Sunday, December 30, 2012

And There It Goes

I'm so grateful that we got to end this terrible year with Christmas, family, and friends. I know many people who have felt the same about this year. Honestly, it was all just too much for me and I am counting on the magic renewal of a new year. That's how it works, right? Everything is just instantly better as the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on January 1st? No? Of course it does! Huzzah.

There's much I could say about it all, but I'm not ready. I am grateful for all the good that regularly sneaked in, squeaked, and quietly rocked me on top of the waves of horror, shock, and pure Sad. I am grateful for the peace I felt at Christmastime. I was not the giant stressball I usually have been the last few years. This year, I was just grateful to wake up and watch my children open their presents. I was grateful to be able to provide a Christmas that lived up to my boys' hopes. I was grateful to feel ease even as water rose up the stairs of our porch and know that me and my family had many places to go should the flood destroy the floor of our home. I'm grateful that it didn't. I'm grateful that little Frida's eczema started to get better after being prescribed a new medication. I'm grateful that things are starting to come together and calm down at home. I am grateful for the promise of more frequent dates with my man and more time alone to do the things that fuel who I'd like to become and be. I am grateful for hot coffee in the morning and hot gifted chai at night. I am grateful for The Talking Heads, David Bowie, and Thomas the Train. I am grateful for farmers. I am grateful for my new phone and my new car. I am grateful for all the people in this world that show so much love even in the face of so much hate.

I am grateful for my children. I am grateful for my dog. I am grateful for my backyard flock. I am grateful for the farm I'm lucky enough to live on. I'm grateful for the town, for the coast, for the marsh. I am grateful for my husband.

I am grateful for all the beauty I experience every day and for the times I am lucky enough to capture it.

Frida fluffing and sniffing Grandma Fox's tree.

We started our Christmas celebrations by finding our tree at Rancho Siempre Verde just down the coast from us. They grow several different varieties all mixed together and provide marshmallows for roasting as well as a wreath-making station, tree swings, tractor rides, and some amazingly huge xylophones. This year we went as traditional as we ever have by chopping down a 10-foot Douglas fir, though we went for a sparse tree that really brought the feel of the imperfect perfect woods indoors. Though it was a freezing day with rain coming down like mad, we enjoyed the time with Birch's family and the fresh air we love so much here on the coast.

As Christmas drew near, we took the kids on a super-secret Christmas Adventure Mission down south to Santa Cruz where we rode the special Thomas Train! Keats and Frida both spotted Father Christmas, though both were more mystified and confused than excited. To his credit, he was very casual and didn't force them into anything. He just sat down next to them, gave them each a gift, posed for a photo, then moved on. Keats really enjoyed playing with the train tables and stamps. The rest of the planned activities were a bit much for him so we headed inside away from the freezing rain and wind to play in the arcade. Keats was most infatuated with the claw machine and the popcorn game. Frida was happy to play with all the prizes and Birch was a little too excited to finally claim the stegosaurus as his own. I was excited to find my favorite arcade game: Rampage! In the end, we were glad and ready to leave, but it was fun and a great time for Keats.


As we left, we discovered that Pescadero was flooding. We rushed home, packed up our things for the second time, put up the furniture as high as we could, and headed to a lovely cabin provided by our landlords to wait out the storm. The next morning, we were very happy to discover our home dry and the water already receding back. Though the water had reached higher than the previous flood earlier in the month, we still made it through and were able to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day at home as planned with all our decorations, our treats, and our beautiful tree.  

We watched Charlie Brown's Christmas and A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve and put Keats to bed. For the first time in three weeks, Keats slept all night in his own bed, knowing that Father Christmas wouldn't come if he didn't sleep in his bed all by himself all night long. (A little deception that was extremely useful. He slept three nights in a row all by himself.) Birch and I prepared for Christmas morning and fell asleep.

Nothing quite prepared Birch and I for the bliss of Christmas morning. Since our bedroom was still in uproar since the flood, we slept on a spare mattress in the living room, under the tree. Waking up snuggled amidst our warm, flannel covers and sheets set us up for a lovely morning. Frida woke up first and we played trains as quietly as we could. Keats slept in (!) and came out dazed and with a bit of a cold around eight-thirty. It took a bit to remind him that it was Christmas morning, but once it was clear, we opened presents all sitting on our snuggly bed. Keats most loved his Thomas engine and new underwear (here's to that enthusiasm lasting into potty-training). Frida was infatuated with her Schleich Guernsey cow family. As usual, Birch insisted on no presents from me this year (because I'm his present... wa-waa), so I got him a new can opener which he LOVED (he's owned the one we were using since college). I left Birch a not-so-subtle hint of an open shopping cart on his desktop and he bought me a beautiful top from Anthropologie that I'm obsessed with. It is so comfortable and the fit is lovely. I'm considering spending my Christmas money on a couple more in different prints. I need to build my wardrobe... badly.

Our Christmas continued with both sets of grandparents and we received even more goodies. Keats and Frida made out like bandits! The two family Christmases are so different from each other, it's nice. On one side, Chinese food take-out, minimal gifts, and lots of serious discussion and laughter. On the other, a homemade banquet, a plethora of thoughtful gifts, and lots of chaotic expressions of love and laughter. I love Christmas and the transition it has made in my life since my own childhood to now. I am grateful for my family and how our relationship keeps evolving as the years pass.

