Monday, July 30, 2012

Land Ho!

Hello Land Lubers!

This past weekend was a great time at the annual Lee Lobsterfest up at my parent's house in Maine.  Much lobster was eaten, many rousing and competitive games of croquet were played, and some tears shed as we presented our parents with their 40th anniversary gift.  Previously, we had all gathered at my sister's boyfriend's home on Plum Island in Massachusetts where we had a photo of we three daughters, our significant others and our children photographed on the beach by my friend, Leila Mattila (of Grand Strides Photos) who is a wonderful and professional photographer.  My parents did not know we had done this, so it was a great moment to present them this beautiful photo of us all and another of just their grandkids.

It was fun three day event that also included a wonderful community breakfast at their local church.  They serve breakfast every Sat in the summers and for a mere $6.00, you get a big fresh fruit cup, a stack of pancakes or french toast or eggs and a baked goodie made by the ladies at the church.  There are a lot of older community members serving and also enjoying the camaraderie of each other's company.  As it's a small town, I think it's how many catch up with each other, share a laugh and coffee and check in how each other is doing.  You get the sense that if someone is missing on that Saturday morning, one of the members of the church will be calling later to check on them.  It's a very nice feel to the breakfast and the ladies always make a fuss over the boys, making sure they get enough to eat and  feel welcome.  It's best to do some of the things the locals do when you visit an area to be sure you get a sense of the true community.  I feel that this little community is a caring one.

In true homesteader fashion, we also ordered an additional 10 lobsters for our winter freezer.  My father gets the lobs fresh off the boat and they are cooked mere hours after they are procured.  Sweeter, tastier and more succulent seafood you'll not find.  Music Man and I even made converts out of my niece and her boyfriend.  We never use butter on our lobster and talked them into trying it without, they were convinced it did not need it either.  As they come right off the boat and my parent's neighbor works for the lobsterman, they get them at a ridiculously cheap price, which is still more then the lobsterman makes off the grocery stores. We ordered 10 extras with the intention of shelling them and storing the meat in the deep freeze for winter lobster stews or pot pies.  Luckily, they were soft shell (or as we know them locally "shedders") and the removal of their shells proved to be pretty easy.  Music Man steamed them up, we cleaned them and ended up with almost 3 1/2 pounds of lobster meat for less then you'd pay for a good steak.  Score!

At Little Red's request, we visited Mount Batty in Camden and took in the gorgeous view of Camden Harbor.  We picked a few blueberries, but they were mostly gone having fruited earlier then usual, but the boys enjoyed that, perhaps no boy enjoyed it more then Music Man.  We saw an artist painting the harbor scene, climbed a castle tower, watched a turkey vulture flying below where we sat on the summit, many lobstermen at work in the harbor and just enjoyed the serenity and beauty of the place. God's own work for sure, just stunning views of the harbor and islands beyond.  I like to imagine what it was like when the Native Americans lived there, before it was houses and marinas and feel connected to that time and place.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole trip for us was the sail on the Morning In Maine sailboat.  My parents chartered this beautiful 45 foot ship to sail us around the harbor, out to Owl's Head Light and back.  Here's a fact that many may not know.  When the boys were very young, Music Man and I contemplated seriously buying a sailboat, homeschooling the kids and sailing up and down our lovely coasts.  Finding work in a port enough to move on to the next stop.  I think once we got the mortgage on the house that dream fell away a bit, but it's something we contemplate doing in retirement on a smaller scale.  We are both lovers of the sea, through and through.  I love the rugged beauty of the ocean, the smell, the spray, the power of the sea.  I feel connected to it in a way I don't feel connected to anything else, and Music Man feels the same.  I love farming, and I'm very connected to the earth in that way as well, but I'm never more peaceful then when I'm on a boat, or watching the rise and fall of a tide from a seaside place, feeling the fish on a line, or cracking a lobster.  I love the beauty and formation of seaweed and the briny smell of  low tide, exploring the wonders of tide pools.  It all makes my soul peaceful and joyful.  I crave it on the very level of my soul, ingrained and I'm helpless to resist it.  The reason I could never move to Colorado and be truly ocean.  Mountains are beautiful and I love them, too, but they don't nourish my soul like an incoming salty wave does. 

