Monday, January 23, 2006

Eulogy for a Giant

It has been an eventful day. In order of importance, we have a snowstorm that has already dropped five inches and is just starting to slow down; Johann cut two teeth in the last twenty-four hours; and I found out my grandfather died. Robert Earl Fales, I don’t know when he was born precisely, except that it was in the Thirties. I remember him from my childhood, mostly his voice, and his smile. It was his sense of humor that plays a large part in my memories of him. I regret not knowing him better as I grew into adulthood.
I have a vivid memory of him driving the dozer to plow the driveway, with my little cousin Jeffery sitting in his lap, helping to work the controls and both of them delighted with it. I remember hearing him talk with my dad and telling tall tales for hours. I used to sit and listen to them as long as I was allowed. I think it was Grampa that told me with great relish that if you threw a body into the Tanana the silt and pebbles that made it look muddy would grind the body up, and you’d never find it. I remember that story!
I wish the girls had known him. I’m glad that he knew of them, at least. I want his great-grandchildren to carry on in that no-nonsense, pioneer spirit that he personifed to me along with my Grandma Lavaughan and Grandma Ella. He always seemed to be a storng man, but quick to laugh. I want to say goodbye...
Maybe just goodnight, and God Bless.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

After spending a couple of hours yesterday in the girls room, I am left wondering. They have so much stuff. I have been thinning clothes and toys out since before Christmas, and still their closet, where I store their toys, and dressers are overflowing. And this is complicated by needing to move Johann in there sometime soon. I don't know where I am going to put him. How can three little girls have so much stuff? I don't want to get rid of it all, but Glady is a little pack-rat and won't let me throw anything out, and Juliet and Pippa are attached to the most beat-up McDonalds toy and fuss at me when I suggest downsizing.

Sometimes I am tempted to tell them to pick three things out and everything else is going... but still, the legos would be there. And all the gifts from people I don't want to offend, and the wooden train, and the barbie clothes, sigh.

I have to solve this soon. Johann needs to be able to sleep on his own soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Dry beans have so many uses, espeically around here. Of course, they are meant to be eaten, but no in this family - no one would eat them! But you can sprout them in paper towels to study plant development, in the light or in the dark. And they can be used to make a constellation map, Glady found out last night. Then Juliet made a galaxy of beans with a tray full of them and an orange in the middle. Pippa likes to scoop up handfuls of them and run them through her fingers... I am thinking about growing some this summer just to have some pretty ones to sort and play with for her kindergarten curriculum this next fall. All the bean play started with Glady using them to count by tens for her homework. Hardworking seeds, these beans.

Then there's the tale of the twice-baked beans... but that's for another day!

Friday, January 20, 2006

I'm listening to Glady outside, just near the office window, trying to build a fort. It is a relatively warm day for January, and she wanted me to take a walk with her, which we did on Tuesday, but the little girls are supposed to be napping and I can't leave them. I know she's trying to build a fort because she wanted me to give her a blanket to put over the clotheslines and I turned her down. She also took a cookie out with her in case she got hungry, her journal to write down anything interesting she found, a box to put cool stuff in, and her little binoculars to watch birds with. I feel a little like I'm looking back through time at my younger self.

I saw the cardinal earlier today - so beautiful. It is only the second time I've seen one here at the farm. Phil caught Mrs. Cardinal at the feeders right after we first put them out, and now that i have different seed in them they came back. I was using what was left of the parakeet food, and ony the sparrows and chickadees liked that.

I need to go put my bread in the oven, and Phil will be home soon. I'll let the little girls get up and maybe they can get outside for a while, too. Sometimes I feel like our world shrinks down to these few rooms in the winter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rain Languages

As the girls eat oatmeal at the table, I listen to them talk and watch them play. It is an odd morning, because a two-hour freezing rain delay gives them an unexpected window of time before Glady goes to school, and Juliet has no kindergarten this morning.

