Wednesday, November 24, 2010

At 11:53 in the morning, the sun has dipped low enough in the sky to almost shine directly into the kitchen, bouncing bright ball on the rippled metal roof, shining into this room, shining into my heart.

Holidays really rip at me, in a way I never could have understood as a child.  I couldn't understand the complaining and moaning and loneliness inherent in the holiday season... I loved them.  All the excitement and tradition suit me well.

This year, I find myself feeling a bit broken hearted.

In Craftsbury, we had this whole week off from school, which allowed me to take off with the kids, see who needed seeing, and head home.  We could fit in a Christmas and Thanksgiving all at once.  A few birthdays, too.  And use it as the head of a winter-settling-in; the end of seasonal migration, if you will.  We could get home, have a home Thanksgiving, and crochet ourselves into a warm winter season ahead.  In the trouse, we'd load up the stove, and it never went out again until March.

Instead, the kiddos only had today to get ready to go, to clean, to organize their lives for the season ahead, to see friends, to cook, to do what they need to do.  There is only a tiny bit of time for extended family, and we had to pick whom to see.  We've scheduled our holidays as if we are putting together a paint-by-numbers masterpiece that excludes emotion by definition.  This year here.  That year there.  Did we leave out a family? A Sibling?  Friends??

And my big big boy, who seems so ready to rip away from me a bit, crumpled, his soul burning in the family-centric holiday season, the warmth hurting rather than soothing, as he finds himself torn between families.  His heart broken, unable to express it except to say he needs to know he was born in love, and that love abides, even in a broken bond.

And that, my dears, brings me to tears.  That brings me back to the burning pain of adoption, and attachment, and fear of screwing up.   Guess what??  I screwed up!

Reading an article where Erica Jong railed against attachment parenting, I realized that our Western definition of attachment is weird and stilted.  Liberated women and feminism and mothering and attachment and individuality and community and family should not be so narrowly defined, so antithetical to one another.  Combine this with all the coverage the "family and marriage" Pew Study are getting, and I find myself feeling irritated and angry.  Family is as family does.

And gratitude for what we have, and who we chose to have, should be top of our lists from this season.

So here it is:  my heartfelt gratitude.  For family.  For friends.  For life.

I'm even grateful for the finger marks and dog nose smudges on the sliding glass door.

And oddly, as we look ahead to the next year, I find myself grinning as we plan and collaborate and scheme about the porch/playroom in the works.  We'll be knocking out the wall to the art room, which sort of makes me sad, except that I guess we'll have space in the playroom to store art supplies anyway.  And why not?  What better use of that space than to fill the air in our house with the joy of playing kids, games, movies, and a view of this gorgeous valley!!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lots to chew on

I have difficulty sitting still.

Or keeping my brain still.

Or not daydreaming about "the next big step" in my life.

What-ifs and shoulda-couldas abound in my daily thoughts.   Melancholy can set in and smolder for hours or days or even weeks with such great tinder.  It can even blaze up at the most inopportune moments, usually aimed at a child or a partner or a pet.  Often with deep accuracy.

So it with that history in mind that I write to myself, mostly, but all of you as well... about staying rooted.  Rooted to place, to personal history, to choices long since made.

The tamaracks here have finally exhausted their deep orange blaze of late autumn, leaving a pale brownish-orange in their place.  The last color in the woods consists of the deep reddish oak leaves on the warmer hills, and the orangey-brown persistent leaves of the beech.  Want to know if you harbor bear habitat in Northern VT?  Walk around in early October, looking for large beech stands.

Why the change of subject?  Just that with this understanding of the place around me, however new it feels (there are stands of oak in the more southerly parts of Calais, not so much in Craftsbury), creates a sense of place, a sense of timing, an understanding of where I have chosen to be and live.

I spoke with a good friend recently about those choices.  We waxed poetic about our lifestyles, and yet, by the end of the conversation, both had tears glistening about the fact that we chose a harder life than we might've.  We chose to do without, chose to live in places where work and education can be hard to pursue, especially for mothers.  We chose to live 25 minutes from the nearest grocery store, and to have to choose between grocery-store crap, or not having enough funding to get through the month if we head to the co-op.  We chose to live where it is cold and hard to heat one's home, where you need two, abundant, distinct sets of clothing for the cold part of the year and the warm.  Where roads beat the shit out of cars, even when you can afford to care for them.  Where communities can feel simultaneously inviting and isolating.  Where schools are small, choices for education limited, and frustration can run deep.

Life in a condo never sounded better.

But then, life in a condo doesn't allow for different choices.  My parents have to watch as the hired "landscaping" company dumps tons of un-needed nitrogen based fertilizer all around their end unit condo, watching it flow into the crappy, weird looking pond with no riparian zone, where it results in huge algal blooms.  Those, in turn, attract geese.  They poop.  They are a nuisance.  Then someone must be hired to chase them off the pond.  And once a year, the pond must be "shocked" as if it is some weird sort of swimming pool (except that no one is ever allowed to do that ).  I won't even get into how close this ridiculous cycle is to a local salmon and trout stream, and an estuary for Lake Ontario.  Common sense never plays into how this could be handled.  And my parents have to make their opinion known, do the best they can to get common sense into the equation, then watch as the procedures happen all over again.  (Not that it isn't fun to watch the dude in the kayak with the dog chase geese).

But here, I watch life turn more slowly.  Just to the south of us, in Montpelier, life speeds up... with a touch of self-righteous glam in certain circles.  That is alright, and it is still fun to have a "night out on the town" for date night once in awhile.  But really, the glow of a city is still the rat race-y cycle of life I can live without.  And it isn't nearly as diverse or interesting as a big city.

So recently, I have found myself engaging with people and places closer to Craftsbury and the home that we built for ourselves there.  But I know in the long run, I have to accept that we are also building a community here in Calais.  We're not so far apart, and many of the people we've know over the last 8 or so years, appear in the periphery of our life here, fading in and out  as we build a circle of friends here.  Part of learning to live life to it's fullest is to understand your place, where you are, what your life is like, and what direction it is heading.  Like simultaneously paddling the boat, without ever leaving the pond.

In a moment of sheer panic this fall about my life: career, education, what-have-you... I freaked and applied for a million jobs.  I even got offered some.  But in the end, most didn't pay enough for me to take them, or even to pay for childcare, and I regrettably had to turn down even a dream job.  I made the final decision today.

But in all of that, I also put the "old" childcare center into my routine again.  It felt very much like coming home.  And like, somehow, I was not the kid I had been when I was there before...

Before I longed to jump in with both feet, as if rather than getting wet, I could walk on water... skate across the issues and daily struggles any place has.  Ambition, maybe.  But now, I just feel like getting wet is just what I need.  I'm good at taking care of kids.  What difference does it make if I am a teacher, a director, an assistant, or just a sub whose there when I can be.  It is a place to offer what I do best, a place I know well, a second home, if you will.  Maybe someday, I will even get to go back full time, drag my youngest two along, and be one of those mommas whose kiddos all went to the same school. Frankly, I should get a car sticker for preschool... proud parent of....

I guess my point in this disconnected conversation is that I am happy with where I am and what I am and what my life is about.  It's not easy, by any means, and often we have to finesse and massage our life to make it work.  But together, Colin and I, and the kids too, we cobble together a life that makes a pretty comfortable shoe.  Ya know, since I'm the old lady with so many children...

Difference is, I know what to do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Catch up time

Hello lovelies, one and all...

I know, I know... "Where ya been, gurl?"

