Thursday, June 14, 2018

Wendell | 1 year

Wendell Thomas. Golden Boy. Mister Destructo. Wennie Poozer. Wennell Poopers. 
He has charmed his way into our hearts with his mellow beginnings, which have since ramped up.  It's so hard to imagine life without our little early bird chirping at the crack of dawn, raring to go for the day. 
There was a day, just last week, where he had a really high fever, and I had the morbid thought, "Well, at least we had a year with him." His beginnings were a little rocky and we wondered, if briefly, how much time we were going to get with this new little one. He's been such a sweetie, so loveable and snuggly, that sometimes, I have to bury the thought, "He's too pure and perfect for this world." And there's his namesake. Already gone home. What if we picked the perfect name for our little Wendell, because he'll go home early, too? I know that isn't how God works. I know Wendell could very well leave us early, but it wouldn't be because of his name. But I came to the conclusion in all my post-nursing topsy-turvy hormones, if all we had was a year with our Wendell, it would be so worth knowing this little sunbeam. 

His grin and the gleam in his eye are what will keep me from wanting to stomp out that nixiness, no matter how exasperating it is/will be. I've already tasted the challenge of what it will be to raise a child so different than me. Fiona isn't just like me, but she's a lot more like me than this tiny adrenaline junkie. 
I can't keep him down. And while sometimes it sounds nice to have that mellow little babe back who does nothing but snuggle, I want to love who he is, mess-making, firing-on-all-cylinders, climbing maniac. 
 (And for the time being, I can at least make him wear dapper little outfits and floral bowties;). )
 He has the sweetest way of pointing and exclaiming over things that delight him: bugs. Tractors. Anything with wheels that goes. Sweets. Balls. Bucky the dog. Our three resident kitties (anyone need one? Seriously.). His big sister. His daddy going out for the day. His first words sound an awful lot like, "bug", "Buck", & "ball". I think I hear, "mama" too.

 Now that he's steadier on his feet, if he senses his purposes are about to be crossed, (like, say, his mother sees him shoveling catfood into his mouth and lunges toward him) he'll take off as fast as his off-the-charts-short little legs will carry him. With a ornery little chuckle. He acts without thinking. Already. Everything needs to be dumped out. Or tasted. I see so much of his father in his actions. Quick, active, and farm-loving. We hear he looks "so much like his dad!" "Just like Uncle Alex." "He is so similar to his cousin, Kaso!" He belongs with us anyway.

 How do you sum up a year of someone who goes from doing nothing but sleeping and eating to careening around, brimming with personality & on the verge of speaking? There's still so much about Wendell Thomas that remains to be discovered, to be delighted in, to sigh in exasperation over. But our first year with him has been sweet. And if it were the only one, I'd know we were made richer, fuller, better for having him in our lives. 

Happy first, Wendell! You are loved and adored. Keep keepin' me on my toes. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Fee is three

Fiona turned three. She is still the sweet blue-eyed Fee she's always been. Just more so. More spunky. More inquisitive. More pink. More feelings. She is very aware of her feelings now. I bruise them quite easily. All the feminine bits of her have exploded into full-blown girl: where they used to be dainty little buds peeping out of their translucent shells, they are now big, blowsy peonies. The magenta kind. Or maybe it just feels that way since we have a boy to compare her to. But there is so much in her I remember from my early years (and current years...). Her sensitive little soul & craving for affirmation, to hear she is loved & lovely. I'm learning that sensitivity is a two-edged sword. Quick to get hurt feelings, she's also quick to admire beauty & savor togetherness.  She revels in what she perceives as lovely. 

Sunsets never fail to get an "Oh, Mom! Wook at dat sunset! Isn't it beauteeful?" even if it's not. Any thing growing with a color other than green on it is a flower & worthy of picking. To our landscape's detriment. Currently, anything sparkly, pink, or purple gets a loud exclaim & her solid stamp of approval. 

There has been more than one occasion I've dressed her for church, only to find out after we've arrived that she's snuck her tutu on under her dress. She twirls & spins & dances to a daily soundtrack only she can hear. But you can tell it's a really good one:).  All day long I hear, "Mom, watch me--" as she leaps off the furniture or spins around any barre she can find. I cringe sometimes, waiting for a broken arm, but she bounces back, supple as a willow limb.  
Spending my days with her is a mixture of trying to keep a straight face & a lid on the exasperation. A few of her current phrases that I'd like carved in my memory: 

"I napped for a loooong day."