Pippa is commenting on the rain, complete with a hand pantomime. "Raindrops are dropping down, down, and if a person goes outside they will get wet, and go into puddles; splash, splash. Then they will have to go inside and take a bath... in chocolate milk!" she finishes with a gleeful cackle.

Juliet and Glady want to pick my brains of foreign words this morning. Juliet learned "bon appetit" somewhere, and when they found out that I knew what it meant they wanted to know other words. I'd love to know why they wanted to know how to say "giraffe" is Russian. I may look that up for them... I didn't know half the words they wanted, all the Spanish and French I learned in school has ebbed out of my brain. I think if I teach the girls a language it needs to be one they can practice periodically.

Glady has decided that she is going to invent her own language, with its own alphabet. She just brought a sample to me. There are a lot of curlicues, since she has been teaching herself cursive, and loves a pretty flourish.

The girls are cleaning their room now, and Pippa just ran out saying "Glady is trying to kill me!" so I had better go supervise.

Friday, January 13, 2006

It has been ten years now since Phil and I met. I walked up to him in the cafeteria and introduced myself. To this day I have no idea why I did that... I am not now, nor have I ever been one to be bold. But I knew who he was, and he looked so lost there all by himself. I had no idea at the time that he was to become my husband, the father of my children, and my beloved. He did become my friend very quickly, but at the time I fancied myself in love with someone else. It is hard to know your mind at nineteen, I can see that now looking back from a decade of perspective.

We've had some really difficult times in our personal relationship, but these last three years have been getting better all the time. He's grown, I'm growing, and we get closer every day. He is such a kind, considerate husband now, he works so hard to take care of me... so, Thank You, sweetheart, I know you are reading this, and I want you to know that I still love you, and I can't see an end to that until one of us comes to our end. God put us together that morning ten years ago, and He's taken good care of us since then. Our hard heads needed a little knocking together, and He's not done yet, but I am blessed to have you. I love you.


We know that when the clouds look darkest
And spread their shade around
If we could look beyond the portals,
The sunshine would be found.
And when the storm beats o'er us fiercely,
Crushing our flowers to earth
That when the tempest's reign is over
They will have fairer birth.

So, when life's cares almost o'erwhelm us,
And we sink down dismayed,
When hope's fair promises all fail us,
And - even trust betrayed -
Fairer for having been o'ershadowed,
Our blessings will shine forth
After the storm is over. Its coming
Has proved true friendship's worth.
- John Godfrey Saxe

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Well, Johann is just not ready for solids - he perfected his gagging today and threw up while I was trying to feed him breakfast. So I'll wait a week. I'm in no hurry. This is my last baby, I want to enjoy every moment of this. They grow up so very quickly. I can hardly believe that Glady is almost seven. She is going through such a vulnerable phase right now - alternating between mouthy and attitude and needing my attention and her Papa's very badly. I feel like I don't get to spend much time with her right now, she goes to school in the morning, comes home, has her snack and then needs a little quiet time; by the time she gets up, I am involved in dinner and then chivvying her through her homework is about the longest time I spend with her before bed.

On the other hand, the mornings with Pippa are precious. She is such a funny little thing. She is almost frighteningly articulate, and loves to help me when it is just to two of us. I often sit and feed Johann after we put the big girls on the bus, and read to Pip while I do. She loves her "preschool time" and likes to ask me if we can do a "project" together. She has decided that she is my official laundry helper, and I have been staying caught up with the laundry because she is very good about reminding me that I need to do it. Now if only I could get them to be so concientious sbout their room!

