Tuesday, January 31, 2017

do you see what I see?

Not since I was Snowdrop's age (if then) have I done this: slept my way through a twelve hour night.

I wake up feeling much better. And I wonder if this happens to you sometimes? When you go through an illness, you remember how precious it is to feel fine and how important it is to appreciate and preserve those moments of calm as long as you can. Deliberately and continuously.

This is a tough assignment these days, but I have ideas!

My first step is to discontinue the project that I would roughly call "100 days of reading comments and writings of people who hate me."  I don't think I quite made it through 100. I began in ernest on the day of the election and that was not a full three months ago. But I did read tens of thousands of comments, especially in response to writings that seemed to encourage the winning side to raise its collective fist at people like me.

The thing is, I'm not unused to it. I lived here as a child when I was hated for my citizenship and allegiance to a country that was under so called communist governance. No elitist liberal bi-coastal stuff, but you know, the communist ideology that promised (successfully at that) jobs for all, no matter how economically feasible or how stifled economic growth would become.

I thought I'd learn something through my "100 day..." project. And I did: there is among a vast number of sore winners very little desire to engage, or discuss the pros and cons, or the merits of diverging ideas. There's hatred and name calling and mockery. No trumpeting of what's good, merely scorn for everyone who these days feels (like me) that perhaps we should walk carefully rather than take sudden and extreme and inexperienced steps in matters that invariably will have consequences -- good or dire, for millions.

So enough. I do not ever intend to surround myself with people who think like me. But I will cut back my readings in much the same way I narrow Ocean comments: say one nice thing about the opposing viewpoint or person holding it before I will even listen to you. And the minute I sense a mean-spirited undertone or worse -- the deliberate inciting of hostilities, I'm out of there.

In the meantime, it's breakfast as usual at the farmhouse. Here we are, still not enjoying sunshine, but hey, this dull gray stuff wont last forever! (And my breakfast buddy is a lot less cranky than the pic would have you believe!)


And at noon, a truly miraculous event takes place here, in Madison Wisconsin! As if in affirmation of a new direction, a new calm, a new sparkle to the world around me -- I see this!

farmette life-2.jpg

Oh glorious sunshine! How we've missed you!

It's not only sunny, but also quite mild: a few degrees above freezing.

Snowdrop is delighted when she sees that I have brought around the stroller for our walk back from school! Hello, sunshine!

farmette life-6.jpg

Lookin' around and feelin' groovy!

farmette life-7.jpg

I tell her that I have a surprise for her -- and only with a two year old can you make this appear to be a treat -- (upon the request of parents) it's haircut time!

We walk over to the local haircut place (Bang, where three generations of us get their hair trimmed) and I am just so impressed with the little one. The last time we were here, I basically held my breath hoping she'd last the three minutes it took to cut her hair. Today, so much more was expected of her: look down, look straight ahead, don't move, can we blow out loose hairs?

farmette life-16.jpg

Snowdrop couldn't have been more cooperative. High five, little one! (Lyndsy, her hair cut person said she has the gentlest high five in the world...)

farmette life-18.jpg

Looking good!

farmette life-19.jpg

Not that she is without spirit. She takes a nice gallop around the place while I settle the account.

farmette life-22.jpg

After -- well, it's so grand outside! I tell her we can try to visit the nearby playground, but I warn that it may be snow covered and inaccessible.

It is that, but I am able to wipe down the swing and she spends a few minutes flying high and squinting in the golden sunshine!

farmette life-25.jpg

As we walk home past the coffee shop, she notes its presence. I ask her if she'd like to pause for a quick snack. Yes!

Oh, it's been a long time since she and I have sat at a table while I broke off a piece of oatmeal raisin cookie for her and enjoyed a hot macchiato for myself! And again, I am so impressed with her maturity, her conversation, her willingness to follow suggestions.

