Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wild turkeys

This is a post about how grateful I am that I didn't marry any of the wild turkeys I dated before Mr. Suite came along.

Just kidding.

This is just a quick picture of the stinky wild turkeys that roam our rural area... and a quicker but most sincere wish that your Thanksgiving Day is blessed with many, many loved ones and even more beautiful moments.

Oh and, try not to burn yourself on the roasting pan. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A happier, fluffier time ... and there were more eggs

There were requests for pictures of my poor molting birds.

Frankly just looking at a motley group of wacked-out feathers and chicken skin got me a little depressed. So I first had to post some snaps of the younger girls in their full-feathered fluffy glory.
Ah, the foof and arrogance of youth.

The sneaking around after preening for the cocksure boys. Wait. Is that a rooster reference? 'Cause that's how I meant it.

But look. Look at the inevitable end of all that vanity.

Just look, willya?

I hope the requested molting pictures are what you wanted. I for one feel a little older, a little less fluffy and a whole lot less fertile.
What's up with that?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

People pocket dress

I got a little restless while waiting on some paperwork yesterday so I started cutting up Laura's t-shirts and some random flannel bits.

This dress is not the most seamstressy thing I've ever made, but it sure is the baby's favorite.
Because of the Little People pocket! An afterthought with an oversized button closure and a scrap of ricrac, it makes the perfect play dress accessory. I might have to add some Little People (Lego, Beanie Baby) pockets to more of her swing tops.
(Don't mind the mountain of toys in that snapshot. Please.)
What have you repurposed lately?

Friday, November 20, 2009

On those days

On those days, more frequent than we might like to admit, when it's difficult to leave the flannel sheets at 5 in the morning when no one remembered to program the coffee pot...

On those days, nearly every day lately, when we run the dishwasher at least three times and the laundry runs washer-dryer-fold-dresser-hamper-repeat, hamster-like in what can only be named a vicious cycle...

And on those days, don't tell a soul, when the forgiveness of an elastic waist skirt is all the mercy one receives...

On those days I am grateful for the smallest of victories and quietest of comforts. I am compelled to watch for the last holdouts of the falling leaves finally fluttering to a damp rest and to listen for the hum of the passing school bus as my children read at the table.

I dunno. It's just so everyday. Wake and change a diaper before dawn. Start the oatmeal, check the email, return the phones to their chargers. Feed some crowing and whinnying animals and get the hem of my pants wet with dew. Inventory the hay bales and calculate how long until more will be necessary. Remind myself again to list some of the junk overflowing the shop and barn on Craigslist.

It's just so everyday, and I've not yet had a cup of coffee. Some days I want to make scones instead of oatmeal and read the paper and some yummy blogs instead of email and lesson plans.

Mr. Suite has a hand-painted sign at his office that he keeps facing out from his desk for the benefit of subcontractors who might be tempted to complain. "No Whining" it proclaims in faded black on a waxy cream background.

I think I might need to borrow that sign back home for a while. For myself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If you know what's good for you

