Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2018

Jon, Amanda, and our granddaughter Ami have been here for the holiday. This photo cracks me up. At eleven months, Ami rarely scowls, but she had just waked up from a nap and was not excited by the photo op. Nor by that day’s below zero temperatures.

It had snowed on and off Wednesday with high winds while we all were traveling. (I had to go to Vermont for the dentist and the kids were driving up from Connecticut.)

However on Thanksgiving day itself, dawning at 2° F, the clouds slowly began to clear. I got up early to have coffee and start baking pecan pies at 6 AM. Soon the whole wheat buttermilk rolls were rising. The pies came out of the oven and as the rolls baked, the sweet potatoes were boiled and mashed. Next the turkey went in to start roasting while I chopped onions and celery for the stuffing. Most of these items had vegan twins so I was watching the clock and my list, crossing my fingers that I could shepherd it all in and out of the single oven to be ready at the same time. It worked! I tossed a big salad — putting the romaine aside for the chickens! — and at 2 PM we all sat down to a casual, fun feast.

Lucy was at a college ski camp in Canada, so it was Jon, Amanda, Ami, DH, me, and our friend Mike around the table. Despite missing Lucy, I felt very happy.  Our first family Thanksgiving at the farm!

Friday was clear and 12° below zero. All the views were lovely (including this one, shot by DH from our bedroom window). The sun has put in an appearance so rarely this fall that one could hardly quibble that the temperature was a bit nippy for November.

The star of the holiday, however, was Ami. We all doted on her for three days straight. So fun to wake up in the chill of the morning to a baby.

Our dogs were fascinated by her noises. Maybe she was a giant squeaky toy! To keep her safe from their boisterous enthusiasm we set up her portable playpen in the living room.

Grandpa and Ami.


Ami was willing to come to me for short periods. Here she’s inspecting my watch.

Currently she tests most items for edibility.

Though Amanda brought a number of freezable teething toys, Ami was most fascinated by a giant ripe pear.

She worked at it with dedication on and off all that day.

Here’s Jon reading Ami a bedtime story. (The E. H. Shepard Winnie the Pooh print on the wall behind them hung in Jon’s — and then Lucy’s — childhood bedroom. It was later water-damaged in storage but I can’t find another copy, so for now I accept the wrinkles.)

This morning Jon took this video of me cackling and Ami squeaking — shared laughter.

The only unhappy moment in this wonderful visit was saying goodbye. Happy Thanksgiving to all!



November 7, 2018

Look at our baby girl! I can’t wait for their visit in two weeks.

Things here have been hectic. No water in the house (after all my exultation, it turns out the summer repair of the well was deeply inadequate). Flat tires on the truck and the car. A thousand chores to get the farm ready for winter… Jump-starting all the frozen mowers and putting them away. Hay deliveries. Hundreds of wheelbarrows of deep bedding pushed out of the barn. Digging in a temporary walkway of leftover flagstones to keep our shoes out of the mud. Evening movies to show for my students. I have been working long hours outdoors in wind and rain and trying not to flinch as I hear the balls dropping anyway.

My bad knee and elbow are throbbing.

DH and I are going out of town this afternoon to an educator’s conference. We used to attend this conference together when our children were small. This will be our last hurrah; once he retires it is unlikely we will be staying in fancy hotels. So although it makes no sense to go away in this busy time, I’m scrambling to cover my classes and the farm for one day to go with him. I’m teaching double periods today so my students don’t fall behind tomorrow.

When we get back in 24 hours the well company will be here to install a new pressure tank and I can brainstorm how I, with my fear of heights, will climb an extension ladder to fix the faulty roof valley flashing that our builder had promised to repair. Though I’ve purchased the necessary materials, even if I screw up my nerve I’m not sure it will be able to happen as we are due to have snowstorms starting Friday.

As I always remind myself: sufficient unto the day are the worries thereof. I’ll think about it tomorrow!

In the meantime, the photo of our dear Ami makes me happy.