Though we all had a good time, no one quite got the connection of this trip to their souls like we did except perhaps my mother and father, who are also lovers of all things salt water.  My father ended up talking to the captain for most of the cruise and got himself a part time job crewing for him a trip or two a week while he's on summer break from teaching.  I could see the envy in Music Man's eyes, what he would not do to be in the situation where he could do the same. 

Music Man did get to help hoist the main sail and pilot the boat, as did the boys, who thoroughly enjoyed their sailing experience as well and kept their eyes busy trying to spot seals and porpoises (both of which we did see!).  A truly moving experience, this cruise, on many levels.  Can't wait to do it again some day.

Thanks, Mom and Dad for an experience we will never forget and some dear memories for our boys.

Wishing you salty spray and gulls for your soul, ~Peacemom

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oh, Bother!!

I know my gardening friends will be able to quickly identify this massive garden pest!  Squishy, nasty and voracious!!  It eventually turns into a "Hawk" or "Hummingbird" Moth.  The moth is lovely, but on it's way to adulthood, this teenager, like most teenagers, will eat you out of tomato and home.  I have plucked 6 of these off the tomatoes this week, luckily loosing only a few tomatoes and leaves in the process.  I've been holding a vigilant eye on the plants to be sure they aren't appearing as I have a few of them last year, and this year, I'm ready for them.  They'll not be getting my biggest, juiciest tomato like they did last year. 

In the event that you've not had the pleasure of meeting one of this mischievous creatures, allow me to introduce you.  The above picture is a depiction of one.  I think the "eyes" along the body are there to fool predators into thinking there are many of them, when indeed, if they look closer, there is only one.  And, none of those dots are the eyes, so even better camouflage again, they are ingeniously colored and blend exactly in with the tomato plant and leaves.  If you see my drawing above, the bare stems, is the quickest way to identify their location.  That and the copious droppings forming a large pile on the leave below where ever they may be infiltrating.   I have spent many, many minutes trying to find them after spotting the damage and the droppings only to note that my eyes had cruised over them without locating them at all their ability to blend with their environment so completely.

When you go to pluck them off the branch, or goodness forbid they've actually reached the tomato and made a meal out of your best, you will notice something.  They are very squishy, their body is not firm at all.  And they don't give up their place on the branch easily, so as you are squeezing them a bit to get them off the branch they spray something on you. I'm not sure what it is, but it's bright green along with them.  GROSS.  So, I've gotten smart about their removal.  If they are on an outer branch that does not have a tomato growing, I will just snap the branch off, gross grub and all.  If they are with a tomato, I don gloves so that the green crap does not land on me when fired.  It's not like it's venomous or anything, it's just gross and I avoid it at all costs.  After I've collected what I've found, I walk to the chicken pen  and inform the girls they have "TREATIES!" coming their way.  Then I tell my Faoumi, Maggie, that she's got a really good treat as she is the first to grab them and will parade around the pen like she's got her beak on the Stanley Cup or something.  She flips them around until she's got them adequately reduced in size to swallow 'em down. 

And I tell her "Good Girl!" and feel glad that my food supply is no longer the food supply of these marauders. And Mags gets some valuable protein for egg health, so it's a wonderful relationship...for everyone but the poor hornworm, who in the end is just doing what hornworms do.

Wishing your garden pest-free, ~ Peacemom

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Blueberries are here early this year, and we've already been picking twice.  We like to go to Blueberry Bay in Stratham.  If you've never been there, and are close enough, you must go!  It's a wonderful small farm that has lots of produce, which they proclaim is "better then organic!" as they use no chemical pesticides on them, that includes even the organic approved varieties.  They also have many other items that are pick your own, including vegies and other berries. They also make a killer homemade Blueberry Lemonade, all fresh, all natural and so delish!

The boys and I went picking the first time and picked enough to freeze 4 quarts.  After a sweltering time in the field, I got them each a lemonade and we journeyed on to the Great Bay Discovery Center.  This was closed, sadly, however we went down the trail to see the Bay anyway.  The green head flies found us quickly.  For those of you who may not know what a green head fly is, well, let me impart this wisdom.  They are vicious, they are tenacious and they cause PAIN.  I got more chunks taken out of me in that 20 minutes on the Bay then I've given up in a long time!  And when I say chunks, please know I do mean chunks.  And the crater that's left on your body part will not only hurt like heck, but will be bleeding and then proceed to itch like crazy.  This is one of the creatures that I'm not sure God didn't make as a joke.  Perhaps they are only here to amuse God because I can't see any other purpose for their existence.  And I will freely admit, when I can I swat them, I follow that stunning up with a good, hard smooshing in the ground just so they don't spring back to life on me.  Dirty little buggers.  We also got to encounter some spawning horseshoe crabs, which was the highlight of Little Red's day.  I had not seen them in the wild before, and we saw some swim right up to shore, so Little Red had to pick one up and check out it's legs kicking madly back and forth.  He giggled a lot, I love to hear that sound.  We enjoyed watching them, but the green heads got the best of Maestro, who is not a kid that complains about bugs often, so we headed out.

