Thursday, 26 November 2009

This Life

The girls are growing so fast. Everyday Blueberry adds more words and Lil'Bug inhales everything she can about the world around her. Our days are filled with good food, paint, and farm chores. I am teaching extra classes and it feels like a whirlwind this semester with all that has happened in the last six weeks. When I get a minute I just stop and watch the girls instead of blogging or chatting on the phone or even just catching my breath. I don't want to miss a minute of this wonderful life.

My car should be back from the shop in the next two weeks. Great Grandma is visiting for the holidays. Semester finals grading crunch begins soon. All in all it has been a fantastic year for us here on the farm, busy but productive. This is the life we dreamed of and each day it just gets better and better. It doesn't hurt that I learned to cook. Ha!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

All Sunshine and Roses

I was thinking about this as I did dishes this morning. I was thinking about marriage and rose hips. Roses are a pretty symbolic flower: love, thorns, etc. But if you wait and let the flowers mature you get rose hips which are tasty and high in vitamin C. Not many people can resist picking the flowers, showing them off in a vase, only to have them die a short time later. Some people prefer plastic or silk roses which will last until they get tattered and dusty and fall apart. Not many know about rose hips at all. Some people can't make the time to harvest them or think it is worth the effort, even though nurturing and letting the rose mature to its next phase is healthier for the plant. Is it a metaphor for marriage in our culture?

There is a magical belief that everything changes after a wedding. As a new bride almost 11 years ago, I had a rosy vision of the future, just as many blushing brides do. It is pretty magical to begin making a family and a life together. For us that road included infertility and complicated pregnancies and many years. The daily grind was the same. I could file for student loans without being at the mercy of my relatives' whim on sharing required documents, but that was it. Prior to that we had a home, were best friends, spent all of our time supporting each other. That part just gets better and better but it does so gradually. There are good years and bad years, yes YEARS, but overall each day makes us stronger.

An expensive wedding didn't get us there. We could have been married by a judge or in a park or with a hundred other couples in Central Park, that part was important, but only for the vows and dedication and work we put into it. We were married by a minister, who was also a neighbor, in front of a small group of neighbors and relatives in the middle of a really bad snow storm. We didn't do the rituals leading up, I only had one bridal shower and there were no other gatherings, no bachelor/ette parties, no last flings, not even a rehearsal dinner. No dress fittings, no engagement photos. Nada. Actually, I wish we'd done more with photographing the event itself, as I have only 3 pictures from it. So it goes.

But, I digress, my main point is not the economics of getting married, but the practical logistics and reality of being married.

Marriage is hard. I know people who have been married for longer than we have and who have held us up in our struggles, even if for some of them the law doesn't legally recognize their union (which in Iowa it can now!). It takes the support of friends and family to hold up a couple. Real friends, real family, and to some extent even casual friends that you surround yourself with. It's the daily work that is hard. Have I said that before? I mean it. Hard. Work. But it is like chopping wood, it is back breaking work but when its 40- degrees with windchill and you can be warm and toasty inside with roaring fire, you know it was worth it. Plus the fresh air and exercise is a bonus as well. You know? It's good, honest work.

I've been trying to come up with something to write to my my sister for her first married Christmas, but every time I turn back to my own experience. Some of our friends and family tried to break our marriage, and were very nonsupporting and unloving. Those same will be holding up my sister and her new husband in their fragile first years. I pray for them to have the same resilience and to remember who their partner is. I hope she begins to know that she should never speak ill of her partner, even if she is wicked angry at him. Those words circulate though the community, like it or not. Words that can be like a drop of poison in the wellspring.

As I was sitting in the ER with the baby last month, I thought for a moment how hard that would be if I was a single mom. Thank God I am not. Dearest arrived, I got to care for Lil'Bug, eat, and rest a bit before taking back over while he did the same. His Dad sat with Lil'Bug in the waiting room. We were there all day. I could not have done that alone.

In fact, the daily grind would be harder too. I may have more laundry to do, but I also have someone to help with it. Same with dishes. We can take turns driving on road trips. I have someone to cry to and say out loud those feelings that I have that are hard to say out loud. I share my heart and my life and my family.

