Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

You know it's summer when...

You know it's summer when your shower is finished with a crunchy line-dried towel.

You know it's summer when you lose track of the number of children populating your impromptu backyard water party.

And you know it's summer when you measure the corn's growth by inches per day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

That grass? Over there?

Um. It looks pretty much like the grass over here.

Truthfully I've never understood the prevalence of the old adage "the grass is always greener on the other side." It might be an overdeveloped sense of empathy, but for as long as I can remember I've been pretty sure that other peoples' proverbial grass is as full of weeds as mine. Moss. Dandelions. The occasional prickly invasive thistle.

(I think moss is pretty. Dandelions leaves are full of Vitamin C and their flowers look cute in a tiny vase when plucked by a preschooler. And even thistles attract birds and butterflies.)

By the same token I've never been overdue with a baby before. I do think the baby is better by far than the pregnancy, even if you are one of those blessed mothers whose pregnancies are blooming and full of health and energy (so not me). And so I'd like very much to see the baby. Thanks for reading. For sticking in there with me while I stuck my head in the blog sand for a week or so.

And without further ado:

If the littlest Suite doesn't make his or her appearance this weekend I am going to let the doctor induce us. Did you know that it's considered by the Obstetrics and Gynecology Board or some such authority to be dangerous to be overdue as a mom of "advanced maternal age"? More to the point, it is making me more than a little crazy. I have started to obsess (started?) about unintentional home birth since we live more than an hour from the hospital. (I have some anemia issues that will not allow us to have an intentional home birth.)

I have figured my dates down to the millisecond. This is gross oversharing, I know, in light of my grandmother's generational belief that pregnancy and all discussion of such subject should be focused much closer to the result than the conception. I have also spent time agonizing over the proximity of several local EMTs and nurses, mostly men, who have reassured our family that they are "all trained up" in this delivery business. Yikes. I have to be perfectly truthful that I've felt sorry for myself that my midwife friend and former neighbor Jayme took this very inconvenient year to spend an extended vacation with her family in Hawaii. (How could she?)

I have been embarrassed in the local general store by a line of loggers, one would have to assume hardened woodsmen, astounded at my girth enough to move out of line with their post-four-p.m. six-packs. I have overheard at the girls' spring concert that I might "drop the baby in the bleachers." I have been on the church's prayer chain and oh-so-mortifyingly discovered this tidbit of news yesterday while on a walk past the Rebecca Lodge's Thursday senior citizen luncheon. I have listened to Jayme's phone advice about herbs and supplements and patience and such nonsense. I have heard from my redder-necked friends about trampolines and pickup truck rides. I have walked until the walking is a meditation but certainly not a labor induction.

I have also conveniently remembered from my first post-bacc job as a reporter at a small daily where I rotated through the vitals page duties with the other newbies: More than four times as many babies are born on the full moon as on any other day of the month. Saturday's the full moon, friends.

Keep me in your thoughts. I promise to return to the blessedly patchy grass of random rural ramblings and the all-too-often mommy blogness as soon as I'm a mom of five and not the only farm girl in Western Oregon to ever be 11 months pregnant.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A virtual dream trip from one who's staying put for a while

I was thinking how much I'd like for you to see a little bit about the Sylvia Beach Hotel at Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. The inn's named after Sylvia Beach, a mentor of Lost Generation writers, who owned the famous Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company. I have loved the hotel for years and think of it as my home away from home. In fact, if it is even your second visit there, the staff will check you in with a "welcome home" greeting.
It's on pilgrimage lists for folks who also can't wait to see the famous world's largest independent Powell's Books, just about two hours away in Portland, Oregon. The inn's also in some of those "101 things to do before you die" type of guides. Rooms are typically booked months if not a year in advance. I try to make my next couple of reservations as I'm leaving, ensuring that I'll squeeze in a retreat a few times a year. But there are also usually folks from all over the world who luck out with a walk-in after a cancellation.

