Monday, June 30, 2008

Coffee! My Kingdom For Some Coffee!

I have been having a pretty freaky morning. Out of coffee again. New kitten in the house. Well, it spends its nights in the shop, because the EGE is, um, not initially so thrilled about said new kitten.

(They were going to drown him. The kitten, not my eng-gen-eer husband. So what could I do?)

Madeleine is upstairs in Gracie's room working on a big "surprise." This means she'll emerge after a few hours having mercilessly edited (read: she's throwing away Gracie's treasures) and cleaned (read: our oldest has an obsession with Lysol).

Sarah is completely motionless on the couch holding the kitten. She's afraid to wake him up even though her legs are asleep and she has a "crik" in her neck.

Gracie woke up with a bloody nose geysering all over the quilt.

The new kitten has some sort of disgusting eye gunk issue and I will need to get myself into the feed store today for drops that I can only hope will cure the gunkiness.

Laura is on moosh food now, and it's made the diapers interesting, to say the least. This is yet another example of time going too quickly for me. She was literally born yesterday. Okay, six months ago, but still.

Independence Day is coming. This makes summer seem half over. I just sowed the second planting of swiss chard and acorn squash in the garden. Last night some neighbors stopped by and exclaimed at the cute factor of my raised beds. It is cute, I must say. Today I am going to try to build some more picket fence. Because I'm bored and it's 90 degrees and muggy, that's why.

The new chickens? Not so cute. I learned that two of them are a breed I think is called Kook-a-Morons. This is what Shelley, my personal chicken guru, told me. These chickens are absolutely out of their minds, and it's driving me there. Gone are the sweetly clucking Cochins and Araucaunas of our spring, and we are left with a summer of wild banshee chickens named after not-so-bright weirdos.

I simply must buy more coffee at a time.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Who Was That Masked Mamma?

You all should really meet my neighbor Shelley. She makes my meek attempts at farmchickiness looks like outright cityslickerness.

Shelley is a fourth generation rancher and farmer, a downright gorgeous strawberry blond 33-year-old woman with three young boys and a hardworking husband and all the makings of a Western picture show on their little spread.

She is also my sometime chicken guru.

So ... after our tragic loss last week, she got me a fatty hookup to some new 3-month-old hens. Phew. It's not quite the same as our hand-raised sweeties that the nasty raccoon ate, but it'll keep us in the egg business.

And not only did Shelley find me new hens, she went on the hunt. The raccoon hunt.

Think Annie Oakley without the Wild West show.

This woman, angry about my loss and fearing for the loss of her own flock, sat up nights for nearly a week and baited the nasty vermin with raw chicken (you know, from the grocery store). Then she sat in her master bedroom window with a shotgun, so as not to be detected, and waited.

And waited.

Four nights in a row, no raccoon. But on the fifth night, just when she had begun to think it had eaten my six chicklets and moved on to another area, JACKPOT.

The bandit crept out of the creekbed and showed its fuzzy little head. The way Shelley tells it, she had the critter in her scope and her itchy manicured finger on the trigger.

Chickens countywide, be free! Be free range! Shelley has the pullet-eating raccoon dead to rights. I don't know what "dead to rights" means. Possibly I use it incorrectly.

And then, right behind the raccoon, five little raccoons. Tiny, baby, fluffballs of future raccoon evil followed their mamma out of the reeds to nosh on Shelley's bait offering.

Her finger faltered. She says she actually uttered a prayer. Should I shoot them, God? It's a mother and her five babies. No wonder she ate so many of Miriam's chickens. She's feeding a family. And this we can understand. Amen.

In the end, we'll just have to button up our coops a little tighter. Because the ranch-hardened redhead couldn't do it, and I don't blame her.

In other country news:

My other awesome neighbor rescued this spotted fawn. Someone tragically hit and killed the mamma doe when the fawn was less than 24 hours old. So Jamie is bottle-feeding goat milk to the fawn until animal rescue arrives.

We can't get too close, becaue the fawn shouldn't get used to humans. Sarah took these pictures.

And finally, finally, we got to pick Madeleine up from camp. Here she is (on the left) with the same homegirls I posted before and with whom she partied with all week:

Doesn't she look tired? And isn't she beautiful? She looks like that baby fawn to me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Minor Miracle Every Morning

This morning I had an extra child in the house. This is nothing new. Just last week I had 17 children buzzing around here popping the buds off my peonies. And I will haul every last one of them back here until I find the culprit. (Just kidding.)

This morning, Madeleine was gone for the fifth morning in a row, and we had Sarah's friend Meg over. Meg is a middle child too; she and Sarah are kindred spirits and share their loves of reading, giggling, using my watercolor pencils, giggling some more. They stayed up way too late last night watching The Secret Garden and divvying up M&Ms by color. And we mustn't forget their most earnest endeavor to avoid the ever-annoying 4-year-old Gracie.

I had the pleasure of waking them up this morning because Meg had to be at summer school and my girls had to go to town with me.

So in these ways the morning was normal: banana nut waffles to make, horses and cats and rabbits to feed, five heads of hair to tame, garden to water, diapers to change, four sets of teeth (Laura, still no teeth!) to brush, coffeee to chug, books to find, freakouts to be had. We missed Maddy, but in sheer cacophony of tasks it was the status quo.

I hustled everyone into the Suburban with waffles in hand ("What, Meg, your family has syrup with waffles? That's nutty!") and made sure the teacher was present before leaving Meg at the school.

Halfway to town, I received a phone call from Meg's mother, a wonderful woman who is raising six amazing children. You may remember Maddy's friend Liam from his author's event. Yep, that's the family. We love them! We admire them! We want to know how the heck their mom does it! (I'm sure their dad helps, but for the purposes of this blog, I only cared about mom's input.)

