Saturday, May 29, 2010

PTSD ... anyone?

Today I have big ideas about finishing the (ma)lingering seven loads of laundry in my utility room.

Don't laugh. It could happen.

Other than that? Today we only have to attend an afternoon barbecue for some dear friends who are visiting from Kentucky... and host a nighttime bonfire party for those same friends and another much-loved family who's leaving for Haiti in weeks... and, you know, manage to make sure 2-year-old Laura doesn't swim in anyone's potato salad. Cake.

Don't you just love a long weekend?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Yep. Still pregnant.

I have to say that I am completely and utterly spoiled by my past delivery experiences. Among my four children, none has been a late arrival. In fact they've all been early by at least two weeks, but none so early as to cause anyone worry.

So this bordering-on-fourth-trimester stuff is just torture.

This holiday weekend we have the usual round of barbecues and family and church outings to attend. Next week we look forward to a couple of parties and a concert for the girls' band. When I wrote these things on the calendar, people, I fully expected to be taking a cute newborn to the various events.

Now it's doubtful I'll be able to fit through the doors.

But hey! Maybe I can make at least one of these parties really memorable by going into labor in a dramatic fashion.

(Always trying to look at the bright side for you.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The book and its cover

On our recent little weekend camping trip we passed this appetizing sign.

For low-resolution screens and/or dial-up readers like me, it reads: Ye Old Green Coffee Shoppe Salmon.

Yum. Yum. YU-UM.

I made my husband turn around not only for the photo but for samples.

And that's when I remembered about judging a... what? cafe... by a ... what? thoroughly moldy name.

The girls and I waited in the car while my husband ("as you wish") wound his way between the apparently hundreds of customers. He returned with THE BEST thick-but-not-bitter coffee and AN EVEN BETTER flaky-but-certainly-not-low-fat croissant. So that'll teach me.


Today, and by that I really mean yesterday since it's now about 2:30 in the morning, was kind of a rough day. It was the kind of day that makes me want to go back to the beach.

I used to work in real estate. (Did I mention?) I also used to have a funny (snarky?) little saying that I'd either get out or grow the requisite blackened heart of a Realtor. (Yes. They insist on the capitalization. Stupid but trademarked.) So anyway a couple of months ago we decided, for reasons of expanding family and choked market and hallelujah in general, that it was a good time to let my license go inactive.

Maybe even before the last corner of my heart was all scummy.

I jest. Sort of.

The past two and a half years of my real estate career I have worked in a wonderful office with some folks I just admire with every bit of me. (I would not lump them in with the vast majority of housing sales personnel. You may know a good Realtor. Hang on to her. And if you lose her number, maybe she left the profession for a reason. Call me. We'll have coffee.)

In the years before that personally delightful but financially devastating association (The market. The market.) I may or may not have lease optioned my soul to the (real estate version of the) devil and predictably paid dearly to get out of that there contract. I try (believe it or not) to speak mostly positively so I don't have a lot more to add about that office.

Let's just say I had to see some of those less-than-favorite brokers the other day and I have spent too much energy on them anyway. It pushes my (aforementioned real estate averse) Pollyanna to her sunnyside limits. It makes me less than likable to myownself. It points out that judging the book by its cover goes two ways.

And then? My agony over the sale of my beloved mare Seven? Fell through. The woman who bought (but didn't yet pay for) the horse abandoned her at the boarding barn. Leaving us with a six-month board bill, a horse who hasn't had farrier care in far too long, and a new wrinkle in the supposedly permanent press that I'm making of my life.

It points out that the common denominator in my bad experiences is, um, usually me and my judgment.


Late in the night I left my comfy bedcovers and pillow behind to eat a bowl of cereal. Because I'm pregnant and obsessive, that's why.

As I was sitting at the computer, eating cereal and reading blogs (thanks, y'all) and sorta acting like a teenager with the sleep deprivation and the coffee shop yearnings, I could have sworn the dog started serenading me. Singing!

My dog is sensitive like that. He would've made a great therapy animal.

