The birthday girl

SIX!

Our May Day baby turned six this year, it is hard to believe.  She is such a vivid, spirited, and joyous girl.  The night she was born, and actually from the moment of her conception, she has filled the room, her presence is as intense as it is loving and as strong as it is sweet.

And as challenging as this makes some of the parenting of her, it is just as equally delightful to be around, I am so privileged to be her mother.

She is definitely growing into her big girl self and I find myself surprised by things like nail polish and unicorns and multiple changes of clothes a day.  I realize that I was once a little girl myself, but this house is so full of boys and this little girl is just as often a ninja as she is a princess that the truly girly stuff is just so noticeable.

And I find that as this girl grows up, I can’t help but worry about gender issues more with her than I do with her three brothers.  I am confident that they will grow into gentle, respectful, and kind men who thrive on both hard work and physical  play, creative pursuits and intellectual challenges.  Really, I feel pretty certain that this girl will grow up equally well balanced given our way of life and the fact that we don’t superimpose any preconceived notions about these things on them.  There is just this part of me that cringes when I see her checking herself in the mirror, giggling over boys and being in love (in the sweetest and most innocent six year old way that she is) and pretending at times to be a teenage girl on a date with her boyfriend–where does this stuff come from!

We were needing to walk around for a little while in Salem a few months ago on a rainy day and so we walked through the mall that was next door to where we were parked.  It was kind of a crazy day for us and we were definitely out of our comfort zone.  My sons tapped me as we walked past a Victoria’s Secret store with super large, super inappropriate posters hanging on the windows.  They were sure they should not be seeing that, and that was oh so true; but what killed me was that later that night, my daughter mentioned something about how beautiful those women were.  She says the same thing when she happens to see a model in some other magazine at the store or in a waiting room.  She is picking up ideas so quickly from even these brief encounters with modern media, and she is still so little.

And so that is why I worry, even if it is all perfectly natural.  The real women she knows in her life show her that there is a lot more to being a woman than being pretty.  We are intelligent and creative women who balance being mothers and wives and thoughtful individuals so well.  And her father models such a deep and appreciative love of me that goes so far beyond physical attraction I am sure she will learn well the kind of love she deserves.

And I realize that there is a natural part of all of the women I know that still likes to dress up and to feel pretty.

I know that really I worry too much.  It’s just that there is something so fragile about a young girl, even the strongest ones.  Young boys can be just as fragile too and are often misguided by the adults around them, it’s true.  I just think there is less media out there pigeonholing them; or maybe somehow my boys are just less aware of it?

In the end, I am thankful to see that our way of life adds layers of protection around my children that will hopefully last a lifetime.  That is all we can do, add those layers of love and goodness to their skin while they are young so that they are free to grow into themselves without too many chinks in their armor.

We are loving this little girl up as much as we can.

And she is full of goodness, so much goodness.

Make hay while the sun shines!

I have been feeling preoccupied.  Too preoccupied for summer; sweet, wonderful summer, so late in coming it feels like it is half-way over.  Things like my daughters fall and subsequent head ache, staying on top of our fall planting schedule, making sure our oldest is here or there for all of his recent activities, worries about bills (hey…I’m just being honest here), to do lists a mile long, weeds I want to get now before they go to seed, and the dreadful realization that I am just not going to get to the beach before August shuffle around upstairs jockeying for some attention, crowding out the voice I want to hear that says

“enjoy each and every moment of sun now!”

Expanding the amount of space we are growing on and the CSA have left the farmer preoccupied in a different way.  He is working his tail off this year with little time to spare.  After having settled into a good routine over the last few years, it has been hard to readjust to a more intense level of busy again.

But the thing is, even though there is a lot going on, that old adage about making hay while the sun shines is just as true.  All this sun is precisely why we are so busy, so I know I just need to take it all in stride.  And as cliche as it sounds, it is just as true that this isn’t a dress rehearsal.  This is the one and only summer my baby will be this little, my children just as they are right now.

The beauty of the passage of time, the fourth child coming, is that I have learned this lesson all too well.  Less will get done this year.  Less housework, less yard work; but who cares?  I also remember being this busy with the last little babe, starting the farm going, stressed and frazzled and preoccupied.  It is now just a part of our family’s journey together, but I don’t want it to be like that again.

So although the thoughts will still be there to think about and the weight of the season will be what it is, I am thankful that by now I have learned a little bit about letting go.  I can’t do it all.  But I can make sure we are having lots of picnics and trips to the creek.  I can sit and let the sun warm my skin, feel the breeze on my face, and watch small hands beside me explore the world.  I can do the dishes at least most days even if I can’t do them after each meal.  A one hour morning nap while all the big kids are fresh and new is the most productive one hour of weeding ever.  And putting special things like camping trips on the calender mean that they will happen even though they haven’t yet.

And I can manage a decent summer and a growing farm business and four wonderkids, if I only just let go a little bit.  It is the one piece of advice I most want to give to new mothers or those who still have little ones four and under.  Trust me, the sun doesn’t shine forever.

Surrender

“Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short, but when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit, and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day.”–Emerson

soon!  loads of gooseberries!

Today was such a quiet solstice day, some sun to celebrate, but it had to battle back and forth with all the clouds.  Even the celebratory weekend–with a few solstice parties we could have attended but were too tired to and a father’s day bbq we were going to host but had to cancel so the sick father-farmer could sleep–was slower than usual.  This year, there was no pit-roasted goat, mad cherry feasting, music in the barn, or fires with song into the night; our friend’s who hosted the celebration of the shortest night of the year we always attended now settled south in sunny (maybe) California.  Just like the strange feeling this month has had on some days that it is closer to fall than summer, today the solstice had an oddly calm feeling to it.  Nothing like the racous, wild abandon the coming of summer usually stirs up.

So rather than head to our favorite swimming hole–something we are all desperate to do (some of us littler ones would go even though the water would still be so cold)–we all spent the day quietly playing or working.  The little girl and I walked around the property, she climbing the ornamental cherry tree suckers that we have let grow up over the last few years searching out and munching the small, but edible, pollinator cherries they hold.  She eats fruit ripe or not, and although she tells me the cherries from the fruit trees in the back and those we pick up at market are better, she eats these by the handful.

Later we went out to the field to check on papa, and looked through the peas, sneaking a few here and there.  Most of them are still a bit small, but even without a big jump in temperatures, they should be ready to harvest this week or next.  It’s late for peas, but then again, summer is late, so maybe the peas are right on time.

I really don’t want to talk about the weather anymore.  I want to be able to take it all in as it is, each and every day.  I want to accept things with grace rather than grump.  I feel especially tired of thinking about it, of the back and forth of being sure that it will be warm…soon.

I love so much the feel of the sun on my skin, to be wearing sandals and tank tops.  I hate having to don sweaters in the months of June, July, and August; but this is something I have had to do on many an Oregon summer night anyways.  It is lovely and wet and temperate here, verdant and lush and not especially hot in the summer anyways.  Mild has its own virtues…right now I really wouldn’t trade this place for any other.  My heart has slowly migrated from what was home; now, this is home.

found! peas!

she farms in a tutu…

and sings “grow, plants, grow” to each seedling she helps place in the ground.

She coddles the young plants with tender hands and sweet words,

just like I used to do with her when she emerged into this world, full of light.

With her, rocks and pine cones and even me and the chickens,

we all become tiny babies in her arms.

And it strikes me how she has been a mother since she started walking on this earth–

my daughter, born with the same fierce love of little ones, the need to nurture, to help things grow that marks mothers the world over.

And I hope that she carries this with her, that she sees that it is a strength, not a weakness,

my daughter, my baby, turning four today.