Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Merry and bright...

 When the light twinkles just so.
 And the performances are all done.
(Nutcracker and It's a Wonderful Life, two icons of Christmas, checked off our list.)

 Time for silly cousins to have some fun.
 Remembering the reason we love, the reason we live.
 It's quiet at the farm.
For two weeks (minus a day or two) we had no drama, no dance, no classes.
Just scrumptious board games and naps and archery practice in our little woods.
Oh! And I read several books that have been on my list including
Morton's "Forgotten Garden" -- lovely; and Smiley's "Barn Blind" -- an author who amazed me again.
 We, like many of you, opened some gifts.
That girl does not like her bear. She loves it.
And her nightgown, sewn with love by her grandma and passed down by her sister.
 It's been a deliciously slow end to another fast-paced wonderful year.
I am not making resolutions but I do like to reflect and redirect at this time of year.
How about you?
I wish you a beautiful 2014.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Funny how my world rearranges itself for weather

This weekend, first in December, forecast for the Suite family a flurry... of Nutcracker and It's a Wonderful Life. Dancing and tech rehearsals and opening nights were predicted to swirl about and sweep us into a vortex of holiday rush.
 And then the weather decided to slow us down.
 In our corner of the world, snow is cute and fluffy and always melts by noon. A three-day snow and ice storm with temps in the single digits? Unheard of.

So this year, our dance and theatre plans were laid aside and postponed and generally, blissfully, stalled in the high drifts of white space.
 Oh impassable roads how I do love you. As do I my little white picket fence by the creek. It serves no purpose except to say I live in the house by the side of the road... with the white picket fence.

Recently the picket fence spoke hospitality to a pair of lost mushroom hunters who had been in the woods all of a wet, wintry night. So it's doing its job of advertising our friendliness.

At least one of our neighbors, one who lives about a mile away, thought us plumb cuckoo to have offered hot coffee and a ride to the young couple.

I don't know. Most of your garden-variety psychopaths aren't going to knock on the door at 6:45 in the morning with blue hands, chattering teeth and soaked jeans. I'm thinking not anyway.
 It looks lovely to walk through that gate to the creek. Except under a foot of snow lies a sheet of ice and one might go down the hill sled style without the equipment. Don't ask how I know.
 The horses'  tank has a floating heater that makes their water steam in this weather. They still ventured to the pond and broke the ice with their front hooves. Refreshing drink anyone?

 Murphy the dog was born for this weather. He and Madeleine explored the pastures and hillsides like it was a North Pole expedition. The rest of us were on the second pot of hot chocolate by the time she came in, stomping snow from her boots and pink-cheeked.

We still have another day of being homebound, if the forecast is correct. I'm trying not to plan ahead. If suddenly the roads are safe tomorrow is the matinee opening of "It's a Wonderful Life" at our local theater. And if the snow and ice remain, it's a wonderful life chez farm suite.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pictures of a (legendary?) fall

I bought a little secondhand espresso machine over the weekend.

I'm going to save money. It's been bad for the budget, Dutch Bros. moving to town, and the girls' dance classes six days a week and the lack of sleep and all.

I grit my teeth and choose contentment, sticking fingers in ears to deny a negative word. La la la I can't hear you. Because I'm mature like that.
Not long after, not so very much later, forced smiles relax into reality. I see the beauty directly in front of me.
 Oh, Jane. Your portrait does not do you justice.
 The man whose sign proclaims irrigation automation. His name is Greene. And that makes me smile bigger.
We stomp down the leaves after they've fallen. Our grass is so green here! Even in a drought year we didn't use the irrigation system in the front lawn at all. (Apologies to Mr. Greene.) Then the leaves head for the compost mountain.
 Sal and Laura and I get a lot of time to appreciate the bajillion of covered bridges around here while the big girls are at dance. I (used to) carry a Dutch Bros. mocha while we played. Covered Bridge Capitol they say. There's a plaque and a sign and everything.
The hens don't venture out until the mist leaves the hillside. See that little, itty bitty hop vine there? So much for covering the henhouse in one season. I also planted lavender. But Jane thinks lavender and geraniums are for her. Breakfast lunch and dinner. Baaaaad sheep.
Shades of grey. Rated G.
 (Have not read those books. I just think I'm funny. Don't mind me; acting ridiculous cheers me up when I have to make my own mochas.)

