Saturday, December 23, 2006

Forging a rural community

I'm aware that most of my writing over the past several months has been hijacked by a miniature person in footy pajamas, so I wanted to take a moment (now that I've got one) to write about community. Honestly, I've rarely been without a loving circle of family, friends and loved ones firmly lodged in place all around me. As many of you know, I was born into a communal household, and enjoyed several second homes within walking distance where the doors were never locked. I've learned (sometimes the hard way) that when you've always had these kinds of relationships, it's really easy to take them for granted when you move ahead into new territory.

All of that said, I have been grateful for my time here in rural Wisconsin because I believe it has forced me to get out to create and foster community in ways I've never had to do before, and this has grown me as a person. Last year I was happy to hunker down in my introverted way, taking long nature walks by myself and pondering my newest transcendentalist philosophical leanings, but having Owain has given me an incentive to start really getting to know the people around me. I've realized that not only do I need the support and infrastructure this kind of knitting-together brings, but I desire for Owain the same kind of community I myself had.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a neighborhood holiday party here at the farm. I don't want to toot our respective horns, but I must say that it was a wild success. It was at this party that I finally began to feel the neighbors really let their guard down with us (the rum and spiced cider helped); I felt a genuine sense of warmth and trust that I hadn't completely felt until now. When we talked to our neighbor Ilene a while ago, she said that back in the days of the one room school house, the community was together on a regular basis, whether it was for school or church functions, or helping each other plant or harvest or hay, or what have you. These days, I'm realizing, with larger schools that are farther away and all kinds of new technologies and tractors, we don't really need each other in those ways, but we still need each other. My determined charge to myself and the farm is to be actively supporting the community we wish to achieve.

Love and lighter, longer days to all,


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Imagine if you will, staying up for the most part of the night with your teething son (our new motto: sleep is for the weak), and having your beloved generously offer to take said son down to the first floor at 4 a.m. so you can get a desperately needed hour or two of shut eye. Now imagine waking at 5 a.m. to a bit of a ruckus downstairs, and coming upon the following sight: your skinny-legged husband wearing nothing but a pair of long underwear bottoms and your delighted, shrieking son in the sling, chasing (along with the two befuddled cats) a small squirrel around the living room with a roll of wrapping paper. If you now have a good vivid image in your head, you have the slightest idea of what my morning was. As Jay said, "I don't know how many people can say they've soothed a child, eaten breakfast, made their lunch, caught and released a squirrel and rode their bike 11 miles, all before 7 a.m." Indeed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

News from the Job Front

One of our biggest goals at the farm is to be able to live there sustainably...working and living and thriving on our farm. It is a far cry from sustainability that Chris and I continue to work part time in the Twin Cities, commuting a couple of days each week, in the hopes that this schedule is a stepping stone on the path to where we'd ultimately like to be.

There is a door to uncertainty, frustration, and fatigue that I could easily walk through, looking at the time that it's going to take us to begin to call ourselves sustainable. I might be discouraged, thinking I'll be working this commute for years to come. In the midst of these looming fears, I have been presented with a great opportunity.

My former boss at the Bell Museum, Katie, left to become the Executive Director of a new foundation last spring. Soon after, she approached me with the offer to join her in this new venture. After a lot of waiting, I was officially offered the position last week and I gladly accepted. I'll be working for the Mississippi River Fund (, doing fundraising, grant writing and event planning. She and I will be charged with establishing the fund as a new non-profit organization - basically starting a new business - with the mission of protecting the River. I will continue to work in the cities, blessed with a two-day/week schedule in the office, and working from the farm part time. I will learn what it takes to start a non-profit (future skills for farm life). I will learn how to promote a new and worthy cause. I will be working for someone I consider a good friend in a new partnership that will hopefully bloom into an awesome future for both of us. Katie puts family first and is a realistic, driven, fun person. We are both really excited and I truly feel that this is the right next step for me, and ultimately for our farm family.

