Cedar-sided house in the (now-nonexistent) woods? Painted builder beige. Nice. Very nice. Every once in a while it's good for my soul to have my security blankie sent through a bleach cycle.

This is what I'm telling myself.

But the really funny part is that right as I posted yesterday, I had an immediate flash-forward to the quickly approaching day that our girls are asking for completely inappropriate little sporty cars. This is too bad, because the EGE is already planning on Volvos and Crown Vics for them. In light of my position as a parent and not a teenager (very often) I am so grateful to my dad for the unsexy, safe and cheap car that saw me through high school. My bratty inner child is still a majority immature vote, but holy cow. There's no way I'm buying for the girls or myself a Karmann Ghia or today's teen car equivalent, the Miata. In the long-ago words of dear Dad:

A semitruck would drive right over you and never know you were there.

Which is exactly how I felt, soul-wise, when I saw my childhood tree gone. I wonder what are the sheltering branches of my children's baby lives? Sometimes I think I won't know (until the day I read it on their blogs). Madeleine L'Engle wrote in one of her journals about the power of true icons. Not idols, surely, but representative images of what's pure and true. A teddy bear can be an icon of safety, and a teabag can represent afternoons with Grandma. Of course these icons exist for my children just as they did for me. I hope we give them lots of opportunities to reflect on purity and safety and truth.

Today is Sarah's eighth birthday. Happy Birthday Baby! The Suite tradition spreads birthdays out over a week, at least. Last week was the big visit from the EGE's family; lots of grandma and grandpa and auntie love, along with lots of ice cream. Tonight we will do the bonfire with friends and toast marshmallows. Tomorrow my mom is taking her out to see the new American Girl movie, and next week all the girls and boys of our village will descend upon our farmstead to pretend they're dolphins in the ocean. (Or at least to have their faces painted as though there were dolphins swimming thereupon while they scarf wave-painted cupcakes.)

I hope her birthday is happy, happy, happy, and that her childhood feels sheltered and adventurous. I hope her inner life is joyous and the joy bubbles over throughout her years.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The View From Here

When I was a little girl, I could call up the view out my bedroom window wherever I was. I was about to type that the view was burned on my brain, tattooed on my retina, but I think those are too cliche even though they're really the truth.

Throughout my undergraduate studies I had panic attacks. I didn't know at the time what they were called but of course that's what they were. My coping skills included closing my eyes to the immediate recollection of that view. (Also huffing on Constant Comment teabags. I still keep some in my purse. Is this odd?)

So anyway the view out of my bedroom window as I was lying in bed (Misty gray wallpaper with mauve butterflies framed the view. Does this date me?) was a very distinct and enormous big-leaf maple branch. Any season of the year, I can sketch it for you: just budding out with pendulous yellow blossoms in April, gnarled and moss-covered and bare nakey (as my daughters would say) at Christmastime, completely obscured with huge light-dappled leaves most of the year.

The branch curved up and then down again with its own weight in the exact profile of the Karmann Ghia I later begged my dad for.

Daddy, it's so cute. Daddy, look, Molly Ringwald has one in Pretty In Pink. I will never ask for anything again if you get me the blue Karmann Ghia.

How about a Rabbit?

Not cute at all, Dad.

My ungrateful teen self got the diesel Rabbit. Eighty-three cents a gallon for diesel and 40-some miles to the gallon. Why did I get rid of that car? Oh yeah, because I let the gas station guy put oil in it and he was talking to me and put the oil in the coolant part (man, but he was cute) and then my car blew up when I was sneaking to Portland for a concert. And my dad had to rescue me and pay to put a new engine thingy in the car and then sell it to a boy who just turned out to be my future husband. That was fun. And there's a story or four for another day.

The view out my childhood bedroom window was comforting to me because under that branch was where I read all the great books of my babyhood. The branch arched over the heartbreaks of Pony Club and the joys of slumber parties and the one time I was ever "grounded" (my parents were a little liberal, but had their limits, which were located right about the point at which I attended a fraternity party when I was reportedly at a debate on the nearby college campus).

