It was my neighbor Mullein's 7th birthday this past week. Mullein has been such a sweet blessing in our lives. She has Down Syndrome and slight autism, and because of this is a little different than some of the other little ones around the neighborhood.
One of her greatest gifts is her constant state of living in the present moment. She is never thinking about the future or doesn't seem to dwell on the past. She has one of the softest, most gentle spirits I have ever known. We celebrated her birthday at her house with a cupcake bar. Even though she doesn't care for cake-like food, she greatly enjoyed a giant plate of vanilla ice cream. For the first time she was excited to blow out her candles and she sang the birthday song along with everyone.
I recommend the book "Expecting Adam" for a deeper look into the world of living with someone with Down Syndrome. It is an easy read about a family who has a boy with Downs. They come to learn that a lot of his qualities that are seen as slow or retarded are in fact blessings in disguise. It is a great book.

Here is the birthday painting I made for Mullein. She is named for the soft rabbit-ear looking plant Mullein. I also painted a hummingbird because when Meredith was pregnant with her Hummingbirds were always around her. Mullein acts like a little hummingbird too- waving her hands close to her face and leaning into something she is excited about (such as chopping wood, playing drums, or bodies of water.)

Here is a picture of Mullein from our Easter egg hunt last month. Gosh, I could just squeeze her she is so sweet...


Happy Earth Day!

WELL... Lili is celebrating her first earth day on earth by cutting her first tooth (bottom, center, left side) Here she is all boogery and drooly (unappealing side effects of the hard work of growing a tooth) while simultaneously practicing different maneuvers to mobilize. Her tooth is just a little sharpness and discoloration under a swollen gum. These teeth will help her eat all the good food that will be coming her way now that she has started eating a little bit of solids!
All in all, she has been pretty crusty compared to her usual happy-go-lucky Lili-kin self.

Here is Lili's HOTTIE of a daddy.
Nothing says sexy like your husband wearing the baby!


April 15th




Speaking of birthdays~

As many of you know, Alex is the pastry master of our household. He informed me recently that he will be baking ALL of Lilikoi's birthday cakes. So I took the opportunity to bake her a 1/2 cake for her six month marker. This satisfied both adults in the house. Alex will get to bake her a gourmet cake on the real deal, meanwhile, I got to fulfill my domestic yearnings to be the sort of mother who makes cakes from scratch.

(Did you get the 1/2 cake for the 1/2 birthday???)


First Kidding!

