Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fanfare and Drumroll (please?)

Um, yeah, I'm back.

My whole family decided to join me in the running-away-from-home approach to facing (not) one's challenges. I'm happy to report that the turn-tail-and-skedaddle-for-a-minute plan evidently works.

There is some irony in this theory, as in everything around me. I live in a vacation destination. People pay money to stare at my horse paddocks from their B&B windows after wine tasting and rural art gallery tours. They find it very relaxing to be here. Anyone care to dissect or otherwise psychoanalyze my contrary nature?

Oh. Okay.

Cupid has struck. I so heart my new camera. The EGE should worry. He's the one who introduced us, after all. You might say he set us up. And then he sealed the deal with a week in San Francisco, the city that already had a large part of my heart anyway. (It was just the adrenaline-junkie, forever-young, city-loving part of my heart, but it turns out that no matter how old I get, San Francisco can perform CPR on the sleeping reckless in me.)

We were gone to SF for a week. Did you miss me? I wasn't clever or organized or blogthoughtful enough to line up guest posts (or even fore thinking enough to schedule some posts). I just... went away from cyberspace for a minute. And it felt GREAT.

The girls loved loved LOVED the city. Madeleine's favorite? The Giants game in AT&T Park.

Those seats? Baseball fans will recognize my statistical and historical accuracy when I say, that's the nosebleed section, for $27 per heine. (Surprisingly the Giants did not charge extra for my pie-enhanced rear.) Plus we enjoyed $8 hot dogs and $5 sodas all around. I was completely miffed when the vendors wouldn't discuss an amortized loan, but still, totally worth it. Gracie spent nine innings chanting, "You say 'go,' I say 'Giants!' Okay!" The EGE reminded her as he has the older girls that it takes lots of math and science to become a cheerleader.

Oh! And in case you didn't know, there are multiple kid SLIDES inside of that huge Coke bottle. There were some genius planners of the park. Also, you can watch a baseball bat being made by a real woodworker and then take your child's picture in a chair-sized leather baseball glove. And then take a picture of your next child, and your next, until the grumpy grandpa in line behind you mutters, "How many kids does this lady got?" And then you can get tempted to be a leetle passive aggressive and try out all the cool filters and lenses that your husband sprang for when he bought your camera. It'll only take a minute. Really. And some people need to learn patience; clearly it's in their best interest to learn it from a woman with four children who just spent a small fortune to park three miles away from the stadium. See how I can rationalize? I'm happy to hire out the service. Also, freebie rationalization for friends' needs. Short notice too!

(Digressing again.)

Sarah's favorite thing about San Francisco? Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl eaten on Pier 39 after a magic show and a little sea lion gazing:

Gracie's favorite? Lombard Street ("the crooked one"). Or, the cable cars, of course! Or, the sea lions. Or, spin a big wheel of fortune and take your pick -- she's such a happy kid that she loved it all.

Laura, for her part, showed her approval by sprouting another tooth (dang if that baby isn't determined to grow up) and slurping homemade spaghetti at her Great Uncle Bill's house. Family was my favorite part of the trip.

Look at all those adorable kids:

I coulda brought every single one of them home with me, except their parents (my cousins) might have minded.

Ah, San Francisco. We did everything touristy and even took some night photos to celebrate the new camera. Next on my list, knows the sweet EGE, is a tripod. I need it to avoid those annoying squiggly lights that make it look like there was an earthquake while I was taking the picture. There wasn't. That was me breathing.

Oh! And I forgot! I got caught in a skunk fight! We used to have an attorney who advised us to never get in a pissing match with a skunk. He was speaking metaphorically, of course, but I recalled his advice in a jiffy when I scrambled down off a Golden Gate Park hillside in a hurry and yelled for the EGE to step on the gas now. He didn't believe me about the skunks. Nosiree, Blog, he thought I was hallucinating after our drive through Haight Ashbury. But alas and alack, I was seeing and smelling the real deal.

Ah, San Francisco. It's good to be home in Podunkville.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two Scoops. And A Little Blackberry Pie?

Today I was thinking about my book group from before parenthood. We read "important" books and sometimes went for months attacking themes such as labor rights, or women-writers-only, or women-writers-who-used-men's-names, or Shakespeare revisited, and on and on ad nauseum.