My amazingly undaunted, energetic, enthusiastic, generous mother will continue to care for Ellis on Mondays and Tuesdays while I work--a situation that both she and Ellis adore and look forward to weekly.

I feel so lucky, so blessed. Everything could change again in another month or year, but I have found peace in the knowledge that it is all part of the plan. With patience, we will achieve our goals, understanding that they will change with life and time. I have no idea what life will be like in 10 years, but I'm excited to find out.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Owain rides a pony

Owain spent some time with Grandma and Boompa (as he like to be called - can you see a little resemblance in this photo on the left?) this weekend, followed by his first ride! We enjoyed the global warming this weekend - being out without a hat in December in Wisconsin is pretty much unheard of! It was sunny and almost 50 today...

Christmas Revelers

I know you're asking yourselves "What, did those crazy Lostviewers go and build themselves a time machine now?" but actually we just got all dressed up to go to a party thrown by our friends Kelly and Keller. The idea was to pick an era and get cracking on a costume! Fortunately my mom still has a dress that Diane Roth crocheted for her in the 60's, and it fit Becca perfectly!

I'm putting this photo on the blog mainly so you know that I'm capable of posting pictures without little people in them.

Monday, December 04, 2006

We have a little problem...

...Owain loves the mall.

Most of you know how I feel about the mall. I'd pretty much rather have my eyelids tattooed than go to the mall. I'm allergic. But you know what they say about desperate times and desperate measures. Our little peanut is cutting some MAJOR teeth and it's like sometimes the teething fairy comes in the night and replaces our grinning, gurgling child (see above) with Crabby Carl. The daily activities which once brought Mr. Smiley so much joy are looked upon with utter disdain by Crabby Carl. Whereas Mr. Smiley actually enjoyed getting seriously bundled up for our winter walks, Carl vociferously disapproves until he gripes himself to sleep once walking. Mr. Smiley's sweet-ass running man moves in the Johnny-Jump-Up have been replaced by Carl's ubiquitous whining and shrieking. Mr. Smiley's nice long 4 - 5 hour stretches of sleep at night? Now usurped by Carl's much more militaristic wake up calls coming every hour on the hour.

So what are two dead-on-their-feet parents to do in single-degree temperatures and biting winds but swallow their pride, get off their very high anti-consumerism horses and take their son to the mall? Yes, friends, that is what we did yesterday. That's just what it came to. And with heavy heart I must report that it was a raging success. Owain was captivated by the people, the lights, the costume jewelry, the fake Santas, the dinging of the cash registers - you name it. He even took a very nice nap in the sling. I think he's going to be applying for a job at the Gap - they are hiring temporary holiday help, you know. Worse still, if I'm going to be totally honest with you, I have to admit that even I enjoyed it just a little bit. But I'm not going to talk about it anymore. What's done is done.

Parenting is the most roller-coastery thing I've ever experienced. What a ball of paradoxes - I'm never sure how it is that I can be so much better at it and so much worse at it than I imagined. It's simultaneously the biggest ego booster and ego buster there is. To quote the army (!): it's the toughest job I've ever loved. And at the center of it is this little phenomenon - this little PERSON who Jay and I made, who is different every day. Crazy, I tell you! Besides his thing for shopping, Owain is now enjoying making faces at the baby in the mirror, grabbing at toys, wearing 9 month clothes, laughing hard, chewing anything he can get his hands on, splashing all the water out of the tub, and sporting some serious cottage cheese thighs. He loves music, and grins when I sing to him before bed and when Jay plays his horn. He's had his first accident, courtesy of moi: falling out of the Johnny-Jump-Up (it was a very slow-motion type of thing - a gentle slump more than a fall - he's OKAY! I am still getting over it though). He gets bored easily. He loves outings and road trips. He's a character!

Love and a warm sit on Santa's lap to all,


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Sun is Rising

It is 5am. I am sitting on the floor in front of the reingnited fire. Owain is squirreling around on his faux sheep skin rug smiling and laughing. Life is grand.