"Last morning, ____" (this phrase is her catch-all for anything that happened longer ago than today). 

"You're not my friend anymore" this one's for me, when I put my foot down. Fortunately, I usually hear, "you're my friend. I love you sooo much," after the feelings have been mended.

A few of her quirks

- her shoes are always on the wrong feet. Always.
- her favorite color is most definitely pink.
- she loves our pets & cuddles & kisses them & tries to sneak them into the house.
- she folds the washcloths for me when I'm folding laundry, and does a perfect job. We race: I fold the larger towels, she folds her stack. She cheats to win, & is a terrible loser. We're working on it.
- one of her cousins nicknamed her "The Bosser".
- she adores flowers & will pick them for me and ask me to put them in a "waste" (vase).
- her changing multiple times a day trend has slowed down, but she still changes at least a few times.
- she points out crosses whenever we're driving and then will usually tell me the crucifixion story, which makes my heart ache in the sweetest way. She's just so "sad for Jesus that those soljers put that pokey crown on him and made his head bleed, but he did it because he loves us." She told me the other day that she prayed for Jesus. I take little credit for this, and understand Jesus' sayings about little ones more than ever. 
- she still frequently makes her way to our room at night, but it's manageable. Sometimes, she'll willingly go back on her own when we tell her to. Since she turned 2, and started the whole nightly trek thing, she's told me multiple times about the wolves in her closet. So I'm a little more sympathetic. Wendell will be sharing a room with her (and did for a month before he relapsed and started waking her up with his crying), and I think that will solve most of our night time issues.
- she loooves listening to stories on CD: her favorites are The Secret Garden, Madeline, and the Jesus Storybook Bible
- her current favorite songs are Twilight is Stealing, and Amazing Grace. I am impressed at how well she can sing! Didn't get that from her mother.
- she also loves books (thank goodness!!): Berentstein Bears, Madeline, the Jesus Storybook Bible (highly, highly recommend!!), any Bible story book really, and princess books are her favorites.
- she loves to go on walks. which really means, go over to grammy's.
- she has this new nervous habit of tucking her hair behind her ears over and over.
- she loves "fatty bacon"
- she asked for pancakes every morning, so I finally made Friday pancake day so she'd quit asking. It works very well.

Three years is deeper, wider, & more feely than any year yet. Does that just keep happening with each new year? Sometimes it's overwhelming, wondering how I'm going to raise my children, but in the three years I've been at it, I've learned that we will get through it. And that usually, what felt like a big deal at first, really isn't. And that the growing isn't restricted to my children. 

Fiona, you are one of the best things to ever happen to me, and I am better for you being in our lives. I pray we have lots of years left with you, teaching me to lean more on Jesus, let go of my strongly-held opinions, & stop to smell the flowers. Every flower. Even the ones your farmer daddy calls weeds.

We love you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

foxy socks + knobby knees

She's almost three. How did this happen? 
Three years of growing, learning, + wondering together. The older she gets, the more unprepared I feel to raise a daughter. She's forming her own opinions, her own sense of who she is, and it is mostly independent of me. We have a huge influence on her, of course. But some of the phrases that come out of her mouth are all her own. She's taken to telling me "You made me sad," when she gets reprimanded. Her sense of time is hilarious: everything either happened "last morning" or "the other day" whether it was yesterday or 6 months ago. Sometimes I shake my head at this little 24 pound spitfire & wonder how on earth I'm her mother. All in the same breath, I'm honored & overwhelmed & befuddled & exasperated.  
 Lately, it's been mostly befuddled + exasperated. Since Wendell, I realize more than ever how much prayer + grace it takes to raise children. There are days I feel absolutely conquered. They've taken over every aspect of my being. Sleep is a luxury, as is enjoying any morsel of food to myself. Darwin + I have very few uninterrupted moments. My body has been irrevocably altered. There is nowhere I can go anymore that Fee can't find me. And since she recently quit taking naps, I've felt more like a little canoe that thought she was on a lake only to find out she's somehow made it to the ocean. Sometimes, I wonder where myself went. The self that reveled in the small buds promising spring, that didn't begrudge an exploration outside for no reason, that baked to share, that savored blog post ideas like sweet confections & ruminated on them...