OR. He actually had Barney in his mouth. One of those infernal (probably invented by a Realtor -- they all have side jobs) battery-powered singing Barneys.

At least Barney and the dog love me. And I love them. And we're a happy family.

(Is the Barney song stuck in your head? If not, your kids are probably older and you're past the trauma. And I'm jealous.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pushing up daisies? Coming up roses? I forget how it goes.

Last year I saved one little clump of wild daisies at the edge of the garden. I couldn't bear to see them go.

This year they've spread their petals over an area that easily could produce enough, oh, say, peas for my family. What to do? Weeds (be they ever so comely) or food?

Since I didn't plant seventy-five thousand peas like last year, it seems to be working out just fine. The daisies mask my gardening lapse. And they're pretty while they're at it.

Don't be surprised if they work their way up to the house before I manage a solution.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The cherries are green and the rabbit hutch is ... pink

Try to pretend that photo's a depth-of-field experiment and therefore artistic-like. Also? Try to imagine we've already repainted the pink rabbit hutch to its proper barn red.
I am so beyond excited for the cherries on our new little trees. Last year's planting of the orchard was a milestone for us. This year the cherry trees are the clear overachievers among the spindly saplings. Thank goodness they all survived last summer's drought and last winter's cold snaps. The apples and pears and plums (o my) are looking healthy but fruitless. It's another good lesson in delayed gratification. Sometimes the lessons I need are my least favorite.

Unfortunately over the winter I lost my Meyer Lemon to a string of seven-degree nights. The tree was a gift from a friend and was actually bearing lemons along with heavenly scented flowers so the loss of it was super disappointing. (Read: I left the blackened tree up until just last weekend, when I finally felt the pressure to give it a proper funeral.) I did replace the lemon tree with a much, much smaller version that can come indoors in the cold weather. As my brother would say, it's on the ten-year track to becoming a real tree.
More of that patience training is in my future it seems.
Our Brown Turkey Fig tree is right on track for this area, however; it's just now budding out with what should soon be huge leathery leaves on a five-foot-tall unassuming stick of wood. It's miraculous, really, that something as delicious as a fig should come from (frankly, I hope the tree doesn't repay my compliment by refusing to bear fruit) such an ugly wintertime specimen.
One more new-to-us tree on the property is the dogwood. Oh, how I love a dogwood tree. Ours is sporting three tiny blossoms. I wonder how the nursery forced it to display those big, fat, glowing white bracts last year? Maybe I need to build it a little shelter. Or, you know, maybe I need to consider that some dogwood trees don't appear to bloom for years after transplanting.
Practice patience. Focus on the positive. Bring the lemon tree inside in the winter.
All lessons I could have learned by reading books, made real by my garden.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I decorate with garden gnomes

Laura likes to make herself useful in the weeds at the edge of the garden. Try not to notice her hair. Her outfit. Her general disheveled state. It's the country; no one will notice. Right?

Sarah decides to help her out with the task. I am thinking of adding to Mr. Suite's never-ending list of projects to ask for a wooden sandbox with fitted lid for inside of the garden gates. This is my imagined solution to managing 2-year-old Laura in the garden. Any advice?

Farmgirl alert! Sarah's actually very good with the hoe. She has an attention to detail that should make the mere dandelion sprout cringe. I'm pretty sure I saw the crabgrass quaking in anticipation of its demise.
I had both of the big girls at work on weeds in the existing garden beds. Then when the soil was weed-free we spread big flakes of straw as mulch. I am determined to beat any possible drought this year. Also to not have to weed as much.

Meanwhile Madeleine's determination to learn how to not only drive the lawn tractor but to back it up puts my pride in my own back-up victories to shame. I think there's a lesson here. I think it's something about "at least she uses her powers for good and not evil." Because put to other purposes, that girl's focus is scary intense.

Gracie, for her part, spread the weed-blocking newspaper over the bare ground inside the new raised beds. She did get distracted by reading the ads several times. "A swimming pool! Just $299!"
"Barbies are on sale at Toys R Us! ... HEY. They put the 'R' backwards. You should call them."