Far too busy for words, I guess.  Especially these words.  But now I am resisting the urge to rearrange the books on the shitty Big Lots shelves, or to go deal with the brussel sprouts before the chickens do, and I am writing to you.  Well, me.  Or whomever it may be.

I went on a thrifting splurge last week which produced several fabulous items for the ease of my life.  Colin already dropped the inner glass thing to the Pyrex coffee percolator, so we can't use it anymore.  And all my Ebaying and craigslisting has only turned up the stems for smaller pots.  So first order of business was a plug-in fifties metal percolator.  Which promptly reminded me of what old office or church coffee tastes like, and why kids didn't like coffee.  Ick!  Colin actually says he prefers it.  I think I would rather eat mud.  Off the bottom of my shoe.  From the pig pen.  One bonus:  coffee is still warm four hours later when you forgot all about it and didn't remember to finish that cup sitting on the counter.  You can turn your left ankle out, cock your head to the right, put on your best Stepford Wives' smile and pour yourself a big ol' cup o' sludge, dump in the nutmeg and half-n-half, and if you are lucky, you remember to choke it down before it too cools and you have to do it all over again.  But damn, that coffee pot looks cool on my Formica.

But the thrift store yielded far better results this week.  A sweet pair of vinyl and faux sheepskin calf-height boots were a tad too small for me, but look smashing on Ms. Sage.  I loaded up on unworn shirts and a sweet pair of "job interview" capri pants.  (I have been offered a million jobs this week, and desperately need to decide what I want to do... and how much I can afford to be out of the home;  I know this leaves you all salivating for more details, but I am not clear-headed enough on the subject to discuss it.  So there.  I'll let you all know after a really long car ride.  That always clears my head).

Two sets of cafe' curtains made  the removal of those hideous, busted, lead-ridden, and dangerous vinyl shades finally possible.  I hung them on expandable curtains rods I bought at Big Lots in a moment of optimism... that I would just find  the perfect curtains/shades/whatevers for the room instantly.  And I did!  They are whitish (not really cream, but not perfect white, either... I know, you just had to have the details of hue, didn't you, dahlings?).  And I have hung them 3/4ths of the way up... providing us with light and privacy. Of course, I open them in the morning when light is pouring through.  They soften up the living room, and it is ever so much more pleasant to hang out in here.

Especially with music on the stereo, and Nadia's bear cave under the circle table.  She has been dreaming and talking about bears a lot lately (as have I), so we got a book out of the library about bears, and I threw some blankets over the round table in the living room, some cushions under it, and BLAM!  BEAR DEN!  Add teddy bears for bear cubs and a seal on the blue "ice" of the LR rug, and you have Arctic bear play for hours. Pretty dang rockin, if I do say so myself.  Add stories and songs about bears, and what do you need preschool for??  Ya got me!

Laundry got caught up, the roof is on the barn, after much in the way of trials and tribulations and RAIN, and the house is in mostly working order.

Aidan got his early birthday/Christmas present... an incredibly amazing Magnavox stereo cabinte from way back when, with a record player and radio.  He's spent hours playing old jazz standards.  Gotta love that kid! And now he wants a Mob-themed, 20s birthday party,  (Can you be a flapper Mom?)

Well, babies are disintegrating all around me, so it is time to go be the grown up.  I'll write more later.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010


September rollllllls across the hills now, a soft, gray, foggy blanket that covers our valley and makes me forget there is a vista just at the top of the hill.  Even if it also has a big ugly house up there.

The kiddos are in school full swing now, and have each had a sick day already.  Any time  Big Man needs a nap... twice in one week... well, he's sick!  Babies and children, toddlers and grownups, have all had boogery noses and coughing fits, but it seems to finally be evening out... like a hilly horizon settling into the plains.

N is running around today, happy to be home, after her first "full" day at school (she stayed for the afternoon this week at preschool, and rode on home with big sister on the bus at the end of the day), wearing hand-me-down Santa dress, pink and brown striped cloth tights, and dragging the old wooden sword... YEP, that sword that's been around since Aidan was three... as she walks out into the cool, cool September air.  Every walk we tried to take today was thwarted by the rain, and finally I gave up, packed the babies into the car and drove sllllllllowlllllly  down Dugar Brook Rd, used a snack as an excuse for a destination at the Maple Corner Store, and wound my back again.  Babies asleep,  we left them to their dreams, and headed off to the couch to read library books... funny stories about Mountains of Quilt and Rosemary Wells illustrated nursery rhymes.

As the sun and clouds play peekaboo over our little world, and the weather wreaks havoc on my sleep (too warm to really have the heat on, too cool to sleep real well without a million layers), I find time to think about happiness and joy and beauty and perfection and sadness and grief and love.

All at once?  What are ya, crazy?

Well, no... maybe... I just... just... just find the world so breathtakingly beautiful this time of year, and my evolutionary need to hunker down and find spirit rest bubble to the surface, much like I did in a cold swim a few days ago... in my little local pond, which is only Mirror Lake to me when it is fall and still and quiet and the summer people have all gone home.

Here, in this time of year, in the harvest season, in the reap-what-you-sow moments, I find perfection and peace.  It manifests in little ways: the dance of my big girl across the upper floor of the skeletal barn as she laughs and glories in her body, the wind, the music in her mind; my big boy gathering supplies for his next creative endeavor, scavenging and deftly slipping under the radar as he collects and hordes, a magpie in disguise who displays like a bower bird in the end; Little Miss N running past with her overalls and mudboots on as she chases butterflies and then runs to help Daddy hold the measuring tape; Milo man grinning at me as he bounces up and down, so proud of his new standing skill, and saying "th th theee", his tiny tongue held against those barely visible new top teeth, a new sound possible as a result of the horrifying pain (amongst other symptoms) of teething.  Colin whistling as he works, the barn slowly taking shape from an idea in our heads.

Of course, in this time we also tend to look back, to see the beauty in yesterday.  That's the time when we see only what we could have done better, what we would have done, if we only knew then what we knew now... the regret of what we have yet to accomplish, the depth of the sadness over our losses.  Here is the time I remember the last time I hugged a grandfather or grandmother, the soft sadness of the loss of a dream, the regret over the pains caused others.

I heal these wounds through a walk pushing the stroller, a cuddle of a child in the middle of the night, a nice word softly spoken about those I once injured, a memory shared, and dinner on the table (an art of love, a painting of my soul, a dream of a life I know not)... and in those moments find a quiet breeze lifting my soul, my heart opening to the new, the beyond, wrapped in the beautiful gift of right now.  Here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rambling grey day musings.

As I type this, Milo is doing some sort of worm crawl across the kitchen floor, sputtering and choking and pushing forward, making sounds of frustration, but motoring forward, just the same.  This has left me in a mad dash the last few days to discover the things other children have dropped on the floor, despite my best efforts at both cleanliness and baby-proofing, including quartered crayons, paperclips (really?  from whence came ye olde  paperclips?), toy cars that fit through toilet paper tubes (the standby for choking safety, of course), and little pieces of food that prove that "No, Momma, we weren't eating in the living room" is pure fallacy and wishful thinking on everyone's part.

Next of course, are the moments when the diaper has leaked around the wiggling legs, the tears become real, the cries more urgent, the hands grasping at the overturned trashcan (yesterday, complete with draino bottle).  I sit him down, he flips on to his tummy, scoots along, gets stuck under some random piece of furniture, and I am yet again dropping whatever (usually food or the vacuum cleaner) to race to his side and rescue sweet beans from himself.