With four full days of Christmas under our belts, on arriving back home, I immediately set to rearranging the kids' room to accommodate all the new things. We're putting together boxes of purged toys and things to donate/toss depending on their state of awesomeness. I am so grateful for the generosity of both of our families. Every year is so lovely (and emotional; I broke down a couple times in the arms of my relatives).

So here is to a brand new year with renewed energy and patience. I hope to include lots of trips to delicious bakeries, more trips to fun places, more laughing, and far more gentleness and peace. I hope I can master myself once again and become the mother, wife, friend, daughter, and sister I hope to be. I hope to understand more and to be better understood. I wish for the world to calm down, take stock, and be grateful for what it has and strive harder to make itself a better place to live. I hope to hear more stories of love, peace, and understanding. I hope to be an instrument in the betterment of our world. It is a beautiful place, let's make it even more so.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Learning and Living on the Farm

We've been going out every chance we've been given. The weather is off and on raining and we're gearing up for flood season. The farm gets mucky but Keats loves to play in all the puddles, even the foot-deep ones. He stands in the middle with the water up to his waist peering in at all the leaves, swaying grasses, and bugs he can find. It's no wonder that Frida's first words were, "What's that?" as it is one of her older brother's favorite phrases as he explores the world around him. Both of my little ones are so adventurous and curious about everything they see and hear. It's this fascination with all things new that make having kids so much fun. As adults, we often forget the novelty and wonder in so many of the objects and happenings around us. A water strider swishing its way across the surface of a puddle, to Keats, is like finding the ultimate treasure. He invariably comes back from this outings cold and soaked, in dire need of a warm bath and perhaps a small cup of hot cider, too, or his very favorite: "a special, warm drink" which is merely milk, hot water, and a miniscule amount of raw honey. He loves to sip this sitting on the porch while Birch and I hang up his dinosaur raincoat and undress Frida.

Our dry, sunny walks around the farm are full of new life as well. Several litters of piglets have been born the last two months, either Large Blacks or Large Black crosses. The Large Black is a heritage breed and fairly rare in the United States. It is prized for its docile nature and mothering skills. They do extremely well on pastures and grow up to about seven hundred pounds (females). A mature boar can be about eight hundred pounds. The farm started off with two piglets raised them to be the wonderful mothers they are. The owners of the farm then acquired two boars from up north and started the breeding process. True to country style, they've taken in several various animals from the excess of other farms, including the white sow above. Birch and I are both learning a lot from the farm and our own research. Birch has grown a great affinity for pigs and his tasty adventures in the kitchen have spurred on his hope of becoming a pig farmer and charcutier. The more we discuss this with the owners, the more hope we have in accomplishing this goal. Perhaps they will even be the catalyst we need and hoped for, enlisting Birch in the butchering process, etc. We are so grateful to have friends so willing to pass on their knowledge to us. 


Our chickens and ducks, now numbering twenty-one all together, have had a few trying months with the move, the rain, and a couple of lost "friends." We finally decided to slaughter Shogun, one of our Ameraucauna roosters, as he was continuously attacking Keats (and me) and we felt that we had one too many roosters for our number of hens. Birch took him over to our friends, a couple who started their own pasture-raised poultry farm here in Pescadero, Early Bird Ranch, and they showed Birch how to go about the entire process. He ended up slaughtering seventeen chickens that day in exchange for the knowledge, equipment, and opportunity. Sending Shogun off that day was a little rough for me as I felt twangs of guilt, but I reminded myself that this was part of his purpose for us. Why we had raised and fed him each day and taken such great pains to make all our chickens happy and comfortable in their lives. We enjoy eating meat, but we feel very strongly that the meat we eat should exclusively come from animals humanely treated both in life and in death. We are grateful to him for providing us with a bit more experience and ultimately a wonderful meal. I feel myself tip-toeing around that subject, but that is what happened to Shogun and what will happen to many more of our birds, even the ones with names. And that is alright. We didn't buy them as chicks for pets. We purchased them with the goal of daily eggs, occasional meat, and endless entertainment and education.

Our ducks, it should be noted, are pets. They are Indian Black Runner ducks and are best prized for their pest management, a skill we plan on utilizing in our garden once it is up and running. We have one drake and two hens. We are beginning to be able to tell them apart. The drake is a bit taller, has a green bill, and iridescent foliage all over his body. One of the hens has a greenish-black bill and is all black while the other hen has an all-black bill and several white feathers speckled across her neck and chest. We are still considering names and may purchase two Blue Runner ducklings early next year along with our next crop of chicks. 

We've been to the beach several times a week, sometimes even just for a few moments before sunset, and each time we go we feel refreshed and free from the burden of the day. We've been visiting tidepools more and exploring different beaches up and down the coast from us. Keats is learning all about these new strange creatures that live in the water. We love hearing him say anemone, mussel, sea otter, kelp, and barnacle. He's a master at pointing out starfish, even the ones so cleverly camouflaged that even I almost step on them at times. I have a hard time teaching him to always watch the water, but he's learning it and remembers most times. I'm always on high alert, so for now, I'm watchful enough for us. My own mother told me a story that when I was about two, she actually saved me from an incoming piece of driftwood. She ran up and grabbed me up just in time and was whacked right across her shins. The wood would have surely knocked me down and at the very least could have given me a serious bruise across my chest. That story has stuck with me throughout my life as I know that it could have been much worse than a mere bruise. I know people laugh at our protectiveness sometimes, but I try to give parents the benefit of the doubt when it comes to safety. They know their kids, what they are apt to do or not do in a sketchy situation, where they are lacking and where they are sufficient. We've been asked when we'll let Keats go surfing and my response is always "Not for several more years." We get laughed at for that, but hey, he won't even let me put water over his head in the bathtub. I think swimming and surfing in the ocean is several steps away. For now, we are more than happy to explore the shore.