So, in the interest of reporting to y'all, right after assuring my friend that her daughter was safely at school, I went ahead and asked. "Friend," said I, "How the heck do you do it?"

"It" being: six beautiful children always fully clothed and reasonably clean for country kids, remarkably well behaved, and usually prompt.

THIS IS MY POINT, in case you had given up on a point somewhere in this ramble. It's the PROMPT thing that stumps me.

I had high hopes. High-igh hopes, pie-in-the-sky-yiyi hopes. (There I go with the Broadway again.)

"Miriam," said my friend, "let me tell you."

"Yes, tell us! Me, I mean, me. Tell me." It might intimidate her to know there are at least three other people hanging on her parenting and tardiness avoidance advice.

"Miriam, let me tell you. It's a minor miracle every morning."

Oh. There's no system? No bullet point list? How can I blog a miracle, much less incorporate it into my daily life?

Now, my friend is a Catholic, so I think maybe this minor miracle is something you have to light a candle for. I'll have to ask. But I'll wait until tomorrow, and work it in all casual-like.

And along those lines, tomorrow it's really really important that I'm on time, because we are picking Madeleine up from camp! This was what she looked like on drop-off day:

I hope she doesn't look more than a week older. I have to say I'm handling this really well. Madeleine's been gone for six days and I haven't snuck out to the camp to spy on her. I did send seven letters, but that's just good parenting. Right?

It probably won't be very hard to be there early because I just can't believe I've made it this long. I must honestly like the craziness of four kids and hobby farm life, despite my incessant resulting tardiness. Don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Attacking the Problem

I'm not sure whether anyone else has noticed, but the price of gas has gotten a little out of hand.

We have to address the crazy price of fuel somehow, but my coupon scissors are rusty. And who am I kidding? Coupons cannot dent this behemoth machine. Inflationary gas laughs in the face of flimsy newsprint 25-cent-off deals. Our fuel bill this month? $1334. No, I did not misplace a decimal.

Sarah suggested that the EGE might want to ride a horse to work. This could prove to be a good idea. I can see him now: calculator in one hand, reins in another, khakis astride a saddle, 19-inch laptop cleverly balanced on the horn.

The only real question is how to get the field crews out of their diesel-guzzling SUV rigs and onto horseback too. All the guys on the crew are outdoorsy -- maybe that's why they work on the field crew. It shouldn't be a far leap to equestrian surveying and engineering. I spy a new niche market. (Or not. I just had a mental picture of one of the 300-pound liberally tattooed guys tromping through brush while holding a big yellow tripod on horseback. Not exactly King Arthur's court.)

When we were 20-something newlyweds, kidless and fancy free, my husband and I drove 1966 Chevy Malibus. The cars were 20-something too, and super cool. Like salt and pepper shakers, his was gunmetal gray and mine was pearl white. They got approximately two miles to the gallon, but we looked goo-ood going down the road. At one point the EGE even told me that I needed to have more "attitude" in order to drive his muscle car coupe (mine was the four-door).

These days the EGE drives a sensible black sedan and I drive the oft-chronicled big white beast of a Suburban. Still like salt-and-pepper shakers. However, no one gets whiplash off a stop sign and no one flags us down on the interstate wanting to buy our cars.

But we only get marginally better than the two miles per gallon of our youth. Of course, at that point, gas was closer to one dollar a gallon than five. Sigh.

Back in the day (feeling older with each keystroke), the EGE was still in school, and I was a cub reporter at a daily paper. We earned about as much per hour as it took to buy a gallon of gas. Our rent on a quaint riverfront cottage was $225 per month. The EGE mowed and did yard work for our landlords to offset some of that. I swear we used to cruise the aisles of the grocery store, Sherm's Thunderbird Market, dreaming of the day we could afford name-brand groceries. My mother used to ship huge care packages of dry goods to the starving students, otherwise known as us.

These days, I cruise the perimeters of the grocery store once a month, plant a huge garden, avoid name brands and packaged goods like the costly plague they are, and dream of filling the gas tank for less than $150. And my secondary dream is feeding the horses for less than it costs to feed my children. This is why Sarah's suggestion of a mounted engineer was brilliant.

I can see us entering a whole new chapter of our lives, horseback and living off the land. Who needs a Suburban when I have a double jogging stroller and internet access? Really. This will teach those darn oil companies a lesson.

Oh, Oh, Oh, Wednesday

The other day I was sitting in traffic, singing a little. Like, oh-oh-o-o-h, Wed-nehs-daay!

No reason.

Then I remembered people can see me acting like a cast member of Hairspray.

But who am I to turn all self-conscious and vain... when in front of me at the light, there's a much better reason to do the traffic stop double-take:

What do you think? Is this guy delivering his daughter's tap shoes or what? It makes me think abou the fact that every guy I dated (save the EGE, who stuck) rode a motorcycle and played the guitar. It was my M.O., dating-wise. Just not marriage-wise. Whew.

So, today: Coffee's in the house, weather's slightly overcast with a chance of beautiful, the girls are sleeping. Later today Sarah is having a friend over. Maddy's still at sleep-away camp. We haven't had any phone calls of doom, so I'd say it's going well.

Oh, oh, oh, wed-nehs-daay.

I have much proposal writing to do today, and a little goofing off. And a lot of Broadway-style singing to sneak in.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Abducted By Aliens... Returned Unharmed

I'm not really sure what happened there... it's all a little hazy. Posting without words? Can you even IMAGINE that was me?

While I was on the little green mothership, here's what happened on our tiny farm:

The weather got really hot and muggy. The girls dug out their swimsuits and filled the sandbox with water and then took all my plasticware... here's a good reason not to get rid of your sippy cups... and had a huge water war or two. It was death by spray nozzle if they came near me or the baby as we lounged in my favorite vintage lawn furniture. The best moment was when Sarah inadvertently hit Gracie in the back with a cup full of water. Gracie spun around with every ounce of her just-turned-4 indignation to shout, "Hey! I's on YOUSE team! 'MEMBER?" I took bunches and bunches of pictures on the "action" mode of the loaner camera and got a lot of shots of empty lawn, because the girls are really fast.