Beans of course, is what Nani calls him.

"Hey Little Bean!!!" she calls from across the room.  Her big sisterly-ness has kicked in, and sometimes assuages the tears while I race to accomplish something... anything, really... although today, as you see, I am wasting time online, writing here, writing there, reading here, watching tv there. 

But I claim asylum from chores and household life today as my hormonal cycle finally moves itself back to life before babies, and I am clutching a tea cup and ibuprofen bottle in my hands alternately between keystrokes.

Pet Chicken, a brown sex-link hen (OK, I admit it, I giggle every time I specify their species), has decided she lives with us.  She lets even Nani pet her.  She hangs out by the door.  OK, she hangs out IN the mudroom, and I have to chase her away, try and slam the door shut, and wipe up chicken shit thinking "Why did we become country bumpkins??"  In fact, last night, as I snuck out in deep beauty of a foggy, starless night, feeling the humidity like a wet towel on my face and watching the sweet little fireflies dance through the valley like so many fairy tales come true in order to close the coop door, I came wandering slowly back home, alive with the wonder of the beauty I'd beheld, only to find a chicken, Pet Chicken, roosting on the jogging stroller all by herself next to the front door, a mighty pile of poopies on the deck beneath her.  I mean, I guess I am glad she at least pooped on the deck, and that I am not scrubbing off sunbrella fabric with a toothbrush in the pouring rain this fine midday.  But really!  Where is she laying her eggs?  In our shoes?   If I am not careful, she wanders inside and I find her sitting under the kitchen table, grooming her feathers. No amount of discouragement seems to dissuade her from the idea that she lives in the house.  Not Samson, the irritating Beagle puppy nipping at her heels and barking in her face.  Not Fizzgig, the irritated,burdock covered cat, hissing at her as she rushes by.  Me and my broom and loud yell are nothing.  And she laughs in the face of toddlers, preschoolers, schoolagers, and infants who yell, chase, and drop things in her general direction.  This is one hen who will not be swayed. 

Despite Milo's great physical achievements today, he finds himself quite dissatisfied with the state of the world, choosing this exact moment to not only test the barriers of his physical capabilities, but also to grow an entire mouth of teeth.  This rather irritates both he and me, as inflammation of the gums sometimes creates in him the urge to chomp down.  Hard.  On things.  Things in his mouth.

Like my nipple.

This display of glimmering new pearlies has resulted in his learning to use a bottle.  Barely purple water (a touch of grape juice for dear god drink this persuasion) and even a bottle of formula have not only made it into his mouth, but for the first time ever, his gullet, because the bottle does not recoil, screaming, of its own volition when he is half asleep, and therefore stays in the mouth long enough to facilitate a nap.  My bandaged nipples on the other hand are trying to remember that this too, shall pass, and explain to the preschooler that weaning is imminent.

And I know, I know, I probably should be doing something creative or responsible with my day, but instead feel the urge to write.  And write.  And write.  Perhaps it is the hormonal-induced anemic state of my soul and body today, needing expression to feel robust, or perhaps it is the squelched creativity that sees infancy moving on in my last little wee one and, contradictory to what I expect I would feel, is thinking, "WOOOO HOOO!!!" and dreaming about what color to paint the art room in celebration of a bit of freedom from babyhood.  Maybe I will regain my chest in the future... not that it will even retain a glimmer of what it used to be... but it will be all my own. 

Wild Nettle Farm continues into its second summer complete with the sting and healings one would expect from a nettle patch.  The chickens still got into the gardens, despite their move into boxes and the front yard.  But I have begun taking matters into my own hands, slowly replanting, covering, and creating fencing.  In fact, I am about to pull up the damn chicken fence (since they never stay IN) and use to create a small yard around the gardens (in an attempt to keep them OUT).  But slowly, things rebound, and the herbs and plants I have moved from Craftsbury to Marc's to here are fleshing out, and the front herb/medicinal/flower bed is really not only lovely but stunning.

And this weekend, at the Wild Nettle farmstand grand opening (of a few eggs, excessive rhubarb, some lettuce, and some comfrey oil) comes the new eternal yard sale (yeppir... country bumpkins it is!) and the introduction of bouquets!  Ferns and irises and peonies are quite the rage.

Well, Milo has finally given up his fight at the breast, and Nadi needs to think about snoozing herself (please great Universe, please), and I am going to swill back some advil and coffee, and maybe begin thinking about that monstrous pile of laundry in the basement.

And so far, Nadi hasn't intentionally stood on a bed and peed all over it. 



Monday, June 07, 2010


I know this is cliched, but the truth is, summer lives in my bones.  I long for those deep summer nights where the air is humid, thick, and smells like an old fashioned perfume tin.

 I long to settle in a long settee outside or on a comfy, ugly couch with squeaky springs on the porch and read dumb book.  Long sips of iced tea.  Go swimming.

But it is more than a picture perfect postcard of summers past.  As home magazines and stores play to our nostalgia with retro shapes and colors and cheap crap for playing in the water, there is more to this longing for summer than being busy.

I want to remember this summer to do the things I love.  Ride a bike.  Read a book.  Build a fort.  Have a fire.  Go camping.  Do these all with my kids... and Sues' kids... and Elsa's kids... and any kid who happens to drop by.

But beyond even these things... I want to remember to beSmell things.  See things.  Touch.  Feel.  Listen.

Last weekend, walking with the kids in the evening around the circle neighborhood at mom and dad's, I was there, if just for a minute.  I remembered how much I loved to walk at night in the 'burbs.  How here, I admit fearing the darkness in our little valley with no street lights and houses too far between and too far from the road to shed light on an evening walk.  How here, in the darkness, there lurks the cold, the rough road, the insects.  But at home, the wheels of the stroller whirred softly in the night stillness, and we walked, talking quietly, staring up at the trees.  Sage and I spoke the way Aidan and I used to when she was the strollered-baby and he walked quietly beside me, talking of dreams we had.  I saw the heron, a snapping turtle, and the tail of a red fox as it darted into the woods before me.  I smelled the deep cleansing ozone left behind by the quick but torrential rainstorms earlier in the day, mixing sweetly with the smell of wet, warm,asphalt.  And my feet felt every soft step on the smooth, smooth road, warming me through from the feet up.

It is this... these quiet moments... these sweet moments... I want to have this summer.

Oh, that, and a cabin by the sea.  Guess that one will have to wait. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things we'd like to collect for activities/projects

So, I will have 4-5 extra kids around the place this summer.  Since everyone up here is just as scavenging as me... I thought I'd put up a dream list.

  • Old sheets, table cloths, shower curtains.  This includes vinyl for outdoor/wet stuff, and sheets for fabric.
  • buttons buttons buttons
  • odd pieces of wood, blocks, etc.
  • wire
  • felt/fabric
  • old pillowcases: similar to sheets, but because they are already enclosed... a whole different category where we can use for zillions of things!
  • SHARPIES!!!  (For me mostly)
  • Large cardboard boxes, etc.
 And for those of you who hit yard sales...

  • vintage pyrex, particularly in reddish or orange or yellow or brown tones... both bowls and cookingware.
  • old canning jars (I know, me-n-everybody else)
  • owls.  Seriously.  Especially vintage ceramic and soft owls and maybe weirdo looking birds, too.
  • vintage kitchen stuff.
  • lamps, especially ones with decent shades.  Or mid-century looking ones.  If you find it, I can turn it into something funky!  
  • vintage fabrics.  Especially mid century/60s/70s, but calicos, too.   Maybe toiles.  I have been on a sewing kick.  Coming soon, pics of the face of the quilt.  Maybe I will get out to get the batting soon...
And that pic is of some awesome napkins I made! We now use only cloth napkins, what with the old ones from when I was a girl, and these, and another ridiculous set I made out of orange/pink/yellow vintage fabric with crazy shopping ladies on it.  I re-purposed an old wicker plant stand to hold napkins.  Awesome! Plus, when I hand wash 'em (or have N do it), they look cool hanging on the doll-sized laundry line.