Scary intense focus? Not so much. Attention to detail? Depends on the detail.

Here she is, the original sassafrass girl, taking a break from her reading break.

We're grateful for all the help we can get.
The decorative aspect of my garden gnomes is just a bonus.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

To milk a moment

So I've been over the shopping trauma for days now. But it did feel nice to bask in the righteous indignation shared by some of my friends.

I used to have a pastor who was famous (to me alone?) for his saying: "A pity party of one is really fun... for about a minute."

But this week I am determined to remain positive. Even though we're pretty sure bambino(a) #5 has cracked or somehow dislocated my lowest right rib. Anyone? I am just so not going to the doctor over this. I have an appointment on Monday anyway, and I may or may not bring it up. Depends. It's been four days and I will shriek if a hen's feather or stronger breeze lands in that general vicinity. And don't get me wrong: it's amply cushioned. There's no way it was injured from the outside.

Imagine the guilt I can heap on this baby.

This brings me to a random but almost related story.

Besides breaking my hip (two years ago?) in a spectacularly noneventful way, I have broken other bones. In my years -- more than a decade -- as a dancer (Graceful? Me? Shaddup if you know me in real life.) I am sure I crumbled more than one abused toe. OF MY OWN, people.

En pointe as it were.

But five or so years ago I broke my, um, tailbone in a snapped stirrup leather accident during a (or directly ending) a trail ride. That was fun. Did you know off-road ambulances are five times as expensive as their two-wheel-drive counterparts? And did you know you have to pay full price for both if you are transferred once you leave the wilderness? Seems there ought to be a discount.

ALSO ... if your backwoods ER doctor is an ex-rodeo man with his own story of breaking his coccyx at the tragic seven second mark and then driving 17 hours straight home in his beat-up pickup and forthwith applying to medical school as a cheaper and easier career alternative ... you might not get as much sympathy (or pain medication) as you would have from city doctor. I'm just sayin'.


I wasn't even recovered from that injury, not even walking without a geriatric tennis-ball-footed assistance device, before my dear friend KL's eldest son, blog name of Headlong, (maybe 11 at the time) ventured this question:

"How do you break a bone when you have all that... padding?"

I'm not really sure, Headlong. Not really sure. And for some reason a Willy Nelson moment is coming over me.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowgirls.

Monday, May 17, 2010

More shopping trauma and gardening therapy


What a weekend.

In just 48 hours we managed to pack in at least a week's worth of work and play. Between gardening -- the tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant and summer squash are in! -- and picnics and family drives and the never-ending Rabbit Hutch Project the two days of together time flew by.

But what really sticks with me from this weekend are some (nearly) unmentionable items.

Look away now if you are not of the hardy female persuasion. (Or, you know, if underwear talk embarrasses you.)

I had to shop again ... it's like aversion therapy or something ... and it was worse than swimsuit shopping because it was undergarment shopping AND it involved measuring tape AND getting felt up by a 20-something know-it-all clerk in the maternity store. She declared my questions/requests/clearly and politely stated undergarment requirements to be mere superfluous babble getting in the way of her sales pitch. I was offended. She told me I'd have to special order what I wanted from the chi-chi-est lingerie store in our city. Or possibly online. Or possibly knit them myself. Her tone was (and I'm discounting for pregnancy-related sensitivity) "women who are as nit-picky as you do not belong in my maternity store, getting in the way of me telling you what you want and need."

I might have left there in tears.

And then to add insult to injury I found what I was looking for (100% cotton, no underwire; what's so very difficult to understand about THAT?) in a bargain store. But I couldn't even begin to feel superior for a minute because...

...then my feet became swollen beyond all recognition. Each individual toe is to this moment without visible knuckle creases. It's a Hobbit thing. Only without the hairy part. I guess. As best as I can see past my baby bump.

At least the tomatoes are in so I can put my feet up.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Field (forest) trip!