The second time we went picking, we made it over in the morning, but it was still hot.  They told us the blueberries are almost 2 1/2 weeks early ripening this year due to the heat wave.  I'm sooo ready for fall already.  The heat and I do not mix, in fact, I'm down right crabby in the heat.  We picked another 5 quarts for the freezer, so we're in good shape for the winter goodies.  Of course, we also picked plenty for fresh eating.  As I was trying to convince the boys that all the heat and green head flies were worth it, I decided to make a lemon blueberry cake.  OOOHHH...moist, lemony but not overpowering the blueberries, downright delicious!  Give it a whirl if you've fresh blueberries in your neck of the woods!

Lemony Blueberry Bundt Cake

2 3/4 c flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c butter
1 3/4 c sugar
3 eggs
1/4 c plain yogurt or sour cream
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c buttermilk or sour milk
1 3/4 c fresh blueberries
1 T flour

1 1/2 confectioners sugar
3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T water

 1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Use cooking spray to generously coat 12 cup bundt pan.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  Toss blueberries in 1 T flour to coat well.

3. In another large bowl, beat butter until smooth.  Add sugar and beat for 2 1/2 min until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined.  Mix in flour in three additions alternating with buttermilk or sour milk.  Beat for two minutes.  Fold in blueberries tossed with flour.  Spoon into prepared pan.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan, turn out and cool completely.

5.  Glaze:  in a small bowl, mix confectioners sugar, lemon juice and water until smooth.  Drizzle over top of the cooled cake letting it drip over the sides of the cake.

Makes 16 servings (umm...theoretically anyway :^)

Yes, I know, it's sweet, but once in while won't hurt you, I promise.

What's your favorite blueberry treat?  ~Peacemom

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mowing With My Neighbors

Since Music Man has returned to work, a few of the things he would have taken care of before are now done more often by me.  One of those is the mowing of our 2 acres.  Most of our property is hills, so I'm sure it's a funny sight to see me butt cheek hanging off the uphill side of the mower in my attempt to not roll us both down the hills.  I especially dislike mowing the front yard, which has a fairly steep incline.   We're very lucky to have a riding mower and I'm thankful each time I have a big patch to mow that we do indeed have it as it was a gift from a friend.  The thought of living mowers in the form of livestock has crossed my mind on more the one occasion...shouldn't we be turning this into food rather then using fossil fuel to mow perfectly good fodder for the freezer?  Hmmmm....something to ponder....

I generally mow the yard in sections and it takes about 5 hours total to mow it all, I'm constantly mowing one part or another almost every day. If I break it up daily, it doesn't seem such a daunting task.  And the blade needs to be sharpened, so it doesn't cut the most consistently even lawn anyway, but it's better then bushwhacking through the thigh high grass trying to find the boys baseballs!

We have one part of the property that is level, and this is where the boys mini ball field is.  This gets more attention by far then any other part of the yard because we prefer that they are outside playing and want that to be available for them when the mood strikes...or I just need them out of the house for a while to accomplish things indoors or to simply have a few minutes to fold some clothes or hear myself think, you know, stuff like that.  A few weeks ago when I was mowing their field, all of a sudden I was dive bombed be a bird.  Or so I thought.  As I looked wildly around, I noticed another coming for me, swooping before he got to me and continuing on it's way.  I thought perhaps I was near a nest and they were unhappy with me being so close, so I continued on, but kept a watchful eye on them.  I've seen barn swallows practically knock a barn cat out that was too close to it's babies, so I wasn't looking for that sort of afternoon.  As I watched them, I began to notice that they were flying at top speed, they would come up behind the mower, sweep over my head and double back in front of me.  It was then that I realized they weren't trying to attack me, they were hunting dinner!

