Monday, December 31, 2012

Breakups Are For The Birds

I've made a decision and there's no turning back.  These birds have got to go.  No eggs in over six months.  Well, it feels like six months anyway.  Waiting for a hen to finish molting is like waiting for nail polish to dry when I've got stuff to be doing with my hands.  I'm bitterly buying eggs from the store, and I remind my chickens of this every morning as I clean out their chicken coop in the bitter cold of winter.  And on top of that, the chickens keep sneaking into the mudroom every chance they get, gobbling up the cat food and leaving lovely droppings as evidence of their mischief.  

As you may sense, I've been slowly losing my patience over the past month.  Scolding and sweet talking my flock were getting me nowhere.  Extra servings of table scraps were to no avail. Getting desperate, I gingerly placed one of my store bought eggs in a nesting box thinking I'd heard somewhere that it could stimulate egg laying.  It didn't.

I realized in frustration that I can't make a chicken lay an egg.  And for some reason, this angered me a little. So much so that I decided it was time to end things with my chickens.  Not end as know.  Rather, send my chickens away.  To a nice little farm somewhere. As it were, we were heading out of town for a weekend.  Normally, I would have refused a  weekend adventure, as organizing care for all of my critters seems more work than the fun a vacation would offer. But, the idea of a weekend away with my family and my littles eventually won my heart over.  We decided to take our chickens to Carrie's for the weekend as she had a chicken sitter secured.  What Carrie didn't know was that I wouldn't be taking them back after our trip.

I planned to move them the night before our trip when they were sleeping, thus avoiding any potential break up awkwardness. But that day turned into a really bad day filled with car troubles and work troubles and life troubles.  It was the kind of day that made me want to try my hand at catching chickens midday because whatever were to go wrong couldn't possibly make my day any worse and whatever were to go right just might be the highlight of my day.  Besides, if I didn't busy myself with chicken catching, I'd quickly find myself sitting on my living room floor with a half-gallon of ice cream in my lap.

E watched through the kitchen window and A peered on from his snow fort making in the yard as I marched through the snow towards the coop in my fluffy designer boots.  I opened the coop and saw them nestled together snugly. My heart softened at the sight of them clucking gently to each other.  Pushing pleasant thoughts aside, I focused on the task at hand.  I gently put my hands in and around Miss Stacy and lifted her out of the coop, finding myself holding a hen for the first time.

Have you ever held a chicken?

It was just the most wonderful experience.  That sweet little hen was so soft and warm and fragile in my arms, its little heart beating rapidly in my hands.  I held her softly for a minute, my heart filling with gentleness as I questioned my decision to send them away.  I crated her safely and reached in for Buster.  Buster was just as docile with the move, and I was a little more sure with my handling the second time around.  I secured them in the back of the car and loaded my children into their car seats.  E sang to the chickens to soothe them on the drive over to Carrie's.

When we arrived, I introduced the chickens to their new flock, having resolved on the short drive over that I would in fact pick them up when we returned from our trip.  Eggs or no eggs, I'd keep caring for these sweet chickens.  And possibly I'd carry them around in my arms just for fun.  But, man you'd be surprised how much chickens look alike.  They disappeared into the large flock, a sea of light and dark orange feathers.

"You'll be okay Miss Stacy", I cooed to a chicken who had a 1 in 9 chance of actually being Miss Stacy.

"Okay, we'll just see you Monday then," I reassured myself, speaking now to the air as the chickens scratched the dirt floor ignoring me.

I backed away slowly.  Feeling a little like my chickens had possibly broken up with me.  Which made me feel better about breaking up with them.  It was mutual.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thy Kingdom Come

I gaze quietly into their eyes a long time tonight as I tuck them into bed.  I don't snap impatiently tonight when A whimpers about his sore toe, but instead gently rub lotion on his feet before covering them under his blanket.  I don't roll my eyes when E asks for the same, but reach up to her bunk bed and follow suit with her tiny toes.   I hover by their door as they listen quietly to their music, eyelids heavy, safely snuggled in their beds.  I walk down the stairs and sit in on the couch, the room dark save for the glow of the Christmas tree, lit with a single string of lights.  I fold my knees to my chest and lower my head in prayer, but come up with nothing.  I don't know how to pray for something like this; how to pray for comfort to parents that I don't know, but yet I do; feeling this raw connection to them that comes in a midst of tragedy.  My thoughts are a muddle of unanswered questions.  I sit for a long time before the words fall over me...Thy kingdom come.