I worked on a proposal for the company to buy me a new camera.

A nasty raccoon broke into my cute little chicken chalet and We raised those chicks from one day old. They were so very cute. I have many pictures of them, just like of all my babies, but I'm too heartbroken to post any photos now. The EGE worked many a weekend on the chalet, bending to my every whim as regarded the roosts, and security, ventilation, and aesthetics, etc. only to have one 40-pound rodent eat a very large dinner. I will spare you the wailing and gnashing of teeth but let you know that I have now moved on to being willing to shoot a gun.

I worked on a proposal for the company to buy me a new shotgun.

The EGE dug for me four more raised planting beds in my uber-cute new garden site. I had grossly underestimated my planting space needs (and I might have visited my favorite nursery). A neighbor (they're all so helpful) came over in the 90 degree heat to tell the EGE that his design looked just like an ancient Aztec planting system in which they buried gravel in the low spots and planted their whatever in the high spots, allowing the soil to warm quicker and I guess the water to reach the roots easier. My husband is much more patient than I; he listened and nodded and sweated while the neighbor chatted.

I worked on a proposal for the company to buy me a privacy fence.

We dropped off Madeleine at her first week-long sleep-away camp. Oh, the angst. And the eye rolling. The EGE spent the hour drive telling Madeleine it wasn't too late to change her mind; we'd turn right around if she was nervous or worried about being homesick. I'm pretty sure he was joking. Sarah spent the drive making a list of what to do while Madeleine is away. It's a good list, and it starts with eating as many beans as she wishes (the girls share a room, and this bean eating has been an issue). What a nut. Madeleine was completely unaffected by any of our behaviour. She skipped off to her cabin upon arrival, found a long-lost friend or three, and submitted grudgingly to my kisses goodbye.

I worked on a proposal for the company to buy me a longer summer.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Because Dogs Are People Too

The whole concept of Hallmark Holidays has been on my mind. There's a day for everything, and boy, if you miss it, it'll come around again next year. Because it's not only the National Day Of [fillintheblank], it's the ANNUAL National Day Of.

On the other hand, the NDO you're most interested in might recur tomorrow, because no one's in charge of this "National Day Of" business... it's not trademarked, or service marked or otherwise the intellectual property of anyone as far as I can tell. And my research was intensive: I Googled it.

Probably someone somewhere knows how to make money on this. After all, there's gobs of money to be made in blogging (so I've been told). It's no less likely that the National Day Of Raking In The Bucks is right around my proverbial corner.

ANYWHAT, today, according to my holiday-laden calendar, is National Bring Your Dog To Work Day.

Look at that dog. I had to search pretty hard to find some pictures of him. I have mentioned before that he seems to be in the background of every picture, but it now comes to light that I never set out to take a picture of him. Poor, poor Jake. (Name changed to protect the innocent. Or not. He kind of gets in the trash a lot.)

So National Bring Your Dog To Work Day is like every other day in our house. YAY. The EGE takes Jake (yes, it's his real name; he's named after our former foster dog; we're unoriginal that way) to work every day. Woo Hoo! Hurray! I am the luckiest girl on the planet!

It's not that I don't love the dog. I do. I have to say that or my children will stage a protest and refuse to eat dinner.

I love the dog, but I do not love his actions. He is a retriever and it shows in all sorts of obnoxious ways. A few weeks ago I read a lovely post of Barb's in which she photojournaled her dog's retrieval of the paper. How helpful! How All-American! Barb's husband even told her how to tell me how to teach Jake to do such a marvelous chore daily. Unfortunately, Jake is too smart to be that helpful.

He certainly knows how to retrieve, and this is my main reason for rejoicing as soon as he leaves the house with the EGE every morning. He spends every waking hour retrieving. Dirty socks. Our front and back doors are usually littered with these gifts, and a nine-hour break from repeatedly returning socks to their proper hamper residences is welcome. When there is no dirty laundry, Jake will settle for clean laundry. He picks up folded towels and carries them to me. He drives me up the retrieving wall.

Once I even called a pet counselor, I mean dog trainer, who told me that Jake was merely looking for a job to do. Um, psychic, hunh?

Now that Jake goes to the office every day, he has a favorite drafter. This hurts the EGE's dog-owning ego a little, maybe. The favorite drafter runs at lunch and leaves his running shoes at the back door of the office. That is, he tries to leave them there, but of course the dog keeps retrieving them. Don't you just love a dog who keeps his job consistent?

Come to think of it, National Take Your Dog To Work Day might've been meant for me. Maybe Jake was trying to remind me to catch up on the laundry. Don't tell my husband, willya?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just Trying It Out

Some farmgirl friends of mine who shall remain nameless like to live in their pjs all day. Not me. I like to put on my skirt or jeans just as soon as I wake up. You never know who might be knocking on the door. Some older folks around here still remember when my house was a country church. They drop in for coffee and visit and then look around and say, "sure was cleaner when it was a house of worship." Okay, so they don't say that out loud.

Anyway today I am out of coffee. That is worth a whole post all by itself so let's just pause a minute.

After realizing that I was out of coffee, I cried and cried cathartic tears. Not really. In actuality I just decided to embrace the day anyway. Walking around my garden in the warming morning sun with a bracing mug of water. It's just not the same. But then, who needs to get in a rut? Not me, I answer wholeheartedly.

That is not my garden. That is a neighboring hay field. Because my new prozac is farm photos. If they put you to sleep, I'm sorry, but I'm out of coffee.