As hard as I am trying today, I can't see that view in the same way. I have been breathing through teabags and closing my eyes at random moments just to try to catch a glimpse of my branch.

I was wondering whether it's like Sarah's eyesight. She started out as close to blind as a baby can get without a red-tipped cane. Her lens prescription is changed every couple of months as her eyes grow. The hope is that she'll grow out of the particular problem, the name of which escapes me right now. When she was a preschooler we were told she saw in a similar manner as a bumblebee -- you know, with multiple frames all crammed together in their hexagons and pentagons and overlapping circles.

So my panic-stopping view is gone. Did I just outgrow it? It's faded away. I can describe it, I can paint it, but I can't really see it. And then I looked out my office window -- there's even a big-leaf maple there -- but this newish view has none of the history I need to stop the hyperventilation at a critical point.

Maybe what I really need is to go buy myself a Karmann Ghia.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Love Those Locks

Three perfect ponytails packed for shipping to Locks of Love.

But before we could cut hair, we had to celebrate Sarah's birthday with a carousel ride ... sporting tangled tresses. Sarah, not the horse.

Then we were good and ready. We thought.

"Do we have to, Mom?"

"Of course not. But you have to think about why you made the decision. And what a commitment is."

Okey dokey then.

Grandma is a good hairdresser.

My head feels light.

Mine too, Sweetheart.

Caught on camera! The elusive and infectious Maddy smile.

Followed in the Suite tradition by more celebration of Sarah's birthday... with Grandpa and Nana and the whole gang at the ice cream parlor.

Cute hair, huh?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Good To Go

Welcome! Thanks for joining me for my Monday Morning Freak-Out.

I'm a little late for a true morning kerfuffle, but tardiness is integral to my freakiness. So no worries. Or lots of them, depending on your monitor size and blog-reading time allotment.

I had plenty to ruffle my feathers this morning, not the least of which was the departure of family. In the days leading up to the horror that was this morning, we enjoyed a lovely weekend of late nights and haircuts (Locks of Love post to follow) and bonfires and ice cream. Thanks for asking. How was your weekend?

Anyway this morning the EGE's mom, grandma, sister and baby nephew had to leave for home. It was a tearful goodbye... Maddy and Sarah and Grace are so sad to live a whole state away from Nana and Grandma. The way we usually deal with the letdown of their leaving is outright bribery and distraction. The girls and I have a longstanding tradition of buying art supplies and helium balloons after Grandma and Nana go home. I honestly can't remember how we started this, but it still takes the sting out of the lonely Monday.

However. This morning there would be no stationery store trip to dry the girls' tears. On the contrary, the office receptionist called in "exhausted" ... and so the scramble began. Instead of hanging out with my daughters and pretending that life with plain ol' Mommy is just as fun as having lots of lovely other laps around... well, instead of that, they got to pack for a day at the babysitter's house.

I was not prepared for going to the office today (translation: I hadn't pumped any milk), so I hurriedly barked orders at the girls and meanwhile packed Laura's diaper bag and put her in the Suburban and then trailed the girls as they walked to the neighbor's house for babysitting (running on with my sentence to try to give you a sense of the breathlessness of it all). I let the girls walk, but it wasn't a forced march or anything like that; they preferred to walk so they could wave over their shoulders repeatedly at the family as they loaded Tia's SUV.

This was my first mistake (or maybe my second, if you count not expecting and planning for our receptionist to call in with a hangover after the holiday weekend). Allowing the girls to walk seemed like a good idea right up until the time that Madeleine didn't show up at the babysitter's house.

ACK. You read that correctly. My 9-year-old chose the split second that I popped my head in the babysitter's door to make her little self a U-turn and walk back toward home (toward her still-packing family, a half mile away). Then when I called for her, she got scared that she was in trouble, so she did what any errant child would do: she hid in the shrubs at the side of the road. So I frantically yelled her name some more, and imagined every terrible scenario as I ran and searched and in general panicked the bejeebeez out of myself.

