Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our 2011

In January I cut off about 54" of hair and Keats began walking by himself!

In February, our garden burst into life and I found out I was pregnant with baby #2!

In March, we sprang outside whenever the rain dissipated and explored.

Keats turned a year old in April!

In May, we decided to move to a wonderful cottage on a coastal farm.

In June, we finally found out that we were having a girl.

We began settling into our new home in July.

And explored the treasures of our small town, like this local goat cheese shop (and farm), in August.

In September, we bought a medium-sized flock of chicks to raise in our yard.

I made a fox costume for Keats for Halloween in October.

And Frida Beatrix joined us in early November!

As usual, December was filled with lots of visiting and laughter!
All in all, our year has been fantastic and full of joy. We are very grateful for the opportunities we've been given this year and for all the love we feel each day. We know how fortunate we are to live where we do and for Birch to have the job security he does. 2011 was a crazy year, again, in the world and though Birch and I are increasingly frustrated with it, I am so grateful that our small patch is chugging along happily and, thankfully, pretty near untouched by the financial crisis. That is a lot compared to so many who have lost so much over the years. We're happy to be where we are and love all that we're discovering.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Finding Calm

The winter holidays are crazy for everyone, it seems. To-do's galore and visiting pretty much everyone you know that you possibly can, coordinating family get-togethers and cleaning up, decorating and documenting, wrapping and unwrapping. It's easy to get lost in the whirlwind of activity and even easier to fall down the slippery slope to hyperventilation and daily panic attacks (not good).

So, each day, if I possibly can, I focus in on the calm, quiet moments--those beautiful details that make the crazy worthwhile.

A line of owls looks over us as we eat at the dining room table.

Our Christmas tree--a Sequoia--has a beautiful contrast of colors.

A luxurious, soft throw that keeps us cozy on the couch.

Everything is better with gentle light.

Light wood ornaments dangle from the tree.

Small, globe twinkle lights are perfect for our simple tree.

Wood reindeer (napkin rings) watch over us as we read stories in the living room.

Locally made trees add a soft touch to the windowsill.

The fox from our wedding cake walks across the snowy, winter windowsill.

Frida's hand-crocheted blanket is perfectly warm for cold December nights.

A mirrored star dangles from the ceiling just above the tree reflecting the light.

Colored pencils stand at the ready for moments of inspiration.

Locally made ceramics add a decorative touch to practicality.

A bowl of sweet is just right when days are short and nights long.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our New Little Lady

Frida Beatrix was born on November 3rd and has been an absolute joy. Weighing in at 8 lbs. 6 oz., she's been healthy from the start, though our familial cold at the time of labor has had its effect on her as well. She's doing just fine, though, as long as we keep up with the nasal aspirator and saline drops before bedtime and in the morning.

Meeting Keats for the first time was really special and quite funny, too, as Keats really just wanted to play with the bassinet's wheels. He's has been a very loving and attentive older brother and at times even helpful--handing me a burp cloth or giving Frida her pacifier. Sometimes he's a little too loving and we have to intervene a bit, but we're very happy with how seldom he is angry with Frida and her new place in our family. He loves being an older brother it seems and loves reading I'm a Big Brother by Joanna Cole (thanks Lopez family!) That book has definitely helped us to explain why Frida gets to breastfeed when Keats doesn't as well as the things Keats gets to do that Frida can't. 

Having two is definitely a challenge and some days my brain feels a bit fried, but it's so worth it. We're very happy to have our new little lady. One thing that's been extremely difficult is taking pictures! Frida didn't like to be put down for the first five weeks (ugh... my arms are tired) so taking her picture was a challenge, especially with the addition of a crazy Keats. Now that she's more inclined to sleep for longer periods by herself, I'll be able to snap away like I did when Keats was her age. These newfound hands-free moments have meant more "alone" play dates with Keats and his toys. The first day Frida slept by herself for *gasp* two hours, Keats recognized my freedom immediately and we read each and every one of his books--some more than once. Having that time with him was really special and it made me realize what a challenge it will be to show both children adequate/equal attention throughout their lives.

Birch is really a dream. He helps so much and so often--he's a spectacular papa. With Frida so little and dependent on me, Birch has been mostly delegated to playing with Keats. They've had some really fun times since Frida was born: going to the beach (the "big water"), playing in the yard and going for long walks, and major tickle fests when it's just too cold and wintry outside.