I watched in amazement as they followed my track around the field, snatching up bugs in my wake.  They would swoop in, grab the bugs I was stirring up and be off and back again in no time.  It was fascinating to watch, and I felt it was a symbiotic relationship we had going on.  They stayed with me the whole time I mowed that field.  I stopped when that section was done and went for a little break from the sun and to grab some cold water.  I sat on the sun porch and watched for them, but they had gone.  After refreshing myself, I decided to do another section that day as there was rain in the forecast for the following day and I wanted to be sure I would not miss the mowing time.  The boys were content and playing in their freshly shorn field, so I continued with the field next to that, which we call "The Back Field".  I had been off the mower for about 35 minutes and thought the swallows would be on to buggier pastures, but it was not 2 minutes that I had the mower on and running and they returned, diving and swooping and feeding.  I very much enjoyed their company for a time and was glad I could make their mealtime a little easier for them.

What's your nature story for today?  ~Peacemom

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Garden update!

A little garden update for you all.  With a bit of rain and lots of sunshine, it's going bonkers!!  This little planter is a tub I found half buried under our deck from residents prior to us.  The bottom has some holes rusted through, so it just called "planter!" to me.  I like to incorporate herbs and flowers together when I can so here you see the pansies with basil growing in the center.  Pesto, here we come!

This is the new section of the garden.  I will admit, it's looking a little woolly, the aisles anyways.  Music Man was going to weed whack the edges of the beds and mow this past weekend...but mountain bike trails called to him and he took the boys off biking instead.  And I was glad for it even though the garden didn't get it's beauty treatment.  They had a great time and that's more important then a pristine garden path, I reckon.

Bush beans and cukes and pole beans all ready for their trellises.  I know, I should have done them earlier, but time has gotten away from us with an incredibly busy baseball season for the boys.  Next year, I'll be more prepared.

Tomatoes, amaranth and peppers are sharing a bed.  I planted them WAY too close together!

This is a funny story...I planted these amaranth plants thinking they were peppers.  I got them from Laura, she had extras and told me to please take them.  Well, the pots weren't labeled and I forgot that I had them.  The leaves looked vaguely pepper like in shape, so I planted them.  Then, they went NUTS and when she came over, I had to ask her what the heck kind of pepper had these flowers?  She laughed at me and said, "Not peppers, that's amaranth". Oh.  So, now they are totally taking over the pepper bed and I'm not sure how well the peppers will end up doing, but I've been enjoying their drappiness all over the place.  And the leaves, blossoms and eventual grains they will produce are all edible.  Ah, live and learn.

Zucchini is exceptionally happy.  I only got 4 last year because I lost the plants to powdery mildew.  This year, we've not had a recurrence of it (knocking very loudly on wood!), so they are doing well.  I have a couple more that are much larger then this one that will be slated for zucchini bread, I do believe.

The two varieties of onions I planted are coming along swimmingly.  This one is even so happy it became a twin!

The wild and crazy potato patch is also thriving.  I'm afraid to look under the straw as we lost a bit to slugs last year, but the plants are looking quite content.

And this pretty little goldfinch joined our garden a week or so ago.  He's sitting happily in the sage bush.   I think it's fetching, don't you?

How does your garden grow?  ~Peacemom

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bucket List Item Checked Off, part Deux

We started the evening off by dropping the two boys off at the Grammie's for the night.  This is only the second time they've slept away from us, but I wasn't feeling nervous about it.  They always have fun with Grammie.  If I was nervous about anything, it was that Maestro walks in his sleep, and in an unfamiliar house with a staircase right next to the bathroom, I was a little concerned.  But, he did not get up and was fine. 

We were later then we anticipated dropping the kids off, so we had only about an hour or so for dinner before we needed to get to the Verizon to pick up our tickets.  We tried a place recommended by my in-laws, but it was "at least an hour wait" when we finally got through the line to the hostess.  Ah well, we walked Elm St and everything looked packed, we were in for a tough time finding something to eat in the time we had left.  We ended up at Penuche's because, unless we wanted a sub, we weren't getting anything else.   First we sat down in the restaurant area, which was so hot we asked to move outside.  We should have just kept walking when we went out the door.  Our server was friendly, but the food took forever to come out and when it did, it was HORRIBLE.  Literally the worst meal I've ever had.  We actually complained to the server, which we never do, who said she'd have the manager come out.  Then 15 minutes later informed us that he wouldn't come out but wanted to give us dessert on the house.  Ummm...there was NO chance that we were going to eat anything else prepared by that chef, so we said, "Thank you, but no".  She came back and told us that he would give us the cheaper of the meals for free.  Honestly, if we'd have had any other choice we would not have even eaten any of it, but I had skipped lunch that day and we were hungry and on a time crunch.  So we said fine, paid the bill and left.  We were both in utter shock that the manager would not come out to speak to us, they had very few patrons there (wonder why?).  Horrible customer service, not the server's fault and we tipped her well for trying to help us, but honestly after many years of working in customer service, I was in awe.  It was so bad that we laughed about it in the end, what else could we do?

