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She did it! My wee Nugget, my Isla Elizabeth, the light of my heart and life, my sweet pea of 3yrs and 8 months, made it through a full 6 hr day at our local Waldorf school, without any tears and no calls to Mama from the teacher!

Heading to the car for her first day at school!

Heading to the car for her first day at school!

I can not, however, say the same for Mommy. Yes, I shed quite a few tears, and thought of her constantly, and had butterflies in my stomach as I sped north to pick her up at 2:45….. but at least I did not call the teacher. I almost did. I reached for the phone several times. But each time I breathed deeply and set it back down… and distracted myself – just like I told her to do if she missed me.

We tried the last school year – 8 consecutive tries which stretched into Oct of ’11. But she just could not stay alone, and I could no longer spend the days with her at school. If she wasn’t ready, then she wasn’t ready. There was no need to force it. We said we would talk about it again after Christmas… but she wasn’t ready then either. We said we would talk about it this past August… but she still wasn’t ready. But after 4 weeks in Reno, NV in November, spending every day with Papa riding bikes and playing with other children at the nearby playground, she was READY. She REALLY wanted time with other kids. And most of her friends were in school, which meant they had no time for playdates.

We were in Reno for my Lyme treatment. I thought I could get through this latest relapse on my own, without the help of my usual, trusted clinic. But I just could not get back on my feet at any level of functionality that would work for me. 50% of the norm is not acceptable, especially when you consider what the “norm” looks like for someone with Chronic Lyme. So we packed up the family and left the farm for an entire 5  1/2 weeks. We split up the drive west with a stop in Zion National Park, and the drive back east with a visit with the Grands. And while I read in a reclining chair with an IV dripping salvation slowly into my veins, received multiple daily injections, colonics, lymphatic drainage treatments, chiropractic appointments, and a series of tests that seemed to have no end, Randy became Mr. Mom – full time. Because I was not even available at night, due to the reaction to the treatment. I’ll spare you the treatment details as they were not fun, but the result was Isla and Randy developed a strong father-daughter bond and she became a pro on her balance bike! Nothing like a bit of pavement and bike paths to really open up the world to a kid and her dad.

One afternoon when I returned from the clinic, Isla rushed into my arms. “Mama! I played with a great big black girl today on the slides!” I chuckled and said, “Do you mean the girl was bigger than you and had dark skin?” This translation was confirmed and I was entertained for some time with each and every detail of their time together. Living in a town where there are few Afro-Americans, I was tickled at her excitement and experience. And each day there was a new story of her adventures with new kids – different ages, different genders and different ethnic backgrounds – many not even sharing a common language with my daughter.

One evening I was sitting in bed with a book, feeling like I had been run over by a mack truck, when she quietly walked in and climbed into bed with me. “I wish I could make your Lyme go away Mama,” she said softly. “Can I read next to you?” I nodded with a smile and brushed away my tears. She pulled out her book and started to look through the pages next to me. The uncharacteristic stillness caused me to glance down at my little clone, and I noticed she was staring into space, deep in thought over some dilemma, the same scowl of concentration on her face I so often wear on my own. “Mama?” she said. “I think I need a bruthah. Could you find a little boy without any parents to be my bruthah?”

This request is a bit more poignant than it might seem as she had had a brother who had died at birth. And it wasn’t the first time she has requested a sibling. With me at 50 and Randy… ah, snipped, we won’t be producing any siblings the “natural” way. But what it made me realize, was that she was lonely. As an only child, staying at home with mommy most days, she was craving playmates.

As we drove homeward across the hundreds of miles of basin and range, Randy and I had a lot of time to talk (when we weren’t listening to Charlotte’s Wed or Little House on the Prairie). We discussed getting back into foster care again – Isla was old enough now. And we discussed updating our homestudy for adoption – because you never know when a baby might miraculously fall from the sky into your waiting arms, right? We could never afford the normal adoption-through-an-agency route. We have learned over the years between the loss of Isla’s older brother and her own arrival, adoption is for rich folk… which we are not. But a private adoption….. we might be able to handle. Or an adoption through foster care.

It’s much more complicated than I make it sound, but the bottom line was… it was time. Time to try school again. And I had decided a year and a half ago that there was only one school I felt I could trust with the care of my darling child – Waldorf. We first discovered the Taos Waldorf School when we cared for a 10 yr old foster child who was in 3rd grade there. I fell in love with the school immediately. And over 4 yrs later, I still cry when I go there. I don’t know what it is – the safety? The nurturing environment? The animals, gardens, greenhouse, apiary and orchards? The teachers exuding love? The simple environment based in Nature? The smell of fresh baked bread and simmering soup? I want to regress and become a child and feed “Cookies and Cream”, the enormous angora rabbit, or milk the nubian goats, or pet the ducks and chickens, or walk to the “magic grove” and climb into the massive arms of the old cottonwood tree, like climbing back into my mother’s lap.

But there were two obstacles: money, and an available spot. I waited patiently until school was back in session from the holidays before calling to inquire. And I was greatly relieved to learn that there WAS a space available for the Tues/Thurs attendance I hoped for. Wew! One down….

Next was money – being a private school with no funding to speak of, the only way we could afford it was if I could find work. Ah, that would be… PAYING work. And that is no easy task when you have a VERY limited number of specific hours in which you are available to work. Thankfully, the Universe seemed determined to support this monumental change in our family’s lives. A dear friend was loosing her nanny, right at the same time Isla was beginning school. She needed someone to care for her 1 yr old so she could continue her own career, telecommuting from home. And her hours were flexible, and enough. Good thing I adore her wee lassie as I have not been paid that little is a very, very long time. Even my own 17 yr old babysitter chastised me and said I should not take less than $15/hr. “But dear, I pay YOU 10 an hour.” “Yes, but I am 17 and you are 50, MacLaren – with a child!” But this is all a mute point as I am not interested in starting up my old business designing houses (for $45/hr), nor would I be able to with so few hours available. The important thing is when all is said and done, I come out about $2 ahead per month. Or something like that. It sits uncomfortably in my gut, but I can deal.

And so, Isla had her first day at school last week, with mama of course – a re-introductory visit day. But yesterday, she stayed the full day, WITHOUT me! I was beaming with pride from ear to ear! I played with her after school in the frigid playground, and treated her to a decaf chai at her favorite cafe. She spewed a non-stop string of stories from her day, stopping only to guzzle her well earned beverage. Her whole demeanor seemed to have shifted. She was cooperative and polite with me, thanking me over and over for taking her to school. I could not stop smiling. She seemed so different – so grown up.

And Randy brought her home a beautiful pink rose and big hugs of congratulations. It is so hard to believe that she really did it! And tomorrow is day 2 and she can barely wait. Sigh…

I can’t deny it anymore. It’s true! Our bonnie wee lassie is growing up!

Isla's congratulatory tostada dinner complete with a pink rose from Papa!

