Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

The theme tree

We don't have a tree yet. A Christmas tree, that is. There are lots of other trees littering the yard with leaves and needles and branches and whatnot.

And yesterday or the day before -- it all blurs together -- I took a hike to the back acres and clipped armloads of fir and cedar branches which I then fashioned into a very uncraftspersonlike wreath complete with glittery button adornments. It graces my front door. It's Christmas decoration and plenty of it for now.

The girls are trying to convince us that the lack of a tree in what is now mid-December represents a hardship of some sort.

I think it's the lack of a working vacuum in a house full of construction debris, barnyard flotsam and various forms of 90-year-old flooring that best personifies my personal predicament.

In other news:

Madeleine, Sarah and Grace continue to dance themselves silly in preparation for The Nutcracker ballet. The chickens and ponies and bunnies and dogs have their respective nests and stalls and dens in perfect order. Sometimes I hang out in the barn just for the organization of it all. Oh, and for the cell reception. (The other night I was sitting on the hayloft stairs, visiting with a girlfriend on the phone while watching my breath crystallize in the frigid air. My cocoa cooled quickly on the stair next to me. A cat, not mine but left by the previous owner, thought the cocoa must be a delivery of Christmas cheer from house to barn. I didn't argue.)

This weekend, a tree.

Next week, Sugar Plum Fairies will dance on stage.

Next weekend, family.

Christmas in all its mystery and wonder will arrive Chez Suite. I know it will because love never fails.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Seriously. Some insulation would be nice.

Oh. Did you come here for some December prettiness or a farmlike update of how I tackled the trio of ancient apple trees just before it was too late to prune or did you perhaps want to hear all about how 17-month-old Salvador will enunciate "up," "truck," "ball" perfectly clearly for his dad but never pour moi?

Check back later maybe.

Today my inspiration is this: I'm getting real.

Does anyone see the toilet up there? It's supposed to be out of the frame, to the right, where the new Suite upstairs bath will live. And straight ahead? That's the library.

Imagination helps. So would a little insulation.

We are still having fun even if we have to wear outerwear, well, indoors. It's been Western Oregon cold here, in the low 20s at night and high 30s all day. Crispy clear with a side of Jack Frost on the shady side of the house and barn. I have been ever so grateful that our new barn has automatic waterers and heat tape on the supply lines. This morning the big girls ventured to the end of the horse pasture, where we have a boggy little pond that Mr. Suite is excited to return to wetlands. Lo and behold the pond was frozen!

This never happens here. So the girls decided to ice skate in their boots and of course you know what happened next. Luckily it's all of a few inches deep at the edges.

So, in slightly warmer news, the new library will be about 12x12. One wonderful feature of this new old house is its decent room size, by "old house" standards. The master bedroom is 14x13 and boasts a 9x9 (!) walk-in closet. Of course to continue with the "getting real" theme of the day I have to tell you it is currently doubling as Salvador's bedroom. Each of the other two bedrooms houses two girls currently and while a new dormer bedroom is planned for Salvador, it's out there in construction phase eighteen or so. After a lot of discussion we decided turning the current attic space into a library is priority number two, right after finishing safety issues including the open staircase.

My "dining room" is a pass-through that houses what used to be my kitchen table... because my dining table doesn't fit. My "office" is an unheated back porch that used to be a laundry room. My laundry room is also a bathroom in the shop. My "family room" and "formal living" are one and the same.

The creek runs crystal clear under deep cover of fir, cedar and maple trees. A spring high on the hill feeds it. The apple trees and cherry trees are neglected but charmingly gnarled. The girls' rooms are paneled in 1970s paneling that they lovingly and happily painted Martha blue and sea glass green. Because new drywall in the bedrooms? That would be phase twenty-nine of the remodel.

And it's my dream. That's getting real.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The redheaded boy, the family tartan and the backward sweater

We don't have a family tartan (that I know of). But of course if we did that'd have to be it. The girls have been doing a month-long research project on immigration and we are learning that we, as a Suite family, came over on the Mayflower and in a roundabout way from the halls of Napoleon and the pyramids of Aztec fame and other less-lofty but still fascinating paths to find ourselves on this little new farm in Western Oregon, where even the clouds are sunshine to my soul.

(Okay. That last bit was a bit misty but you get the idea.)

I am not yet wearing my cardigans backward and, shocker, that is not me in that photo.

But honestly I'm having a lot of fun here on Geranium Lane, where the internet doesn't reach us and the UPS man honks his horn outside the gate. All of our critters are now settling in to the century barn and the chicken chalet and the bunny hutch. I'm campaigning for a Jersey cow but so far Mr. Suite he is resistant.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stairway to ... construction

A little glimpse of the c-clamps that hold my life together these days.

