Saturday, May 31, 2008

Not In Kansas Anymore

I, miz technophobe herself, am sitting outside a non-disclosed location in a state other than my own, hacking into someone's WiFi.


I'll be moved on before they catch me.


My husband the EGE, who is not very engineery on this weekend road trip, and the girls went to a park following the EGE's attendance of a memorial service. The baby and I snuck the Suburban out and sized up the neighborhoods for likely WiFi connections.


I feel so ... Tom Clancy-esque. Like a character in his books -- not as though I can write like him. For one thing, I've never been a lawyer. Or snuck around. Until today!


That's not quite true. I snuck around about seven years ago, before the birth of our second daughter.



HA HA HA ... that one sounded funny too.


What happened was, one day when Madeleine was a mere baby and I was on bed-rest (even funnier) with Sarah on board, I got a wild nesting instinct and rearranged the living room furniture.


At this time in my pregnancy the awesome friends from our small group at church were rotating bringing dinner every afternoon. Because, remember, I was on bedrest.

So when the EGE arrived home to see the new arrangement of couch, desk, chairs, etc., he made a little assumption that it must've been my friend Courtney who did the heavy lifting. Um. I, being overrun with hormones and possessing a double dose of mommy mush brain, fessed up to being the furniture mover.

He was upset. I was supposed to be avoiding early delivery, and I momentarily (and repeatedly) lost my sense. His verbal response is burned in my brain:

"When I was a kid, my mom never snuck around and moved the furniture while my Dad was at work."


I didn't think it was that sneaky. If I were sneaky, I'd have let him believe Courtney did the moving.


But today I have mastered a tiny (and technical!) sneakiness.

(I wonder if I should go buy a coffee card and leave it in these nice folks' mailbox to thank them for letting me check my blogs?)


I shall return to the family now.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Foggy Farmgirl Friday


Still overcast and cloudy in our little community. Grace and the baby and I are in denial about the fact that we're supposed to be packing for a family road trip.
So... this morning we have played with chickens, fought with fencing, watched Sesame Street (still love it!), watered the garden, watched the big girls walk to school and the laundry pile grow before our very eyes.
Yesterday was a big day for Madeleine. Her friend was reading his book at school. Our country school is project-based, which means that about every six weeks the entire student body of 53 kids changes to a new subject through which to view the world.
Wish I could.
So far this year the girls have delved deep into: the physics of liquids and solids, endangered species activism, carving (that was only one trip to the emergency room, thank you), animal husbandry (who knew rabbits were so prolific?)... and the list goes on. Most of the time it has been fun. This final unit is all about the phases of publishing, which cracks me up in that way that I'm supposed to turn around and hide behind my not-snickering hands.
These kids are seriously cute.
Anyway, Madeleine's classmate L was being celebrated for the publishing of his book. A chapter book, no less. The entire town turned out to hear the reading. The teacher typed all night and bound it with special staples.
The audience assembled on the carpet and waited with bated breath for his first words. I hope I someday have a reading so well attended.
And when he started reading, the smallest kindergartener, who happens to be the author's brother, stood up to announce that it was "rated PG-13."
Whu-ut?
There are some serious differences between boys and girls, and I am reminded of that almost daily by my nephews and other assorted boy creatures who run all over our house and yard with my girls. Who are not prissy, except by comparison to this book. The subject of little L's book was respecting war heroes (very cool) and the method he employed was to graphically and bloodily and thoroughly describe some acts of war his grampa had filled him in on.
So without being judgmental, if I can help it, I want to say he's a boy. Through and through. He comes from an extremely nice family of dedicated parents to four boys and two girls. They are spiritual and I would even say pacifist. And look where that got 'em.
I was sitting next to his mother, when she wasn't sinking through the carpet. Her conclusion? Freedom of speech is an awesome, powerful thing, and somebody should have dang well edited her child's expression.
You better believe I checked my girls' books, as-yet un-"published." And then I breathed an enormous sigh of relief to find that Maddy is composing a mystery about a missing notebook and Sarah is doing a nonfiction booklet about Panda bears. Whew. Phew. Dodged a bullet.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What If

What if blogs were like American Idol?

What if Simon Cowell (if I butchered his name, maybe he'll email me to say so. Or comment. Lord knows I need the comments to know whether anyone's out there) and Paula Abdul were sitting about 10 feet away... ready and willing to tell me how much I, um, don't mince words now, suck? (Comma splice away, there's no one reading.)

What if all of America cried out in outrage at Simon and Paula trashing me, and then called a 1-800 number to vote me in?

Oh, and what if, instead of Simon and Paula, it was a navel-gazing diva and a suburban correspondent with their true opinions? What if?

Of course to make it more realistic, there'd have to be someone willing to make me famous after all the public outcry about my particular blend of funny (I'm a little bit funny.) and heartwarming (I can't seem to help myself thinking my kids are worthy of blogspace.) and farming (there're a lot of hobby farmers out there waiting for a voice. I'm sure of it.).

Danger Girls

Pull up a chair; I have more confessions to make. Many, many blogs' worth.





So I must tell you from behind the veil of blogdom: I lied in my daughters' baby books. Well, in the books of girls one through three. I didn't make a book for Laura yet. The first step to telling the truth could begin with her book. Or maybe not, depending on my good intentions versus the mommy guilt.





You see, our oldest daughter's first word was "danger." Could be on account of us saying it to her about ten thousand times a day from the moment she could first scoot toward a fireplace, rabid dog or television remote. "Danger!" To her it was exciting, and that excitement was evident in the breathy way her little 9-month-old self said it when confronted with the church staircase. "Danger! Quick, let me get to it before Mommy notices! She's pregnant... it should be hard for her to catch up." Heh heh heh.





Of course in the "first word" line of her baby book I wrote ... "Mama."





Hey! Don't judge me until you've chased a dangergirl who refuses to call you by name, you with another Mommy disser on the way who's only too ready to aid and abet the firstborn sassbucket.


I entered this state of mommyhood completely unprepared for the depth and breadth of the danger, and the sass, for that matter. As a child I was every parent's dream girl. (Did I mention my mom is technologically unable to go on the Internet to refute me? Hah! Let me revise history with abandon.) I was unfailingly respectful and downright terrified to get in trouble. I rode horses, but that was dressage, which everyone knows is never dangerous, for crying out loud. My tiny daughters race barrels, chase calves and bend poles all in an attempt to go faster than the 50-pound kid on the horse coming up next. I was a dancer with multiple broken toes, but I didn't laugh at the pain, as my daughters do. They do gymnastics, a sport famous for flipping athletes on their heads with only two inches of foam in between my babies' brains and the gym floor.

So far, my girls appear to own the "no fear" franchise. After bravely facing broken arms and worse, they do not inspire me. Not one bit.


Now, Madeleine's first word was "danger," and her sisters are following suit. Sarah's first word was "Dada" (I wrote "Mama" in the book, you know it), and while the EGE's no danger boy, it's his family genes that gave it to my girls. His sister is a river-rafting, bungee-jumping danger girl all grown up by virtue of now being a mommy herself. I can't wait until her son starts asking to snowboard. Heh heh.

Grace's first word was "baba." As in "bottle," which she pointed out in the possession of another baby. And then she demanded a "baba" of her own. Of course she was exclusively breastfed and had the precocious ability to drive me up the wall very early in her life. So in her case, the whole first word thing is dangerous to my mental health and mommy identity. Now that she's 4, and Gracie's baby book says (you guessed it) her first word was "Mama," she is unheathily obsessed with Laura's nursing schedule.

Maybe I should have told the truth. Would white-out redeem this situation?

