Monday, December 27, 2010

Because I need to be reminded...

There are times in this wild ride of parenting that I wonder if a certain stage is really a stage, if we will be "stuck" at a certain place forever. So I need to remember today! I need to be reminded that just like I change, children change too - in their own way and in their own time, but it happens! And sometimes, or most of the time, when we aren't expecting it and definitely when we aren't actively trying to make it happen.

So the context for this wonderful realization was as follows: some months (if not years) back we designated a large drawer in our old kitchen desk as Kali's drawer for various crafty keepsakes. I sarcastically labeled it "Kali's crap drawer" (which I attempted to not say around her, as it was not appreciated - these were TREASURES).

Several times when the drawer has been jammed fulled and I had to stuff things down to fit in the newest addition, we would venture into the scary territory of going through the drawer and trying to get rid of some things. Normally we would end up with a tiny pile of things for the paper recycling bin, Kali almost in tears and me about the pull my hair out. Sometimes Kali would have an outburst of emotion and would say something like, "it's your fault because we just don't have enough storage space." And then I would stoop so low as to offer some kind of sermon about how much we have in comparison to many. It was just ugly and not enjoyable for either of us...

So I've been nervous about any "organizing" or "sorting" project. But recently, Kali was starting to have trouble finding various things and her desk drawers were in a complete state of disarray and she couldn't work at her desk because it was covered with about a half foot of stuff. So one day we embarked on finding her desk and the various "lost" treasures. By the end of our efforts, we had found all the missing items, had gotten rid of a variety of things and had reorganized her drawers - with very little tension in comparison to previous times. And Kali was pretty happy to have her desk back as a work space , to have her dinosaur slippers to wear again, her silly putty to play with and a few other items. A glimmer of hope...

But I was still nervous about the aforementioned "crap drawer." But what is a whole week at home together for other than to at least tackle a few daunting projects. So today, after a good breakfast, a game or two together and cuddling to read a chapter of Shoo Fly Girl, we set to work.

Here are a few of the sentences coming out of our 7 year old's mouth:

"I don't need that."
"That's just crazy, I can't even tell what it is."
"Why did I want to keep that?"
"Get rid of it, I can always make another one sometime if I want to."
"Those are just scribbles."

We especially enjoyed burning some of the popsicle-stick creations in the woodstove...she wished she had made a few more of them!

I'm still in a state of shock that we went from a collection of "treasures" that jam packed a drawer and partially filled a box to a stack that now fits loosely in about half of the drawer. And while I still have my own opinions of the value of some of the items still in the "keep" pile, I swallowed hard and felt a secret satisfaction in knowing that the next time we "tackle the drawer" likely some of the sentences above will be heard once again...

Friday, December 24, 2010

To Touch the Wild Goose Cry

I (Jason) stayed up good and late last night, because I had something I needed to do. Today, you see, our family was slated to open our "big present," which was the envelope containing some very important (or perhaps not so all depends) information about the little jumping jack Janelle's been carrying around these months. That is to say, when we went for our twenty week prenatal ultrasound, the family compromise--in accordance with a friend's excellent suggestion--between those who desperately wanted to know the baby's gender and those who wanted a surprise was that the sonographer would take note of the relevant information and record it on a little folded card we supplied, and then seal it into an envelope, taking pains not to reveal it to us. We said we'd open the envelope at Christmas, and here we are.

I, being the one who didn't want to know, was not quite ready. Intuitively I realized that I needed to spend some time connecting with this little one without having a cultural category prepared. Based on recent experiences, I decided to use name searching as my vehicle to the spiritual process I sought.

I spent some time with baby name websites, playing around with various sounds, meanings, and associations, following rabbit trails from sound to idea to sound, flipping around between languages, cultures, genders...eventually I narrowed the standard Western selection down to the unisex names, and found a handful I could work with. But things really came together much better when I landed on the Native American section of one of the naming sites. Here were names that seemed to suit my purpose much better. Making my way through the alphabet, I soon had a list of them which are known to serve for either gender, which sounds interested me, and which meanings I was attracted to. I crawled under the covers with paper in hand, and gave myself over to swirling rounds of sound/meaning combinations, weighing and testing them in my heart and mind.

What I discovered through this practice about the coming of this child into my life was that I wanted this child to have a name that conveyed freedom, lightness, breath, air, freshness...something along that line, combined with some implication of sensory experience and connection. Of the list I was working with, I was most attracted to the meaning "Wild Goose Cry" (especially as a second name), combined with the meanings "to touch" or "fragrant" for first names, such that the child's name might mean, in combination, "Fragrant Wild Goose Cry" or "To Touch the Wild Goose Cry." The second of those was the one that really came home to me and I was able to put the paper down and go to sleep. I had made contact with part of what I feel this new parenthood experience will mean to me, and also part of what I hope for as I think about this new one's experience of this wild world we live and move in; the sky we peer through.