Getting our family rhythm back/adjusted is definitely a priority and we're coming along. We're closing in on Birch's winter break from work and I couldn't be happier about that. As usual, the holidays are jam-packed with visiting friends and family, but we're planning on having some quality time at home, too. I love seeing all the people that live so far away. I miss them so much throughout the year. The short time together is never enough, but it's all a part of growing up, I guess. We move apart, build new relationships, families grow, priorities change, etc. Birch and I often disappear from the world but we hope our friends and family know how much we love them. For now, we're still getting to know little Frida as well as our new home. As much as we look forward to seeing those people we love so much, we're also looking forward to some quality family time at home.

What will we be doing?

Building a chicken coop, putting more boxes away from the move, putting up another wall of framed photos, decorating for the winter season, chopping down our first "actual" Christmas tree, and drinking lots of hot cider and mead. 

This season is one of my favorites. I hope you are having a wonderful winter and have some truly splendid holidays!

All our love,
Birch, Kristine, Keats, and Frida!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The "Calm"

Little Baby #2 is due in just eight days. Eight days.

Keats and I have both sustained a terrible coughy cold for the last couple of weeks. Thankfully, Birch hasn't seemed affected. Two nights ago my entire body itched like mad and didn't subside until this morning with the help of sprays, ointments, and a couple Benadryl. If it comes back, I have the nurse's phone number. Not sure what caused the outbreak, but I haven't felt like that since I discovered I was allergic to penicillin several years ago.

Olive helped Nick the farm dog track and chase a pesky raccoon that was trying to break its way into the barn and then our yard. She growls at strangers on a regular basis, but we learned that night that particular growl is not her "real" growl. A much more terrifying, deepset growl came bellowing out of her as she stood her ground against that raccoon, the two staring at each other through the glass sliding door before I let her out once the raccoon had moved far enough away to make an escape once I did. Having lost a cat to a raccoon, I know the damage those scruffy puffballs can do, so I didn't want Olive to actually be able to catch or corner it, just let it know with no uncertain terms that it was not welcome in our yard. Its muddy footprints are all over our car. The battle continues.

One of three Ameraucaunas.
Golden Sebrights getting a drink of fresh water.
About a month ago, Birch and I purchased seventeen chicks from the local farm supply store. Birch will take seven to school to populate his garden there. He made a deal with his students that if they brought in the money to purchase a chick, they would have naming rights. To his astonishment and delight, seven of his students remembered and ponied up the five bucks (per chick), so off we went to the store to select the lucky seven. Our lovely landlords offered up their brooding box and supplies for us to use as the chicks grew, so we bit the bullet and purchased ten for ourselves as well. The store had quite the variety that day, so Birch snagged one of each for his garden flock, and I picked out my favorites. We ended up with two Buff Orpingtons, two Black Sex Links, two Silver Laced Wyandottes, two Rhode Island Reds, two Blue Andalusians, three Ameraucaunas, two Golden Sebrights, one Old English Game, and one Australorp. I have to admit that the Blue Andalusians were picked almost purely for aesthetics as they are quite flighty, but they are gorgeous. I've also read that the Old English Game is a bit of trouble in a bantam-sized package, but it is all part of the learning process. I visit them each day not only to give them fresh water and starter, but to get to know them or more importantly for them to get to know me. One of the Wyandottes and one of the Ameraucaunas have been the most interested in befriending me, the Wyandotte consistently pecking at my hands for me to pick her up and pet her. It's been startling to see their personalities come through so quickly. So, as we wait for them to grow, I'm designing their coop and run for our yard and doing a ridiculous amount of reading and research on their care. It's really exciting to finally push our way into this world we've coveted for so long. From here we'll set up our new garden with raised beds, half barrels, and hanging planters, a new and larger run for Harlequin the bunny, and eventually a large play structure for Keats and his sister! Our plans will take at least several months, and in some cases years, to see through, but we're so excited to be in a place where making it happen is actually possible and encouraged.
Silver Laced Wyandotte dozing under the heat lamp.
Old English Game chick.

