Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas and birthdays, oh my!

Not only do we get to celebrate Christmas, but two days afterwards, we get to celebrate Kai's birthday.  My first born is ten, and pray tell, how did that happen so fast?  I am not ready for this new development of double digits.
Ten years ago, I gave birth to him at home, or rather a friend's home closer to town, just in case of an emergency.  I remember this day vividly, mostly the relief that it was finally happening, that this little being finally chose to make his or her appearance after being three weeks too late.  One more day, and we would have to induce labor in the hospital.  So on December 26th, in the early stages of labor, I paced up and down a path flanked by gigantic cedar trees.  As I leaned on Steve every now and then, panting through a contraction, I caught glimpses of Chuckanut Bay, the salty water churned by wind.  Surrounded by friends and a very competent midwife, I pushed that baby out at 1 in the morning, December 27th.
It's a boy!  Shiny and new at two days old! We look tired, but proud.
Kai has always been an easy going guy.  He spoilt me as a parent... I thought I was a really great mother - and then Lukas came along.  And then Eva... I will never judge a mother again relative to how her children behave.  Really, they are all so different, and even though Eva is more, uhm, spirited than Kai doesn't mean one is better or worse.  (Please remind me of this when I tear my hair out, nerves on edge, after Eva throws yet another fit and won't listen to me, no matter what I say.)
Here is Kai growing:

We love the outdoors, so we kept hauling him up mountains with us.  He even got to sleep in an old fire lookout when he was ten months old.  Here we are, snuggling and nursing in the morning, with a killer view:
Hidden Lake lookout
Cascade Pass
Eastern Washington
Oregon coast
And he is growing...
...and growing...

Here is Kai on the morning of his tenth birthday, very happy about the wooden long bow his daddy made for him.  He might go hunting this fall.  Hunting!  The adolescent bringing home meat for the family!  Wow!

For his birthday celebration, there were lots of home made treats, roller skating with his friends, and tracking bears in the snow.

Our Christmas was fun.  And hard.  And fun.  And hard.  There are so many expectations floating around about Christmas needing to be perfect, extra special and sacred.  There are painful memories to be relived from childhood Christmases.  There are children hyped up on sugar and excitement.  And yet... our little family had a good Christmas.  We are making our own traditions, we are trying to stay away from the commercialization of this season, and we are okay with not living up to insane expectations (most of the time).

After all these celebrations and merry making, I got violently sick for a day.  I spent yesterday on the sofa sleeping and in front of the toilet bowl, throwing up.  Yuck.
This set me back in my packing plans for the RV.  We are supposed to leave January 2nd to start our grand adventure, and I haven't cleaned the house for the house sitters, packed up the RV, kitchen, food, bikes, clothes...  I haven't eaten anything for 36 hours, and I am weak and tired.  So here I am, writing this post, instead of working.  And I kind of like it, this concept of taking care of myself and not sweating the small stuff.  It's all gonna be done in time, I know it.  With a man like Steve at my side, everything is possible.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Images from our morning walk - an enchanted world

A miracle happened this morning:  The sun showed herself for more than two hours!  Steve, the little wee one, and I went for a walk just behind our house.  Here is what we saw:
It's gonna be a white Christmas!
Looking to the South.
Methusela's beard.
More Methusela's beard, hiding a little cabin in the woods.
The wee one playing in the moss.
Water, water, everywhere.
Magical forest.
Bear track.  There are lots of bears around here, and they don't hibernate.
Eva and me hugging a tree. She likes to do that.
Rotting maple leaves on cedar, backlit by rare sunshine.
Mushrooms and different mosses on a tree.
More mosses.
A hill of sword ferns.
Heading back home again.
Although this winter wonderland is very magical, it's also very wet and cold.  And the sun doesn't make lots of appearances in the winter.  We get 100 inches of yearly precipitation here.  That's a lot of rain!  So this year, we will flee this wetness and cold.  In January, the whole family will embark on an adventure of epic proportions, namely a camping trip to the Californian Redwood Forest, and then to Arizona, where the sun shines!  We found wonderful house sitters, and we will be gone for about six weeks, exploring and adventuring, and hopefully not killing each other in the process.  We will spend a lot of time with five people in close quarters.  But we kind of like each other (most of the time), so it should be great.  Whatever happens, it will happen in the sun, which will make everything easier!
Here is our RV:

I will keep you posted on the road!  There will be some great stories coming up, I hope!
Happy holidays to you all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How I deal when life is rough. It involves chocolate, pumpkin pie, and lots of hugs.