23-Hour Dash

October 7, 2018

I’d had a rough week with little sleep, but on Friday after classes I set up the dogs, sheep, poultry, and cows for me to be away overnight, and drove to Connecticut to see our grandbaby, Jon, and Amanda. When I arrived around 7:30 PM Ami was asleep, but when she woke up she gave me her usual beaming smile from the safety of Amanda’s arms.

Among other items I had brought a giant bag of Duplos that I’d picked up at a yard sale, and for a moment Ami was willing to sit in my lap to inspect an airplane while smiling bravely at her Mommy…

… only to glance up into my face, realize she didn’t know this stranger, and burst into screams of terror.

I did not take it personally, and immediately handed her to Daddy.

In the morning after coffee in my pajamas I played with her on the floor. This worked well because Ami’s back was to me most of the time and she could get used to my presence slowly, while occupied in chomping on a Duplo giraffe. (She is teething and everything currently requires an exploratory chew.)

She is fully recovered from her surgery and she is as happy as ever.

I treasured the time.

So much fun!


Though it is hard to get away from work and the farm, these quick overnight dashes — 4.5 hours’s drive each way — are manageable and so rewarding.  I would be thrilled if I could get there every 4-6 weeks.


Lung Surgery for Our Baby

August 21, 2018

Last Wednesday I was not able to leave the north country until almost 6 PM, and didn’t reach Connecticut until 10. Nevertheless, Jon, Amanda, Ami, and Judy (Amanda’s mother) were all still awake. Amanda had organized and packed everything for the hospital stay like a field marshal, and now they were attempting to keep Ami awake and feed her solids until the last moment she could have anything by mouth. Amanda set an alarm for a final nursing at 3 AM.

We rose early Thursday morning, drove to the city, and had checked into the children’s hospital by 7. Judy would mind the fort and the animals at home.

Jon and Amanda were called into the pre-op with Ami, and I settled into the family waiting room to wait. After an hour, they joined me. It was a long, long day. The surgery began at 8:30 AM and was finished slightly after 1 PM. Ami was on the operating table under general anesthesia for almost five hours. She would be in recovery for another two.

It turned out that the non-malignant mass was inside the lower lobe of the lung, not outside, and had numerous large feeder veins. The doctor had had no choice but to remove the entire lobe, and it was difficult, delicate work to close off all the feeders.

Amanda and Jon were finally allowed in to see Ami. She looked like a limp rag doll.

It was nearly 4 PM when we were allowed to go to a private room. The nurse pushed Ami in the rolling crib, Jon and Amanda brought bags and stroller, and I pulled the giant suitcase. As we made our way to the 8th floor, the crib bumped over joints in the flooring and in and out of the elevator. Ami opened her eyes in confusion. She was “on planet Morphine,” Amanda joked, but even then Ami did not cry. Her lips wobbled as if she were trying to smile but was too tired and bewildered.

At last she was in her own room. The surgeon had warned Jon and Amanda it might be a four-day stay. They would stay with her, sleeping in a chair and on a cot beside her. I would drive back and forth to the city to deliver meals cooked by Judy.

Amanda changed Ami into her own clothes (homemade hospital gowns with shoulder snaps) with her own blanket and stuffed toys. The first night she mostly slept off the morphine.

Nursing was difficult and painful for Ami, with the chest tube and so many other wires and monitors, but Amanda managed it. It took both parents to lift Ami out of the crib and keep everything safely untangled.

When awake, at first Ami was so groggy she just wanted to watch Sesame Street. Jon held the screen.

However, by morning when I arrived with coffee, Ami was already looking more like her normal self…

… despite all the wires and tubes.

She had yogurt for breakfast…

… and opened her mouth like an eager baby bird for some mashed black beans.

I would bring Judy to the hospital in the evenings. Judy broke her back this spring and is not yet back to full strength. Ami gave the typical Ami beam of delight when she saw her.

Now Ami was alert enough to be distracted by the television on the wall. The only thing that soothed her was the movie Zootopia. The film played on a loop almost 24/7.