Isla’s congratulatory tostada dinner complete with a pink rose from Papa!

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A perfect evening I almost missed.

I was on my way to the bath, 2 fingers of single malt scotch over 2 cubes of ice, tinkling in my hand. I was behind the Lyme curtain, in a haze of achy joints and muscles, exhausted from just making it through another day of mommyhood and farm life. All I could think of was BATH. ACETAMINOPHEN. SCOTCH. But I looked back…. and saw…. Randy, who was also exhausted from a hard day of work, still in his BLM uniform, unshowered, running hot water in the sink to tackle 24 hrs worth of dishes… then feed the animals… and then cook dinner… while keeping an eye on Isla. All while I was in the tub. Crap. I may be in a Lyme relapse, but that was just plain unfair.

“How about if I feed the animals first honey?” He turned towards me with gratefulness in his eyes. Gratefulness. Not resentment. Not sarcasm. Not anger. That is this man I married. “That would be great,” he smiled. “Thanks.”

And that was how my perfect evening began.

I truly thought I was still going to the bath, but before I knew it, Isla and I were filling water tubes and petting the goaties and counting eggs into the basket. For the first time I let Isla scoop out the grain rations herself and mix them in the big red bowl. I have been working hard on this – resisting the urge to be a helicopter mom. And I fought the urge then to look over my shoulder and instruct and micromanage. To my proud delight – I won my internal battle by busying myself tossing hay flakes to the goats. Then Isla filled chicken feed tubes and scattered scratch while I set things up for morning milking. We got lost collecting perfect turkey feathers that Thomas has been moulting – snow white with flat, black tips. I have an idea of selling them on EBay one day. We did our best to pet Noche, our one and only 2012 chick, but she is still rather skittish. (At least we hope she is a she.) Then we dropped the eggs off in the kitchen and I retrieved my scotch to follow Isla around the yard on her balance bike.

“Watch me Mama!” She careened around the garden fence with no chance of Mama catching her. That girl needs a pedal bike, I thought. Molly, the Pyrenees, did a much better job of keeping up than I. Randy had wandered out into the garden with our big metal harvest bowl to get some veggies for dinner. I stopped and we talked about our days while leaning on the fence. Isla yelled to me from behind the chicken coop, still waiting for me to watch her. (!!!) I walked slowly around the corner of our 3 Sisters patch and commented on 2 new winter squash fruits getting started on the edges. No telling what was happening in the middle – it was an absolute jungle of red flint corn, Taos Pueblo red beans, winter squash and amish pumpkins. The paths I had carefully raked in Spring, had disappeared in July. I’ll have to remember to give the plants a more generous spacing next summer. On the east run of fencing I leaned over and checked the Calypso beans. A few pods were dry. They were ready to begin harvesting. Isla adores shelling the colorful dried beans. And there is something so satisfying about digging your hands into a bowl of hard, cool, shiny, colorful beans – Ireland Creek Annie (greenish-white), Calypso (black and white) and the Taos red beans (brick red) – and hearing the shooshing and tinkling sounds as they bounce back into their ceramic bowl.

I rendezvoused back with Isla near the play set. We watched a large spider in it’s hole for a few minutes. I thought it might be a tarantula, but it was not. But we did coax it an inch or so out into the light. And then I offered to push my nugget on her swing. This may seem like a normal occurrence, but the truth is that it’s rare. Randy is the one who swings her in the evening when he comes home. I am too busy working around the farm or house in the days, or too tired in the evenings. I have never been one of those “make and do” sort of moms who has time for activities with my child. Isla and I spend our time together doing house or farm chores. She has her own broom and mop, her own tool belt with real tools, her own rake and shovel. When we muck out the coop, we do it together, filling her wheel barrow first and then mine. And in the rare moments I can read a mommy-farm blog, I savour in the fantasy of being like them – art and sewing projects, music time, general creativity. But I am not, sigh. That was why this moment was so very sweet and special.

We counted the swings together to 30 and then she pumped her legs and swung herself. Randy and I chatted more through the 7′ high sunflowers. Isabelle and Thomas flapped their prehistoric wings up to their roosts, and watched us from their bleachers, pink wattles wagging as they retained their balance. The Tommys alighted one after another, sidestepping closer to mom. Then Father sun dropped below the low western clouds and lit the landscape with a sudden shot of alpine glow. It was like a pink filter had been dropped over my eyes. I sat in the second swing and Isla slowed beside me. And for the next 15 minutes we watched the spectacular scene, side by side, as it changed from moment to moment, making sure we checked over our shoulders as well. The swatch of dusty rose tiptoed up the mountains at our backs, and launched off the top off Taos Mountain into lavender and powder blue. The setting sun said goodnight, leaving the horizon blazing in neon salmon, hot yellow, and smears of blueberry. A curtain of pale purple virga reached its fingers toward the parched desert land, but was intercepted by the low relative humidity, never realizing it’s distant goal. Too bad for our garden, but stunning to our eyes. A baker’s dozen of grackles flapped over our heads heading to their roost on the eastern hills. Thomas gobbled. Molly barked. Willie crowed. And in perfect synch, Jay Jay, the neighborhood’s donkey let loose a rusty, winding bray! The scent of grilling burgers reached my nose – burgers from the 1/4 cow we buy each year – local, organic and pasture raised. And grilling slabs of zucchini – I could smell them too. The color slowly faded from the sky, starting from behind us and retreating over our heads toward the west.

“Let’s go set the table Sweetpea.” This was Isla new responsibility, since the child proof lock had busted on the silverware drawer and she was cutting with sharp knives now anyway. She also decided to start filling all 3 of our water cups for meals as well. She can reach the water dispenser on the fridge and the enamel camping cups are pretty safe to carry. So what if I skate through a river of spilled water – she is learning and she feels valued and responsible. That’s what tile floors are for. Then we grabbed the flashlight and went back to the barn to put everyone to bed.

With Hazelnut in her new stall, and the kids busy chowing on the grain in theirs, Isla was able to give Bucky a big hug. As he is usually too rambunctious and nibbly, this was a very sweet moment. Bucky is soon to be our freezer goat and Isla knows we need to give him lots of love now, as we’ll be eating him this winter. Fiona, our doeling, is an easy snuggler, always gentle and willing, and she responded to her attention with the usual love in her brown eyes. Then together we counted the chickens through the coop window and latched their coop door and fence door. We said goodnight to the turkeys as we passed quickly beneath them, reaching high to touch each one lightly on his or her tail or breast. Then we headed back to the house, hand in hand in the darkening twilight.

As I paused to drink in the night, count the stars and heft my daughter to my hip, I thought, “This was such a perfect night. Sure, hot baths are great too, but this was…… PERFECTION.”

And to think that I had almost missed it.