 I have a soft spot for pumpkins on ladders. Funnily enough some of my ladders I pulled out of burn piles and trash heaps. Repeatedly. A-hem. Then the cucumbers climb them all summer before the autumn squash take up residence. We also use old dry-rotted wooden ladders for roosting rungs in the chicken yard and henhouse. I have seen some clever people make rustic - shabby? farmchic? steampunk? what is this steampunk? - bookcases. I can never. never. never have enough bookcases. But I also like to stay married so the wooden ladders stay outside.
 We are building a library, which will decidedly NOT have rustic ladder shelving, up in the attic. Got a little sidetracked by plumbing disasters between the pump and the house. And again between the pump and the barn. Then most recently by some cottage-style built-in beds for the teen girls. Oh and we can't forget the stair rail, the upstairs bath reno, the tiny back yard studio remodel. Multitasking makes for a lot of projects nearly there. And the library is the furthest from "there."
 We never have enough photos of Madeleine and Sarah anymore.
And I thought I might bore you with sunflower pictures this summer -- I took hundreds! We cut down dozens and dozens to dry but left a few for the birds, who flit around and weigh the blossoms down while they have an October snack. I walk as quietly as I can but they don't stay for a portrait. Sort of like my teenagers.

Can you tell I'm overcaffeinated? The unintended side effect of frugality, my friends.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


 Things these weeks have seemed a little fuzzy and out of focus.

But then I decided my "forgettyhead" self (5-year-old Laura's word for me, thankyouverymuch), otherwise known as scatterbrained and/or distracted easily by the light through a forgotten red chard plant, can also be described as creative and spontaneous.
 Madeleine went to her first school dance and looked ah-mazing. Her group of friends is a blessing and I know this word is somewhat overused but I really, truly mean it: each of those girls and guys makes me giddy with gratitude that we get to know them and watch them move through their own teen years. Because really, it's healing to know that friendship and loyalty survive the texting-crazed generation.

I rewrote a bit of my own biography in my head, watching my daughter walk confidently in heels and a little black dress. Where do they get these pieces of themselves so apparently foreign to nature or nurture? The confidence, I'm telling you, it kills me.
 You know what else slays me?

Foggy October mornings. Six dentist appointments in one week. Being out of loose tea. Sudden urges to tear up carpet during history class at the home school table.

You know, the unexamined life would probably benefit me a little.
 Is that out of focus or just dreamy? Still deciding. Which reminds me, this week brings three doctor appointments and a new optometrist appointment in addition to the twelve dance classes, two singing lessons (rescheduled and I can't remember why), one flute and one piano lesson. Last week was the dentist. I'm pretty sure. You can't overestimate my forgettyhead.

In theory I love this time of year.
The true New Year of academics, this autumn time. Also not the time to be out of soothing herbal tea.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The "getting real" post

It happens, every so often, that I read a flurry of articles and blog posts imploring mommy bloggers and fashion bloggers and farming bloggers and faith bloggers to just get real. (Political bloggers need not fuss with this stricture as there is no getting around the real ugly.)

In case you missed the memo(s): Others' Facebook happiness makes us depressed, Pinterest as a whole makes us dissatisfied with our mere human crafting/cooking/skydiving abilities, and the rosy lives pictured in weblogs are akin to Photoshopped models in fashion ads, creating a rarified air that none of us can really breathe. Focusing on the positive can smother a person, apparently.

 If y'all want ugly there's always mainstream media. And the cupboard to the left of the sink. And screen-time-limit meltdowns and arriving a month early (or a month late!) to the orthodontist-whose-bill-comes-anyway, or an aching shoulder and a little bit of arthritis in that hand that makes you inadvertently drop a pot full of stewed tomatoes. Talk about a hot mess. The satellite internet limit that is exceeded by streaming school classes two weeks into the month. And the neighbor who left cookies in your mailbox and then got upset when the mail lady thanked you for them when they were so obviously for your kids from the neighbor (Follow? Me neither!). Someone from your church facing divorce, someone in your family facing cancer.