Phil encouraged me to write tonight, but I am so tired, I have been so tired recently. Hopefully this weekend I can catch up a little. I have so much to do, and while taking a little down time is good, being at half speed all the time is... frustrating. I am going to try to get to sleep soon. Tomorrow is going to be a long day in the office, trying to get everything caught up and prepared to go away overnight with Phil. On the other hand, I did get all the Christmas stuff put away in the under-eaves today, along with rearranging things so I can find the Easter box and the Thanksgiving box. And I made Phil potstickers. LIfe is good!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I fed Johann his first real meal today (it was oatmeal mixed with apple juice). He's tried to eat things before, by snatching off our plates or having totally unsuitable things put in his mouth by his father or grandfather, but this was his first official solid food. He didn't like it, of course. He gave me the sourest look and then practiced his spitting out and gagging skills. I think some got down, but mostly he ended up wearing it. I'll try again tonight, and hopefully he'll change his mind about food in a couple of days.

Glady was the earliest eater, I think. She snatched a handful of mashed potatoes and gravy off my plate when she was about five months old and they are still her favorite food. I don't remember what Juliet's first food was - probably rice cereal. Pippa decided early on that if she couldn't feed it to herself she was'nt going to eat it. She waited a little longer to start on solids because of that, but once she got going she weaned herself at ten months and never looked back.

It was frustrating, this morning, feeling like I only had enough energy to get the girls off to school and then feed Johann and Phil their breakfasts. Afyer that, I just wanted to curl up on the couch, but I had too much to do today to let that happen. Phil suggested a walk, so I made myself a travel cup of mocha, figuring that between the two of them I'd wake up, and set out. It was relatively warm , wet, and grey out. Despite the overcast, the snowshine hurt my eyes, so I looked down, mostly, at the tracks. The fox visits the compost pile regularly, along with the crows, and assorted other birds. He tends to follow my beaten path across the pasture into the woods. I suspect he lives in the den in the side of the ravine. I haven't looked into it in years, ans haven't yet bothered to track the fox all the way home.

Monday, January 09, 2006

All is quiet in the house - only Johann and I are up. I'll start coffee and my morning routine soon, but for now I'll hold onto him with one hand and wrote with the other. He has gotten so wiggly that keeping him from grabbibg the object of his desire is difficult. He would love to chew on the computer a little - or if not that, then at least the phone. Problem solved! Now he's on the floor on a blanket with some toys in front of him.

I think the most difficult thing as a parent is finding these moments (relatively) alone, and I have learned to treat them as golden. Now, of course, Glady and Juliet have come in, brightly greeting me with "Good Morning, Mama!" before they sit, one on each side of their brother. They are wearing identical pink pajamas this morning. Juliet has just noticed that her baby brother has pudgy little hands; she was a little worried about the "holes in his hands" before I explained that he has dimples where she has knuckles.

Johann is loving all the attention, of course, cooing happily and waving his toys at them. Now Pippa is up and sitting with them, talking about a broken toy. My morning moment is officially over, I need to get up and go make coffee and chocolate milk. I am lingering on listening to the girls talk among themselves and wondering at the amazing fact that I have four little treasures.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

It's a quiet Saturday morning here at Stonycroft. The kids are watching cartoons, Phil is in Amherst performing a magic show, and Dad has gone to the dump. I have stolen a moment in the office to launch a blog. Hard to believe that ten years ago I barely knew what the internet was, much less how to use it (or a computer). I've always been an old-fashioned girl. Now I get to broadcast my thoughts globally. Frightening, that.

My quiet moment is coming to an end. Glady just came in, hugged me with a big grin on her face and asked for a snack. And Johann is making inquisitive noises in the other room. I think he wants me to come feed him. Although it is hard to tell, these days. He often just wants to be cuddled. Poor little guy - still no teeth, and all his sisters had a couple by this age - he's cutting about four at once, I think. Molars. Six months old, and already he has to be different.

It is a beautiful day out. It has been snowing for two days and the sun came out today. It sparkles and shines, and the pine trees look like a postcard. It won't last, but it is so neat to see them frosted like a wedding cake. I went out in the woods yesterday and it was hushed and still. The snow was draped over everything like a down comforter and it was still falling. I could hear the flakes fall, it was so quiet.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006