Then I got thinking about how these days I mostly read newspapers and popular fiction and parenting freak-out (otherwise known as self-help?) books. But my life is a lot, and I mean a lot, better:

That's Madeleine and a whole slew of neighbor farmkids at our community's annual ice cream social fundraiser for our rural fire department. The children (and lots of the men) use real fire hoses to play a sort of water tetherball, and a bucket truck gives rides up past the powerline in order to terrify the mothers, and of course there's copious amounts of homemade pie ala mode for $1.50 a bowl.

The pie was what made me move here. Sometimes I say it was the fact that our house was originally a country church, and sometimes I say it was the fact that the nearest Interstate is 15 miles away, and sometimes I say it was so I can hang my quilts out to dry without any pesky CC&Rs, but it was really the pie. (The same pie that ruined my 5K efforts. This week.)

The Ice Cream Social. Reason #403 not to post my precise whereabouts on the Internet.

At this year's gathering, we were still newbies since it's our third year here. But at least we're newbies who know a few of the old-timers well enough to shoot the bull about, well, Old Jack's bull. Who passed this year. It was a big topic of conversation at table six in the fire hall. He's looking for a good Angus, if you know anyone who's selling. AND we're the newbies who earlier this spring fixed a very important water valve protection box thingy. Well, that contribution was purely from the Eng-Gen-Eer, but I can take credit too. It's in our pre-nups.

You know what else is in our pre-nups? Not mentioning little sidetracked moments like that when one of us (okay, it's only ever me) fails to post an update on the progress of a little thing like a commitment that I (I mean, one of us) made at the inspiration of someone as cool as, say, Mrs. G.

Alright already! I didn't move my rear for squat this week. Ha ha, I didn't do any squats either. I spent quite a bit of time sweating over the huge change that centers on our homeschooling decision, but that kind of sweating doesn't count toward the 5K goal, now does it? And then I blew it completely by running away to the beach for a couple of days:

The side of that thing says "point of view" in raised letters. Ah. Luckily, or unluckily as the case may be, my point of view does not include a reduced rear this week. No matter how many times I twist around really quickly to see. And this is the very reason there will be no picture of said rear this week. Because it and the accompanying chub elsewhere on the body is pretty much exactly where it was a week ago, maybe with some extra company for warmth and companionship. But it all depends on your point of view. (If you are REALLY, REALLY far away from me, you can't tell.)

In fact, also this week I had a little health exam for life insurance. My blood pressure is excellent, I'll have you know. Also, cholesterol, lovely, check. But when it got down (up?) to the weight portion of the event, I found myself needing a paper bag to breathe through. Then I started explaining in a really fast-talking manner that I only just (Seven months ago. Hush.) gave birth to a baby. And then the (kind, sweet, paid-by-the-hour) nurse said I wasn't so far out of the acceptable weight range for my height.

And then she measured my height. Which, friends, is shorter than I reported on the form. Shorter than it says on my driver's license.


I think I need to run back to my favorite place to contemplate this turn of events. If only I could find a sponsor for another getaway to the coast. Possibly the fire department would be interested. I could ride in that open-air truck, and wave, and throw candy, like a 75-mile-long parade, all the way to the Sylvia Beach Hotel. It would be good for publicity, right? Every rural fire department is looking for a parade princess who's in her late 30s and a couple of inches shorter than she remembered.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Answer To Life's Problems

I have found it. Much searching for nearly 37 years (ouch) has yielded, this past weekend, the answer to life's little and big stressors.

We like to call it "running away." Others call it by another word: "avoidance." Or "sticking one's head in the sand."

While I didn't literally bury my head, I did go directly to a little sandy spot at the Oregon coast in order to clear my noggin of the swirling homeschool storm. (Not that homeschooling looks to be stormy. My own resistance, futile, was a storm of sorts, and has now blown over thanks to a brisk ocean breeze. Or sandstorm. Whatever.)

Look at this brand of serenity now:

And take a peek, if you will, at a little corner of my favorite place:

Here's a dizzying view from the library there:

Just a little walk away on a stormy day:

Plus a little bookend of peace and perspective:


Now that I'm back to reality: I was going to review that puberty book today. The American Girl book. (I'm sure there should be a little "tm" there by The American Girl, but I'm not that HTML-savvy. Plus it irks me a tad that it's possible to copyright or trademark those three words. Another rant for another day.)

