To Know the Good Around Us

Riding home from church, lying down with my head tilted up, I watched yards of lace pass overhead. The trees are awake again, and their lines sketch the sky with reds and greens and yellows. When I first noticed spring, the bare branches were hands lightly raising frothy orbs, but now the color has seeped downward and bolted through all the lower branches as well. When I was much younger I didn't understand why spring, which then seemed mostly mud and gray and endless waiting for school's shackles to fall away, would sent my mother into rapturous monologue. Now, feeling ages and not at all older than I was then, I know.

I haven't walked through woods and meadows to see what grows, but I can imagine what waits there, alive and hidden from view. The silver traces of birch now strikingly offset with green, fiddleheads not yet uncurled, the uncomplicated whites and yellows of bloodroot and trillium, and, if you're lucky enough to see him, Jack may sit in his pulpit, just waiting to be smushed.

Some colors are soft and subtle, all whispers and tendrils, and others so shocking in their vibrancy, one wonders if they think no one would notice their presence without that enjoyable assault on the senses. "We're here! We're here!" they shout with wild bursts of yellow, small explosions of pink. "Welcome us!" And I do.

The birds have returned to our bedroom wall and many more sing tirelessly outside. One in particular made me laugh out loud the other day, his call ceaseless and shrill with such obvious urgency that I wondered what he clamored about-- a bachelor unhappy to be so, flapping his wings and indignant at being repeatedly passed over for more handsome specimens.

I think of my children listening to me exclaim, as my mother did before me, heady with smells, sights, sounds-- all that should be familiar after a lifetime of seasons returning, but what remains uncommon and seems utterly new each year. Maybe they won't be as dull as I was, and will see the largess of spring rising up wherever one turns. I can't imagine it otherwise, as they run indoors to announce in great excitement each newly sprung dandelion, violet, or lilac bud readying to burst. The table has already held a dozen cups filled with motley color wrenched from our yard. Next year, Lord willing, when Buster is safely out and I'm allowed to explore again (and with Buster in tow) they'll uncover yet more, and I, too, will taste that rampant delight.

Slowly Growing Old, Said She

I'm 29 now.

Ain't I fine
One more year
'til my decline.

(Give me some slack. That was completely spur-of-the-moment, like beat poetry without the beat. Or the poetry.)

We spent a wonderful day together. As my gift, John hauled boxes of books out of our closet that he's stored since last summer and took them to the Phoenix to sell. This may not seem like much, but they've been a thorn in my mildly domestic side for nearly a year, and now they're gone. Hurrah! Then, without having planned to, we drove to Syracuse and walked around the Carousel Mall. We didn't spend money there, but we did enjoy reading comic books.

This is where we spent some book money-- the Dinosaur Bar-b-que, a biker's barbeque haven. Susannah was shocked at all she saw.

And then we drove home in the sunny evening, hair wind-whipped and bellies full of pork.

The fact that I have only three pictures from a day of birthday living speaks the facts. We enjoyed each other's company for the first day of my new year, a year in which I hope for many more moments that are too fine for cameras.


One balmy day, we went to the crick.

Threw rocks, explored promising cracks, dipped toes...

And filled Susannah's boots with water to dump them over other people's heads. (To be fair, Millie sprang a bootful on Annie first, so Annika was justified in retaliating.)

After this, they laid their bodies down for full-immersion soaks. Spring stopped by, and there was much rejoicing.

Third Wheel

She did reach dizzy whirls and spins eventually, but only after I told the other two to slow down and let her on board.

And here Bird squints at birds, a favorite pastime.

Breaking News on Buster

Yes, I have new pictures of Buster, but they're upstairs, and I'm lazy, and, besides, they look almost identical to the last ones I posted. (You know, those sweet, little lips and a shadowy profile outlined with white.)

News One: Toward the end of the sonogram, the technician last week (the same who thought Buster was such a pretty baby) absent-mindedly said that "she" wouldn't uncurl. SHE?!?!?!???!!! Then, before she left the room, we talked about my powerful lack of women's intuition when it comes to predicting our children's sex, and she said, "Well, I can't even tell what this baby is!"

As kind and pleasant as she seems, I'm suspicious of this woman. Is she honest? Can she be trusted? Does she habitually refer to babies as "she" and "pretty" if she can't determine the gender? Is she trying to trick me into thinking Buster may very well be a girl simply because it'd be funny to hear of my surprise when he comes out a boy (which he will if he is, you know, regardless of the nasty names she calls him beforehand)?

In spite of this woman's plotting, Buster still seems boyish to me, which, if I'M to be trusted, means that he's definitely a girl.

News Two: We also found out that the vessels causing the vasa previa are indeed some of Buster's umbilical cord vessels. Thank you for your prayers! I remain thankful for no symptoms so far, even more so now that I know that any symptoms could mean damage to Buster's lifeline.


I sat on the porch for these pictures, and though the snapshot below seems to capture the still calm of girly harmony, about two minutes later they fought like famished tigers, and I boxed us all inside for a forced nap.

If an Abigail Does Not Work

Neither shall she eat...