My day normally starts this way. Lately I am having to roll him back over onto the rug. He lasts about an hour and then needs a nap. Right now there is just too much excitement and need to giggle and flail arms and legs, perhaps throwing in a high E (highest on the piano) for joy.

Every day Owain is growing and changing. He can see farther and focuses longer on your face, or the fan. He giggles, smiles and interacts with faces and people. There's not a better sound and sight then my son cackling with his mouth wide open, legs kicking and his two tiny hands pressed together bouncing off his chest. Much like his father he does not like being still, enjoys going on walks, and lets loose loud, high pitched squeals of joy. Oh, and his farts stink.

Charis is a beautiful mom: spiritual, nuturing and beautiful. Owain and I are blessed to have such an awesome force in our lives.

The rest of life has been great too. My saxophone playing opportunities are a gift. I played a sextet gig a week ago. After leaving Portland and hearing the Alan Jones and Mel Brown sextets, I wanted to try and replicate the big, swinging sound. Tenor, trumpet and alto upfront creates a sound that makes me smile. What a treat to hear that sound and make it at the same time. Plus, we played seven songs I wrote. I am evolving weekly in my writing ability. Basically I have the vision (or sound dream) of a more orchestrated jazz group. In my tunes, I want all six players to have a written part and no part to be the same - heavily influenced by Dave Holland and Alan Jones. I also want tunes that are more complex than head, solos, head. I am starting to get there, and excited about the attempts and alterations made to my tunes. The big band I play in is performing monthly. I like about 70% of the tunes and it is great practice for my reading and chops and a blast to watch people swing dancing sometimes just five feet in front of me.

School is fun and struggle. I am constantly trying to figure out how to create and sustain community. I teach the same class subject 5 times a day and have over 120 students. What do I do? My professional development goals for this school year is to focus on four students. I wrote down their names and a goal I have in relation to them. I do not know if I can do anything more than that. This year is a little better because I see the students I had last year in the halls and before and after school. Those tiny meetings are the highlights of my teaching day.

With little sunlight left after school and all things dead, I am not able to do much of anything on the farm. This is the biggest struggle for me. It is difficult to not be more involved and active. I know this is just a phase in my life and it will change. Besides, I only get so many hours of "awake" time with Owain, and I want to enjoy it while I can.

We were blessed by our many visitors. Family is always fun to have around. Watching them I learn more how to be a better father. Having some of Portland here was also a treat. Matt stimulates my mind with thoughts and questions and models great parenting. Amy and Corrie loved on Owain and gave me rest and rejuvenation.

Corrie asked me how my life has changed. I am more joyful: his giggles and smiles are priceless. I am more still: I can actually handle not being busy. Owain as a sack of potatoes on my shoulder is a perfect hug. I am more rounded and whole; I feel complete; I am confident and assured in everything I am doing and being. I am astounded - Owain came from Charis and I, and he will grow up to be a man.

Speaking of Owain becoming a man, before we know it he'll be drinking PBR and (once he passes hunter safety) hunting deer. The neighbors are getting ready!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jay's Big Night

My talented hubby played the gig of his life on Saturday night to an enthusiastic crowd of 180 (!) at the Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie. He and five other musicians played two sets of five tunes, seven of which were originals by Jay! People *LOVED* it, including Owain, who cooed and giggled and watched with interest from the back (Ellis was taken with the drums). The Cedarleaf Clan and other friends from the cities showed up en masse, along with several of Jay's co-teachers and my midwives, who were all thrilled. I'm so proud of Jay and all that he has accomplished with his music since he's moved here. He's a creative force to be reckoned with!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Owain @ 3 months

The three month mark finds Owain's grandmas representin' with a strawberry hat made by Grandma Jeannine and a visit with Grandma Lynda, who can get him really laughing, just like she does the rest of us! Owain is still feeding the horses with me every morning and is now teething (early - God help us), rolling over like a madman, squealing, enjoying the johnny jump-up and blowing raspberries, and continues on his crazy sleep schedule (7 p.m. - 11:3o p.m., midnight - 3 a.m. and 3:30 - 4:30 or 5 a.m on a good night!) At least he wakes up cheerful and ready to greet the day loudly and with a great flailing of limbs ... who needs sleep, right?