Finally, we celebrated Frida's very first birthday with a party. Her birthday came up so quickly, we could hardly believe it. She is such a sweet little thing. She is absolutely infatuated with animals and loves to dance. She is more than generous with hugs and kisses. She learns things very quickly and is quite adventurous, though she is shy around a lot of people. She is so different from her brother in so many ways and I love to watch her playing with him. He tells her about all the different pictures in books and has taught her the great wonder of cars and trucks (much to his annoyance, as now she loves to play with his toys). She follows Keats around like a shadow, but enjoys the hour or two alone with us before he wakes up and after he goes to bed. One of these days I'll put my foot down and put her to bed at the same time as him, but we're still putting together her crib so that's a few days off yet.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Autumn Reigns

It's been a very long time since my last entry. Summer has ended and the coast's largest pumpkins have been weighed. Our days are a mix of rain and breezy sunshine, with the dark of night coming on suddenly and earlier. The nights are crisp and we see the stars shifting.

We're settling in at home. The move proving to us, once again, that we'd like to be without so much cumbersome Stuff. It blocks passageways and sits untouched for weeks or months. It is passed time to say goodbye to those things inexplicably held onto as we look at more days inside---cozy but NOT crowded. Finding the time can be difficult, but that excuse has outworn its welcome. Time for a Fall cleaning before we drudge in so many leaves and so much mud and wet that we can no longer judge what's clean and what's not.

The kids are growing up, both in their own ways. Keats' imagination has come out since his older cousin's visit from England. Her near constant humming and dancing has rubbed off on him and it is so fun to see. He pretends that his different fingers are various people and places them gently into his cars to race or to drive to the beach. He gave Frida's dog stuffie a diaper change this afternoon and has really made some leaps forward on his fake phone call skills. Frida is walking and has added a few words to her one-phrase vocabulary that has monopolized her speech for the few months. Her first word? She didn't have one. She skipped right on ahead to "What's that?" She has now found that a tad limiting and has added Olive, Keats, Daddy, Thanks, and Yum-yum. She still feels that crying and turning bright red is sufficient when getting MY attention, so Mama/Mommy has not made its debut as of yet. She is eating most things we give her, most notably, a hunk of smoked pork freshly sliced from the whole animal at a local BBQ on the farm. She was sucking and chewing on it the entire duration of the party. It was fantastic. Sadly, I'm almost sure she's allergic to cow's milk as she's broken out in hives a couple of times after playing with what Keats spilled. Both occurrences were outside, however, so I may be overlooking another common denominator. Birch and I were discussing the possibilities of goat and sheep butters, concluding that they must be disgusting or too low in fats. Anyone out there know? Luckily, there are plenty of vegan alternatives around here and lots of knowledgeable farmers, too.

I really do love living here. We still yearn for a small farm of our own and Birch's meat dreams have graduated to a local charcuterie. I'm still unsure of my aspirations in life but a shop up for lease has caught my eye and reignited my desire for a kind of girly paradise shop. Think a small, local version of Walmart/Target. Ha! That's a somewhat odd description, but imagine your favorite, quaint little fill-in-the-blank shops and now smoosh and mix them together into a small shop you could peruse while visiting a lovely farming town on your way down the coast. You pick out a picnic blanket, that Schleich cow family you've been meaning to buy, a few packets of heirloom tomato seeds, and perhaps handing the kids over to Daddy while you sneak a surprise lingerie set for next Months' date night. Oh, and of course, you'll make a note of the mugs, plates, and designer fabrics for your next visit. Did I mention we have story time and lectures/classes for the local community? Oh, dreams... I especially like the part where we're open Thursday through Monday. And so I battle the ever-dueling need to follow my aspirations and the haunting pressure of Anxiety. In this particular case, the anxious worry is well-founded as there is so much to hurdle and tackle. Business plans, loans, child care, lease agreements, and I'm not even sure what else. It may be too much when viewed along with Birch's hopes for himself and that opens up a huge can of worms...

Putting all that aside and firmly in its place, we are settling into what we are and where we are right now. White-tailed kites and sharp-shinned hawks fly and hover over the field opposite us as the farmer drives his tractor across, readying the field for winter planting. The sheep eat the yellowing leaves from the low willow branches. The chickens have molted and are fluffing up once again as the nights drop with chill and frost. Apples simmer in a pot on the stove and we're finding fresh grapefruit in our CSA boxes. Birch is making pumpkin green curry again and we're licking our lips at the thought of scratch-chicken soup and white bean stew with pork. We'll see how our new home fairs in the coming months of rain, cold, and flooding. Should be an interesting ride. Let's see if I get any craft time, shall we?