Or that, at the very least, keep the babies off the staircase.

In house after house we renovated, remodeled and renewed and then we moved to the little church on a hill that was completely, beautifully redone and, if not exactly how I would have done it, it's important to note that it was not done by me. We moved in to finished floors and refinished wainscot and, you know, we just started living there. I didn't realize how beautiful that could be.

So here we are as in olden days, only a few children further along, renovating an old house and making it ours while living in it. Someone should make a reality television show out of the hilarity that is my day-to-day existence shuffling bins of school supplies and books with stacks of two-by-fours. Feeding animals and babies and wondering when the construction crew will show up.

Wait. I take that part back about reality tv. I just don't look that good in the morning.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankful and then some

My little boy is just. so. cute.

If he weren't mine I'd prolly snatch him.

This year has been an inside-out, backward kind of year for me. You know the day when you run all your errands and run into friends you haven't seen in forever and run out of toilet paper and run back into town, and frankly, you just run, and then after dinner your husband says, "Honey? Your sweater is inside out. And backward." You know that day? Yeah. That's been my year.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

More packing, more playing

I not only feel as though I owe you, dear friends and readers, an update or a dozen. I feel as though I owe it to myself to chronicle a fraction of the beautiful craziness that has been this move.

If you had told me six months ago that I'd be planning a new garden, tearing down nasty 1970s paneling, leaving my 1890s country-church-turned-farmhouse for a cottage of indeterminate history and a century barn that's better built than the house, well, this sentence clearly cannot support the number of clauses needed to describe my surprise and delight (and everysooften horror) and peace that has blessed us on this move to more acreage and more adventure and what we hope will prove to be an even simpler life than we found for five years in the tiny village we loved and left.

The all-new farmsuite is a mere 30 minutes from the former (still sweet but no longer the object of my hermitlike homemakery obsessions) farmsuite. The new place may be named Hoot Owl Hollow, if it's up to my children, and since (let's face it) I like to choose my battles, HOH it is for now. The circular drive that sweeps past my new little farmhouse and curves before my big antique barn I've tentatively named, optimistically, Geranium Lane.

While there are many charming plantings and outbuildings here, there are even more projects and situations the optimist in me calls "possibilities."

In fact this blog may go the way of a remodelaholic in place of its overly introspective writing ramblings, mommy musings and the like.

My husband, the dear engineer, has his work cut out for him at work and at home.

But, you know, as long as I have my barn.

Just short of a month into the move we still don't have phone or internet at home. But thank goodness for chocolate. (That and the red hair makes me know Salvador was surely not switched at birth.)
And the new house has nearly as many big leaf maples as the old house.

Just as many dogs and babies.

You know you're still reading the same blog because the pictures are ever so random. That's Josiah, one of my very favorite people. Too bad his family loves him because I just want to snatch him. Seriously.

And speaking of children I love... Sarah had an incredibly moving flute recital three days after we, a-hem, moved. Way to practice, honey. And to not lose your music in the packing boxes.

AND, since we're on the subject of performances, all three big girls are dancing in the Nutcracker this season. Because we have nothing else going on, that's why. So four rehearsals a week? No sweat.

Whenever I'm not wandering the propery, picking up heart-shaped rocks in the creek or tracing the square-headed nails in my barn walls, I'm stitching day-of-the-week towels. You know, when I should be unpacking. Or teaching geometry. Or taping drywall. Or driving in to cell range to make a phone call.

I miss you all! Please keep checking back... farmsuite is still here... just not as frequently.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stretching, stretching

So as soon as I'm all bloomwhereI'mplanted, I kid you not, as soon as I had the conscious thought that everything is okay, right now, right here, in this place I didn't want to move five years ago but which I have grown to love love love, just then, just now, actually, I am getting to fulfill some new dreams.

I am choosing flooring and considering dormers and skylights in my new pre-1930s cabin on a creek. I am dreaming of vintage feed store signs for my century barn. I am doing a happy dance (in between seemingly endless bouts of the dread packing) over my father-in-law's gift to us of a hay elevator.

I am making furniture charts, people, in earnest attempt to simplify and still have a place for everyone to sleep, study and eat while renovations, in their many stages, will take place around us. (They oughta give me my own Discovery show. It's gonna get wild.)

And I'm purging schtuff. Of course you know there's schtuff. And I can blame it on the five kids all I want but you and I know different. (None of them has a debit card or a driver's license, now do they?)