 Motherhood is so...daily. Fee is well-behaved most of the time, & Wendell is a peach. But I still feel trapped at times. Everyone beyond the little years assures me that it goes by so fast. And I absolutely believe them, because, she's three?? But it's also so soul-shaving & nitty-gritty lesson-learning. It's hard for me to sit down & feed Wendell for the eighth time in 12 hours when I really just want to pick up my paints. I'd rather not listen to Fee's rendition of how her cousin calls her "Uncle Feezy" for the 112th time. If I have to get one more "drinky" because Fee spilled hers & wants another, I'm going to mutiny. But that's the thing. I can't. I am their mother, from here on out. And the very thought makes me want to hide in my dark closet til they can get their own drink without spilling + thank Jesus with every breath I have that these sweet little souls are mine, all at once.
Currently, the hiding is more natural than the praise. It takes pausing + reflecting to remember to praise.  A few days ago, I cajoled Fiona into modeling for some photos of new Etsy cards at a particularly low point in mothering. I'd been working on them like mad, trying to finish them in time for a Valentine's Day promotional sale. The kids conspired against me, being fully entertained right up until I had a paintbrush in my hand. (It was only because my mother happened to be here for a week that I finished them.) It was not my finest week of mothering. But when I looked through the little square viewfinder on my camera, and saw this blue-eyed, bandaided-nobby-kneed Sass-a-Frass, it was like I was seeing her for the first time again. And all the wonder & awe that she is mine, that I get a front-row seat to her growing-up, put it all back into perspective. 

I keep coming back to look at these photos. She's just so cute & sweet, & that band-aid is covering her first bad ding. There's going to be a doozy of a scar there. And at the same time, she's a dolly-toting, crown-wearing, tutu-twirling girl. Those foxy socks used to go above her knees, & that dress used to look more like, well, a dress, rather than a long shirt. She is growing up so fast, despite the long minutes when the dark closet is screaming its siren call. It takes moments of pause, of reflection, of looking behind & beyond to what was, and what will be, to realize what a gift my children are. 

I'll still have moments of exasperation. Daily, I'm sure. I already have, multiple times even while trying to finish up this blogpost. It does help though to have these sweet photos staring back at me, whispering how fast the time really does go. Painting can wait. Finding "myself", whoever that is anymore, isn't so important as savoring these knobby-kneed, foxy-socked days. 

P.S. Even while I believe with all my heart these words, I still struggle with having less time for me. It's a struggle, bursting with ideas & visions of painterly florals & having my cardigan tugged at all day long with demands that seem never-ending. I'm so tired of stretched out cardigans. But I'm not the first mom to be here, and I'd be ever so grateful for any and all advice on embracing the mundane. I don't want to look back with regret, or sigh over lost moments. So, mothers beyond these years, how? How do I? 

And P.P.S. these are the aforementioned Valentines that nearly did me in. I do love them though, and I am quite pleased with them. I thought about sacrificing them & simply tucking them away, not sharing them with the world as penance for my selfishness in creating them, but they are here (thank you, thank you, Mom!!) & so I'll share them. Casually, & with no strings attached. They're available in my etsy shop if they speak to your heart. and they're 10% & have free shipping through 1/27...
Enjoy your day, whatever the weather.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

farmlife issue no. 15

I can almost catch my breath again. Berry harvest 2017 is almost one for the books.  Here is a random synopsis of this year's harvest-perhaps one day I'll be an organized, planned ahead blogger, but for now, this is what I can put into this little space. And I know you're all just here for the photos anyway;).  

This year I was a lot more removed from the process with the arrival of sweet Wendell June 2. But since we live on site now, I still felt very much a part. Many evenings when Dar was out helping the night crew get started, Fee, Wendell, & I were on our back patio, hearing the hum & watching the lights above the canes moving slowly through the berries like a benevolent cranking monster. 
Fresh market blackberries started our season. I did miss the interaction with the pickers. A lot of them come back year after year, & I'm starting to get to know them as much as one can with a huge language barrier. 
I wish there was someone writing down their stories: stories that when the method of berry picking evolves (surely it will?) & memories of Hispanic migrant workers are a thing of the past. Perhaps their stories will slowly disappear & only the echoes of mariachi music on hot July days in the Willamette Valley will be heard someday to remember that they were here. Although their tacos are here to stay, at least in our household. 