We are a family of four renting a home on a farm on the coast.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome Home

We are now in the new house. Phew. It has been over a month and we're nowhere near settled or moved completely in but there is now a strong sense of Home eminating from the textured wood walls. The books are in shelves, toys are in bins, and clothes are mostly in drawers. The kitchen flow is still working itself out as is our new chore chart/schedule, but that will be dealt with.

This month barely held me together. Stress built as if the road crews outside our window were purposefully pouring tar and asphalt over me each day. My one escape from my own spastic thoughts was my collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder stories. I whirled through them lovingly but also desperately. I needed to be out of my head and when the last sentence charged through and ended, I was left with myself and it was frightening. Suddenly I realized I wasn't just stressed or overtired or frustrated. I was depressed. Really, clinically depressed. Usually that wouldn't scare me but I discovered that my ability to recognize it (and therefore deal with it properly) was gone. I could too easily explain the anxious Sad away. My life felt too hectic. There were so many variables that could be contributing (and definitely were) to my unrelenting oppressive mood. Realizing those variables were not the root cause lifted my mood, making me realize that what was going on could be alleviated or even eradicated completely.

So, I keep trying (and looking for a therapist).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Writing Letters [1]

A few months ago, I wrote about my first son who I gave up for adoption to a lovely and loving family. He's ten years old now and I decided that enough was enough. I was going to contact him and his family. "Hello, I gave birth to you!" What? No? That doesn't seem like something one says... Despite my complete bewilderment as to what to write, I contacted the agency. I was hopeful. I was sure I'd be in contact with my son and his family by now.
But, the agency lost track of my son. They suggested writing a letter and then they would forward it around to other offices that may know the family's new address. Okay...

I have to admit, I haven't written the letter. It's been three months, nearly four, and I still don't know what to write. I didn't know before and with the prospect of basically putting it into a bottle and letting it float to whoever finds it? I'm absolutely stumped.

So, I'm writing a letter to Keats and Frida. Why? I'm not sure. It won't be perfect, but luckily I don't have to turn it into a college professor. I have to turn it into a much more important audience: my children. I hope someday they will read it and understand it. I'll write many more in the future, but here's the first.

Dear Keats and Frida,

You are incredibly young at the minute but you are growing quickly. Keats, you are two and are absolutely insane over trucks. Frida, you're eight months old and today you had your very first major tickle fest, which you loved. We live on a farm in Pescadero and Daddy is a high school teacher.

I didn't always know Daddy. I know that won't completely compute until you're much older, but it's true. We dated different people before we met each other. They were nice but didn't quite pass muster. In some cases, we didn't pass muster with them. I know, right? Get used to it, though. And trust me, it's fine. You'll be fine when it happens to you. Frida, you especially will have to remind Daddy that killing your exes is beyond unnecessary. To both of you, Mommy will need to be talked down from "having a word" with your exes on a regular basis. But back to the point: Mommy and Daddy met each other and quickly fell in love. We got married and had you two. We both love you very much. We love each other very much, too. Love each other. Be kind to one another. Look out for one another.

I thought it would be much easier to tell you this, but I'm finding it difficult. I'll just say it: You have an older brother. Yes, Keats, you too. He's Charlotte and Henry's age. You see, way back before Mommy knew Daddy, back when she lived with Grandma and Grandpa, she knew another boy. He was sweet and Mommy loved him very much. Mommy and this boy made a baby, but we were both very young. Grandma was sick and Mommy was scared. Mommy made a choice. You see, there are lots of people who can't make babies even though they want to ever so badly. I was scared I wouldn't be able to care for a baby but I knew there were lots of people out in the world who would love your brother just as much as I did, if given the chance. When your brother was born, Mommy spent two days with him then gave him to a wonderful family. Your brother has lived with them ever since. Someday, I really hope to see your brother again. I hope both of you and Daddy will meet him as well and we will have a new, extended family. Some people may think it's odd or strange. Some people may tell you mean things, but don't worry. Everything about this is focused on love. I love your older brother just as I love you two.

By the time you read this, I'm sure I will have talked about your brother before, but I wanted to write this to you now. I wanted to make sure you had something that explained it a little more. You are both so young now, but you will grow fast and I didn't want to lose track of this. This is one of the most important parts of your life. You won't know your brother as well as each other, but I hope you will all make an effort to become friends. Mommy will try hard, too. I promise.

There were mistakes throughout my life, but we all make mistakes and that is okay. I will keep making mistakes. Most likely, mostly concerning you two. I'm sorry about that. Know that I'm trying to be a good mama even when sometimes I fall short.

You two will make your own mistakes. Sometimes, Daddy and I will be upset, but don't worry too much. All we want for you is to be safe, to be happy, to be you. We love you very much. I love you very much. By telling you my own mistakes I hope that you will feel comfortable talking to me about the things that worry you, about the mistakes you've made, about your hopes and dreams for your life.

Know that I love you, Keats and Frida. Know that I love your brother, too. Love yourselves. Love each other. Strive to understand each other and be friends.