Being married to Dearest is the best thing that ever happened to me. I hope that for my sister marriage is also a blessing and brings her more joy than she can even begin to imagine. I do think that, in the thrall of wedding event madness, the actual marriage and the daily life that follows is veiled and covered with roses. The laundry piles will still be stinky and a tripping hazard. The dishes will still pile up in the sink. It will still be the same bills that need to be paid and the same bat poop in the ceiling. The ring doesn't make those things disappear or annoy you less. On the other hand, if you work at being married and being loving everyday, something magical does happen. That's the secret.

Marriage is easy and hard and wonderful. We'll have many more adventures ahead, together. That's the real bliss of marriage.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

To-Do update from last year

Last March I posted a to-do list for sprint, summer, and fall. Status update is below.

The list of stuff to get done this spring/summer/fall -

Grain bin turned Chicken house - get ready for summer, install false ceiling, electricity, and heater before november I got made fun of a lot for this (scowls). Some people even insisted I was going to install air conditioning. Electricity will be done in the next couple of weeks for this, mainly for a light and a heater to put in the bowl so the water won't freeze. I'll be putting some strategically placed hay bales in there so the birds can huddle in a warm place if necessary.
rebuild front porch - roof done, new supports placed, stone columns do be rebuilt in spring.
remove bees from front porch column - done - hive was dead so this was less complicated than we thought.
new roof on both porches - done
repair main roof - we reroofed it - done and done!
repair/replace gutters - skipped gutters - might install in spring, might not be necessary.
paint house - mostly done - we need to rent a cherry picker to finish since we can't walk the metal roof, will probably have to happen in spring now.
weatherize addition and basement This'll be done before Christmas
cut enough firewood to last through next winter - we have a lot, but the stove isn't in. Not sure if it's enough, we'll see.
line chimney - still working with the chimney folks on this, hopefully before christmas.
fix enough fence for us to get a bred milk cow next spring - We'll be doing some fencing, though I'm not sure if it will be used for this or not. Might have to wait until spring if the ground freezes soon.
clean out haunted chicken house and make sure it's in good enough shape to use as shelter for the cow when necessary - done
rock driveway (and the casbah) - only the casbah was rocked.
clean up trash and get a big brush burn done - (last on list since ground can be frozen when we do this) lots of trash removed from property, still a lot of burning and removal to go.

I also posted a tentative to do list for sprint/summer -

Get Bees - still on the list
replace main roof - done!
change the opening for the old basement garage into wall with exterior bulkhead door and storm shelter - maybe . . . maybe not.
prepare fence and housing for bred sow to be purchased spring of 2011 - We may be bumping this up to this spring.
fence and shelter for sheep in spring of 2011? - still on the list
expand cow facilities? - hmm - I think this meant fence the actual pasture. We'll have to see - that's going to be expensive.
prepare for brooding hens to hatch spring of 2011 - I need to have a good place to hatch the meat chickens this year - it'll probably happen in garage.
finish junk cleanup - we'll settle for making progress. There is a lot of junk.

That's the update. I'll post a new to-do before the year is out.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Last Day Out in Houston! The Natural Science Museum

We started out our adventure when we saw a billboard for the Faberge collection, which I have seen before when it was in private ownership (that's another blog post!). Lil'Bug was excited to see the Romonov crown tiara and the "Easter" eggs. Me too. My heart has a soft flutter spot for the faberge glitter and history. I just love the elegance and artistry and I could go on and on about it all. Seriously.

Unfortunately, first thing Lil'Bug saw as we turned the corner into the exhibit was the dinosaur bones in the other wing. Dino bones vs. princess eggs? Yeah. Dino bones win hands down. She humored me for about 5 pillars of the Faberge exhibit but could not contain herself past that. There were dino bones right over there Mama! Oh and there was also a MUMMY!

We saw a real MUMMY. It was awesome. We saw an exhibit on the ancient people of South America, their religion and musical instruments. Lil"Bug called it the Age of the Jaguar- thanks Disney!

We saw an exhibit called the gem vault, which featured both cut and naturalized gem formations. So glittery and interesting.

There was a hands on section based on a science theme. Lots of things to touch and move and play with. Good stuff. It helped the balance between look and don't touch exhibits and a child's NEED to interact with what they are learning. Wonderful.

The unfortunate thing about the adventure for YOU the reader is that photography was not allowed for most of the museum exhibits!

