When Maggie Rose was born, our days and nights played out in a choppy rhythm to a tune we didn’t know, and couldn’t fall asleep to, as we listened to the notes and tried to make sense of the melody of infancy.

Howard’s arrival into our lives is more like a song remembered, if a few notes missed here and there.  I suppose what I mean is that it seems he has always been with us, and already I hardly remember a time without both he and Maggie Rose.  Life has simply moved forward in the last four weeks, and swept us all along with it.

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We’ve celebrated our favorite holiday, the 4th of July.

We’ve remembered my brother Howard, and joyfully watched Maggie play in the gorgeous memorial structure that our friend Jordan built in his honor.

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I got in a little much needed time with a few of the Hot Buns, who arrived from Asheville, Atlanta, and Seattle to hike and play under the brilliant July sun.

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We were reacquainted with July-under-the-Big-Sky … a shade of blue singular to this inestimable month.

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And most importantly, all of this July-ness has been kind to our honeybees, who have a crop on!  So we set up the extracting room and began harvest at 8:22 am on Tuesday, July 16.

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Harvest is the hardest kind of work, and by extension the best, too, as fits the norm in superlatives.  The days are endless and yet not nearly long enough.  Our bones ache with the effort of moving thousands and thousands of pounds of honey from the hive to the truck, from the truck to the warm room, from the warm room to the extracting room, from the extracting room to the barrel, from the barrel to the tractor trailer … to say nothing of the retail honey.

Harvest.  A precious four week old baby.  July.  A two year old starting to speak in sentences.  Just after Maggie’s bedtime on Tuesday, Honeydew and I collapsed on the couch and stared in silence at one another, happy to be together, happy to have a crop to harvest, but too tired to say much to one another.  After a few minutes, Maggie’s wondering voice drifted in over the monitor:

“Daddy happy.  Mama happy.  Maggie happy.”

Yes, Maggie Rose. We are happy.

2013. Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

I wish I could press pause on my life right now.

The tiniest, wisest man in the world grows daily before my eyes, and I cradle him and rock him and hold his red fingers, knowing what I didn’t know with Maggie Rose: these still days of infancy are short lived, and of course I cannot know if I will ever have such a time in my life again.  And so Howard and I sit.  On the porch, at the kitchen table, in front of my laptop.  I lay him against my heart and sit back, amazed by the capacity of the human heart to love so quickly and so well.

I fell in love with baby Maggie Rose daily, and in different ways each day.  I learned to love a baby, and to create a family.  With Howard, it is different – not better, not worse, but different.  He was born and my heart simply tripled in size.

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As Howard and I breathe slowly in unison, the peak of summer builds all around us: the weather is hot and the bees are storming about, filling their combs with honey.  The phone rings with honey orders.  Maggie Rose’s emotions continue their roller coaster ride on the Big Sister Transition.  The washing machine and the dishwasher and the coffee maker all blink and buzz at me.

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Still holding Howard, I fill orders and answer questions and fold towels and kiss away crocodile tears and mix up huckleberry lemon muffins, because Maggie and Honeydew love them.  I cannot press pause, but I do not have to put him down just yet.

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Celebrating thirty-three years on this beautiful planet, with my wonderful family.  June 24, 2013.

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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We are incredibly pleased to announce the arrival of our second born, Howard Stone Fullerton, earlier this week .  Howard weighed 8 lbs, 3.5 ounces and was 20.5″ long at birth, with a whopping 14.5″ noggin!  He is lovely in every way, but most  importantly, he was born with 290,000 platelets — well above the healthy minimum  — and without any indication of an intracranial hemorrhage or other bleed from the neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia that he triumphed over during his gestation and delivery.

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To say that Honeydew and I are relieved is the understatement of the decade.  For the first time since I suspected I was pregnant, I am able to breathe deeply.  I am considering tattooing 290k on my forehead.  One day soon, I think I will write about Howard’s gestation for my fellow NAIT parents, but for now, we are spending most of our time in the NICU with Howard, where his platelet levels continue to be observed.  Holding him is the highlight of my life, just as holding Maggie Rose in the NICU was.  All of my happy receptors are almost filled: when Maggie Rose can meet Howard after his release from the NICU, we may keel over from the delight of it all.

Howard is named for my brother, Howard Hillhouse Stone, who died three weeks shy of his 20th birthday in a house fire at the University of Mississippi.  Nearly nine years have passed, and yet there are still days when I nearly pick up the phone to call him.  He is part of my life every day, and though Honeydew never knew Howard, he has been the head cheerleader for naming our son after my brother, even on days when I wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to do so.  Giving me the courage to name our son for my beloved brother is the most amazing gift, and I am a lucky wife and mother to have Honeydew as my partner in my life.