After a short walk to the stadium, we saw lots of people on their way as well.  While Music Man stood in line to pick up tickets, I people watched.  I noticed such a large variety of people, young, old, middle aged, dressed fancy, tie dyed tee shirts, sandals with socks...the crowd ran the gamut.  And it occurred to me then that James and his music really appeal to so many different types of folks.  That would be the true artist in him, I think.  It was steamy hot and we were looking forward to getting inside for some air conditioning after a hot meal on the street table.

When we made our way into the building, we had to show our ticket to the person at the door, then again to the person helping to seat people on the floor.  She took one look at the ticket and said "AA!  You're right up front, nice seats! " .  I responded with a disbelieving "I know, right?".  We made our way through everyone and found our seats.  We were on the right side of the stage with a side view of James and a great view of most of the band (a highlight for Music Man, being the musician in the family).  We chatted with a nice couple that sat next to us for a bit and discovered that they did not pay for their seats at all, the man worked for the company that did the sound equipment.  Nice gig if you can get it, front row seats to any show?  Sounds like Music Man's kind of job! 

I was feeling full of anticipation and even a little nervous.  Finally, seeing James in person was a great moment for me.  He strolled out on to the stage to rousing applause and a standing ovation.  I felt myself tear up for what was not the last time that evening.  He began to play and sing and I couldn't take my eyes off him.  Music Man would point out this or that about the band and back up singers, and I could mostly only focus on him at first.  I was very excited to see that he had two of the singers from the Squibnocket band singing with him.  I definitely felt the loss of Arnold McCuller during a few of the songs, his voice is so amazing in its own right and I missed his full bodied, smoky voice singing back up for James.  But the other singers he had were also wonderful and I enjoyed watching them. 

There were a few songs I was really hoping to hear.  My very favorite is "Something in the way she moves", which he did not play but played several of my other favs.  When he got to "Sun on the Moon" which I always call Ducks in a row...well, I had to belt it out right along with the background singers.  Such a fun song to sing back up on, such a range of notes used by the back up singers on that one.  I feel real joy when I sing that song, it's more the music and backup singers then the lyrics, but it never fails to lift me if I need it.  One of those forms of prayer I talked about before, my way to be connected to the talent that is undoubtedly God given to James and the others.  I'm not sure if this explanation makes sense, not even sure I can put it into words.  It's deeper then words to me, a feeling I'm not sure I can adequately describe.  But when that song was finished, I had a HUGE smile on my face and felt lighter in spirit then I had in a very long time.  I was singing WITH them, not just along with the radio, dvd, whatever, but I was in their presence singing with them. Our voices combined (along with many others, I might add!) to raise the roof.  Really, very cool indeed.

Music Man's favorite song is Sweet Baby James.  He used to sing this to both boys when they were babies.  Now, that's significant on a few levels because though he is a musician, he rarely sings loud enough for anyone to hear.  So, when he would sing to the boys without self consciousness, I would hear him and know that he was connecting on his own spiritual level to them in their distress in whatever way he could.  He used to also play his guitar next to them quietly so they would hear that from so young.  His gift to them, and himself, it was very touching.  So, I was thrilled that James chose to  perform that song, mostly because I knew Music Man would be excited by that as well.  And yes, he did sing along with James himself. 

When he started Secret O' Life, I sang along for a bit, but then the emotion of what that song has meant to me for so long took over and I felt the tears roll down my cheeks.  No stopping them even if I wanted to.  I honestly had some flashbacks of the times during the boys infancy that I would sing that over and over to the them..."cause everyone knows that love is the only road"....that line was one I would repeat to myself in moments that I felt overwhelmed and wanted to remind myself to let the love be forefront to the troubles.