August garden

Isabelle with a Tommy under each wing facing opposite directions

Another spectacular high desert sunset from our farm

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For my 50th birthday, I got a new pair of telemark ski boots from my husband! And generous birthday checks from my dad and in-laws. And I might be getting some financial help from a certain little brother towards the purchase of a compound bow. I organized a 3 day raft trip for my family and a handful of friends and ate my favorite flourless chocolate cake, complete with candles, on the banks of the river. All for my celebration of turning half a century.

And I also got a relapse of my Chronic Lyme Disease. I don’t remember asking for THAT gift…. Or did I?

It’s easy to see how I “set myself up” in hindsight, but very difficult to push away denial in the moment as the freight train is barreling through the mountain pass. The freight train I speak of would be my life and the mountain pass all the distractions in it’s path. I can look back now, as I groan from the deep aching pains in my muscles and joints, and see how I created my own perfect storm.

Yup…. It really started with Spring…. or maybe even late winter when the construction of the pole barn for the goats began… Those were fun and exciting days, but also stressful, as we had a deadline of when the goats were arriving. Stress is a killer for those of us with CLD (Chronic Lyme Disease). Six consecutive weekends of work parties with supportive friends completed our barn raising. I was either with the boys slinging my hammer, or in the house with Isla preparing a mid day feast for the crowd. I was also the project boss – in charge of design and being sure the materials were all on hand for the day of work. It was exhilarating to watch MY barn slowly raise up from the snowy ground… but stressful and exhausting too.

Then came the goats and my goat-owner-trial-by-fire began. Intense! This was all MY thing, a long time dream of mine. Randy did not want the goats. I struggled alone through fear and worry as I taught myself to milk the mama, bottle feed 2 kids, and keep them happy and safe.

Next was garden time. This began with the planting of indoor starters, tilling and raking beds in prep for planting the garden, and a new garden addition that was around 400 to 500 square feet. In our horrific soil we have to hand spade the ground first to break it, then till in 2 directions, then rake out rocks, then add whatever supplement of compost we have, then till a third time, then rake the soil into raised beds creating the paths, then plant, and THEN set up the drip irrigation! Oh, I forgot fencing. Randy handled the new fencing and 3/4 of the spading, but I did the rest. And that was just plain STUPID. I do enjoy pushing myself hard when my health is holding, but this was idiotic. I overdid it for many weekends in a row, as well as weekdays when I had the energy. While I was wrestling with the tiller in the garden addition, Randy planted ALL of the massive garden single handedly. Then I planted the addition. And I think that was when my Borrelia burgdorferi began to yawn, stretch and rub it’s sleepy eyes.

In the midst of the garden work the chicken coop was moved beside the barn with the help of 8 strong hands, and fencing was placed around it to separate goats and chickens. Soon after I found a pair of Royal Palm turkeys for trade and brought them home. Not a lot of stress and physical labor getting the dog house moved into the goat pen for the turkeys and getting them established. But certainly some.

But then the poultry drama really began. I brought home a borrowed broody bird and settled her into the broody house on top of 5 of our eggs and 18 expensive, rare breed, bought eggs. While she set on her clutch, the turkey hen went broody and began to set on a total of 18 eggs. 3 of our 5 chicken eggs hatched and a big ZERO of the 18 bought eggs. So I hustled around to two different feed stores and brought home 14 babies to tuck under the mama’s wing. After the addition of 17 chicks to our flock, the 3 chick deaths were sad, but not unexpected. But the gray fox that managed to get into the pen and kill 14 chicks and the mom – now that laid a MASSIVE emotional burden on my shoulders. And the Lyme spirochetes, hiding deep in the cells of my draining body, were on alert – they knew a chance may be coming soon for them to pounce once more.

Grief and Guilt drove me to long hours of further wrapping of the pen, securing it from all angles and heights. And creating a pen around the poultry nursery to keep goat kids from jumping off the roofs of the broody houses. Turkey poults hatched, but only five. Two of the five died leaving us with three. I was sad and disappointed. A second broody bird was borrowed and brought home to sit on top of 12 of our eggs. Meanwhile a woman in WI supposedly put 20 or so of her rare breed eggs into her incubator for me. The plan was to ship us the day old chicks who’s age would be within a day or two of the chicks hatched on our farm. But only ONE of our 12 eggs hatched and the woman in WI never put the eggs in her incubator. And she never bothered to tell me!

My plan was to double my flock this year introducing some rare breeds who laid dark chocolate brown eggs, more Americaunas (the blue-green egg layers), and some white eggs layers. AND a batch of turkey poults to sell for Thanksgiving dinners. One turkey hen will go back to the original owners of the turkey pair as agreed, one hen we would like to keep for breeding, and one turkey would be for our table. But we still don’t know the sexes. Doubtful we’ll be making any money there however, unless they are all toms. And as for doubling my chicken flock – Ha! From all the stress, loss, efforts and money invested, we end up with ONE CHICK. The joke between Randy and I is that it will probably grow up to be a rooster. However, we have LOST 2 laying hens this year to natural deaths (non-predator related), so it’s not looking good for an increase in egg production on our farm. As I write all this down, I realize I have not given the year’s poultry stresses enough weight in the Lyme equation. I think the cumulation has contributed a great deal towards this current relapse.

A year and a half ago, Randy asked what I wanted to do for my 50th birthday. Without hesitation, I said, “A raft trip down the Chama River with all my friends!” It sounded like the perfect birthday celebration! We got our permit application into the lottery in time, and were drawn for the requested weekend. The trip was on. I am the planner/organizer of the family and I LOVE doing it! All the projects and undertakings mentioned above were at my urging and pushing. Randy is garden boss, I am animal boss. And of course there is overlap. But when it comes to overall farm planning, I am self-proclaimed boss of all. (That was why I ended up doing the majority of the garden addition. It was MY idea.) Plus, when I was pregnant with Isla, it was agreed: We would buy land, create a little urban homestead, and I would run the farm and raise our daughter at home. And 3 years later, here I find myself, running our farm and raising our daughter, living the life I dreamed of. But if this career is going to work for me, I am going to have to learn to live without having ALL of my goals and dreams manifested over night.

But back to the river. The time was finally upon us and my Big 5-0 loomed in the very near future. Invites were sent out several months in advance, gear organized, menus planned and shuttles arranged. 3 weeks before launch, one family of 3 bailed. I was sad as I was looking forward to getting to know them better. We have a lot of interests in common and their daughter is only 5 months older than ours. The day before launch, my dear friend and her family of 4 had to bail as her 16 yr old was horribly ill. I was extremely sad they were canceling. I had been so looking forward to initiating them into the rafting life style and sharing this part of my life and passion with them all.