Madeleine and I have been reading this book a little at a time. She'll be 10 in December, and I'm not really as deep in denial (as it may seem) about the relentless march of time and its stealthy theft of my girls' babyhood. Some of Madeleine's friends are already experiencing the changes the book discusses (notice the way I can't bring myself to name even one of those specific "changes.") and it just seemed like time for us to talk about growing up and what that means.

So I'll touch on my opinions about this book, not official and review-y, but, you know, like a mom telling other moms what she thinks. I know one neat mom blogger who was horrified by the book's extreme attention to detail, but in our family, the illustrations and frank tone the book employs really work for us.

Are we ready for the five stages of development? Not exactly, but we're ready to talk about them. It's a little like reading "What To Expect When You're Expecting" when what you're really trying to do is decide whether to get pregnant. Except there's no deciding about puberty. Unless you're Peter Pan. Yeah, so, the What To Expect comparison doesn't work at all.

The American Girl book goes through "how to" take care of "your changing body," right down to encouraging girls to be modest and discuss with an adult how much if any makeup might be appropriate. Yes, it has cartoon-like drawings (in my opinion, pretty tasteful) of skin issues (read: pimples) and even drawings of the stages that might lead up to the need for a training bra. It also discusses mood swings and sensitivity. I LOVE that it does this.

My analytical daughter always needs to know what's next. This book worked for us. What have you found that works for you in talking to your kids about changes?

And, in a related matter:

I am much encouraged about homeschooling. Today I visited with some amazing parents who are spending lots of time learning with their children, and I remembered: That's really why I wanted to be a mom. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to learn along with my girls, to be present while they continue to experience this awesome world we inhabit.

So, yeah, it's sappy. But at least I'm not paralyzed or panicked anymore about forever screwing up their baby educations. For the moment. And, as we have learned on this blog, until further notice....

Bad News First

First, I know you're all waiting with bated breath (please, y'all, stop with the "baited" breath, because it makes me think someone was eating worms)...

So I know you're all anxiously awaiting with bated breath the book review, the title of which I can't remember because it's been so long since the Suburban Correspondent randomly selected me to fruitlessly check my post office box every day.

I have now officially decided to review another book, and it's a doozy. Since literature was my second honors major (just have to sneak in a little self-aggrandizement since I am now The Carrier of the Diaper Wipes Slash Wiper of Diapered Hind Ends)... anywhoo, since I love literature so much, and I know y'all do TOO, I thought I'd review:

The American Girl's book about what to expect from puberty. A-hem. We've been reading it around here. So... review tomorrow. For now, I will proceed with what I know is on the top of your mind:

What the heck has Miriam been doing? Where has she been? Can't she even post a little update so we know she didn't fall down in the horse paddock and never return to blog again?

Okay then. The bad news is that my book from the SC never arrived. I think she doesn't like me. Or else the postmistress doesn't like me. Or else the postmistress is reading the book and getting crumbs in it just like she does with my MaryJane's Farm magazine. I hate that.

The worse news is that "they" have screwed up my trail mix. A girl goes away for a couple of days and returns to find banana chips and peanuts defiling her trusty favorite pseudo healthy snack. WHAT NEXT?! I might turn around and find that I am now homeschooling my super-active, academically inquisitive children, leaving me next to no time to blog. Gack. The madness must end at all costs.

The good news?

I just returned from a photography expedition to the coast. Blogger won't upload my pictures tonight but I promise I took more than 400 foggy and watery treasures. And a few hundred more of my 7-month-old traveling companion.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Leaning Tower of Corn That Was

Okay, so there's no corn in that silo. Also you may note it has no roof.
Where have all the silos gone? (Next I'll break into song.)
And brace yourself, I feel a little bit like posting another "time passes too quickly" ramble. Or not.
This week we decided to homeschool the girls. (Final answer, Regis.) This is huge because, you know, I can from this point forward no longer blame any lame-o school district for whatever happens. It'll be me and the kitchen table.
And the girls. Oh, yeah, the girls. And a lot of The Well Trained Mind. It's a book; I'm not describing myself. Clearly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let's Consider For A Moment

Over the moon.

Today I drove past a lot of field burning on my way home.

In our area, field burning is a controversial practice. I don't know about where you live, but here there's a divide that pretty much runs between those who work the land and those who drive through it.

Of course that's super-simplifying and not even on point, exactly. Maybe what I'm trying to say is that the appreciation of our unbelievably beautiful environment is not exclusive to any one world view or political party.