Jon and Amanda may never be able to see it again without a shudder.

Gradually as the days passed Ami was weaned off machines and monitors and IVs, one by one. The most painful, the chest tube, was finally removed Saturday afternoon. Daddy was happy to be able to hold his baby girl again.

All Saturday as we waited for this crucial milestone, I had been working at the house. Judy and I had bought Jon a used basketball hoop early in the summer and I had brought a bag of tools to Connecticut to put it together. The directions said assembly required two people but I had dismissed that. I stood on a ladder all day, sweating in the humidity, then being drenched in a downpour. Judy went out for a couple of hours and returned to exclaim, “Are you still on that ladder?”

When Jon called in the late afternoon to say they were being discharged, I changed into dry clothes and drove into Hartford to pick them up. After things settled down again, I got Jon to help me with the last two steps (lifting the backboard into place does require two people) and we tightened the last bolts just before dark.

I’m not sure why I fixated on the basketball hoop at such a stressful time. Perhaps it was just that it was something tangible I could accomplish when everything else was out of my control.

Ami is home. The scary surgery is now safely in our rear-view mirror. Hooray! Though more complicated than we hoped, it was a complete success. The incisions are healing and she will be checked in a month. The remaining upper lobe of the lung should expand to fill the space in her chest and she is expected to have perfectly normal breathing capacity. We could not ask for more.

Though tense and frightening, this time was also in many ways a blessing. I was able to watch Jon and Amanda as a strong team and as devoted, indefatigable parents. Judy and I had dinners out each night after leaving the hospital and enjoyed long conversations. And I got to know my granddaughter, Ami, who even in these less than ideal circumstances proved to be one of the sunniest babies I’ve ever encountered.

Thank you, God!

Long Day On the Road

July 6, 2018

I started this post four days ago but the heat and humidity have been so oppressive I could not write. My brain was not available for download.

On Monday I did barn chores early, dropped the dogs at the vet at 8 AM, and headed to New Hampshire to pick up Lucy at the end of her summer internship. She’d had an interesting experience as a volunteer and a wonderful time staying with DH’s aunt and uncle for two weeks. We enjoyed a happy lunch with Ed and Elaine and DH’s cousin Meghan, and then we were back on the road.

On our drive through Vermont we stopped to see Jon and Amanda, who were vacationing with Amanda’s mother, Judy. The cider mill where we met was barely air-conditioned, so all six of us were rather damp with sweat. However none of it mattered because we were playing with our little star, Ami.

Whenever I picked her up, Ami’s face clouded over and her bottom lip began to tremble. However the minute she was back in Mommy or Daddy’s arms, she was sunny again.

I could have played with my grandbaby for hours.

Unfortunately we still had a long drive so, too soon, we kissed everyone goodbye and were back in the car. We stopped in Burlington to deal with Lucy’s broken phone, and then I mixed up the ferry schedule and we had to sit forty-five minutes at the dock. It was 9:30 PM before we reached home. I turned out the cows at 10.

A very long day, but it was a gift to visit with so many loved ones.

Hot Work

July 1, 2018

It’s hot and humid. Flies are biting. The cows are miserable and wait at the barn gate every morning to come into the dark. It has been too clammy to sleep and I am up each day between 3:00 and 4:00 AM.

Damon was felled by a stomach virus so we have not worked on the driveway. I have been outside every day mowing and weedwhacking and picking rocks. I know intellectually that I am making headway but it’s hard to see because a lot of the work has to be done over again so soon.

I try not to get caught up in worrying about it — my dreams of accomplishment for this week were, as usual, unrealistic — but to keep working slowly and steadily. Progress here has always been incremental. Sometimes the increments have been infinitesimal. I tell myself that as long as I’m moving forward I am fine.

Today marks a month since my builder told me in an angry email that he would be back to me “in a couple of days” with a list of work (paid for a year ago; my mistake) that he would finish this summer. I have heard nothing. This unpleasant situation weighs on me heavily and I try not to think about that, either.


