Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random Last Minute Thoughts

I arrived here a month ago today. I never expected to be here this long. I've never been away from home for such an extended time. My family has adjusted but it was a process. Did they miss me? Did they become more self-sufficient while I was gone? I'm heading home in the morning and we'll find out.

Out of the four weeks I was here, I only got to spend forty-eight hours with this precious package. That was not enough time to inhale all his newborn sweetness.

As soon as I get home I'm digging out a newborn photo of my first born, this baby's mama, because this photo looks just like that baby.

Compare this photo to the close up in yesterday's post and see how quickly he's changed already. This is going to only accelerate in the weeks and months to come. Why do babies have to do that?

I baked cake almost every day for four months this year but in the last four weeks I didn't bake a single one. (Lots of pies but no cakes). At the request of the midwife, I made a chocolate fudge birth day cake for Andrew with chocolate cream icing and strawberry filling.

I had a special, memorable time with my girls that culminated in a remarkable homebirth. I was reminded once again how powerful and magnificent birth is when it's approached with respect and love and trust. It was worth the long wait to witness the arrival of this new little person into the eager arms of his family.

Andrew participated in his first Skype call today. I think there will be many more in his future.

I'm going to miss these little guys a whole lot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Wait Is Over

These two boys woke up this morning to a new kid in town.

"What do you"
"Let me think about it..."

I think maybe partners in crime. Comrades in arms. My buddy. My wingman.

It's a new world. A new day. A new life. 
Andrew Paul was born right on time.
He wasn't late for anything.

Monday, October 24, 2011


The mums loved the summer heat wave in Michigan this year.

These beauties are for sale everywhere in many glorious colors. This giant was all of $4 at the farmer's market where we stopped to buy apples for pie on Saturday. I have never seen mums like this in Oregon- and most certainly never for such an appealing price.

I never expected to be here in the heartland for a month or to have to reschedule my flight three times but that is how it has turned out. There is no cause for concern or worry over this long, arduous wait for a baby. It's pretty clear that the expected due date was miscalculated and everything is really on schedule as it should be. Birth is mysterious but is a well-designed process that can be trusted. Babies are born when they are supposed to be if we just stay out of the way and let it happen. Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers. Stay tuned because in the very near future, by the grace of God, there will be a joyful introduction to our newest family member.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Mystery Garden

On my birthday my two daughters and I went to the nearby college town of Hillsdale to have lunch and attend an art exhibit. We had a little lunch at a quaint coffee shop on the historic main street.

Before we left, Katie found this sign on the hallway door that led to the restrooms. We were intrigued by the idea of a secret garden so decided to check it out.

It seemed unlikely that we would find any kind of a garden at the end of this nondescript hallway in the middle of October but we were game to take a look.

We were so glad we did. Because....yes....there was a secret garden behind the door!

Our jaws dropped when we found a vine-covered courtyard with crumbling brick walls and a circle of ancient cobblestone.

The walls and beams overhead where covered by decades of ivy growth. The architecture had a distinct European style. To me it felt like we had walked through a portal into an Italian village.

In the center of it all was a massive wisteria vine. We had noticed the wisteria hanging on the outside wall where we parked the car on the street. I even photographed it but because of some camera glitches I don't have photos to share. I noticed the unique style of the building immediately when we parked in town. It was not very farm-townish. The street side wall outside is also covered with ivy and hanging wisteria but no one, I have learned not even the townspeople, seems to give a thought to the source of those wisteria branches. The source is this trunk hidden in this courtyard and accessible only down that hallway from the coffee shop.

It has no doubt grown here for decades. There are numerous pieces of steel- posts and implements and bars- that must have been added for support during the vine's lifetime but are now embedded deeply among the twisting tangle of branches.

It was a beautiful sight in the dim autumn light and I can only imagine the stunning splendor of the spring bloom of this massive vine.
I know there must be an interesting story behind this place. Who built that building in this middle American farm town with a style so different from the rest of the buildings? Did that person also plan this special courtyard and plant that vine? How long has it been here?

I asked some questions of the locals while we were in town and no one knew a thing about this place. I even called the local historical society and they also didn't know anything about it. The person I spoke to had never seen the hidden courtyard. The historical society is one block away from this spot. I hope I sparked an interest for her to walk out her door and check it out. It is worth the trip.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Today is my birthday. My 50th birthday.

This 50th year has been full of blessings and many exciting and interesting events that have made it memorable. It has been fun having a blog on which to chronicle these things and to make virtual friends in far away places. I am thankful for each one of these blessings but especially for my wonderful family and friends that forgive my many faults and continue to love and support me each day.