My heart is yours,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


  • I ate the last scone.
  • I brought a book into the bathroom even though I didn't have "to go."
  • I still haven't put together a playhouse.
  • I thought something that happened the day before had actually happened the previous week.
  • I gave the chickens an entire bag of wilted spinach leaves so that I wouldn't have to pick out the slimy ones.
  • Birch and I haven't been on a real date in over eight months.
  • I forgot that sweet lady's name again at the farmer's market.
  • I still haven't mailed the care package to England.
  • After a year of living here, it took moving out to finally deep clean the house.
  • My hair is still falling out en masse thanks to hormones changing dramatically from pregnancy to childbirth to now.
  • I know all the "Charlie and Lola" episodes by heart.
  • Our cash jar system isn't working.
  • I burned the crust on a cheesecake.
  • I just busted into a huge bar of Norwegian chocolate complete with hazelnuts. Yum. Actually, I'm not embarrassed about that.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Four Years

Birch and I fell in love in 2007 after discussing our love for devouring lengua and our mutual dream to farm. We were married just six months after we met, in 2008. We bought a dog, Olive, and a rabbit, Harlequin. We moved into a small apartment and I began a serious patio garden that I worked on every day. It was an oasis amid the monotony of apartment complex living. In 2009 we moved to a larger apartment with a backyard and began an even bigger garden complete with artichokes, grapes, beans, lettuce, and the dream of chickens. Keats was born in April 2010. He has added so much joy, laughter, and growth to our lives. He is just a terrific kid. We were planning on staying in that two-bedroom place for years, but fate jumped in and offered us an opportunity to move to a small farming community on the coast. We thanked our lucky stars and moved in May 2011 and starting plans for a large chicken coop and our first flock. We bought seventeen chicks from the local Feed & Seed and built a coop with the help our families. Frida was born in November 2011. She is such a lovely, coy, and funny little girl. It is so amazing how different we people are from each other. I love watching our children grow up and seeing their distinct personalities shine through. Our dear little rabbit, Harlequin, died in March as did one of our chickens in June. Spotting some lovely ducklings at the Feed & Seed we bought four Black Indian Runners just after Keats' second birthday. Now we're gearing up to move into a larger house on the same property and sneakily devising plans on how to transition Birch from a commuting public high school teacher to a stay-near-to-home farmer who makes and sells delicious meat products created solely from locally and humanely-raised animals.

For the last four years I've known real happiness and ease with Birch. We have come to know each other in ways I've never understood anyone before. It is empowering to be with him, knowing how much he loves me and admires me. Being so close with another can shock your system and I just feel so lucky every day to be with such a wonderful man, husband, and father. I am so grateful for the freedom I was given to marry who I loved and who I chose. What a true blessing that is. I am so grateful for both of our families for being an ongoing support to us. You make us so much stronger than we are on our own and help us to create a better life for ourselves and our children. I am so blown away by the friends who have become our second family. All you honorary uncles and aunts mean so very much to us. You help us to recognize what is good and worth it in this world. I'm so grateful for Birch's colleagues who help him to see what good he can do in his profession. It came on him somewhat by accident, but he has learned so much from it and from you. Lastly, I'm so grateful for the community we've immersed ourselves in. You help us to see what we can accomplish if we choose. You do what you believe and help others to do the same, helping the community you live in become a better place in so many different ways. You truly are changing the world you live in. We aspire to be like you.

Thank you so much for helping to make our marriage a success. We love and admire each other so much. We have found happiness in each other which helps us to find happiness with ourselves. Life is definitely not easy, not a simple sequence of events that lead to happiness, but a rough and confusing maze of thought, reaction, and follow-through. Thank you, Birch, for dropping your stones down along with mine so we can find our way. I love you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Settling Down

Well, we're moving! Again...

We are so excited about the new place. It's on the same property with the same lovely owners in our beautiful little farming town by the sea. We've been more crunched in our current place than we thought we'd be as we completely failed at organizing our things as well as letting go of several things that have remained in boxes the whole year we've been here. Why did we keep them? Ugh. So, with the new place and the new-found space, both Birch and I are determined to do things right this time so that we're happy and comfortable from the start.

The new place is bigger with two bedrooms, a living room, dining area, laundry room, giant bathroom and kitchen. Easily twice the size of our current place, potentially (and more probably) three times the size. It's going to be a big change and very welcome. It has storage galore in comparison to our current one closet and I'm extra excited about the two garden sheds out back. I'm planning on turning one into a playhouse and using the other as a very handy potting/tool shed with a very minimal scattering of boxes that I just don't want in the house. There's a front and a back yard, both fully enclosed. There's a porch complete with a swing! That part of me that aches for my life in Virginia is greatly pleased by the prospect of a porch swing, let me tell you. The interior is very interesting and fun. It's an old house. We're guessing around the 30's but we'll need my father-in-law's opinion on that. Let me just say this: there's a built-in gun rack. Yep. It. Is. Awesome. Not really down with having a gun in the house but at least the rack is behind glass doors and lockable. And hey, Birch can always use it for fishing rods until I lose my mind and allow him to buy a rifle for hunting.

Our chickens and ducks are moving along with us, though they'll be kept away from the house. I am stoked about that. I'll miss seeing them so regularly throughout the day, but boy am I excited that 1) I won't constantly hear them crowing or going on and on about how they just laid an egg and aren't they just the cat's meow, 2) there will be no more chicken poop on our deck and therefore no need to sweep the deck three times a day, and 3) we'll be living far enough from the peacocks that I doubt they'll try to steal any more food or even hang out at all near us. (That last one? Oh yeah, the peacocks have been leading their ladies into our coop and stealing the chickens' crumble. I put about fifty dollars worth of food in there and it was gone the next day. Livid.)