I don't think I've ever had a meal brought to me after giving birth, though I might have with Millie. I flee the hospital at the soonest possible moment, life resumes, and new life begins, as it should. But bed rest, however modified, has already garnered our family TWO delicious meals, and I thought it deserved a mention. So, in my latest tally, the scores stand thusly.

Regular running about: 597
Modified bed rest: 2

I was and still am thankful for the kind souls who fed us so well, and all that with me not having to lift a finger! Bob and Elizabeth, a thank you note will come, but until then, here's a foretaste. During the meal, Annika said, "This is the YUMMIEST and my FAVORITE and I will eat it EVERY NIGHT!" A good thing, too, because you gave so much that we were able to eat it a few times during the week, lips smacking together for each meal. Millie has since told me that although Mr. Brown makes the best ziti, I make better Pakistani food (at least I'm good for something around here).

As if being given two meals wasn't enough, Titi brought more delicious food for our not-every-monthly-let's-try-to-teach-Abby-to-knit session. This was our second session, and here she sits, cheerfully figuring out how to cast off left-handed so that she can then teach me. The lumpy red and white square she's holding is Buster's first bib, the easiest knitting project ever, and at which I still fumble. (Yes, she drafted and sewed that dress herself.)

She brought these for me and Leah to gobble. Feta, red pepper, onion, garlic, and spinach wrapped up in tidy phyllo triangles. I had ten. TEN? Ten.

Surely you can understand why.

***To come if I ever stop slouching on the couch and pick up a camera are pictures of the highest-fashion diaper bag Titi made for my birthday gift-- a la The Devil Wears Prada-- and three wee elephants she sewed for Annika's birthday, with chubby bellies and, Annika assures, "the littlest trunks in the world."


Speedy Delivery

A few minutes after writing the post below, we got the call that Nicholas Trent has arrived, just in time to share Uncle Luke's birthday! He's in the NICU right now, so please pray that he adjusts well and quickly to this great, big world, and continue to pray for Beck and Eli as they get to know their new son.


If you would, pray for my sister Becky, her family, and her little baby. Becky and Eli's seventh child is due in a week and a half (the second boy after having five girls in a row!), and she went into labor last night. She was admitted to the hospital this morning, but her labor wasn't progressing very well. We just got a call that she's being prepped for an emergency c-section because the baby's heart rate, which has been dropping slightly during contractions today, just plummeted. The cord is probably wrapped around his neck, and he needs to come out before more contractions harm him.

Please, please pray that God keep them all, that He give Becky and Eli peace, and, most especially, that He bring this precious baby into this world safely.

All Unknowing, They Own the World

The girls and I spent this past week at my parents' house (John and I still love each other; the reason for our vacation is in a below post). Pre-bedrest, I had plans for woodsy walks, wild play, and spring sprouts&blooms identification with the girls. Instead, I drove them down to the corner hayfield and watched them play, meeting myself in them as their feet fell where my own did years ago.

Earlier that afternoon, I'd walked down to the same spot with them, and they played with the Mt. Hunger tuzzins while Andy sawed wood. While I was there, Ethan scavenged in the collapsed shed to furnish their secret clubhouse. Forget furniture, food, or books. All a clubhouse really needs is a mailbox, a Pennysaver drop-off, and an old telephone.

Most pictures are of Annika because she was closest to me, but here's one of Susannah sweeping.

And Annika, here swinging and smiling.

Diverse Pleasures

Outside of the haywagon house wait other amusements.

A few spring-idle pieces of haying machinery, on which Susannah briefly gamboled (don't tell my dad).

Aging hay bales. Don't be fooled by this; it appears as if Millie is sweetly helping her sister step across, but in reality, Millie was sweetly trying to help a sister who wanted NO HELP because she's SO BIG. She kept pushing Millie's hands away and squawking.

I love this. Susannah was chasing after Huckleberry and trying to warrant his attention with cries of "'Uckle, 'uckle, 'uckle!"

This is what happened when 'Uckle heard her and came running.

Old Shed

I spent many childhood hours pawing through jumbles of faded treasure in this shed and some more teenage hours looking for peace. That's all.

Horsey Beasts

All the girls love petting and feeding the horses, but I only have pictures of Millie. Annika doesn't hug them like Millie does, but she loves to feed them dead grass. Susannah mostly puts her hand in their mouths and then scares herself and them by screeching and running away.

I laughed at Millie here. She shouted, "Mom! You've got to try this! She's so soft!" after which she proceeded to rub her face all over Princess' for a full minute, nuzzling her and verbally appreciating her softness. (Something tells me she's used to a scratchy Papa face...)

I didn't try it, but I did take a picture of Zephyr's soft, soft nose.

And here's Zephyr again, enduring yet another hug from my girl.

Wide Reach

The next day, I only made it as far as the field across the road, but the girls didn't seem to mind a bit, especially when I told them to run as far as they wanted to while I, you guessed it, sat and watched. Susannah immediately set out on a heroic quest. See her? (I'd call the above picture "Where's Susannah" if not for the obvious superiority of the name Waldo. ) She nearly made it to the hedgerow, stoic with personal purpose, before I called her home.

And I show this little silly near the hickory tree because I don't think her Gorilla Dance has yet made an appearance on shotsnaps.

