Sunday, May 31, 2009

All Signs Point to Spring

It's such a fabulous time of year. The flowers are blooming, the vegetable garden is thriving, birds are chirping, and The Farm Montessori had its Spring Festival. All three of my girls have attended The Farm and if they offered classes through high school, they'd all still be there. Cholita just finished her first year.

Now that she's finished with school, she has more time to help around the house which in turn gives me more work to do. But she does provide me with interesting stories to tell around the dinner table.

A mother bird has moved into Cholita's birdhouse. The girls check on her daily and she snaps her beak at them if they get too close. Lucy told me they named her Angela because it means God's messenger. As the threesome skipped outside, Rose yelled, "Isn't that perfect?" I thought it seemed rather exalted for a bird, but I guess she's as much God's messenger as anyone else.

The climbing rose is blooming. Would you believe it's a yellow rose? The red buds go through every shade of orange before they bloom yellow. It's always in its full glory just in time for our own little Rose's birthday in June, which she thinks is fitting.

The asparagus is coming up and Lyle has started his yearly chant, "I cuss, you cuss, we all cuss for ASPARAGUS!" Asparagus is a more complicated crop than any of the others we've tried and Lyle is fairly protective of it. I have to ask before I harvest anything in the asparagus bed.

Cholita has taken on the watering job. I love how she has to hold up her dress. She's the daintiest gardener I know.

She makes it look so fun that the other kids beg to have a turn.

Cho seems reluctant to share.

I planted a Nelly Moser clematis against the barn and I check on it almost as much as the girls check on the bird. The flowers are so gorgeous.

I find it amazing that with just the slightest bit of guidance, the brittle, skinny little vines twine around the trellis and grab hold.

Something about its upward climb seems encouraging and makes me happy and hopeful. I think it's the same feeling my girls get when they look at the mother bird. Maybe I'll name my clematis Angela too.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Slaves to Fashion

Today was "Fashion Disaster" day at my girls' school--at least they told me it was fashion disaster day. I didn't see any evidence of that when I dropped Lucy and Rose off this morning and saw other normally dressed children running into school as the bell rang. Hopefully my girls had their date right because otherwise they may REALLY have had a fashion disaster. Either way, at least they had each other. "You think I look weird? Check out my sister."

Cholita saw absolutely no disaster in her sisters' attire. With awe in her voice this morning she said, "Oh, you two look GORGEOUS!"

Proving that fashion is indeed a matter of taste.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Berm Baby Berm

The title of this post should be sung to the tune of the Bee Gees disco hit, Burn Baby Burn. Ours is a slightly different landscaping version. I also could have named this post, "It takes a lot of dirt to make a mountain". Oh, does it ever. When we started, we figured that we would need 2, maybe 3 yards of dirt to make a respectable mound out of this big flat triangle.

One yard fits in the bed of our truck. This took SEVEN yards!

We also wanted to move some rocks down from the top of our hill. This could not be done with human strength alone but luckily for us we have the very best type of neighbor--one with large machines who is always happy to rev them up and move big things. This morning I felt the ground shake, heard a rumble across the back lawn, and knew it was rock moving time. As I was directing our neighbor until he was over each rock, I felt like I was at the video arcade using a giant claw machine....A little to the left, a little to right, now grab that teddy bear!

You have been chosen!

The end result was worth the extra work and extra dirt. It was even worth the bulldozer tracks across the front lawn.

Rose, our Doubting Thomas, said she loved it. And if Rose likes it, we know we've done something good.

One summer yard project done. About ten to go!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Totally Called It

We have different children. I don't mean different as in strange (although that might be appropriate as well), but vastly different from each other. Anything I may have learned with Bruder, didn't apply to Lucy. The stuff I'd learned with Lucy didn't work at all with Rose, etc. etc. So the other day Lyle and I started a project. It was a big project and done spur-of-the-moment as is typically done around here. We decided we didn't like the triangle of grass in front of our house and so as soon as the kids left for school we grabbed shovels and started digging. The kids had no idea we were doing this and when it was almost time for them to come home from school Lyle and I guessed how each of our children would respond to the big change in the front yard. We agreed that Bruder wouldn't notice--possibly ever. Lucy would think it was very exciting, and Rose would be furious that we dared change anything. Cholita was home and helping us dig, so she was our partner in crime.

Bruder came home first. We still had shovels in hand and he walked right up to us and started talking about something he wanted to build in the garage. Didn't notice at all.

Next came Lucy and Rose. Lucy said, "COOL! What's your plan?" We were excitedly sharing out landscape vision when we were interrupted by wailing from inside the house. Rose burst out the front door and screamed, "Stop destroying nature! Put that grass back NOW!" Bruder sauntered by from the garage and asked what Abby was screaming about. He didn't wait for an answer and went inside.

We bribed Rose with a popsicle to get her to calm down but still couldn't coax a smile. The dog was a week-long house guest. As we were working on projects out front and out back we had doors open on both ends of the house. I was inside the kitchen when our two dogs ran by followed by the beagle, followed by Old Fatty. A few minutes later the foursome ran back through the other way. I felt like I was living in a zoo.

By evening time we'd put in topsoil and planted a Japanese Maple. Bruder came out on the porch and his jaw fell open. "Hey, didn't we used to have grass there?"

The next day as we laid out a few sparse plantings Lyle and I both realized that this bed was a bigger project than we'd envisioned. This weekend we're going to dig out the tree, haul in more dirt, build a mounded berm, replant the tree, and place some large rocks on either side. It will be gorgeous someday, I promise.