In the week leading up to launch, there seemed to be no end to the last minutes projects that needed to be completed before leaving. The turkey poults were passing easily through the chain link nursery fence, leaving their distressed mother behind. And one even continued right through the stucco netting of the goat pen out into the free world! That would NOT do! So the nursery chain link needed to be wrapped with smaller holed poultry netting and wired on. The drip irrigation needed to be finished on the garden addition and re-routed to become a 4th irrigation zone on it’s own. The garden needed harvesting and the access processed and in the freezer (a MASSIVE job). Weeding needed to be done and squash bugs had to be picked off by hand before they devastated our crop. River gear needed going through, the menu planned and bought for, and all group gear packed. Then our personal gear needed packing. THEN the house needed to be cleaned for the house sitter, and my house sitter novella edited for goats and turkeys.

It then occurred to me this was the first time we had left the farm since getting the goats and the turkeys! No WONDER I was feeling such panic and stress! I was leaving my newest babies in the care of another for 4 days. Any number of horrors could befall them in that short interval.

Three days before launch I felt the fear swirling into the dark depth of my chest. Using good judgement, I paid a friend to come help me with Isla and processing the harvest. Then again to clean the house. And I also commandeered another friend to help out over the final 2 days with whatever needed doing. The night before our final prep day there was no more denying it. I KNEW I was in trouble. I could feel the deep aching in my body, sensed the depression flooding in extinguishing all my internal fire, and a depth of exhaustion that was frightenly familiar. The warning bells began to ring. LOUDLY.

But what could I do then? I persevered… I couldn’t bail on my own trip! I busted my ass for the final prep and pack day and we drove away from the farm that evening, my heart aching with fear, my body aching from the attacking spirochetes. We spent the night in a cabin at the launch site and the next morning was more ass busting of rigging rafts, re-packing gear, and packing it all on the rafts. As the organizer I was feeling completely overwhelmed and (dare I say it?) honestly, so very relieved that 2 families had bailed and we were down to only 10. If our poor 16 yr old baby-sitter had not gotten deathly ill, causing her whole family to stay home, I would have been rowing an additional raft myself WHILE taking care of my 3 yr old and the group! I do not know if I could have done it in the state of decline I was already in.

And then on the river…. the blessed river…. which is usually my place to relax and recharge. Randy brought to my appalled attention that this was my first time organizing and being the “leader” of a group raft trip of more than 4 people. What? How could that be? Really? And we had started the trip with 17! Yet one more reason for my emotional and physical overwhelm and exhaustion. I was a wreck internally, while doing my best not to show it externally. Unfortunately for my family, Randy and Isla saw plenty of my wretchedness as my crankiness spilled out sideways in their directions. And it rained, and rained, and rained on the trip. It was the wettest Chama trip I remember in my history of 7 trips down. Isla was needy and difficult, certainly reacting to my own neediness and stress. And I was exhausted and concerned about everything running smoothly. It was hard. I was so relieved to discover that everyone else had had a great time, despite the rain! But the bummer for me was that this trip was my birthday trip and I did NOT have a good time. Because I was completely wasted and taking a full face plant into my current relapse of Lyme.

Lyme sucks. There is no other way to say it. One of the hardest things is that you look fine on the surface, so you just appear to be a lazy, cranky, complaining human suffering hypochondriac delusions. Being a person who thrives with goals and projects to constantly be working on, it hits me where it hurts most. It dumps a big bucket of river water on all my fiery passion. I drops me into depression and apathy. I was so down after we returned from the river that I didn’t even want to check if any chicks had hatched. That says a lot.

Many people ask “How do you feel?” or “How do your symptoms manifest?” Well, I know it is a bit different for each individual, but for me, the main one is pain. I am used to living with a mild level of chronic pain that never really goes away. But in a relapse the pain is much more intense. It reminds me of the pain that accompanies a very bad flu bug – body aches that leave you writhing and moaning in bed sort of pain. Pain in the muscles, pain in the joints. Arthritic symptoms that are mild in the good times become claw shaped hands in the morning with a relapse. Thank God Randy has taken over morning milkings because my hands hurt so badly in the morning that I am not sure I could do it. Before this relapse I sometimes had to rub my hands under hot water before heading to the barn with the milk pail. I’ll find out in a couple days what lengths I have to go to now, as Randy leaves town Fri for an over night backpacking trip.

Brain fog is a large symptom. My neurological symptoms have always been tough for me. Word choice can be very difficult when speaking. Sometimes I can not finish a sentence, as I stop to work out the next word and then forget what the sentence and thought was about. I walk into a room and can’t remember what the reason was. I can not remember to call people back or return emails. I can’t remember what I am supposed to do. I often forget simple things like brushing my and Isla’s teeth in the morning, or brushing our hair. I feel like I am walking through a thick fog, a dream, a surreal land. Sometimes I hear my own voice as though it’s far away or another person speaking. I can have a thought but can not voice it. Writing can be quite entertaining at times when I go back to edit. There are typos and entire words that aren’t even CLOSE to what I meant to have in their places.

Depression sets in leaving me numb, unmotivated, and apathetic. I feel shame and have a strong sense of self-loathing. I feel like I am a bad person – a bad mother, a bad wife, and bad friend. I feel so dependent and needy that it disgusts me. I feel like a pathetic burden on my friends and husband. I want to isolate and suffer in solitude where I won’t effect anyone else. I want to push people away so they can’t see me like this. Even people close to me. I am dreadfully emotional. I want to crawl into a cave and sob for eternity.

And the exhaustion can be so intense that I can not get out of bed. My kid begs me to get up and I am not sure how to do it. I sit in a filthy house and can’t imagine how I will ever get it clean and organized again. I know I need to do at least SOME work at home but there are days I simply can’t. Nothing.

Fortunately I am describing the worst case scenario days, and they are not all this bad. But I cycle in and out, up and down. Yesterday was a great day! My dearest mama friend and her entire family came over for the day. While her husband worked me over on his massage table for 2 solid hours, my friend took our 3 collective kiddos out to the garden and harvested for an hour or so, then came inside and start dealing with harvest as well as making lunch for us all, and doing the dishes in her wake. They were saviors. I was overflowing with love when they left and felt so very hopeful again. I was able to get a lot done, even after they left!

But today I am paying the piper for too much fun yesterday. I am back at the bottom – not quite in the dregs yet, but hovering only a bit above. The house looks like a cyclone hit it. And I just don’t care.

The other side of Lyme is the Tough Love Teacher. It always has something to teach me, whether I am interested in learning it or not. What I am learning through this relapse is gratitude, forgiveness, humility, gentleness. I am learning to love myself and take this one day at a time. I am learning that no one will die if they have to live in a house that is filthier that the goat barn. I am learning that my husband can actually enjoy milking our goat at 5:30AM! I am learning to stop, breath, feel grateful for all I have – grateful for the water I am drinking, the food I eat from our garden, the fresh milk I make my kefir with. I am learning to reach out to the higher power of my choosing and ask for help, strength, support and guidance on my healing path. I am learning that my friends and community love me and are there for me. I am overwhelmed with the offers of help, the prayers sent, the love poured upon me. I am learning to open my heart and receive these gifts, which is a damn hard thing for a self-sufficient, stubborn, fiery, Scot-Irish girl like myself. I am forgiving myself. I am drinking slow pots of tea. Lots of them. On the porch. While the weeds grow in the garden like Little Shop of Horrors.