Even so, it was a nice relaxing day at the museum. A good time for all three of us, even Blueberry.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Family Matters

Friday afternoon our family gathered after the services for my beloved aunt. We ate, laughed, cried, hugged, and shared memories.

Oh, and Cousin C. brought out his fiddle. Lil'Big laughed and danced and tried to sing in Cajun French. She might have my language skills, but she definitely loves the fiddle. She really wants lessons right away and C. let her try and play. She did really well for her first touch!

C. has only been playing for 3 or so years, but wow. The music just breaks my heart though, as Cajun waltzes tend to do. I tear up and long for home.

The day was also full of fun and exploration for Blueberry and Aunt Bee. Blueberry was introduced not so cordially to Texas fire ants and mosquitoes. Everything is bigger in Texas, even mosquito bites. Poor baby.

Me, I am just hanging in there. I loved my Aunt Chris. She gave me my first How To Draw kits when I was 16 and really in the rough part of surviving my teen years. She stood in for my Godmother since the one at my baptism left my life in my toddler years. She prayed for me. She loved people unconditionally and my family was always more peaceful and full of laughter when she and her family would come to visit. She will be missed, but always loved.

On Board the Elissa, Galveston TX

Any museum that kids (and kids at heart) can touch and do stuff is a winner with me. This ship had teh added bonus of having a busy crew raising the top mast post hurricane season. The cleaning crew was on hand to help answer question in the tighter quarters. Couple things amazed Lil'Bug.....the steering wheel was HUGE and the compass was pretty fancy.

Approaching The Elissa, Galveston TX

Lil"bug insisted all the way to the bay that this was just going to be some, "stupid plastic playground crap." Whoa. Where on earth did she learn that kind of language? Blush. Me? Oh my. When we walked up the ramp she stopped in awe. I believe her exact words were, "Ah Mama, I am so sorry I said it would be stupid plastic. That is amazing. A real pirate ship!" Actually it was a cotton freight, but it is the same era I guess. It is a triple masted tall ship, cast iron and wood. The test it on open waters a couple times a year. Sea trials.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Moody Gardens Aquarium, Galveston TX Touch Tank

Moody Gardens Aquarium, Galveston TX

A night then a day at the beach, Galveston TX

Monday, 9 November 2009

Breakfast at the Villa

We came through the kicthen on the way to breakfast. Deedle was busy making Salute to the Troops parfaits. Banana and strawberry rockets, 13 blueberries for the original colonies, and real whipped cream because our soldiers are cream of the crop. It was lovely.

She looks very sharp in her hat and apron.

Her beautiful dining room. I love her built in. I am so counting the days until Dearest puts mine back in.

Lil'Bug led the group in our family prayer. We each get a turn sharing what we are thankful for and ended with Amen. I always feel a little nervous about making others feel uncomfortable, but right now my heart is bursting with thankfulness for all of our blessings, especially on this trip. I may be stranded in TX, but no one was hurt. I do have a place to stay and my family is gathering and supporting each other like I have never seen.

My girls lasted through 2 of the 3 courses of a formal served breakfast, then they were very awake and needed to move and dance and be loud so we excused ourselves.

This was the 3rd course: German Apple Pancake. It is more like bread pudding meets apples and pecans. I would eat this with ice cream at home. It is made in a cast iron skillet type that I don't have. I am going to find one before I leave TX, that's for sure.

I'll post more later. I have come up with a list of things to keep my girls occupied.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

First Day in Galveston

This is Aunt Deedle. She's been a rancher and a realtor and an antiques collector and a mentor and a friend and so much more. Now she owns a B & B in Galveston. I am lucky to have her in my life and even more blessed that my girls can get to know her.

The seawall at night.

The pictures are blurry because it was night, the darkness required that I play with settings on the camera and I need some practice.

The hit the beach running. 2 day in the car resulted in a whole lot of girl energy that needed to be worked out. The beach was almost empty, the sun was setting, and there was still a bit of oil spill globs washing up. It was really lovely, despite the residue of environmental pollution. The fresh gulf air of Hurricane Ida moving in really cooled the air off. From here we went to a local seafood joint called Casey's and ate fresh fish and bay and gulf shrimp with deep fried zucchini. Then we pulled up next to the Rainforest Cafe and watched the volcano flare up. Lil'Bug was exhausted and asked to go to bed, which after eating ice cream and strawberries we brought from our farm, she did. The girls slept all night and had to be woken up at 7. Way later than our farm time.