Is there any way to turn back the danger (and for that matter, sass) clock? Experienced mommies, please reply.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Seasons * Word for Wednesday




Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
A few years ago I had the privilege of spending several days and nights with a woman who was in her late 90s. Mother to six children and grandmother to dozens, she was also an accomplished attorney and published author. Her husband preceded her in death by a decade and her children were spread all over the world, successful and happy and proud of her but none was able to come to her deathbed until just the day before she died.
What a strange privilege, really, to be with such an accomplished woman in her last days and nights. I have a huge respect for people who work in hospice and "end of life" care. I am sure their jobs are difficult, just as I am sure their rewards are immediate as well as eternal.
My late friend's name was Vivian, which of course means full of life. And she was! At the time I was intent on listening to every word she had for me, and it seemed she was intent on saying a lot. I didn't have to take notes even though it's my first nature to do so. All of her words were painfully and carefully chosen as she recounted what she considered her life's most important lessons. "There is time for everything," she told me, "just not all at once."
There is time for everything, just not all at once.
Okay, maybe it's profound only to me, because I was there, and it was the thesis of the last great speech of a great teacher and orator whom I respected deeply. But if I could impart the depth of feeling behind her words, I am convinced that mothers everywhere would breathe a sigh of relief. Just a little respite from the "hurry up" superwoman lives we live. Vivian didn't go to college until her last child was a senior in high school, she wanted me to know. She didn't write a word until she was 56 years old, and her oldest child was passing the bar at the same time she was.
By anyone's standards, Vivian's life as a mom, a lawyer, a writer and a teacher was extraordinary. And so is mine, and so is yours. The lesson I am trying desperately to internalize is that I can have it all, just not all at once.
***
For more encouraging words on this Wednesday, hop over to Amy Deanne's 160 Acre Woods.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Making Hay

Painting:




As of this past weekend, our new chicken coop is moved in place via a "sled," which is not a snowtime fun item but rather a few two-by-fours and some pvc pipes to roll it all on. Like a big wooden tray with removable pipe/wheels. The EGE is very engineery that way. The girls helped him place the pipes at the front and run them around from the back as the coop rolled off each one. I need a better digital SLR so I can take action shots.

Of course, every girl must accessorize, so we made the signs above. They're not quite done in that photo. Grace had to trail slug slime green across them with her fingers ala vines. Very attractive. But I still think my signs are funny. A little background: the EGE is very rooster averse. We. will. not. own. a. rooster. Period. Also in the photo you can see the leftovers from our earlier homemade play dough fiesta. Ah, the joys and messes of a three-day weekend!


Planting:


We are late with our garden this year, but it snowed just a couple of weeks ago. The girls were very excited for the new garden site. It is right next to the horse paddocks (easy fertilizer transfer!) and the new chicken coop (see last parens). Over the weekend we planted four cherry tomatoes, because we have to have enough to share with the critters. Also the girls just like to stand in the garden and eat them faster than they can pick them. Then they come inside about 9 p.m. and sick to their tummies and starving for dinner because tomatoes and raw green beans are great um... appetizers. I also planted onions, peppers, celery starts, carrots, radishes... not sure what else. It's always fun to overplant and freak out later, don't you agree?

Repurposing:

The school was going to throw away some sections of picket fence. Since I am an A-Number-One Recycler and junk addict, I had to get the EGE to haul them home. They will grace the garden. And maybe help keep the deer out... with the addition of another three feet of wire on top... maybe it'll help. Or maybe I'll just cry and laugh and try to take photos of the deer eating my pole beans ever-so-delicately. Hey, a new camera would help with that. My dad and husband laughed hysterically at the idea of a deer "exclosure." We'll see about that.


More painting:

I threw caution to the wind and let the girls paint the chicken coop. I am no longer a control freak, I'll have you know. Just brushed my hands clean of that particular personality disorder, I did. There is one particularly fetching photo of the coop painting which y'all will never see. The EGE caught me rolling on paint with one hand, baby on other hip, capris hiked up most attractively, while Grace pulled on my shirt and covered me with paint from her wildly waving paintbrush. Nice. Design note: We chose this particular shade of wedding mint green to match the uber-ugliness of the shop. It would be nice to re-side the shop in cedar shakes, but it would also be nice to finance the girls' college funds sometime before they graduate high school.

Making hay:



So there wasn't much sun in our corner of the world this weekend, but we still had a great (if nutty) time.





And of course, completely nonfarmy but fun, we had to watch a movie:



The girls dreamed and planned, and the EGE stalled, and we worked hard all weekend, and then the girls plotted some more. Finally, they unveiled their diabolical snack bar (complete with homemade kettle corn and Diet Coke to ensure my attendance) and their copious rule sheets regarding movie behavior (maybe aimed at Grace? Or Daddy?) and the parents capitulated.

In addition to the photo-chronicled craziness, we... made homemade cinnamon rolls, did two thousand loads of laundry, chased and caught chickens again, gave the horses their monthly meds, went to and overspent at the hardware store, celebrated my nephew's 10th birthday with a Harry Potter extravaganza at the pizza parlor (oh joy) and in general overdid it until going up and down our farmhouse stairs hurts the backs of my thighs more than an hour on the stairmaster.

I have to go rest up from my weekend now. How about you?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A-hem

I am allllll about the pay it forward thing. If you are ever in the coffee lane behind me on a payday, you will know it's me without even checking whether it's a huge white Suburban trailing hay seeds: that's me, spreading the love.

But it occurs to me after reading this:

http://rocksinmydryer.typepad.com/shannon/2008/05/i-want-you-to-r.html



that I am a serious pay it forward wimp. And that there are drawbacks to keeping my exact location a semi-secret.

Just drop me a comment if you'd like to win the opportunity to work on my house and yard for a week while I go on vacation. I'd be happy to release my address in that case.

(Seriously, I'm just kidding. What those ladies -- and you know it was women -- did is super-inspirational and worth reading about on a rainy Sunday afternoon. And then pass it along?)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Farmgirl Friday

I could tell you about my long drive through beautiful countryside to pick up horse feed. I passed many gorgeous falling-down barns (I'm sort of obsessed with decrepit barns) and farmhouses. A state police officer did a U-turn and stopped my heart but then stopped the car behind me. Is it wrong to be relieved? Speaking of relieved, Gracie wet her pants while waiting for a town. She does not believe in roadside peeing. She believes in me washing her carseat cover. Argh.

I could tell you about the hunting of the chicks to get them safely back in their coop. We lost a couple of chicks to a raccoon, and this is unacceptable. I am not at the shotgun stage yet, but I'm not in love with raccoons either. You know when you live in the city, you think of raccoons as evidence that wildlife is still cute and cuddly and willing to come on your back porch to eat cat food? Don't tell me those stories, because out here in the sticks, raccoons are the bandit-eyed velociraptors who leave the feathers of innocent pullets in your side yard.

I could tell you about the cruddy thieves who broke into our barn while we were gone and stole a saddle, a lunge line and two brand-new bridles. Madeleine's first reaction: "Why don't they get a job and buy their own tack?" My thoughts exactly.

I could tell you about my decidedly unfarmish visit to the IRS office.

But I'll leave you with the best thing that happened today: Coming home.




Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bless You!

This afternoon I was indulging in a little blog-reading, getting good and intimidated by all the funnier-than-me writing going on in blogdom, when Grace decided to enter my office (the MOMMY ZONE) with a ginormous green sticky line from her right nostril to her upper lip.


Yummy.


No, really, she had a Skittle stuck up her nose. Her panic was real and although there was no blood, she was justified in breaching the unseen forcefield around my computer.

In addition to the difficulty created by only breathing through half her dinky baby nose, she was hyperventilating because she had already tried to remove the candy in secret by herself (the same way she got it out of the "secret" candy jar). This attempt was successful... if her goal was to put a Skittle so far up her nose as to lodge just millimeters from her brain.

I had the mommy calm going on, just long enough to comment on So, The Thing Is before duly freaking out like a good girl should.

Madeleine! Bring me the tweezers! Hurry!

No, Mommy, no teezers, P-eeze NO TEEZERS!

Tweezers were a big strike-out. Mostly because I was shaking badly and cursing the fact that it's a half-hour drive to town, where I was sure the doctor's office would be closed and we'd have to go to Urgent Care, otherwise known as the place one is least likely to get medical help within a decade of urgency.

By now the tears were flowing. And Gracie was pretty upset too.

Now, all three of our girls who are old enough to talk are old enough to be sassy and weird. But Grace is especially gifted in the goofball category. (It's at least a year before she can read "goofball," so fret not about me misshaping her baby self-esteem.) Note the picture below. Doesn't she look sweet? She only looks that way because she placed the Charlie Chaplin mustache-of-grass on her baby sister and then leaned in to the photo shoot.



Back to the Skittle. I had the genius (I know, MENSA qualification, right here) thought that sugar dissolves in warm water. My only little problem would be that Gracie hates water. Whenever we bathed her in our house in town I worried that a neighbor might call Child Protective Services. She screams bloody murder at the sound of the tub running.