*warning: graphic
Saturday morning David came down from milking our goat Song with the report that he thought Amelia (our pregnant goat) was in labor. We had been penning her up at night in a little room that we built for kidding. When David tried to let her out she didn’t want to leave the space. She also had some other telltale labor signs. Alex and I quickly mobilized and got dressed out of sweatpants and into barn clothes. I practically ran up the hill to the barn with Lili in my arms I was so excited. It was dark in the kidding room and took a moment for your eyes to adjust to the dim light. Amelia was softly panting shifting positions in the small space. Using a flashlight we checked her out and realized her labor seemed to be unfolding quickly.
David had already gotten out our 3-ring binder with the birth instructions. I sat on the milking stand and nursed Lili and read about what to do during the birth process simultaneously. Ema had gotten this detailed information complete with pictures from a farm in Virginia called “Fiasco Farm”. It said the first thing to appear would be a small white hoof. It instructed the birth assistant to grab the hoof and pull out and downward during a contraction. When the second hoof appears to grab that as well and pull alternatively on each leg until the torso is out. When the baby slides out onto a clean feed bag the birth assistant should pick the baby up by the hind legs and hold it upside down and swing it to start the breathing and the heart. There were pictures to accompany the instructions, and I will say they were intense. All in all, I was thrilled to be there, but a bit intimidated by the whole thing as well.
The plan had been that Ema, Michelle, and I would be the labor assistants, and David, Alex, and Jason would watch the kids. We had felt like Amelia might not want six adults and five kids crowding around her. But our plan went out the window as we scrambled to prepare for the birth. Ema was in town when the birth started, and Michelle and Jason’s phone had been accidentally turned off. Alex took Lili for a nap walk, and I raced up to J&M’s to alert them. When I got back to the barn it started to thunder and rain. We have a metal roof and the sound is deafening when it rains. There were a few minutes during the rainstorm that it was just Amelia and me and the train-like sound of the rain in the barn. I sat in the hay and comforted her and watched her have a few contractions. Having just have had a baby six months ago I really felt like understood those contractions. The connection between us Animals- human and goat- felt close as I watched her in labor.
When David and Michelle showed up the birth picked up even more. I put on some pink plastic gloves that went up to my armpits. Amelia was restless and was getting up and down. We would scramble to follow her around with the feedbag to put under her and the flashlight shined on her backside. It had the effect and feeling of a single spotlight shining on the curtain before a play starts.
Finally something started to appear. Only it was black. I was expecting a white hoof. With each contraction this soft dark thing would peep in and out. We stared nervously. I poked my gloved finger in and swirled it around. It felt soft.
“I don’t know it might be a face” I said. Another contraction revealed that was the case. A small black nose and mouth and sticking out tongue protruded and stayed put. We all tried to stay calm but quickly realized we had no idea if we needed to intervene or let it be. David ran home to call our Jayme, out neighbor and goat-guru. Meanwhile I had reached my hand up Amelia to try and see if I could feel the hooves. Yes- I reached my hand up inside of a goat. It was crazy. And difficult to tell what was what. And scary as the seconds ticked by in doubt. Michelle pulled on some gloves too and went in. She found some hooves and was able to maneuver them closer. The rain had completely stopped by this point and there was this sense of timelessness as Amelia tried to push with the goat face just sticking out of her seemingly stuck, and Michelle and I staring at the predicament then each other for a way through.
“Kelcey, take a deep breath” was what Michelle said to me.
Jason and David showed up with the news that Jayme was on her way. I put on a fresh pair of gloves and went back inside. This time I felt the hooves but they wouldn’t budge. I pulled out. I went back in after a few contractions and got hold of one of the hooves and pulled it out. Amelia started to spin and I stayed attached to her backside with my hand grasping the foot that was now sticking out of her. With the next contraction I pulled and the baby gave to it and started to slide out. Jayme walked though the door instructing to “pull down”. I pulled the baby goat out and onto the feed bag and picked it up by its slimy back legs and started to swing it sideways. Jayme jumped in and showed demonstrated how to swing it by supporting its head and propelling it forward. She put it down on the clean blanket Michelle had set up and Amelia immediately started to lick it. The goat sputtered and moved and Jayme announced that “You have a live one! Let’s see what it is…”
She turned the goat over and said “It’s a boy.”
We all repeated her “It’s a boy.”
The baby was quickly shifting from a long slimy creature to a fluffy and dazed baby goat.
Then the barn filled with more people. The kids, Ema, and Karen all crowded in. Someone said “His name should be Thunder!”
We were hoping she would have another baby, but Jayme said she may not as she was taking so long to lick off Thunder. But, then she got up and started to contract again. Ema donned some gloves and got behind Amelia. A huge bubble of sack came stretching out and we all watched in wonder. Then the second baby squeezed out, and Ema guided it to the floor. After it was swung, and it’s airways clear, Jayme turned it over to sex it and announced “It’s a girl!” and the barn erupted in cheers. We named her Rain.
It was the first birth I remember seeing (aside from Lili’s) and it was beautiful. Birth is a strange combination of miraculous and mundane.
We stayed with the new family for a few hours. We helped the little ones start to nurse (more difficult than you would think) and watched Amelia deliver, and then proceed to eat her afterbirth. It was pretty amazing and also incredibly gross. I imagined her afterbirth would look like an organ, but instead it was like watching her slowly slurp up a chopped up jellyfish. As I said, it was gross.

