Friday, September 30, 2005

A good soak

Hey everyone! I always feel as if an apology is in order when I post because it's usually been so long. Honestly, I haven't been off the farm since baby E was born two weeks ago. B, C and E moved in on Saturday with help from my mom and dad and many others, including our good friends from Portland, Dan and Robin Plies. We've had a great time with them this week and they've really rolled their sleeves up and jumped in to the farm projects, one of which is the spa-licious CEDAR HOT TUB which has now been christened with great joy by all of us. There's nothing like a good cedar-scented soak with old friends, I tell ya. The boys even carved a phallus handle on the hot tub's woodstove shed to "hang things on." What does this mean? What do you hang on a woodstove shed? Anyhow, I'm hoping Chris will post some photos of the blessed hot tub event, along with one of B and I having a morning splash, as the three of them are in the cities today to close on their house. You'll see just how much fun we're having.

Dan and Robin have helped us with canning applesauce, hot tub and shed building, and digging a trench down near the barn help with drainage. We've taken many walks and yesterday Dan and I took Gideon and Colby out for a ride along the ridge. It's been lovely here - cool, crisp and sunny - and the leaves are beginning their fire-bright transformations.

The baby is a delight to have around, and brings a new dimension to our life out here. I'm enamored of his rubbery little expressions- sad boy, baby buddha, boob mouth. I think he smiles at me, but B told me it's just a muscle flexing. Now how would the "experts" know what a baby was feeling inside? At any rate, he's clearly a very advanced baby. He loves it when Chris vigorously bicycles his legs back and forth. I've really enjoyed watching B and C being parents. They're amazing - patient and dear and generous with their child (in terms of giving him up to me for loving even when he's in a good mood). I never knew how much newborns eat or poop. Ellis does both in abundance. He also loves to be outside. In fact, Chris built the hot tub benches wearing Ellis in a sling. The cats are even warming up to the baby in that they now venture downstairs even when he's awake. They're still not fond of the crying, however.

I'm loving my life right now. The only thing that's difficult is that Jay continues to struggle with work, and we both miss our Portland community (it's been pure pleasure to see so many of you this summer and fall, by the way). My dream for him is that we can start some sort of alternative school or educational experience at the farm for him to lead. I think he and Chris would be happiest working in that kind of environment.

Love and nekkid baby butts to all!


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Life after you see a tiny person enter the world

I just have to say that after you watch with your very eyes a baby find its way out from the dark warmth inside his mama to the bright lights and loud family that is now his life on the outside, all the mundane shit you have to do the next day seems impossibly lame. Perhaps my extreme distraction in this regard is the reason I decided to build the first fire of the season in the woodstove (39 degrees at night lately here)on Thursday and left both a pillar candle and a giant vase of flowers ON THE STOVE TOP before going out to feed the horses. Upon coming back into the house I was wondering why it smelled so good - like spiced pear - yeah, giant pile o' hot wax running down the side of the stove. Boiling water in the vase of sad, surprised flowers.

This baby is - oh, how can I even say it? All the true, right, good things in the world are living in this child. We hold him close and stroke his soft baby hair and we can get a glimpse of what life is supposed to be.

I can't wait until he's a permanent resident at the farm!

We're helping pack and loving on Ellis this weekend in the cities. By next weekend we won't have to drive the 90 miles to kiss his little soft spot!

Love and tiny fists grasping pinkie fingers to all of you!!!!


Friday, September 16, 2005

The Beauty of community and a new life.

Charlie Parker went to record an album with strings. He arrived at the hall and the orchestra was already rehearsing. He heard them and left. No recording. A couple of days later the producer saw Bird on the street and Bird answered, "It was too beautiful."

Seeing and holding Ellis was majical, powerful, joyful and beautiful. As soon I held him in my arms, saw his eyes, felt his skin and heard his cry, I felt I needed to leave, get out of the way and not bother Chris and Becca anymore.
Over dinner later that night, Charis asked me why I acted that way in the delivery room. Perhaps I am learning, perhaps sleep deprivation, or perhaps both, I babbled on for an hour. I did not value or trust my importance or need at that time. After all, it is not my baby. I know that, and I am not immediate family.
Then the depth of this community venture with Charis, Chris and Becca slammed into me. We chose and choose to be in relationship and community with each other. I live in complete amazement that Charis made that commitment to me. Who am I to deserve such an awesome person in my life? Truly! Now I have two other people who have made that commitment to me - to live with me, support me and love me. Becca and Chris did not say if you get depressed we are leaving, if you act like an idiot we are leaving you. That is overwhelming to me - the power of commitment and community. It is truly hard to believe and accept. Writing this seems otherworldly.
I wanted to leave that delivery room because I did not feel worthy and could not accept and believe the beauty of community.