I think holding this baby for the first time will be to make contact with something untamed, intangible, and altogether lovely, and I hope (and will work and scheme to promote it) that this child will feel an intimate connection to the undomesticated elements and life expressions of the world she finds before her.

That's right, I wrote "her." This child will be female, and I for one found this evening that I just can hardly wait to meet her! A whole new person!

This morning when I was thinking over last evening's meditation, and looking forward to this evening's revelation, I felt glad that I had taken the time for that exercise. It seemed to me that the wishes and urges I had discovered in myself towards this new person were enlivening, humanizing ones, and though freedom and love of experience can have everything to do with gender at times, they are simultaneously gender-neutral values. I want this child--a baby girl, as it turns out--to feel free, and, when the wild goose lets loose its cry, for her to notice it, feel it, and understand.

You may be wondering whether we would hope to use this deeply spiritual name for our little one. Hmm. Probably not. You see, in order to achieve the meaning "To Touch the Wild Goose Cry", I was working with the name "Helki Saloso." Very lovely in its context I am sure, but for the Shenandoah Valley in 2010, it might come across as just a shade out of touch!

Last night's process was more for me and my relationship to the baby than about actual naming. Over the next few months, however, we will actually be in search of a simple, pronounceable, meaningful, easy-going name for this baby...information about any resources (or process tips) of which you might be aware and of which we might avail ourselves would be welcome.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cleaning break...

I'm working at gearing up to wash the final three floors of our house! I got a major "cleaning bug" today and it was a good thing as our house had reached an unprecedented level of filth!! So I'm taking a break to put a very important picture up on our blog!!

We went from trying to find as many ways to use eggs as possible to having a "egg-free baking tips" sheet on our refrigerator. It's cold, hens are molting and our new hens have not started laying yet. That was until Thursday, when the first egg was laid by one of the Marans as we were getting the first significant snow fall of the year. Actually it was probably laid sometime Wednesday as it was frozen solid, but still an EGG! And she has laid one more since, which brings the cumulative total number of eggs in our house to two!

Kali is thrilled for there to be snow. We had to do a little rushed shopping this week when her snow boots from last year no longer fit. We tried the new ones out today (during an earlier cleaning break) and they kept her warm and comfy on our walk and as she made the hardest, packed ball of snow she could make.

She then took a turn being the photographer and had me pose. I chose some of the pictures I wanted her to take but the one here is the one in which she told me how to stand, where to put my hand, etc... It ended up being my favorite! I continue to enjoy my expanding belly, and the outlook is promising that I might even get an "outie belly button" this time around - for some reason I've always coveted them!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Days at home!

At the end of two wonderful days at home, here are a few visuals from the past few days. Kali is munching on some of our home grown popcorn for a bedtime snack, while we both enjoy the warmth emanating from the wood stove. I'm enjoying an occasional jab from Tadpole, who is in the habit of giving me pretty frequent reminders of his/her presence (I am almost certain I enjoyed feeling hiccups earlier this week).

So some quick snippets from a glorious sabbath we have enjoyed from stepping foot in our car yesterday and today. Instead we (Kali and I while Jason and friend Tim worked on installing an attic staircase accessible from our bathroom) spent our time:

- taking a walk each day
- baking green turtle bread, gingerbread cookies, peanut blossoms with fair trade, dark chocolate wafers inserted (strongly recommended!), pumpkin bread and muffins
- Kali was found stuck in a book for a good number of hours each day and when she was not she was often doing very creative things like attempting to be a replica of her doll Zelda (see photo below)
- cutting up our 23 butternut, 20 of which had frozen solid in the shed, much to our dismay
- preparations for taking meals to two families this week who recently welcomed new babies into their families!
- making a Christmas chain noting "fun and exciting things" Kali can do each day between now and Christmas
- reading the last two chapters of A Life Worth Living for our final discussion time at church next week (it was just as good reading the book the second time!)
- reading Christmas in the Trenches and helping Kali find her "army outfit" for the Christmas pageant tomorrow
- making butter and yogurt from our milk share; and making potato soup with the fresh buttermilk
- enjoying eating 3 meals each day together as a family
- playing Christmas carols on the piano and enjoying Kali's expanding repertoire of songs (most of which she has taught herself with no formal piano instruction)
- delivering some of our baked goods to neighbors and playing hide and seek on our way up and down the driveway
- sleeping in until after 7am (or like today after 8am)
- and last but not least sitting down with a large sheet of paper and writing out the details for the coming week, which will not be very much like the last two days - busy full of social engagements, Christmas gatherings, and therefore many trips into town in our car!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's not even December yet...

and we have put up a Christmas tree AND decorated it!!