Maybe because of the coffee canister vacancy and maybe because I'm just cracked, this morning I decided to live on the edge and do the morning garden stroll and animal chores in my pajamas. If my fellow farmgirls find it comforting and acceptable, I think to myself, I'll just test that out for a day. Why not?

So fully covered but frankly ridiculous in my pink Race for the Cure tshirt and my husband's red flannel moose print pajama bottoms rolled up eight times to reveal sparkly black and red rubber boots, I set out for the farmyard with my mug of water. To get the full picture you'd have to know that I also sported bed head. My hair is of the auburn naturally frizzy huge type. Without the weightless serum (which I've thoroughly beta tested for you and now know to only smooth the hair, not the thighs whatsoever) my hair is a sight to behold. From 50 feet or further.

I was already regretting my pajama choice when I opened the chicken yard gate and got the flannel bagginess caught in the chicken wire. Not very hygienic, ew; I'm squeamish about chicken germs for a farmgirl. I had to put down my mug. It says "We Don't Care How They Do It In New York" and features as decoration a woman reclined at her desk with a stalk of hay in her mouth. Weird. Everyone knows they do that in New York all the time. Also I don't EVER put hay in my mouth because it's approximately ten thousand dollars a ton and I need six tons for the horses to make it through the winter.

After I disentangled my pajamas from the gate and retrieved my cup (note to self: bleach the cup; it may have contracted chicken germs) I fed the horses, making sure to steer well-clear of the electric wire at the top of the paddocks. Wouldn't want to get stuck there, continuously shocking myself until I could untangle the big pjs. Because I don't need electroshock therapy -- remember I have my farm photos now.

I successfully (this is relative, give me a break) finished the farm chores in pajamas! I was SO in the clear, walking back up to my house enjoying a piece of lettuce I snagged out of the garden. That will have to be breakfast because it's just wrong to eat toast without coffee. So picture me, if you will, dangling a germy cup, in full pj regalia and with a cloud of hair and no makeup, entering my picket fence front yard to find the nice Jehovah's Witnesses visiting.

There's just no reason to think wearing pajamas all day is relaxing.

I remain, respectfully, your skirt-clad farmgirl. On my way to town to buy coffee.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Look! Just there beyond the brambly wild roses... it's some irrigation, and then further out a dinky Century farmhouse, and beyond that some hilly treed country. I'm telling you, there's some perspective to be gained by driving the back way.

That perspective is hard to see in the picture. Maybe a telephoto lens woulda helped. A thousand words are worth a picture, right?

I'm not supposed to tease about the DSLR of my dreams anymore, and since I am now declaring a year of Contentment and Hope (I promise that's not contradictory), it's okay that I'm using a camera on loan from the EGE's office. In fact, I am blessed to have the office lend me a camera when I have droppedeth my own. One of these days my grateful attitude will surely earn for me the camera of my dreams. But I'm not angling. Nope.

Because... today is National Splurge Day. I did not make this up in a pathetic attempt to justify my ice cream habit. It's right there on my calendar, so you know it's official.

National Splurge Day. What shall we do with this?

I already spent my mystery money on camp for the girls. Sigh. So splurging will have to be of the frugal variety.

Food is out, due to excessive splurging throughout pregnancy. Shopping is out, due to aforementioned million dollar camps. Plus I hate to go shopping.

I know! I know! I'll read blogs all day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Electroshock Therapy, Anyone?

Yesterday, in search of the missing peace, I spent a little time with my horse. Well, with the horse who came with my horse.

My horse, Seven, is a stunning true black Quarterhorse mare with a flowing black mane and tail. She is powerfully built with a "neat" head and huge brown eyes. The moment I saw her three years ago I knew ... it was corny... it was true... it was fate that we met.

And she was a package deal with Colorful.

Now, Colorful is a gentlemanly sort of gelding. He's three times Seven's age, and he's an Anglo Arab. What the heck is that, you ask? Think of him as the guy Scarlett O'Hara wanted to marry, the one who chose Melanie instead. If I could think of his name, that would be good. Suffice it to say that Colorful is no Rhett Butler. And with a name like "Colorful," who could be?

The girls renamed him Two Spot in an attempt to give his manliness a boost, but it was no use. He is trained through-and-through for dressage, and no amount of rodeo name change will alter the scent of this rose.

Weird metaphor mixing aside, he's a nice boy and good to hang out with in the paddock. He leans his dishy head in close for a forehead rub. He lowers his unbelievable eyelashes and gazes at me with soulful brown eyes as though I am the only girl in the paddock. Well, I am. Seven is off at the trainer for a couple of months. Because she's Madeleine's now. There's no stopping the passage of time, and Madeleine and Seven, they're like that. Two peas in a pod, two firey comets shooting through a youthful sky, the whole ball of wax.

Two Spot is nearly twenty, which is middle age in horse years. He's seen a lot, done it all, and is phased by nothing. Sort of like me. (Did I hear a snort?)

So yesterday I was communing with my horse, pondering the fact that my true horse love has chosen to bond instead with my daughter, and that my whole comfort system is a little off right now. When not even the act of pulling weeds in the dewy morning will lift my spirits, we know (mysteriously, like Miss Clavel) something is not right.

Whilst leaning in to the warm shoulder of Two Spot, baby monitor clipped to my pocket, sun shining on my farmgirl bandana head, I leaned just a little too far. My right shoulder contacted the top wire. The one that keeps the horses from reaching over to greener grass, you know, the electrified wire?

The shock of that wire traveled right through me into venerable old Two Spot. He barely flinched, which is more than I can say for me. Maybe I'm not as bomb proof as I thought.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Make Lemonade

I have been so in the depths of despair. I may even be suffering from some sort of personality disorder which causes me to only blog when I can think of something not suicidal positive to say, because I have been pretty sure no one wanted to hear about my doldrums. So I just keep up the cute-cute scrapbook, farm family adorability factor (blogwise, anyhow).