(Do you see the blue of the sky reflected in her eyes? And the pink hands? Snowdrop, on the way home, let's put on those mitts!)

farmette life-34.jpg

At her house, she is radiant -- all smiles and playful spins. And I do notice this: if left to her own devices, here, as at the farmhouse, she favors people play. Put her in front of the train set and she'll pick up the little characters and make them climb bridges and woosh down hills while the train cars stand idle, or even get pushed out of the way!

farmette life-49.jpg

And of course, always always, there is that joyous Snowdrop run. Round and round.

farmette life-56.jpg

... faster and faster!

farmette life-57.jpg

Until I remind her it's time for a nap.

Later, much later, when dusk has taken hold, I cajole Ed into a walk up and down our rural roads.

(Here we are! Sauntering at sunset!)

farmette life-1-2.jpg

We watch a lone person walking the fields to the east of us. Is he planning for the season ahead? I haven't allowed myself to think much about spring, but today, I saw wisps of it again. And it felt so good, so uplifting!

farmette life-3-2.jpg

Do you see it too? Signs of spring? Maybe?

Monday, January 30, 2017

a disagreeable Monday morning

You know that something is up when you wake to sunshine (after weeks and weeks of dull gray skies) and feel no excitement. (True, that sunny interval was scheduled to last only for two hours and it did just that, but I turned my back on it and refused to stir.)

Damn. I feel sick.

Well what a surprise. Snowdrop had her bout with this, her mommy had her bout with it as well. So now it seems only the men are spared. A gendered bug that hits right at the stomach.

But but -- it's not in the plan for this week or for today! I have to shop for my 17 people dinner party tomorrow!

You know how some 20% of the people engage in conversations with themselves? I engaged in one this morning:
I feel too spent to get up!
Yes, but this will pass. Snowdrop's bug passed quickly enough.
How can you invite people to your house if you have a bug that may zap them as well? If everyone gets sick the next day they'll think I poisoned them!
But I'll be fine tomorrow!
Maybe. I really have no idea.

This continued as I went in and out of that dozy state and by the time I fully roused myself I noted three things: the sun was gone, the hour for shopping had long passed, and finally -- yes, I was feeling a tad better. But doubts about tomorrow festered and so I withdrew my dinner hosting offer.

Damn these stupid bugs.

Breakfast is a modest affair. In the kitchen no less.

farmette life-2.jpg

I do feel fine enough to look after Snowdrop (who nearly for sure was the source of this downturn) and so I tell her parents that I am up and ready to bring her to the farmhouse.

It's a cold and gray day (so two strikes against it), but she is happy to be out and about...

farmette life-4.jpg

... even as I urge her at the farmette to hustle indoors. She may not feel cold, but I am in no mood to play outside.

At the farmhouse, she, rather predictably, goes straight for the tea set...

farmette life-9.jpg

... and luckily, she picks up my quiet cues and spends a good bit of time drawing and then reading books. She'd found some old flap books from her younger years. She likes to remind herself how fun it was to be a wee one. With age come all those new responsibilities!

farmette life-16.jpg

I add some new books to her repertoire and she likes those too...

farmette life-11.jpg

Of course, Snowdrop also has her energetic side.

farmette life-17.jpg

She can outrun me in the house even when I'm feeling peppy (and I am not feeling peppy today).

farmette life-18.jpg

This is when I tell her we both need a nap.

She sleeps, I rest.

And then it is near evening. She eats just about her favorite (at the moment) snack -- corn. Ed comes from the sheep shed to join us. Here are three photos of our time at the kitchen table:

Ahah's coming!

farmette life-5.jpg

Hi ahah...

farmette life-9-2.jpg

Now let's play!

farmette life-14-2.jpg

And then it's back to the tea game...
(She pours, she hands out cakes and tells us -- here you go, guys!)

farmette life-19.jpg

Ed, as usual, searches her lunch bag for leftovers. Blueberries!

farmette life-23.jpg

We finish off with a sip of "tea."

farmette life-30.jpg

Me, I could use some real tea. I am happy that Snowdrop's back to being bouncy and strong. I'm a little less bouncy but much stronger. Most certainly, I'm looking forward to a less disagreeable Tuesday morning.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


The job of thoroughly spiffing up the farmhouse is never really enormous because the farmhouse isn't enormous. Two bedrooms, one bathroom. I mean, please. By American standards that's small.