Lilikoi and I just got back from visiting Amelia, Thunder, and Rain. The babies are almost identical: mostly white with black racing strips down their backs. We watched them learn to stand and then walk yesterday, and this morning they were starting to play. I don’t know if life gets any cuter than spending time with two brand new baby goats and a six month human baby.


Auntie BECCER's House

As a disclaimer: Becca thinks she looks like a Muppet in this picture.

At Becca's house tonight eating Frank's pizza and drinking cheap beer with Alex, Becca, and Dave. Lili is asleep in Becca's bed with a fuzzy pink bathrobe as a blanket. Friday night- talking about politics and house renovations. As we don't have the Internet at home, Alex and I are computer junkies here. Alex downloading music, and me getting sucked into the blogland.


Some early April land shots

1. The cold frame Ema and I built. 2.Tomato, pepper, and marigold starts inside the coldframe.

3. Watering can with bouquet Nim picked.

4. Row of garlic

5. The new gateway to our house that Alex built.

6. Atticus's new dipping hole/drinking fountain.

7. The two new raised beds Ema and I made. The first bed is now planted with greens. (That is Lili and me casting the shadow)

7. Some yummy looking overwintered collards!



2 walks a day keeps the mom from going insane...

As you can see, Lilikoi is the superstar of this blog. Here she is lounging on her sheepskin lined throne- er stroller. (Please notice the wood chipped path below her. Last year this was mud- A huge improvement indeed!)

Andy Summers

My most prominent spiritual mentor passed away this past month, and I wanted to share his obituary and some comments my friends have made about Andy. I have been trying to conjure up some words to reflect on how important Andy was to our world, but, it is difficult. Maybe it is just that: The world is undoubtedly a better place because of Andy.
May the compassion and social justice work that he dedicated himself to continue to spread.

Herbert Summers, Jr.
Asheville - Herbert Andrew Summers Jr., 68, died Thursday, March 13, 2008, in Asheville after a rapid onset of leukemia. Andy was a beloved figure in the Warren Wilson College community and deeply involved in causes for social justice. Born April 29, 1939, in Conyers, Georgia, to Herbert Andrew Summers and Mary Williams Summers, Andy married Katrina McKay in 1962. He attended Young Harris College and Southern Methodist Univ. and received his M.Div. in 1964 from the Candler School of Theology, Emory Univ., and his Ph.D. in 1974 from the California School of Professional Psychology. Andy served as pastor of United Methodist Churches in Georgia and California from 1961 to 1974, as director of the Fresno Pastoral Counseling Service in Fresno, Calif., and in 1980 as the Conference Pastoral Counselor for the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. He came to Warren Wilson College in 1991 as Minister to Students. He was a Diplomate of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and a member of the California-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church. With his interest in liberation theology, Andy traveled extensively in Latin America, leading seven student trips to Guatemala. He served as chair and as a member of the board for Witness for Peace, for whom he led a delegation to Colombia in 2001. He attended protests against the School of the Americas, wrote letters to editors, and served on countless committees. A lifelong student of jazz and a dedicated runner, Andy played saxophone in a Warren Wilson jazz ensemble and managed to smile and chat while running marathons. He was a jovial and welcoming spirit who took a great interest in all people, cats, and dogs. He is survived by his wife, Trina, of Swannanoa; his children, Andrea Summers of Ithaca, New York, Jason Summers of Seattle, Washington, and Ethan Summers of Swannanoa; and his grandchildren, Hannah Summers Staveley, Liam Staveley Summers, and Franklin Summers.
A memorial service to be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29, 2008, at the Warren Wilson College Presbyterian Chapel, 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa, N.C. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be sent to Witness for Peace

God bless Andy, his family and all his beloveds. What a man who really was a true human being, fully engaged in life and walking the earth with a loving and generous open heart. As I sit here sit morning and write a letter to another friend who is suffering from cancer, I am grateful that Andy's physical suffering with disease was so short lived. His spirit is still very strong. Love to you all. Dana