And everything is really fine.

I am truly glad it's summer break. Friday I had 17 kids (counting my four, but still) swarming our property. Friday night we entertained around our firepit. Saturday I cried out CABIN FEVER and was excited to go on the jaunt through neighboring farm communities while we ostensibly sought garage sales.

Sunday we celebrated Father's Day in the way the EGE most likes: staying home. Well, we didn't stay home exactly, but we didn't get in the car either. We walked to church. Sarah treated the entire family to ice cream after we walked to the General Store. Madeleine baked a carrot cake. We walked to a neighbor's for sitting-on-the-lawn time. The EGE installed a new latch on the chicken run gate.

Today I put Laura down for her morning nap, fixed breakfast for the big girls, and then spent more than an hour in my garden, pulling suspicious seedlings and watering while the horses hung over the garden fence, perplexed at my inattention. I fed the animals (horses included) and watered the flowers out front. I didn't even take my phones with me, so you know I was seeking some peace and quiet.

More than quiet, I am looking for that lost peace. I know I put it somewhere, but I can't quite think where. Was it in the garden? Up at the school? Or, I know, buried in the flotsam and jetsam of the Suburban floor.

There is nothing wrong. So why does it feel like I'm making lemonade?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Serendipitous Saturday

Sometimes I get kind of selfish with my time. Sometimes one more request for fishy crackers a mere 15 minutes before dinner is enough to push me to the edge: “Have I ever failed to feed you?”

I don’t think it’s funny. I think it’s brittle and rough, a little like a cuticle that’s been dehydrated by too many sinks full of dishes followed by too many small jeans to fold. It finally tears jagged and I look at my fingers and think about that manicure/pedicure gift certificate my husband gave me two Mothers Day years ago, and I can’t think of where it is because I’ve saved every Wednesday Notice and Weekend Journal and Timed Multiplication Test and I’m buried in the double jeopardy paper piles of public school and private education.

Then I dreamthink about my apartment in college and how the yogurt used to skitter around in the refrigerator alone. I'd just open the fridge, take the cover off of a Yoplait, and dinner was done. How peaceful, really.

I wish that I had more patience. I wish that the last child’s request of the day were not emotionally draining on me any more so than the first sweet “Good Morning.”

So... yesterday I had a serendipitous day out that soothed the chapped patience more than a little.

My friend KL and I had to run an errand to H&E Feed. The nice boy who loaded our 50-pound bags of feed said, "Are you heading out West for the 55-mile garage sale?"

We said, "of course!"

Well, first we checked our husbands' schedules and got our Dutch Brothers mochas and stopped for directions to the fabled country road trip that's annually chockablock with bargains and treasures. A couple of years ago a woman reportedly bought an antique toaster on this same stretch of rural highway and ended up selling it on Ebay for thousands. Of dollars.

It took a few miles of chatting, but we finally saw a garage sale sign. Notice we had to turn off of Bramble onto Paradise. I crack myself up.

Then we drove a long, long way. Much more than a mile. We saw a lot of abandoned tractors and decrepit barns and stopped at a sale, only to find that the legendary 55-mile sale is not until next weekend.

Oh, well. It was a nice drive.

And once again, it was so nice to come home.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Flower Brigade

Can you imagine we're going to cut her hair next week? Is there anyone with a moment of silence for my selfish sadness?

Thursday was the last day of school. The girls enjoyed a field day in which every athletic event was rewarded with sugar. Do the limbo, get a donut. Run four laps of the track, have a popsicle. Three-legged races, pie for everyone. Pie eating contest (I'm not kidding), winners get more pie.

After the sugar crash, we all walked our country road with flowers they picked from my garden for the "neighbors."

We surprised a few grandmas on the road. My favorite was when one lovely octogenarian asked the girls very gingerly whether they pulled the Sweet Williams up out of her flowerbeds. As soon as she knew they were mine, she was delighted with the gift.

Then we lolled around on the porch of the Grange Hall for a while. Did you know the Grange is a members-only deal? I never knew that before. We're not members, but they still let us be lazy in the shady porch.

It was hot, so we had some ice cream before I started to mull over dinner choices. Sarah had a friend over so I felt the pressure to cook something memorable. Then a miracle happened when pizza was delivered. (Our nearest pizza parlor is 23 miles away.) A neighbor had a big function at work, and thought our family would appreciate a leftover whole pizza pie. We did!

A rousing game of BINGO followed by very competitive Connect Four in one corner and Chess in the other rounded out the first night of summer vacation.

I do so love my life.

And Weightless TOO!

This morning I was in my bathroom sorting through the mountain of hair products and cosmetics. It was a dizzying experience.

Everyone in our family has a lot of hair. Maddy and Sarah both have decided, along with their best friend forever Nicole, to chop off their streaming rodeo princess tresses for Locks of Love. I'm not sure which of the fantabulous trio came up with this idea, but of course we're proud of them and more than willing to help them help others.

As long as my girls' heads don't end up looking like lambs' butts in the spring.

Okay, just kidding! They will look cute in their little chin-length bobbed hairdos. And it's a wonderful cause. I may even rope Gracie in if her hair will still cover her ears after the requisite 10 inches is cut. Her ears are a story for another day. Or not; she's learning to read too quickly for me to keep writing about her ears and such.

So back to the big product purge. Our 120-year-old church-turned-farmhouse is blessed with two smallish (but marble!) bathrooms and next to no (not even any marble) storage. When we bought here, I spent a good month mourning my old linen closet alone. That closet was a walk-in wonderland crammed with my obsession #433 : linens. Now, I live in rural paradise in my dream of an old country church, but I have to put my towels in baskets under the sink and my extra sheets between the mattresses and boxsprings. The Princess and the Pea all over again.