I have not spent a birthday in Michigan since 1992 and I have not spent it with both of my daughters since 2002 and I have not missed celebrating it with my husband in over thirty years. Those facts will make this day especially unique as I will be celebrating it here without my husband but with my daughters and my Michigan family.

We are making some special plans to attend an art quilt exhibit, go out to lunch together and spend the afternoon challenging ourselves with making croissant dough.

But, wouldn't it be a good day to have a baby too?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Table Project

I've been keeping busy with projects while I've been here at my daughter's waiting for my time of postpartum ministering and newborn snuggling to start. Most of the projects have involved a paint brush including this last one which was also the most creative and satisfying.

Katie and Nathan acquired this table early in their courtship when it was given to them for a place to set a romantic candle-lit dinner for a date. It is a lovely table with nice lines and lovely embellishments but it was in very rough shape.

After consulting with my friend, Karen, who has turned her skill at repurposing furniture into a successful business, I painted the table a nice creamy white.

Karen felt that a white would best accentuate the incised lines and edges on this table. Katie loved that idea too since painting it white would make it a good accent piece to use anywhere in her house.

To give the table an appropriate aged appearance I sanded the edges after the paint had cured for several days. I also rubbed the table with some stain to further age the finish of the paint. A final rubbing of a paste wax completed the project.

This project was a lot of fun and Katie is pleased that the old table has been given a fresh look.

Monday, October 17, 2011

There Are No Stupid Questions. Just Stupid Answers.

My six year old grandson's main occupation is asking questions. All. Day. Long.

However, he does not ask ordinary, childish questions.

Here's an example (from what I can remember. Often his questions cause my brain to temporarily stop functioning.)

Can an ax go through chain mail? Can a mace?

What is a squire?

What army attacked Egypt? 

How does a muscle work?

How do you make chain mail? Is chain mail stronger than armor?

Is Kipling still alive?  Did my parents know him?

What does "drama" mean?  

uh......{blink} {blink} Go ahead. Try to define the word "drama" for a six year old. Here's how I did it:

Drama is the opposite of comedy. If drama goes unchecked it can lead to tragedy.

I know. Brilliant. That's why I'm a grandma.

Today was the day I was scheduled to fly home after snuggling a newborn for two weeks. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men....

So I have a three day extension but we need to keep petitioning heaven for an end to this agonizing wait.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Changes. Or Not.

It's Groundhog Day here. The movie. Every day we wake up and repeat the same activities as yesterday. Even if there is a slight variation, like a yoga class or a movie in the theater, it still feels the same.

Especially in the morning when we open our eyes and realize nothing has changed. There is no new baby sleeping cozily in someone's arms. Katie still has her unwieldy belly and my departure date is still looming. We're still on edge waiting for that powerful event that is supposed to happen. Sometime.

There's a flinch every time the phone rings. No matter who is calling the question will be the same. And so will the answer.

I took these photos a week ago. These colors were as bright as it got this year. A dry summer leads to a fall of muted colors and quickly falling leaves.  Still, the landscape is starkly different than the one back home where the view is dominated by deep green fir trees. That green is dotted with the gold of aspens and occasional pops of red from small shrubs in Autumn. Here I'm enjoying the spreading maples with their red and orange and the burgundy tones of the sumac. But already these leaves have fallen in the blustery winds and the scenery is taking on the brown tones of winter.

At least these color differences are a sign that we aren't reliving the same day over and over again.

I'll let you know if anything else changes, besides the colors of the leaves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

The weather has been spectacular here since I arrived. We're experiencing a beautiful Indian summer with sunny skies, 80 degrees, no frost yet and landscapes of orange and red. This follows weeks and weeks of rain that were generated by the hurricane out east last month. The first Saturday I was here it was sunny and bright so it seemed everyone was out mowing their lawns and hanging out laundry. Everyone was so happy to see and feel the sun again.

The weather is supposed to change soon and there is still some work to be done. The Amish neighbors have been working hard all week to get the hay in the barns before the rain starts. While out on my walk yesterday I came across this pair of teenage brothers mowing a field of alfalfa.

Here's how an Amish teenager gets in trouble with his dad: the younger boy, he's maybe fifteen or so, was galloping one pair of horses down the road pulling a piece of equipment. (The equivalent of an English boy speeding in dad's car.) They normally don't go faster than a trot on the paved road. Just a minute later one of the horses slipped and went down on the road. It got back up and seemed to be uninjured- they did continue to work with it all day- but I'm pretty sure that was about the same as denting dad's car in the English world.

 Getting a field of hay cut this way takes them a couple days rather than a couple hours of tractor time.

After cutting, the hay was raked and put into windrows to dry out.

