Monday, May 25, 2015


Today I lay down a million daffodil stems. I ruthlessly pulled out tiger lilies -- they are part of the landscape here -- it can't be helped, but I want to curb their enthusiasm (as best as I can)! Ed drove sharp blades between the window frame and the farmhouse wall to figure out how the window had been put inside and I reminded him that neither of us has time or much love for a major construction project right now, gently suggesting that maybe we could spring for help. He took it under advisement.

Today I also went grocery shopping -- a terribly time consuming event, but one that had to be done or else we'd be eating very left over leftovers this week. And, in the yard, we rebuilt the tee-pee for string beans. The wind knocked down our last year's effort and seeing it flattened on the ground was a constant reminder of our failure to secure it, so it was good to see it up and standing firmly (I hope) again. And finally, today, we finished planting tomatoes, melon and watermelon. You should understand that any work in the veggie patch requires digging up that noxious and obnoxious bindweed that has really take hold there. We did a lot of digging.

Those were the tougher hours. Now that I've given them their Ocean moment, I can return to the sweet and gentle: for example, a quick post-rain glance at what's blooming, or almost blooming right now at the farmette:




(Combinations are starting to be especially eye catching)


Breakfast is on the porch, at a time when it was still raining a bit, so that we feel especially sheltered, yet very connected to all that's outside. (The French lilac is the last of the lilacs to bloom here. I'm always a tad nostalgic for the passing of spring as I clip it for a table jar.)


And dinner is on the porch too! We switched our weekly family meal to this day, and we are given a warm and pleasant evening for it. I try hard to pay attention to the food (mustard shallot salmon, Marjoram swiss chard, corn, salad) and the rest of the family (my daughter, her husband), even as my gaze keeps coming back to Snowdrop!

Because there is no door to the porch yet, I have to move swiftly, in and out, bringing in foods as they become ready. And I pass a few items through the window. As I look out to catch a pair of hands, I notice a new arrangement outside: Snowdrop is out of her seat and onto bigger and better things!


With the meal on the table, we settle in to eat. Snowdrop's parents, knowing that a baby's quiet spell may not last, dig in. And Ed? Well, his eyes seem to be focused elsewhere -- to the little girl in her little chair...


I sit down and smile at her and get that prize of all prizes -- her lovely love filled gaze.


She insists then on being up where the action is and I'm happy to oblige.


And that pleases her, but very quickly, she wants to show me that these days, she's beyond "just" sitting.


Oh little girl, are you really that same infant who could not focus her gaze just two, three months ago? Is it possible that you're stomping around on my lap now?

The porch is always a quiet place, but in the evening, it is especially muted and restrained. I don't know a person who is in a hurry to leave then. It's as if you know that as long as you're gently swaying in one of the chairs out there, you'll be safe, protected. And so we linger... until it grows late.

It's a good way to bring the Memorial Day weekend to a close.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday: many hands

A Sunday morning of furrowed brows. Ed, reviewing any number of sticky problems (how to get that weed out of the veggies patch... when to put in the last of the tomatoes... how to crate the new invention he has designed... how big should the opening be for the patio door)...


Me -- wondering if Snowdrop will adapt quickly to a time of many helpful hands (after being sequestered for all those days with, unfortunately, only one set of hands -- ones that had that habit of doing everything in one predictable way).

Too, I wonder about the Great Writing Project. I finally let go of my manuscript and send it to a trusted literary type to read. Will I be rewriting it substantially after I hear from her?

And I think about this simple fact about grandparenting: it's easy and tough all at the same time. Oh, I saw this early on, even as I was a kid, cared for by my own grandmother. But kids don't generally worry about the subtle twists and turns of the human condition and so I took note, but moved on. Yes, my grandma stood on her doorstep and cried each time our family car pulled out of her gate and turned toward Warsaw and I thought it was sweet that she should miss us so much, but my next thought was about the boy I loved in school and how cool it was that I would be seeing him later that day.