Criminy! I was writing about HAIR PRODUCTS. (Just in case you forgot, because clearly I did. It must be the Aquanet fumes getting to me.)

Anywhat, I wasn't purging the hair products because of the impending hair shortage in our household, but rather because the hair products were taking over both bathrooms to such an extent that Gracie actually washed her hands with apple-scented hair gel several times before I realized it. This was a sticky mess, and I was determined to get to the root of the problem and hide or throw away all tress taming goo.

That's when I came across the miracle potion I didn't know I owned: Weightless Serum. The brand name I am sworn to keep a secret unless you email me at mirisfullofballoney at aol dot com. My loaner camera is back with its lender for the week (sheesh) or I'd take a picture of the Weightless Serum and blot out the brand name with my nonexistent Photoshop skills. Just so it looked like one of those Oprah review shows.

Oprah only reveals the brand name of stuff that she personally recommends, and I must follow suit until I am personally ready to vouch for the Weightless Serum (can you hear the symphony every time I type "Weightless Serum"?). I want to believe it'll make me look just like the girl on the bottle (which costs a mere $16.99), but it's most likely not a time machine even if it does smooth better than a pair of spanks and render me next to weightless.

I'm stretching here, but I've been up all night with Laura, so the rambling is justifiable mommy mush plus bathroom organization madness plus sleep deprivation equals one weird post. That's how good my math is.

And my hair looks fabulous. But my excess weight is still there, so the jury's still out on the Weightless Serum (now you're hearing a sinister drum roll for effect). On the upside, if I take part in the hair shearing, I might lose three or four pounds. And then I could throw away at least one more hair product and have room for the toothpaste in the drawer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Word for Wednesday * Let Me Hear

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.
I really do want to hear. To listen and really, really hear.
Go visit Amy Deanne at the 160 Acre Woods for more Word-Filled Wednesday.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Dilemma... A Quandary... And A Tough Choice, Too

So today I'm in a pickle.

Today I have in my possession some mailbox money. You know, the kind of money that shows up in your mailbox unannounced, unattended, unexpected. We love that kind of money.

Usually we only get the kind of money we've been waiting... and waiting... and waiting some more for. Or the kind of money that makes me feel like a toddler in a tea shop: "remember, looking and not touching."

The regular expected money's a little less green somehow. Maybe that's the reason behind the new purple bills. I'm not sure; the Feds don't keep me in the loop. Sheesh.

The mailbox money is not a lot of money. It would, for instance, almost buy me a shmancy new camera, or almost take our family on a three-day weekend to the beach. It would almost do a lot of things, but it's not close to, say, a mortgage payment. That's good, because I wouldn't want to be tempted to do something boring with it.

And the other thing. The mailbox money has my name and my name only on it. This is not exactly fair of me to point out. Almost all the money has only the EGE's name on it, but he's still a good share bear.

Ooh! Taking suggestions in the comment box!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Spring Fling

I'm still spinning too.

Last night was our rural school's Spring Fling. You might think of it as a convention of all things farmish. The local Grange, Rebecca Lodge and school district join forces every year here and throw a party. We're a little fun-deprived in the country, evidently, because everyone between birth and 90 in a 10-mile radius shows up to eat chili dogs and root beer floats, to get their faces painted with butterflies and go "fishing" for two-liter sodas and plastic ladybug rings.

Mayberry meets Mitford in this rife-with-raffles soiree. Grandpas rig the "jailhouse" for locking up errant teenage boys. Two tickets or ten minutes in the brig to cool off. Grandmas fight over all the babies. The teachers take turns in a dunk tank and the kindergarteners get to push the button, bypassing any need for good aim with a softball. The fifth- and sixth-graders put on a radio play: The Lasagna Massacre. A local massage therapist set up for five-minute massages for five bucks... to benefit the school of course. I was disappointed that this year she put the nix on back-to-back massages, but it was okay, because I could have easily blown all the kids' carnival ticket money in the shoulder-tension releasing department. For the good of the school.

Here are my three big girls, plus KL's daughter, visiting from Katie's Calamities:

But I know you're asking yourself why I might have shoulder tension in the midst of all this hilarity. I'm so glad you asked! It's because I am FARMGIRL (hear me roar). Yesterday before the Spring Fling, the EGE had other engagements (aka his little brother's season-ending baseball game). We also needed six-foot-tall fence pickets and eight-foot wiggle board (doesn't that sound exotic?) from the home improvement store.

What to do? No manly help is readily available. The Suburban will not hold the lumber, at least not while holding the children and myself too. Need the lumber. Have no man labor. Oh my.

Well, friends, you are reading the post of a girl who can drive the treacherous twisty back country roads with a 3,000-pound horse trailer hitched up to the Suburban by the most innocent-looking two-inch ball of steel. AND then this girl can shop the lumberyard. AND THEN she's more than able to drive home without losing any lumber or the horse trailer OR her sweet disposition!

The nice men at the lumberyard did help me a lot. But they looked at me a little weird when I was taking pictures for my blog. Unfortunately, the pictures didn't turn out, because I'm trying to figure out this loaner camera. Never mind, I can bring home the lumber and... um... build it into a fence. (Shave and a haircut... two bits.)

Sarah was super impressed that we were in and out of the hardware store in only 15 minutes. I made her promise to tell Daddy how efficient I was. Then I made all the girls be silent the whole way home because I might have been sweating the curves just a little.

And after all that, we made it home just in time to brush everyone's hair and twiddle our thumbs while waiting for the EGE to race home from the baseball game. Grandma came over and we all walked up to the school.

Did I mention the petting zoo? Out here in the boondocks, the petting zoo is not composed of farm animals. Nope, no miniature goats and rabbits for these country children, because they're all tired of feeding those animals at home. Our petting zoo boasted a 50-year-old escaping tortoise, a lemur, some creepy reptilian things and not enough hand sanitizer.