By the way...

You have to check out this guy's blog... he makes me wish I had a huge studio and lots of time...

Clearing Out

Last night I got to do something I haven't done in a long time. I went through my exercise routine, and then had time to just sit with myself.  Call it meditation, if you choose.  But it was silence.  On the floor.  Sitting with myself.  In the quiet, dim light of our room.  The songs of the woodfrogs, peepers, and crickets outside.


And so begins a summer with exercise, focus, and quiet.

Hopefully!  :)

PanMan is growing rapidly, starting to explore pulling on things, and I imagine when he finds the object that satisfies him with the way it fits in his hand, and the counterweight it provides, he just might stand up.  In the meantime, he has moved to rolling over in his sleep, which freaked me out at first (oh no!  The baby is almost on his tummy!) and eating with us at the dinner table.  I have decided to go with instinct and time-immemorial with this baby... which is oddly, more like I did it the first time... and feed him things he can hold.  This includes bread rolls, really ripe pears slices, tiny mushed up pieces of meat, and rice soaked in gravy or meat juice.  I never would have given kids meat before a year old before.  But then I began to think about what humans really would feed their kids before experts and doctors and allergists and German philosophers interfered.  I think that pretty much brings you back to mushy whole grains, overripe fruits and veggies, pre-chewed meat, and grains soak in meat juices.  TADA!  M's new diet.  Besides... isn't he a god of the forest? Doesn't that mean he's slaying the wild deer?

I also began another nice night time ritual last night.  The girls have generally been sliding off to sleep well at night these days, listening to chapters of Harry Potter (we're in Chamber of Secrets now), with either myself or Colin reading (if it's me, Colin is hiding in our room reading Harry Potter #4).  But last night, I began with brushing the girls' hair.  A little frizz-fighter to tame it/condition it (Organix brand rocks my world... smells sooooo good), and a good long brushing.  How calming for everyone! And this morning, hair was tame-able! Little Miss S was excited and amazed to see how knot-free her hair was.  And Nana-Nina's curls are sweetly tamed around her face, and as she said this morning, "Pretty and Lellow".

Big A will be coming at ya with a blog of his own, currently known as "Wade Wilson",  the zombie-loving, chicken-whispering, rodeo-pig-riding, comic-book-illustrator.  At school, in the "mini real" project the whole school is working on, Aidan is working in the art shop, drawing personalized comics and portraits for people.  Many other parents have commented on it, and mentioned how great they think he is.  Check out the school's website, and newsletter on Fridays at this link, to see what they are all up to.

I am working on getting the farm stand open on Thursday and Friday, and then next weekend, I hope to be running on a regular basis on the weekends.  It will include eggs (which I am selling out of regularly) and rhubarb, small bundles of herbs, lettuce, nettles, dandelion and burdock root (possibly roasted and made into a coffee substitute), bread, granola, and some of my friend's cookies, biscotti, and sourdough bread.  I'd like to be functioning as a certified farm by fall.

Colin has finished getting the windows in the girl's room upstairs, and the wall work should be a bit more minimal in their room.  Obviously, the floor will take twice as long as A's, but hey... we'll take it!  Also, more stones show up in the wall out front periodically, and the herb garden expands with similar period-ness. I hope to plant some more unusual things.

The porch has the green umbrella up for summer, the big table is out there too, to be used throughout the summer (although we'd love to get rid of the old spool) covered with a tarp to protect it from the weather (and also to provide a place for seedlings, and a hiding spot underneath for outdoor toys).

Well... I need to chase a few hens into the chicken tractors, so that we can ensure we get the eggs... and it is too hot to lock them in the coop, and the Rhode Island Red chicks need to be able to wander into the coop for shade..  (The ducklings have moved out there with the Auracauna chicks). 

If you haven't already, check out the website for the farm!

Love to you all!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Pay attention to this co-sleeping report

OKAY, I know this is long, but watch it.  Seriously.  ESPECIALLY near the end.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Okay ye olde feminists...

Somedays I wake to hear the sounds of the birds outside and I wish I could crawl to the top of  me tree... you know, that tree.  It was in my backyard, taller than many in the neighborhood, and if I climbed high enough in it, you couldn't see me.  Up there, the tree swayed.  You couldn't see me, and in all likelihood, I couldn't hear you.  Not over the sound of the wind.  It looked across the weird scraggly woods behind our yard, all tangled with wild vines and things that don't grow here now.  I could see the waterfall on the other hill on brisk spring days like today.

The strange thing is, of course,  that a ten minute walk in the other direction and you were in real urban neighborhoods.  But from that tree, in the backyard, looking out, it was like the city didn't even exist. I could hide up there for hours and just be.  Feel the wind in my hair.  Smell the strange spring cold air.  Somehow, it was always just barely spring when I was up there.

Maybe my skin would begin to crawl waiting for the warm summer months to arrive.  Maybe, as I dreamt of the smell of mock orange and lilacs, the splash of forsythia's yellow, the touch of violets in the grass, maybe I just needed to see beyond the horizon some. 

Or maybe it was my birthday.  And so I had to think about being from some other mother, some other place, some other time.  Sort of as if I fell in from outer space in my tin foil space ship (just like the one they said to make out of boxes and tin foil in the Purple Cow book from the 70s) and into your lap.

But it was always spring.

It is spring now.  My birthday was just a few days ago.  And I am seething with the desire to get out.  Have purpose.  Move beyond the now.  And yet, I am simultaneously digging my nails in, holding on to yesterday.  Seems I am still a little bit alien in a strange stratosphere.  And my little alienettes won't always be there beside me. 

So I take a tentative step toward building something.  Throw down some basic foundational rocks.  But I am not sure that got me anywhere.

Funny how women when I was born were starting to enjoy the choices feminism brought them.  You could actually leave this life, this house, this mothering thing, they said.  Ya know, do something for yourself.  Have a life.  Be proud of making the decision to be someone besides your titles of wife and mother.

But somehow, it seems that the anger at having to be a mother has stolen the joy of being a mother.  If women can be free, it means men can be, too.  If women can go to work, then really it means that they should.  So I get to feel guilty when I am not working, that hole of impending dread in my stomach when I realize how quickly the kids are growing is to be ignored and tossed aside.  Feel me instead! screams the guilt.  You should be busier!  Contribute more!  Want something else.

After all, here in American, we're not supposed to want what we have, right?  After all, if we want what we have we won't lust after anything.  If we don't lust, we don't rob, beat, buy or steal.  If that happens, life as we know it grinds to halt, the street party stops and we all... well... have to go back to being ourselves.  And why would we do that?  We might find out just how un-alien we all are.

The red winged black birds sang yesterday for the first time this spring.  Chirk-chiiirck-chiiiir-uriick!  Made me want to climb to the top of the nearest tree, sway in the spring breeze, and watch for spaceships. 

But I climbed back down.  Put in that offer to help out at a part time job.  Kissed my kids.  There wasn't any sap today (too warm last night, not warm enough today) so I didn't have much I had to do outside.