We enjoyed Thanksgiving - complete with the first snow we've seen this year - with the Benner family in PA and were grateful for safe travels to and from. We decided to take advantage of the great opportunity of getting a cedar tree from the Benner homestead for our Christmas tree this year.

This evening, after a hike to the lake, we had fun decorating it. It seemed to also help transition us out of "post holiday/travel/family fun" blues that had been impacting the mood of at least the youngest of the family.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ultrasound and the emotional aftermath...

We sent the following email out to a group of our family and friends a week ago today after our ultrasound and midwife appointment:

"This was a day full of much emotion in our home as we headed out to our 20 week ultrasound to learn a little more about how Tadpole is doing. In short - wonderfully well!! And that news is still sinking in. We are so so grateful for all those that have been journeying with us to this day, sharing with us the waiting, hoping, wondering...letting me share my hopes and fears and validating both. For those that sent notes today and recent days and the many sending thoughts and prayers our way. For the women that gathered with me Monday evening. For my dear friend Jen who accompanied us to the ultrasound (visiting all the way from Canada). For my parents who were in the waiting room to hug us as we came out. And for the tiny orchid bud we saw on the plant given to us by my parents when Nora was still with us - Jason noticed the bud just as we headed out the door and as I said "thank you little bud" Kali chimed in that that would be a good name for the baby. We are liking "little bud." We have a sealed envelope prepared by Kali and filled with a picture identifying our baby's sex that we'll open as a family at Christmas. But that present hardly compares to learning that all measurements were right on track and that all organs supporting our baby's growth and development looked great. We are so grateful and have some very cute pictures. Tadpole was basically folded in half with one foot above his/her head most of the time. We got to see a big gulp of amniotic fluid, hearing the heartbeat several times, and seeing a very cute profile. Now to let all this soak in.... The journey continues and we look forward to this second half of the pregnancy, as we prepare for this little one entering our family. Thanks for your support, care, interest, etc... I imagine we'll add more thoughts and pictures on the blog before too long. If you want to catch up with pictures and news leading up to this time see"

So here you are at the blog. I started this entry the day after our ultrasound and have never gotten back to it - partly because of the busyness of the week and partly because my emotional landscape keeps changing at such a rapid pace that I keep wondering if it will settle out enough for me to write clearly how I'm doing/feeling/being with all that is taking place in our lives. I've come to the conclusion that things will likely continue as is (with emotions and circumstances continually in flux) and so this is a Friday 11/19/2010 9am update!

To set the stage, it is almost always a "good" morning when I am sitting with my feet up in the recliner with the sun shining in our front room and the house completely quiet, as Kali is still sacked out. And knowing that the day includes cooking, baking and being at home (not stepping foot into the car until Sunday!!) doesn't hurt anything either. Jason and I finished off the granola this morning, the cookie jar is empty, butter needs to be made from this week's cream, soups are getting started and chicken barbecue is in the crockpot doing its thing for supper this evening, to have along with fresh rolls that will also be made sometime today.

It's also a good start to the day when it starts with Tadpole doing some kind of gymnastic practice and Jason getting to feel a couple good jabs. Also in the last number of days, Kali has gotten to feel her little brother or sister move from the outside - a long awaited thrill for her!! We continue to dream about this little one's personality and the upcoming transition, not to mention wondering whether "boy" or "girl" is written on the little paper locked up until Christmas. But that has actually been very much in the background as we have found ourselves reveling much more in knowledge that right now this baby's growth is right on track or slightly ahead of the curve.

But I haven't been "steady" in my hopefulness and enthusiasm this week. I've waffled from moments of euphoria to worrying that it may be too good to be true. We had our third Centering Pregnancy group this week and at the end I requested a print out of Nora's 20 week ultrasound. I found it somewhat reassuring to see that there were two striking measurements behind on her 20 week ultrasound (abdomen and femur - ones that fell farther and farther behind as time went on) but surprised also at how "normal" the rest of the report was.

The most striking difference that I'm noting in this pregnancy, besides a more positive outlook and intuition on how the pregnancy is going - which I'm apt to doubt even more than the perspective of the caregivers working with us - is how much movement I'm feeling with this little one. And I'm enjoying it thoroughly, as much as I can become completely distracted from what I'm doing when the squirming, kicking and poking starts up!