I live in a valley that smells like blackberry pie, baking nearly ripe berries in the oven of August. I live in a valley that looks like Utopia, beauty in every direction. I am over the moon with appreciation for this valley. I am a hobby farmer, growing food organically and protecting my daughters by avoiding synthetic fabrics and hydrogenated fats and scary bedtime stories. I am a mom, hoping for the best future this environment can give the next generation... because they're mine, and I want them to drive home in a blackberry pie August too one day.


I live in a valley where opinions are vastly diverse, and Utopia is only as attainable as a topic of the next conversation around the woodstove at the General Store. I live in the world, and my view of it is inherently skewed. How about you? Can we agree that perspective is deeply personal, rooted, branching out and usually bearing fruit of some kind before the owner chooses to share it?

The field burning was beautiful. I have a new camera (today!) and I really wanted to take some pictures of it. But then I got thinking about the people I know who literally stand on a street corner in our nearby college town protesting field burning with homemade signs and passion. They give up family time to do this. (Incidentally, in our nearby college town, a person can hire protesters to support any cause. What a concept... for another post.)

I don't know very much about their position. Field burning is much older than even my grandfather's generation; it was in practice by Native Americans before any Whites settled the West. It adds nutrients to the soil and clears unwanted cover crops and the stalks of harvested grass seeds. I'm sure the impact on air quality has something to do with the protests, and I'm equally sure I should be ashamed to not understand the issue (particularly given my willingness to post a blog about it). But frankly I'm more interested in that exact ignorance I possess.

How do we come to drive by a field burning, or a protest in progress, and just keep driving? How do we (and by "we" maybe I just mean myself) become immune to, or at least overwhelmed by, the message of the day? Last Sunday the pastor of our church mentioned in an illustration that he's a news junkie (me, too) but sometimes has to deliberately tune out for a few days, because the sheer number of messages start to drown each other out. And then the listener becomes calloused.

An acquaintance stopped me in a local bookstore the other day. He wanted to loan me a book and to ask me to ghostwrite (his word, which was very funny coming from a farmer in his late 60s) a letter to a congressman. This farmer wanted to write a letter in favor of "guerrilla gardening." He thought maybe I could read the book he was lending me, and then write a letter to the lawmaker in favor of this practice.


Before that day, I had never heard of guerrilla gardening. One of this movement's favorite practices is to make a "seed bomb" of clay and straw and pumpkin seeds, and lob it into public park flowerbeds. The idea behind this is to grow some food on public land that the gardener can then harvest. Okay. So I know more about seed bombs than I do about field burning.

But I know a few grass seed farmers who burn their fields. And I know a few moms whose kids have asthma. And now I know a dairy farmer who advocates urban non-lawns. Perspective. It keeps broadening.

(Did I mention my new camera has multiple lenses? Including wide angle? My perspective broadening may even be recorded digitally...)

Monday, August 11, 2008

PVC Clothesline With [Sexy] Farmgirl Sewing Feedsacks

Alternate title: If You Googled In For Help, I'm So Sorry

In this post I will try to ignore the strange search words that brought a few readers to my blog this past week. The only one that alarms me is the one in brackets. I hope that yahoo wasn't too disappointed.

Imagine, really, if you were looking for a way to build a clothesline and you happened (googled) upon one of my rambling thank-you notes to my engineery husband. You might find yourself disappointed. Or you might find yourself a new secret obsession in spying on the mother of four trying to get all the clothes dry and dishes washed without too much use of modern-day conveniences. Just because she's tired of carpooling to gymnastics, actually.

And I know it doesn't make sense. That's why they call it a non sequitur. It's not to sound Latin and smarter than us, it's to say those syllables and feel a tad tipsy with the Qs and the Ts so squished together-like. Try it.

*** Now that you've done that, I think I'll link to the time I sewed a feedsack into a bookbag. And the time the Eng-Gen-Eer (inside, dumb pocket-protector joke which I may never find inspiration to explain on this blog) spent an entire kid-free weekend pouring concrete for the neighbor's inadequately protected water shut-off valve.... And the time he set up a clothesline for me, indeed using a bit of PVC, but not too much, because it's unsightly. And because my galvanized clothesdryer thingy was free, so he didn't have to use materials to build one.

