Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cathy's farm

My dear friend and midwife, Cathy, moved over to the other side of the mountains awhile ago. She had been only five minutes away, and we were so sad when she moved, but we were excited about her new place. We'd be nearly neighbors if it weren't for those mountains in between! But although it's a bit of a drive now, it is GORGEOUS out where she lives—rural and open and heavenly, and of course she makes anyplace feel like home. When we heard that she was getting a baby pig, it was the perfect excuse to go visit!
Here's Tillie, the pig. Isn't she cute? She was just getting used to things the day we were there, and she was very young—but she'd grown SO fast! This is what she'd looked like just a few weeks earlier:
(Midwife Sara took this picture)
Junie, who'd been hoping to scoop up and cuddle the baby pig, was instead a teeny bit nervous about Tillie, who was making enthusiastic oinking noises at her. But she was still very, very happy to be visiting a real pig!
Hi Tillie!
It was an unexpected bonus to find that Cathy had gotten a bunny, too! We all held him and cuddled him and loved him. Such a sweet little snuggler. We wanted to take him home with us!
It was a lovely day and of course we had to go out and visit the goats. They have this nice little shelter which they like to actually climb up on top of! It's very surprising to see a goat on a roof. But the girls headed right for it too, so I guess it's not that hard to scale. :)
I thought Goldie might be scared of the goats (she's in a very nervous-about-dogs phase) but she wasn't a bit. She was totally thrilled to be playing with them. She was surprisingly calm about the dog, too, actually.
It's SO beautiful out there!
Malachi was lamenting that Cathy didn't have any chickens, and she said there were some baby chicks over at C-A-L Ranch, so we of course had to stop there on our way home. The chicks were SO cute! Fluffy and fat and crowding up together like a jar full of fwuffballs.
The ducks were darling, too.
We asked an employee if Ky could hold one of them and he said yes! Ky was SO HAPPY. He held the chicks so tenderly and communed with them, spirit-to-spirit, I'm pretty sure.
It's so lovely to go somewhere new, and see old friends, all at the same time. Cathy said that in a month she will have some lambs for us to visit, so…we'll be back!

Monday, April 11, 2016


Last month, I made my biannual visit to the hair salon. The infrequency of my visits has less to do with any particular attachment to how my hair looks sans style, and more to do with the fact that the whole experience terrifies me. Through the years I have picked my cautious way through the wilds of personal grooming, learning to speak more or less casually of lowlights and brow pencils, but the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land has not abated.

This particular salon, which I visit only every two years or so, keeps drawing me back like an ill-groomed moth to a flame. It's an urban-chic, modern minimalist sort of place, with concrete countertops and light fixtures that look like sets of false teeth. The sneer factor of the receptionists is high (I would rather show up naked than without an appointment), and they always ask sullenly if I "want anything" when I come—to which question I am apparently supposed to have a ready answer. Brownies? Milk? I'm too embarrassed to ask for a complete catalog of what, exactly, is on offer, but since there is occasionally a bottle of Evian sitting on the desk, I usually ask apologetically for water—feeling somehow that already, I have let someone down.

Any salon has its horrors: the potential for mind-numbing catalogs of the stylist's boyfriend's latest offenses; the uncertainty about if or how much to tip; the moment when you are shown the finished haircut and are expected to formulate a suitably approving comment on the spot. But this particular salon is the type of place that carries exorbitantly-priced hair "product" (a bit of hairstyling jargon toward which I nurture an unreasonable hatred) with names like "Abyss" and "Manacle," and where the black-clad stylists saw angrily at the hair in front of them with razor blades. There is an unapologetic sign on the door banning children of any description, and the selection of photos on the wall follows a formula: square frames and large mats surrounding grainy black-and-white images of one bicycle wheel or half of a bleached jawbone. All the spine-stiffening, affirmative pep talks I give myself before I arrive, about how with age comes confidence and how fashion is more about pleasing oneself than flowing with the whims of society, melt away as the atmosphere of the place washes over me. 

The tragedy of it is that this salon's haircuts are invariably flattering. Perhaps I am simply fooled by the sense of relief as I emerge, but I always leave feeling stylish and able to face nearly anything. And so I continue, every so often, to return.

With the graceless self-absorption that I like to think I left behind in high school, I always assume that all the other customers (or "clients" as the salon refers to us, no doubt thinking it sounds more upscale) are regulars, setting up their next appointments for "the usual time" and calling the receptionists by name. The lady next to me on this visit reinforced this view. She was elderly and extravagantly blond, and her painfully-thin stylist (Zax, his nametag read) was asking in an over-emotive voice if her husband ("Frank") was an absolute terror to have around now that he was retired. The lady told an anecdote about said husband and his brother going out to lunch and then playing golf together. The stylist said, "Isn't that the truth," which is a phrase I had never before heard issuing from a non-actor's mouth.

I was so caught up in their conversation that when my own stylist appeared and asked what kind of style I was thinking of, I was taken by surprise and unable to manage the casual tone I'd been planning. I felt relieved that he had not asked me what "we" were wanting done today, but as he immediately began fingering and kneading my hair like someone choosing a watermelon, I was still not much at my ease. The discussion of the haircut and color is a delicate dance that must be handled with great finesse. Too jocular, and the stylist may come away with a disastrously inflated sense of your "up-for-anything"-ness. Too focused, and his artistic sensibilities may be wounded. I had rehearsed my speech in the car, but shaken by the continued sifting and hefting of my hair (now like someone hunting for rocks in a bowl of lentils), I stammered a bit on the part about how I no longer wanted to look like a college student with sun-kissed highlights. I managed to sound fairly firm about not wanting any style that would look half-baked if I didn't make it back to the salon for another two years. Then, gaining assurance, I told him casually that I liked my greys but I did wish there were something a little brighter around my face.