Outward signs of the well-being of this baby are reassuring. But they don't necessarily take away from the complexity of my emotions as I reflect back on my pregnancies with both Kali and with Nora. The evening after the ultrasound, I found myself strangely exhausted and a little sad. The exhaustion made sense when thinking of the emotional build up to that day. The sadness was more confusing and the questions going through my mind were hard to find clear answers for. I was trying to balance the joy and relief of knowing that this baby did not seem to present like a baby with Petty Syndrome. I was thrilled to think that maybe we would have an experience closer to ours with Kali, where we have a baby and bring him/her home after a day or so. A baby that Kali could hold and help with, without interference of cords, hospital schedules, and the baby's extreme fragility. Those things are some of the things lumped for me in the "too good to be true" category.

Some of the other feelings and musings and questions came from my reflections on Nora's place in our family. I feel so grateful to Nora for so so many ways in which she impacted my life. I'm glad she was and is a part of our family's story. I feel more ready and able to embark on the mysterious journey of parenting another little one because of her impact on my life. I feel more steady, believe it or not, and centered in my life much of the time. And yet I don't want to do it again. I'm sure we'd grow and even thrive in our own way, but I would have been devastated for some time had we learned that this little one was already falling behind on growth. I wanted to analyze those feelings, try to figure out what they meant about my love for Nora and for this new baby. Once again I found myself grateful for friends who spoke into my life, encouraging me to just be with the emotions or those that helped me normalize my ranging and ever shifting feelings.

So I'm allowing myself to experience the swings and attempting to not label or judge them. Someone recently shared with me advice given to them when they were in seminary. "Don't judge, wonder." I am drawn to that approach to life and hope to approach my own internal processing with curiosity and wonder in the weeks and months ahead.

These pictures are not necessarily as connected to my musings above as I thought they might be when I uploaded them a week ago. But they are a snapshot of that day for us - being with wonderful friends, the comic relief of a fashion show with Kali as our fashion designer of string gloves, shoes, etc..., Kali coloring to pass the time as we waited for the ultrasound and a very blurry and not so clear picture of one of the pictures we got of Tadpole.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Morning of firsts!

It's only 8:15am and this day has already included two firsts of the year!

I've happily been enjoying increasing squirms, kicks, and jabs from Tadpole and my uterus has officially encroached upon my belly button! Those are fun changes and the movement has been a reassuring confirmation of this little one's presence inside me. This morning neither Jason and I had to rush out of bed to get to work, and Tadpole had also woken up. Jason got to feel the baby moving too: a special start to the day!

Also, one of the side effects of our new (no longer leaking) roof is that our home is staying much warmer. Prior to this morning we would have roasted ourselves to burn a fire in our wood stove! This morning was still "borderline" but it seemed like a good morning for a cup of decaf coffee and a few minutes in front of the wood stove before starting our day. So that is what we did. Now we received strict instructions from our daughter last night to let the fire burn until she wakes up to enjoy it. Let's hope this is not one of her 11am wake up mornings or we will be opening windows!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Saint's Day

Today we shared the following as part of a special and very meaningful service at Shalom honoring persons whom we love whose physical presence is no longer with us:


We will be sharing reflections today about our second child. Yesterday would have been Nora’s third birthday, but she only lived for 7 short months. During her life and since her death, this group accepted her as a part of our congregational life, even though most of you never had a chance to meet her. As time passes, we are grateful for opportunities to continue reflecting on Nora’s contributions to our understanding of what it means to be human.


At the time of committing to this sharing, I was feeling positive. Life was full and the lessons of Nora’s life were not only apparent to me, I even felt I was embodying some of them. We were in our first trimester with our third child and I felt grateful, excited and amazed at how my emotions were much steadier than I might have expected.

That was several weeks ago. Recently, when I sat down to prepare these thoughts I felt like a hypocrite and was not sure I had anything much to say. As we approach the halfway point in this pregnancy, my emotions have begun to overwhelm me. It was that day that a daily quote I receive said the following: “Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” And that same challenge also came to me from a friend who encouraged me to be present to all of my emotions, even those that I normally label as negative or bad. So I’m modifying the quote for myself to encourage me to risk being honest with both myself and my community and in doing so I will be able to be more fully present to all that is unfolding in our lives.

And maybe that is one of the most important lessons that I did learn from Nora’s life. While we have always benefited from being part of community, we never felt that as keenly as we did in the weeks leading up to Nora’s birth, during her life and in the weeks following her death. She needed us to help her live as fully as possible for the time she had with us, and we desperately needed others to help us to keep living fully, creating memories, and facing the challenges with courage and as much grace as we could muster.

So, in short, my honest confession: Sometimes I’m scared! I’ve had anxious dreams about our 20 week ultrasound when we will know if this little one is on the right trajectory with growth. I have trouble finding the courage, strength and hope that have been so real to me at times over the past 3 years. And, if this baby comes to us with needs beyond our own ability to provide, I wonder if I can really do it again.