OK Lyme Disease – you’ve got me again. But I will do my damnedest to stay afloat and see my glass half full. I open my heart and  embrace your lessons and choose to see this relapse as an opportunity.

An opportunity to learn, heal, and grow.

PS: Good news! I stared this post about a week ago and it has taken some time and energy to edit. But during this editing, I have seen a marked improvement in my energy with a dramatic decrease in my pain. It would appear the protocol I set out for myself is working. I feel very hopeful that I have caught this crash in time. Perhaps I won’t plummet ALL the way down this time around. Keep your fingers crossed for me…..

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Her long, ash-gray ears felt like velvet to the pads of my fingers. I could not stop stroking them, or tracing a line along the jet black ridge of her spine, surrounded on both sides by a sea of dark chocolate. She was the most beautiful animal I had ever seen, so small, so vulnerable, so perfect…. and she had been so close to death just a few hours before.

Here Fiona is 3 or 4 hrs old. Amazing that such a tiny creature can elicit such fierce, unconditional love from so many.

Hazelnut gave birth earlier than expected, in the wee hours of dawn amidst a driving blizzard. While she labored through the storm, both inside and out, I had one of my worst nights of insomnia on record. Up for 5 straight hours, I thought incessantly and obsessively about baby goats and goats being born. I can only imagine I was in some sort of spiritual link with my future goat. When Chris, Hazelnut’s human papa, bundled again the snow and tromped off to the barn to check on the three expectant caprine mothers, it was already too late for the little buckling. Hazelnut had been pushed away from the heat lamp by the herd matriarch, and the buckling had froze while his sister was being born. This tragic news gave me more insight into my “labor bond” with Hazelnut. I too, had lost my son at birth. Fiona, as I named her, was on Death’s door. But Death did not have the firm grip on her that took her brother. The Pieper family acted fast, stoking the wood stove and dragging out the radiant heat lamp. Someone milked Hazelnut and the warm colostrum was dribbled down Fiona’s throat with a dropper, as she was still too weak to swallow. When Isla and I arrived, and I held the tiny doeling in my lap, she was still shivering from her frigid entry into our harsh world. But 3 hrs later, when we said a reluctant farewell, she was already struggling to stand…

and I was hopelessly in love.

The morning of Fiona's birth

Elana Pieper nursing Fiona back to life

Isla and I get our chance... and that was that. We were hooked.

Gwendolyn Pieper lets Hazelnut have some time with her down-wrapped baby.

We returned to the Pieper’s farm the following day. After a nice visit with the family, and Hazelnut, who would soon be OUR herd matriarch, we packed up a mason jar of colostrum, and a clean beer bottle with rubber nipple. And with Fiona in my lap, and Isla in her car seat, I drove slowly home. The wee lassies slept soundly for the 30 minute drive. We made our doeling a comfy bed in the corner of the kitchen and nursed her every couple of hours. We held her as much as we possibly could – attachment parenting will always be my choice with a human baby, and when needed, with an animal one too. That night I snuggled our furry newborn daughter in bed beside me, getting up 3 times in the night to bottle feed and let her pee. Not much sleep was had for me, but I didn’t really care. All my newborn/second child mothering urges were being exquisitely fulfilled with this big act of love between me and a 5 lb. lump of fur, warmth and trust. I was in groggy heaven.

Fiona checking out the goat on our rug while sporting an old pair of Isla's pull ups.

Isla introduces each of her many friends to her new caprine sibling.

"And you and Hazelnut will come live with us as soon the your house is finished! We'll be sisters!"

After returning Fiona to Hazelnut and the Piepers, Isla and I each gave a heavy sigh and trudged back to the car. It was wonderful to see mama and baby bonding the way Nature intended and that sight gave me joy… but also a strange pang of jealousy. I have so badly wanted a second child, and Fiona is already satiating so much of that primal, and sometimes painful desire. And Isla is already accepting her as the little sibling she has been asking for, human or not. But the hardest thing was the unexpected separation over the following days as I immediately came down with a nasty cold and could not come visit the goats again for 4 long days. After the intimate bond created from sleeping with Fiona, this was pure torture for me. It gave me some insight into how Hazelnut must feel being separated from her baby! BOTH her babies!

But today Fiona is a week old and sleeping safely in the barn with her animal mama. She is running, jumping and playing – still wobbly but so very much more sure hoofed! Her recovery has been a miracle in my eyes. And this morning’s sunrise brought her 2 new cousins born into the herd from her half sister, Wren. The role call is not yet over either. Mamacita is expecting certainly triplets, and possibly quadruplets! We hope to bring home one of the bucklings as well.

Last night we helped celebrate Chris Pieper’s 45th birthday and I ate an excellent home cooked meal with little Fiona in my arms. I shared her with the other guests too… reluctantly. Many wanted to hold the little fuzzy nugget and kiss her knobbly head, on the snow white patch, just between her little horn buds. With all the preparation for the coming weekend work party to finish the goat shed and fence, I do not know when my next visit to the girls will be and that leaves me with a certain anxiousness in my gut. But I also need to remember my human daughter. She loves the goats too, but doesn’t fancy the competition for Mama’s love and focus. Tonight she insisted on pulling out her old baby bottle and having me feed her. “I’m a little goat, Mama, and my name is Fiona. I can’t hold my bottle. YOU have to feed me. Make sure I stretch my neck out nice and long, OK?” This is more humorous than one might think as Isla would NEVER take a bottle in all her infancy! She was solely breast fed!

My token "breaking ground" photo taken just before the storm, and Fiona, arrived.

10 stock panels for the pen - 50" high by 16' long.

Returning home with cedar posts for both pole barn and pen.

The two Randy's trying to look tough next to their first sunk posts. Unfortunately the post hole auger failed to work.

I have wanted goats for decades and felt a strange, comfortable and curious bond with them. Randy and I have always been interested in gardening, but as our food supply has become less and less safe and predictable, we have turned more toward a deep desire for some level of homesteading. Nowadays, it is the only true way to know what you are ingesting. When I was pregnant with Isla, we discussed what my “job” would be once she was born. We both heartily agreed that we did not want for me to take on a paying job, just to afford to pay someone else to raise our child! I had closed the doors on my sustainable house design business a year or so prior and had welcomed the ease of drafting land survey plats for my friend and his thriving survey business. It was such a stress relief to leave my work at the office (someone else’s office) and not stay awake at night working out a design challenge for a demanding client. But CAD work would not be compatible with raising a newborn in a Waldorf inspired home. So it was decided. I would be the stay-at-home mommy and manage a little farm… an urban homestead… basically the life I had dreamed of for many, many years. Not only would I nurture the mind of my long awaited daughter, but I would nurture the bodies of my partner, my child, and myself. It was the ultimate mothering job. Really? Me? I could do this?