In the interest of alleviating cabin fever and addressing spring fever, the Suite family school took a little "field" trip yesterday, ostensibly also for leaf and tree identification.
We found some Oregon Grapes.

Maples and ferns and more.

And some fresh air, fresh perspective.
I'm not sure how much longer we'll conduct formal school this season. It seems our table time is dwindling. But the girls are still reading and writing every day. And at least three or four times a week we work on math. Scrabble and chess and other strategy games fill in a lot of the blanks.
The spring fever stirring, the garden calling, the new baby on the way.
To further prove my capricious nature I told my husband last night (after the super fun and successful field trip) that we may as well continue school through the summer this year. But then the sun came up (and out) this morning and I'm thinking maybe we'll just make some bread and start some yogurt and go outside again for the day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The rain, the sun, the bipolar weather

I've been reading too much Anne Lamott and Barbara Kingsolver.

It gets me all melancholy.
Or maybe that's the weather talking.
After a mostly gorgeous weekend of gardening-perfect sunshine (with only the smallest of hailstorms, and, um, a windstorm now that I think of it) our Monday and Tuesday have been nonstop rain. I've been staring out my windows at sideways rain, rain that makes it difficult to walk the 300 feet to the chicken coop from the back door. This rain has exhausted our indoor activities of board games and books and made us resort to organizing dresser drawers. It's that bad, people.
It's been a brand of rain that hits the skylights so hard that my kids take up an improvised beat and dance to the noise. Of course that adds to the general din of our farmhouse's usual soundtrack: Legos clacking, clarinet tooting, teakettle whistling.
Yesterday we did brave the weather to attend a meeting for a possible new homeschool cooperative. That was fun. It allowed the girls to run wild in the basement of the church with other children who'd been large-motor-muscle deprived for too long. Also it allowed me to realize how very happy I am to be conducting school at home. Whatever the weather, we have enough time to read and play and read some more.
Today is supposed to be gorgeous outside. I am under strict orders from Mr. Suite to not "go out and plant for six hours."
I wonder whether that means anything less than six hours of outdoor work is acceptable?
Just kidding.
Hope the weather, inside and out, is lovely where you are.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Paint party anyone?

We painted and weeded and fenced all weekend. And this time I'm not speaking in the Royal We. Nope, I toiled right along with the rest of the family. Except when I was sitting in an adirondack chair sipping iced tea.

In typical Suite family fashion, things went wrong but it was mostly funny.

Madeleine and Sarah and I painted. But the "barn red" paint is undeniably pink. Even after two coats and plenty of time to dry. It's pink. And not in a cute way. So now we call it primer and can look forward to another weekend or three of painting. Gah.

The deer fencing around our garden is complete -- I got gates for Mother's Day! But my new raised beds didn't go in because the rabbits and chickens kept getting out. So Mr. Suite spent his time rebuilding the hens' yard and making new doors for the rabbit hutch. The girls have an elaborate rabbit run complete with ramps and toys planned, materials purchased, waiting for their daddy's spare time to complete. They worry for their rabbits' mental health if they are cooped up too long.

Nothing really went wrong with the weeding. Except it's weeding in the middle of hay country where fescue and alfalfa seeds fall from the sky and look specifically for my flowerbeds and therefore it's not nearly as fun as splashing pink paint around. Oh, wait, I forgot. We broke the last hoe handle. So that put a stop to the weeding. I think I'll call it a natural wildlife refuge in the front flowerbeds. How does that work for you?

We planted. Marigolds and cabbages and geraniums and herbs and and ground cherries and tomatillos and more. But we didn't plant the tomatoes because we need new beds for those. (Last year's tomato blight prevents us from planting tomatoes in our existing beds.) A pesky little thing called the office will probably keep Mr. Suite from building the new beds and filling them with my million-dollar soil until next weekend. And of course, in our area, it's not yet time for some of the really fun stuff: corn, squash, peppers.