As for going into labor in the next week or so, I feel ready. There are things I wish we had done already, like the purchase of that new car and Birch's sub plans for school, but I feel like the rest is falling into place and my body and mind are ready for a grueling ordeal. We're nervous for the reality of having two very small children, but I'm sure we'll make it through. Our families and friends are so supportive and eager to help, it's such an amazing gift to have them in our life.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A First, Small Tour

 The barn on the farm is absolutely amazing. We assume it was converted from a greenhouse. It is an extra convenient place to visit on cold, dreary days when we would otherwise be stuck inside as it is warm (and sometimes even a bit muggy) and dry. Keats loves visiting the barn and knows all the animals residing within it. There are boarded horses, several cats, parakeets, a cockatiel, two parrots, two rabbits, and a spot for the only dog allowed to roam the farm freely, Nick. Sometimes the other sheepdogs are also kept in a few of the enclosed stalls. Our cozy cottage is situated right next to the barn, so we hear all its to-doings throughout the day and night. We've become used to the noise, though one particular horse gets especially restless in the early hours of the morning and kicks around his oat bucket, which can be frustrating but luckily, hasn't woken up Keats once. The owners are planning on replacing the glass which saddens me but I'm sure it's due to the safety of the animals so I won't sulk too much when it happens. 
Several days a week, Birch and I purchase eggs out of the barn refrigerator freshly gathered from the poultry coop across the farm. The coop produces two dozen eggs a day and they are absolutely amazing. The yolks are a brilliant gold yellow. I love the process of washing and drying the eggs, too, before setting them in our fridge. And you can't go wrong with always having access to a fried egg on whatever you please.
These are just two of the barn cats. The one on the left, who we lovingly refer to as Grey Kitty, is ridiculously friendly and sometimes tries to sneak into the cottage to get some extra attention. He's not allowed, however, and it's always funny watching Birch try to get him out without touching him (Birch is allergic). Keats gives him pats and hugs, sometimes kisses, and usually they enjoy a bit of a wrestle, too. The other cats are much more shy, but friendly and usually would appreciate at least one little pat.

 Ah, the sheep. These are Doerfler Sheep, a meat breed. They have a different kind of wool (it's actually hair) that doesn't contain lanolin, making the meat taste less gamey than some other meat breeds. As you can see, it also doesn't require shearing and looks a bit funny. There are nearly one hundred roaming different pastures across the farm. It's a bit of a game to see where they will be each day.

 Two of the boarded horses out in their pasture. Most of the horses are chestnuts or bays, but there is one grey Arabian that loves to show off and is Keats' favorite. The horses are usually at least a bit interested in us when we come to visit, but these two, without fail come straight over to say a quick hello before continuing their day-long grazing session. The flies are pretty intense on the farm, so they all get a mask to alleviate the onslaught. Since we're so close to the barn, we often have several flies poking their nasty noses in our business. Let's just say that Keats plays at killing flies and there are several rolled up catalogs lying about the house most days.
 There is a good mix of chickens in the coop. My favorites are the Blue and Buff varieties, though our landlord prefers the Rhode Island Reds and the Black Orpingtons. I have to admit that my preference has everything to do with appearance and not egg production. It's the girl in me coming out. Visiting the coop is, at the moment, Keats' favorite part of our daily farm walks. Since the season began, we've been bringing them our moldy blackberries to snack on, so the chickens seem to enjoy our visits, too.

 We aren't quite sure what the purpose of the geese is, as a few seem a bit old and we haven't seen any goose eggs (though we've had several duck eggs). Perhaps, come Christmas, we'll find out their purpose. Birch wants everything to have a purpose (usually culinary), but I would like it if just some of the animals were allowed to just live on the farm. We'll see... A certain brown duck has recently been sitting a clutch of eggs, so maybe in a month or so we'll have some ducklings to play with!

 These two lovely ladies are Large Black pigs, a docile breed that are slated to be the matriarchs of a new farm endeavor - pork production. If you know Birch at all, you know this is the aspect of the farm he is most excited about. Studs are coming on Tuesday to get the process started. Should be an interesting learning experience for us all. We love to give them our apple peels and cores and the one or two apples per bushel that have a worm or two in them. And believe me, these ladies love it, too!

Though it's hard for me to think of eating the animals we visit here on the farm, I also feel very strongly about proper and humane treatment of the animals we as a race consume. I know these animals are well loved and cared for. They live good, happy lives. They are healthy and clean and are free to roam about. I don't believe large-scale meat-producing companies pay much attention to people they consider out of their market, so I think it's important for those of us that feel comfortable eating meat to make a stand against ill-treatment and unhealthy living conditions regularly maintained by the heavy producers. By purchasing only meat raised humanely, I hope a message is sent to corporations to change their ways in order to produce healthier meat.

It's a whole lot of fun living here on the farm and we learn so much each day as we watch the owners go about their daily chores, etc. We hope to start our own, small chicken coop sometime soon and to get our vegetable garden going strong as we make our way into the new year.