Admittedly, I’m a perfectionist through and through. And so these times are often perceived by me as lapses in strength or a failure to honor Nora’s life and her memory. I tend to think that somehow I’m backsliding, losing all the ground I had gained. Jason has reminded me multiple times since Nora’s death that he sees the journey as being much more fluid than that. That we rise and fall, have moments of vulnerability in which we need others to help us see our way, and that it is all part of the journey.

One of the things Nora did so well was accepting life for what it gave to her. Not that she didn’t protest at times the perceived “unfairness,” particularly towards the end of her life when she resisted both her feeding tube and oxygen being delivered through an uncomfortable devise in her nose. But she didn’t let those impediments stop her from soaking in her surroundings and being fully present to life’s experiences. We are so grateful that among our memories are those times when her face lit up to be in her big sister’s arms, craning her neck to get a good look at her face; when she turned and twisted and strained to roll her little 6 pound body over, and then was surprised at her accomplishment; her fascination with every aspect and angle of her pacifier, though she was quite indignant if anyone tried to convince her that an appropriate use for such a contraption was to suck it; her determination to hold and turn the pages of her little books all by herself despite them almost being too heavy for her; and of course her coos and smiles. She did not approach the world, as many of us hate to admit that we do, as if it owed her anything. Those beautiful moments that came were gifts, and they could be found in the darkest of times, even at death’s door.

I know deep down after having Nora grace me with her presence, trust and love that I do believe, even when I falter, that loving is worth the risk. I still remember holding Nora and crying as I listened to the words of a song (by “Over the Rhine”), “I was born to laugh, I learned to laugh through my tears. I was born to love, I’m gonna learn to love without fear.” I’m still aspiring to that.

Several weeks back, as I was taking out the compost, I was thinking about Nora and how, as much as I don’t profess to understand a lot about how those of us still living communicate with or relate to those we love and loved who are no longer physically with us, I really wanted her to talk to me. I wanted to have her tell me that I was okay, that her little brother or sister was going to be okay, that she was okay with us having another baby. I had this odd realization that here I was wanting Nora to relate to me in a way that she had never related to me in her time with us; verbal communication, outside of coos, was not part of our life together. And in that moment what I realized was all the things that Nora’s little spirit was – she was a presence in my life that was unassuming, nonjudgmental, accepting, always giving and receiving, needy and yet rich, beautifully imperfect, and fully present to the moment. It will always be a gift to have had someone in my life who so innocently and without effort lived these qualities for me to get a glimpse of.


One evening a year and a half ago some of you came with divisions of perennials from your own yards and helped us fill the planting bed of Nora’s memorial garden. I wrote the following poem around that time, but I find many of the thoughts and sentiments expressed in it to be what I would want to say today, and so I offer it now:


A father’s love ignores the border death presents. I worked for you in every way I knew, now
what to do with this: my aimless drive to help, my hoeing the abyss? There’s nothing you could need from me; I’ll turn my hoe toward earth and let the rocks and soil absorb my effort, and I'll wait for birth among the blooming celebrations. I can work on these reiterations.

And so we put together what we can: we scrape the weeds aside and mark a place where, when it needs to huddle with the memories, a heart may hide. We’ve caught a hold on changes
in the calendar and seasons, have made spaces full of time: ad hoc creations. We’ve established these reiterations.

I think it helps a little. Do I need to see reflections of my baby girl out there exposed to wild, swirling air to keep me from forgetting? Maybe not, but there is satisfaction in the knowledge that in moments when I need to whittle down into the quick of loss, or glory in parental, proud elation, I can turn to these reiterations.

Thank you, child! You never read the clock to know the shame of dallying too long. Your fingers never curled around a cent. When it was time for you to go, you didn’t worry, you just went. Your heart and mind and palms were full of room; your presence was a balm for wounds we couldn’t feel. How many repetitions of your memory will be required for me to heal? What is my hurry? If I sit awhile in a place, perhaps an insect sipping from a bloom will show the way to freedom from the hectic expectations. I’ll depend on these reiterations.

I didn’t know I feared a fading of your presence, but I found that when I cleared the soil space I knew relief, anticipating sprouting seeds. Your memory’s alive, and here is how I know: I’ve seen it grow! How can this be: while thinking of the years ahead, a smile? I’m eager to be watching all you were to us becoming what it is, what it will be, and relishing your place within our family. Our love is strong, so time will find us living out a leafy incarnation, still repeating these reiterations.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy birthday, Nora!