Monday, November 13, 2006

And a few more...

As you can see, we had a great time with the Jackson ladies, who promptly charmed our boys and spoiled our pets rotten. Everyone was sad to see them go early this morning, leaving us with broken hearts, loads of snacks and fake tattoos.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Guess who came to visit!

Corrie Poppins and Grandma Amy are here! Good times, LOADS of amazing snacks, great catching up with two of our favorite people. Ellis and Owain have both taken to Cor and Amy like they've known them forever...especially when Amy does her Grover voice and Corrie blows raspberry kisses. The farm has become vacation haven since they arrived yesterday and we don't want them to ever leave.

p.s. it snowed yesterday - a very special midwest welcome for the Jackson gals.

Friday, November 03, 2006

oh, let the sunshine in!

It was finally sunny today! And the wind didn't blow us over! And it was above 20 degrees! All the exclamation points indicate the excitement Charis and I felt, finally being able to get outside with the boys...all of us feeling a little cabin feverish and crabby. Chris (and Ellis for a while) worked on projects outside - another welcome diversion. So, even though both Ellis and Owain are whining this very moment, I can promise the outdoor activity and crisp, fresh air did us all some good.

So, there were a handful more photos I couldn't resist posting. First, Ellis in his puppy dog costume on Halloween. We were in the cities for the festivities and the grandmas were especially happy about that - very fun - Ellis LOVED visiting great grandma Cedarleaf at the Covenant Village...he was really fascinated with all the cool walkers the folks there were "playing with" in the dining hall. Next thing we know, he'll be begging for a walker for Christmas.

A few other photos from life at the farm and in the city - just some favorites from this past month. I love the shot of Charis reading to Owain and Ellis - this is happening almost daily now as Owain comes to love "Peek A Moo" as much as Ellis does. More to come!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

White Noise

Lately I've been thinking we should rename our place White Noise Farm because lawdy there's a lot of humming going on around here. With an air purifier/fan in our room and Ellis' room and a humidifier upstairs and downstairs, we're kind of drowning in the buzz. I have to say, I miss the quiet and the coyote packs, but for now it allows us the sleep we so richly deserve. In fact, if you come to visit, we'll offer you some white noise for your room too. You may give us a look, but you will be thanking us come 5 the next morning when the farm boys jolt to life.

Speaking of the offspring, I have to say that even though some of the other mamas out there may dispute it, I'm pretty sure I got the best one. Pret-ty, pret-ty pret-ty sure. I mean, when they were handing out the brightest, shiniest, freakishly large, melon-headed, chubby-cheeked kids, I must have been first in line. Owain is such a sparkly character. He's a giggler and a grinner and a screecher and a flailer of limbs. He crabs half-heartedly when he's tired and nine times out of ten as soon as I put him in bed he drifts off without complaint. He loves chandeliers, fans and light fixtures - pretty much anything that's attached to the ceiling. He loves the horses and the cats, and isn't afraid of much. He enjoys being worn on mama and dad, but in front and face out ONLY, please. He's a regular hoot!

That said, !wow! mothering is a serious marathon! I had no idea until it happened to me. It's great fun, but when I sleep, it's the sleep of the dead. And days whip by, which is surprising considering all that I don't get done. Time flies when you have a little person hanging from your boob, I suppose. It's been a blast to have Ellis around and to watch the interest quickly grow between the boys. I'm predicting they're going to be enjoying plenty of mischief around these parts in no time flat.

Okay, over and out for now. It's almost 8 and my bed calls!