Today, I thought, too about the weather: I am not disappointed in the rains that greet us in the morning. I know it's a holiday weekend and I wish that a better weather situation would meet the needs of all those who want to grill, boat, play ball. But I am grateful for this day of garden quiet. Since it is so wet, I cannot work outside and just today, that's a good thing. I need an uncomplicated stretch of time.

Flowers: wet with the nighttime rains -- the sustained kind that I normally associate with Great Britain -- I still am tickled to see the explosion of more and more iris blooms.



Still morning, still wet. But here's the exciting part of the day -- I am continuing with the Mother's Day celebration with a brunch out, for the seven of us: my two daughters and their husbands, Ed, Snowdrop and me. My youngest daughter and her husband are in town for a wedding and now today we can come together over brunch for foods and stories, punctuated by Snowdrop's coos, gurgles, groans, gaggles and other 4.61month old vocalizations. 

(Our no nonsense server looks like she is pressing Snowdrop to make up her mind as to which item to order.)


(Snowdrop's uncle listens attentively as the little one explains that she likes her piggy blanket just fine for munching purposes.)


(Snowdrop's aunt joins in on the reassurance that piggy blanket is a perfect brunch munching item.)


(Snowdrop's aunt picks her up to convince her that the waitress will not mind it if she does not order off the menu.)


Here are my most favorite five young people!


(Snowdrop's dad let's the little girl sleep for a bit.)


(Snowdrop's mom gets the girl ready for a feeding by putting on a new bib from aunt and uncle.)


And finally, Snowdrop seems to be asking, almost in disbelief at her own good luck -- you mean you guys love me and are thrilled to see me again? How cool is that!


The visit ends, the rains continue, the cheepers hide, the flowers droop.

At the farmhouse, Ed and I attack the porch door project. Ed cuts strips of drywall, I suck the plaster dust out.


At Home Depot, we spend a good hour (or two, or more...)  talking to Ed's newest bud, the guy who sells patio doors and who is willing to field every question Ed throws at him about the installation process.

We don't buy anything today. We need to do more measurements and Ed has to study the various possible mechanical issues in taking one window out and putting a new door in. I half worry about being the designated assistant (carrying the doors alone is going to be... interesting). But I put those thoughts aside. My hands may not be as tough and strong as his, but they're strong enough.

Though by evening, I conclude my hands have done enough for now. We pick up a pizza and settle into the quiet of an evening at the farmhouse.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday: last day at grandmas's

And again came the blue skies, the warm air, the early sound of Snowdrop playing in her crib.

Her gurgles grow more animated and I am guessing she isn't about to put herself back to sleep. I come down to be greeted, as always, with a radiant smile.


I change the diaper, re-swaddle her and cross my fingers.

I leave the window open, listening for her shouts, murmurs or cries and go outside, seeking out the flower of the day.  I'll show you ones that are just at the cusp of a full bloom: the gentle, affable Baptista (blue wild indigo) and, of course, an iris:




Indoors again. Snowdrop is still moving, dozing, articulating, eyes closed, open, closed. It's not even 9, but I decide to get our breakfast together now. Ever so quietly.

The morning meal would have been on the porch, even if I wasn't trying for the impossible -- keeping Ed quiet while the baby (I hope) dozes. It is that warm of a morning. I set the table, put out the fruits, honeys, flowers and listen. All quiet inside. Ed and I sit down to eat.


Not for long. Through the open window I hear her chatter. It's strong and lovely and insistent. She's not sleeping. She wants to be up.

(by Ed)

(by Ed)

As I sit there and she grins with utter joy (Ed: why is she so happy?), I think about how adaptable children are. As the stand-in caretaker, I try to replicate to the letter the rhythm and routine of Snowdrop's life at home. But the rhythms of the farmhouse are beginning to seep in. I can't really name the factors that gently swayed her in our direction: is it that the light comes in strong and loud here, begging all those inside to come out and enjoy the day? Is it that our energy is lower in the evening and so she starts to wind down along with us, far earlier than she would at home? For any number of reasons, she has slowly moved closer to a farmette life (and I'm sure, within a day will ease back to her habits at home).