Sadly, I turned inside, and began to hoe throw the "stuff" that accumulated over the last few moves and winter and out of my raven-esque need to not forget the past.  It's shiny. 

My birthmother didn't call on my birthday for the first time in oh, 15 years.  It really hurt.  Felt a bit like I really did come from outer space.  But you said you loved me.  And that made all the difference.

Maybe I was never an alien in a tree trying to figure the earth out.  Maybe I was just a little bird in a nest up there.  Waiting for the wind to fill my wings. 

I think  maybe I have fallen out of the nest a few thousand times, and maybe I have even managed to fly back up and flutter out on a branch or two... on purpose, even.  Maybe I should try and catch that breeze this time.  Just jump.... and go.... and really be me.  Guilt, love, and raven-ness included.

Monday, March 01, 2010

March like a lion...

So here comes March... the birthday month, as I used to know it (although I daresay that is December in this house).

Ice shanties are coming off the lakes, even though the snow still falls.  The cold hasn't been too cold, only in the 20s at night, and we've seen 30s and 40s in the daytime, depending on the amount of sun.  Today, yet another storm spins off the ocean, bringing drips and drops of snow and rain, and I assume I will yet again be stuck in the driveway.  I hope not, because I need to pick up Aidan and Sage from their dad, and Aidan begins wrestling today.

Despite the on-going snow, the lilies are up next to the chimney on the south side of the house.  And the weeping willows south of here look suspiciously like they might be thinking about budding.  This week we will tap the maples, and begin the process of boiling some sap... probably in the middle of the driveway.  Next year, I'm sure we will have figured out a better option (actually a friend of Col's has a set up we can buy... but not until summer).   The kids and I are looking forward to the sweet smell of boiling sap, the quiet time of having to hang out next to a fire, the taste of scallops steamed in the sweet air above the syrup pan.  Someday, I hope our home sugar house is as busy and interesting a place to be as the one at Sterling was for all of us,.

We finally took down the hearts that were everywhere around the house, but I expect to make paper shamrocks and egg-container tulips with Nadia (and maybe the rest) the next few days to stick around the house.  I even have a new project... twig dandelions made with twigs and homemade yarn puffballs (you know... like "warm fuzzies" from summer camp).  My string of clover lights go up as I single-handedly try to recreate the Irish exuberance of my Syracuse childhood.   I think parades and shamrock shakes and green milk and green birthday cake and spring just around the corner... leprechauns and rainbows and kelly green everywhere.  Spring is so far from arriving in March in the NEK, but the Syracusan in me expects it anyway.  After all, once in awhile, it was green and warm on my birthday, and that is in less than two weeks.  If my daylilies can be optimistic, why not me??

We have been making the most of the winter we finally have, however, with increased runs down the sledding hill, one straight down the hillside close to the big-house's driveway (makes us sound like sharecroppers on a plantation, eh?), and one with a little less slant coming down the old farm road than angles across the property from the field around the big-house to our line of maples.  We built snow monoliths and snowmen around the front yard the other day, digging right down to the grass.  We then painted them with spray spritz bottles full of food coloring water... vibrant greens, yellows (and yes, everyone pretended that was "yellow snow"), blues, and reds, and all the colors they make in between.  We were chased inside that day by the snow turning to rain, and the colors pushed toward the ground, leaving only a brown ring around the bottom of deformed snow monoliths. 

The waning hours of winter also give us time to think ahead to spring and summer.  I have been perusing seed catalogs, trying to avoid any that get seeds from the grower in California that Monsanto recently bought (really?  they have to own the mini-gardener's soul as well?).  And thinking about what I will just get at farmer's market.  The garden is moving forward to the front yard, in small, enclosed containers, walled areas, etc.  The front garden from last year will be exclusively herbs and medicinals.  And we agreed that the "weeds" in the back garden have won... only to look them all up and see that the weeds that grow there are exclusively ones for coughs, asthma, skin, and a general tonic high in rare vitamins.  They say the medicine you most need finds you.  Point taken.  (We are however, going to park pigs in part of that plot to rid the area of some of the weeds, and to let the piggies be our vitamin intermediary).

Speaking of critters, we have put in for our permit for the pole barn.  We've moved from having a lean-to shape to one with a gabled roof, with windows above the doors (sketch to follow).  The doors will be typical barn-like doors, but with nothing that closes.  It will have 2 bays with significant storage space on the sides, and essentially a 2nd floor for storage.  Colin needs space to move the tools to (we reclaim the porch come spring!) and there will be space on the hill side for the beef calves to have an indoor stall.  And, outside the building, we expect the roof to overhang enough to provide space for firewood.  Above the garage space, there will be space for storage but also space for hay.  We'll need hay for the calf/calves (one?  two? what about loneliness in small cows?) for next winter.

Beyond all that, the bedroom is almost done, and Aidan will be able to move in maybe next week. This is good, because he will need to be focused and organized in the next few months... not his strongest point.  But he has wrestling and drama and trumpet, and we are putting an emphasis on academics (all electronics other than radio have been removed from his daily life). So he'll need space to himself.

Nan will move upstairs to live with Sagey (isn't it funny?  Her name has morphed into a version of mom's nickname?  The short/long vowel is all that is different).  She wasn't too excited about it at first (Man, can sisters fight!) but they play together so often and with the same stuff, it really is time.  Plus, they are both so independent and strong minded, I think that maybe it is ok for them to learn to live with someone else.

And Milo's crib and dresser will move into the yellow room, with the day bed (for all you guests... and ok, for me when I fall asleep nursing).  I am excited about everyone finally having space that makes sense, and being able to put things away, and organize.  Maybe I can finally unpack all the book boxes.

So there is life here on Wild Nettle Farm as we begin spring, and a new growing season, and another step closer to the life we envisioned as we moved here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow for real!

The snow is falling.... and falling.... and fallllllliiiiinnngggg.

And I would be totally happy to cuddle up to my posse of kids.  Except that the big kids are in Craftsbury.  And now, I have to brush off a car... and it is looking like a truck today.... and head up north to retrieve them.  Honestly, I just didn't believe we'd get any snow at all.  Although, I have to say that at least  we finally got some winter.  And now it will probably be here until June, but as long as it is snowing... and not just cold and grey and awful, I think I am ok with that.  I am totally confused about tapping the maple trees, however.  But that's a subject for another day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snowflake envy

As I sit here, on the dreaded pink couch, trying to figure out if I can shove it through the sliding glass door and out to the curb on my own, a few spitty snowflakes have begun to fall.

Outside it looks like a suburban winter wasteland... the type of landscape I wanted to escape all those years ago... gray snowbanks melting into muddy streams by the side of the road, dirty colored snow around all the houses and buildings you can see, and an icy sheen on top of all the snow that remains. Dry, dead brown grasses poke up from the ground, and you can't go sledding without being inundated with burdock.

The patches of warmth that usually open up around the trees when the sap starts running have frozen in time, the deep cold and lack of snowcover's warmth driving the sap further into the roots, and actually signaling a later sap run this spring... maybe.

But as this is Valentine's Day, and I am feeling hopeful about my love of everything in our life, and the soft drip of the icicles outside reminded me that we saw this house about a year ago, and now it is ours... I will focus on the pretty hope that these spitty little flakes will deepen with the hour and at least bring us enough fresh snow to cover the grayness and bring a bit of brightness to this week.