There have been some legitimate how-to posts on this here farmblog, including where I explained how to achieve farmbling, ala KL's barn. Also, once I (okay, more than once) detailed painstakingly how to freak out over what to wear to town, only to accidentally expose yourself to the pediatrician. Not to mention how to avoid arrest by airport police. Or, my personal favorite, how to get perfect strangers in a cafe to put your baby to sleep and then give you advice on how to tell a two-day-old hen from rooster. If I were a real how-to blogger, I might know even how to find that particular post.

But you see, I'm evidently not a how-to blogger. Maybe you are. Would you like to apply for my job? It doesn't pay anything but it's kinda fun.

Lately I've teamed up with some other homesteading women (Doesn't that sound Romantic? Not in a weird way, but like a PBS or English Lit 103 way?) to try to spread a little how-to love (not "how to love," silly, "how-to" love. The hyphen does make a difference. I promise.) around the blogosphere. I don't really know anyone who'd like to know how to live as we do. In fact, all of those people are probably too big into backyard chickens to waste time on the Internet.

Speaking of chickens! We are now getting four eggs a day with regularity.

Must post chicken picture:

The black speckled one is a Cochin. The pretty one is Sarah, and she's a Chickadee.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Traditionalists

If it's your anniversary and you, say, have four kids, and it is a sticking-around-home kind of anniversary year, what would you do?

Maybe you'd have an 8-year-old who could choose the menu.

"I was born to eat Mexican food." (She gets that from me.)

And a 9-year-old whose competitive streak extends to any possible activity, even if it requires these shoes:

No, that's not a pearl necklace for 16 years of wedded bliss:

And after gifts, your 4-year-old and your husband could provide the entertainment:

It helps if you blow on it:

And then sit down to watch:

"Bowling is a serious sport."

So is marriage.
Before we were married, our church required personality type testing and a six-week class followed by private premarital counseling. I guess they thought if we'd willingly and successfully jump through all those hoops, we'd be pretty well prepared to negotiate the obstacle course of life as man and wife.
I think about our premarital class much more often than you might imagine. The most gut-busting laughs we had the summer before we said "I do" came directly out of that class. And then, lo and behold, we actually quoted the teachers to one another fairly regularly for the first couple of years of power struggles, I mean, conversations.
Our teachers' names were Howdy and Patti. Now that we live in the same county we dated and were married in, I run across Howdy and Patti every so often. Eight years ago, in fact, I called Howdy (who, by the way, is a very respectable and respectful elderly gentleman; it honestly never occurred to me what a strange name he has until I had to type it three times for this paragraph) on the phone and thanked him for a certain story he told during class.
OOH! Would you like to hear it? It's free! And you don't even have to go to the church basement six weeks in a row to get it.
When Howdy and Patti were newlyweds, he was a car salesman and she stayed at home. This was far more common than it is today (the stay-at-home wife, not the car salesman, for sure), and even though their generation had no Internet, they did have kitchen doors and coffee pots, so rest assured Patti had her own version of a SAHM chat group. I think they called that friends.
Very early in their marriage, they were blessed with three children. And although they had a whirligig clothesline and a telephone (I'm just guessing here, it has been 16+ years since I heard the story), the young Howdy and Patti did not have two automobiles. In fact, of the two of them, only the young car salesman could drive.
So here's where the trouble began:
One day, Howdy came home without the family car. He'd traded it, you see, for a sporty yellow two-seater coupe. He was so enthralled with the car that he asked Patti to come out for a drive that evening. Of course she noticed right away the two-seat situation (perceptive as you would expect a mom to be) and asked a neighbor to sit with the babies.
They enjoyed a nice drive, and Patti didn't say a word. (Can you imagine the restraint? Here would have been my monologue, maybe internal, and maybe not: We have children! For crying out loud, what was going through his mind? What if we have to go the doctor's office? How will we do Christmas at my mother's? What on Earth was he thinking? And so on, probably with stronger language.)
Howdy then took the car to a few friends' houses, all of whom razzed him and a few of whom asked whether he'd bought another family car for his wife. He reported that his friends' questions were the first that he'd realized this car might not have been a rational choice for a family of five. It might have been, you know, impulsive.
He might have been thinking only of himself.
How many points do you think Patti won for not calling him an idiot the moment he pulled in the driveway? Howdy had to sell the car at a loss, and then he purchased another family car. Decades later, in teaching a bunch of engaged couples how to communicate better, he said he never would forget that bonehead purchase, and the way his young bride let him realize the error and fix it.
Patti's side of the story is the part that fascinates me. Her patience and good humor, mostly. It is exceptionally hard for me to keep my mouth shut until someone wants my opinion (Blog = Exhibit A). But it always goes better for me when I do hold my tongue.
Marriage is the longest running conversation I've ever had. Saying "I do" was sort of like saying,
"Let's listen to each other forever, even when no one's talking.
"Let's listen to each other even when the kids have runny noses and I've been up all night working on a proposal and you have a 7:30 meeting. Let's hear what one another is saying.
"And if you're saying you need a yellow two-seater coupe, could you leave me my Suburban so we can take the kids bowling on our sixteenth anniversary? Thanks."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dry Lightning