I bathe her in the kitchen sink again. This time she knows the tub and understands that here, too, she can play.


After breakfast? Oh, you know. The sitting up (which she has grandly mastered... except when she topples!):


The romping and twisting and playing and laughing.




Too, we feed the cheepers. Oreo rewards us with many loud vocalizations. (Yes, grandma, at the farmette, a rooster crows!)


But the day begs for a bigger adventure. It's my last big fling with the little one! Oh sure, there are the daily encounters, but once or twice a year I get to really know her in this special way. She has no choice -- I am the recipient of her moods, her pouts, her laughter, her triumphs and mishaps. And every bit of it is, for me, thrilling. Somehow, we must finish grandly.

I tell Ed that perhaps an outing to the Olbricht Gardens might be lovely. He asks to come along and so the three of us set out to this sixteen acre treasure trove of plantings.

It's getting quite warm -- hot, in fact. I know Snowdrop prefers cooler air even as we're in the thick of a heat spell. Keeping her out of the sun isn't too hard -- the stroller has an awning and, too, there are plenty of shady trees in the gardens.


The last time I was here with Ed, I was disappointed. I felt more could be done in this showcase of perennial beds, bushes and trees. But this time, I am enthralled. It's Snowdrop's fault!

(by Ed)

This is wedding season and so a section of the garden is closed off for ceremonial purposes, but there's plenty left for us to see -- including the Thai pavilion which looks especially splendid and regal from the perspective of what I gather is the naturalizing bulb fields.


On a shady path, between birches and forget-me-nots and hostas, I take Snowdrop out (again? -- asks Ed, who thinks I should just let her sit back and chill...) to see if she is willing to stand up and take a step or two.

(by Ed)

And she is! As if overnight, her legs have gotten stronger and she can support herself without me having to take the weight of her increasingly tall frame.

There were many milestones for me in the four days that she was here. So many of them showed off her strength and determination that it seems fitting that I should end with the hug that I could share with her after this brief little "walk" in the gardens.

(by Ed)

In the evening the  deliriously happy parents come to pick her up and take her home.

After supper, Ed and I go out to weed the veggie patch. In pulling up one root after the next until it is too dark to see much of anything, I think back to my four days with my granddaughter. What was the biggest challenge? Keeping Ed quiet in the morning and, too, keeping her relaxed and content in the evening. The greatest joy? Oh, you know -- all of it. The package. The fullness of each day, each minute. The smiles.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday: third day at grandma's

We are to have a repeat of yesterday's glorious weather. It's wonderful to know this in advance -- to have the weather forecast in front of you telling you what you already guessed from looking outside: sunshine and pleasantly warm breezes -- a weather pattern I could live with for a long time!

Patterns are, of course, made to be broken. While the weather is keeping to its lovely predictability, my darling granddaughter decides to buck her run of perfectly late wake ups and begin her cooing noises closer to 7:30, rather than the 10-ish we're used to seeing.

She's up, Ed tells me, as if I can't hear her vocalizations myself.
No she's not. She's between sleep cycles. Shhh! Don't wake her!
But she's awake!
As if to demonstrate this, he goes down and stands by her crib and booms back up to me -- she's awake! And smiling!


Well, now she is...

Rather than disturb the patterns Snowdrop's parents have set in place for her (late bedtime, late wake up, like a rock star -- a friend commented!), I try to believe that she will go back to sleep still. I change her diaper, swaddle her again, then listen as she coos and gurgles in her crib. I let her do this for a while, hoping she'll revert to her old pattern.

She does. She flips her swaddled self this way and that and finally, the gurgles stop and she drifts off to sleep again.