So, instead of projects galore, we're simply packing and cleaning for a few weeks. I'll miss our first little place here in Pescadero, but I'll get over it. I'm sure I'll even miss the peacocks. I do love them in a fashion. They bring so much character to our little slice of heaven.

I am so grateful to our landlords for providing us with this opportunity. Pescadero has proven to be the dream that we hoped it would be. We are still blown away each time we come home to this amazing coastal community. It is so beautiful here with fresh, ocean air and gorgeous rolling hills and pockets of farmland. We're getting to know those around us and love visiting our weekly farmer's market and seeing our new friends and neighbors. It is such an amazing experience to be here. This move is just what we needed and wanted for ourselves at this point in our lives.

When you live in paradise, what else can you ask for?

Thank you for the love and support! All my love to you and yours...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Every day, Keats wakes up and busts through the door asking, "Where's Daddy?" Every morning, that's his very first question. Every day, when Birch gets home from work, we see him pull up and walk up the steps. Olive wags her tail and runs around the room, Frida crawls to the door squealing and whacking the floor, Keats hops around the room yelling with delight, "Daddy's home! Daddy's home! HI, Daddy!" Every day, he takes the kids for an afternoon walk around the farm so I can have some time to myself. Birch makes us dinner every day and it is always delicious. Birch makes me an espresso while I take my morning shower and leaves it on the bathroom sink to greet me.

Every day, Birch is a wonderful father. He has Keats help him do the outside chores: feeding the chickens and ducks, giving them plenty of water, collecting eggs from the nesting boxes, cleaning out soiled bedding, giving Olive a new bowl of water. They wash off toys and fold up blankets. Birch whacks away at weeds with Frida sleeping in the carrier, her head pressed firm against his chest. They go for walks, Keats pushing Frida in the stroller or pulling his very own wagon behind him. Birch stops and talks to the neighbors about fishing and making bacon. Sometimes he picks wildflowers and brings them home for me to put in a vase on the windowsill. Birch lets Keats play in puddles and takes him out in the stormy rain. 

Every day, Birch is a loving father. He changes diapers without complaint. Birch takes the kids to the transfer station with him while I sweep up the living room. He trims my parents' apple tree and uses the wood for smoking homemade bacon. Birch snuggles with both kids on the couch and tickles them until their laughter is silent and gasping. He kisses me and hugs me and says "I love you" in front of the kids as they look on with awe. Birch puts together furniture and reaches the things that are too high.

Every day, I love the man I call my husband. Every day, I love the man they call, "Daddy!" Every day we love him and every day he just gets better and better.
My Dad's Hands
by David Kettler

Bedtime came, we were settling down,
I was holding one of my lads.
As I grasped him so tight, I saw a strange sight:
My hands. . .they looked like my dad's!
I remember them well, those old gnarled hooks,
there was always a cracked nail or two.
And thanks to a hammer that strayed from its mark,
his thumb was a beautiful blue!
They were rough, I remember, incredibly tough,
as strong as a carpenter's vice.
But holding a scared little boy at night,
they seemed to me awfully nice!
The sight of those hands - how impressive it was
in the eyes of his little boy.
Other dads' hands were cleaner, it seemed
(the effects of their office employ).
I gave little thought in my formative years
of the reason for Dad's raspy mitts:
The love in the toil, the dirt and the oil,
rusty plumbing that gave those hands fits!
Thinking back, misty-eyed, and thinking ahead,
when one day my time is done.
The torch of love in my own wrinkled hands
will pass on to the hands of my son.
I don't mind the bruises, the scars here and there
or the hammer that just seemed to slip.
I want most of all when my son takes my hand,
to feel that love lies in the grip.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Up in the Air

I have decided that this past year was a test-drive. There was a whole lot of planning, shifting, moving, rearranging, cleaning out, and yet not much progress. The chicken coop was our major home accomplishment of the year and we are so grateful for all the help we received in order to make it happen.

Truthfully, this year made me feel a bit inadequate. We were really excited to move to Pescadero and throw ourselves into the rural life, but something was just amiss. Don't get me wrong, we still love it, still want to live here, and still very much appreciate the opportunity to make our dreams happen. This year just brought out my inadequacies when it comes to self-motivation, time management, and worst of all: stress and depression management. Getting through it. That was the name of the game this year. (By the way, "the year" in this case refers to June 2011 - June 2012.)

Like I said in my previous post, our situation is a bit up in the air as we figure out what to do about rent. Thankfully, someone else on the property is moving and we have been offered that house to move into. It's a bit bigger than our current place but would be the same rent. Other details are still a bit unknown, but it has a front and back yard, a front patio, and it's easier to find as it sits directly on the main road. The owners have offered to help move our coop (it's massive). It's still all just a conversation, I believe, but we're hoping it works out.

So, instead of fixing up our place like we planned this summer, we're focusing on sorting and discarding. Yard sales, Goodwill donations, deep cleaning, and trips to the transfer station with recycling, trash, and a broken vacuum cleaner... that's our summer this year. We're now strangely grateful that we didn't garden, didn't build that deck enclosure, and didn't wallpaper the bathroom.

Here's to this year. May it be a year of progress! Keep your fingers crossed with us as we sort out details on the new place.