Today is our anniversary. Yesterday I may or may not have been out desperately seeking a gift suited to both the significance of 16 years of marriage and the current budget.

While I was on this particular mission impossible (how can you find a thing to represent this love?), I had a chance meeting with an old friend, someone who knows more of our history than I sometimes can call up betwixt diaper changing and caffeine seeking.

The EGE was, at that moment, in his office, working as hard as he always does on engineering and personnel issues with the most positive attitude of anyone I have ever met. Anyone. He could teach seminars on this stuff.

I was struggling with a 450-pound box of printer paper while holding Laura with my third arm. My attitude was maybe less than stellar (I could teach seminars on that).

And then, like an apparition from our starving student days, there was Scott in between Aisles 9 and 10. Oh, it was so wonderful to show off my cute baby and catch up on all the old gossip! We updated on a half-dozen mutual long-time friends and made happy plans for a dinner party chez nous. I knew the EGE would be happy to reconnect with his old friend, who is intellectual and spiritual and hilarious, just scramble the order based on the day.

As I was preparing to say goodbye, Scott lowered his voice and asked,

"Had you heard about David?"

"David and Sue? How are they?" David and Sue are only some of my very favorite friends. They are some of a lot of folks' favorite friends. The last time I saw Sue, she had a baby on each hip and a lot of laughter about how overcommitted they were. She publishes a newsletter e-zine on the "family table." He is a bookstore manager. They have six children and a raucous, happy home.

"David died three weeks ago."

Dry lightning. I never saw any storm clouds, did you?

It seems incredibly selfish to be happy for my anniversary, but this is exactly what we're going to do. I hope your day is blessed, and I hope you cherish the people closest to you. And I hope you reach out to someone today whom you hold dear but can't find the time to contact in between the busy-ness.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Joy Rush Number Three Thousand Eleven

So I've been walking every day in an effort to lose the baby/pregnancy/baby/blogging chub.

Losing weight is a lot harder than it was in my early 30s. A lot. One of the great things about the tiny village where we live is the community post office and "general store," both of which are in easy walking distance from our mini farm. And they're downhill from us, so getting there is the easy part and walking home is where the real cussing, I mean aerobic exercise, begins. I usually push my double jogger but today I was a big meanie and I made Gracie walk. She is 4 years old and weighs just a bit more than 6-month-old Laura, so the unbalanced stroller thing is hard to manage on the big hills.

Anyway today I am OH SO THRILLED that we stopped at the post office, because:

See that box of Priority Mail on the handle of the stroller? Now, I used to work with a creative director who had some interesting quirks and tics, one of which was that he believed in carrying a FedEx envelope everywhere to make himself appear important and urgent-like. You cannot make this stuff up. We all thought he was a tad on the adorable but ridiculous side. Picture William Shatner in that recent lawyer show.

(Digressing again.)

Today we walked to the post office and there was a PACKAGE for ME. In a PRIORITY MAIL box. For me. And it gets way, way better because as soon as we hit my lavender hedge, I ripped that box open to find:

The most beautiful purse I have ever seen. Knit with a great deal of talent by Barb, my friend from So, The Thing Is, whom I have somehow been blessed enough to meet in this enormous blogosphere.

I want to say it must have taken love to make that beautiful felted bag. Maybe it was love for the fiber, or maybe it was love for the ability to knit so well, or love that just overflows from Barb's natural state of being a lovely person, but this is my new favorite thing. And it absolutely made me feel loved.

So, the thing is... I would grab this in a fire.


And because I can't help myself, I want to say something about friendship.

Whether you live here:

Or here:

Or somewhere in between, friendship is rare as a ladyslipper.