James asked people to come up to the stage during the end of the show and we went and I stood right in front of him and sang along. I really enjoyed that until the crowd rushed too much, I was jostled and shoved too many times and I went back to my seat.  The folks that wanted his autograph were vying for position and I was not about to deal with that.  I had an incident at at concert where I was almost squished against a stage in my early 20's and since then, I have a fear of people I don't know touching me.  That was too much for me, so I left Music Man at the stage and went back to our seats, crowds don't bother him, and I was hoping for us to get an autograph if possible.  He didn't get the autograph, but did enjoy the few extra minutes to get close to the band and James. 

We slowly made our way out and before we left, I stopped and turned and just watch James for a moment, nicely signing autographs for his fans.  I was so thankful that he had made those seats be available for his fans rather then the highest bidder.  I said thank you to him, even though he wasn't able to hear me and hoped that putting it out there in the universe would come to him in some way.  I felt peaceful and happy when I left there, thankful for a wonderful night out with my husband, we don't get many.  And thankful for being able to appreciate the luck for tickets in the front row, and for taking the plunge after all these years and deciding to spend the money on the tickets and having it work out like that.  Coincidence?  I think not.

We decided to stop at the Red Arrow Diner for dessert after the show.  We enjoyed a sweet ending to the night with Music Man getting the biggest eclair I've ever seen and me having chocolate cream pie, quite delicious!  We enjoyed the surly waitress, the fun atmosphere and it was a great ending to a great evening.  Riding home we stopped to watch the moon on Lake Massebesic, in no rush to end the time together.  When we got home before crawling into bed, I took that Squibnocket dvd down off the shelf where it has sat since last July and we fell asleep to James in his barn and the lovely Vineyard scenery.

Thank you, James, for many things.  I wish for you to have someone you can treasure on your journey as we've treasured you...Rock a bye old Sweet Baby James....


Monday, July 2, 2012

Bucket List Item, Happily Checked Off

Let me begin by saying I apologize profusely for the length of this post, but I feel it can't be helped.  I had one of the best nights of my life two nights ago.  I need to start this story almost 10 years ago for you to get why it was so amazing and thrilling for me.  To someone else, it would probably have just been another night with some entertainment, but it was so much more for Music Man and I.

On a very cold night in November of 2002, I was quite pregnant with our first child.  My pregnancy was fairly uneventful, other then a fall down some stairs at 18 weeks. We were both fine as I took the brunt of it on my rear padding.  I did not suffer much in the pregnancy beyond the normal aches and pains of growing another person inside you.  I did however read EVERYTHING I could get my hands on about pregnancy and childbirth.  I gave our son the best start possible before he was even here, eating all the right organic food, watching my weight gain (I was already overweight and did not need to gain much) and exercising to keep fit.  I was ready to deliver that baby naturally with no drug intervention, we attended classes and Music Man was set to be a stellar birth coach.  We used the 9 months of pregnancy to study all we could, prepare the nursery, take the classes and just do all we could to make Maestro's entrance into this world a smooth one.  Then, life took over our best laid plans, as it often does.

I was feeling quite tired after a long day at the office and laid down when I got home.  My water broke that evening 2 weeks before my due date.  We went to the hospital and I was told to go home as I was not yet in active labor.  So, we went home and waited.  I started to have some contractions about 5 hours later, but not strong enough to warrant a return to the hospital yet.  I stayed in that labor pattern for many hours, returning to the doctor's office to be monitored and told, not active enough labor yet (sure felt it for me!!  even "not active enough" is painful after 20 hours of it!).  We were admitted to the hospital 25 hours after my water broke and they induced labor.  I decided not to take the pain medication, I had a birth plan and knowledge and was going to stick to it.  So, I labored for another exhausting 12 hours with pitocin.  For those of you who've not experienced it, it's like being hit by a freight train with contractions.  It's incredibly intense and I literally moaned my way through labor, I refused to let it get the best of me and moaned with each contraction.  Music Man was wonderful through this entire process, but he felt helpless to see me in so much pain.  During this time, the doctor would periodically check my progress to see if the medication was working and I was dilating.  After struggling with labor for 34 hours, she told me they would let me only go just a little longer because even with the top level of pitocin, I was not advancing. In fact, I never made it past 2 1/4 centimeters after all that time.  She advised me that I might have a chance of dilating if I took the epidural, which can sometimes let your body relax enough to allow the process to take over.  So, very reluctantly we agreed to try it.  Needless to say it did not work, but my exhausted and depleted body was able to rest (as was poor Music Man who had been up with me the whole time) a bit.  When my doctor told me they just weren't able to wait any longer for fear of infection, they urged me to have a c-section.  I was devastated.  My logical brain was telling me that it was probably the best thing for the baby, but I so badly wanted to have a natural birth experience, and I felt robbed of that.  Little did we know that this was only the beginning of hard times with our son.