We bought a house on a little piece of land at the outskirts of town and found a tenant for our existing home. We were tired of the isolation and barren lands of our mesa living and were ready for community. It wasn’t much – 1.7 acres. But it had a well which was HUGE for us, having live in a our owner-built, off-grid, strawbale house for years. There, we collected rainwater or hauled it from a spring. The closest aquifer was 1300′ straight down and no one in the neighborhood could even consider drilling! A well sounded like pure decadence to us leather-skinned mesa rats.

We moved into our new home in Oct of ’09, little Isla at 5 months old, strapped to my body as we unpacked boxes. We talked and planned through the winter, ordered seeds and researched bees and chickens. Randy took on the majority of the garden, and me the animals and insects. By the end of the first year we had a flock of 12 chickens (2 of which were laying), 1 bee hive, 8 fruit trees planted, and a good sized garden with fencing. But no goats. By the end of the 2nd year we were pulling in our second honey harvest, had expanded the garden, built raised beds and added drip irrigation. The orchard had a total of 18 trees – all on drip, and the chicken flock had been increased to 15 by natural means of broody birds (tallied after the loss of 3 laying hens and 4 peeps to a predator, and the 3 mean roosters we’d relegated to the freezer). But no goats.

But THIS year….. oh my! I am getting my goats I am! No more buying local, raw, goat and cow milk to keep kefir, yogurt and cheese in my family’s bellies. We’ll raise the buckling for meat, right along side Fiona. She’ll have a playmate during her kid months, and we will know our dinner was loved, cared for, raised organically in comfortable, healthy conditions, and was killed with reverence and respect. After shelving my dream for years, I am mere weeks away! Soon I’ll be milking Hazelnut, steps away from my back porch, and drinking her milk, warm and fresh, mild and creamy, as only a Nubian’s is.

And when I lead Hazelnut, Fiona, and her buckling cousin into their new pen and shed, I think I will finally be able to call myself a mother AND a true urban homesteader! Damn it is going to feel good!!!

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“The squishy bugs are dy-ing, the squashy bugs are dy-ing, squishing the squashy bugs, squashing the squi…”

I blinked, realizing with shock that the monotone mumblings reaching my ears were issuing from my own mouth. “Wow. Guess this is what parenthood does to you,” I said out loud. “Ah HA! Got you you skittering varmit!” And I added another stain of squash bug inners to the fingertips of my new leather gloves. With my favorite red handled scissors, I snipped two more dry, brittle squash leaves from their stalks and crushed them enthusiastically in my fist. “Hee hee. Take THAT!” Leaf dust and bug parts rained down on the hot adobe dirt by my shoe. The late August sun was cooking my inner ankle. I shifted position onto my knees and straightened my creaky back.

It was a rare occurrence to be alone in the garden. Randy’s parents were visiting for the week and Isla couldn’t get enough of her PapaJim and Gigi. I was taking full advantage of this situation, as well as the lessening of my start-of-school cold, by burying myself in our garden jungle. I wiped my nose on my glove and watched a honey bee explore the inner sanctum of a mango colored squash blossom. Watching bees always makes me smile. I assumed this hard working insect was one of my own, or so I like to say. A second bee hovered near the opening, back legs laden with pollen grains, awaiting it’s turn within. It was so burdened with it’s protein load that I bet it would return to the hive after this last stop. I looked instinctively through the 10ft high sunflowers, the corn stalks almost ready to pick, the drying pole bean vines, in the general direction of my bee hive, and felt a pang of guilt. “Geez. I am SUCH a negligent mom,” I thought shamefully. If there was such a thing as an Apis Protective Services I would surely be reported and my hive taken away!

I first got into keeping bees some 13 years ago when I discovered a good friend was interested in the same. He had a large apple orchard and a year round stream – I had the time. The first year we harvested a gallon each of liquid gold. The second year the bears did the harvesting for us, leaving our 2 hives in splinters. Although my interest never wavered, it wasn’t until 2 springs ago that I felt ready to take on the responsibility once more. We had bought the land and house specifically for creating an urban homestead, and bees are the no-brainer first addition. Thank god they can mostly take care of themselves as, once again, I find I have filled my plate too full. I am still in awe that they have not swarmed in search of a more attentive mother – yet.

I have a curious relationship with bees. I respect them immensely and marvel at the social organization of their hive. They are energetic, untiring laborers, and the best team players I have ever known. I feel something akin to love when I watch them zip in and out of their hive entrance – a motherly affection for sure. And they also scare the bejezzus out of me! One of my original bee mentors was a Mormon man who had spent his missionary time in Paraguay tending hives of killer bees. They used the old basket skeps that one might recognize from the Highway signs along the roadways of Utah. One day while tending a hive, he was stung on his chest. He said his over shirt had come unbuttoned and the bee had stung through his inner shirt. Within a nanosecond, the chemical signal was out and the hive swarmed him, all stinging viciously in the same area on his body. He ran like hell to a nearby pond and plunged under the scum, holding his breath for all he was worth. He counted 40 stings in all. He could have easily died from the shock of that much venom.

As I assembled and painted the first hive in my new apiary, I felt excited to be a beekeeper again.

When I picked up the screen cage of 3000 worker bees and a queen from the hands of the shaking Postal worker, I felt nervous. And when I emptied the rolling, buzzing, bee ball over the frames of the first hive box, I felt…. terror.

Unfortunately, my shot of courage, in the form of a bottle of Cuervo and a wedge of lime, did not help one iota. With trembling hands I attached the queen cage strap to the top of a frame, already dreading when I would remove it in a few days. By then The Mother Superior should have eaten through the candy plug and released herself into her mass of waiting devotees. And that hive would attend her loyally and royally for the rest of her several year life.

With a soft bristled bee brush I encouraged the wee ones to begin exploring their new home. It took little effort – they were already crawling between the frames and getting down to the serious business of drawing comb. They have a strong instinctual programming and waste no time. I pushed the Bordman feeder, an inverted jar full of sugar water set in a special tray, into the entrance. They would need food and water immediately after their 3 day journey, and it would speed up the comb production if they did not have to venture far. The inner cover was next, careful to avoid squishing anyone in the process, then the telescoping outer cover. I stepped back, took a deep breath, and heaved a sigh of relief. I was nursing a serious oxygen debt from holding my breath. Gathering my hive tools, I leaned the mostly empty shipping cage against the landing board, and walked tall back to the house. By the time I pushed open the courtyard gate, I had gained full composure and was feeling rather cool. “Yep Isla, that was your mom out there in the Outback, battling vicious, woman-eating insects. But it’s OK dear, I took care of EVERYTHING. The world is, once again, safe.” I had a great desire to grab my crotch and readjust… something. Instead I chuckled with forced confidence. I imagined Mary Elizabeth Gallagher, the awkward Catholic school girl of Saturday Night Live fame, shoving her hands into her arm pits and then sniffing deeply of her pungent fingers. I could relate. I was feeling a primal male energy rising up past my insignificant ovaries. The long crotch length of my one-piece bee suit helped me along with my developing swagger. I grabbed my hive tool and spun it briskly on my finger like a six-shooter, and shoved it smartly back into my pocket. It missed it’s mark and fell unceremoniously to the sod with a wump.