I wish I had a picture of a ladyslipper. I'm not even sure about their botanical name. Here in Oregon, ladyslippers grow wild on the forest floor. I believe they are of the orchid family, and their roots are so incredibly fragile, gossamer thin and barely threading through a bed of loose fir needles. People get big fat tickets (I guess, if they are caught) for trying to transplant these four-inch-tall wild beauties. It's a completely wasteful exercise, you see, because ladyslippers won't transplant. The poachers won't ever enjoy a tiny ladyslipper shade garden at home because the merest shift of the loose fir needles separates the coveted flower from its roots.

It's best to marvel at the ladyslipper exactly where you found it, in an unexpected moment when you were just walking through the forest.

(Huffing and puffing from pushing a double jogger.)

Rethinking The 21st Century

Yesterday was a dark and gloomy night. All day long.

I was feeling pretty dang sorry for myself, worked up a nauseous tummy over some work stuff and some financial stuff and the other things that tend to give grown-ups heartburn and headaches. Then my girls brought me this:

And I remembered I have this:

And that my husband set up this:
So I backpedaled my gender role opinions about 50 years or more. (This pedaling and clothes-pinning together counted as a workout, if any Mrs. G 5K friends are reading.)

Do you ever want to turn back the clock? And not just to your 20-something complexion? I mean, remember the time when you didn't worry about sun damage but about whether you'd remembered to rotisserie your swimsuit self regularly? In those days, the worries would add up to: one-piece or two-piece?

So, further back, waa-aay further back, let's fly backwards around the Earth ala Super(wo)man, and pretend we remember a time when bonnets shielded us from the nastiness of freckles and suntans and little laugh lines around our eyes. Remember how it was scandalous to show our ears or ankles?

In that time, mostly researched through copious reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder, a woman's biggest worries must not have included any version of a rat race. Sure, there were the pesky little problems of climate-dependent income and lack of vaccinations. But bear with me while I romanticize a simpler time, would you?

Better for our purposes than pioneer times, maybe, is the era of my favorite linens: the 1940s and 1950s. Oh, yeah. Electricity and everything. But still a simpler time by virtue of me not having been there. As I snap out my damp linens and blue jeans and clip them to the line (thank you, EGE, for installing my whirligig clothesline) I pretend I am not pulled in dozens of directions. I pretend I live in the moment. And I pretend I don't have three phone lines and more careers than can be counted on one hand.

My kids spend their summer days reading "McGuffey's Eclectic Series" and "Little Women" and they play with dolls until they're 13. There's certainly no such book as "The American Girl's Guide to Your Changing Body." Gasoline is still leaded and well under $1 a gallon, but we don't need a second car because I grow all of our own food and use my husband's car on weekend for my canasta game. (What is canasta? Anyone?)

I think I'll stay home from town today and hang more clothes on the line.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lucky Pants And Sunglasses, Check

Don't click away yet!

It's an excerpt (!) from my farmier blog, and you should pop over there to read all about how to back up a horse trailer without jack-knifing. There really is a how-to element, and it involves calling your husband and then thinking of calling your girlfriend who drives to horsey events all the time. Go ahead, read here for the teaser and then click over. But click back. Because I have Sarah's camp wrap-up and Laura pictures too.


There's what happened when I tried to back up straight. Oh. Not so straight, you say? We shouldn't see the whole side of the trailer like that if we're going straight? That's not the barn behind the trailer at all?! Fret not. We will not hit the lovely fence on the other side. Nay, we will not hit the expensive remote control gate opener thingy either. (For more farmgirl driving wisdom written in the Royal We, click here.)


Now, back to your regularly scheduled Suite blog:

When you're the second daughter in a four-girl family, it is very difficult to do things no one has done before. Sarah chooses to attack this challenge by doing them with so much flair that it's impossible to confuse her with her older sister.

For example, her recently discovered fashionista sunglasses habit followed her to camp. Note the lucky pants, ever present as well:

The girl can rock a camp cabin. Unlike Madeleine, she was completely unaffected by the prospect of being without me. I even made her that cute vintage floral stuffsack for her sleeping bag in a pathetic attempt to remind her that no one loves her or dotes on her as well as her mommy dearest. Yeah, sewing guilt. I've sunk that low. But it doesn't count because she didn't even notice.