But two things conspired to make me want to not miss a single dusty corner: I'd been away and so there is a backlog of cleaning that needs to be done, and secondly, I am hosting a rather big dinner crowd this coming Tuesday (Ed's work friends and visitors and partners and various sundry others) and so I may as well get things in order now.

So we cleaned the house. Typically I shoo Ed away from partnership in this endeavor but today I took all the help I could get. We worked our tails off. All morning long.

Breakfast. Very late. Very very late. (Ed, attempting to hide from the camera.)

farmette life-3.jpg

Right after the noon hour, the following back and forth began:
do you want to go skiing?
Sure, just not right now.

(a bit later)

Are we ready to ski?
What do you think?

It's really gray outside.

(a bit later)

So should we go out or not?
So much ice! It wont be fun!
I agree.

We went round like this for several hours until finally, one of us, I can't remember which one, finally said -- let's go.

I can't say it was the best run we've ever had. It was gray. It was icy. And we followed one of our least favorite local trails (but one that we knew would have some snow).

Perhaps the loveliest moment came when a flock of geese took off from the unfrozen creek. (And I am not even a huge fan of all the geese that have set up year round residence in Madison. They're mean.)

farmette life-12.jpg

Still, it was a well spent hour. I really hope it's not the last skiing moment we'll have this winter.

It's Sunday and so Snowdrop and her family eat dinner with us at the farmhouse. Oh, oops! Not "with us." Ed is away at a dinner with his week-long work visitors. So just with me.

Perhaps predictably, Snowdrop goes to her tea party table...

farmette life-18.jpg

She wants us to play with her, but we're hanging in the kitchen. Solution: bring the tea party to the kitchen! Snowdrop is right on it!

farmette life-23.jpg

Gaga, you sit there!

farmette life-26.jpg

Ah, an evening with Snowdrop, being her lovely spunky self...

farmette life-32.jpg

... An evening that turns colorful and bright. Like the twinkly lights outside, only better.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


I went out four times today.

The first time I was scantily dressed (I mean really scantily dressed: think undershirt and shorts). I had been on my way to the shower when I saw this:

farmette life-2.jpg

For whatever chicken reason, the girls were braving the snow -- something they almost never do -- to come up to the garage and farmhouse. They deserved a reward for their bravery and so I ran out to give them some bread and to pour hot water into the bowl to melt the ice in it.

The second time out was immediately after (I at least got smart and threw on Ed's jacket). You'll note perhaps that only three of the cheepers were in the parade to the house. Java seemed frozen in her spot by the sheep shed. She could not, would not move. She so reminded me of the day I got stuck up in the Canadian Rockies, terrified of the slipping rocks beneath me and especially of the cliff from which I would surely tumble down if I lost my footing! I set out to rescue Java in much the same way Ed set out to rescue me up there on the mountain, only Java wasn't wearing a backpack.

She was very grateful.

It took me all of breakfast to shed the chill from being out and about.

farmette life-7.jpg

It's not that it is especially cold. Upper 20sF (just below 0C). But we continue to forge ahead without sunshine and I am boycotting the great outdoors until I see some golden light again.

But then there was that third time out. We are low on our supply of my favorite after dinner chocolate (Ghirardelli's dark with blackberry essence) and only one place that I know of (a big box store) carries it. Time to restock.

As we step out into the mud room, I ask Ed -- what's that squawking noise? I think its just outside...
I don't know... a cheeper maybe?

Sure enough -- Java is in the garage groaning her head off at being left behind, as the other girls have long returned to the barn. (She just cannot handle the snow.)