I could see that these boys had a long day's work ahead so I packed up my paparazzi camera and walked home. Not too long later while trying to load photos for yesterday's blog post, another Amish neighbor and good friend of my son-in-law came by the house to use the phone. Enos casually mentioned that they were short on helpers for the hay work and didn't have anyone to drive the wagon. He joked that it might be a good job for Katie to do. The bumping wagon might help shake the baby out, he said. Or not. I offered to come along and help though I have never driven a team of horses before. I have ridden lots of horses but I have no experience with draft work horses. Enos immediately took me up on the offer of help. He must have been reeeeeally desperate!

The next thing I knew I was on an Amish hay wagon heading out to the hay field. Jonah came along for the ride.

My job was to guide the horses around the field over the windrow while the machine pulled behind the wagon picked up the windrow and dropped it on the trailer. Enos forked the hay around evenly on the trailer as it dropped on.

There were two pairs of horses working this job. This pair of 14 year old Belgian draft horses knew pretty well what to do without me. Taking the corners was the only tricky part.  After the wagon was loaded we left them to rest and took out a pair of 18 year old black Percherons. Those two were not happy to work that day. One horse continually tried to eat the hay. Whenever he got a good mouthful the other horse would try to take it away from him. Needless to say, that pair worked a lot slower than the Belgians.

 This was my view. I had to stand and balance on the rail of the rack at the front and grip the reins. It was like standing on a fence that was moving six feet above the ground.  And I was occasionally trying to take sly photos. The horses seemed to know when I wasn't giving all my attention to them so they would take it as an excuse to mess around. Jonah stood beside me and as the hay piled up he got to stomp it down. That's my water bottle hanging on a string so it wouldn't get lost in the hay. Enos' idea.

One pass around the field got a load good enough to swap for an empty wagon.

These men had a system for baling the hay that kept them working within the rules of their community. Though they can't use any form of electricity, gas engines are allowed. They had a baler powered by a small engine that was attached with a long belt. Both pieces of equipment were put up on timbers so that they wouldn't move.

My mechanic husband will look at this photo and tell what the engine is, because I've forgotten what they told me.

Here's where the rules came in to play. Gas engine, yes. Electrical start, no. They had to pull start with a rope. But they weren't strong enough so they tied the rope to a pair of horses who pulled harder and fired it up.

While we headed around the field again with a fresh wagon, a couple of men unloaded the hay with pitchforks, feeding it directly into the baler. The bales were loaded onto another wagon and the Amish boy who was speeding on the road that morning stacked the bales.

The Amish men joked with me and said that we don't often have a woman from Oregon helping us bring in our hay. I have no doubt that is very true.

And I don't often drive an Amish hay wagon!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Still No Baby- So here's another Amish story.

Well, I've been trying to write a blog post all day. The internet here in the country is driven by little squirrels running on a track so it takes quite a while for the pictures to load on Blogger. While I waited for each set to load I worked on making my first sweet potato pie.

Also, I got invited to drive an Amish hay wagon so had to leave. But that's a story for another post....

Since there is no baby to introduce yet, I thought I'd tell you about our excursion last weekend to Shipshewana, Indiana. Also known as Amish Central.

Our first stop was the big Amish grocery store. Since it was Saturday it was quite busy.

In this store there were aisles and aisles of candy in every color, shape and flavor. The Amish have quite a sweet tooth.

The busy cash registers were run by Amish clerks and baggers.
We bought some cheese and wonderful sliced salami and a giant chrysanthemum (for $4!).

We then headed out to the Yoder farm for their big October auction. I had dreams of Amish quilts.

The parking lot was full when we arrived.

This part of Amish territory is quite, shall we say, liberal. Or modern. They are allowed rubber so they use bicycles a lot. I'm sure the horses appreciate this.

We felt a bit sorry for the horses since they had to stand around in their harnesses for hours and hours in the parking lot.

This was an auction by the Amish and for the Amish which meant that all the vendors were selling items useful to the Amish.
Lots of horse tack....

...and a horse auction....

...and the latest in Bishop approved appliances.

I would actually like to have one of these for our backyard bonfire suppers. Or for camping. I just couldn't see getting one in my suitcase for the airplane trip home.

Though we saw lots of Amish handiwork, I was disappointed that we never found a quilt sale. About twenty five years ago my husband and I attended an auction like this in Michigan on another Yoder blacksmith farm and there was a huge, well-attended quilt auction taking place in a barn. I may or may not have gotten auction fever and bought a quilt that was too big for our bed.

Before we left we found this ice cream stand with home-made Amish style ice cream.
Since these were modern Amish the ice cream makers were powered by a little gas engine.

But the black raspberry ice cream was still very tasty.