Love and a steaming mug of spiced cider to all!


Friday, October 27, 2006

night owls

It's 8:30 on a Friday night and our household is winding down, as we do most every night around this time. I keep telling myself that it's only temporary - maybe by this time next year we'll be able to stay up until 11 p.m. (what a thought!) without feeling like we're sacrificing the next day's good mood. I will say that early mornings are very productive - a lot happens before the sun rises here at Lostview farm - mostly related to getting the babes fed and changed and entertained, or more challenging - keeping them quiet while one or two housemates enjoys the luxury of sleeping in. It's a system these days though and it works. We're still a lot of fun - just catch us before sunset for a good time.

Charis and I have spent the past couple of days doing parallel mom work here at the homestead. Owain is a stitch with his squeals and enormous smiles. When he's not giving me grief at bedtime, Ellis is a riot - especially running around naked and hyper after a bath (currently one of his favorite activities). He's actually running now - more or less - no more crawling for this mobile boy. He's fast and very excited about it. Ellis is also talking more every week - now we're up to the following vocab repertoire: hot, moo, bark, shoe - and he happily signs "more" "milk" and "eat," sometimes interchangably, but we get the picture. He's opinionated and silly, loud and sweet. Ellis LOVES to give Owain kisses and mimic O's sounds. They're funny around each other - both entertained and fascinated by the other. We anticipate a very rambunctious household in the coming months and years. We can't promise you won't banana-peel slide on a giant lego or pop-up book, but we can promise you a good time.

The photos here are a smattering of the past few weeks - some taken during a trip Chris and I took with Ellis to my family's cabin on Golden Lake in the U.P. - a beautiful fall weekend at a very special place. I'm so glad it's a part of Ellis's life now. He embraced Golden fully - lake, woods, & racing around the cabin just like his mama, aunts & uncles. Here's to teaching E to swim there next summer!

Well, I'm reaching my limit here for coherent thought, so I ought to sign off. Looking forward to the rest of fall at the farm - then the celebration and hunkering down of winter...fires, cocoa, glogg, family, festivity, skiing, walks in the snow, toasty hot tub.

Good night!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Owain @ 9 weeks

I have to say I'm pretty dang happy I had me a big, strong, strapping babester. Now that Jay's back at work, Owain and I go down to do barn chores together every morning, and he loves it! Even when it's a crisp 25 degrees out! And he doesn't even flinch when Gideon goes in for a big-schnozz kiss, which I myself might find a bit intimidating: 3-D comin' at ya...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Autumn at Lostview and Beyond

Owain @ 8 weeks

Hey everyone! Just a little Owain update: what a monkey! Our child is in PERPETUAL MOTION, even when sleeping (which is why Jay and I have switched sides in bed, as he has the gifts necessary to sleep next to an eggbeater!) According to Jay's mom, Jay was a little spaz too (surprise, surprise) - I have to admit that I did ask the baby fairy to give our child Jay's metabolism and my teeth, so I suppose I shouldn't complain. One down and one to go!

We seem to have pinpointed Owain's digestion issues to dairy products, eggs and my iron supplement(!) and as I avoid these, his reflux is beginning to improve. Of course, he could just be growing out of it. Our nights are a bit better as we're getting a bit of a routine down. Still sleep deprived (he wakes to eat about every 2 1/2 hours or so - sometimes longer on a good night) but not quite as much of a zombie, all in all.

Jay's back to work today, and the baby and I have enjoyed a chill day. We took a hike despite rainy weather. Owain is already holding his head up by himself, which the sling brochure says doesn't usually happen until between 3 - 4 months, which leads me to conclude that our child is extremely advanced/talented and gifted (T.A.G.) in the neck strength department. Such a big boy!

We had a great weekend in Madison seeing Jay's family and giving Owain time to bond with Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Emily and Uncle Greg and Cousins Hope and Ellie. Fun!

Alright, that's it for now.

Over and out!