It's even better when you have to pour the warm water approximately up her nose while instructing her to breathe through her (shrieking) mouth. If I could have recorded it, I would never have inflicted that sound on you, my dear three readers.

Madeleine and Sarah stood at the edge of the tub in wonder as I performed this extraction. Sarah was so shocked at the show that she didn't even find time to ask where Grace had found the candy. Madeleine was a true oldest child, organizing the chaos:

Here's a warm towel from the dryer, Mommy.

Pinch her other side of her nose shut so water doesn' t go up there too.

Will it rot away if you just leave it?

Finally, after a lot of gruesome green snot and sugar flowed, a pea-sized Skittle center shot out of her nose like an escaping convict.

Grace wanted to know if she could still eat it.

Anyone? Anyone?

Anyone? Anyone?



Am I the only one who dreams about Ferris Bueller? Not about the skinny kid or the catatonic friend (freaky how well I remember this movie) or even the cool fast car going through the plate glass window, but the whole stinkin' concept of a day off, playing hookie when the stakes are high.



Hooky or hookie? Nooky or nookie? There's just too much "'C' is for Cookie" in my life to take off for a baseball game, a parade and a dine-n-dash at a linen tablecloth restaurant right now, but I still can fantasize. Can't I?


My other running fantasy (children, avert your eyes) is I hope not as rare as I think. I'm making no sense, I know. What I am trying to say is that I sometimes, okay, several times a week, I think about a bad as-yet-unwritten novella in which we all enter the witness protection program. It would have to include everyone I love. I'm not really sure what we witness for which we need the protection. It's a hazy kind of fantasy. Bear with me.


In this fantastic danger-free but intrigue-ridden witness protection program, my extended family and all dear friends are whisked off in a jet that looks like Air Force One but with champagne cocktails served after 10 a.m. Maybe the President does drink champagne cocktails, but I hope not while making big decisions. He's not on the plane. The kids get homemade macaroni and cheese and I don't have to hear them whining about eating it before the oven step of the preparation. That's because they have their own cabin in the jet. And FBI-provided gramma-like nannies. Yeah.


It's very important that we leave all obnoxious cell phones behind, but we're provided new schmancy laptops and a cool digital SLR so I can keep blogging.


Then we land in a serene little coastal Baja town and are handed sombreros for the year-round sunshine and of course Jackie O sunglasses to protect our identities from the caballeros. Okay, if you speak Spanish, feel free to correct my spelling there. Maybe the jet stopped for a week at an undisclosed five-star hotel for intensive Spanish lessons, which the children picked up well enough that they won't whine anymore, because whining just doesn't go with a Romance language. Yeah.


We settle in to our not-weird new communal living situation with all of our dear friends and family. It's easier because the floors are marble tile and there's a maid for every child's elbow. We never think about day-to-day stresses such as budgets, because that's what the FBI is for now. I learn to knit. I have to send the socks and scarves to those in a colder climate, because we wear swimsuits all the time and we work out a lot so that's not scary either.


(That last thing is far fetched, isn't it?)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Word for Wednesday




Hebrews 10:22...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Those are the girls' quilts on our fence (still waiting on my clothesline installer... I heard a nasty rumor that suburban CC&R's won't allow clotheslines. Is this true? Anywhat, in the country we can hang our quilts and even our undies out for drying) with the church across the road that I'm always yammering on about.
Seems like a reminder of what's pure and good is in order for me today. I hope your day is blessed. For more encouraging words, take a stroll through the 160 Acre Woods.

Accountability Sucks Eggs

Look at my laundry room!

Not only did I wash, dry, fold and put away all the clothes and linens, I cleverly stashed all signs of laundry detergent and even appliances, finishing off by decorating the countertop with fresh lavender and potted plants. I even put in a little soft focus so you know how relaxing it is to step in there:


Or, my laundry room looks pretty much like it did yesterday, so I took a picture of a magazine spread and posted it on my blog because I really hate letting people down.

There is something hard-wired in me about others' expectations that actually causes pain when short-circuits occur. Sadly, flipped breakers and short circuits happen a lot lately here. And believe me, sparks are flying. The whole accountability motherboard may blow at any moment.

Case in point: I thawed out the spending freeze yesterday. Spending hiatus, interrupted. I was a wimpy, materialistic spender. Spend, spend, spend and then throw some more money around so as to make the sick feeling go away.

But on the up side, while I was out last night spending money with my good friend for her birthday, someone redecorated my kitchen too:


My kids get their sense of humor from me.
(Unfortunately, they do not also have my highly sharpened sense of accountability, because this morning no one would own up to this particular still life.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Today I Was Not Nice

I have found through my extensive research that niceties are nice, and niceness is nice, and pretty is as pretty does, and that a whole bunch of nice gets me exactly nowhere sometimes.

I had the most awesome tackle planned for today. Let me tell you. I was even going to venture out into pictures of the before and after, because I have become emboldened by the pictures of the office of my new crap-stashing soul sister Barb (you are such an inspiring writer, Barb, and I hope you're not creeped out by me saying, I saw your boxes and recognized them).

I am over the humiliation (time heals all wounds) of a couple weeks' ago, when an inadvertently placed "daffodil vase" in a "before" picture of my kitchen made blog headlines on blogs other than my own. It only took a few margaritas to feel better, really. (Now I feel the need to reiterate that I only drink Diet Coke, but I know this will bring down the hellish hilarity of some farmchicky friends, so I'm restraining myself.) I was moving on to a new tackle. Kitchen, done. Mortification, noted and worth it. Laundry room, N-E-X-T.

Anywhat, as usual, my plans for my tackle are sidetracked by life in general. How do you think my laundry room came to look like this?


Please don't dissect that photo and find any liquor bottles. If they're hiding in there, I just don't want to know. Life in general is just nuts. That laundry room is certifiable. And it looks like this within minutes of finishing digging it out. I am in true confession mode now, because I want you to believe me when I say:
Today I Was Not Nice.
Right before I got down to tackling that horrific disorganization pit we like to call our laundry room and alternately Mt. Washmore (I was gonna make a system! I was gonna make a difference! I was gonna make my husband so happy!), the home office line rang. It rung. It was ringing. I am so discombobulated by what ensued that my grammar has left me.
On the line was the EGE, and in his hand was a certified letter. I don't think they send certified letters for your birthday. Certified in letters, as in the case of insanity, is not good. Not good at all. The EGE calmly (he is the King of Calm) read such letter to me. It had terrible ramifications. It asserted points that if proven would have us likely out of business before June 2. This was bad, and let me say again, not good.
Oh, how I wish I could dish! A woman who must have VERY BAD life problems had messed with us in a VERY BAD way which involved LYING and COVERING HER DERRIERE and then some more LYING and then it all resulted in the letter that sidetracked my important but not urgent laundry room excavation. I hope y'all can forgive me (I know you're the forgiving sort).
Now of course the EGE had important and urgent things he had to be doing which are not related to this little letter bomb. And of course the letter had to be dealt with today. I quickly (remember my wardrobe tackle? and how well that turned out?) threw on a skirt and knit blouse. I had the presence of mind to wear pumps instead of maryjanes. It is important when kicking business butt to look the part, methinks.
Then I loaded Grace and Sarah into the Suburban with snacks in a bag (sometimes I can be organized) and went to town, figuratively and literally. With a baby on one hip, my bra securely inside my blouse, and Grace on an extra computer playing puzzles, I worked the phones like there was no tomorrow. I spoke calmly and politely BUT NOT NICELY with the devil herself. I stood my ground and it was the high ground. Said phone conversation partner weaseled and smoke screened and in general showed her lovely character. I then waited on hold while she doubtless poisoned the pot with her boss.
The boss came on the phone. He was prepared for me to be a shrew. But I had something better than shrewishness, and it was, pardon me, balls. I channeled my dad, who is Mr. Business. I had all my documentation in front of me and I. did. not. back. down. Very politely (but without an ounce of nice) I let him know that the letter writer and hatchet thrower was full of [other-than-the-scent-of-new-mown-grass] and that her actions had serious consequences that we would be happy to pursue in court if he did not rescind the action notified to us in the letter of the year. Right now.
I even used my super-low mommy voice. You know the one.
You also know I was sweating big time. You know it was a good thing we were on the phone and not across a conference table because I 'bout wet my pants with the stress of being simply assertive. I was shaking so much when I hung up that I think it qualified as a workout. But I won! I didn't use honey, but I wasn't out to catch flies. I was swimming with the sharks, and I'm no Gidget (shaddup).
I think I'll have that Diet Coke now. I have conquered business. The laundry room will have to wait another day. That'll be nice. (See what I did there? With the nice?)