Each room in the hotel is dedicated to an author, poet or playwright. From Austen to Wilde as it were.

I think I've stayed in nearly every room. Except Poe. It's a little on the creepy side for sleeping. The photo above is of Tennessee Williams' room... named appropriately "Stella." Dreamy, isn't it?

Shakespeare's headboard.

The writing desk in Shakespeare. As far as I know every room has a spot for writing. No phones or televisions though.

This is my daughters' favorite room. Dr. Seuss. Other children's writers represented at the hotel include Robert Louis Stevenson. His room was occupied on my last visit so I couldn't skulk in for a photo. It's gorgeous though ... a big four-poster bed of tree trunks twined with vines.

More Dr. Seuss. Maybe the least "restful" room in the hotel, it's also one of the most fun.

My favorite parts of the Sylvia Beach Hotel are the library and the dining room. The library occupies the western end of the third floor as well as the attic above, where chimneys from the other floors snake between bookcases like an illustration from Dr. Seuss. On foggy days the library is nearly silent even when writers and guests are sprawled in every easy chair. You may hear the scratch of a pen, the sigh of wonder at a truly great sentence read and re-read, or the crackling of the fire. On sunny days the Pacific view is astounding. The doors to the balcony are open and the background noise is the hush of incoming and outgoing tides.
The library has "no cell phone" signs posted among portraits of authors. Sometimes rowdy book groups or family reunions gather in the library, but that's a different and happier sort of noise altogether than the city-centric, twenty-first-century convention of cell phone addiction. (My tiny soapbox moment, brought to you by a decade in real estate.)
The library also has a small kitchenette for making tea and storing snacks. Every evening at 9 or 10 the hotel serves mulled wine in this area. It's so yummy and spicy and warm and it's gone in moments, usually to savvy guests who've been camped out waiting for the carafes to arrive. Not that I'd know anything about that.
One fantastic reason to miss the late-night mulled wine in the library is to still be seated in the Tables of Content restaurant in the basement dining room. Not only is the food local, gourmet and amazing, but it's served by "Mother," family style in at least five courses, and seating is carefully assigned so lone travelers and couples and groups are all accommodated.
And then... at dinner... love it or hate it, the diners play a game called "two truths and a lie." Each guest has the opportunity to tell two true things and one fib about themselves. Then the fellow diners ask three questions apiece of the storyteller to try to ascertain which is the lie. The hilarity of this game cannot be overstated, even for a natural introvert like me. I am always so inspired by peoples' creativity, and generosity, and friendliness.
Breakfast also occurs in the dining room, and is included with the room rate. It's a hot breakfast that I can easily linger over for a couple of hours, either visiting with a guest met the evening before or reading or watching the waves from the plate glass wall of ocean-facing windows.
It's easy to be alone at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. It's easy to be in a group or with your husband. It's easy to be quiet or sociable, to read or walk along the sand. The hotel's own website claims that the inn will either embrace or repel a person. (And to be truthful I have met a few people at breakfast who felt out of sorts with the Bohemian atmosphere and lack of modern amenities.)
I read that even today, Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris exchanges beds for a few hours' work from aspiring young writers. I do think the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, lives up to its namesake's vision of celebrating the written word and the people who create it as well as those who crave it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Peaceful to panic in less than three seconds

Because I love you all, I bring you a moment more of that shady back yard bliss.
And in honor of Father's Day, I then present you with this heart-stopping photo of my 2-year-old Laura driving with Daddy. Doesn't she look like she's on a mission? She usually is.

Because I'm writing this in draft, to schedule the post, and because I am ever so proud of myself for figuring out how to do that (Really. I am no technogenius. I can't even crop a digital photo most days.) ... because of this blog post scheduling miracle we'll never know whether I am right this minute holding the newest Suite baby. Oh, I hope so.

That would be a lovely Father's Day gift to give to my husband. (Someone else to help with the yard work? More likely someone else to know more about technology than I.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Makes me happy

The pretty little cherry tree and its valiant first-year fruiting effort makes me so happy each time I wander through our tiny orchard.