Thanks and all my love!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Deflated. (Where I Complain a Bit and Hope You Won't Judge Me)

Driving home this evening, Birch and I didn't quite feel the regular sense of relief and wonder as we left busy suburbia, passed the beautiful ocean, the farmland, the hawks flying overhead, the barn. We pulled up our drive and just sat for a moment or two looking at our home without saying a word. The kids slept in the back without realizing a thing. Birch touched his hand to my knee.

"I just feel a bit unenchanted. Deflated." I said.

We got word today that our rent will be raised two hundred dollars a month starting in August due to unexpectedly large electricity bills (three houses, including ours, share the bill which the farm owners pay). This was a blow. They also "hinted" that the upkeep of our place was subpar and that was also a part of the rent increase... we aren't so sure what that means but it was another blow as we know we haven't done much good for the look of the place since moving in but we were waiting until Birch had more time to dedicate to upkeep once this summer hit and he'd have shorter hours at work (thankfully, he has a job over the summer months this year despite summer school being cancelled). So while I in no way begrudge the owners for needing to raise the rent, it will be a struggle we weren't expecting.

That being said, we're sucking it up, doing an electricity audit in our house, adjusting our budget yet again, and committing to a few hours of manual labor in the yard each day. Who knows, maybe this is the push we need to get our garden going, snazz up the decks, move the coop, build a new fence for the chickens and another one in front, install rain gutters and rain barrels, and power wash the decks. Oh, and paint the wind barrier on the front deck as well as enclosing it. I'll try to make it fun by showing our progress. Months of preparation and seeking of inspiration will slowly start to pay off.

All of this has proved to us yet again, however, that we really want to buy a place of our own. In this economic climate, people keep questioning whether to rent or buy, scared of foreclosure, property taxes, house maintenance, etc. When it comes right down to it, though I fear those same possibilities and inevitable payments, I want the decisions I make for my home to be mine and mine alone to make. (Well, including my family, obviously.) I want to be able to paint without asking permission first, to plant a garden however I like, build whatever additions/remodels I can afford and see fit. Though I absolutely adore our life here, we're still renting, and we were just reminded of that today.

Tomorrow will be better. If not, there's always homemade hazelnut chocolate ice cream waiting for me in the freezer.

Stay tuned for home improvement updates. I can't possibly postpone them any longer! Time to get to work!

What do you do when faced with an unexpected expense? What other expense is usually the first to go?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Positively Charged [7]: My Kids

After last night, this feels intensely necessary. Always good to remember the wonderful things in life:
  • Keats is getting pretty into dancing these days
  • Frida crawls and rolls over constantly
  • Keats repeats everything and is much easier to understand
  • Frida has recovered from "stranger danger"
  • Keats understands that he shouldn't pick up chickens near the roosters (Shogun especially)
  • With the help of a prescription, Frida's eczema is clearing up enough to give her a break from intense itchiness
  • Keats is now sleeping in a "big boy bed"
  • Frida loves reading books with us
  • Keats is now drawing every day
  • Frida gets through the night without a single diaper change
  • Keats says "thank you" on a regular basis
  • Frida loves playing with Keats and is much more interested in his toys than hers
  • Keats is getting better at playing with Frida and learning how to play gently
  • Frida is super social and smiley right now
  • Keats is really interactive with his environment and points out/talks about just about everything he sees and hears

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In awe.

I am completely in awe of all the mamas around me that somehow get up each day and do way more than their fair share which is each and every one of them. With my small load, I still feel as though if anything were added, I would spontaneously combust. Somehow, I'm making it through each day, but I looked in the mirror this afternoon and my eyes were sunken, my skin pale, my hair unwashed. I was shocked at what I saw. Wasn't I just dancing and singing with both kids in my arms not two minutes ago? When I let Keats watch "Pocoyo" while he ate his snack and sat on my lap, Frida sleeping in the other room, I fell asleep. I woke up at the end of the seven-minute "episode." (Keats hadn't moved an inch.) Is my body so starved for rest that it will fall asleep within seconds and take what it can get in that ridiculous time slot? Apparently.

I've struggled to keep up with my resolution of writing each day. My brain just freezes almost with the same consistency as my computer before it completely died a few days ago. Without the use of my computer (and photo processing software) writing each day has become even more difficult. So, I put out a request on good ol' Facebook and received some responses. Chickens, babies, projects, pictures, and my lovely friends. So I'm working on it. I promise, each one will be written but it may take a bit and a while.

Like I said, I'm in awe. I watch from my little place here and I am at a loss as to how you all do it. Friends, family, strangers... bloggers everywhere seem to be doing more with their time than I can see is possible with my own. Is this simply the virtual world playing tricks? Or am I lazy? A simplistic, do-the-minimal parent? I try to make my home a beautiful place and to give my children all the love and patience I can, but what happens when I am just too tired, too exhausted to give my family my all? What do I do to combat this when "sleep more" isn't an option?

I'm more than excited to see one of my very best friends in just a few days (who I haven't seen in months), to see my dear sister in just a few months (who I haven't seen in YEARS), and to see some more dear friends in the fall (who I also haven't seen in years). That said, and please don't understand the following to detract from my joy at the previous, I am feeling a serious hole within myself. I know who I am missing. I also know there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix it. I've done what I can and in some cases it's not enough; in others, it will take months or years to know the end result. Some people are just gone.