Non sequitur du jour:

This one's for all the Lyle fans:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thanks, Dad

The fact that Father's Day is fast approaching has nothing to do with this post. The fact that I gave my blog address to my dad this week did make the teensiest contribution.

I have written here before about a few things I'd rather my loved ones didn't know... how I still drink soda that's laced with brain damage, I mean aspartame, for instance. How I once took my husband's vintage BMW out for a spin (that was me, honey) and an entire truckload of drywall compound left a stoplight too quickly and hence dumped its load of sticky, fast-drying mess on the hood of his beloved car. Oops, I didn't write about that yet. Now I feel better.

But the truth is that my loved ones already know this stuff about me, and worse things even, and they most likely still love me. Honey?

I have written here before about a few things I'd rather complete strangers didn't know... how I occasionally enjoy a top shelf margarita (blended with salt of course; I make a mean one) or a glass of wine with or without dinner. Sometimes (well, just the once) I tell my kids they can go to bed hungry if they don't like what I cooked. Sometimes I watch (gasp) Grey's Anatomy and I OFTEN read things that don't come close to meeting the bar of literature or hard news. Blogs, for example (just kidding! Y'all are writing some fine literature.).

And the truth about this is that my readers will either laugh with relief, because they're not perfect either, or they'll click away to a more perfect blogger. Please don't.

I'm just doing my best to share the things that are on my mind. I hope you'll do the same.

So after I gave my blog address to my dad -- and he had been asking for it for about a month -- he called me up to say: "This is your private stuff. I don't want to read about this." [Then my dad went on to say that it goes without saying that my writing is good, always has been, blah, blah, blogworthy not.]

Well... um... hate to disappoint, but this blog is not my private stuff, any more than Grey's Anatomy is Masterpiece Theater. That is certainly not to say that my private thoughts and writings are all PBS and highbrow, either. I know, you're surprised, hunh?

For years and years, before I understood what an icon might be, I looked up to an iconic author. Nonfiction, fiction, theology, journals, poetry. I could swim in L'Engle's writings. And I've felt like I knew her, when of course I didn't. There are others: Anne Lamott, Grace Paley. I wonder what those women would have done with a blog? (A-hem. Anne, if you're blogging, I'm gonna go Google it in a minute.)

I don't know how to put the deeper stuff out there. I don't really know how to be funny, or philosophical, and I don't really know how to be anything other than I've been so far. I don't know how to share the "private stuff" and still walk around as a semblance of me. I'd like to, because I have so deeply appreciated the brave people who do, and I want to emulate them. But that stuff is, well, private. And I may not be good enough with words to put the required distance between my heart and the keyboard. And then it might not be worth reading anyway. Hmm.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Missing Mystery Notebook

Today's blog title, courtesy of Madeleine.

My 9-year-old daughter wrote a chapter book, as I mentioned. Yesterday she read it at a schoolwide author's presentation. The real mystery is when did she learn this stuff? Foreshadowing. Recurring themes. Snappy dialogue. A moral, and a redemptive ending, for Pete's sake.

Miss Sarah also favored us with a reading of her lately published non-fiction booklet on the subject of Polar Bears. The audience was enthralled with her compilation of little-known (to second-graders, and okay, me too) facts. "During the course of my research..." she began. What 7-year-old talks like that?

We can pretend (if you want to play along) that I'm objective. Or not.

It might be kinda wrong if I wasn't all puffed up, right? Wrong? Right.

I am so excited for the summer. It isn't very cool of me, I know. I should feign some harried motherhood dread about having all four kids in the house and yard and Suburban all the long, hot, cranky days of the season. But give me a minute with my joy, why doncha? I'm bound to whine at you later, and you're welcome to say you told me so.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Saints Preserve Me

Two years in a row now I have done a little social experiment on my own self. This highly scientific experiment is called the spending hiatus, or spending freeze, or let's-watch-Miriam-melt-down-without-money. We know very well I can melt down with money, so this was a new twist on my generalized anxiety disorder (no disrespect intended) as it pertains to spending money.

In 2007 I had company in the spending freeze experiment. At the time, my good friend KL from Katie's Calamities lived a half mile down our country road. We were, shall we say, not good for each other's budgets. It was all the fault of her nine-passenger Suburban. Mine seats the normal eight, but hers is the supersub and could hold all of our combined seven children and the two of us for a junquing run to the city. Ah, the treasures we found whilst drinking Dutch Brothers mochas. I fondly remember our frequent tug-of-war over vintage linens and antique books. Or, even better, we frequented the feed store. Her barn was so well outfitted with beautiful galvanized metal necessities, otherwise known as farmbling, that it just about blinded the chickens.

In 2008 I was alone in my 10-day quest for monklike frugality. Alas, KL moved to greener pastures 12 miles away. I had another baby, and my only friend who possesses a 15-passenger van has nine children... and I have four children now, and there are two adults, and carseats to install, and the math of that just, frankly, confuses me. Plus, my husband has had it up to here with the use of his shop bay as storage for my crap. And, our cute detached garage I'd hoped to transform into a guest cottage ala MaryJane's farm -- it too is piled high. (To be fair, there's a vintage BMW in there that I did not pick up on any junquing expedition.)

I may be getting to a point here someday.

After two separate deliberate attempts at "making do" and tightening the proverbial belt, I am here to declare a new farm order. Instead of limiting my spending, since that can be done for me by changes in income, changes in interest rates, IRS interest in our changes in income, etc., I declare a time freeze.

It no longer freaks me out to go a few days without spending a dime. Well, okay, I still can represent. I chronicled a few representative freak-outs during my latest spending freeze. But that was because I was unprepared. Plus, I was giving up stuff I really care about: spendy lattes, Diet Coke, books, store-bought play dough.