This past week has seen my novel (sounds so grand, doesn't it?) fall far behind the word count goal. I'll catch up! I must!
It's not my fault, Ossifer, I have good alibi:
Three doctor appointments. Three volleyball practices. Two volleyball games. Two music lessons. A repeat of the ever-escaping pony drama.
Ooh. Let's lean on the pony drama.
On Saturday we were watching Madeleine serve it over the net and score on a small town near us where the players are all fed Miracle Gro or some such supplement so as to make our team look like miniature players on a full-size court. That was my view from the bleachers, at least in between serial battles to keep Laura from, er, borrowing extra team balls and hucking them into the field of play. I think she was trying to confuse the other team. Or get us some penalties. It's hard to tell; she's not yet 2.
Anyway between Games A and B I had to miss out on the ever-tempting concession stand lunch to run into town for my H1N1 immunization appointment.
This is when I abandoned my mother and Mr. Suite in our group efforts to corral Laura and cheer on the mighty Wildcats.
And while I was gone, my husband's cell phone rang. It was our next-door neighbors of the B&B, now for sale and looking oh-so-French-Country should anyone out there be interested.
So Mr. Suite answered. He didn't figure it was a social call. Never has been.
Dolly-the-danger-girl Shetland was out of her paddock, causing my elderly Arab much anxiety.
Dolly never ventures far, mind you. She just wants to taste the grass on the other side of the fence and it's a bonus if she can drive her pasture pal insane in the process. Just because he's not willing (or able) to commando crawl under the bottom wire. Gee whiz. It never occurs to gentlemanly Two Spot that he could leap the top wire with ease. He's just a law-abiding sort deeply offended by Dolly's disregard of the order of all things barnyard.
Anyway this escape caused the neighbor (did I mention their house is beautiful and for sale?) much consternation as he is not a "horse person" and his wife is allergic. (To horses, not him.)
Mr. Suite (otherwise known as my long-suffering non-horse-person husband who loves me despite my horse habit) was 30 minutes away from home and I was 45 minutes to an hour away. The hour existing in case I might have time to pull through Dutch Brothers for a mocha. Full disclosure. And, hey, I'd just had a SHOT. In the arm.
Recap, without parentheticals:
I'm in town. My husband's watching four children and a volleyball game three small villages away. One pony is out and one horse is pacing the fence and whinnying like a heart attack. The neighbor is worried about ... well, who can blame him? ... his lavender plants.
So Mr. Suite does the most expedient thing possible and gives the combination to our barn lock to the neighbor and explains the steps to capture said pony.
Oh, poor, poor neighbor. For a non-horse-loving person to be subjected to this: Open barn, step over feed sacks and assorted tack items, scoop out can of grain, call for unhaltered naughty pony, open gate in (schlocky deep) muddy paddock entrance, shoo away full-size panicked horse from open gate, maybe even step in the mud in order to lead stinky pony inside, close gate, re-lock barn against tack thieves... it's all too horsey for words.
Also I think this is why good fences makes good neighbors.
So I'm driving home like a maniac, sans mocha. Mr. Suite is driving home much more safely because he has Laura and Grace on board, having left Madeleine to finish game B and Sarah to keep Grandma company and further to beg for Taco Time on the way home.
I beat my husband and the babies home by a few minutes, long enough to watch Dolly look left and right, to simply step over the lower rail and duck under the middle rail to freedom. By this time Two Spot was bored of the drama. As might you be if you lived with Dolly.
I called to the naughty pony, opened the gate and she marched back in with her head held high.
Then Mr. Suite went to town and bought some solid field fencing. He and his dad spent a happy (okay, that part's maybe not true: it's a frigid 40 degrees out here in the evenings) afternoon fencing our lower paddock. The openings in the field wire are three and a half inches square. In fact it resembles a volleyball net, just a little, so that's bringing the themes together for you. Such service with the tangents.
Dolly has not figured out a way around (through, under) this. Yet.
Just like I haven't yet figured out how to catch up on my word count. 'Cause I've been too busy catching ponies. Yeah, that's it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More baking ... and the chickens are molting

"Molting" is one of those words that sounds exactly as it is: gross-me-out, gag-me-with-a-spoon, molting is revolting. Seriously. There's nothing cute about a laying hen with half her feathers on the henhouse floor. (Picture mange. Only poultry. And you know, natural rather than fungi-created.)

You'd think everything about my sweet little fluffy egg producers would appeal to me. But you'd be wrong, because as molting creatures they are mostly featherless and charmless creatures. Also I have been (gasp) buying eggs, which annoys me to no end. Once you've switched to free range eggs there's almost no going back. Unless you have to make cookies. So I'm buying eggs.

And ... I'm feeding cat food to the hens. I heard this farm girl tip from one of the old-timers at the general store. Something in the cat food supposedly makes their molting stage speed up and their cute fluffy egg-laying selves return.

Who knew I could be so fickle?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dixie update

I know y'all have been dying to know how my birthday kitten is faring. Well. She does a lot of studying.
...And guarding of stuffed animals. It's a big job because the girls have a surplus of stuffies. Dixie feels particularly protective of Laura's oft-washed orange kitty.

She's pretty good at her appointed tasks. And like most cats of greatness, she's a tad on the self-important, self-confident side.
But as long as she deigns to help with homework, snuggle at naptime, play with the odd sock and hair tie... as long as she keeps up with her duties, she's got a lot of leeway for self-indulgence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A little rain, a little Scrabble, a little bread

The girls and I have been writing in the rain. Doesn't that sound dreamy? Good old Oregon downpours beating on the skylights while the animals all huddle in their shelters and the family snuggles up with their notebooks and pens and a slice (or three) of oatmeal cinnamon swirl bread.

Even Grace (5) has been learning to play Scrabble with us. Word to the wise: "Kid spelling" and Scrabble can work just fine as long as you don't have any 9-year-old spelling gurus unwilling to go with the flow.
Don't worry. It's nothing a little more koko and toste won't cure.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We sleep with the light on and/or we'll leave the light on for you

Just checking whether this photo is funny yet or not.

(You know how you take a picture of a tantrum or nose picking or some such thing (not that the nose picking goes on with my children, no, no), on purpose or inadvertently, and are of course embarrassed/worried about your parenting/tempted to delete? But then, months or years later, you treasure it? Or just think it's hilarious. I keep checking with this one from the successful Eugene attempt at the Guinness Book of World Record's Largest Ballet Class. It's been a year.... Nope. Not funny yet.)