Never fear, the morning got better from there.

You know there's a Dutch Brothers blog-famous coffee house on the way to the EGE's office? (It's not exactly on the way, but it's only nine blocks out of the way. And that hardly counts when gas is a mere sixteen dollars a gallon).

So in the spirit of making lemonade, I detoured for my much-deserved liquid courage (no, silly, I'm talking about caffeine. It was only 9 in the morning.) and braved the six-car pile-up (otherwise known as a line of caffeine-deprived drivers) to wait for my self-medication. How was that for a crash of hyphens and parentheses in one paragraph? I think I'm approaching some sort of record.

So... FRIENDS... the weird coffee guy was there. My favorite coffee guy is a boy I like to call "EGE Junior." Actually I call him by my husband's actual name, plus "Junior." Not to his face or anything. It's just that he looks like my husband did in 1988, with the wavy black mullet and the tanned 20-something jawbone and... this could go on for a while. This morning, it wasn't EGE Junior. Alas, it was the creepy guy with the googly eyes who leans too far into my window every time he's serving me.

If you have to ask why I didn't leave the line (staying in line = mistake number two?), you may not be as espresso addicted as you need to be to understand this story fully.

Everyone in the Northwest knows that your relationship with your barista is nearly as important as your relationship with your hairdresser. But, FRIENDS, this dude takes it a little too seriously. He calls me by name, which is okay. He makes my drink ahead of time, which is, again, probably okay.

But TODAY HE TOUCHED MY HAND and not in a casual, just-handed-you-a-hot-cup way.

The kid asked how my Fourth was, and I said, all distracted-like, "just great, how was yours?" And he REACHED OUT FOR MY HAND and picked it up and started COUNTING MY FINGERS. It was my left hand.


So then I said, "What the heck?" And pulled my hand away a little quickly.

And he said, "Just making sure you didn't lose any fingers lighting fireworks."

Friends and readers, I must find me a new Dutch Brothers. If you have read this far in the Monday Morning Freak-Out, I thank you and welcome your advice.

Is it slightly weird that the barista counted my left digits?

Is it weirder that my first thought was that he was gonna compliment my diamond? Ala "girlfriend, your ring is gah-geous"?

And am I making a mountain out of a molehill? I hate to drive further for my Dutch Brothers fix.

And in other news, I arrived at the office to find some accounting issues. Math is SO not my strong point, and I'm tired of hyperventilating out only to have the fact-checker know better, so I musn't elaborate here. At least I had my quadruple mocha to keep me company for the morning. It may have been worth it.

Tomorrow I promise pictures of the Locks of Love haircuts. The girls look so grown up!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sexy For An Eskimo

Just in case you Googled in: I am not actually writing from Alaska, nor am I a native of that land. Also, I am terrified to cause any offense. If you are Aleutian, or if I spelled that wrong, or if that's the wrong word altogether, please don't get mad. I'm just a nice girl from the sticks.

A nice girl from the sticks who just did her morning farm chores in another amazing getup inspired by the recent movie premiere of Sex In The Country. City? Dang. I always mix those up.

And just in case you Googled in, we do live in the sticks. We live in a particularly gentrified neck of the sticks, and our next-door-neighbor is a bed and breakfast touting local wines, handmade soaps, peace and quiet and lovely views. Of me tromping down to my barn. (Alternately of my kids racing around our back yard in saggy swimsuits.) I know, I know, I told them not to serve breakfast on the back deck there, but does anyone listen to me?

Today is a big day, it's Fourth of July Eve, and my mother-in-law is coming tomorrow, complete with my sister-in-law and my adorable nephew and my grandmother-in-law. We are all going to attend a rodeo and celebrate Sarah's birthday and the independence of our country and all. But before I can get around to freaking out about cleaning house, I have to attend the company Fourth of July Eve potluck.

