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Homestead Happenings: ten hours

February 9, 2011

*I cried a little reading your comments about tonsils and unicorns (an emotional morning overall, see below). I also laughed a lot: Flynn snoring like a 400 pound man, Robert (row-bear) letting his daughter mix up awful kitchen concoctions for him to drink in solidarity while she swallowed her post-surgery pain meds. I nodded a lot too. Mostly, I was moved by the way we care for our children against any odds thrown our way.

*My hospitalized friend is coming home today; thanks for your well wishes. It’s been a rough road, but man is she stoical and reasonable. She’s been in too much pain to care for her baby (who is in great hands with her sis-in-law) and when I asked her last week if she felt she was missing out on bonding with her baby, she replied “I miss her. But I have the rest of my life to bond with her.” See? Reasonable. It’s called, not making a hard situation worse by unhelpful mental gyrations, something I hope to learn by the time I’m 89.

My source for all information astronomical (which is my dad, who recently sent me an e-mail photo of the bubbly subterranean ocean discovered on one of Saturn’s moons, with the subject title: perhaps there is life out there!) tells me that the Northern Hemisphere has just tipped towards 10 hours of daylight.

And even though last week was so comically cold that Col spent an entire morning scraping ice off the inside of our windows, February is like settling into winter’s performance after the intermission. You can see how it’s going to end. It’s so completely different from shuffling to your seats in November, opening the program and reading, ACT 1: where are the damn snowsuits? ACT 2: icy sidewalks and pneumonia.

Impossible to see, but Col's scraping the ice off with a medicine-dispensing spoon because every object should have at least 10 uses.

Ten hours of daylight is the minimum required for most plants to grow and flourish. And even though my stubby little coldframe spinach and cilantro have been holding on, they haven’t exactly been growing. But I kind of imagine them getting the e-mail, photosynthetically-speaking, that it’s finally safe to unfurl a very small, green leaf. Perhaps there is life out there!

Spinach, cilantro and volunteer peas "chillin'" in our outdoor coldframe after surviving a spat of below zero nights.

The lucky recipients of the compost bucket from R and C's school.

Keeping the spindly occupants of the greenhouse watered. "Ten hours," we whisper to the chard and kale like a prayer.

Col and Rose try and keep it all straight: the parade of seasons, the days of the week, a full 24-hour rotation of the Earth.

“Is today the day before the day that Baba and Nana get here?” Rose asks.

“Yes, they arrive tomorrow.”

“Can tomorrow start now?”

It’s so hard for their little bodhisattva minds to collate all the past and future moments that I automatically track as Secretary of our Lives. Although, if you tell Rose she can have one chocolate kiss—from last weekend’s party-favor bag—each day , she’ll show up by your bedside at 6:02 AM, ready for her installment.

We had a parent-teacher conference Monday morning for Col and I cried through the entire thing. It always takes me by surprise, how shallowly buried is this huge package of emotions containing my son. It’s hard to tease it all out, but I suspect it has something to do with his first day of life when the high-heeled social worker clickety-clacked into my hospital room. I asked her, though sobs, if babies born at 25 weeks ever turned out okay. “Well,” she paused, “they usually have some issues. Vision problems, motor delays, learning disabilities. Often the earliest preemies will need a wheelchair or a feeding tube.”

The social worker never mentioned that a 25-weeker might, at six years old, be “engaged, curious, a quiet leader, never bored, focused and self-motivated, empathetic, fair-minded, loved by his classmates and a math genius.”

One thing Col’s kindergarten teacher said that stuck with me was how she noticed that after Col returned from being away for three weeks, he walked into class with a renewed interest in reading and writing. “On fire,” was the phrase she used. This reminds me that children need time to process information, to let concepts sift and settle.

Col and Rose have been processing a recent doctor’s visit, in which after day #4 of zithromax, Col seemed to be getting worse. “I’m gonna suggest a shot of antibiotics, just to make sure we’re taking care of it.” Good ‘ol Dr. Z said. Dan and I tried to keep things light during the eternity we waited for the nurses to enter with their tray of horrors, but Col knew what was coming and the anxiety was emanating off him like heat waves. Two nurses, each bearing a needle, pounced on Col’s skinny thighs while Dan and I held him down. Everyone was yowling, even Rose, who slunk herself under the bench, sobbing, and hid.

And now:

"Okay Coley, stay still for your shot, okay?" (what, you don't let your kids play with medicine syringes?)