Monday, May 19, 2008

Overheard In Our Backyard Today


Sarah: "Where's Daddy?"


Maddy: "Playing at a baseball game."


Sarah: "Can we watch it on TV?"


Yes, girls, Daddy's an engineer by day and a major-league pitcher by night.








Maddy, upon taking the milk out of the refrigerator:


"Holy Toledo, three-sixty for a gallon of milk? Why don't we just buy a cow?!"


We try not to let our kids worry about money. Clearly we have failed.






Gracie:


"The chickens did poop all over my playhouse AGAIN. Who did put thems chickens in there?"


"Oh. Sorry, God, I did left the door open."


I wasn't aware our 4-year-old was old enough to blame God for her problems. But she did apologize. Also, free range chickens produce some of the same problems as do Free Range Kids: inconvenient pooping places.






The Much Anticipated Loosing Of Children Post

Anticipated, emancipated, argued and ... er... elated.

I am on the whole unsure of how I feel about Free Range Kids. Wait! Before you click over there, I'll tell you what it's basically about (because not very many people read me and you probably already visited that hot new blog):

Giving our kids more freedom, recognizing that the world is not more dangerous than it was when we were kids (this is her point, and I didn't do the research), dropping pre-teens off at Bloomie's for a solo subway ride home. These are the ideas of Free Range Children, or FRC, or Finally Realizing, Crap (my kids are missing and I just can't remember where I left them).

Okay, I keep saying I'm gonna get serious.

The American Prospect, a journal of "liberal intelligence" (you cannot make this stuff up) called Free Range Kids "a dust-up in the world of upper middle class parenting." Hmm... I'm not sure about the upper middle class part (don't they all have nannies to hover for them?), but here in small town America, the dust is churning. In my brain while I try to figure out what the fuss is.

The creator of Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy, writes for the New York Sun. After penning an article about letting her 9-year-old son free range it home from Bloomingdale's on the city subway system, she got a lot of flak. She also appeared on a bunch of TV talk shows and formed the blog of the year, controversially speaking. On the front page of that blog, she asks the questions:

"Do you ever...
..let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less. This site [is] dedicated to sane parenting. "

Well, holy cup of joe! Sane parenting! Using our judgment about our child's abilities and street smarts might just have won each of us a spot on the Today Show, if we'd recognized that sane parenting was a movement and would make history and our kids would then no longer be messed up by that dang helicopter supervision garbage.

You know how car seat laws are always based on height, weight and age? If your kids fit perfectly in those parameters, go right ahead and stick to the letter of the law, that's what I say. Not that I'm qualified in any way to tell you how to buckle up your kids, but.... If your kids are smaller than average, you're prolly gonna leave 'em in the booster longer. Because you are a sane parent. If you are not, I'm just a blogger, can I recommend a therapist?

Similarly, I may (or may not, since some of y'all know where I live) occassionally let my 9-year-old and 7-year-old go play behind the church at the playground across the road. Unattended. So I can have a minute.

In an unrelated matter, "Can I have a minute?" was Grace's first sentence. Ouch.

Madeleine and Sarah LOVE LOVE LOVE the freedom of going across our deserted country road to a deserted country church to swing as high as they like without me shouting "don't do the underdog! you could break your neck!" and the like. They are both very sensible children, and I send a walkie-talkie with them when the batteries aren't dead.

I don't foresee stopping this tradition just because the other five families on our road might get wind of the FRC and send, I mean "release," their kids up there too. If they decide to catch some parental sanity, more power to them.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unearthed

Yesterday I was down at the General Store with Laura in tow while the EGE was falling trees for a neighbor ("neighbor" in this case means 12 miles away... so strange, yet neighborly) and the three big girls were at Gramma and Grampa's riding horses and swimming and in general having a way better weekend than me.

While I was drinking my third cup of coffee, which is by the way free for locals with good gossip in case you are tracking my spending, a complete stranger walked off with my four-month-old baby. I was okay with that.

The General Store has a 150-year-old worn wooden floor, a classic trading post front porch and a monstrous homemade woodstove next to which is the all-important locals' table. If you were just on a drive through our neck of the vineyards and you stopped for a sandwich you might think the General Store was a very well-done replica of the 1890s created just for your day trip pleasure. But in reality it is just like that even on a Tuesday when no tourists stop in for a pastrami sandwich. It has been just like that for a dozen decades, and anyone who wants to change it to a sports bar and pizza joint will have the wrath of God on their heads. Just a friendly reminder.

Anyhow Laura and I were enjoying our cup of coffee and a chat with Alice and Bob at the aforementioned locals' table. Lorena, the owner and cook, was pressing me with over-easy free-range eggs and homemade sourdough toasted bread. This is the exact reason I don't post our actual town location on my blog.

Alice is an old-timer, and by this I mean absolutely no disrespect. She is 70-plus and shakes hands stronger than most men (the EGE excepted, of course). She is fourth generation here and two more generations after her are still bucking hay. So Alice was explaining to me how to "sex a chicken," which only means gender identification in case you read this in NYC. The procedure involves blowing on the baby chick's, um, nether regions, and seeing whether it puckers into a circle or oval. I KID YOU NOT.

Alice is evidently very good at this. I invited her to come up and check out my chicks for me after breakfast. Bob, a non-related other local, took our conversation in stride as he poured his coffee into his saucer to cool it. Did you ever have a grampa who did this? It brings tears to my eyes. It's probably even a candidate for a joy rush moment.

While our conversation meandered around chickens, deer repellent and the (freakishly high) price of hay, the tourists ate and exclaimed at the view, Lorena cussed at the grill, and BJ walked in. Now BJ is a local too, but completely new to me. You have to remember, we've only been here two years, which is basically moving in this morning. I am grateful to be spoken to and accepted at the hallowed locals' table, no less. It has something to do with being willing to listen, I'm pretty sure. Contrary to my wordiness blogwise, I can listen pretty well.

Now BJ's been in the area 20 years, and she is ubercool, rurally speaking. After Alice's introduction, I guess I was overdramatic to say that BJ was a complete stranger. But it was attention-grabbing that way... hey, I handed my infant to a stranger. If you saw BJ, you'd have let her hold your baby too. "Earth Mother" would be a perfect description and I hope that wouldn't hurt her feelings, because I sincerely wish to grow up that awesome.

So I got to eat my egg and toast and drink my coffee while BJ walked Laura around and put her to sleep (heavenly to watch my baby fall asleep content) with her story of ... wait for it... THE UNDERGROUND HOUSE.

The underground house is exactly what it sounds like. It is, like most things here, across the road from my house. We actually have a full view of it through our den windows. Back in 1970, a local pastor wanted to build something earth-friendly and exotic, so he dug a ginormous hole and poured a concrete house in it. I think a lot of chicken wire and spitwads held it together. The locals laughed at him then, I understand, and we're not sure who's laughing now.

Just a couple of years ago, right when we were buying into this country club, the house was repossessed by the VA and subsequently sold to a super guy who builds castles. This is really what he does. He's a master stonemason and contractor and he goes all over the world building, well, castles. So he bought the underground moldy lump as a fun project to work on with his kids.

To get it cleaned up was no small task. It had sweltered away under Oregon dirt for 30-odd years without adequate waterproofing or ventilation. This necessitated our neighbor/castle builder doing a lot of excavation work. What had been a daisy-covered hobbit hill with windows and skylights poking through became an ugly behomoth. A 2200-square-foot lump of concrete with tarps and sticky black waterproofing oozing around like icing on a bad cake. Worse yet, the acre surrounding the house is now destroyed by the process. The trees have all been accidentally hit with big equipment and the dirt is scraped down to barren clay and rock. Nothing grows there, and that's saying a lot in our amazing climate.

Of course the neighbors hate it. The talk isn't even hushed anymore. It's ugly and they want. something. done. My EGE and I feel pretty live-and-let-live about it, but others are not so tolerant. Possibly we are more comfortable because we've seen first-hand what this man and his crew can do with stones. We've seen his artist's rendering, and it looks amazing. I am willing to watch a bit more ugliness if it ends up half as pretty as the picture.