There is so much more here on the farm to show you (like the cows!) but that will have to wait for another day. I hope you are all well, healthy, and happy. This next month will most definitely be a doozy for us, so be patient with us as we prepare our nest for another little wandering adventurer. I've also started to feel the pangs of anti-social pregnancy behavior welling up inside me, so hopefully I don't offend too many of my friends and family as I withdraw into my lair. I totally forgot about this happening last time, so hopefully I can keep it together.

All my love to you and yours!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Listening to Your Body

This last week was crazy. I realized that I was more stressed out than I'd ever been in my life and that includes planning our wedding three years ago (a nightmare). Everything just built up so quickly and I couldn't figure out a way to escape it. I was exhausted, dehydrated, and fully on-edge. Our finances took a huge hit with two unexpected expenses and I just broke down. I found myself in the shower crying to myself because that was the only place I could be alone. Birch and I had a long talk and figured out how we would handle the next few months. We sorted out our financial situation (luckily) and were on the road to emotional recovery when--BAM--Saturday afternoon happened.

I felt strange. More than just tired and thirsty, more than just a headache, more than just normal pregnancy discomfort. Something was off. I called the advice nurse without any real idea of what I would say. I was in pain, I was uncomfortable, I didn't want to raise my head up at all, my entire torso felt tight, and my back was on pins and needles. Every time the baby moved the pain went up two or three times. The advice nurse said to come into Labor and Delivery. It was simultaneously exactly what I did and didn't want to hear. We hurriedly packed up Keats, left Olive, and drove the hour to the hospital. About twenty minutes before arriving, I had four contractions within a fifteen-minute span. This was not good. Holding back tears, I sighed relief as we pulled into an emergency spot at the hospital. I insisted on walking into the department because I felt like I could feel what was going on in my body that way, instead of numbing out while sitting in a wheelchair. With cords going from me to machine, we called my parents who very obligingly came and picked up Keats so that we could concentrate on what was going on. The contractions stopped and it was determined that I was not in pre-term labor because my cervix was doing just fine and staying put like it should. The baby was doing just fine, too. She moved all over the place like she always does and her heartbeat was constant and good. It was a huge relief. I drank loads of water and a bit of juice and was released five and a half hours after arriving diagnosed as dehydrated. It was a simple explanation, one that we expected, but I can't tell you how glad we were to be leaving the hospital with a healthy baby still baking away in the oven. I broke down a bit as we passed the neonatal ICU and squeezed Birch's hand, "Aren't you so glad we aren't dealing with that right now?" I asked. He nodded, gave me a big squeeze, and we both thanked God that we'd been spared the stress and heartache of a dangerously early birth.

Sufficed to say, the experience was a jolt to our systems. Birch took Keats for the entire rest of the weekend, letting me rest as much as possible. I'm drinking ridiculous amounts of water and we finally bit the bullet and have cut off Keats' breastfeeding experience. I'm starting to feel my body make its way back to normal and although it didn't seem like much was done at the hospital, I know that so much knowledge and expertise went into that experience and I'm so grateful that I listened to my body and went. I can't imagine the terror I would have felt had I been at home having those contractions without a clue as to why or what was happening. Now I know and it is this: I need to slow down, relax, and take care of my body first and foremost. Arranging our new home can wait, I can put Birch in charge of more baby-related chores when he is home, and I can definitely make sure I drink plenty of water from now on. I feel so guilty that I brought that experience on myself and to my family. It was a classic example of how not taking care of your mental and emotional self can have a serious and direct impact on your physical self, potentially causing life-threatening situations. I've been thinking that this pregnancy has been so easy, especially in comparison with the last, but that difference can't translate into me not taking care of the very basic duties of being a pregnant mother: resting, drinking plenty of fluids, eating right, and keeping stress as far from your life as possible. With eight more weeks before due date, it's hard to just shuffle all the planning into the background, but I have to do a better job. Luckily, I have an amazingly supportive husband, family, and friends.

This weekend, Birch has suggested I take a little vacation for myself away from mama responsibilities. I'll spend it away from home, hopefully doing a bit of fun shopping and much-needed me-time. I may even get my first pedicure since a friends' wedding about ten years ago. (And yes, that means I didn't have one for my own wedding... whoops.) Any more suggestions on how to spend two days and two nights? Go to a museum and actually look at the pieces for longer than three seconds each? Eat lunch at a restaurant and take as much time as I'd like to do it?

To reiterate, all is well with me and with baby #2. It seems we can't quite make it through a pregnancy without some kind of scare, but I'm glad we've come through unscathed yet again (last time 'round it was the unrelenting fainting spells).