Right in the belly, ow. (I missed the photo-op of Rose plunging the syringe into Col's butt)

Col got together with his buddy Mathew last week to smash rocks with a rock hammer. Mathew said, “Col, with your strong muscles you can crush this rock,” and handed Col the rock hammer.  This is like a pledge of love and admiration, man to man.

Col and Mathew; I love their friendship.

That’s the haps on the homestead.

Thanks again for all your tonsil/unicorn input, I’m letting it sift and settle in my mind as I do my own processing.

Enjoy your ten hours of daylight!



26 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2011 8:22 am

    Settling. Yep. If I were inside his little body I’d take 3 weeks off from school. I’d be making up for time in my mom’s belly for awhile. Pushed into the world early, I’d retreat every now and again…only to re-enter on fire.

    You got that right, sista.

  2. February 9, 2011 8:32 am

    Wow, ice on the inside of the windows, it must be really cold out there. More daylight would suite me just fine, love that last picture.:)

  3. Nasha permalink
    February 9, 2011 8:40 am

    I love you and your stories. Though I rarely see you or your lovely family, I always feel moved by what’s going on in your life. I love seeing that miracle little boy continue to surprise and bless all he comes in contact with! What a great story about his parent-teacher conference!!!! (And laughed at Rose giving him the “shot”:) See you around the hood! -Nasha

  4. February 9, 2011 8:49 am

    Whew…that’s a lot to process. I think you need a weekend at a spa, you super-mama. Best of luck with all things unicorn, medicine, lung, tonsil, chicken and chard-related. And woo-hoo to 10 hours of sun…hard to believe we’ve made it out the other side.

  5. February 9, 2011 9:14 am

    10 hours! Just beautiful! So is knowing your friend will be coming home today to begin the journey of bonding with her new babe.

    I loved the pic of what I think is snow on an elk rack facing the sky.

  6. February 9, 2011 9:47 am

    I just love your stories of your homestead. I dream of cold frames and chickens and compost. :)

    I hope your son gets better soon!

  7. Charlene Mahoney permalink
    February 9, 2011 10:09 am

    Ohhhh I love so much reading your blogs! Your kiddies are so cute and the stories are the greatest, along with the pics!
    So glad that Coley-boy is doing so well at school…and showing leadership…what a man! Rose is sweet as ever, administering shots to her brother lol and hiding under the table when the real ones come in!
    Hope you and your family have a safe winter full of good health and lots of veggies grown in your garden!

  8. February 9, 2011 11:17 am

    I am ALWAYS so inspired by your words! Funny how you mention sunlight being the determining factor in plant growth, because even though it is clear here, and much less cold, nothing is growing!! (Saying nothing of the huge trees that deduct a few full hours of sun from our little patch of earth) Also, I love seeing the similarities in our lives, and since you are presently thinking about just how normal your boy might be…. I’ll share that Cole has a special place where he pounds rocks. It’s a spearhead making station, except he doesn’t use a hammer – it’s rock on rock. Then they get duct-taped to a stick and forgotten after about an hour…
    Here, the tulips have pushed up, and “spring is in the air”. Hold on, the final act of winter is well under way! :)

  9. February 9, 2011 1:19 pm

    One of my most wonderful moments- in a parent/teacher conference when she said my son was reading ON GRADE LEVEL. Hooray and thank God! : ) (now he’s a reading machine in grade 4, and my heart dances.)

  10. February 9, 2011 1:50 pm

    1. You’re growing my favorite kind of kale. You are lucky you’re so far away, or I would be breaking in and stealing.

    2. Col is a bad ass.

    3. Rose has the best sense of style evah.

    4. This line makes me want to hug your brain and kiss your heart: “It’s so hard for their little bodhisattva minds to collate all the past and future moments that I automatically track as Secretary of our Lives.”

  11. Melissa permalink
    February 9, 2011 1:57 pm

    My goodness, dear Rachel, I probably should process this epic post of your before jumping right in to respond but I must say a few clumsy things–

    It’s a beautiful, wild trip, this life, isn’t it? Maybe there is life out there! I think I love your dad.