I kinda got on a roll there just thinking about the "real" of this week. It's only Tuesday.

You know, these are the everyday and bigger uglinesses that just don't bear talking about.
 Let's encourage each other with thankfulness and prettiness and focus on that. Won't you? I am aware that on your blogs and facebook pages, most of you edit out the schmutz. And I'm good with that. Not because I don't want you to be real! I do! I am so achingly glad you a real human being on this journey with me, and I want to walk with you through whatever you want to share.

One of the ways I survive the ugly is to post the pretty.
Y'all know it's bad if you can't look around and find some beauty. 
There's my one-time farmhouse. It is so very pretty in each season. Finally sale pending and approaching closure, not that I want to jinx anything, after seven escrows. Seven. I haven't blogged adequately about the heart-wrenching decision to move to this new farm two years ago. I haven't shared in any small part how I feel about the quality of light at that house, about how I left behind community and struck out for something new and found myself not just alone in the wilderness but lonely here. It took more than a year to understand that the light filtering through forest is its own kind of golden green. There's a glow from the barn when the stars are the only other light, and when you drive past the spaces between the barn boards look twinkly. My garden is amazing -- and overwhelming! -- and friendships once easily maintained by a stroll down the lane and a cup of coffee remain, and that spending time with those loved ones on the once-dreaded phone and internet is a new kind of beauty.

My new farmhouse takes more careful framing to find the photo-worthy. So I focus carefully because otherwise I'd live in a puddle on the floor. Truly. I thank you for your positive, for your gratitude, for your rose-colored glasses where the world wide web is concerned. Because I think the more we zoom in on beauty, the more we find.

Yesterday I realized my husband's dog Jake died five years ago. And my dog Bonnie Belle died nearly three years ago. So we got Murphy and Molly two years ago and now Molly is gone. Guess what? I never blogged adequately about the vomit and the accidents and the geriatric care that each of those pets required in their final days. Do you know how I got on this subject? I happened upon an old photo of sweet Bonnie Belle on the forbidden couch, and then laughed as I scrolled through that album to see all of the dogs fully owning the couch at one time or another. I remembered that Jake's last trip around the property was in pursuit of sitting by Laura in the stroller, down by the barn where I was watching the big girls ride ponies. I remembered that Bonnie Belle would ever so genteelly accept treats at the coffee drive-through even though she would never, ever ingest them because she was above the crunchy bone-shaped weirdness and she knew enough to wait for homemade peanut-butter-filled jerky treats at home. Molly? Molly loved the children so much that she let them dress her in hats and scarves. She would paw around in the dress-up bin for a favorite wool (dog slobbery) beret. Which is more true? The embarrassing bodily functions of aging pets or the photographed and internet-shared memories that cast them in best light?

I'd rather watch for the prettiness on the internet and hold your hand in person when we're having a crisis, big or small. I want to be "real" with you, but not so much on the internet. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Oh, my friends...

 We are deep into school now but my heart is a little bit back at summer.
 Recurring theme: I'm not ready.
For the facetime (?) and skype sessions (?!)
with homeroom teachers.
For the twelve-class-per-week dance year
to sweep us off our feet and onto our toes.
For doctors and dentists and library days.
Schedule schmedule.
 So I take some deep breaths and focus on now,
but not with the camera lens,
because it's hard to teach
United States government
and shoot at the same time.
 I can't recall having this particular angst before,
and believe me I thought I'd worried them all
to the bone, those worry-worthy subjects
of children who grow and change and,
you know,
get lives and governmental theories of their own.
 This week Madeleine and I met with her high school adviser.
I considered canceling but unfurling leaves keep reaching for sunshine.
This week Sarah started algebra.
I considered helping.
I offered to help.
But she let me know she is fine
as she went about solving for x,
that timeless question of an unnamed quantity.
This week Grace cracked herself up
while reading Alice in Wonderland
and Laura explained the difference between
a letter and a phonogram
to Salvador.

This week I lost my coffee cup approximately seven times per day.
Not everything is different from last year.
Just to be clear.
Some things remain known.
While I'm solving for x
when change remains constant.