First day in Houston

Even in TX Lil'Bug finds the fantastical. This is a faerie egg. If anyone knows what it really is, please comment. We're bringing it back to Iowa so I hope it isn't a super invasive alien destructo egg.

My beautiful cousin C.. Her Mama is dying and she is the absolute example of kindness and grace under fire. I hope she doesn't mind me posting her picture, but Lil'Bug picked it out and said C. is an angel.

My cousins have an awesome sense of style and humor. Blueberry is the 4th gnome.

God bless you all. If you have a chance, hug the people you love and hold them close.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Henderson, Texas- An Unexpected Stop

My girls. I love them so much. They were troopers for true. Here Lil'Bug and Blueberry were writing notes to A and L of Sugarcreek farm to let them know they are ok. You know, since I was posting to FB and blogging the same.

My Dad is calling the deer Micheal Jordan because of the "hang time".....we had come to a complete stop when 3-5 seconds LATER the deer landed on the windshield. God bless the engineers who came up with the type of glass windshields are made of. I don't know of the picture shows it well, but the glass was caved in almost to my Dad (the driver) and the impact also made a good sized hole through the glass.

Look closely and you can actually make out the outline of the, twice- once on the hood and once IN the windshield. There were also hoof prints on the roof.

We are so blessed. This could have been a tragedy to pile on top of the suffering and sadness our family is already weathering. By the grace of God it was not. God blessed us again when, after driving the back roads the mile from the hotel to the collision center, a gentleman followed us into the shop. He said he was the owner of the local Saturn dealership, he saw our out of town plates, and he wanted to let them know that he has all the parts we need in his shop right now. He said he'd just order replacements for what he needed them for so we could have them. That saves us a little bit of time. He offered us a ride to Houston too, but we were just too many with too much luggage to make that work. The collision shop ladies were wonderful too: they made my kids comfortable, arranged for a rental car for us, gave my Dad a ride to it 30 minutes away, and were just all around nice. The shop was tidy and clean. The insurance claim went smoothly too. These are all little details compared to the fact that we are all unscathed, you know?

That said, all is well. I have to stay in Texas until the car is done and then we'll get a rental to Henderson and pick it up. For the trip home I think we will stop and not drive through deer country at night, you know? I am thinking we will stop and see Great Grandma in KC, MO too. Maybe go to the zoo. So I'll just need an overnight stop between Henderson and KC. Maybe Dallas? Maybe Arkansas? We will just roll with the waves and put our trust in a higher power.

Sad, and we're in Texas but Not at our Destniation

We traveled quickly to TX, carpooled with my dad to make the trip 1 day instead of 2. Shared driving. We had an interesting encounter with a Walmart in Arkansas, let's just say there was blood in the bathroom and I just hovered and went so I wouldn't wet myself. Back on the road through country with closed gas stations after midnight. Wonderful time until......we nailed a deer, I think it was a buck- seriously. Who needs deer season right? Ok. No cell signal, heavy fog, smashed up windshield. 12 miles to nearest town. 12 miles took 30 minutes.

So we're stuck in Henderson, TX. With a beloved family member dying 200 miles away and we need to be there. More importantly my dad needs to be there. We're going to try and sleep at this nice hotel, get a rental, find a State Farm Agent, and just make it work. I might just be in Texas for longer than the week I planned. Maybe all my online TX unschooler friends can come visit me? LOL. Goodnight and Godspeed.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

See you Later Gator, Birthday part 2

Birthday surprise. We told her the garage door was broken and she'd have to help Dearest fix it.
She'd been helping him all week, so she thought it was pretty normal.


Of course then I told her it was for her to do pig chores. AND SHE BELIEVED ME! Oh no. I had to quickly run over and tell her I was joking. I hated when my family used to tease me like that, I feel so bad. I am a bad mommy.

But then she got over that, accepted my apology and played! She's going to test drive it today since the batter had to charge for 18 hours. Whew. Yesterday we got home late and the coyotes spooked her a little. So today my little swamp elf gets to take off in her Gator. Nana and Pawpaw are totally awesome. Thanks!