I really wanted to write about how much grey hair I have acquired in the past month and why, but that would be too much of a downer.  So let me just say, I have so much admiration for us brave little humans, stumbling along, hurting each other, loving one another, trying to find our way...
Finding my way has been a theme lately.  I got a new smart phone and was playing with the destination finder application.   Ater a solo downvalley shopping trip, I typed in my home town just to find out how the device works, but since it's a straight shot home on a scenic highway, not much electronic direction-giving happened.  I drove an hour in quiet contemplation, marveling at how I have navigated this grey-hair-inducing past month of health scares, deadly shootings of innocent children, and disharmony with my husband.  As I reached home, I thought to myself that I will never arrive at being enlightened, but that I am proud of how I handled all the turmoil of this month, letting myself feel and cry in the face of so much pain and dealing with it courageously.  Contemplating how much personal work I've done on myself to arrive at this outcome, I felt a beautiful connection to the universe as I drove into my little home town.  Just at this spiritual moment, a voice said, out of the blue, "You have arrived."  For a moment, I thought this might be the voice of God, telling me that I have reached enlightenment, but then I realized it was my smart phone destination finder.
So.  Stumbling along, finding solace in little things, like holding my children close, forgiving myself for being such a bitch to my poor husband, enjoying the snow, smelling the freshly baked pumpkin muffins I made for breakfast, giving myself the day off.
So I am sharing with you what that looked like this week:

Steve striding out into the snow to feed the goats and ducks, so I can leave early and take the day off to go to a Korean spa, where I can recuperate and maybe relax enough to realize how mean I can be to him.

And this is what happens when Mama is gone relaxing at the spa.  Build large snow sculptures with Daddy and then put a lawn chair on it and sit in it, so you can break your neck.  Okay, okay, I promised to be nicer.  I will, as soon as I get back from the spa.

So what do I do in times when things are rough?
I eat chocolate.  I knit.  I spend time alone.  I eat chocolate.  I call my girl friends.  I have a kick ass workout.  I eat some more chocolate.  And I cook.  What is more comforting than nurturing your loved ones with food that you grew and prepared?  Here is a poached egg dish (thank you, lovely chickens), with fresh goat chevre (thank you, goatie ladies).

And here is a progression of pumpkin goodness.  Step one: Grow pie pumpkins in the garden.  Step two, bake them.  Then puree the flesh, bake the pumpkin seeds and make pie and muffins.
Little helpers supervise and taste test.

So, friends?  Remember to be gentle with yourselves.  Let yourself cry.  Bake a pumpkin pie.  Eat lots of chocolate.  And hug your loved ones.
Many blessings to you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Will there be any goat babies in five months?

You know the breast cancer scare last week?  And the flu going around in our house?  Well, on top of all these lovely things, I had to deal with a goat in heat.   Goats are seasonal breeders and come into heat every three weeks in the fall.  So they can only conceive babies when they are in heat (and I need goat babies, since this is the only way to get milk from the mama goat).  This is what we are aiming for:

Goat babies and human babies mix really well

It seems easy to get these adorable babies.  Just breed the mamas, get babies, get milk.  Piece of cake, right?  Wrong.

I used to own two bucks, housed on our neighbors' pasture.  It was a perfect solution, since I only had to walk my girls over to the bucks for a hot date, and five minutes later, they were bred.  The problem with housing bucks on your land is that they stink.  And I mean - they STINK!  Billy goats might be some of the more disgusting creatures in this world, in terms of olfactory contribution.  So after a couple of years, my neighbors (who are some of my favorite people ever) kindly requested to get rid of the guys, since their smell embedded itself into my neighbors' hair and clothes every time they went down to the pasture to feed their chickens.
So I sold my studly bucks to a "neighbor" down the road (a seven minute drive), and just chauffeured my girls to their hot dates.  That worked out okay, except it involved a trip in the minivan, which can be stressful to the goats.  After hanging out with the stinky buck, the lady goat will take on his odor and transfer that to the minivan.  It is impossible to get the smell out of the car, so whenever anyone dares to stick their nose into my vehicle, they abruptly and swiftly pull their head back into the fresh air and proclaim that they don't need a ride in my van, after all.
The other problem with having to transport a goat for breeding is that it can be hard to pinpoint the exact time when the lady will be receptive to breeding.  So if the goat comes back into heat three weeks after she was bred, another trip in the minivan is in order.  When my distant neighbors sold their bucks this year (outrage!), I had to locate a different date for my girls.  We found a handsome, perfectly stinky, pure bred La Mancha dude 20 minutes away from us.