It is school break for many people in the Northeast, but for us it is another week of school. Aidan starts rehearsals for "Alice in Wonderland" in which he will play Lord Milquetoast and Juror No. 4. And we sign him up for wrestling, too, this week. I imagine he may begin to feel a bit over-run, with school, trumpet, play practice, and wrestling. But this is good practice for grown up life... always on the run... and a time for him to begin to prioritize. Sage is taking Hip Hop up in Morrisville and still has her violin, too. I am still trying to volunteer at Sterling, but finding the time harder and harder. We will spend the next two months running around like crazy people, but there will always be dinner, and game nights, and sledding runs.

Valentine's parties brought homemade valentines... Sagey's were some hearts decoupaged with torn tissue paper, and Aidan's were black hearts with a glued-on picture of a zombie eating a heart. We made bright red chocolate chip/peppermint cookies. Tonight we'll eat cheap-o cherry pie, and maybe burgers and beet salad (HA! as if my chillenz would eat beets! Or Colin for that matter!). The stereo is finally hooked up, and we can dance the evening away, together, as we should be on Valentine's Day. This day also finds Colin and I together for at least 4 years. Plus some, really, but more officially four years since Valentine's Day (we had a lovely dinner that night cooked by Josh Wilcox).

Milo has begun the task of turning into a real baby, and seems so much older than he is sometimes. All during The Calais elementary school music concert he sat upright on my lap, looking out at the kids and listening to the music. Although he occasionally bobbles that head of his, he usually seems so grown, head up if he sitting or standing or in a baby carrier. And now, when he is in his seat on the floor, lap full of toys, he'll lurch forward to grasp at things or get you to pick him up, so he can't be left alone, or up high. And he's so big, my back is beginning to pay the price for lugging him around...

Nadia is working on puzzles and organizing things all the time. Soon, she may move upstairs to Sage's room (so I can make room for Milo in the downstairs room), and she is always busy telling me how things are going to be. But she is cute, trying so hard to define her place in her family, and whether she wants to be big or little. She plays dress up and store in her room, dances with big sister, and is learning to cut with scissors. Now... if only I could gether to eat real food...

Well, I have taken longer now than I meant to, and the fire calls, and the dishes do too. Nadia is wanting help with her Arthur alphabet puzzle, and Milo should be awake soon, calling for me and a clean diaper. The snowflakes have finally thickened a bit, and I may get my wish for snow. And sooner than I wished... I will be heading to Burlington to pick up an electrolux vacuum cleaner that is probably older than me, and my kids.

Hope you all are shoveled out and safe in your real winter... send some up here!

Monday, February 08, 2010


As Milo wheezes his way through yet another day, and we have given in to the lure of the doctor's office... today another visit with the more conservative doc who usually sees Sage and Nadi rather than the more laid-back guy who sees Aidan and Milo... and I am feeling sorry for myself.

I see factors for breast cancer, diabetes, asthma, and alcoholism in my kids' genetic histories, and it is frightening to think about what could be. I worry about the corn fields we used to be surrounded by and the fact that Craftsbury's water seems to have enough atrazine in it to give us all a cancer we can't control.

Somehow, in your thirties, you seem to very suddenly hit a wall that yells "GUESS WHAT?? YOU ARE NOT IMMORTAL!" and in the daily smiles and grins and dreams of those beautiful children all around me there is a bit of sadness... we are not immortal... who knows how many dreams you will see come true?

Then Zeke and Nadia streak through the room playing "No bad guys" they tell me... yellling "They're comin' right now.. NO! NO bad guys they are gone and a duck and a dino and .... HELP ME Arrrrgghhhh!" and I think... we are born knowing this crazy unknown exists out there and we play it out, say it out, yell it out... try to help it find form and function and still dream anyway.

Milo drools on his wooden toy, Lucky ambles through the kitchen, tail wagging trying to play with the little ones, having one of her "good" days when she can walk and play, and I realize we are always struggling with a lack of ease in this world. Sometimes its form comes in disease, some times in fear, sometimes in bad guys, sometimes in the end of an old doggy's life.

All we can do is strive for our dreams.

So dream.

Dream big.

And pull yourself toward that golden moment where even the worst of it is just the way it should be. It is just life, after all.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Asthma and chaos reign supreme

The inner preschool teacher in me has finally taken over.

I can no longer take the "I didn't know where it goes" or the "I put it 'away'" from everyone around me and finally decided the time had come...

... to label everything. Shelves. Toys. Art supplies. Dresser drawers.

The artist in me, is of course drawing up funky designs or printing unusual fonts, but the teacher in me requires labeling of bins AND the location on the shelf where the bin goes (for matching words, of course. How else did you learn to read the word scissors?).

Really, it is just that there is this constant shifting mess around here as we try to figure out where to put things in this new house, and as room after room gets its makeover. Many times I think we were nuts to have bought instead of built, but even then there would have been a shell with little finish work done inside as we moved in... so maybe the chaos would have still reigned supreme.

I try this nailing down of "home" for objects, books, food, dishes, toys, clothes, even as I run around making sure everyone has had their medicine, the baby isn't choking on phlegm (trip to the doctors in his near future) and the dust I stir up is immediately caught and washed away. Nadia, Colin, Aidan, and Milo have all been suffering from their annual (well... Milo's first) asthma-inducing cold. Which means Xoponex and steroid inhalers litter my baby bag, my daily life, my every moment. Milo is sleeping sitting up and sometimes in a steamy bathroom. Nadia has learned to shake and inhale various drugs sloooowwwwlllyyy to get the full effect, and we have cut dairy out of our daily lives. (Which means an awful lot of undrunk WIC milk rotting in the fridge).

But instead of feeling sorry for myself and my kids, I decided to make use of the frustration to get things done. More bags of clothes to get out of here. More books on the shelves rather than in boxes in the basement. More wallpaper peeled in the kitchen. More healthy food on the table, despite a tight budget. More kisses for the ever-sicker doggy. And more labels for clutter-less living. (As in less clutter, not clutter free).

And just to be sure I remember how lucky we are, I offered up three, two-hour sessions for auction in Hardwick at a fundraiser for Haiti. We are blessed indeed. I may not be able to mail the baby clothes, or find extra change that I might not need for gas this week, but I do have time to share, and a skill with kids. So maybe someone in Haiti will benefit from me giving up a little time I had to give anyway. I wish I could do more, but sometimes giving what you got is the best you can do.

And it sure beats the six hours of gym-class teaching I am gonna do on Wednesday. Now _there_ is a skill I don't have.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The things I didn't do today

I didn't get the mail. I haven't finished scraping the kitchen walls... and "Scotland" remains firmly intact, if covered in bluish wallpaper-remover goo. Bake. Put the roast on for hours... I guess we'll eat it tomorrow. Call the school. Take the girls in for shots, Nani had a fever yesterday and Milo one today, and I wanted to be sure everyone was well before we headed into the germ bin. Wash my hair. Decide what I am supposed to do with the busted-ass mini van, broken-up and uninspectable Subaru, and the lack of a working child transporter ever since the Rav finally sold. Sort baby clothes (again). Sort diaper wraps (again). Clean out the closet in Nani's room.

What I DID do today:
Nurse. Drink coffee with chocolate syrup. Scrape the kitchen walls. Do lotsa laundry. Dishes. Make shit on a shingle for breakfast. Cuddle everyone; at least for 30 seconds. Tuck homework in a bag. Eat delicious left-over white pizza that C made and cream-on-top-whole-milk-french-vanilla-organic yogurt. Help N do sommeraults on the thermarest. Change many a poop. Nurse lots more. Pump. Pump again. Print out chore sheets. Write out the itches in my brain.