But right now it doesn't look so pretty, and that has me thinking on the process of change. The house really needed to be imploded, but our neighbor has a vision for doing it justice, which takes time and money and dedication and hard work. In the beginning it was picturesque and hippie-awesome, but today it is a literal scar on our community's landscape. It is very difficult to see where we're going from here, and even the tolerant, seen-it-all old-timers may be losing sight of the goal to restore that little lot with the hobbit house to something not just pretty, but livable.

So I don't want to freak you out with this, but my insides are moldy and have seen 30-odd years of neglect and abuse. The excavation process, should the royal we choose to embark upon it, isn't pretty. But deeper than pretty landscaping is where I want to end up. I want that artist's rendering firmly fixed on my fridge. I want to fearlessly push dirt around with my tractor and endure the ugly in-betweens, even if and when it takes a lot longer and is more expensive than I intended or guessed. I want to get past the cover up and end up with something pretty and livable. I really hope it's not too painful for my neighbors, but I guess it'll take more than a lousy couple of years.

I (along with more than half of our village's population) hope the underground house is underground again soon. I hope the daisies bloom all summer long and I hope the skylights don't leak. I want to sit around the locals' table with Alice and Bob and BJ in 20 years (when I'll still be a newbie here but maybe BJ will be an old-timer). I want BJ to tell Laura when she's home from college all about how the house was held together with chicken wire and spitwads, but this neighbor cleaned it up, and the whole village cried foul when one outsider complained to the county planner, and now it's Beatrix Potter land over there. I want Laura to marvel that there was ever a drama about that.

In short, it may be corny, but I want us to look to the inside, to the eternal, and not to the berms of clay that result from moving a little dirt around in the cleanup process. I want my girls to be able to trust their neighbors and sit at the locals' table while the tourists exclaim that it's like stepping back in time to drive into this town.

(And then I want Alice to keep sexing my chickens for me, cuz that's just gross. Or else I could just wait to see which ones crow and which lay eggs.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sidetracked Fantastic

Surfing blogs is my new goofing off. So, I'm only 10 years behind. My oldest child is nearly 10... could these two timelines be related?



Today I am joining a meme from a blogger at So The Thing Is... who tagged everyone. Since this is only my second tag ever, can I still jump up and down and do the Miss America "you picked me" face? Oh. Sorry.



I was going to write today about this really awesome movement called Free Range Children. But loosing (not losing, silly) my kids on the range will have to wait. Because here are the things that give me a joy rush. So much better than a brownie-with-walnuts-rush:



There is no joy rush like a seed catalog in January. Oh, the possibilities! The photos! The climate maps! The sitting by the fire with imaginary dirt under my fingernails! The thing that makes this a better rush is if all the kids are down for a nap when I crack the sticker on that sucker. Soy ink aroma, a hot cup of hazelnut coffee, garden dreams and solitude!



A new baby's breath on the nape of my neck.



My husband delivering hay to the barn for the horses that the girls and I love and he tolerates. When he does selfless, thoughtful things just to make us happy, and I get to stand at the kitchen window and watch him and his dog running back up from the barn with the evening light streaming through the big-leaf Maples... I know it's cliche, but my heart actually swells a little.





Surprising our girls with ice cream on a school night. The co-op I lived in during college had a wacky, probably not unique, tradition of hitting the ice cream store at two minutes before 11 p.m. closing. That mad dash for the door of Prince Pucklers imprinted on my collegiate heart and now we try to replicate the urgency, the giddiness of an ice cream "run" with our daughters, who are ever so obliging.



Holding Grace during worship at church. The certain way she melts into me as the songs go on. The vivid remembering of being held that way by my Mom and Dad while all the adults praised God.



Madeleine and Sarah running down the hill from our village school. The way they rain or shine fling their backpacks onto the front porch, never stopping, and veer right around the house to the barn. The way their ponytails and braids swing and bounce as they head straight for their horses or their rabbit or the tiny new chicks, anything other than more worksheets and holding still. Conversely, both of the "big girls" can stop my beating heart with a rush of love and joy so immense when I happen upon them completely immersed in C.S. Lewis or Nancy Drew. Curled up with a book and oblivious to any volume of calling for dinner or chores, the girls love to read and that gives me joy because I utterly "get" how awesome it is to be lost in that book. So a lot of things the girls do give me a joy rush. Just last night I caught Maddy reading the dictionary in bed, laughing as she cross-referenced words. The joy rush was unbelievable. Reading the dictionary is genetic? Who knew?



I could go on and on with the joy rush list. How is that a bad thing? Oh, yeah, I have to make breakfast and feed the animals and go to work. But my mental list keeps ticking up new flashes of joy, and that is such a good thing (again, purposely not linking to Martha here. You simply cannot trademark a "good thing." So there).



Counting my joy rush moments is a perfect blog for me today, the third day of my spending freeze. Not one of my joy rush moments has anything to do with commercialism. So even if I whine on days four through 10 (oh, for a drive-through mocha joy rush on day 11!), I hope my joy ticker keeps going.



What are your joy rushes?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Don't tell the EGE, but I've been having a torrid, lustful affair. It's long-running and even predates my 15-year marriage. GASP.

I am only on day two of the break-up and the withdrawals are fierce. I am alternately plotting ways to recontact my ex-lover and chanting a mantra of self-control. The mantra goes like this:

Dutch Brothers costs money. Dutch Brothers costs money. Dutch Brothers costs money.

Just so you know, I hate the spending hiatus. If I had it to do over I wouldn't do it. But now that I've declared the spending hiatus to my two readers (I lost a few over the daffodil vase, I think, unless you're still lurking, in which case, please come back), there's this stupid little problem called accountability. We all know accountability can make us do idiotic things. Like swearing off spending money at a time when a quadruple mocha is just what the doctor ordered.

Judging by the number of links in that last paragraph there are some definite themes in my life as a blogger. Such as: (A) embarrassing myself by posting before thinking and (B) obsessing about escaping my problems through drinking (caffeinated chocolate!).

So the spending hiatus is going well.

I've only thought about spending money a couple of dozen times. A minute. I realize stocking up on yogurt and rice was not sufficient to get me through the next eight and a half days. I need to buy a book or two. I need to have some more coffee creamer in the house. I don't really want to use dish towels for nursing pads or for diapers, for that matter.

For crying out loud I didn't even put gas in the Suburban so we could take a drive. All the playdough in the house is dried up and Gracie needs her playdough. It's only a dollar or two. No one would know.

So I can search the internet for a playdough recipe. Mother of invention, right here. I even have the cream of tartar in the house. This brings me to my next problem: I don't WANT to make playdough. I want to drive to town, stopping for a DUTCH BROTHERS, and then buy the freaking playdough at Target or WalMart like "that girl" does.

I have a problem. Thanks for noticing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

$2.06, or $1.98 Plus Inflation

While reading all about what not to buy at this very funny blog Every Day, I oh-so-gladly remembered it is time for my second annual spending hiatus. I, being way ahead of the frugality curve, tried this for the first time last year.

Truth be told I am a little behind in the "annual" thing. It's been 15 months. But I really didn't want to do it again. I like to buy stuff as much as the next girl. It's just that, since becoming a farmgirl, I can only buy so much livestock. And then you have to buy feed for said livestock. Whodathunk.

There are things for sale in the sticks. I can buy organic produce at Hey Bayles farm, or a cup of coffee at the General Store's deli. I can buy gas at the Family Store (yes, we have a "General Store" and a "Family Store" to serve approximately 200 people in a three-mile radius)... for sixteen dollars a gallon.

Or, I could drive into town to buy gas for only fifteen dollars a gallon. It costs about a gallon to get to town and of course a gallon and a half to get home with my Suburban full of stuff.

What do I buy in town to weigh down the 'burban, you ask? Animal feed, human feed and books. Books are not as heavy as animal feed but they are more expensive to have Fed Exed to my house.

Everything else I can buy from my keyboard with the magic of a debit card. This is very, very dangerous. Don't try it at home.

So my spending hiatus this year means I need to forget my Ebay and Etsy passwords, forget my Half.com addiction and my penchant for calling the EGE to "pick something up" on his way home. Oh, how he hates that phone call. There is nothing more embarrassing to an Eng-Gen-Eer (as far as I know) than picking up nursing pads at Target.