I say it again and then over again.  My prayer, a single verse. And then the rest. Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done.  On Earth as it is in Heaven.  The prayer I had just prayed aloud twice; once to each child, I now pray in silence, but each word is powerful and thunderous.  I remember the words from my devotional this morning, Pray for the world first, read maybe thirty minutes before the tragedy took place.  And tonight, I end the day with the same prayer, but a different perspective.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Little Bit of Nostalgia

As I climbed out of my car today, a burst of wind snuck up my sleeve and down my back, chilling me instantly.  The sun was out, but the air was cold.  Too cold for my liking.  I quickly reprimanded myself for complaining.  This winter had been mild thus far.  And last winter was certainly nothing to complain about.  But the one before that?  Now that was a tough winter.  It's a sign of my maturing self that I can remember the past winters so clearly, as it was still two winters before that that puts a little drop of dread in my heart right around the summer solstice. That's the winter of 2008 if you're counting back with me. Remembering that winter makes me remember of when my children were just babies and every thought I had was about them, and every word I spoke was about them, and when people tired of me talking, I just wrote about them.  Not much has changed since then I suppose, but I was reminded of this story just the same...

There are certain rituals a first time mother looks forward to with her little one, or in my case little ones.  When baby fever strikes, you envision yourself taking your child to the pumpkin patch, first family photos, and going on playdates with fellow girlfriends and their children.  At 3 months old, my twins and I were ready to try the latter with my good friend, Julie and her one-year old, Sophia.  The end of my maternity leave loomed near and this was one ritual I didn't want to put off.  As my little ones weren’t yet old enough to actually contribute much to a playdate, the logical setting for our outing was a trip to the shopping mall.  A mommy playdate.  I’d already managed many feats alone with my twins in three short months: grocery store trips, doctors visits, going to mommy’s work to visit colleagues.  We were ready for this playdate.    We planned to meet at 12, which as new moms know meant I had to start getting ready at 8.  The cycle began: pump, feed babies, change and dress babies, dress self, pack diaper bag with 4 weeks worth of diapers/6 changes of clothes/4 bottles, pump again, feed babies again and we were off.  

Arriving shortly after 12:30 despite my best effort to arrive on time, I found a parking spot close enough to the mall and started to get the gear together.  It was winter and I realized in horror that I hadn’t thought to bring their winter coats because they’d been protected from the cold in their covered car seats.  I had to act fast.  I popped open the trunk and whipped open the double stroller, bundled up baby #1 and placed her in, scurried around the car to get baby #2, bundled him in a blanket, placed him in the stroller and took off through the parking lot and into the mall.  Slightly disheveled, but nonetheless proud of my success thus far, I greeted Julie beaming.  “Um…” she said, looking past me into the parking lot, “I think you left your car doors open.”  I spun my head around to follow her gaze and sure enough.  Leaving the stroller under her supervision, I bolted back into the parking lot and closed and locked the doors, realizing I was sweating despite the 25 degree temperature.  Making it back into the mall, baby #1 was crying.  Prepared with my Snuggly, I placed her in it and started off toward the stores, still sweating and realizing that pump/feeding/changing time was already upon us.  Not to be deterred from my long awaited play date, I kept on, double stroller in front; baby #2 gazing up lovingly at me.  And then…baby # 2 was gone.  The stroller had folded itself up.  I heard yells, screams from throughout the mall and within seconds shoppers had scooped open the stroller, locked it, and baby # 2 was back gazing up at me, unfazed.  I averted my eyes from the potential judging stares of passer-bys, grateful that no one was hurt and that I now knew the stroller had a lock.   I wanted nothing more at that moment then to call it a playdate and go home despite just having arrived 6 minutes ago.  Despite my better judgment I trekked forward.  Fully sweating now, I turned into a store and stopped short, my heart sinking, realizing that clothing stores are not equipped to handle double strollers.  I was forced to watch from the entrance as Julie easily steered her stroller between the racks, whipping through the aisles like a professional.  I stayed put, looking half-heartedly at clothes on a single rack until I gave up completely, realizing I had picked up the same sweater 3 times.  I settled with standing in place while feeding baby #1 and politely accommodating the onlookers who wanted to coo at the tiny little twins and ask the standard repertoire of questions that one might consider too personal to ask a complete stranger, but apparently are a public right to know for moms of twins: “How much did they weigh when they were born?, Are you breast feeding?  How do you breast feed twins?  Are you getting any sleep?  Did you have fertility treatments?  Did you have a c-section?”  Fully stressed out now and needing to purchase the sole sweater I had been looking at only because my current ensemble was drenched in sweat and milk, I knew it was time to go.  I bid my playdate pal farewell and hustled back out into the wintry parking lot.  Safely tucked in my car and on my way home, I was finally able to relax my tense shoulders for the first time that afternoon and smile.  Play date complete.  I realized that in my quest to quickly begin checking off baby experiences from my list, I’d failed to see the reality that parents of multiples face which is that many of these parenting rituals will be better enjoyed if put on hold until the babies are older and the weather is warmer.  So, for the time being it’s online shopping and playdates from the safety of my living room.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Without a map