We thought of her often today: from picking and freezing broccoli to spending time in her garden and cutting down a tree to make way for a seating area to decorating a cake in her honor (Mom, thanks for the banana cake you left with me some time back - little did you know that you made Nora's cake for today!), to going for a hike as a family together and sharing memories as well as the beautiful outdoors, to spending an evening with wonderful friends and Nora's most frequent visitors - visiting, making owl cookies, and ending the day by watching the few videos we have of Nora.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grit happens

As you, dear reader, are almost certainly aware, Janelle's parents are building "in-law quarters" onto the Northwest corner of our home in rustic Keezletown. In general, the project has gone very well, and we are more than satisfied with the quality of the structure.

Our more construction-savvy readers will readily assume that integrating an existing structure with a new one involves some tricky maneuvers, some unknowns, some risks, some surprises, some disappointments, some headaches, some serendipity.

That is to say, occasionally things happen or are discovered which cause me to smack my forehead or inspire a wish to slump in a corner and weep. Other times, things happen or are discovered which cause me to grin with satisfaction or inspire me to walk around a corner and whoop!

The discovery of an expanse of rock-free soil to the north of the stairwell between the old and new parts of the home was the kind that inspired whooping, as it allowed for the formation of a root cellar in that very handy location. The discovery of a four-foot slug of tar (which had oozed out of a half-full tar bucket discarded against the foundation during the backfilling stage of construction in 1981 or so) in the foundation drain was the other kind.

This week has been well-stocked with grins as usual, but it's also been a little heavy on the forehead-smacking.

I think the root of the problem is that our house is a little odd. This has suited me more or less o.k., since I am also a little odd. But oddness is hard on contractors. Contractors generally do their most dependable and efficient work in an environment of consistent circumstances. This house, bless its heart, is a bit of a scalp-scratching chin-stroker.

In this case, the contractor was attempting to:

1) Remove from the 1000 square-foot rear portion of our house three (three!) layers of worn-out asphalt-type roofing, the moisture-degraded plywood sheathing below it, and the critter-infested insulation below that.

2) Replace the insulation with a superior type, and re-sheath and pre-roof it with a plastic temporary roofing paper.

3) In one day.

The day before the big day, the crew started making their preparations. We were out for the afternoon, and Kali and I had left the house around noon. We had company for supper that evening, and we arrived home around 5:30...just enough time to throw together some food. Upon pulling in the lane, I was surprised to see some fiberglass insulation sticking out from the top of the trash trailer. "I guess they went ahead and got started!", I said. This turned out to be an understatement. They had apparently seen the clear weather predictions and the cloudless sky and had (reasonably enough) decided to hedge their bets and do the entire demolition portion of the work that afternoon.

Enter the structural oddness of our house.

Most ceilings are made of plaster or drywall. Those that are not are usually made from tongue-in-groove boards. There is a reason for this. Contiguous ceiling coverings form a relatively flat surface that is easy to clean and paint, and which forms a barrier between the ceiling and the attic space, framing space, or insulation cavity that is above it.

Most of our ceilings are drywalled. Two of them are made of planed boards with rough edges screwed onto the bottom edges of the roof rafters. Predictably, there are gaps. Ahem.

Remember those three layers of roofing? Remember the critters in the insulation? Remember that we had just enough time to throw dinner together?

We didn't have the luxury of time for finding a corner (preferably one free of roofing grit and mouse turds) to weep in, so Janelle got lentils and rice on the stove (fortunately the new kitchen has a drywalled ceiling) and I grabbed a broom. They had, reasonably enough, decided to remove the old roofing and sheathing by cutting through the whole mess with old blades in hand-held circular saws, then prying the chunks of plywood loose as whole units rather than stripping things apart layer by layer. This was by far the smartest way to go about the job, and building smarts is why we hired them. It did, however, loosen a whole darn lot of roof grit. In the afternoon's glare, I guess they couldn't see down through the cracks of the ceiling wood well enough to realize that that's all that was there between the roof cavities and the floor below! So when they conscientiously swept all that crud out of the cavities, VOILA! Grit happens.

We had a nice supper, and the next day's construction activities went very well. The roof cavities got crammed full of fluffy cellulose insulation, and new OSB sheathing was installed. Grins all around, with the satisfaction of knowing the job was done right by people who know their business.

Don't get too comfortable yet.

There is another odd thing about our house. The pitch of the rear roof is really very low. Something like a 3 inch rise per 12 inch run. This makes it prone to leaks. This roofing paper stuff is pretty new, and its uses and limits are still being debated and tried. In real time. Right here.

A day or two after the roof project, it rained about a tenth of an inch one day. Everything seemed fine, except that due to the temporary arrangement of materials, a puddle formed which threatened to replicate an earlier water problem we'd had that had done some minor damage to the cork flooring in our guest room. We went on our church's retreat this past weekend without much worry. But this past Tuesday night, everything was not fine.