My next opportunity to feel cool was bringing home the bacon of my labors (or lack there of). The one box I had gotten around to adding was chocked full of honey and very heavy. I hauled it back from the apiary, my bee veil hiding an ear to ear grin. Randy and Isla waited with anticipation on the back porch. The honey super banged down on the porch table. I slowly lifted a frame from the box and waited for my due appreciation. “Look at that! Yeah? Yeah? That was ALL me. ALL honey! ALL for us!” Applause. I felt only mild discomfort from stealing credit from the bees. It takes balls to be a bee keeper!

We hauled the box into the kitchen and set about cutting comb from frame. It was a deliciously sticky job that we performed with relish! We cut up hunks of comb and dropped them into pint jars, then crushed the remaining in a colander with a potato masher. Some days later we filled the jars to the brim with golden liquid, the chunk of comb barely visible within. And after boiling down the wax scraps, I had enough beeswax to make a lovely Solstice candle with Isla. It felt extremely satisfying.

As spring approached once more, fired up with thoughts of MORE gold, I ordered the parts for a second bee hive…. while simultaneous expanding the garden and doubling our chicken flock. My brain must be the size of an insect’s. As you may have guessed, I have not even opened the shipping crates. It’s been all I could do to get a honey super on last years solo hive. I have been painting the succeeding honey boxes (3) for the past month and I am only talking about 2 coats of paint here – not the Mona Lisa. Of course, Isla’s participation doesn’t exactly help the process along.

I should have had at least 3 or 4 honey supers stacked above the brood chamber boxes, mostly full of honey by now. It is 3 days away from September and still there is only one – a sad waste of a potential crop. Perhaps with the Grands here for a few more days I can get the second coat on and assemble the 30 frames… or at least 10 more for one additional box. I am running out of time, as are the bees. We hoped to include small jars of honey in our annual Solstice gift bags, nestled against the homemade truffles and our Better Not Pout Oatmeal Stout. But the math is clear – I only get out what I put in. Thank god my several thousand children are forgiving ones. Thank god they haven’t swarmed for greener pastures. If they do, there will be much abuzz about nothing.

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I said that at the rate I was proceeding, I would certainly have the tomato trellis finished by January. So what was this miracle that contradicted my prediction, granting me a finished trellis a mere 24 hrs later? Well, the clue here is Isla and I were not a part of it, or not directly at least.

This summer, a local Taoseno started an incredible site on Facebook: The Taos Barter Bank. It is similar to a time bank (which was also launched in Taos this summer), but it is only between two people, and your time is only one of countless things you can barter with and for. It has the same sort of goal as Freecycle: Let’s do what we can to keep our crap out of the landfill and save money in the process. Reuse first. Last weekend I bartered a bag of veggies, eggs and a local, grass-fed, organic roast for a Mad River canoe (we pack our freezer with a 1/4 cow each fall). Granted, it needs some serious renovation, but nothing out of the scope of what we can handle. I got rid of a massive, butt-ugly dog house that had been dumped off on me before I knew what it really looked like. I didn’t need anything in trade for that eye sore – just the fact my friend came and picked it up was a gift. This week I am trading kale and eggs for 4 used ammo boxes (indispensable for raft trips). And 2 weeks ago I traded beets for buckets.

There is another amazing barter system available which is worldwide. It is called WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The only set agreement is that workers trade a 1/2 day of work for each day of room and board. Everything else with the barter is between the worker and the farm. I signed up on the WWOOF-USA site, registering our farm as ready to host a WWOOFer for the month of August. Unfortunately, I received no responses as I had only discovered this treasure at the end of July. But through the Taos Barter Bank, and Randy’s network at the BLM recreation area he manages, I did find a young college student and 2 retired couples who have done various work trades on our farm for a CSA-type bag of produce after each stint. Some days it’s just a pile-o-veggies, and other days we add frozen beef, homemade beer, eggs, honey (last year’s), crock made sauerkraut, fresh made bread, frozen fresh basil pesto, frozen salsa verde made from last year’s garden, pickled mixed veggies, etc.

The college student was a hard worker and she spent 3 or 4 mornings picking up broken glass and rusted metal around our property. We live at the dead end of a subdivision on one of the historical lands grants divvied out by the King of Spain generations ago. We have found old midden piles of refuse that seem to date back to the 40’s – pre-landfill days. And we have also found midden piles that are much older – those of the Native Americans that first settled this desert valley, the Taos Pueblo Indians. I must admit, the multi-colored pot shards evoke much more excitement for me than the rusted metal.  I feared for the little feet of our daughter, pets and future goats and was having a hard time getting to the mundane task myself. Big thanks to Heidi for donning her Ipod earplugs and getting down to it.

The two retired couples are volunteer camp ground hosts in my husband’s rec area. Over the years, as they’ve returned again and again to this magical stretch of the Rio Grande Gorge, they have become our extended family. Jim and Tesa are avid gardeners from Georgia, and Ray and Melinda are originally from Ohio, although I more think of them as locals now. They live in their RVs along the river bank, or at the single apartment at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor’s Center. Ray is a retired contractor and Jim is a excellent carpenter himself. They enjoy each other’s company and bang away at projects while Tesa weeds and harvests and Melinda teaches Isla old nursery rhymes and children’s songs that I never would have been able to dredge up myself. So far Ray and Jim have built a “latilla” (aspen sapling) wind fence on the windward side of the garden area (we get unbelievable spring winds in our desert that can decimate and desiccate our spring transplants in one afternoon), a beautiful step stool for Isla to access the “big potty”, and now our tomato trellis. It’s amazing what a couple of old farts can accomplish in a couple of hours. Next in line is a tool shed with attached, covered, garden work bench and sink. One more small step towards my goal of “a place for everything and everything in it’s place”.

But the biggest gift they give me is a relief from my torturous “project fever” that can keep me awake at night scheming and designing. Of course, I would prefer EVERYTHING I envision to be accomplished at lightening speed (whip in hand), but this pace, 2-3 hrs a week, is a good exercise in character and patience building. It reminds me to breath and be present, here, now, every moment of the waking day. It’s so easy to get sucked into living in the future when my focus is always on visions and dreams. Today, instead, I will look backwards at how far we have come…. how much we have accomplished…. how much promise is tucked in the depths of this approaching thunder cloud…

Everything in it’s own time.