I go outside, expecting nothing but that rich abundance of pre-summer growth -- deeply green, ready for a grand performance. Immediately something else catches my eye -- the most recently planted pot, the one with the pretty dahlia, the snapdragons, the alyssum is completely dug out. The plants lay scattered and broken. I try as best as I can to repair the damage, saving the dahlia flower for the breakfast table. Oh, animals!

But in truth, this year there is (thus far) little damage to the yard. Of course, once the blooms come, the chipmunks or rabbits pick and choose their salad fixings, but with established fields, for the most part, you would not notice their chomping. For now, I'm grateful that most of the pots remain vibrant and without a trace of animal damage.

My photo for today (two actually) is a bit of a cheat -- it's of a Gaura (beeblossoms) and of Heuchera (coral bells), but these are recent additions and so their bloom is earlier than that of its established cousins. Still, it's a promise of things to come throughout the fields.



By 8:30, I begin to wonder if Snowdrop will sleep long enough for us to have breakfast. I hustle Ed along, taking a photo before he even sits down, just in case I have to get right up again.


But, the little girl snoozes on, as if aware of the significance of this quiet, gentle meal for me. (You'll notice now the beginnings of the tearing out of the big window, as Ed prepares for the construction project.)


Finally, the girl wakes for real.


And yes, I have the new tub to try out: it's built to fit perfectly over a double kitchen sink, though I almost don't follow this suggestion because, unlike my own grandma, who always had to bathe me in the kitchen at the village house (right by the coal stove where she kept pots of water warm), I have it in my head that a bathroom is so much more fitting for the simple routine of bathing a baby. It seems odd to position her right next to the rack where the dishes are drying. Still, it is so convenient and such a perfect fit that, with the (Polish) wooden chef and his missus looking on, I place Snowdrop right there, as if she were a pot ready for a scrub down. A very happy pot!


Ed comes in now and takes over the camera...

(by Ed)

It is a delightful time: she has plenty of water to swoosh and splash.

The routines continue: I dress her, she eats and then announces in her own sweet way -- I'm ready for play!


Lots of play, grandma (after a good chomp on Sophie, the giraffe)!


Later, I cannot resist the brilliance outside and so she and I go out --  first to feed bread to the cheepers (yes, grandma, a rooster crows! I know that now!)...


... then to the great willow -- the one where my younger daughter got married last June. It's a blissful place of mixed grasses and dandelion puffs and clover leaves.


A moment that if I could, I would stretch to last a long long time.

And later, in the afternoon, Snowdrop and I have another adventure: we hit State Street -- that long set of blocks that links the university to the Capitol. I put her in her stroller and off we go, new shoes and all!


On a day like this, the Union Terrace, possibly Madison's finest outdoor space, is an obvious destination. It's time she experienced that burst of color by the lake waters!

(by a stranger)

What she also experiences is the burst of bright sunshine. To her chagrin. She prefers shade. Possibly all babies prefer shade. I oblige and steer the stroller toward the beautiful lake shore path -- one I used to bike daily to work when I lived in the condo.


She immediately dozes off in total bliss and does not wake up again until we're back on State Street, where I'm sure to keep her on the shady side of things.


This was a trip full of new elements to it and you know how it is after an adventure -- you're so happy to be home! Farmhouse isn't really home, but it's good enough! The girl is bouncy and chipper as can be -- ready to take on the world! And this is the time when I really hear her explosive laughter -- as if my silly words are the funniest thing she'd ever heard! Ever!


We come quickly to the evening -- typically her most tired time, where everything seems too big to take on. But, this is a girl who grows in leaps and bounds. Tonight, she sits in her bouncy chair right next to us and considers along with us whether the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank are deserving of investor support. Her demeanor says it all -- give it up, people. Move on to a new idea.


I  wake her, feed and swaddle her and put her down for her last night at the farmhouse.