I promise I'll post soon with photos galore of the farm and all the fun things we've been doing this summer. We truly love it in dear Pescadero and are so happy we made the decision to move there, despite all the stress that has ensued since. Sometimes a place is just worth it and this place has enabled us to fulfill so many dreams all at once, it's glorious.

Hoping you are well!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time is Flying By

With the move, a busy toddler, and Birch only having two weeks of vacation from teaching, time is just flying by and we can hardly believe that we're already in the middle of August! Only two and a half months until Baby #2 is born. Only one three-day weekend vacation for Birch between now and then. We're more than a little shocked at how quickly this pregnancy has progressed.

I've taken some precious alone time to arrange books and toys on shelves and Birch and I put up some new storage space in the kitchen. We agreed on a new arrangement of some furniture and to finally go get some folding chairs from IKEA for visitors to perch on while they witness the craziness that is our life these days.

The Nisse folding chair from IKEA in white.
It's not the most amazing chair in the world, but it fits our budget for now as we'd like to slowly accumulate furniture as we can afford it instead of taking in lost souls on the street like we did with our last apartment which ended in clutter and stress, not to mention my general disapproval of the design and layout of our home.

As we look into the next few months and scrounge about in our budget, we're expecting a new car (!) that will accommodate two car seats and a certain black dog (we're hoping for a Subaru Outback post-2005), a new convertible car seat for Keats, a crib and accoutrements, and a lovely double stroller that will fold up smallish but still withstand the dirt roads of our new home and our twice-daily farm walks. Those four things are the absolute necessities. Sticking to our budget now will help us to afford more later and we're slowly figuring out what is a comfortable compromise between our love for the simple life and the niceties of the tech-savvy world we live in. By the new year I hope we'll be in a position where we can afford a new couch and maybe a few fruit trees as well. I keep telling myself that it is okay to for our new home to be an ongoing project. I'm a natural nester anyway, but with pregnancy winding down I feel the urge to organize and decorate even stronger. Some days it is unbearable and I become quite frustrated, but for the most part I'm able to talk myself through it as I've planned so much and measured every last corner I am sure it will eventually be the place I envision.

Our little girl will be here so soon. We've settled on two potential names and can't wait to meet her in order to decide once and for all. Keeping our choices a secret has been nice for me. I'm not sure Birch quite sees the point of it, but I've enjoyed having that little bit of intimacy between us. With so much going on with Keats, keeping our little girl's name to ourselves has helped me to focus on her as well. Perhaps it wouldn't matter either way, but I like it this way and most people have understood and are patient.

All in all, our life as a family has been quite pleasant lately. It's easy to get lost in the madness sometimes, but we're enjoying ourselves to no end and can't wait for the new little one to join us in November.

Here's to you as I hope you have (or find soon) the fulfillment our little family has found with each other. In my opinion, it doesn't matter much what brings you contentment and peace as long as you are able to recognize it and share with others. All our love to you and yours.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fabric for a New Home and a Little Girl

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. We're still recovering, still without phone or internet at home, but slowly making process on settling in. We celebrated Independence Day and our third anniversary and I had a private birthday party in my head for my lovely niece who lives in England accompanied by a Hostess cupcake (my one real indulgence in the world of processed foods) complete with candle. Things around here don't seem to be slowing down at all anytime soon, so hopefully once Birch has some actual summer vacation we'll be able to really enjoy family time without the worries of commuting, planning, and doctor visits. Please, oh please. Those will be two sweet weeks which I fully plan on savoring before Birch starts up the new, regular school year.

So, in the quiet moments when Keats is asleep, I daydream about fabric. Perhaps odd, but I love it. There are so many projects whirling around my head that I'd love to complete by the end of the year. That playhouse that is seriously overdue, picnic blankets, crib bedding for both Keats and our little girl, some outdoor bunting to brighten up the full-of-potential backyard that now only has three dying tomato transplants and a thriving bunny, and perhaps even a few pieces of clothing for me, Birch, and the little ones. We'll see what gets done and what is put on the back burner.

Here's some fabric I've been eyeing:
Zoe Pearn Designs Alphabet Soup in Argyle Orange
Rosette Cherry by Valori Wells Wrenly
Chicken Eggs in Maize by Sentimental Studios Farmyard
Anjou Pour Vous in Yellow by Michael Miller
Zoe Pearn Designs Alphabet Soup in Circles Green
Mamma Birds in Mandarin by Valori Wells Wrenly
Solid Crosshatch Sun by Timeless Treasures
Foxes by Monaluna Organic Anika
Lou Lou Thi Laminate in Summer Totem Tart by Anna Maria Horner

What fabrics are you craving these days? Happy fabric shopping!