What a shame if Parker had not returned to beauty and recorded "Bird with Strings." What a crime if I can not return to this ultimate beauty. It is scary and makes me tremble. It is true and makes me complete only if I do. Thank You Charis, Chris and Becca.

Ellis Photos

Thanks for all the comments everyone. Becca and I are especially pleased to have our son share a birthday with London Spears. We ended up coming home a day early from the hospital since things were going so well. Ellis tends to sleep heavily from 6-9 in the evening and want to eat--and I mean EAT--from 9 to 1am. We are still getting at least 6 hours of sleep, since he conks out after feeding for 4 hours strait and doesn't wake up until around 7. Its great to have him home though. There's not too much to report. When he's hungry he's really hungry, when he's upset he's very upset, and when he's tired he is comatose. He's the extreme baby. Anyway, here are some early pictures for you all out there. I was not able to find any pictures of Britney Spears' baby, so if anyone has some, please post or pass them on to me so I can post. I wouldn't want to hog all of the glory from her.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

And the name is....

Drumroll please:

Ellis John Newhouse

Ellis: Scandinavian; kind

9 1/2 POUNDS.



Wow. Seriously. Wow. I've never seen a (human) baby born before, and let me just tell you, #1: all the cliches are true and #2 my sister is HARDCORE. She gave us little baby BOY (so much for my predictions) Newhouse at 1:19 today in what can only be described as a textbook delivery after 1 1/2 hours of hard labor. Mama, Daddy, both Grandmas, Grandpa and myself were the blubbering, laughing, hysterical witnesses.

Joy, joy, joy!

No name to report as of yet, but he's 21 inches and at least 8 lbs. Strapping. Must be the Swede in there. Very healthy if not a little surprised to be entering this wide crazy world.

I'll be back again soon! I'm a proud auntie, and SO proud of my little sister. I can't wait to teach him to chop some wood - we're behind for this winter!


Reminder of community

At first I did not want to post my previous blog about my new worldview. I am sad to make people upset and worried, but glad for all the response. Maybe I should not be sad to make people worried. Is it not community when one knows the truth? Plus, in my venting I was reminded of the community I have. So many people called and emailed me: THANK YOU. What a true blessing. All the comments on the blog were terrific: Thanks.
Reflecting on a society based on fear and bandaids, I honed in on my small community. Looking simply at the creation of the deck no band-aids were used. All the people and work involved is amazing. Everyday I walk on the deck, I will be reminded of care and love from friends and family: Chris, Becca, Charis, Jacob, Mark, Eric, Ken, Tom, Greg, Ted and Jeannine. Also everytime I look at the house and use the house, I will be reminded of all the people and their love and sweat to make it so beautiful and warm.
Still anger and frustration at our society and it's lack of trust and respect. Heard a report on BBC about gun sales doubled in Baton Rouge, LA since the devastating catastrophe. All the interviewees said fear was why they bought the guns. If you know your neighbor and are known, there is no need for fear.
Thank you for knowing us and making yourself known. I love stories and that is how Jesus taught. Stories are how we become to know each other. I think that is the ultimate purpose of this blog.


Arthur is ON THE WAY!!

It's early Wednesday morning at the hospital (internet in the maternity ward - who knew?)after a phone call in the wee hours.We're just waiting now and VERY EXCITED. Chris just gave us a report - this is up to the minute news, people - that they're thinking the baby will deliver at 2 or so.

Yesterday Chris and Bex were at the farm for a wonderful day of yummy tomatoes and scrabble with Nana.

Fun day at the hospital!

Woo hoo!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

...and this is my toddler who never left the womb...

Okay, so we're only four days past the "due date" (a date some doctor arbitrarily calculated on a little pregnancy calendar wheel), but it feels like an eternity! Everyone's arrival predictions have past and now we all just wait and I wake up each morning hoping today might be the day. I'm afraid I'll start having nightmares that in two years I'll still be carrying around an enormous child in utero.

I'm also more than ready to be back living in community with Charis and be able to process our experiences, struggles, questions, and revelations (be they joyful or utterly depressing) together daily. The 90 miles between us seem awfully far as the four of us have been so enmeshed in different daily experiences this summer. I look forward to coming together again and re-solidifying our commitment to our vision. It's always been there, evident and rearing - but there is something to say for the little interactions that make life together fuller...sharing the sink as we brush teeth, making meals, planning projects, cleaning, relaxing, laughing.