I went to sleep around 10:30, but awakened at 12:30 to the sound of torrents of rain on the new roof (which is going to be much louder in the rain than the old one...a welcome development for weather enthusiasts like myself). I wanted to enjoy the thirsty soil's relief, but couldn't escape nagging thoughts about that puddle upstairs that I knew was growing every minute. When I couldn't stand it anymore, I trudged up in my bare feet and boxers with a flashlight. Sure enough, puddles. But not imminently threatening infiltration, so I came back down, wiped the wet sawdust off my feet and climbed back in bed. Sleep did not come, however, as the intensity of the rain only increased. I laid and listened, checking the puddles (growing, becoming worrisome) once or twice before deciding at around 2:30 to break out the trusty squeegee to put my mind at ease. When I returned, I found Janelle in Kali's bedroom. She had gotten up to come check on my whereabouts and was detoured by the sound of water dripping in Kali's bedroom. Kali's nearly brand new cork floor had a sizable puddle right in the middle of it, which was spreading rapidly across the floor.

The rain continued unabated for a while longer. Neither Janelle nor I slept much or well the rest of the night: two other small leaks showed up and periodic squeegee work upstairs was necessary. Finally at around 4:30 the worst of the storm seemed to have passed, and we got a little rest in before the alarm, though Janelle was able to sleep more than I (and in that time was able to squeeze in a dream of the drywall ceilings starting to show water stains). My mind was busy with problem-solving wheel-spinning and some cold sweats regarding what we were going to do if the new insulation was ruined by water.

In the morning, there were two and a half inches of rain in the gauge. The newly-planted strawberry beds looked so chipper, and the developing heads of broccoli so crisp and clean, I almost couldn't stay grumpy.

During that long night both Janelle and I experienced feelings that reminded us of some of the many long nights we spent caring for Nora. At some point in the night I remember Janelle mentioning that she was keeping perspective by thinking about the many, many Indonesians who had lost their lives or homes by way of simultaneous tsunami damage and volcanic eruption. Those thoughts and memories helped me to keep from getting too caught up in frustration.

All the same, I did not wish to repeat that performance, and when the rain continued in the morning and I felt the need to take time out of my work day to check on the house and squeegee the puddles, I decided to write a fairly direct, perhaps somewhat sleep-deprived email to the builder indicating my unwillingness to be on the hook for more emergency hydrology. He is a healthy communicator, so he took my concern seriously and there is now a giant tarp in place to tide us over until the metal roofing can be installed on Monday.

My thanks go out this afternoon to Janelle's dad, who has spent a lot of time this week sweeping roof grit and mouse turds out of various crevices (including the many created by my disorganized stacks of paper on this desk I'm writing at), to A.M. Yoder Construction for being a generally excellent outfit with a healthy, non-defensive sympathy for the plight of the homeowner, and to Janelle for making me go to bed early last night. I feel much better now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Today was one of those days that truly felt like a sabbath! We did not step foot in our car all day - that's one step towards a day of rest for me. We did step foot off our property for about 4 hours taking a long hike to the lake, enjoying the leaves, climbing trees, exploring rocks, eating a picnic lunch, and just being together! Upon returning home, Kali provided background chuckles while reading Calvin and Hobbes while Jason and I took a nap to re-energize us! Then we headed out to harvest all the produce left in our garden that is not frost hardy, as we had our first light frost this morning. Then after having pancakes together for breakfast, a picnic together for lunch, we finished off the day with a third "p" - delicious homemade pizza. A weekly sabbath of this kind is definitely something I could get into!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Snippets from Fruit Farm Lane

Is life ever not full and overflowing!? I keep typing a sentence and erasing it, typing and then erasing. It is a symptom of too much bubbling up to say and not knowing where to start. I said to Jason last evening that sometimes it is hard for me to grasp all the big changes coming up in our lives in the next six months. I'll share a few snippets at least of life as it is currently:

The changing landscape of our home: As I type I hear stomping overhead, the sound of many unfamiliar voices, the banging and clunking around that has become a familiar background noise of late. I wake up many morning to the sky lightening and the sound of work vehicles pulling in. Many, many visible changes to our property as Mom and Dad's home is nearing the end of the framing stage. I can finally visualize it, now that the shell is here. The process has been positive for the most part, despite some unexpected surprises along the way, which I would assume are more or less part of the journey. I feel my excitement rise as I think of what a cozy, welcoming and homey place this will be for my folks. And looking out my kitchen window, I look up at their dining room and living room windows. I've said a few times that somehow it seems fitting that I'll still be looking up to them!