For this time freeze I am completely and utterly prepared. I don't want to alarm anyone, but if we stopped right here, I'd be okay. The lawn is mowed, the pantry is full, the garden is in, the girls are all 9 and under.

Ah, there's the rub.

This very year, Madeleine will turn double digits. Laura will move from infancy to toddlerhood faster than her chubby legs will take her. Our sweet Sarah will likely graduate from Shetland pony to full-size horse, and Grace is already FREAKING READING and she just turned 4. So give me a break, just a little break, to look at all my babies and say, that's enough now.

Time doesn't have to actually stop. Slowing down would be enough for me. I just want to stop spending it so fast already. All of my neighbors, real and cyber, are welcome to keep me company in this time freeze. There's plenty of room in this Suburban. Clark Kent can be summoned if necessary to fly backwards around the world. Alice can drink a special potion, Kafka can stop with the bug analogy already, and we can stop. right. here. Peter Pan is on our side, so what can be wrong with this idea?

I want to hoard the little minutes in my purse, every moment of this crazy life, because I'm afraid it's being squandered.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

That’s Right, I’m Not From Texas

I love me some Lyle Lovett. I am known amongst my farm- and city-folk friends alike as a Lyle, um, lover. One time I spent my wedding anniversary with Lyle. (Hush. It was not so much an outdoor ampitheater as a singing stroll through the park. Lyle was serenading me.) My husband is understanding like that. Plus it’s in our pre-nups. Lyle and me, we’re like THAT.

But my friend Barb over at So, The Thing Is… she loves her some Lyle too. She can even put Lyle into her blog somehow. She’s amazing. Or maybe Lyle likes her better than me and loans her his best music videos exclusively because his poetic nature is perfectly in tune with her poetic day-to-day life. (What’s that? You can download songs online? With video?)

And then, my friend Ei, she's in love with Lyle too. I'm not sure whether she's from Texas because she's a cyberfriend (first I typed cyberfiend. I have a problem typing too fast.), but she loves Lyle a lot (maybe more than I) and she's available. She doesn't have to exercise any prenups to stroll through the park with the big-haired cowboy crooner.

So basically, it's like an episode of The Bachelor, where Lyle has to choose between all these lovely ladies. I think I got kicked off on the first rose ceremony. But until I was a blogger I thought it was just me an' Lyle, alone in the world.

Speaking of my husband Fabio, he corrected me on two counts over the weekend. Maybe more than that, but only two come to mind immediately. Because I’m forgetful.

(one) Tom Clancy was not an attorney. He was a financial adviser. Even better! A financial adviser turns popular spy-thriller novelist. Surely if I can surreptitiously borrow WiFi all the while having no clue what WiFi stands for, and subsequently zoom out of the neighborhood undetected, passing a “Shotz” coffee stand that says “FREE WIFI” in red neon letters – surely if I am stealthy enough to pull off such a Saturday out-of-state mission, I could easily sneak in and out of a government building with high-tech secret documents, photograph them, and then replace them with cleverly doctored fake-o documents to throw off the competition spies, all the while safeguarding my infant and pre-schooler in the double jogger. Wait, they already did that movie. I think it was called “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

(two) I’m not from Texas. I had forgotten.

My husband, Fabio, moonlights as an engineer. You may know him as EGE, or the Eng-Gun-Ear. (It’s a dumb inside joke among the pocket-protector set.) His first job – aside from that little margarine thing – is fact repository. Within moments of reading my last post, he was advising me that I had fact errors. So now he has a new side job. As my fact checker. Because he remembers all sorts of things like what Tom Clancy's pre-published career was. And he still has room for lots of baseball stats and stuff. He must be pretty smart.

But I'm not buttering him up for a new camera or anything.

Oh, for crying out loud. I am editing this later in the day to say:
I can't even get a correction right. My dear husband didn't say financial adviser, he said insurance salesman. The risks of insurance sales must have translated quite nicely into spy novels.

But I'm still not from Texas. Dang.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Three Nursing Bras, Sarah's Glasses and A Book

Those are the things left behind on our weekend away for a funeral.

It was all fun and games, like this:

Yep, love, Dutch Brothers Not-So-Hots, cuddling in the car and more love. You are glimpsing the dog in the background. He is always in the background. Except when he's in the foreground.

Okay, I'm leaving out the carsickness and the careening wildly through orange traffic cones to get to the side of the road in time for the carsickness.

We dragged a traffic cone 30 feet. Then when we backed up out of the construction zone, post-carsick-episode, the traffic cone popped up in perfect upright position. That was cool.

Here's a picture of my camera-shy super-cute nephew:

I tried to bring him home with us, but for some strange reason he didn't want to come.

Maybe he knew about the carsickness. Little babies are smart that way.

The other thing we left behind was my camera's autofocus. It might've been because I dropped it on a brick path, I mean the yellow brick road. Thus I am only able to take photos like this:

Of my girls and their great-grandma right before we had to leave for home.

The most important thing is, we're home. And my camera is broken, so... you know I need a new camera. The old one just about got me arrested by the po-lice, and still no new camera. I did a little pre-Mother's Day hinting, and still no new camera.

And yet I didn't win one on The Pioneer Woman's site. The Gods Must Be Crazy.

I miss my camera. It is usually attached to me, closer than the baby (unless she's nursing). I don't consider it an event if there are no pictures. I can't truly enjoy a farmish view or time in my garden without the camera.

I also miss my nursing bras. I wonder whether Nana will mail them. I miss my book, The Kite Runner, which is a good read even if I have been trying to find time to finish it since approximately the time that I got it, before Laura was born. No coincidence there. I miss Sarah's glasses, which may or may not have been lost on the trip, before or after the carsickness.

I miss my pre-mommyhood sanity, but I'm probably romanticizing that too.

I'll just stick to missing the camera and looking for the glasses. Yep, bra-less and picture-less. It's a good combination.