Back to my original story of how hard last week was.  The goat in heat was the beautiful Coco, who paced the fence line and yelled her heart out.  Now, you need to understand that I already had spent a total of three trips and two hours in the van with her and her after-date aroma.  The first time I thought she was in heat, but she ran away from the billy goat and didn't want anything to do with him.  The second time, she successfully flirted with him and got the deed done, or so I thought.  The third time, she came into heat again, which means the first breeding wasn't successful.  Same thing happened three weeks after.  So when I heard her yelling at the fence (which is a sign of heat) again, I didn't want it to be true.  I washed the dishes in the kitchen, which faces towards the barn.  Coco stared at me accusingly and cried.  My already frayed nerves fried, and I yelled at her, threatening to turn her into hamburger.  She yelled back, "I want to get laid!!! I want to get laaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiid!!!!!"
I could hear her through the closed window, with the music blasting on the stereo.  After talking with some of my experienced goat owner friends, and with their encouragement, I left my feverish baby girl in my husband's care, loaded up the horny goat into the already smelly mini van, and brought her to the buck.  Again.

I  irritably locked the two love bugs inside a fence together to ... you know...  As I settled down and watched impatiently, my irritation slowly gave way to amusement.  There is nothing like watching a billy goat parade in front of his date, trying to make her see that he is the Brad Pitt of the goat world.  He tries to convince her of his manliness in many different ways, all of them either very gross or very funny.  He paws the ground in a stallion-kind of way and snickers.  He curls is lip and shows his teeth, staring up at the sky.  He - please pardon me for this detail - pees into his own nostrils and thinks it's the hottest thing ever, and then he will enthusiastically stand by and quench his thirst when the lady goes potty.  The goat lady, of course, looooooves this.  You get the picture?

So I don't know what to tell you about Coco.  I don't know if she now is pregnant, or if she won't have any babies this year, because for some strange reason she won't be bred.  All I can say is I am clueless, and I am done driving this goat around.  I will know in five months if there will be any babies.  I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Where she talks about breast cancer and christmas trees in one breath

Right now, right here, a piece of grace is happening.  I'm sitting in front of the gently twinkling christmas tree, while the kids are all playing upstairs.  No snotty noses to wipe, no whining to soothe, no anxiety attacks to manage.  Dishes are done, lamb shank is stewing in the crock pot, pumpkin pie is baking, and I am at peace.

Finally.  It's about time.

It's been a hard month.  First, I had to deal with a scary mammogram result, which rammed breast cancer and its ramifications into my chest, where I was convinced for an hour that the lump everyone was concerned about was indeed cancer.  How very, very scary, and how much I feel for the thousands of women out there who have dealt with it, are still dealing with it, have survived it, and have died of it.  It's no picnic, being a woman .

And then little Eva got sick with a fever, and she cried non-stop, without any other symptoms.  This is how my second son started his bout with a terrible disease almost three years ago.  A high fever, no other symptoms.  He ended up contracting a heart aneurysm from Kawasaki disease, had to stay at the hospital for a while, and now has to take blood thinning medication every day.  So you can see how a fever takes on a different twist in our house.  Fortunately, Eva vomited after a few hours, which was so very, very lovely, because we now knew that she just had the flu - not Kawasaki disease!

I take my health and my family's health for granted, because I have always been a strong Arian warrior,  and because we lead a very healthy lifestyle, but now that I have turned 40, my body is not like it was when I was 20.  And I have learned from first hand experience that your children can waste away in your arms, no matter how healthy you eat.  So I join the ranks of women who hold their children close to them, while they realize how very precious they are, and how very precious life is...

On this cheerful note, I want to report that we now, on this second advent, have a beautiful christmas tree and a not so beautiful handmade advent calendar (which is a tradition from my German childhood, where little presents are strung to a wreath, and the children get turns opening one present a day, starting on the first advent Sunday, and ending on Christmas).

We harvested our christmas tree under a power lines road, where the trees will be cut anyway, so they don't mess up electricity.

Apparently, it's a man's job to select a proper christmas tree.  See how seriously they are taking their job?
Success!  Thank you, sweet little tree, for giving your life for our enjoyment...
While the ducks are foraging for yummy things outside, the Christmas decorations are waiting to be put on the tree.
Look at her!  She is a knitting Gramma ornament!  Just right up my alley!  Plus, it's from Germany.

My sweet, old, stinky dog Pluto.
And then, of course, there is the Christmas baking.  I have three enthusiastic helpers and taste testers.
Happy holidays, everyone!  Cheers!

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