It was the first year Kenton was part of the farm. Seeing Dar work with his Dad the past four years has been an experience I've tucked away as one I want for my sons & their father. Throwing Kenton in too only feels natural. We're so close to them already, & having Alicen as a fellow farmer's wife will be a boon.
Our kids are already more like siblings than cousins. (re: fighting, loving, fighting on repeat)
(Just berries on her face, no worries)
They have no idea how charmed their childhood has been: aunts & uncles at their beck & call, late nights on the harvester, rides around the farm, berries in their backyard, rides in the berry trucks to the "canneria", short swims in the pond (mostly Fee, the others are a little leery), and always a constant stream of activity sweeping down the dusty dirt paths of the berry roads between our house and theirs. There are windstill nights when I'm out on our back patio that I can hear familiar voices from the little blue barn homestead (Kenton & Alicen) & the homeplace carried over the pond & across the road. Even in the dark, in the country, I never feel alone. 
Berry harvest is a group effort. I think that's one aspect that's so appealing to me. Dan, my step-dad, spent a few weeks here helping out. My mom joined him the second week. 

It was such a help to have him out! Alicen's dad was out, too, and I know our farmers appreciated the extra truck drivers, grunts, handymen, run-around "go-fors" that they were. 
Picking berries night & day 6 days a week takes all the help it can get. My role this year wasn't fieldhand, but support. I realized this year more than ever how to help Dar during his crazy busy season. Being a farmer's wife is a quiet, behind-the-scenes job. There isn't a whole lot of glory in it. Flexibility & patience are key! That said, I wouldn't have Dar be anything other than what he is. It's so satisfying to see how far we've come during this time of year!
Working around the clock is hard. And not seeing him often is hard. Taking care of two kids solo (while I had tons of help from family) is hard. But there is something to be said for hard: the reward is sweet. It makes the rest after the whirlwind feel like I imagine heaven must. 
The night crew this year put in a long season (they still aren't quite done). We loved having the extra kids around. Swinging on our back porch swing & seeing them dive into the pond before a long night's work brought back the feelings of being seventeen again. (Nearly a decade ago already!) It's formed relationships that never would've been made across the thousands of miles otherwise. I can see them already, one decade from now, watching my kids jump off the dock before a night's work thinking my same thoughts:). Blake & Weston became part of the "uncles" to Fee. She likes "those boys". 

Despite another summer with unusually hot weather, the berries fared well. Yields were down from last year in some fields. I'm still always shocked at the astronomical amount of berries that get picked on the farm! One local cannery (and there's 8 within 30 minutes of the farm) received 700,000 pounds of berries in one day. 

And here we are already/finally. The finish line is in view. 
We're ready for some slow time. For evenings spent together completely uninterrupted by switching on sprinklers, getting the night crew started, & equipment breakdowns. But we're ending the season better & stronger & more committed to making this thing we have going work, & work well. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

when Laura's home


I wasn't born into this one, but four years of togetherness, while still not having earned me a nickname, has become woven into my life story like the one that shaped me. 

And when Laura comes home, the entire family is together in completeness, & even I feel it. She was married & moved away before I became an in-law, but I get a taste of what the Tom & Edie family was in their busiest, fullest-house years when she comes home. 

Contentment & a sense of wholeness again reign supreme when she's home. The tupperware cupboard gets organized. The fridge gets cleaned out. The girls have their big sister to get advice from. Riley gets whatever he wants for breakfast. Family walks after evening meals. She's the shaker, the mover, the magnet that draws everyone back to the big, white farmhouse on Saratoga Drive. 

I feel a little like I've been around longer than I actually have when she's home: I see the family history, the backstories, the forgotten nicknames when Laura's home. 

When Laura's home, I feel the same urge I think everyone else does to love a little more, be a little more selfless, & value time with the ones I love more than anything else. 

 When Laura's home these days, our oldest children buddy up. They'll have memories of her childhood home just like hers in some ways. 

When Laura's home, we're together. 

Laura, you're loved. It's so obvious to me that you mean so much to your family. There's a big white farmhouse on Saratoga Drive with this view of Mt. Hood that is never more like its true, whole self than when you're home.