What I MIGHT do:
Nap. Mop. Sweep. Vacuum. (OK, I won't nap but I will definitely clean the floors). More laundry, for sure. Move my bed. Clean/organize/trash the big kids room.

What I do everyday without a doubt:

Love love love. And hate. And cry. And love some more. Passion is as passion does.

The house's latest make over

Besides spring in a pot/on a plate on the pine farm table in front of the sliding glass door, this weekend will mean the end of a famous piece of our house: the half-peeled wallpaper in the kitchen. Saturday, we PAINT.

Of course, that also means a good by to my favorite section of unpeeled wallpaper backing: the one that looks suspiciously like Scotland. Or maybe that is just my genetic memory kicking into gear. But I will miss staring at it during dinner. I guess I will have to frame a map or something.

So the walls will be a delicate gray that matches the gray in one of our Gangloff beer posters. There will be bits and pieces of scarlet and black, and a chalkboard wall. And eventually, a painted tree will wrap itself around the sliding glass door (which now sports a fancy-shmancy new curtain rod and a plain, unbleached linen drapery I sewed with raw edges and fancy stitching that matches the uh, um, well, rather turquois formica). There may even be corkboard squares, although I am a big fan of making our own out of wine corks. So save us your corks!!
"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind." ~Khalil Gibran.

We have an absolute smorgasbord of mind crumbs around here. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it is too many flavors at once.

I feel like I am always trying to streamline the sound, the flavor, into a palatable six course meal. But who gets to be dessert? Who's the drink? The main dish (me, of course).

We've had to talk a lot about fairness and what that really means. I mean, really, who DOES get to be the main dish? And do they get to be that all the time?

I have begun to find the balance of mommy-ing all these kids at once. Sometimes I think those mom who push out four kids in four years had the right idea. They just load them all into car seats or playgroup or the local museum for preschool activities and plow through their day (I canNOT imagine what all that would be like for a breastfeeding mother. I assume there is a lot of forced early weaning).

But there are moments when sibling rivalry or just plain nastiness takes over and I find myself swimming in a sea of uncertainty (just to use a cliche). How do they all know I love them? How do they know it doesn't matter to me whether their dad lives in Colchester or here in this house... I love them all equally.

Oh, I have tried to understand that favorites thing. Some of my friends freely admit they have a "favorite" in their bunches of offspring. But I truly cannot imagine such a thing. Once, Mom told me this story about a family of sibs that were talking after their mom died. Eventually one says, "Ya know, mom told me I was her favorite." And another looks up, surprised, and says, "Mom told ME I was her favorite." This went on, through all the siblings, and MY mom said, "Each of them got to feel they were special."

During a week of extra duress, I tried this on my older two (the younger two being too young to know what that means in any way) only to have them both respond, individually and with indignation, "BUT MOM! That's not FAIR!"

And I grinned, and smiled, and told them the story, and then said how proud I was of them for thinking about their siblings and wanting for them what they want for themselves.

Since then, I have decided that my smorgasbord and cacophony of kids and love is exactly the way it should be.

Even when they are yelling that they wish someone else would "just go away. I don't want ****/* here!" (Insert name of your choice).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Religious sustainability??

As we think about social justice and mission around the world, particularly in light of the Haiti situation, I find myself wondering more and more about churches and sustainability... and churches and natural parenting... and supporting families and communities intelligently and deeply in ecological sustainability in their choices.

What I am talking about goes beyond salad window boxes and changing light bulbs, although that is an excellent place to start. How do we support breastfeeding, organic/local foods, energy efficiency, cloth diapers, re-use fashion, and community integration into food and child care and education systems? Dare we? What role does God play in this? What role do churches play?

Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time On Home

It's been what? almost TEN months since we moved into this house. Milo is three months old, Aidan and Nadia began the first round of birthdays here in our "forever house" and we're getting used to the ills of real rural living (no gas stations near by, massive chicken losses not by dog but by fox and weasel, and lack of abundantly friendly neighbors).

But we are slowly making progress on the house itself. Colin discovered some more wet spots when removing the second window in Aidan's room and realized until the cold breaks there is almost nothing we can do to rehab properly in the upstairs. So we will reevaluate the priority list, and I am hoping to put the kitchen and hallway paint jobs on the top of the list.

We've come to love our newest free couch, the one with "modern lines" and cat scratches already in place, along with an unbelievably ugly christmas tree upholstery. Now I spend days devising how to get rid of the big pink ugly thing that lives in the middle of the room, and what to replace it with. For now, the purple couches stay, one up in Sage and Aidan's combined living quarters, and one homeless, living in the living room. I am ultimately hoping to have two more comfortable, and rather large chairs in its place. My mid century dresser made it to the living room and now holds games, videos (yes we still watch a vcr with regularlity... I know they are the ultimate piece of obsolete technology), dvds, and some video games. The stereo and tv/dvd now reside side by side on top... all where those huge crappy Big Lots shelves used to be. They now live in the opposite corners of the living room, two near the big front windows, and three by the piano. (pictures soon). Partly this a design decision that allows the sunlight to bounce of the purposely painted pale green wall, and partly a decision that gets the ugly things out of where I stare everyday. Plus, Colin wants to build "built-ins" there someday, so this gives us an idea of what that will look like and how it will function. Now the old game cabinet is my dresser again (like it was when I was 17... I am oh SO happy!) And mid century dressers make chic and hip vintage living room consoles (and Col and I are nothing but chic and hip, right? haha ha *gasp*). And since we watch the computer more than the tv, soon we'll have that hooked up through the stereo... giving us a sweet little hang out space.

In the kitchen, we've started some old beet tops on a plate and they are growing beautifully. Also in the works in that sunny spot on our farm table in front of the sliding door: mango pits, avocado trees, lentils, squash, corn, and peppers.

We've found the color palate for the kitchen in the old Gangloff Biere posters... a grey and black and red that will look oh so swank when we're done. Since food is our ultimate pleasure... why not have a swsnky kitchen? And because it is truly the center of our day, the black will be chalkboard paint, the big wall will also have corkboards to post schedulues, etc on. We also hope to improve upon the lighting... and my new favorite idea is simple corded lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling that have the bulb inside a Ball canning jar. What an awesome (and cheap) and cool look.

OK, now that the idle things I waste my time on have been described, let's get to the meat of our time lately.

Aidan is signing up for big kids drama club (and I am wondering what Disney-inspired crap we'll have to endure for this), and a drumming class at River Arts in Morrisville. He's helping out the little kids on FUn FItness Fridays with sledding and snow shoeing and tracking. Sage is hoping to start a hip hop dancing class at River Arts, and is skiing. She's hoping Anners will be able to take her to the OUtdoor Center in Craftsbury sometime soon. Nadia has Zeke over here Mondays, and she goes to his house on Fridays while I am up at Sterling (which I love, and if I could find permanent childcare could mean a job at least for the summer). We've simplified and simplified all routine from day schedule to bedtime to what there is to eat for lunch (rice and soy sauce and pes or edamame everyday is the only thing she will consistently eat). We're making progress everywhere but potty (although she does beautifully when around potty trained children). Milo is rolling _alomst_ over and growing at a fair clip. His fussing now includes a distinct "mmm-mmmm-mmmm" sound when he is looking for me. And we've discovered he cannot handle cow's milk formula (not a huge surprise in this family)... so we are hoping to check out goat milk for the occasional bottle.