I carry her sad and frightened chicken self back to the others.

farmette life-9.jpg

As we drive home from the big box store, we stop to take a brief walk in our local county park. And here's a surprise -- even though the forests have more bare spots than snow, the fields and meadows surely have enough for a ski run! Wonderful news! Tomorrow we shall ski! (Unless the absence of sunshine again causes me to pout and hide.)

farmette life-14.jpg

And the fourth venture out? That was driven by necessity (no planned farmhouse diner for tonight) and friendship (Ed's buddy invited us out).

It's tough to motivate yourself to step out of your comfort zone (home!), especially when the weather is hostile to those efforts. But rare is the time when you regret having made that effort. Venturing out into the world is rarely the greater evil. Hiding all day long in the depths of your sofa cushions -- now that's dangerous.

Tomorrow we're determined to ski. Will we do it? Maybe.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Ah, the "can do" attitude! I'm all for it in a child: to recognize that boundaries can be tested, rules waved, new ideas formed. Because with a child, there's always room for intervention, for guidance and for a redirection if you feel that she or he are placing themselves or others in danger. So go ahead, push for the unusual and free yourself to test the new!

Those were my thoughts today when caring for Snowdrop. But let me go back, as always, to the beginning of the day: Ed was getting ready to head out and in waiting for him for breakfast, I had a chance to set up the camera for a timed release. So -- breakfast in the sun room, without sun, the both of us.

farmette life-1.jpg

And again he is more willing than usual to put up with my camera, so again I have this rather sweet photo of him from across the table. It's not every day that his t-shirt perfectly matches the flowers in the vase.

farmette life-2.jpg

Alright: now for daily Snowdrop fare.

It's getting to be cold again, but not so cold that you'd want to avoid the outdoors. Just below freezing for January is actually pretty tame for us. And so I surprise Snowdrop by picking her up at school not by car, but with the stroller.

She is surprised.

farmette life-3.jpg

But very pleased! (Even if it does mean that she has to don her cap and mitts.) During the past two winters I would routinely take her out for a walk even on colder days. The girl's used to this stuff. And she never complains, even when the wind picks up and her cheeks and nose turn rosy pink.

farmette life-4.jpg

The walk to her home (where we spend the afternoon today) isn't long and I ask her if she wants to stay outdoors for a while longer. She does!

farmette life-5.jpg

But my attempt at building a snowman are a failure. We've gone from mushy wet snow to icy frozen stuff. Never mind. We go for a strollerless walk.

farmette life-10.jpg

Gaga, I want to go to the park!

Ah, but there are, in the end, limits to what you can do outside on a day like this. Parks are ice covered and closed.

We return to her home, where she spends a lovely hour playing inside her little play house.

Snowdrop, can you run in such a small space?
Yes I can!

farmette life-19.jpg

Sometimes she invites me in, sometimes she ushers me out. It is her space. I oblige.

farmette life-22.jpg

I need to wash my hands -- she tells me as she makes splashy noises in the play sink.

farmette life-24.jpg

Can she open the real window from inside the play window?
She thinks she can.

farmette life-29.jpg

Okay little girl. Maybe we should change venues.

She discovers her toy globe (which happens to play little ditties if you press buttons strategically positioned all over the world). Can you dance while sitting down?
She can!

farmette life-38.jpg

Sweet child, it's really time for your nap!
She has other ideas. She finds my scarf and goes for a run with penguin...

farmette life-43.jpg

I want to put on jacket and go outside!

Like I said, a child can be easily redirected. Sense prevails. Peace sets in. How lovely is that!

Evening. Her mom is back from work. We exhale after a tumultuous week of sickness, storms and too much news watching.

farmette life-3-2.jpg

Snowdrop's mom starts fixing supper and I go home to the farmhouse to do the same.

The kitchen is warm. The aromas are heavenly. All is calm.