When he was born, he had mutiple digestive problems.  He had very bad gastric reflux, as well as gas pains that were debilitating for him.  The muscle that closes the stomach off from the esophagus was not fully developed and did not close entirely until he was 6 months old.  This caused his food and stomach acid to flow freely up his esophagus, causing him severe pain.  He would literally scream in pain for most of the 16 hours a day he was awake, for he also slept very little being in that kind of pain.  It was not until  a multitude of tests and doctor visits that we also discovered he was allergic to milk.  Any kind of milk, which included breastmilk (as I had been breastfeeding him until then).  So, at 4 1/2 months, weighing only 9 pounds, we put him on extremely expensive formula which had the casesin from the milk already processed out and he was almost able to smile once in a while between the painful boughts.  During all this time, I was over my head with caring for this poor child day in and day out with very little help from anyone but Music Man.  Maestro would ball his body up, fists clenched tight, legs tucked up hard against his stomach and scream in pain most of his waking moments.  It was very hard to watch our child go through this and very hard to understand why it was happening to our family, so challenging for my first child. 

We moved to a new town just before I got pregnant and knew very few people because it was not a town of friendly folksk, outsiders were not welcomed.  The support network just was not there for us.  I would cry alot myself since I felt like I had failed my son, I wasn't even able to provide him with the breastmilk he could tolerate, the most basic of motherly duties.  I began to sink into a deep depression which I did not come out of until he was about 15 months old.    People used to ask us if he had colic, and our response would be, we'd be thrilled if it was only colic.  At least colic was a few hours of crying a day, this would go on day in and day out with him.  Eventually at 6 1/2 months he was a happier baby and we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. From the time of his birth, I took comfort where I could find it. 

Music Man was working then, I had left my job when Maestro was born because I was not able to trust a day care provider to care for him in the state he was in. It was very hard for me, and I was his mother, what could someone with no emotional ties to him do to him? There were days that I had to put his bawling, screaming body into his crib and walk away and shut the door to calm myself down.   Prior to having a child with these kinds of issues that you could provide no physical comfort to, I judged people who shook their baby and damaged them for life.  After experiencing the utter helplessness of this situation coupled with the frustration and depression at him never feeling better no matter what we did, I understood how that could happen.  Luckily, I had within me the switch that told me to put him down in a safe place, walk out and close the door and take 10 minutes to do something other then try to comfort him.  But, I can see how that can happen if someone did not have that internal monitor.  It was wholly consuming and overwhelming for us all.

During the nights, as there were many, many sleepless ones, we would use ear plugs to deaden the sound of his screaming.  We would take turns with him sleeping literally on one of our chests as body contact was the only thing the comforted him enough to allow him to fall fitfully to sleep for short periods of time.  We would sleep in 2 hours shifts, I would take Maestro on me for 2 hours and Music Man would sleep, then I would wake him and we would switch so that I could get a couple of hours of sleep.  Whomever was awake kept one foot on the floor so that if we did doze off in our exhaustion, we would not role over on him.  This was until he was about 3 months old, then we got him to sleep on a buckwheat hull pillow between us with a water bottle for comfort and warmth, then he was finally able to sleep in the beautiful cradle we bought him before he was born when he was 5 months old.  At some point, we decided to put a tv in the bedroom so that the person on the awake shift would have something other then his crying to focus on.  We often couldn't hear the sound over the wailing, but being able to watch something besides the dark ceiling seemed to help us feel less alone.  We wouldn't leave to sleep on the couch, I think it was because we didn't want the other to feel abandoned, so we made it work in whatever way we could.