To prepare for the hiatus I had to spend $2.06 today. My mom is bringing out a quart of yogurt, because I got lazy like that and didn't have any starter. We can't live for ten days without yogurt, now can we?

Maybe if I get lucky, my mom will spring for the yogurt. Then inflation didn't really hurt at all.

Word for Wednesday

Job 29:19 My roots will reach to the water, and the dew will lie all night on my branches.



We know that Job had great favor with God and man before his time of trial. In this passage it seems to me he is remembering fondly the time of favor; it seems to me that he is reassuring himself by remembering that his troubles have not always afflicted him. I personally keep a "promises kept" list in which I record how God is good to me even in times of trial. So when it seems like the roots have to reach through a lot of rocky soil to reach water, and the dew of refreshment is a long time forming, it is valuable to me to look at the times that God has fulfilled his promise. Over and over again, my roots have reached the water, and I know that God will not fail to help me no matter the circumstance.

The Word-Filled Wednesday group at Amy Deanne's is so encouraging to me: click here to read others!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

GACK! Or, Cleavage At The Pediatrician's Office

So... I am trying to find a way to blame my latest embarrassing moment on this morning's lack of CONSTRUCTIVE advice about how to deal with my post-baby wardrobe. I really did have to have my picture taken (too horrifying for words) for a billboard this afternoon. And I was really tearing apart all of my clothes to find something that could withstand being approximately three times life size in full-length glory (Trust this woman to sell your house! She looks sturdy!).

But... after tearing apart my closet and dresser and before the photo shoot (work it, farmgirl, work it!) I had to take Sarah to the doctor. Picture me, if you will, in full makeup, big ol' 1980s hair (because I'm retro cool like that and have natural frizz) and even with earrings on for crying out loud. Then picture the black maternity dress with the vee neckline meant to detract from a baby belly but in my current case only emphasizing the "girls." It was actually the best I could do. So I decided to go with it and threw in a pair of high-heeled black leather knee-high boots. (You can stop picturing me now if it's too painful for your imagination.) The boots added height and covered up the nylons, you see. And when you're four inches taller you're allowed to weigh more.

Now I have known our family doctor for just short of my whole life. I used to babysit his children. My best friend in high school was his oldest daughter. We know him so well that when I was experiencing postpartum depression, he was the last person I could tell. When we have suffered miscarriages, I don't tell him at all because I don't want him to get sad along with us. In short, I always want him to see only the good, fun side of us. The wholesome, cute family side. We talk about equestrian teams and gardening. He tells me how the kids are doing in college, how my friend is doing in her fabulous job as a children's librarian in California.

So of course I show up at his office tarted up for a photo shoot, packing a 4-month old on my hip, dragging a 4-year-old by one arm and simultaneously wiping her gross snotty nose, explaining in my most reasonable voice to the 7-year-old how to do a clean-catch urine sample. (Ease up on the bubbles in the bath and avoid the reason for our doctor visit du jour.)

Note: Usually when we have to make a trip to the doctor's office, I am in overalls or jeans ("What Not To Wear" would have a field day with me). It goes with the cute farm family theme and is entirely practical because there are a lot of pockets to stash pacifiers and such. I didn't even think about my weird portrait appointment attire after the four-hour panic attack that led to choosing the outfit. I certainly didn't think about it as we got our diagnosis. But I did notice that Dr. X was really busy today, without his usual time for chatting.

I did think about it as we got in the Suburban to rush to the real estate office, right after Sarah said to me, "Hey, Mommy, when you hold the baby like that, everyone can see your pretty bra."

Tuesday Toe Painting

Not really. But wouldn't a pedicure be nice?

Today I am tackling my wardrobe. I still have a lot of maternity clothes in my closet and dresser. You know as soon as I get rid of them we'll have a surprise pregnancy.

Also I unboxed all of my non-maternity clothes, and only about one-tenth of them fits or probably ever will again. What to do? (This is a real question, feel free, no, PLEASE I'm begging you to give advice. Wardrobe advice.)

Last night the EGE rushed home from work by 7 p.m. so I could attend our rural school board meeting. Laura and I went; I was the only parent there who is not employed by the school district. The school across the road from us is on the chopping block. We are down to 53 students, and even I can understand why it doesn't make economic sense to keep it open. But if they bus my girls 22 miles away, I gotta be honest, we'll be homeschooling. We contemplate that option all the time anyway since it seems the girls are very eager learners at home and go to school to twiddle thumbs and try to make friends with tough kids.

Ah, but I digress (as usual). Send me your post-pregnancy wardrobe tips.

Shall I go directly to the mu-mus? (How does one spell that, 'cuz if I'm going to wear them, I ought not misspell it.) Straight to the shapeless, do not pass go? Possibly some creative undergarments might help? A modern corset, perhaps? I can't wait to hear from you as I am likely donating nine-tenths of my clothes this afternoon. We can't have me running around the countryside in my vast collection of cute vintage aprons. And I can't exactly wear realtor chic while feeding horses and watering chicks. Help! S.O.S!

Did I mention I have to have my portrait taken for a billboard this afternoon? Bigger than life, in more ways than one. So hurry!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Look! Look!


After much begging (blogging) I got my perfect Mommy's Day. Except the girls changed clothes. That was a good thing, because we all went out to the woods:


... to eat ants on a log. ...



Of course, the mommy readers will know that ants, while nutritious, were not my Mother's Day luncheon. We had celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, otherwise known as ants on a log. We also had yummy roast beef sandwiches and carrot sticks and chips. Then the local cool kids showed up to the waterfall we were visiting. They were on a late Earth Day thing, cleaning up trash. But there was no trash, yay Oregon! So we just visited with the cleanup crew, otherwise known as our nearest organic farmer, our across-the-road dairy goat neighbors, and the fun family who sold us our current house. They live in eight miles or so from us, in a monstrously huge barn-turned-home, and they homeschool, so we don't see them very often. It was a nice divine appointment.


After that, we all hiked, even Laura:

That's the dog you see in the foreground. And, no, Laura is not bearing any weight on her little stubby chubbies. But I'm telling you, that baby wants to GO! She would not stop grunting until I put her Robeez on the ground like the other girls. How funny.

After the hike, the most important part! The long-awaited handmade gifts!!!!! (multiple exclamation points, I know, but this is mommyhood heaven right here):


Try to ignore my multiple chin problem, and I will love you forever. That's a wreath made out of baling twine and silk flowers. Gotta love it.


And that is a paperweight hand-painted with a portrait of Sarah and me, no less, on the chopped off end of a fencepost. My girls did this 100% by themselves. No help from Daddy. I am so in love with my gifts. They also bestowed upon me handmade paper that is embedded with flower seeds (what a good teacher to do this with their classes!), a pen with a silk flower top like the kind I'm always tempted to swipe at the bank (they made it at Sunday School!), and a dogwood tree. We arrived home in time for dinner and dessert with my mommy, who received much fussing and more handpainted globbies than I did. Finally we wrapped up the day with THE PLANTING OF THE TREE.

[Imagine photo here of a dogwood tree in a new shade garden created by my husband.
Very nice.]

So you know, I am a dingbat. I locked my camera (and car keys) in my Suburban late last night and can't get it out until the EGE gets home from work. Otherwise this would be a multi-photoed post. Last night the EGE and the girls cut back some of our native rhodies and planted a dogwood, a mountain laurel, a hosta and a viney maple for me. The big plan is to add a slate "floor area" to the shade garden and put a thinking bench there... very very sweet.

Today it is back to the grind. I am adding tops to a bunch of my vintage aprons. Oh, I wish that I could take photos to share with you all! But again, we must remember and make allowances for my forgetful key and camera episode and my ditsiness in general.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

On The Way To Church

See, Mom, we're wearing what you said

Even Daddy

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I Do So LOVE Mother's Day

Here is how it works at our house:

There's no such thing as stressing out over what to get me. The jewelers with the commercials ("Mom Rocks" does not mean I want a diamond to prove it) and the department stores with the displays (if I needed a mixer, I'd make it a household budget item, not a measure of my kids' love for me). Now I know I may not speak for all mothers, or even for all the mothers I know, but I don't want anything that costs a dime (except for the Nikon DSLR 80 with the lens kit options... and that's for another day; honey, if you're reading this: I still want it, just not from the kids!).