I'll leave it there for now, but know that I'm ruminating, writing, and mulling it over here in the background in a place that is so gorgeous and fresh I can barely believe it's home with my wonderful, dear family here at my side. Do not worry. We all have these times in life, right?

All my love.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unexpected Additions to Our 2012 Budget Plans

The Original Plan
  • Fence up an area of the yard to keep the chickens
  • Vegetable and flower garden
  • Duck enclosure in the garden
  • Kitchen storage
  • Buy a somewhat new car (!!)
  • Family visiting from the UK (!!)
  • Family road trip to Utah (!!) 
 The Additions
  • New computer (The battery on mine died forever last night and I'm not sure I want to invest in another battery for that computer as it was slow and the screen was broken.)
  • Pay off half our credit card debt (Ugh.)
  • Do not pay bogus AT&T bill and settle the insanity once and for all. I hate this company so, so much. (They put in internet to the wrong location on our property and then decided to bill us for it. Uh... no, not paying to not have internet, thanks anyway. Wonderfully enough, they've taken us to collections over it. Oh, credit score, see you later! Good times.) So this isn't so much an addition to our monthly payments but a way to help us retrieve our credit. (Oh, did I tell you that AT&T actually hangs up on us every time we call to try and settle this? Yeah. They're awesome!)
Why all this? We're gearing up to start thinking about looking for a house to buy. I'm more mentally ready than Birch. Pretty sure he thinks I'm insane. I spotted a place that I've deemed pretty much perfect for us and our budget, but as the above indicates, our credit isn't ready and the place has been taken off the market (not sure why, perhaps they're renting instead?) We've pretty much given up on buying a house with land attached as that just won't be possible for us and our finances. Not here in California, anyway. We don't want to wait years and years and I really don't want to be relying on someone else to go in on the property with us commune-style. Most people we know around here actually lease the land they farm on, so we're looking into that as an option. Buying property is so complicated. I congratulate anyone who has attempted/succeeded. Seriously, well done.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Offchance Chickens Understand English

Dear Chickens,

You give us beautiful and delicious eggs every day. Each of you have gorgeous feathers and distinct personalities. Angel, you are so lovely with Keats. You're his favorite. Lucy, you love to follow me around and take treats quite gently from my hand (unlike Quince who just about murders me every time). Cider, you are intensely curious and always up for adventure. Ronin, you're a good rooster and keep excellent care of your flock. You do a stellar job of teaching Caesar the ropes, too. Poppy, you've gone broody and you're quite possessive of your space and the eggs under you. Perhaps next spring, if you're exhibiting the same behavior, we'll allow you to hatch some out and be the mother you wish to be. My love to you, sweetie.

Chickens, I love you but you're driving us crazy. It's our fault, really. We gave you full range of our entire yard. We're novice chicken owners so we're learning right along with you. I have to warn you, though, Birch has a bit of a short fuse lately when it comes to you traipsing around on the deck, pooping everywhere. I have to tell you that we're planning on enclosing the deck as well as fencing off a section of yard around your coop. You'll no longer be able to go wherever you please. Don't worry, though, you'll still have plenty of access of grass, bugs, growing things of all kinds. You won't be able to eat our blueberry bushes, pick at and destroy the one remaining and thriving container, lay eggs under the house, or jump up on the roof or window boxes. To compensate for all that, we'll give you the compost pile. Trust me, there's plenty of awesome to scratch at in there. 

Also, Shogun, you're lucky you're so pretty. Your days are numbered my friend. Although let's be real, you're kind of my nemesis.

Mama Fox

Friday, May 11, 2012

Transforming a Day

I think every one has a Day. One single day that strikes their heart like the dong of an hour they never really wanted to see. An anniversary of some unhappy event that refuses to dull its pang each following year its acknowledged.

Two days ago I celebrated the birth of my very first child, E. He's ten years old now. I'll never regret his birth or his life, but today is a much different day than two days ago. Today is my Day. It is the day I signed too many pieces of paper, held him in my arms for the last time, and watched a man strap him into a car seat and walk out the front door. I've never seen little E in person again. For the next year, I received letters and photos from his adoptive parents, but I allowed my weakness to take control and never wrote back. I never knew what to say. I thought about it too much. I wanted to write a letter a small child could understand, but I also wanted it to speak to the teenager, the twenty-something that would most likely reread it in the future as he tried to understand why I chose what I did. I stressed over it so much that I never finished a single letter. Countless first lines crossed out, erased, torn to pieces but never sent.

Every year I've wished I'd done something to commemorate E's birth instead of sulking in a corner scared of the day. This year I intend to do it. Like E, who's parents promised to always be truthful about his adoption, I intend to educate my children on the subject as well. They will always know they have an older brother.
So, "we" made a giant brown sugar cookie. We lit a candle and Keats blew it out. He's still too young to understand the meaning behind the ritual (he barely understood his own birthday party), but to him it was a Special Treat.

During nap time, I decided to get in touch with the agency I used so many years ago to find out how I could write and send a letter, etc. It's been too long. It's been too empty. It's been too quiet. It's time to get in touch. Unfortunately, with all the moving that goes on in ten years, it's proving a bit difficult to find E's family. Hopefully I'll hear back next week. My folder is out and on the counselor's desk!

Perhaps by this time next year I will have seen my son for the first time in over nine years, I will have written and received several letters, and Mother's Day will be that much brighter.