    People who work in hospitals have seen so much awful shit that they tend to err on the downer side; not to defend that high-heeled SWer (really, high heels?) or anything, but as a member of that tribe, and now working in the ICN a bit (which I alternately loathe and love), I definitely go the other way, as in, super-empathic and hopeful if it’s what I perceive the parents need in that moment. I probably over-identify with them, too, which may not be helpful either, but I feel compelled to say that if I had been the one to clomp up to you (those are my scuffed Danskos, clumping), perhaps I wouldn’t have said anything better–and it’s true that there’s just no getting around how awful the whole experience is, even when you are sitting in your beautiful child’s parent-teacher conference, crying for different reasons. The point I try to remember in my own work is that if the only thing I “do” for a parent is help him/her feel less alone in the experience, then I’ve done something. All we can do is just bear witness sometimes and wait and see. Thank god your boy is beautiful and strong (I love what his buddy said to him!). Man, that was a tangent. I think I drank too much coffee this morning. (:


    And I also think it’s so important for kids to act out medical scenarios through play!!!! Especially when so much gets “done” to them–so important for them to exercise a little power and control. Avi will approach me with a syringe and warn, “Don’t cry, Mommy, but you need a shot” (I don’t know where he got the “don’t cry” but whatevs). Kids are so awesome.

    Love your writing and your spirit and your love for your community–so glad your friend is on the mend, too. xo

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      February 9, 2011 4:59 pm


      I saw that tendency for medical professionals to err on the negative side. When we were in the NICU, I saw several doctors and esp. nurses judging parents who decided to keep their babies alive under extreme circumstances. I’m sure it gets depressing to operate repeatedly on the tiniest, sickest people, when maybe their future prognosis is grim. Maybe docs/nurses/social workers are trying to refrain from setting up false hope, but damn, I needed some home on that first day of Col’s life (and many other days).

      Thanks for being empathetic with your patients. That goes a long way.

      Growing children at 6512 feet:

  12. February 9, 2011 5:22 pm

    I bet, when he was born, Col was like just like that little sprout of cilantro, peeking through the dirt and the cold and the danger, just waiting till he could bloom with abandon. Hooray for your adventurous, creative, ice-scraping math-genius little man (and his mama)!

  13. February 9, 2011 11:55 pm

    That rock hammer comment makes me cry. In a good way. :)

  14. February 10, 2011 2:47 am

    Oh, thank you so much for writing. I don’t blame you one bit for crying during the teacher conference. I’m right there with you!

    My kids play medical stuff too. Although it was a bit disconcerting a few years ago after my best friend had a C-section, and my son, I think he was 3 1/2 at the time, was playing with another little friend, and they put stuffed animals or babies under their shirts. That was fine, they were processing the pregnancy (and I believe I was also pregnant at the time) but when they pulled out the play kitchen knives and said “Here, we need to cut the baby out of your belly!” and operated on each other, that hit a bit too close to home.

    My kids would SO love to play with yours!

  15. February 11, 2011 10:09 am

    When I was a kid, the room I shared with my sister was partially buried. The concrete walls and single-pane windows all had thick layers of ice – not fun to roll into in the middle of the night!
    I’m loving the longer days, and in a weird way the comically cold temperatures (-18 in the Ozarks?!).

  16. February 11, 2011 1:10 pm

    I haven’t looked at my sunrise/sunset chart in a while, and ooh! Sunrise 6:55 this morning, sunset 5:26. 10+ hours, hurrah!

    I hope that Col is feeling better by now or soon, and best wishes for a lovely weekend!

  17. February 11, 2011 3:44 pm

    Yay to 10 hours of daylight. And to a boy who defied the world.

    And to you and your words. It’s the warm embrace that delights my heart on this snowy winter day.

    Hope Col is on the mend now and that you’re all on your way to a terrific weekend.

  18. February 12, 2011 12:46 am

    1. GO Col!
    2. LOVE the snow-on-elk-antler photo
    3. Love the winter-is-a-three-act-play metaphor
    4. I am totally impressed with your coldframe plants. Are they seriously outside? South-facing, I take it? We still have 2 1/2 feet of snow on the ground, but I really want to try coldframe plants next year! They’ll survive the sub-zero’s??

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      February 12, 2011 11:34 am


      I am totally impressed with the cold frame also. They are facing south. I seriously have no idea how they’ve survived so many below zero nights in the cold frame. But I do think in another few weeks we’ll be harvesting salads!

  19. February 18, 2011 10:46 pm

    Man, you had ME in tears. No idea he was such a premie, no idea he is such a superstar. Those teacher conference grab you by the heartstrings, no? And yes, on the processing time, phenomenal, that. And yes, on the shot eternity –endured that today. Trust everyone’s up and well, again!

  20. November 30, 2012 3:13 am

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  21. Geoff Trotter permalink
    December 7, 2012 10:27 pm

    Coley is so brave as Rose ‘jabs’ his belly like that. Since he was the “patient”, consider uploading some photos where his having his belly (& possibly his heart) examined by “Doctor” Rose. For this, have him lie down with his shirt raised to just above his chest).


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