For Mom's Day, I want handpainted, handmade and globby unidentifiable clay things. I want breakfast in bed even if it's on the raw or burnt side. I want my kids to wear what I lay out for them and then I want them to not change clothes for the whole day, thus allowing me to not only see them looking cute but the pleasure of knowing the laundry pile won't grow more than I decreased it in my double-time laundry the day before.

Most importantly, I want them to smile for a bunch of photos, and that is my Mother's Day Miracle every year: the pictures in which no one is picking their nose or being a pill about joining the portrait. For Mother's Day, if things go my way, none of the pictures will have the barely visible hand of Grandpa holding one or the other of them forcibly in the frame.

So, on this subject of kid pictures: Have you ever noticed how your favorite pictures (maybe it's just me) as time goes by are not the ones where everything looks perfect? Personally, I love the screaming mimis... in retrospect. And I wonder whether this is a "hindsight is 20-20" thing... or not. It could be that I am merely romanticizing my memories, as I am aware I have a tendency to do.

To test this theory, let us consider this photo, taken just three scant weeks ago:





Yeah, maybe that one is not far enough behind me to be cute yet. I can still clearly recall the piercing sound she made instead of "using her words," of course, and the utter horror of being in public with many well-mannered cousins and her sisters and about 600 strangers. My memory is crystal on this: First I held the camera up as a shield. Then I tried to pretend she might be someone else's daughter whom I just happened to be putting in time-out. Then I moved on to rationalizing my pretense. It does take a village to raise a child, right? Those perfect parents over there with the adorable, not-screaming preschoolers might mistake my calm cool exterior for the Mother Theresa effect. No, she's not mine, I'm just big enough to step in and help whichever mommy here is incapable of prepping her 4-year-old to go out in public.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you... and may your Mother's Day Miracles be recorded on film.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I Won An Award!

Back in high school and college, I won a lot of writing awards. I know, you could tell from my impeccable posts, huh? Some of these awards had money attached to them. I only mention this because Lexi has bestowed upon me the first-ever "Funny Post Victim" award. This has nothing to do with my writing, or my wittiness, but is of course based on her being able to be funny about me and how ridiculous I am. I'm happy to help. Plus, it's been a long time since I won anything.

Once I won a can of paint and a softball in the same day. That is not a joke. Another time I won the honor of riding with a really old guy (at the time, it seemed like it, but I'm sure he was in his 40s) in his convertible for a parade. Why I wrote an essay for that one is beyond my ability to remember.

Another time I won $50 and I was so happy to blow it on typewriter ribbon. Remember typewriter ribbon? The best prizes, though, were tuition scholarships. Because they bought me the ability to be completely overeducated for my SAHM self. It does not take a degree to be stressed out about leaving my babies for half a day.

Ah, yes, I did find the mommy guilt after all. PLUS a huge side helping of freak-out, such that I didn't enjoy even one minute of my half day out today. As the EGE would say, Sheesh. What a waste of babysitting dollars and breastpump batteries.

So I'm back home. We had to make up for my half day out by having extra kids over after the big girls got home from school. We loaded up Grace and Laura in my new best friend the double jogging stroller and walked to the General Store for ice cream. Our little party filled up the whole deli. Now that we've had our mint chocolate chip fix I think I'll just bask in the glow of my award.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Different Kind of Bottle

Can I electrocute myself if I am pumping milk -- you know what I'm talking about -- and keyboarding at the same time? Can I cause permanent hickey damage if I get so engrossed in reading that I leave the pump on too long? Basically what I want to know is whether there is a limit I should be placing on the multitasking?

Tomorrow I am going to leave Laura for the first time ever. She will be four months old on the 15th and I am worried because I don't feel even a little bit guilty. I have lost the mommy guilt. Maybe it's in my messy bedroom. And before you get all excited, you should know: there will be no pictures forthcoming. I have learned my lesson. I will never again air my literal dirty laundry (in pictures anyway). So that was fun while it lasted. But I can't get a new post up quickly enough, now can I?

So Laura and Grace are going to a babysitter tomorrow. I am happy to be a SAHM (and almost as happy that I am only five to 10 years behind in jargon and therefore I know what SAHM means). Yeah, I'm happy to stay home... but I'm ECSTATIC to go out by myself tomorrow morning. Holy quietude, I will be alone in the Suburban. I don't even care that it's meant to be about real estate (a miracle happened and an offer came in on one of my listings) and engineering (I have to place ads for drafters for the EGE's company) and groceries (yeah, we're out of food again).

I can play something other than Toddler Time on my stereo! I can roll the windows down or up or halfway in between. I can stop for Dutch Brothers without buying any "not so hot" chocolates! Oh, happy day.

Now I've pumped two bottles full. She should be fine. I'll let you know whether the guilt is ever recovered... for now I am so looking forward to my day out.

I Don't Know How To Say This

Um... there's a bottle of Jim Beam, or Jack Daniels, or one of those guy-name medicinals, clearly visible in the "before" picture of my kitchen. I think it's against the law to show that without a liquor license.

Someone pointed it out to me ever so politely at my email address. I will just go die of mortification now. If you need something funny to read in my absence, well, I was going to point you to a good blog, but I realize I am selfish. I need all the readership I can get because I'll probably lose everyone once they see the evidence of my problem.

I'm not a drinker though. Unless you count aspartame soda. Diet Coke, that's my thing. I had the liquor bottle to display daffodils in. It's really true, and I guess you can believe me or not. They looked so cute and DaisyDukeish without me having to bare my thighs and freak out the neighbors.

One time my super-frugal, law-abiding, sweet little Finnish Grandma was going to make beer bread from her family recipe, but she was too embarrassed to buy the beer in our small-town grocery store, so she paid a teenager to go in and buy it for her. The horrors if someone from church were to see her in the aisle with a case of Bud. And then our sheriff cousin caught her soliciting a minor to buy alcohol.

The bread was really good. She had to supply the whole jail.

But I've been thinking about politics. I won't even try to get into a what-do-you-call-it-endorsement here what with not knowing who I support if anyone. I'm just saying, we should all be as up-front as me, even if it's, um, accidental. It's so much better to come clean, don't you agree?

Feel free to comment ... I'll be moving my blog over to AA now.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Not As Hardcore as KL

Before... I didn't even have to do anything to stage the awesomeness of this before pic.



After... I so hesitated to post these because I don't think my after is that impressive. But take a moment to compare it to the before. Please.

And then pretty please notice that I struggle with an affliction called "open shelving," otherwise known as the stupidest kitchen design known to womankind. It gives clutter a new place to exhibit itself in all glory. It also is a good incentive to not have any junk food in the house, because it'd be in plain view all the time and thus more likely to be scarfed by me. There's no temptation in a glass canister of dry black beans, no siree.

Anywhat, I am posting for the sake of Lexi and KL, both of whom are way awesome at this challenge thing. Maybe a little bit because Lexi said I'd be a whiny baby if I didn't do it. My husband the EGE thanks you ever so much. Did anyone notice that Lexi posted only "after" photos... and at this moment, KL only posted "before" photos?

Now. That. Is. Hardcore.

Word for Wednesday

Isaiah 11:6The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

God can do amazing things, work out problems we would think were impossible. If a leopard can lie down with a goat (and not to eat dinner, heh heh) then how much more can God resolve our day-to-day differences with others, or our financial worries that seem like those ends will never meet?

My picture is our lop-eared rabbit being watched over by the dog... not really a lion and lamb, but it is the best I could do to add a photo illustration, LOL, I couldn't go find a real lion and lamb together in my spare minute! Probably Amy Deanne could, though, so go check out her Word-Filled-Wednesday and get a list of others who are posting scripture today too!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sidetracked Tackle

I "see" your "kitchen" challenge, Lexi, and I up the ante to a "FIX SOMETHING MECHANICAL."

Now, if we were playing poker, you might call my bluff. But I have proof. Just ask my neighbors who run a b&b -- I fixed the electric fence charger, and my horses are not now nor were they ever eating anyone's lavender hedge. I promise. Because I am such a farmchick that I can fix fencing and electrical thingamajigs when my EGE is at work even.