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My brother Howard was an even keeled person, quick to laugh, slow to judge, “cheerful in all weathers,” as Captain Call famously said of Deets.  He was named in part for my maternal uncle and grandfather, Virgil Howard Black Sr. and Jr., both kind and gentle farmers, and good men who taught me so much about what I think of as the “real world:” agriculture, family, dirt, and sunshine.

Howard’s middle name, Stone, is an equal nod to my paternal heritage and to Honeydew’s paternal heritage.  His grandmother, Elinor, was the youngest of six Stone sisters before she became a Fullerton, and she raised three handsome and accomplished sons, one of whom is my father-in-law, Robert Stone Fullerton.  I am a Stone by birth, and am proud to bestow my maiden name as my son’s middle name.

Howard means guardian or sheep herder.

Thank you all so much for your many well wishes and kind regards.  Our baby beekeeper is one lucky boy, in so many ways.

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2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Santa came to see Maggie Rose a little early this year. She seemed excited about her gift, but I think she’s hoping the jolly man will return with more tricycles, unicorn pillow pets, and peanut brittle on the 25th.

What do y’all think of her gift?

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Can you read her t-shirt? Kids always love getting clothes for Christmas, right?

Well, she’s gonna BEE a BIG sister!

In June, we hope.

Keep your fingers crossed. Like Maggie, Baby 2 has NAIT — neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia.

Unlike Maggie, we know ahead of time.

In a nutshell, I won’t be joining Honeydew in California this year. I’ll soon be headed to the hospital once a week to receive infusions of an amazing substance called IVIG. Shortly after her birth, Maggie Rose received several infusions of IVIG before she received her donor platelets. Together, the IVIG and the platelets, combined with the care of our amazing doctors and nurses, especially Dr. Ribgy, saved Maggie’s life.

Now, our doctors hope that by giving me big doses of IVIG, we’ll avoid the NICU entirely for Baby 2. If you’ve been affected by NAIT, leave a comment, will you? It’s pretty rare, and we’d love to talk to someone who’s had a second NAIT baby, especially if you’ve undergone the IVIG therapy.

No cause for undue alarm, though. All pregnancies are fragile, and we are in very good hands.

We think a sibling will be the greatest gift we ever give Maggie Rose, and hopefully, one day she will agree.

Merry Christmas to our own brothers and sisters, who know why we are the way that we are, even when we wish they did not.

If you’d like more information on donating platelets, click here.

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2012. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved.

We try to take Sundays off this time of year, and when we do, Honeydew and I trade choices – this past Sunday, I decided that we should take Maggie Rose to Iceberg Lake, the easiest 10 miles in the park, and generally overrun with people for that reason.  In my pre-baby life, I would have avoided Iceberg Lake on August 5 like the plague, but I suppose this is the new norm.  Maggie loved gawking/waving at every person we passed, anyway, and I always love meeting ghosts of myself and my loved ones in the Many Glacier valley, particularly along the Iceberg Lake trail.

This is the trail to Iceberg Lake – Mt. Wilbur is the tallest mountain to the far left, and below it hangs a shelf keeping Shangri La secret from most of the world.  Behind the shelf, tucked between Mt. Wilbur and the beautiful castle-like wall, is Iceberg Lake.

Maggie Rose first went hiking in the Many Glacier valley when she was three weeks old, and her affection for it hasn’t changed.  Especially now that she’s discovered that hiking means eating snacks reserved only for hiking – like Lay’s potato chips.  Mmmm!

4.9 miles from the trailhead, we reached the lake, still nearly fully encased in ice.  I love this shot of Maggie Rose and Honeydew – back in Honeydew’s trail crew days, he spent a lovely afternoon widening the trail they’re standing on, and digging the water ditches you see on either side.  He says they used jackhammers, to the consternation of most who were there.

Requisite family shot.

Looking at the lake, you might think there’s just a thin layer of ice and snow covering it, but if you look at the middle of this picture, perhaps you can get a better perspective on just how thick the layer is – I was zoomed in 20x when I took this!

Maggie Rose is our water baby, and the temperatures of the liquid-snow-lake did not deter her.

Wearing my old sunbonnet, playing with a chunk of ice.

My favorite shot – 14 month old Maggie is so independent, so unafraid of the world.  As her parents, this is a little bit frightening — but then, we can relate to her perfectly.  Never be afraid of the world, baby girl – your curiosity will bring you so many choices, and so much joy.

2012.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

Honeydew and I rolled over in the gray, predawn light and beamed at each other this morning.  We’ve managed to keep our firstborn alive for an entire year.