Here it is. You don't need to tell me how convincing it is. I'm pretty certain she fooled you all.

Then we came inside and Mopsy read to them while I laid my body on the couch. (LAZYBONES!)

Pretty, Pretty Buster

*Warning: Despite its harmless beginning, the words cervix, placenta, and uterus are used with abandon in the following post.
**Reassurance: I will not be making a habit of continuing weekly posts that contain these words. It's getting pretty redundant.

On Thursday the ultrasound technician said that Buster is "such a pretty baby." She said this several times, but I remain convinced that Buster is a boy. Who else would announce his presence so emphatically to us and the world at large? And if he is a boy, I agree with the technician. He is a pretty baby.

Of course, having never envisioned myself raising girls, I thought that Millie was a boy until the midwife stretched out baby-laden arms to me and pronounced, "It's a girl!" I think that my women's intuition must have been given to someone else. Some lady's walking around out there with twice her fair share, but I'm not complaining. It's kind of fun to be convinced of something, and because I'm convinced of something, assume that the actuality is the opposite. So, yes, I think Buster's a boy. (Which means he's probably a girl.)

I had mixed news at Thursday's appointment. The fluid level is up to 14. Hurrah! After slipping from 12 to 8 in two weeks time, it rose to 14 in one week, which is wonderful considering it had been only 4 points away from when most doctors begin discussing c-section.

Also, my placenta had risen a bit, leaving part of my cervix uncovered. The doctor to whom my midwife transferred me, however, told me that though the placenta previa may change, the more concerning vasa previa I also have is less likely to change. As the uterus expands, it can move the placenta upward and out of the way, but blood vessels from vasa previa "don't really stretch" (which my doctor phrased so technically). Unless these blood vessels somehow become unneeded and wither, they will probably stay put. I have weekly ultrasounds from here on out, and if I begin to bleed from the vasa previa, I'll have to go on hospital bedrest at least temporarily because the blood vessels, though not umbilical cord vessels, are fetal blood vessels carrying life that Buster needs. They'd have to determine if the blood was maternal or Buster's, and, either way, make sure it stopped. So things are about the same, though I was encouraged to see the amniotic fluid levels so high. (And, yes, I continue to hope and pray that God does the unexpected!)

Thanks for your offers of help and, most of all, for your prayers! Buster is one pretty baby. Anything that keeps him pretty inside of me instead of outside me right now makes me happy, even when I get grumpy.

The Earth Can Spin Again

Recently, Annika suddenly realized what had previously escaped her attention. "Mama!" she exclaimed, "I don't have an elephant shirt!" Since I'd been asking the week before what she'd like for her birthday, she then suggested that I could make one. I thought it was a grand idea, so on Annie's birthday, I cut out scrap fabric in a vaguely elephantine shape to sew onto a t-shirt.

One and a half weeks later, while at my mom's house, I actually did so. Look! It's an elephant shirt! I don't know how she's survived without one for so long.

And I post many pictures not because of the shirt (though I like it) but because of the girl inside it, who makes me laugh.

The Gorilla Dance. Again.

And one moment of stillness followed by a funny face.

I took the above pictures today, a minute before naptime. When Annie and I came back inside, we found this on the floor. Susannah, who'd been awake mere minutes before, had opened our still-packed suitcase, clothed herself in Millie's nightgown, and promptly fallen asleep. Cute, huh?

In Praise of Beans and Babies

This post is dedicated to my brother Peter, whose splendid wife Sarah gushes supremely. (She also has a darn tootin' great blog, so become a loyal reader.) When he was younger, Pete stuffed a bean up his nose. My parents weren't aware of this until it began to swell with heat and nasal moisture, thus making it nearly impossible to extract. My parents are both registered nurses, but even their combined and admittedly mighty efforts with a tweezer proved insufficient, and they had to seek higher medical help in order to free the bean.

I offer this post for two reasons.

One. Pete and Sarah recently added another precious boy to their beautiful family, and in all the hullabaloo, I neglected to give him a welcome post. Dear Simeon Shepherd, welcome! We can't wait to meet you in person! You've been blessed to enter a family who will, with God's grace, raise you in truth and love, and we rejoice to see a four-fold cord grown yet stronger with a fifth member.

Two. I thought of Pete and his family today, as well as the neglected welcome, with a timely reminder. This afternoon, Susannah suddenly began a loud caterwauling that signaled trouble. I peeked behind the armchair to see her bleeding profusely from one nostril, at which point Annika informed me that Susannah had stuffed a cheerio up her nose. With the blood, I could barely see the edge of the cheerio, but I saw enough to ensure that, yes, she had indeed. I took her upstairs (with continued caterwauling) and sat her down so that I could use my weapon of choice. You guessed it-- tweezers. I figured that even if I accidentally pushed it into the depths, cheerios are less troublesome than uncooked beans, and instead of stubbornly swelling, it would disintegrate in the rush of blood.

Don't worry. The tweezers worked.

Welcome again, Simeon Shepherd. We love you, your mother, your brothers, and we even love your bean-stuffing Daddy in whose footsteps Susannah follows.