So I'm stretching. And it's good. How about you?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Exactly like that

You turn it around and adjust it and then maybe flip it again until it looks the way you imagined.

It fits.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

If I think too hard about this

We have lived and loved here for more than five years. It was our move to the country that turned out to be a Total Lifestyle Makeover, a journey 23 miles from town but worlds away from what I now see was a relatively materialistic existence.

I've never thought of myself as loving the mall, per se, but the allure of spendy coffee shops and the urban thrill of a great antique find or of an amazing night at the theater... these are in my blood as much as the ponies and the garden (again, this year, with the 'kick me off the homesteader show' garden) and the free-range children.

I wrote a bit about the move here and its shifting of our resources, to put it plainly, to more time spent on fencing and more money spent at the feed store. We drank fewer lattes and the pricey children's boutique owners can hardly remember my name anymore. We brought home two babies to this house. We baked bread and we homeschooled and we started a little bunny business.

Living in this little, tiny, unincorporated rural village has been an enormous blessing. Living in a restored heritage church building has been a dream realized, even in light of the spotty heating and the all-too-open-while-tiny floor plan and the propensity of ranching old timers to stop for coffee as they used to do when the home was owned by a multi-generation founding family.

We have learned to make do, to make the best, to make joy and realize it.

We have walked to the post office, to the wood-floored, wood-heated general store-slash-deli, to the school, church, grange, to neighbors' barbeque parties, to rural art center events and to the abundant blackberry patches. We have spent entire weeks without opening the Suburban doors. We have loaded the shop and the barn and the entire small acreage with memories.

We have watched the fire hall's weekly training sessions from our front yard. We have watched Cycle Oregon's two thousand participants gather and marvel at our front porch. We have watched weddings at the next-door B&B and we have given countless directions to wine country tourists.

And now we are moving again.

My father-in-law gave me a little bit of wisdom that I want to share even though it's not fully sunk in. Yet.

Even in the face of exciting new adventures, it's okay to take a moment or two to appreciate what's passing, to mourn the loss of the known, to recognize what's been good before planning the new. In fact, it's probably counterproductive to start planning before recognizing that this change, though welcome, is hard.

Our new home, also a century or so old but without the known history of this place, is a grand gift and a new chapter to be sure. I just have to finish the last few pages of this one before the story can move on.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

If wishes were horses

Writing, like playing, is daily. Change is not as predictable but it is inevitable.The odd drive to clear one's head.

A trip to campus to goof off in the halls of learning.

A lifelong dream - a century barn - within my reach. Written on my calendar no less.

Grace, as my friend Heather put it, can really rock a hat.

"Millions" of crawdads at our new place.

More University photos with our two exchange students... borrowed from down the road for the period of 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. or so, every school day.

Just one funky sign on my fantastic new barn.

While we lived a little bit of a dream here in this 1880s church-turned-farmhouse, it turns out there is a surprise chapter to the book of my life. (What? I don't control everything? And, furthermore, God's plans are better than mine? Whodathunk.)

So November first we will turn the page and move to that three-story barn (well, into the creekside house, which is at this point not so picturesque) and to that creek and to a mature orchard and a little more remote rural existence.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dogs and other happinesses

Today as I quickly upload these snaps of late-summer fun and games I have six students at my school table. It's transition time.

We are still jogging through the last bits of summer chez Suite but the autumn rituals are tapping in for a good run.

A cozy wrap after bedtime bath.

Some wildflowers gathered for seed.

Mommy's seasonless dreams of pictures wherein everyone is smiling angelically and no one is pulling anyone else's hair or last nerve. It's the tradition that transcends cultural and national boundaries. (And you thought that was music?)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A fond farewell to summer

Pardon me while I wipe the sticky sweat from my brow and then again while I smack that same brow in remembrance of my blog... amongst the canning and homeschooling and general chaos that rules my September, the computer can get a bit in the way. I do, however, have facebook and all the evil time-wasting that has to offer. So there.

Our summer was fun but now it's time for the best season of all (and I totally reserve the right to change my mind at the beginning of each new season): autumn!

This year we are homeschooling four out of five of our children (that Salvador, such a slacker, is waiting until he can walk to learn to read) plus two neighbor boys. It's a full schoolroom and I love it. Today's haiku lesson was mighty educational, for me, in that boys apparently write about very different subjects than do girls. A-hem. Let's just say that counting syllables regarding bathroom humor is funny to a 10-year-old boy I know. Very funny.