Kali's keeps growing up: Sometimes it is hard to keep up with her (not only in shoe size but her mind too!). The other day she asked Jason, "What is 60 x 60?" After he told her that it was 3600 she thought for a minute and said, "Wow, so a second is 1/3600 of an hour." She leaves us speechless sometimes!! Jason also had a hard time stumping her the other day in a "reading/spelling lesson" that she requested. We are all getting in the groove of the Fall schedule, with Kali at SVCS two days a week for school and with Jason there volunteering an additional half day. She is enjoying the various optional classes she can take part in and we are starting to feel a bit more like "normal parents" of school age children with sorting through the crafts coming home, the field trip notes and participating in providing supplies for one of Kali's favorite classes - cooking class. Jason particularly felt this keenly the other week when Kali and I were walking down the driveway to catch a ride. All of a sudden she said something to the effect of "oops, I don't have the blueberries." I was clueless as to what she was talking about, but after some investigating learned that she had volunteered to bring blueberries for the cooking class that day. A quick phone call up to the house to Jason had him sprinting down the lane with a container of berries, reaching us just as our ride pulled up, and then catching his breath (and I imagine chuckling!).

Tadpole is growing too: We had our second Centering Pregnancy group this past week and are still thrilled with the model. There will be no easy fix for the rising emotions I feel in me as we approach the halfway point in this pregnancy. But it was good to meet again with other mothers, to hear Tadpole's heartbeat going strong and clear, and to know that at least for now from all we can tell from the outside, things are progressing as we would want them to be. No doubt as the next month goes by and the halfway point, along with the standard ultrasound, approaches I will need to find sources of strength within myself and outside of myself to help me continue to keep anxiety at bay and some semblance of emotional stability. I love my expanding mid-section and I stop short at every twinge/twang/bubble/stirring within me. Our home is ready (okay, so we have a few things to do) to welcome this new little one and one of my mantra's continues to be "it is what it is." Somehow this helps me to not always be yearning for, wondering about, reaching towards something other than what we are experiencing in the here and now. It was good and felt right to take some of our most recent pictures of my "bulge" in Nora's garden near some blooming flowers! The reminders of her presence are always close to us in October, as we anticipate the anniversary of her birth.

Jason's new obsession: So most people know that Jason is quite fond of chickens. What you may not know yet is that he is also becoming quite a fan of colored popcorn. And I get a kick out of it!! He has been found more than once in deep admiration of the bowl of colored kernels, and at times scooping out handfuls to watch them cascade down from his outstretched hands. I also got a kick out of his attempts to stack a family meeting recently. It was one of those impromptu ones where he was ready to decide which of the many colored ears of popcorn we grew this year would be kept for seed next year. It just so happened that he and Kali had some strongly differing opinions about which were eligible for keeping out for seed. While it is always nice to be included in the decision-making process, I had to be completely honest that I was having a hard time mustering up an opinion. I thought they were all beautiful, and the popcorn was absolutely delicious, but I really didn't feel the need to give suggestions - particularly with two persons who clearly did not need help having an opinion. What became quite clear as time went by was that what Jason really wanted was an ally, and some additional persuasive powers to convince our daughter that the brown themed ears were in fact worthy of seed-saving. As it turned out, they both were given the opportunity to choose a few for seed that the other did not approve of.

Friendships blossoming: We continue to enjoy watching Kali make friends and deepen existing friendships. She seems comfortable and content in her school setting and continues to enjoy playdates with friends outside of school, and has even graduated to sleepovers (which we are not too disappointed about!). She just returned home before lunch today from her first sleepover with two Keezletown friends. I took it as a good sign when her first words upon seeing me today were, "do I really have to go?" She is now absorbed in a Calvin & Hobbes book and if she allowed herself to do such a thing, I imagine she would be napping before too long. It just so happens that these little friends normally go to bed at about 6:30-7pm and wake up about the same in the morning. Kali is more a 10-11pm to 8:30-10am kind of girl. What was reported to me was she kept her traditional going to sleep time but her friends were not interested in watching a sleeping guest this morning. :)

Jason and I thoroughly enjoyed our waking hours together - getting two walks in during that time, cooking a delicious dinner together with garden veggies (that we knew Kali would not miss but that we would savor), and chipped away at the list of things to talk about, those best done with no little ears close at hand or a mind full of questions! We also started reading (okay, so we just got through the introduction before we both were dozing off on the futon) a book we hope to work through together this Fall (Your Money or Your Life).

Tonight Kali AND Jason will both experience something new. Jason's mentee plays in the marching band at a local high school and he invited us to the homecoming game tonight to hear him play. What I didn't realize until we were talking about this possibility was that Jason has NEVER been to a high school football game. As one of the main social hangout spots in my high school experience, it was a bit difficult for me to conceptualize this! So I, having not been to a game in my adult life, will be taking in this cultural experience with my family members for whom there will be no previous memories to mix with the experience! It should be a fun family adventure.