Anywhat, my kids are always funny. Sometimes not funny hah-hah, though.
The other day Laura (not quite 2) woke us up with hysterical (not using that word lightly) screaming at the front door at 4:00 in the morning. The house was pitch black and I stumbled down the stairs and through the laundry, kitchen, dining, front room to find her. So disoriented was I that I didn't turn on any lights on my way. She had apparently either walked in her sleep or wandered in search of us, and since she can't reach any light switches either, I am glad she made it all the way through the house without falling.
Her door is right next to ours upstairs. We sleep with our door open. Why didn't she just walk into our room? Why was she so panicked, the horror of abandonment radiating from her tiny chubby self? She who has never been so much as alone for 30 seconds was in full-blown terror.
I scooped her up, switched on a lamp. She snuggled in to my shoulder and said, "thanks, light, Mama."
We sleep with the hall light on now.
Anyway earlier today I read this fantastic post over at the Women's Colony all about the village it takes to raise a child, the struggle and the juggle of single parents and the responsibility (should we choose to accept it) of seeing that need and helping to fill it in small and big ways. It's about having compassion. Who couldn't use a little more compassion, given and received?
And then it got me thinking about the time that my 2-year-old ran away from home.

Well, specifically, the time my third 2-year-old ran away. (Because there was also the time my first 2-year-old decided to leave me for daddy-at-work-he-loves-me-better. 'Nother story for another day.)

And then again maybe I'm not strong enough to face the fact that at some point, and apparently very early, my children have all declared their independence from me in a very decisive manner.

Shake yourself off, Miri, it's too late at night for melancholy!

So anyway when Grace Hannah (charming 5-year-old in picture featured above) was not quite 2 the pilot light of her independence already glowed bright. It was more than just reading Sesame Street's "I Can Do It Myself" a minimum of ten times a day that clued me in. In small ways she regularly reminded me, as they all do, that it's our job as parents to make them confident to go forth in the world with their own goals and objectives clearly defined and in the scope. Blah, blah, blah, separation anxiety need not apply here. (Actually all the separation anxiety is usually proven to be mine. Don't tell anyone.)
So. Picture if you will, a bright spring day in a tiny village in the Oregon countryside. Picture further a mom of (at that time) three visiting on the church lawn across the road from her home with two neighbors while dad-of-three is puttering in the man cave (shop) and their three children are playing in line of sight and earshot and within five steps of Dad.
Toddler Grace needs a diaper. Mom is unaware. Dad is unaware (line of sight and earshot, not odor range). Older siblings are not about to go near a diaper.
So Grace crosses the English-daisy-covered lawn on short legs and grabs a box of baby wipes that reside on the porch for hand cleanups after playing outside. She likely looks at Mommy visiting across the road. She possibly calls out to Dad. This part is unclear. What is clear is that she shortly says good-bye to her siblings and starts off across the property line to the south, behind Dad's shop.
Out of range of sight. Out of earshot. As my radar pinged slightly (panic comes easily to me), I realized that she was no longer in the white picket fence of our front yard. I called out for my husband, who immediately marshaled the troops. It took less than a minute, maybe 30 seconds, to find her in the dry swale of our roadside, marching with her wipes box on her shoulder, headed straight for "Gamma Nita's" for a "di-prr."
The relief! The flood of relief! And after less than a minute of freak-out. Unfortunately I have since lost (and found) a child for a much longer length of time. And I know at least two things: one, the entire village including myself was as committed to his return as was his own mother and as were the sheriffs; and, two, the panic of 30 seconds is much, much easier to recover from than the panic of hours.
My family is blessed to live in an intentionally chosen community (I did not mean commune, people) of caring neighbors. It's the family you choose, really. Even if they're in no way related to you other than shared property boundaries and nods from behind the windshield, these people are in it with you. I have very little doubt that had my baby made it more than half an acre away, the first person to see her would have known her and hollered for us to collect her. It's part of what makes me glad to live here, the never-alone aspect of life. (It's also part of what makes me crazy, but, again, 'nother story.)
I would not have made the choice the woman in the Women's Colony story made -- I would not have driven my older child to school while the baby was asleep, home alone to waken in an empty house. But I would have sat with that neighbor baby on the porch until his mommy got home and I would have offered to carpool to help the harried mother.
I hope we can all be that neighbor. Because it's a big scary dark world and we all need to create a village around ourselves and our neighbors so there's always someone to turn on the light switch in the dark.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I need (almost) all my words for NaNoWriMo

Nancy Drew, Hermione, Eloise and Piglet

If you can figure out how to keep the tail curly, let me know.

She'll put a spell on you.

Eloise visits King Arthur's court for caramel apples. Or just the caramel.

The neighbors were glad to see us.

Wouldn't wear the nose until the festivities were over.

Happy to be back in their regular costumes of jeans and books.