I know deep within my heart that I am who I am today because of Andy. He opened me to a world I never knew, helped me to see what is important and taught me to love so selflessly. Thank you Andy for all you have given so many of us. You will be missed but your spirit will live on through our work! With Love, Carrie

Oh, how I will miss that wonderful laugh. Andy, you brought joy, strength, and love into the hearts of so many. Your life is an inspiration to us all. I feel so blessed and honored to have known you and be touched by your beauty and life.Andy Summers-Presente! Love, Elizabeth

Oh Andy... How I love you...my heart is so full of gratitude for the way you opened my heart and mind to life and love and passionate service. You were my elder and mentor in the most vulnerable, young, and impressionable period in my life. I am so sad that you have died now. I wanted you to be here longer. I will miss you on this earth. ... May I live my life as fully and truly as you lived yours.Peace on your journey. Erin


Bath & Bed Time

We routinely set the mood each night around seven or eight. The soft pink glow of the night-light orb casts gentle shadows on the wooden ceiling and walls. The piano lullaby music is set at medium volume, and her soft blue blanket with the fleece on one side and velvet on the other is waiting at the head of the bed to be softly draped over her.
She is so small and marsupial-like against my stomach when she suckles before sleep. It is a vivid reminder that not too long ago she was curled up inside me. At times these bedtime moments make me feel like we are one body again. She starts off eating intently and very seriously. After awhile though she starts to lose her concentration and the milk starts dribbling out the corners of her mouth as she smiles up at me.
“It’s nigh-nigh time Lili” I whisper to her. She doesn’t look the least bit tired. She stretches out her pudgy arm and spreads her fingers out. Even though I am supposed to be promoting sleep I can’t help but kiss a few of her fingertips that have landed on my cheek. Kiss, Kiss, Kiss…..Kiss… She is amused by this and expectantly holds her fingers spread out as if reaching for something.
“It’s nigh-nigh time Lili” I remind us both. I decide to feign sleep myself- see if that helps. I close my eyes and exhale deeply a few times. Stillness. I wait a moment more. I half open one eye. Her hand is still outstretched in the same position, her eyes intently on me in the dim light. She lowers her hand and it makes contact with my face. She starts swiping around. Her pinky goes up my left nostril; another finger reaches inside my mouth. She manages to hook my lower lip and pull it out with her other finger still up my nose. I continue to play dead. She lets go of my lip and it makes a light thwaping noise as it hits my gums. She does it again. And again. And again. I open my eyes and tilt my head away trying to look serious. I take her hand and try to pin it to her belly. She gives me a big gummy smile as if to say ahh hah! I knew you weren’t really asleep.
I decide to try to nurse her again. I contort in an unnatural sort of way to give her my other breast, and she takes to it with renewed pleasure. After a bit I sense her giving up to sleep. I hold myself steady even though my neck and back are getting crinks by the second. I am looking for the signs of true asleep-ness: Lips parting, fingers slackening, an absence of jerky movements. All signs point to yes! I test it by starting to ease myself away from our entanglement in slow motion. I become acutely aware that we are not one body as I pull away each body part of mine that touches hers. Unless I am sure that she is completely sacked out I need a lot of gracefulness to execute the departure successfully.
Once I am free and hovering above her I can’t help but lean back in to fuss with the blanket or to give her one last kiss on her sweaty forehead. The last act is me sneaking away like Elmer Fudd when he is creeping along trying to hunt Bugs Bunny. It is an exaggerated sort of tip toe. I do this as I tread softly downstairs (skipping the top step that creaks). As I rejoin Alex, blinking in the brighter light I flop down on the couch and say a quick prayer that tonight is one of the nights that the bedtime production worked so well that I only have to do it once.

As a post note: Alex and I have ordered some sleep-tip books that have come highly recommended, so perhaps next month I will have a different bedtime routine. We shall see…