Out back we've got more dirt-moving going on. We scraped away the sand from the volleyball court and spread topsoil and grass seed. One the the primary reasons for getting rid of the volleyball court was the perpetual sandy footprints through the house. What a relief to be rid of that sand, I gleefully thought. Until I saw this....

There's always something.

We're also working on a courtyard and wildflower garden. Stay tuned for "after" pictures!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, AIDS Awareness Month, World Heart Week, High Blood Pressure Month, Brain Tumor Action Week, National Stuttering Awareness Week.... If there's a medical condition or disability, chances are it has its week or month in the sun. And deserves it. But there's something more widespread than AIDS and more prevalent than any one cancer, and yet it gets just 24 hours. One day to educate people about a chronic liver disease that affects 1 out of every 12 men, women, and children across the globe. On May 19th it's World Hepatitis Day.

There's a small alphabet of different hepatitis viruses out there. Probably the one most people think of is Hepatitis A, a fairly common food borne virus that generally tends to be mild and doesn't lead to chronic illness. It's not even included in the one out of 12 number. World Hepatitis Day is highlighting those who live with chronic Hepatitis B or C. Although different viruses, both can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Both are blood borne and commonly passed through used needles, sex, and from mother to child in the birth process. Hepatitis B and C are not sneezed or coughed onto someone. They're not passed through toilet seats or doorknobs. An infected person's blood has to get into the blood stream of another person. In the case of Hepatitis B, that other person, especially if they're under age 21, would likely be immunized.

One out of 12 is a huge number. It's a number that's often ignored because in most cases you'd never guess a person has hepatitis. If you think you've never met someone with chronic hepatitis, you're wrong. They're athletes, businessmen, mothers, fathers, children. They look fine. They often feel fine. They may live for decades completely unaware that a virus has taken up residence in their liver cells. The yellow eyes and bulging abdomen that people think of when they picture hepatitis happen only at the end. Seventy-five percent of people with Hepatitis B will thankfully never get to that point. They'll live long healthy lives and die of something completely unrelated to their hepatitis. That's wonderful news. But upwards of 25% may die of liver failure or liver cancer and that's far too many. The amount of research though is small. A drop in the bucket really. In this country, with an effective immunization readily available and required for all school-age children, Hepatitis B is considered a non-issue. Why spend money on something you can prevent from happening in the first place? A valid point. But what about those already living with it? It's near pandemic proportions in poor areas of Asia where mother to child transmissions are common. Yet those areas with the greatest need for a cure have the fewest resources to make it happen.

I adore a person who happens to be "one out of 12". She's smart and beautiful and active. She loves red shoes and dress up clothes and she has a virus that's scarring her liver. She is our baby and she's been a brave fighter since the day she was found as a 4 and a half pound infant in southern China. She fought to gain weight and be heard in a crowded orphanage. She was brave when she was shuffled from orphanage to foster home, back to orphanage, and then handed to people unlike any she'd ever seen before. She was brave for her liver biopsy at age 2 and only requested a red popsicle and balloon in exchange for her hospital trip. And she continues to be brave now on week fourteen of a difficult year-long treatment. She's been amazing, tolerating anywhere from 2-5 needle jabs per week either to draw blood or inject medication. Her carry-on to Mexico contained syringes, a sharps container, and a cooler of medication. Hepatitis B is a tenacious virus that doesn't go down without a fight, but there's nothing it can teach our daughter about tenacity. This is a girl who already plans to wear fancy shoes and eat lots of cake at her wedding someday and we're confident that she'll do it. And we're determined that she'll still be wearing fancy shoes and eating lots of cake at her daughter's and granddaughter's weddings too--although she may be a bit heavier and wearing more practical shoes after all those years of cake-eating!

Frankly I'm as "aware" of hepatitis as I ever hope to be. But in this time of world awareness, my hope is that the stigma and myth of hepatitis as a uncommon disease of the "fringe populations" is dispelled. This virus doesn't care if a person is gay or straight, IV drug user or preschooler. If a person has a liver, there's a hepatitis virus that would love to meet them. My daughter doesn't "have" to tell anyone about her hepatitis. Her doctor has given her free reign to participate in all normal childhood activities without any need for disclosure. We knew about our daughter's disease before we adopted her, but it's something we've never openly talked about because it's her story, not ours. Our daughter is chatty though. She said a prayer in her church primary class and asked for a blessing on her liver. She sometimes talks about her medications or her blood draws. How can we expect a three-year-old never to mention something that's so much a part of her life? But we'd hate for her to think our silence equals shame. She hasn't a single thing to be ashamed of and she fills us with pride and joy. For her, everyday is Hepatitis Awareness Day. For the rest of us, I pray that researchers can find a cure to this disease, that people will know they can hug and kiss our daughter without concern, that everyone (especially pointing a finger at China) will immunize their children, and most of all that our darling girl will someday wear fancy shoes and eat lots of cake at her wedding.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Our future son-in-law, the gobbler

As the ending credits rolled on "Barbie: The Twelve Dancing Princesses", my little girls dipped and twirled and had the following conversation:

Rose: I know Genevieve liked the pauper, but I still would have waited for a prince.
Cholita: Yeah, me too.
Rose: But I guess he wasn't really a pauper, he was the royal cobbler.
Cholita: The royal gobbler?
Rose: No, the royal cobbler. He makes fancy shoes.
Cholita: Oh, I would like that.