Today I was all about finishing up my laundry room. An L-shaped room with five doors to our downstairs bathroom, the kitchen, the outside, the water heater closet, and the stairs, it is impossible to place anything in our laundry room. And yet we have "placed" plenty in there: an antique icebox used as pantry storage with laundry supplies on top; a stacked front-load high-capacity washer and dryer set; my treadmill; four hampers for lights, darks, bleachy needs, and delicates; and finally, a dresser for linens because my ancient church of a house has no storage whatsoever. I started the laundry room tackle last week, and my local farmchicky friends can attest that I have been digging it out with gusto. I WILL walk on that treadmill. Especially since now the weather is finally nice. Hunh. I WILL NOT have 10 loads to wash in my spare weekend time over Mother's Day. We WILL walk straight to the bathroom instead of detouring around hamper overflow.

But I digress. Backing up to the horse fencing: If you could have seen me in December, 9-plus months pregnant, losing rubber boots in the thigh-high mud, resetting posts in my last pair of maternity pants that fitted well enough to wear to the doctor's office, well, it was not a pretty picture. It was likely amusing, but not pretty. I didn't "glow," I glowered. Anyhoo, I have been fixing the fence since December. At least I'm not pregnant anymore, because it's really ugly to see a pregnant woman shocked with low voltage when the charger comes back on inexplicably.

We had a brief respite from fence fixing when my father-in-law (the nicest man on the planet, really) took pity on my pregnant patheticness and gave us a "bull killer." Now, do not call PETA on us. This is merely a rancher/farmer description for a fence charger that will shock through something thicker than dandelion puffs. They should call it "weed burner." No, that would be bad for Smokey the Bear. Anyhoo, it is a charger strong enough to remind the livestock they need to stay put. Even when it is turned off, they remember for a really long time the last time they were reminded. It works for me.

Until this morning. Yes, this fateful morning the EGE mentioned casually on his way out the door that the charger might need new fuses... he'd pick some up on his way home... the fence is off.

OH DRAT... double, triple, lousy stinky asterisk and exclamation point. If the charger is not working, I have to watch the horses like a horse hawk. I cannot leave my kitchen window unless it is to chase them back in the paddocks. Two Spot will not challenge the fence, nor will Seven. But yesterday we brought the naughty pony home from leased pasture and she is a Horsey Houdini. Dolly is her name. (I can think of a horror movie about a Dolly, too.) She will break out of her paddock at the first possible opportunity and head straight for the horse-hating b&b property next door and immediately commence munching on their flowerbeds.

All plans of polishing off the laundry room project were abandoned. I determined to FINALLY FIX THE FENCE. I'll fix that fence, my pretties!

It involved a lot of lying on the ground (remember me fixing the washer? I do rock the fix-it scene, huh?) and then on the floor of the barn with wires wrapped dangerously around my head. It involved my brother (don't tell the EGE I had help, cuz I plan on milking this one) arriving from town with fuses. It involved me stringing new extension cords and testing currents. I tell you, it was both technical and mechanical. It was astounding. No, I was astounding.

The horses were amazed at my ability. They had counted on a day of escape and chase but were foiled by little old housewifely me. A farmchick at last.

And that, my friends, is why I didn't finish my tackle today.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sheesh


After the Fabio comments, and the bad photo of the EGE squinting into the sun whilst sweating over the chicken coop foundation, and my sassiness in general, the EGE sent me an email (I knew he was reading my blog from work!):

Sheesh.

That's all it said. So then I sorted through my digital photos. It's a thin collection. Although I am a picture addict, this computer is new to me and I only had three months' worth of family snaps... and most are of the girls of course. I was looking for a drop-dead gorgeous picture of the EGE, so you'd all say how handsome he was (KL, didja HAVE to say it looked like he was wearing a yarmuckle?!? I know you didn't spell it right and neither did I -- we definitely could not pass in a synagogue!) and then I'd be off the hook about the Fabioso comparisons.

Unfortunately the best I could do was another squinty picture. Despite my lousy photography, which by the way would be completely fixed if someone bought me a Nikon digital SLR from the Shutterbug for, say, Mother's Day -- anyhoo, despite my lousy photography, it is perfectly clear from this photo that he is handsome, isn't he? Drop-dead gorgeous actually.



Come to think of it, this is my second post that comes around to begging for a camera. If the third time's the charm, y'all can look forward to another cockamamie (prolly don't spell that right either) justification of my need for the bells-and-whistles Nikon. But truly, truly, the EGE is a good-looking guy. I'm lucky he aged so well, because when I married him, I was SO in love with the mullet.



He could sell whipped-and-dyed hydrogenated fat (what did you THINK I was going to say?!) with the best of them. Except I need him around here for farm-type and engineering-type and father-type chores. Sorry, Parkay.

OH the Coop-Y-Ness!

My chicken coop is 99 percent done. All it lacks is a door and paint. We are buying paint today; the EGE will finish the door tonight.

I am now officially addicted to a site I visited for the first time yesterday. And of course I'm worried about myself, because there's probably no 12-step program for addictive personality as strong as all that. You have to go see it, because she's sick today and trying for 100 sympathy posts. I can totally respect that.

I'm sick today too. I'm not just saying that for the posts. But PLEASE post your condolences. It would be ever so pathetic if I helped the navel gazing goddess reach 100 posts and then I had, like, one.

My sickness is like this: fever, pounding inner ear, and most importantly, I have no voice. This is making the EGE very happy. He likes his peace and quiet A LOT. That's why God punished him, I mean blessed him, with four daughters.

We tried to balance out the noisiness of girl-o-rama with a move to the boondocks, which is very well documented to make no sense. There's a goat farm across the road, right next to the country school and the church. Goats are very, very noisy, especially the babies. I have just learned that this may be why they call them kids.

I just keep typing while I wait for a picture to load. Oh, the joys of dial-up. Now I'm going to leave you with this picture of Fabio... I mean my husband, the Eng-Gen-Eer and master coop builder.



Sunday, May 4, 2008

Coop de Ville

Our little chickens are all feathered out. While the girls and their friends sprouted tule fairy wings, the chicks were gaining real wings. They are just not fluffy anymore, nor are they fitting in their cage very well. So my EGE is busy building a new coop. We started on a chicken tractor, which is a super-cool farm implement by which the chickens can till and fertilize for you (who'd-u-thunk). But it was very unweildy even in the planning stages. So the EGE decided on a regular 4x4 coop with egg collection doors, four nesting boxes and a clever roosting ladder made out of -- what else -- an old wooden ladder.

The girls helped this afternoon. They helped a lot. They helped so much we all got kicked inside to take a nap and get out of the EGE's way.

Most importantly as regards us getting booted in the house, the EGE was worried that I'd put his picture on the internet and all the ladies in internetland who read my blog (all four of you) would fall madly in love with him and be swoonish as if he were the margarine commercial guy.

Fabio. That's my Eng-Gen-Eer... Fabio in the disguise of short salt-and-pepper hair and steel toed boots with khaki pants. Hmm.

I should mention we don't eat margarine. This is in no way a thinly veiled advertisement for whichever brand of whipped hydrogenated fat uses the psuedohunky guy with the thin long hair and the fake-o accent. The more I think (or type, which is almost as good as thinking, right?), maybe the EGE should have his picture in an ad.

Back to the chicken coop. Its construction was briefly interrupted so Madeleine and the EGE could deliver Madeleine's horse Seven to a trainer for a month. Sarah, Grace, Laura and I stayed home to cook dinner. That's clearly what I'm doing right now, you say to yourself. Hey! I can cook and blog at the same time.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

More Make Believe





Make Believe Fun

The wings turned out ever so cute. A little flannel, a little tule, some elastic and flower petals.



The craft table is buried in the flotsam and jetsam of fun.


Crafting the night away with seven little girls, one tiny baby and one little boy otherwise known as The Crown Prince of Fairyland... ah, wings and paint and glitter, oh my!



The little masks smell like a gas station so KL and I (yes, I had an adult on my team. The I.G. and the Eng-Gen-Eer took big boys to town for a movie... like wise men, really) let the girls glue flower petals all over the masks but we will not be wearing them. What is it with the plastic that smells like gasoline? Yuck.



I just finished making blueberry muffins, otherwise known as fairy cakes. The girls stayed up until almost 1:00 a.m. Now they are all watching Ella Enchanted while drinking homemade hot chocolate and inhaling the muffins. If the EGE doesn't come downstairs soon the breakfast will all be eaten by the dainty ones.