This potluck is the brainchild of one of the crew. He wanted to share with us his passion for video games, and we wanted to appear less than stodgy. So we scheduled a big deal families-welcome potluck and I made a craft for the kids, which I shall attempt to blog later if it turns out funny and if I don't glue my hands to the camera. While the kids are crafting and the grown-ups are eating, I guess the in-between ones (by which I think I mean the men?) will be playing video games. They'll cease being Eng-Gen-Eer types for two hours and cut loose to be Gamers. Ooh. Talk about sexy.

So today is a busy day. I have the in-law prep, a huge bbq pork roast in the crock pot to transport, and the craft crap spread all over my office to organize and pack to the office. And I have learned my lesson about lazing around in my pjs all morning. It does not bode well for a day, as it just about guarantees a visit from traveling missionaries.

In order to be ready for the day, I woke up, scrunched my hair with the weightless serum, and threw on a pink polka dot linen skirt (so cute) and coordinating ('cause I'm grown-up garanimals) pink v-neck t-shirt. I hustled my pink polka dot bustle downstairs before any girls were awake and I put on a pot of coffee. Ah, coffee.

Then I stepped into my famous rubber boots. They're waterproof, sheepskin-lined and feature lug soles. It's oh-so-comfy any time of year, and ensures that no barn, um, material comes in contact with my freshly shaved legs or pedicured toes.

Pink tee, polka dot linen skirt, tamed wavy tresses... and barn boots fit for a moon landing. Or a snow sledding expedition in Alaska, take your pick.

The EGE was pulling out of the drive as I sauntered around front. He winked at me in that special Fourth of July Eve way and called out as he drove away that I looked "Sexy for an Eskimo." So you know I was glowing. And it shouldn't have surprised me at all that the next creature I came across was not my Kooky Moron chicken but a guest from the B&B. Out for a morning run and enjoying the view (I swear I could hear him thinking, "what the he-eck is that woman wearing?").

Isn't it relaxing to visit us in the country? "Where the hostess is never underdressed and the view is always interesting."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Camp Farm Suite

While she was away at camp, Madeleine learned to knit! I am so incredibly jealous. However, I suppose I should want more for my children than I ever had for myself. It's the American way or some such thing. (And. What's stopping me from learning to knit? Only my own bumbling self.)

So how have the Suite kids been spending their summer?

Chilling out on a blanket in the back yard:

Doing their best to fill out a bathing suit:

Getting good and terrified at the stories told around the fire:

Last night we attended the EGE's fastpitch softball game. A man and woman next to me in the stands went on and on about "Number 15" and his swing, and his pitching prowess, and even analyzed his major league stance. I mostly just eavesdropped, which is always fun. But then I couldn't help interjecting to say that Number 15 was indeed the EGE, the Eng-Gen-Eer, otherwise known as my husband. I didn't want them to be all embarrassed about their compliments when he came up in the stands after the game and swept me off my feet for a kiss after swinging the girls around in jubilation over the win. That's how romantic he is. Or into baseball. Whatever.

So then the nice lady pointed out her son on the team, a cuter-than-heck 21-year-old boy who plays shortstop exceedingly well. He's also single, attending the University, and working part-time. Sounds like a winner. (Not that I have any matchmaking tendencies, but if you know any nice young girls, I could arrange a casual meeting.) So then the 40-something mom went on to mention that she had wanted to play on the team but had been told by the coach that the team wouldn't take any women over 35.


The sexism! The age-ism! The gall!

And the "coach" is a woman! And her husband works full-time for us! Not to mention, it's our company name on the t-shirt. This morning I was combing the employee manual for a way to make this against policy.

Evidently I am not welcome to play on the company softball team. Not that I wanted to. I actually make a point to wear open-toed shoes so I don't get roped into playing. But if I wanted to, I'd be too old. And this is chapping my hide just a little.

More than a little. I bit my tongue with the nice lady in the stands, but my internal monologue is still blabbering on. And this is why blogging might not be the best use of my time this morning. Must. stuff. the. rant.

Can't all the campers just get along?