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Fortunately, I am no stranger to power tools. After designing and building most of my first house, an off-grid strawbale, I have been pretty comfortable with all but finish carpentry. But there are 2 obstacles that stand in the way of my construction prowess these days: 1) Our pathetic lack of tool organization which has been cause to invent many a new 4-letter word, and 2)…. oh…. what was the other thing? Oh right! My TWO YEAR OLD. Sigh.

Our day began fairly normal – cooked farm breakfast of turkey sausage, yellow zucchini and baby turnips sauteed in local raw butter, all thrown over fresh salad greens with the required side of sauerkraut. As usual, Isla resisted my attempts to dress her and brush her teeth, which resulted in me making good my threat of going outside without her. I could hear her crying through the bathroom window as I measured the length and width of the tomato bed, carefully avoiding the groping, fruit-covered branches that stretched into the pathway threatening to trip me. Our tomato plants have become frightening – a surprising occurrence in the high desert of New Mexico. And our pole beans have wound dense, twisting ropes with their searching vines. It’s time to get serious.

After settling the little one and wiping her tears we loaded into the 4-Runner bound for the hardware store. Isla navigated the tight aisles with expert ease, maneuvering her little cart around the corners and displays. “Here’s the Neem oil Honey.” “Neem oil.” she repeated as she settled her cargo with a look of great responsibility. “Hide-a-key…. so we won’t lock ourselves out of the car anymore, huh?” I smiled sideways. “Mama got in trouble when we went to the river and Uncle Tim had to go and meet Papa to get the other key and….” “Yes dear, come along.” “Mineral oil.” I passed her the bottle. “For mama’s orange hair?” asked Isla, referring to my recent henna disaster. “Mmmm.” “Come. Help me count out these rafter ties. We need 9.” Etc. We strapped the 2x4x8s and bamboo poles onto our cargo cage and drove slowly home. Now it was 10:45.

Snack time. Toasted homemade bread and cold plums sounds like a quick affair, but… It was 11:15 before we gained the back porch. Finding tools around here is a graying experience. Of my hair that is… explaining the henna disaster… and… never mind. I scratched my (orange) head trying to remember the last place I saw the things I would need, while Molly, our Pyrenees, plastered me against the wall with her love and bulk. I had so nicely filed the paint can for the bee boxes, and hammer, etc. on our livingroom rug – perfectly organized. But then Isla’s teacher came for a home visit and we… cleaned up. I tried the tool shed first seeing as the name fit the item. Ducking under the hornets’ 3rd successful attempt at homemaking, I began the treasure hunt. But I won’t bore you with the details. By 12 noon I had invented 3 new curse words and left Randy (my husband) 2 phone messages. But I also had 2 saw horses situated beside the garden fence laden with 16 2x4x8s and a dishwashing tub teetering to the brim with lagscrews, 8 penny nails, hammer, Dewalt cordless screw gun and circular saw, rafter ties, speed square, sharpened pencil…

“Mama. I need to go pee pee.” Breathe. I slowly put down the speed square and pencil, whipped down Isla’s pants and undies, lifted her with her back against my thighs and my hands under her knees, and waited for her to water a dessicated tumbleweed. “Not here, THERE!” “Here?” “No, THERE!” After countless minute adjustments of position, she finally relieved her bladder. I began marking cut lines to bevel the top edges of the upright supports for the tomato trellis. Six uprights were marked and I had my finger on the safety button of the saw…

“Mama. I need to poop.” “You DID poo or you need to poop?” Once inside I discovered it was a bit of a combination. We cleaned up the butt, changed the undies, emptied and cleaned the little potty, washed hands, re attached the sun bonnets, and I recommenced with sawing corners. But it was 12:30 and time for lunch or nap, whichever came first. Isla swore she was tired so we brushed off our work clothes, lay down to read Pipi Longstocking, and I tried to convince my stubborn, yawning Taurus to sleep.

2 hours later, at about 3:00, we awoke groggy and hungry and set about making lunch. I checked a few emails, and now Isla is in the bath. Papa will be home soon from work, and the day is almost done. I made a total of 12 corner cuts on 6 boards. At this rate I should certainly get the trellis finished by January.

This constant struggle of trying to “get something done” is a hair-pulling but important reminder to me. It’s not about what gets done (I remind myself), it’s about HOW it gets done – or not. It’s about giving Isla the license and my confidence to scrape her way around the hardware store feeling helpful and independent. It’s about taking time to let her count slowly to 9 as she places each individual rafter tie carefully in her cart. It’s about showing her the marks on the board and how a speed square works. Or letting her pick ripe strawberries on one side of the fence while I cut wood on the other. And demonstrating by example that building projects are not gender specific.

I strive constantly to live a simple, grounded life and teach my child the same values. We have no TV and Isla does not watch videos. Her “video game” is sitting quietly on the back porch watching our resident rufous dive bomb a gentle black chin, or walking our dog in the early morning. She revels in feeding our pond fish, and eating her way down our long row of sweet peas. Her toys are mostly made from natural materials and they number few. Her play room is simple. She spends long periods “cooking” elaborate dishes for me in her little wooden kitchen with her pots, pans, and wooden fruit and veggies. I’m not saying I don’t battle with extreme frustration at times, for I most certainly do. When I feel a need to accomplish a project, I am overcome with a sort of fervor which transmogrifies into anger when I must contend with obstacles in my path… 2 yr old obstacles. The world we live in is hardly supportive. Parents chauffeur their kids from activity to activity at a frenzied rate, picking up greasy fast food along the way. The media leaves us wallowing in keep-up-with-the-Jones’ anxiety attacks. Raising a child in a quiet, simple way is like waging a full scaled war.

Recently I’ve been making an effort to express my anger in a more productive, appropriate way. I am a passionate, fiery Scot-Irish woman and am disposed to “Mommy rage”. The worst part is Isla has been parroting my own displays of anger – a shameful mirror shoved in my face. So we talked, and discussed (she is quite good at discussing things at her young age), and agreed to do the following: Stomp each foot hard on the floor with legs about shoulder width and take a deep breath. Then imagine pushing roots out of the bottoms of our feet, deep down into the soil, past the worms and the rocks, embraced by Mother Earth’s body. Then we ask Mother Earth to take our anger and frustration and slurp it out through our roots, and push in peace and joy in it’s place. I was proud I remembered to try it today at the umpteenth interruption, and by god, it worked! Mother Earth granted me my request.

So today I am grateful for my daily obstacle course on my path of accomplishing. I am grateful for my 2 year old mirror into the dark crevices of my soul. I am grateful for a garden that needs a trellis. I am grateful I know how to build. I am grateful for the many reminders of what is TRULY important. Today….. I choose to be grateful for my REAL life.

Our tomatoes need some serious assistance

As do our pole beans....

Try to "get something done"

Our lucious strawberry patch has done well this summer.

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