This was the longest 6 months of my life, each day dragged by and I was disconnected from everything just trying to get through it.  I remember when I would take him shopping at the grocery store, because eventually, you have to go out, people would give me the dirtiest looks and make comments like "why can't she get that baby to stop crying?" or look at me like I was poking him with a pin or something.  One particularly difficult trip to the grocery store, as that was really the only place I would take him besides the doctor's and that was just out of necessity, I left my half full cart and went to the car.  I put him in his car seat and we cried together for 20 minutes.  Longest 6 months of my life, indeed.

Years before we met, Music Man and I had both seen an amazing video from James Taylor called Squibnocket on PBS.  This was him with his band and back up singers practicing at his barn studio on Martha's Vineyard.  We both deeply love old barns and seeing this as the backdrop along with many shots of breathtaking Vineyard scenes was soothing.  We bought the dvd of this and watched it over and over and over again on these long nights.  James'  voice and lyrics have always brought me to a peaceful place, I'm not sure why that is, but am sure only that it is.  If you have not seen this, I definitely think you should experience it.  This video is credited in our lives with getting us through a time tougher than any new family should have to bear.  It was like a dear friend, a comforting vanilla frappe and a warm hug all in one for me.  Balm for the soul.

I would sing to Maestro all the time.  Mostly to try to soothe him, but also because singing has always been a release for me.  A form of prayer in some way, I think.  There were times I felt abandoned by God during this time, it tried my faith immeasurably.  The song I would invariably sing over and over to him was "Secret O'Life".  The lyrics soothed my soul and his pained body.  When I was breastfeeding him in the early days, I would try to make eye contact with him and sing this to him when we were by ourselves.  It became one of the only ways I felt I was able to connect to him on a spiritual level. And hearing James sing that song in his amazing talent would help me feel less alone in some small way, as both Music Man and I felt alone together in our struggle with that situation. No one we knew had ever experienced it and no one could really understand it if they tried to.  So James became a friend to me of sorts, and I think lots of people who have a favorite artist feel the same way.  He was the beacon with his Squibnocket "lighthouse" showing me a way in my darkness.

And if you can believe it, this being a perfect storm of rare conditions, we had another baby with the same problems 21 months after the birth of Maestro.  The doctors told us it won't happen twice, it's very rare.  After 24 hours of hard labor, and another failed attempt at natural childbirth, we had another c-section. Little Red arrived.  The doctors were mistaken and he had all the same problems, but we were a little better able to handle it because we did not need to test him and wait.  I knew his first night outside me in the world, he cried the entire night, that we were in for the same ride.  However, we knew which direction to turn and so his ailments were not as catastrophic for any of us.  Still very trying, but by then we had moved back to my husband's hometown and were nearer to friends and family and it felt less "out there" then the other town had been.

Fast forward 7 more years through many other trials and tribulations.  We lost our house and barn which we worked on  for 5 months, due to Music Man's job going to China and we couldn't obtain financing anymore. That barn was to be our Squibnocket.  That loss was greater to us then it might have been to someone else because we truly felt that was to be our place to pass along to others the comfort that music had provided for us.  My husband being a musician, this place was his dream come true on many levels.  We hoped to raise the level of joy for others as well as we planned for it to be a venue to gather friends and just have a place for people to meet and play together.  We lost so much more then just a house when that deal went sour.  We still watched that Squibnocket dvd, but were not able to do so after we lost the barn because of the attachment we had to it and what it meant to us.  It sat on the shelf for almost a year untouched.

On my long bucket list of what I want to experience in life before I leave this great planet was seeing James Taylor live.  I have passed up many chances to do so because finances were never right to justify spending that kind of money on ourselves, so we kept it in the "someday" file.  After Music Man's latest lay off, we basically said screw the "someday" file, we're gonna start doing some of these things that we've put off for so long, the money may never be there.  Who knows how long James will tour, he's not a spring chicken anymore and perhaps at some point he'll want to stop. So, when Music Man told me James was coming to the Verizon Center only two towns away, we looked at each other and said "let's do it!".  As Music Man is on Mr. Taylor's fan club on facebook, he was notified of advance sale tickets through them.  Just for fan club members.  So he bought them, not knowing where we would be sitting, but feeling that it would give us a hope of not being in the nosebleed seats so far from the stage.  We definitely did not pay the most expensive price for the tickets, but it was a lot of money to us.  Once in a lifetime chance...and Music Man was utterly shocked when the notification arrived from the fan club a few days later advising us our seats would be on the the front freakin' row!!!!

This is long, and I'm tired...To Be Continued,