I'm typing with one hand because the other arm is filled with baby.   A narrow rivulet of milk runs from the corner of her lips, she softly sighs, and a sleep-smile flashes brief-- there-- just now.

She's beautiful.

Cadence Octavia arrived last Sunday evening, slipping swiftly into the world.  She is a marvel and an always-been, both at the same time.

6 pounds, 10 ounces
19 1/2 inches from top to toe
dark hair
smoky blue eyes
heart thief

Truncated Birth Story Without Even One Gory Bit! (*Okay, Maybe One)

We couldn't have asked for a better way to bring a baby into the world.
At least, that's true if you're talking to me; John might quibble a bit, as he was sweating bullets before the day was through.

Our gorgeous, spring Sunday went a little like this:
Steady contractions two to three minutes apart during church, and two hours later, a wave out the window and a hurried "hullo" to an old friend and her girls, then a quick duck into the gas station to buy food for the dumb mama-in-labor who had skipped breakfast that morning, followed minutes later by a crippled van streaming fluids onto the side of the road, seven children running barefoot in a field, a state policeman who was not a jerk (and since he was one of eight children himself, understood why seven children would run barefoot through a field),  many calls to find someone who would answer their phone and be able to pick us up; an hour after that, two vehicles to pick us up, a round of cleaning while we waited for the tow truck driver to bring John home, a speedy drive to the hospital, and then a walk around the block until enough doubled-over contractions made me want to be inside rather than out.

An hour (pain! more pain! ouch! GORE!*) later,

I bet everyone just skipped all the blabbering and scrolled straight to these pictures:

 (in the hospital)

And I don't blame you.  She is everything a baby could be.

It was a charmed day (except-- maybe-- for the nervous Papa).  When our friend Mary arrived with the first rescue-mobile to drive a batch of us home, Susannah came running over to say goodbye and gave me the biggest hug.  She was all dazzled over with excitement and said, "This has been SO FUN!  I think this is the best day of my WHOLE life!!!"  To her credit, I thought our day was pretty near the top, too.  Days later, I'm still brimming over with gratitude for everything about it.  An adventure on the ride home, the prayed-for gift of another natural VBAC without complications, and an evening that ended with her in our arms. Who could ask for more?

Post Bail After 24 Hours

The van was still in convalescence the next day, so my mom brought the girls down so they could meet Cadence while the boys stayed at home with John.

They approved of the new girl.

Millie's made a tradition of bringing me a plate of sweets.  The last two times, it's been coconut candies.  I ate seven of them that afternoon and five more at home the next day.  So much for losing the 48 pounds that are still hanging around a week later...

And this man most handsome, my partner in crime, who's been serving up meal after delicious meal for us the last week and whose company I love.

He's my favorite.

One Wish Granted

John and I weren't able to leave the hospital until 9:30 p.m., so everyone was asleep when we got home, and it wasn't until the next morning that Aidan learned that some dolls are actually alive.  He was utterly amazed by Cadence and kept making the softest noises of awe over and over again.

Over a week later, he still can't keep himself from stroking her head.

And Zeke?  Also smitten, though slightly less amazed, since he's understood all along that my big belly = a baby to come.

You Teewah!, Or, Party Van!

Zeke turned four on Sunday, and I present a funny sequence of pictures from his birthday breakfast.

1. Annika lights the candle.

2. The candle dies out while we sing.

3.  Annika relights the candle, but to no avail, because THE REST OF ZEKE'S LIFE IS RUINED BEYOND REPAIR.
    (And people say girls are dramatic.)

Don't worry; he perked up.  Strawberry pancakes with whipped cream and syrup will do that for you.  A side of sausage doesn't hurt, either.  (Credit to John for making breakfast while I snored upstairs.)

Zeke wanted another tractor cake this year, but after seeing Annika's birthday cake, he requested lots of dirt and "gummy worms stickin' up all over," also.

The tractor may look funny, but, by gum, I nailed the dirt and worms addition.

This picture is of terrible quality, but I love it.  Lucinda bought Zeke a vintage Fisher Price camera at a rummage sale, and she was very proud to give it to him.  It's one of his favorite gifts, and it's been a delight to watch her beam.

He even took a picture of his cake before we lit the candles.

Happy, happy birthday to our Little Boy Blue.  You are so dear to us, Ezekiel Walker.