And you know what else makes me happy? The way the girls "decorated" the inside of the rabbit habitat. It sits between the chicken yard and the orchard, so the bunnies have a nice view no matter which way they look.

If you are reading this now, it does not necessarily mean I have not yet had the baby. Nor does it mean I have. And it CERTAINLY doesn't mean I've gained the patience I need for the long haul.

Why is it that I keep hearing stories of women who were pregnant three and four weeks after their due date? Clearly I'm hanging out with the most patient crowd of induction-averse, trust-your-body weirdos. And you know what they say about the company one keeps.

I trust my body alright. I just don't want to think about it anymore. So I'll keep meandering around my yard, contemplating the rabbit hutch and the cherry trees and pretending I'm uberpatient and Earth-mother-like.

And if you know me in real life, try not to let on what a whiner I am in between bouts of heroic peace and calm. K?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dolly, everybody's shaggy darling

Seven gets all the glory. Two Spot gets all the delicious fattening treats.

I get a strictly rationed diet, limited time on the grass and the pleasure of carting all the small kids who sometimes kick.

But I also am easiest to reach when it's time for French braids and head scratches.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why, yes, we diaper our babies with dandelions

Sticking to the shade. Doing a little weeding and wrapping it around some baby dolls.
How quickly we forget the cooped-up feeling of "endless" spring rain... favor of the shady, sun-dappled back yard and summery temperatures.
The back yard here at our little homestead is my favorite place on Earth. I do not say this lightly.
Surrounded by 80-year-old Big Leaf Maples and a few rhodies, in view of my kitchen window and a stone's throw from the garden, the back yard is simply perfect. It's our own little glimpse of heaven. With a play structure.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rolling right along, take two

If you can't say something nice about still being pregnant, just post a picture.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Three Sisters gardening and then some

The sun came out to play in a big way over the weekend just in time to start our Three Sisters garden. It's been so cold and soggy here that the corn and beans would've molded with any earlier planting.
Sarah and Madeleine and my husband did all the work while the smallest Suites went for a ride with Grandma. That's a good place for them to be when the seeds have to go in the ground in a certain order or pattern. Mr. Suite manned the hoe, the shovel, the wheelbarrow and the tractor.
Still supervising, Jake and I had our duties in the shade. Just close enough to sort seeds and admire the spinach bed. Oh and also to plot out where to put the garden sandbox that Mr. Suite is prepared to build to occupy Grace and Laura when they can't be otherwise engaged during gardening time.

Mr. Suite had to take a minute to baby the asparagus. It's a little out of proportion, how excited I am about those ferny fronds.

I did leave my lawn chair for a while to take some pictures of my big girls with the watering cans. It looks picturesque, but those were full of the fish emulsion fertilizer. Stinky but worth it.

"Vanna" and Madeleine hard at work on our smaller Three Sisters plot. In case you aren't familiar with the Three Sisters, it's an ancient method of interplanting corn, beans and squash. Yesterday I could barely keep the seeds separated, let alone remember the grid. Good thing the girls were on top of this procedure. We planted one bed that's about 10 by 10 and another that's approximately 6 by 6. It should be more than enough corn -- we love corn on the cob but don't really preserve corn in any way. As for the beans and squash, we have other beds dedicated to those alone.
I look forward to sharing pictures as the beanstalks climb the cornstalks and the squash shades the ground all around! I know the little "molehills" of compost look a little underwhelming now, but that's the way it is with gardening. More patience training. It's everywhere I go.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rolling right along

Saw the doctor yesterday.

Seeing the doctor again Monday.

And while it goes completely against my nature, I'm trying not to be anxious. I'm trying not to anticipate, deliberate, exasperate.

I'm trying not to analyze every twinge. I'm trying not to drive my husband crazy with phone calls during the working day. I'm trying not to take my midwife friend's advice about "helper" herbs to "encourage" a faster outcome.