While I complain about how hard it is to be patient and how much we have going on aside from becoming parents, Chris and I have had this beautiful space in time this past week together that, had baby been on time or early, we never would have been able to enjoy. Not knowing when baby will come, we've made no plans beyond every couple of hours...this has given us a gift of many days together eating breakfast on the porch, taking long walks, reading, napping, packing...aside from trying to physically exert myself into labor, it's been a fantastic, relaxing week with my mate.

It's also been a real test of my faith and stress-coping skills. I know I struggle with anxiety - big change overwhelms me and it has taken very deliberate effort on my behalf to cope with the major changes over the past year and a half. And while I do have days where coping consists of exhausted tears, I almost always feel a sense of peace and faith about our lives. This alone shocks me, considering that a few years ago I might have found myself paralyzed at the idea of having a baby, moving to a farm, getting a dog (?), all in less than two weeks. Pregnancy has been an amazing experience - and I believe it has healed many of my high-strung tendencies. I have learned to rely on my body, my instincts, and my relationships to understand what I do not know. It has helped me to put things in perspective. Chris's quiet, patient faith has been the foundation for my courage and excitement. We are bound tighter together than I ever imagined possible, thanks to the miracle of this child.

It's hard to imagine tonight, tomorrow, or next week - when baby finally arrives - what parenthood will look like. But I am not afraid. I rejoice and wait.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Radical Worldview Shift - "Oh, brother. Not again!"

Be thankful you only have to read this. Otherwise, in person you might by accidently spit on, have to ask me to speak softer (Ted need to so I would not offend his neighbors), and so at any time you can shut me off. My poor wife, bless her heart for dealing with me, and my poor roommates - did they know they would be living with a selfish, egotistical, crazed idealist? Sometimes I do not remember who I am dealing with myself - perhaps my truest problem: denial.
Spiraled into depression again. You ask how the hell can you when you live on beautiful land, have an amazing wife, awesome roommates, a nephew/niece on the way, close to family, and tomatoes, carrrots, beets, peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins and hops. Plus, I am playing in a big band and sit in a weekly jam session.
Perhaps the honeymoon is over and the reality of work and the conditions of work have taken over the better part of me?
In a truer and odder since too, I am discovering that the more you separate yourself from the American maching the more you see and feel its tight claws. I have only pushed up one-half of one and there are seven more talons squeezing tight.
First day at my new job, Menomonie Middle School 6th grade English, (25 miles away and talked to 6 teachers before I could find one to carpool with - one saying no being the Environmental Site Coordinator) the entire middle school staff sat and were talked to by Lt. Swartz of the Menomonie Swatt Team. In his camo pants, tight black shirt with glow in the dark POLICE on the back and his gun slung on his hip, he yelled "This is 2005 you can not trust anyone." "You are either a weak or a strong teacher. Do not be weak because the kids will target you." During the armed assault, "Will you know what to do when their is blood all over and kids are screaming." and do not forget "Stay out of the Fatal Funnel." So we are now prepared for another Chechen take over of our school or an armed assault. Before Lt. Swartz another officer scared us about the dangers of child molesters who use the internet to contact kids. On the next day when all district teachers were in training we were lectured for an hour and a half on the harms or methaphedamines - a new and terrible problem in our area.
What am I getting at? My new worldview - all the world is screwed. Everything about our society is establishing non-community. Everything good out there is putting band-aids on the non-community problem instead of trying to recreate community. My team of teachers, bless their hearts for being in the right place, were cuurently trained in responsive classrooms to create community in their classroom. A middle school with 45 minute periods, 8 times a day, where a teacher sees 130 students. A police department based on how to manage the crisis. Why not address the crisis before it happens. People feel lost, helpless and not part of community. Instead of trying to bust meth labs and recognize the signs of those who using meth, why not recognize the signs of those who are lost and without community and help them before they turn to meth? The children on the internet molester video/computer presentation talked about being alone and felt they could turn to no one, the teenager at Red Lake High School, the teenagers at Columbine were alone and bullied, drugs users are looking for something, someone. One hundred thirty students per 8 teachers. What is wrong with society? All that we (I am a huge contributor) are doing, even the very well intentioned teachers on my team, are band-aiding the problem.
What good does bitching do? I do not know, I am sorry. I should go see a counselor and will. Perhaps this is not the right venue to express my sadness? Perhaps it is? Our society is evil and when you start to separate away it stings back. It is like your face was smashed into the mud. That is bad, but then when you look up and see who did it, it can be even worse than just breathing in mud.
Writing this I am encouraged. Am I need of counseling? Yes. Past that big bully pushing me back in the mud, I see green hills and a red barn, I hear my wife's strong voice and my roommates, I taste fresh salsa and pesto pizza and keep breathing and thus keep dreaming of separation from society and connection with relationship. What can be done to not simply put on band-aids? It has actually made me start thinking seriously about Jesus again. I struggle with this, because the Jesus I know is covered in a parka, scarf, mittens, long-johns, jeans, sweaters and make-up of our society. The society which creates the problem.
Thankfully my wife does not let me wallow in the filth and makes me talk. Thankfully my friend Nick called and said you just have to live life. I will keep up on the projects, eat my food, ride my bike to the carpool, and address all 130 students by name everyday. I will lift my head and love my wife better too.