Birthday Repose

After we got back from church, I called Zeke so I could tuck him in for a nap, but he came upstairs with his hands full.  John had turned his breakfast shake into a popsicle, so he finished it while standing on the bed and talking about his birthday.

He finished, I tucked him in, and when I came in to check on him after a while, he was sound asleep- snoring loudly, even- with his beloved new bubbles in hand (thanks, Janis!).

If you look closely, though, you can see through his not-at-all-convincing snores...

to the wide-awake giggles just below the surface.

Half an hour later, THIS is what sleep really looks like, and he wasn't even snoring this time around.


Sunday was also the day of Cadence's baptism.

God hold you close, little one.


Millie made Cadence a little headband for her baptism.  It looked so tiny when she finished, but it somehow grew by the time it reached Cadence's dainty head.


Aidan tells me again just how wonderful this new doll is.

We were just given many bags of clothes and goodies from a kind lady, and included in the loot were two wigs!  All of my girls have taken turns as flappers today.

And because I didn't take a picture of her with a wig on, here's one of Susannah jumping up to surprise me. 


Visiting a Father's Grave

The best way to visit your father's grave for the second time, a year and a half since you first stood there--that first and only time--bundled against the bitter wind, throat tight, tears freezing as they fell, your eyes fixed on the mound of freshly hilled earth in a heap near the box that held his used-up form,

is here and now,

on your birthday, on a midmorning when spring moves sweet and soft, out walking with your husband and children and with the sun and great big blue above.

To without warning or knowledge follow their feet down the first hill and the second and to turn right onto the rutted path that leads through what has been cow pasture and cornfield and is this day just a stretch of dry brown newly greening.

With breath caught sharp in surprise at the turn, tears splashing warm as you walk behind, you'll watch winter-white limbs flashing over grass on the path to your father's grave, where you'll stand with them above what he no longer needs.

Best, too, to visit with a memory of a dark-eyed boy fresh from the sea, who stood below you in the night and snow throwing rocks at your window. Remember the sight of his head from above, the surprise of it all, the first introduction to the family, and, then, the escape to talk.   Remember a winter walk down the hill and a right turn onto that rutted path leading through a cornfield to a graveyard.

Hold the memory of the snow, the stars, the piercing chill, and his love, of a pocketwatch lost by a headstone and of its later rescue. The memory of a dark-eyed boy who now stands beside you as a dark-eyed man watching children spin in the sun.  And you, with a baby soon-born nudging your bones, a wordless reminder of Life over death.

On the Morning of My Thirty-seventh Birthday

I curled in bed and watched the gray flush peach and gold
while saluting the bird that would not cease outside my window
its unrelenting stream of staccato and pitch, and, there,
quiet and still, I thought of life and you.
You, who hold home and all familiar in your eyes,
with shadows that still beguile and
bind to what lies below.

And of our seven saplings- and the small one soon to come,
slowly stirring beneath the covers and my skin,
while muscles tighten and contract,
while I watch the light and
listen to the bird and
think of you.


A Fine Discourse

Sometimes (lots of the time), I'm an all-or-nothing girl.  It's been a lifelong trait, leading to times of both consuming joy and bleak despair.  Having children has tempered this part of my response to the world because they pull me out of self every single day without even realizing what they do.  Avoiding sugar entirely OR eating a sackful of candy in ten minutes, though?  That remains constant.  So does this.  Either none at all or TWO DOZEN snapshots of my son taking off his shoes after church and talking to me about the new baby.

Hey, at least snapshots are healthier than candy, right?

The problem began when Zeke stalled by sitting on a stool and talking to me about Polka'poose.

(You can see that some of his older sisters just dumped their church clothes on the hall couch. Naughty children.)

He really wants the baby to be a girl because "We already have a boy baby, and we've never had a girl baby."  (His memory doesn't extend to the five girl babies who arrived before he was born, I guess.)

Behind him sits the native boy baby to whom he referred.  Hm.  Looks like a good-sized baby to me.


This snapshot shows the brown patch in his left eye-- the Owen island that quietly asserts itself in a sea of blue.

We conversed on many topics, including those eyes.

We also engaged in a thoughtful discourse on the subject of noses (i.e. DON'T DO THAT, ZEKE!).

I dunno.  I should have showed restraint and only posted a couple of these snapshots, but, as I said, I'm an all-or-nothing sort of girl, and this boy's worth my all.