Patience, clearly, does not come easily to me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Miles and miles of change

When we moved here to the rural village of our dreams, those two lovely women were my neighbors. Someone's kitchen was always brewing tea. Someone knew what to do about a chicken nesting in the woodpile. Someone's need to run an errand was always everyone's opportunity for a play date.

So four years ago, our country road was full of children and friendship, thanks to their families' (then) six combined children and our family's (then) three little ones. Soon the country dream was complete when another family of friends with four children moved on the road. Socialization? Who needed to go to town for that?

But in the inevitable way of things, change visited when I least expected it.

First our neighbors across the road moved away to a small town, not too far, for a teaching position. Then the friends a little further down the lane moved states away, thousands of miles, for the military. And we lost our third family friends to their move just months later. My children were heartbroken. To tell the truth, I was too.

And of course more change is always on the horizon. The first family to leave our little village is now planning a bigger move, to the mission field of Haiti. I can't think of a better family to do so and I am so proud to know them but so selfishly sad they'll be gone soon.

So when our military friends were home for two weeks last month, coinciding with our missionary friends' planned departure, we had to pretend it was old times. We had to camp out in the Suite family front yard with three times as many children as adults. We had to call out all the grandparents. We had to have a minute with our friends.

We had to count our blessings. Embrace the small beauties that come from big and sometimes painful change. Love on our friends while they're close enough to hug.

Admire the babies that have been born since we were all neighbors. Eat a lot of s'mores.

Build some memories until the next time.

Change is hard. But I'm learning to live in it.

Thanks for visiting, friends. May God bless your paths and make them straight. May there be more visits like that one.
(And next time you're here, we'll have a new baby to celebrate. Because sometimes change is purely good.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Two Spot the Steady Eddie

Seven gets all the glory. Seven is fast. Seven goes in the trailer to large bodies of water and larger mountains and those arenas where other horses snort and paw at their temporary walls.

I'll just stay here and watch over the place. If it's all the same to you.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

She's back.

Just look at the eyes on that horse.

I think I mentioned my mini crise de nerfs when we sold the incomparably beautiful, sweet and well-bred Seven before Christmas. And I'm pretty sure I updated you last week that she'd been, well, abandoned at the boarding barn when something happened in the would-be buyer's life that kept her from following through with a lot more than farrier care and stall rent.

Now we've Seven back. Like a lucky penny I guess. (Isn't that how it goes?)

Someone asked Madeleine yesterday as she was mucking stalls whether Seven is for sale again.
Like a mom (and, to be honest, like a salesperson) I answered with a price. Meanwhile Madeleine kept her back turned and continued picking the stall clean.
And then I got in big trouble later with my oldest daughter. It's an emotional roller coaster, this adolescent girl and horse thing. Not to mention how I feel about it.
This is after all the horse Madeleine came off of and broke both arms. This is after all the horse on which that same tiny but fearless girl broke the barrel speed record in her age group. When she "wasn't even trying." It's a pretty deep chasm between the two experiences and it's somehow to be crossed with possibly the same difficulty and certainly similar trepidation as raising a soon-to-be teen. Letting go and hanging on. Risking and protecting. Balancing happiness and inevitable pain.
But did you see those eyes?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Run away with me

Are there even words for a scene like that?
Two weeks ago I ran away to my favorite book hotel and wrote and napped and (book) shopped and then slept some more.

It was very stormy but that's a compelling reason for more napping in the library overlooking the waves.