We babied the asparagus. My competitive nature is irrationally proud of the tiny purple and green stalks and their growth. (Look! Another inch today!) One of my neighbors, who owns a large portion of a huge CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, stopped by and bemoaned her own three-year journey with asparagus. I am probably having beginner's luck. Don't tell anyone.

We had a campfire. Again, nothing went wrong there. Although the nearby rural fire hall did have a call in the middle of our starlit marshmallow-roasting evening. Laura ran to the picket fence and hung on it to watch the engines go by. They returned quickly so we assumed everything was okay.

WE LEARNED THE NEIGHBORS HAVE AN OFFER ON THEIR HOUSE. But it's not from the cute family with the two children who played on our swings while their parents toured the property; it's from a hopeful new B&B proprietor. I guess we can't have everything.

We played Scrabble. I lost. Need I say more?

How was your weekend?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Simple shoe organizer

Do you trip over your children's shoes when you kiss them goodnight? (When you kiss the children, that is, not the shoes.)
Me too.
I used to see shoe bags in the stores. Back when I went to stores. I even have one hanging in the girls' bathroom. But it has a job holding hair ribbons and styling products. Also it is floral, and Madeleine and Sarah are so over a floral bedroom. (Good thing I can still inflict my Laura Ashley sensibilities on the younger two girls.)
So. I measured the bathroom hair ribbon holder and lo and behold decided after that exhausting research that I could sew a shoe holder for the big girls' Saltwater sandals and Converse sneakers, thus saving my toes from bumping into random objects on their floor at night.
(Your obligatory Suite aside: Boots, in this household, are another matter entirely. The Western boots we Suite girls collect basically need their own room. And even if you never, ever click over, you should click on that first one. It's all about me growing a pair. A-hem.)

Without further ado I started hacking up some feedsacks from the abundance of horse feed we go through around here. The colors work with the big girls' room and the theme is certainly appropriate. In case you've not run across this type of feedsack, I'm also known to sew grocery sacks and bookbags from it. It has the feel of oilcloth, it's washable and wipable, and the colors are very vibrant. Also, it's free. First I cut strips twice the width of the vintage pillowcase that I used for the back of the whole shebang. I could have used another feedsack but the girls liked the way this looked together.
Then I pinned the strips down the left and right side in mostly even rows. I sewed using a zig zag stitch for strength.
Then I found the center of each strip and pinned it down. I sewed one long row from top of the shoe holder to the bottom, right down the middle. This left me with big loopy pieces of feedsack strip to the left and right. I I found the center of those and pinned them down, repeating the long row of stitches from top to bottom.

For the final steps I had to make the horizontal rows of feedsack strips into pockets. To do this I pleated and pinned the bottoms only of each row, leaving the tops open to accept shoes.
The hardest part was the pleating. And don't get me wrong: it's not that hard. I started out by measuring and pinning but ended up, in my usual degage way, just eyeballing the pocket pleats. It worked out fine.

I don't have a grommet thingamajig so I used some heavy-duty webbing, sewn in place in smallish loops. Then I hung it from over-the-door hooks.
I think I'll go do a happy dance in the middle of their floor. Right after I find a solution for the boots.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Easy anything bag

Did I mention the projects are flying from my sewing machine unattended?
I am trying to whittle away at my heap of fabric and shoulda-dones before the baby arrives. Meanwhile the weather outside has cooperated with my efforts by alternating sunshine and hailstorms in breathtakingly fast succession. Too stormy to plant anything? Grow your own laptop/diaper/bookbag:

The last time I blogged about a tote bag I was thinking of Earth Day, going green, and getting the stack of feedsacks stored in my barn down to a husband-acceptable level. That little bag is pretty cute, still, and led to my farmgirl self producing dozens of grocery-style bags made from feedsacks.
Those're pretty popular in our granola neck of the country. Some cottage industries sell them at our outdoor markets -- people will pay for the empty feedsacks they use as materials -- and they sell for $12 apiece. Yikes. I didn't know that when I started stitching them up. But I even made some for a former neighbor because he stopped at my house and asked for them so many times and then at one point stated that I had promised them to him.
I didn't remember promising anything but I made the bags for him so he'd stop stopping.
This new bag is not so indestructable as one made from feedsack material. And it's strictly for myself. It's big enough and padded enough for my laptop computer and has shoulder straps in my favorite paisley. It's washable. Not that that's important to a mom of five.
For the body of the bag I used a big rectangle of fabric sandwich, quilted on one side. For handles I used a long tube of fabric arranged on the outside of the quilted side, pinned in place before sewing:

I'm not usually that big on pinning, but straps and handles have to be in the right place or they feel weird on your shoulder.
I also sewed in some inside pockets, measured to fit my phone, my notepad and pens:

(I should mention that the first thing I did was reinforce the very middle of the big rectangle, or the bottom of the bag, with extra layers and triple stitching about an inch wider than my laptop computer is deep. There are products for this that are stiff, enough to make a bag stand up, but I don't find them to be very washing-machine friendly. And, um, I would have had to go to the fabric store for some. 'Nuf said.)

Finally I placed a little rectangular side gusset (is that the right word?) on each side so the bag opens wide enough for whatever:
As an afterthought I also added some little ties to close it at the top.

I took it to the doctor's office yesterday, loaded with crayons and coloring books and the big girls' novels, and got compliments on it in the waiting room.
I love the fabrics in this so much I may make a few receiving blankets to coordinate.
But if my ex-neighbor comes asking, I don't manufacture these and y'all need to be my witness: I promised NOTHING. I have enough projects of my own lined up.
That being said. In the next few days you should bug me if I don't post my other recently finished project -- a shoe organizer made for Madeleine from more feedsacks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nesting and listing

This weekend we:

Climbed a lot of trees.

Contracted poison oak. (Again.)

Found a tidy little pile of snake eggs in the compost and took pictures of the natural wonder. (What can I say? My kids have taken the farm girl spirit to the extreme.)

Moved the bunny hutch to a nice shady spot between the chicken yard and the garden. Perfect for composting. (Not so perfect if the rabbits escape. Think Farmer MacGregor and Peter Rabbit, only not so friendly am I as he to lettuce-munching pets.)

Watched the asparagus grow more than four inches. Except for the one crown that the chickens scratched back to its roots. Those hens are headed for the crockpot for sure, I tell you! (Reference earlier grandstanding statement about my mean nature.)

Finally got the lawn tractor working in conjunction with just enough sunshine just in time to save the property from grass tall enough to obscure a toddler.

I like this Royal We business an awful lot. Because while "we" did all of that strenuous outdoor work and play, "I" took some naps, a lot of photos, a couple of long baths, time for baking bread and time for a trip to town with Madeleine, who needed new jeans. AGAIN. (And some books. AGAIN.)

To tell the truth, my weekend was pretty restful but I am such a homebody these days that the trip to town just about undid me. Three stores and their requisite dressing rooms, not even for me, mind you, and I'm down for the count. As I said to my wonderful, truly hard-working husband upon our return from town, "There. I've had a date day with each of the big girls and so now I'm free to have this baby and stay home."

I'm sure I've entered some sort of nesting phase beyond even my normal hermitlike homesteading state because last week the girls and I rearranged furniture and purged cabinets and in general acted like company was coming. My sewing machine is perpetually out and the cushion covers for the den couch are 90% done. I chose a rust chenille corduroy for the main fabric and I am in love with it. I'm already envisioning a nap on the couch, waking up with telltale lines on my face. I keep getting distracted by new, smaller projects though -- like this easy pattern for a customized baby seat/shopping cart cover. We have new beds to assemble for Laura and Grace and a new ensemble of red and white gingham and floral bedding for their room.

I joke around that pregnancy doesn't make me "nest" but makes me "list." As in, I keep adding to my lists of preparations and projects. But then? Only a few weeks to go until all I'll be doing is watching the new one's eyelashes grow. Delicious.