Well, I am off to get the big ones, some pizza dough (For some reason I can make muffins and breads but not decent pizza dough) for dinner, and drop Sagey to work with COlin. I hope to have some time to help the big kids rearrange their big room into usable "apartment-like" space to share since it now looks like Aidan will live in there for the rest of the school year.

My love to you all and pictures posted soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January Thaw

The January thaw has found us with mud on the kitchen floor, Nadia vomiting, and the dog quite ill. So in the midst of MLK day tomorrow, we'll be at the vet (or at least everyone who isn't driving an oil truck or throwing up).

Today, that means instead of taking a walk outside like I wanted to, we are inside, and I am doing multitudes of laundry, and yet again giving the house the ol' tea tree and vinegar cleansing. Ah, to spring clean all year long!

Life with actual carpets has completely revolutionized our days... now that the living room floor isn't unbearably cold and hard, the kids are found rolling around, wrestling, playing fort and dress up, or sitting around the old cedar trunk playing cards. Colin and I often join them, or curl up there after everyone (ha!) goes to bed, and have a drink and play a game of Scrabble.

As the new year progresses, I find myself finally feeling "home" here in our cozy little house. I have figured out some of the trick to keeping the house the right temperature, how often I need to take out the boot rug and wash it, and how to keep the porcelain sink clean. Zeke is coming over again, once a week, to play with Nadia and she is heading to his house to play on Fridays, when I go up to Sterling. I am really enjoying life in the admissions office, finding the filing and data input to be meditative and relaxing. I am also interviewing families for some more part time care here in the house for the spring. We'll let you know how that progresses.

Today I can only write a little, as I have sheets and blankets galore to wash and dry before Colin and I can sleep, and the little wool rug needs a scrubbing.

I hope the thaw has found you all as well, and warms you a bit before the cold of February. I know "back home" March brings spring, but here the winter really settles in after the January thaw, and we must set our jaws, and face the wind, and shout to the four corners "Bring it on!" in order to make it through to May and June.

Monday, January 11, 2010

80s fashion

OK, so I really do have good reasons for not keeping up with my blog, despite the fact that I keep meaning to put real effort into it. First is that procrastination reins supreme in my soul. Second is that I am far too busy liking and unliking things in the virtual world of snippeted information on facebook, blogger, and pandora radio. After all, everyone wants my opinion, right?
Which leads me to the fact that probably no one wants my opinion. And with a whole world of blogs and columns like Joel Stein's out there, who needs one more self-righteous, pseudo-writer vomiting letters across your computer screen? So, with a healthy-dose of run-away self-esteem, I bury my nose in the importance of everyday things, like watching Milo's head expand while scrubbing off the cradle crap... I mean, cradle cap.And as interesting as his sebaceous glands are to me... well, they really don't make for riveting blog material.
There are some physical restraints, also. After all, it is hard to use your hands when your arms each have a breastfeeding child in them. And even when I am only performing one-sided lactation, well, typing takes longer than usual. And Dear Hunny-Bunny took my step-stool-so-vintage-its-cool metal chair downstairs and hid it under enough stuff to deter me from bringin it back into the kitchen. True, it adds to the clutter. True, the children fight over sitting in it. True, it is wobbly. But it is also the only thing that makes me tall enough to comfortable hit the letters on the keyboard. Geesh. No one ever thinks about _me_ and _my_ height issues.
But in spite of all my deliciously self-centered reasoning, the new year has brought me some perspective. After all, I love to write, and it really doesn't matter if anyone is reading it, right? And after all, you are all very polite (and very far away) relatives who are kind enough to comment now and then, egging me on and taking what you can get of the kids because I am notoriously bad at sending pictures, video, snail mail, etc of what they're all up to. After all, I still have everyone's Christmas presents from when we lived in the trailer. So this is, in part, also a gift to all of you.
Now, where to actually begin? After all, I have covered... or uncovered... a large majority of my personal neuroses in the last four paragraphs. Doesn't leave much to cover, does it?
Let's start here: I have an incredibly embarrassing and deeply-held admission to make. Here goes: I secretly love the return of 80's fashion.
Now this hurts for a number of reasons. First of all, my new favorite shirt is the true embodiment of this predicament. It is long. It is flannel. It only cost twelve dollars, and that includes the tank top that came with it. Actually, it was free-to-me (not free-to-be) because I purchased it with a gift card. It was probably made in a sweat shop by small children because I bought it at * gasp * WALMART. And it is PINK.
Yeup. Worst of all? I wore it around the house singing the lyrics to Fame with my kids last night whilst also wearing a black pair of paint-splatter-style “leggings” (aka pants too thick to be tights and too damn tight to be pants) my eight year old bough at an accessories store in the mall. No, I did not take the time to put on my legwarmers, but I could have. And although I was belting out “I'm gonna live FOREVER!” I did not run Pandora and listen to the Fame soundtrack at the same time. It was a fleeting moment of joy, but it was pretty spectacular.
This 80's infatuation also brings the return of teal and royal-blue eye makeup. And yes, I am rockin' it after years of not wearing any make-up at all. And ripped and acid washed jeans. And a plethora of funky, new chuck taylor's. And no, I haven't bought any, I am just still wearing my lavender and plaid ones from highschool.
This type of fashion serves several personal purposes. One, big baggy shirts cover the big baggy belly after years of child bearing. And gives me room to hide a child's head in it while nursing. Very convenient. And admittedly, since I remember how to dress in this fashion, I feel confident when I pull out the clothes in the morning that I am looking pretty good. I did not fare nearly so well in the late-90s-early-aughts- Brittany Spear-and-belly shirts years. Plus, mud boots look pretty damn good with leggings and mini skirts. And since they are the staple of my wardrobe, that's a darn good thing.
Lastly, it does do one other major thing: it gives me a conversation starter for life with my children. And yes, I swore I would never allow fashion and television and nostalgia to run my parenting life. But I also swore I would never have four kids, and look where that got me.
My daughters and I really don't have much to chat about... I am not particularly aware of the latest Disney craze or singer, and I could care less about Taylor Swift (seems like too much twangin' for my taste). But we can talk about Fame and Wonder Woman and whether or not short sweaters over long tank tops is a good look. And we can sing and dance and laugh while we do it.
And really, it has opened up a way for them to understand me, and for me to give them perspective about themselves and the way life is sometimes. When she comes home complaining about someone hurting her feelings at school, my daughter seems less than impressed when I tell her it happened to me too. It is almost as if she doesn't believe it for a minute. But when she dreams up a school for adults where they get to go and wear 80s clothes “and do all that stuff you did in the 80s” I was able to tell her that, no, Mommy wasn't interested.
“Why not, Mom?”
“Because, honey, I was really sad in elementary school.”
“How come?”<
And here I got to talk about the sadness I held about being adopted and feeling different and moving, and how most of the girls in my class hated me. Plus, we had to sign the words to “We Are the World” in front of our entire school and parental population in 6th grade. I still can't hear the haunting strains of Michael Jackson without moving my hands to form the sign for “children”. *shudder* Also, I accidentally-on-purpose sing, “We are the worms... we are the ones who make a sticky mess... so watch where you're walking.”
It gave me a moment to relate to the pains she's had... a best friend who was horribly mean to her in 1st grade, moving twice in one year, our divorce and her new step/half families. It also gave me the chance to say (and for even my eaves-dropping twelve year old to hear) that I made it.
Sometimes the best solidarity and support I can give them is an honest, if embarrassing, picture of myself. In that moment I hope they know that I see them, really SEE them, and that I am always there for them.
Even if I am in my pink flannel shirt and lavender Converse.