When I wasn't haunting bookstores or running out of batteries on both laptop and camera I was taking in this view from the Emily Dickinson room, my favorite spot at my home away from home.
It hasn't escaped my attention that my favorite room is dedicated to the great poet and, um, recluse. I do tend to border on the hermit but I don't think I focus on the morbid nearly so much as did Emily.
Maybe valuing life for me means taking things slowly, as deliberately as possible with four (nearly five!) children. I know for sure that living my life means a lot of alone time. I find time with a close friend, a loved one, fills that same treasure box. I conversely find my treasure has nothing to do with the ringing of phones nor the steady ping of urgent email.
So I ran away to the Sylvia Beach Hotel. It's too much. Seriously. I live in a retreat community with gorgeous views and beauty all around and all the solitude that sometimes causes my husband to worry that I'll experience loneliness in my days. I don't need to get away. And yet he affords me these three-day gems a couple of times a year: hours upon hours when words can fill my head without interruption.
And I do this for myself with not a little guilt. It's hard to accept that I'm worth it. (I can hear my dad now, clicking away in personal-information-overload mode.). I feel compelled to tell y'all that I do this because I think confronting the mommy guilt is a worthwhile exercise. I think we must do that to be the parents we can be. We need to figure out what it is that fills our cups to overflowing, and do that. For me, running away every six months or so makes me fully present with my gorgeous family in our blessed household all the other days of the year.
Are you a solitude seeker? A party girl? Do you thrive after a mani-pedi with a girlfriend? What do you do, just for you?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

In which the manic nesting continues

It dawned on me, quite literally at 5 a.m. yesterday, that I hadn't yet made a quilt for the Suite baby.
So in my typical organized fashion (snork perfectly appropriate here) I settled in at the table with a stack of fabric from my stash. And nary a plan. Of course.

That led to some last-minute, ill-advised changes that had me seam ripping the center block out not once but twice. Laura thought that was fun. Plus it distracted her from the Charlie Chaplin mustache of a cut she suffered in an unfortunate high chair incident.

This afternoon, with precious little light from our perpetually storm-crossed windows, the quilt is done. Fini.
I wanted to play around with a traditional nine-patch and log cabin, only I've seen these wonky log cabin quilts where the center "hearth" of the block is asymmetrical. Let me tell you, it's not very easy on a girl. That there center block is the third wonky block I pieced and inserted into the quilt. Again, I don't recommend my methods. Casual and balanced is difficult to do at once. For me.
And a little side note: I must bestow the Husband of the Year award, once again, to Mr. Suite. For valor at the cutting table in pursuit of a piece of Warm and Natural batting. He may have been completely out of his element, making three phone calls to ascertain material width and length and whatnot, but he is completely secure in winning that particular award; he's got it wrapped up for decades yet.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Slipped! (Or, it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful)

All linked up to Pink and Polka Dot's slipcover party... there are some seriously beauty-ful slips over there!

Did I promise a picture of a third-trimester slipcovering adventure? (You should click there to see the devastation wrought on one representative cushion.) Did I tell you I could camouflage, nay, bestow new life upon, my old blue-and-pink striped sofa into something a little more restful for our den? And for less than the cost of a mocha at a coffee drive-through?

Well. I wouldn't want anyone to think that the $2.99 is some sort of joke. I don't think I spent even that, unless I counted thread. But if you want to attempt this at home be prepared to raid your fabric stash and, further, to be happy with a mish-mash of prints.

I slipcovered all the t-shaped seat cushions as well as the back cushions. And the ottoman. And the cushion for one wing chair, which is, in its au naturel state oh-so-80s-hunter-green-with-pink-dots.
But I ran out of steam (and the ability to sit at the sewing machine with my baby bump in the way) for the body of the sofa. So that part's still just tucked and draped.
So I present to you the (maybe less than) $2.99 family room cover-up. It'll do.
And it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. (To me.)
A few details: The seat cushions on the sofa reverse to match the turkey red paisley on the back cushions. I do have plans to sew a fitted slipcover in cafe-au-lait color for the sofa itself and for the two wing chairs (one is living in another room currently). And I probably will sew cushion covers in the same creamy neutral in case I get in the mood for a less mix-and-match-Ralph-Lauren look. But I'm pretty happy with the interim version, especially since the feathers are no longer flying from the upholstery!