Maybe because it's hard to feel guilty when you're in the presence of beauty like this. And the lucky pants, of course.

We missed Sarah a lot when she was at sleep-away camp. Madeleine went to spend the night at her friend's house, and then she had a sleepover at our house, and then she went to another sleepover, and so basically Gracie and Laura had me to themselves. Gracie didn't miss the girls at all actually. She became a tiny drill sergeant, ordering me to play Connect Four and Dora Bingo and Hi-Ho Cherrio and house until I was ready to drop with exhaustion. Was I really that much younger before I had big girls to play with the little girls?

So to continue our sister difference theme, Maddy was so tired at the end of her camp that she couldn't crack a smile. All she wanted to do was make like a bandit for Sweet Life Patisserie and a quiet ham-and-swiss on croissant with me. Sarah, on the other hand, was jazzed up and so freaked-out happy that she forgot to put her sunglasses on or to make a big deal about all the pictures I took.

In fact, she has a new affinity for the camera. She took a whole roll of film photos while at camp and has been playing with my broken digital camera ever since. She took this promised photo of Laura (and me):

Tomorrow? Check the sidebar for a picture of me. I'm going to let Sarah chronicle my little corner of the 5K project on Wednesdays.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Behind The Eight Ball

Yes, I'm aware my lettuce looks like dandelion leaves. It is actually baby Romaine that just got really tall. Maybe it was mislabeled (the girls started a bunch of lettuce seeds). Or maybe we ate dandelion greens. Anyway it was yummy with some creamy Caesar dressing.

And those strange round summer squash? "Eight ball zucchini." Growing up, we used to take the traditional zucchini that got too big and play ball with them... you know, as bats for an impromptu game of garden tomato ball. That got us in a little trouble because my mom liked to use those things as, you know, food.

Now we can grow round zucchini and stuff them with ricotta cheese and tomatoes and mushrooms:

Just scoop out the insides, chop it up, mix it with whatever you'd stuff into manicotti, and bake it in an oven-proof bowl for about 45 minutes. Then grate some fresh parmesan on it and remember, let your husband take a picture of it because you are busy putting the baby to bed.

I also am a big fan of lemon cukes. No photos, but they're round and yellow and not as bitter as regular cucumbers can be.

And this whole post? Just trying to keep up with Farmer Barb. Also, trying to keep myself blogging while waiting for Suburban Correspondent to ship me a book to review. I'm sure it's the post office's fault. Or else she had to mail it and remail it from multiple states so I wouldn't stalk her. Or ELSE she's busy weeding her organic garden plot, trying to figure out how to mail me some bragadocious produce along with the book. You never know.

Friday, August 1, 2008

this little piggy

This little piggy went to market. All the time as retail therapy. But now she lives in the boondocks and it is well documented that buying $50 worth of gasoline to make a splurge purchase or two is too depressing and thus requires real therapy. And this little piggy's friends are tired of being free therapists.

This little piggy stayed home. A lot and went a little nuts with the four children and the accompanying neighborhood children and the animals pooping inconveniently and the garden and the laundry pile being so needy and all. So she decided to adopt a blog, and then this little piggy had something to do (that approximated free therapy) while the laundry pile grew.

This little piggy ate brown rice. Because she was raised vegetarian and is now (happily for 16 years) married to a meat-eating man who wears Wranglers. Then all that meat and potatoes (and pregnancy and blog reading) led to the necessity of joining Mrs. G's newest project. Mrs. G is unbelievably brave and a beacon of hope for this little piggy as she faces her late 30s realizing with great wisdom that the 40s are right after that.

This little piggy had none. Because even brown rice is called fattening if you load it up with Yum sauce and cheese and avocados and follow it with ice cream for dessert. Also, this little piggy saw a hugely unflattering photo of herself on her friend KL's blog and does not need to post any worse picture in order to feel super-motivated to motivate. She also can't believe she just linked to that photo, but in the spirit of coming clean and sharing the two readers she has with her good real-life friend, she decided to be a brave little piggy and blow the house down (while mixing her fairy tales).

This little piggy went whee, whee, whee all the way home. Because there is a big humongous hill to climb to get to the track above the school above her country church-turned-home. And climbing that hill will likely, if done repeatedly while pushing a double jogger, gain her the 5K patootie this little piggie is after. So coming back down the hill this little piggy decided that more ice cream (just a little of the skinny cow variety?) was in order.