We have two new doggies Chez Suite and they are sweet indeed. Bernese Mountain bundles of joy, they weigh in at over 100 pounds apiece. (What was I thinking with the dog begging, you wonder. Me too.) Murphy and Molly do not prefer this extended summer-like weather at all. They pant and, let's face it, they drool. It's an ocean of drool in my laundry room currently. And I can't use scatter rugs because they eat them. Also? They prefer the horse paddocks to the dog run. This makes perfect sense in light of the fact that they eat more than do the ponies.

The little red school across the road from us is closed forever and it is very, very sad. I miss the passing of the morning bus telling me it's time to wake up, and I miss the gathering of country kids stopping at our picket fence on their walk home. I miss the whole one-room-schoolhouse feel of our rural community and we didn't even attend there.

The country didn't fix its financial woes while I took a bloggy break. Go figure.

I made it to the beach just once this summer, and barely in time for sunset. I've decided the fall is better for ocean-going anyway. (See how I can make lemonade?) We did swim at the lake 10 times, which exactly met Sarah's goal. I aim to please. And the lake is close and free.

We celebrated a half-dozen amazing birthdays and a couple of wonderful wedding anniversaries. At one memorable 25th anniversary party the bride wore her Tevas with her wedding gown and walked her Golden Retriever to the picnic table reception. And at one equally wonderful party for a four-year-old I love, in excess of 30 children ate cake with no artificial colors nor artificial flavors and it was a measure of their love for Eddie and his dietary restrictions that no one said a word. Then at my father's 60th birthday party his siblings traveled across state lines to surprise him and that is difficult to do. Surprising my dad, I mean. We'll try it again for his 80th. And that is perfectly safe to say here since he doesn't read this blog. (Right, Dad?)

We (of course, this part is the royal we) put gorgeous new fencing around the horse paddocks

and Dolly hasn't broken out once since then. Oh. Except for the time someone left the beautiful new lifetime gate wide open. Just that once. And it only took half a day to catch the dang pony. Not that I minded.

It wasn't a breakout summer, but it was my summer. We loved it. How was yours?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Finally, the blackberries ... a birthday... and a little ice cream

Our summer moves more quickly, and more slowly, than any I've remembered. It was late this year, the weather in Oregon not sure what to do with itself. Kinda matched my mood, frankly.

My physical self rushes around, driving country roads on the way to camp. after. camp. after camp.

My all-too-active inner self soaks in the sunshine and reflects, light and otherwise.

This summer marks my dad's 60th birthday, my son's first birthday. My girls are playing multiple instruments apiece (we're apparently starting up a traveling family band).

I miss my grandmother something fierce this season. She and I used to pick blackberries every year. Our stained fingers filled the pails and she filled my mind with stories of her growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin; growing up in the Great Depression, having her first children in a log cabin, moving bravely across the country to San Francisco to raise all four babies through wars and an uncertain economy and civil unrest and gardening and on the whole living an amazing, rich life.

Yep. I miss my grandmother. So much so that a visit from her daughters, my dear aunts, brought me to tears. Just hearing Sandra's voice, so like her mother's, and seeing Pat's expressions, so like my grandmother's... this was the essence of summer fruit, sweet but tart. We wait a long time for that first bucket of berries, and then the ice cream and the pies and the cobblers crowd together so thickly that we think we can freeze some of it to enjoy later. But we can't. We have to gobble it up, this life. We have to take it as it comes ripe and say, this is what it is to live in the moment. Tomorrow's joys will be better, and fresher, if they're uniquely tomorrow's.

So this week we are enjoying the last camp (can you see me, ready to slump?) of the summer. Madeleine and Grace are fiddling around. (Har har.) They are playing Cajun music and loving it. The camp is across the road, run by the rural arts, and I am loving that. No driving. No driving myself crazy packing up the whole family. (Did I mention no driving?)

Paradoxically to my whole fresh fruit/live the now theme: Next week we may start canning, although I will likely have to buy produce at the farmstands since my garden has suffered the effects of a late start to the growing season and a general chaos in my being.

Not that I'm dramatic much.

I have missed you, friends. I hope your summer is as delicious and fresh as ours has been.

Friday, July 29, 2011

More pictures worth thousands... of words

...because honestly...

I can't keep up.

Camps, glampouts, road trips.

The very occasional backyard nap.

More family drives.

A few farm projects.

A theater debut.

Homemade and homegrown pesto. Bruschetta. Much bettah.

Chicks become pullets.

Ponies become pets.

Roses reach higher.

Friendships blossom.

Characters develop.

Grandparents are made, not born.

We heat up, we cool down.

Sometimes speed up, then slow down.

We realize: It's the journey.