Friday, September 02, 2005


Just wanted to publicly broadcast my passion, affection and devotion to my husband - for his generous farm contributions, his fierce sense of environmentalism and community-driven life, for his laugh, for his gardening obsession, for his music focus, for the sacrifices he's made and continues to make to have moved here, for his humongous love.

The farm is turning me into a Badass

So, not only do I now know what a miter saw is, I also know how to use one! I'd prolly get one tattooed on my bicep if they weren't so darned big. What I'm trying to say is that the farm has been a very empowering place for me lately, and I've been thinking about this evolution plenty. I believe it's a combination of living a life that is nearly advertising-free, thus being cleansed of my desire for self-improvement product, as well as learning and mastering new skills (usually involving some sort of tool) on an almost daily basis. It's a great combo, I tell ya. No anorexic models are whispering from the pages of magazines or the tube screen about how I need to have a thinner body and thicker hair, and no billboards flaunt the latest car, cell phone, malt beverage. I've rarely felt so good about myself - such great, healthy energy.

The farm's massive, hairy projects are completed, leaving more manageable, day-long projects in their wake. Today I primed and painted the doors to my arena - Jay helped me patch them last week. This building is finally looking loved - the last of the four to get that kind of treatment. I'm settling in with the endless task of food preservation. The apples are nearly ripe, and I'm testing them in the dehydrator (delicious!). Next is apple sauce, fruit leather, apple cider and apple butter. Thanks to my friends Diane McDevitt and Scott Lyons (great idea!) I've been drying roma tomatoes like one crazy mofo. I then marinate them in olive oil and fresh basil from the herb garden for a pizza topping to die for. The tomatoes are taking over, I swear. In fact, if you come to visit during tomato season and don't eat your ration for the day, we'll tie you to a chair, prop your mouth open and toss the cherry, grape and pear varieties in every five seconds. Learn to chew fast. Only the strong will survive.

I've also been mulling the unbelievable outpouring of help, skills, talents in relation to this farm's overhaul over the last year. Jay's family and extended family, many cousins, my family (Gideon's got nothin on my mom and dad in the workhorse department) and wonderful friends (Chris' friends Erick and Kevin are getting an honorary plaque somewhere) have come and stayed and brought their gifts of time, work and ingenious inventions. I have no idea where we'd be without them right now. Behind on the schedule, that's for sure. THANKS, peeps. Really. We owe you one. As soon as you get your farms, we're there for you, man.

I just keep on forgetting to mention the thunderstorms in these blogs. If you have never lived in the midwest, I can't do them justice on this page. One minute you're calmly eating dinner on the deck and the next a mass of black clouds plow in and you can barely stand up and get in to the house the wind is blowing so hard. The drill is this: someone brings in the hammock and anything else that shouldn't get soaked, someone (usually me) runs down to the barn to secure the horses and someone shuts all the windows in the house. You must be able to do this in record time, because you will literally have only a few seconds. Ask Corrie or Julianne about this if you live in Portland because they survived a doozy here. That one (late June) hung around for a sustained 2 1/2 hours, hurling lightening bolts at the pasture and causing a huge ruckus. It killed my electric fence charger - because I swear a bolt hit the barn. The other storm of note happened (of course) when I was there by myself. It was like a sideways tornado blowing in, with a sheet of rain rumbling furiously across the field toward the barn. The lights went out and it got dark as night out there. I was in the middle of a phone conversation when I watched the snake of lightening spear the sky and strike the phone connection dead. By the way, you're NEVER supposed to talk on the phone or take a shower during a storm (guilty ... and guilty). I didn't learn those in my how-to manual growing up in Oregon - sheesh! In late spring here the forecast is always the same: high of 85 and chance of thunderstorms. Good times, high drama.

Alright, I'm fading fast. It's two hours past my bedtime! I'm crossing my fingers for a baby soon!

Love and a sky full of stars to all,