Letting my hair fall back down, the stylist narrowed his eyes.
"If I could have a blank…"
"Slate?" I put in helpfully, and immediately regretted it. 
"…canvas," he continued, austerely; "I would make you a redhead…"—pausing for effect—"…like that. But I don't think you'd be happy with the maintenance."

I made encouraging noises, distracted by the fact that I had also never in my life heard someone in real life say "like that" while snapping his fingers. It was a day of milestones.

After more discussion, the work ensued, and with it, the conversational purgatory one enters voluntarily at the salon. We skirted through our respective childhoods and I got through the "how many children" question with minimal upheaval—just a momentary faltering as the stylist stopped crackling the foil to say "Seven!" and I managed not to make a self-deprecating comment about how "crazy" it all was (something which, though true, I try to avoid saying, as it misrepresents the complex reality). My heart rate rose when he brought up politics, and when he remained undeterred by my repressive "Oh, I can't stand to think of it"—I really thought all was lost. It was clear from his first few sentences that we weren't going to continue without discomfort, but then he asked about what had influenced my views and I lit into Basic Economics with a vengeance. I suppose he could see the fervor in my eyes because he subsided and we fell again, blissfully, silent.

That just left the hair-washing to get through, which is a sort of torture chamber for a tender-headed person like myself. I tell my daughters all the time that girls have to be very brave, and I like to think that I am. At home I brush briskly and ruthlessly through my hair no matter how tangled it gets. But something about the vulnerable position of lying in the neck cut-out of the sink, as someone grimly massages your scalp with an air of "my manager said you must enjoy this for at least three minutes, so help me"—leaves me clenching my hands together and trying desperately to keep the tears from leaking out the corners of my eyes. But it eventually came to an end, and I sat up with the dignity of someone who has looked into the great deep, and come away unscathed. Later, I didn't even flinch when the stylist said "hopefully we can see you back a little sooner next time!" and showed me the back of my head in a hand mirror. "How lovely; thank you," I said airily, avoiding commitment.

I approached the front desk with such relief and joie de vivre coursing through my veins that I even responded to the receptionist's offer of "product" with a breezy "Why not?" Light, happy, and free, I almost flew out the doors to the car, glancing at my new shampoo bottle as I went.

It was called "Oblivion."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Easter and Bunnies

Well, there's no way around it: this post is just going to be roughly six million pictures of babies and bunnies. They aren't strictly Easter pictures, having been taken the Sunday AFTER Easter (though, reliable sources inform me, that next Sunday actually IS still part of Easter in the liturgical calendar!)…but they will suffice. As I've said before, one of the best reasons for HAVING a bunny is to take pictures of him! The other good thing is that all the children WANT to have their pictures taken with Nutmeg, which balances out (somewhat!) their Natural, God-given desires to squirm and jab each other in the ribs and make faces and look anywhere but where the camera is. Any little bit helps.
I used the term "babies" rather loosely above. Some of them could more rightly be called Great Hulking Beasts.
Tall! So tall!
Aw. So snuggly. Who says teenagers aren't cute?!
Which is easier, holding a bunny or holding a baby? I won't reveal the answer, but Seb could tell you.
Malachi could tell you too.
The boys. A handsome lot. They make a fine family group, all on their own!
But, what a blessing to have this little flower starting off the girl group!
Hmm. Kind of an odd flower.
Showing off the gap from her newly-missing tooth! She lost the other one a few days later.
Oh, Junie. Her dress was my favorite.
This Goldie is pretty darling too, if you can get her to stop lifting up her dress long enough to take a picture.
If we're going in order of age, I guess Nutmeg comes next! My goodness, he's grown into a handsome bunny! Though I do miss the little brown fwuffball he used to be. He tricked us into thinking he was a brown bunny, but now so much of him is black! Oh, well. We like him all the same.

Oh, I know, there are more pictures of this bunny than of some of the children! The bunny was more compliant at times, honestly, which is saying something. But it wore him out, all this picture-taking. 
Yum. Carrots.
Are these carrots for babies? Theo looks to his Daddy to find out.
Theo was mostly happy when in his Daddy's arms, really. When Sam put him down he looked more like this:
Or sometimes like this: 
The fearsome hunter stalks his prey! And what is his prey?
Oh. This little furry friend.
They really do love each other, these two. Nutmeg has a soft spot for babies. He used to let Goldie catch him like this, too, before hopping away just out of reach, but then nosing toward her and letting her get him again.
Theo also found it entertaining when we tried to get him to stand up. This isn't something real people do!, he seemed to think. But it did amuse him.
He even managed to stay in place for a second or two, though he thought it was a strange sensation.
And then he would fall down and laugh uproariously.
Oh, wait. Did you notice the dimple sufficiently?
We did attempt a few group shots. Yes, there was fighting. Yes, there were forced smiles. Photoshop was involved. But by George, if I'm going to go to all the trouble of HAVING seven children and a bunny, I'm going to line them up and force them to pose together every now and then!
I suppose that's quite enough for one day. Happy Easter!
Previous Easters: here and here.