And what a year it has been.  Today, I’m using the blog to capture a few details of Maggie’s arrival, because everyone knows that I can barely remember my own name from week to week, and if I don’t write these down Maggie Rose might never know that despite her adoration of Daddy, she was a Mama’s girl in the beginning, resisting three separate rounds of inducement and electing to remain in the womb far beyond her due date of Friday, May 13.

Eventually, her amniotic fluid levels plummeted, and I was admitted to the hospital for the inducements.  I paced the halls restlessly for almost three days before her arrival, admiring the sparkling May sunshine beyond the windows and wishing It’ll, as we called her then, were there to enjoy it with me.  When she did finally deign to begin the journey to oxygen and double cheeseburgers, I bounced on an oversize yoga ball and then floated in a warm tub, fascinated by the strength of the contractions, confident in my body’s abilities.

Hours slipped by, and it was time to push, the most instinctual, primal feeling I have ever known. I closed my eyes and pictured myself step-step-breathing up Mt. Siyeh, finally grasping the legal concept of the Rule Against Perpetuities  at 2:30am during finals, recovering from a miniature panic attack on a open ledge on Mt. Clements and continuing to the top.  I knew I had the grit, the determination, the strength.  Honeydew and Dr. Bowden announced they could see Maggie’s head, and I glanced at the clock and realized that the morning sunlight had turned to inky darkness.

But still she did not come.

And then, just before midnight, Dr. Bowden took my hand and looked at me with her quiet confidence, letting the silence speak for itself.  “Are we out of options?” I asked with a hitch in my voice.  And she said yes, that I had labored long enough that she was concerned for It’ll and for me, that It’ll’s head was just too big, and that she wanted to perform a c-section, the one possibility of labor that I had feared and dreaded.

Twenty minutes later, Maggie was pulled from my lower abdomen, and under the weight of the anesthesia pinning my lungs to the icy operating table, I struggled to put all the conviction I had left in me into my voice.  “What is it?”

“It’s a … it’s a … it’s a girl!”  Honeydew exclaimed, in sheer wonder, gazing over the blue sheet separating me from my lower body, and my baby.

And so you were, Maggie Rose.

You have made this past year the most exhausting, magical year of my life.  Daddy and I would not trade you for all the coffee in South America, even on days that you are teething.

Happy first birthday, Maggie Rose!

2012.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

In years past, I’ve spent the first part of March racing around getting ready for the Made in Montana Marketplace, a fair held each year in Great Falls that allows members of the Made in Montana program to connect with wholesalers and the public prior to Montana’s insane summer/tourist season.  We’ve loved being exhibitors, and right now I’m missing pouring hundreds of candles and labeling endless one pounders of honey in preparation.  We hope to exhibit again in 2013!

But we’re not sitting around in California twiddling our thumbs.  Honeydew, as in every March, is running around like a crazy person – the bees are out of the almonds and back into the holding yards – and I promise if I ever get a strong internet connection again I’ll do a big blog post on this topic!.  So, every morning, Keith and Honeydew head out to these yards to catch queens and prepare the hives for requeening.

And every morning, after I clean up the mess from a hot breakfast and packed lunches, I load Maggie Rose into my car and we head to the gym.  Another beekeeper in the Redding area recommended this particular gym to me, and I love belonging there.  It provides a very nice break from pouring candles, and I am finally seeing the baby weight come off.  Hurrah!  But the best part about this gym is that it offers childcare, and so Maggie gets to experience an hour or so of daycare every day, which I’m sure is how she picked up her horrible illness back in February, but on the whole, I am so happy that she gets to interact with lots of young children, without me.  I think this is very, very good for her.  And an hour to lose myself in earblasting rock through my headphones, as I push myself in the weight room and on the cardio machines, is also very, very good for me.

When I picked Maggie Rose up from this daycare yesterday, my heart lurched.  My little mullet baby was sporting the two most darling pigtails that have ever graced the planet, the first pigtails she’d ever worn, the first time her hair was in any way styled.

I’ve never even put her hair in a headband or a bow.  I don’t know why.  She has plenty of them, and I know she would look precious in them.  I think in some silly way my subconscious realizes that all too soon, she will be doing recklessly horrible things to her beautiful hair – like dyeing it dark, dyeing it with Kool Aid, dyeing it to cover up her grays.  Not that I’ve ever done those things.  And so I suppose my subconscious has whispered to me, “Plenty of time for hairstyles, in any way, shape, or form.”

But I do think it’s time for pigtails.

And maybe barrettes and headbands, too.

Once she’s at least ten months old.

Which is next week.

Oh, Time, please, please slow down.

2012.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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