I do chores early tomorrow, put the dogs in the vet, and drive to get Lucy in New Hampshire. It will be a long day on the road but lovely to see her, to visit with New Hampshire family, and to see Jon, Amanda, and Ami in Vermont on our way home. The air-conditioned car will be nice, too.


Baby Daze

June 29, 2018

My son Jon sent me this photo of Amanda and my granddaughter Ami. I love it.

Ami looks just like Amanda at the same age; she’s Amanda’s “mini-me.” However, Ami’s height is her father’s (who is 6’4″) — she’s in the 96th percentile. She won’t be mini very long!

No date yet has been confirmed for her lung surgery. We will all be glad to have it over.


Sobering News

June 13, 2018

I love this photo of our son Jon, his wife Amanda, and their baby Amelie, taken just a few days ago. Ami is a bright and happy baby who smiles all over her face.

Yesterday Ami was sedated for an MRI to check the development of a lung problem that doctors had been tracking since she was about 12 weeks’ gestation. Amanda endured almost weekly ultrasounds throughout her pregnancy and there was a fear that at birth Ami would have to be rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Then Ami was born and everything seemed to be fine. No NICU, no special care at all. We all breathed an enormous sigh of relief and thanked God. Later office tests seemed to indicate that the non-cancerous mass in her lung was now of negligible size.

Thus the news from yesterday’s MRI came as a shock. The mass is still there, it is impinging on Ami’s lung development, and it must be removed so the lung can develop properly. The doctor prepared Jon and Amanda for the possibility that the entire lower lobe of the left lung might have to be removed. While this should not affect Ami’s future breathing capacity (the remaining lobe should grow to fill the cavity), dealing with the mass at all will be a major surgery and clearly not something one wishes to contemplate for their six-month-old baby girl.

No plans or dates have yet been set but I am trying to think of ways I can be as helpful and supportive as possible.


A Pick-Me-Up

January 19, 2018

I’ve been feeling under the weather this week, but Jon has emailed photos to cheer me. I particularly love this one, of my beautiful daughter-in-law Amanda and happy grandbaby, Ami.

Urged by my wise friend Alison, after work on Wednesday I actually went to the doctor’s office. The doctor scolded me as she ordered various tests. “Your chart shows that you haven’t been here since 2011!”

I knew I had fallen a bit behind on routine appointments, but I hadn’t realized it had been seven years. I am a lot better with the children and the animals.

Meeting Our Grandbaby!

January 7, 2018

A week ago, on New Year’s Day, DH, Lucy, and I finally were able to drive the 4.5 hours down to Connecticut to meet Amelie (and incidentally, have a small, late Christmas with Jon, Amanda, and Judy).

Getting away felt very fraught. Lucy returned from Minnesota at 3 AM. The temperature plummeted to -29° F. Even doing barn chores before dawn, I wasn’t sure how to manage the animals and the dogs in my twelve-hour absence . . . in the cold . . . on a holiday. After a month of worry at work, my stress-o-meter was maxed out. However our wonderful friends Alison and Tom stepped in to walk the dogs and take care of the sheep and cattle. “Go!” said Alison firmly. “We will be fine! You need to hold that baby!”

As usual, Alison was absolutely right.

As I examined Ami’s tiny perfect eyebrows and ears and hands — ten fingers, what a miracle! — I could feel all my tensions slipping away.

After a bottle of breast milk, Ami fell asleep.


I forced myself reluctantly to share the joy. Lucy is extremely excited to be an aunt.

Though equally excited to be a grandfather, DH is not a natural with tiny babies. He generally has an eager but slightly worried look.

When Ami burped up some milk, I had an excuse to swoop in.

This small scene felt so deeply familiar, I kept having the strange sense that somehow time had folded in on itself — that it was thirty years ago, DH was my father and I was my mother. Somewhere in a not-yet-unpacked box there is a photo of Dad eagerly, nervously holding newborn baby Jon, and one of my mother holding Jon, looking down, and beaming.

It is a great thing to be part of the wheel of time.

I simply love being a grandma.