The cold weather came upon me unexpectedly this year. This is a bit surprising, because I've been back in the Midwest for going on five winters now and every winter it is pretty darn cold.  Nothing out of the ordinary about winter coming.  But this year, I was a little surprised to find the season had changed.  I'd start most each day as the one before, coffee in hand, devotional in my lap, watching through the window from my couch as the sky turned from gray to pink to a glorious orange.  Seemingly unaware of the sun taking a little longer each morning to wake up and peer over the horizon.  Not so much noticing the calendar switch to November and tick it's way towards the holidays.  I'd been content in holding on to the golden harvest of fall, but time didn't hear my notion.  And one morning, I was unexpectedly surprised by a blast of cold air when I opened the door to the mudroom and found the kittens and dog huddled together in a warm pile of sweetness, jumping up to follow me as I stepped outside only to find the chicken's water had frozen.  Time to prepare for winter, I suppose.  Actually, that time was four weeks ago, but there's no time like the present, right?

Except, I had not the foggiest idea of how to prepare my flock of two for winter.  My chicken raising book didn't go into details.  The internet didn't provide much guidance.  This may have been a factor in my procrastination.  Where am I without my guidebook?  Finally, I reasoned with myself.  How hard could this be?  Besides, I was a country girl now, with a staple gun to prove it.

That afternoon, the kids and I drove down to my parent's pond.  Hidden in the woods by the pond was the small cabin, a continual palate of a construction project with a few spare rolls of insulation on the floor just as I'd remembered.  I  borrowed a little square,  fully intent on returning it in the Spring.  We drove back home quickly, racing against the fading afternoon sunshine.  I lay the supplies by the chicken coop and ran into the house to find my staple gun.  Minutes later, house turned inside out, I returned to the chicken coop empty handed.  (I later found it in the tool box.  Obviously in its rightful place.)  Unfortunately, A had already set to work and removed the paper backing from the strip of insulation and a big mess was spread over the lawn.  It wasn't a big deal.  Or so I should have said. But, I was tired and exasperated and immediately started into a lecture.

"You need to wait for instructions before you jump into a project," I preached, picking through the insulation my words echoing around me emptily. "You can't just guess your way through things. You need to learn first, then try on your own."  Yep.  Exemplary teaching going on here.  Listen, learn, watch, ask questions, then do.  Right.  Good lesson, Mom.  But, how is this little guy expected to do that when his mom does things like this?

Nothing like a little duct tape to help withstand forty mile an hour winds this winter, right?

I retracted my ridiculous lecture to A later that evening as I tucked him into bed.  It's okay to jump in.  It's okay to make mistakes.  That's how we learn.  God is our guide.  Our instructions lie in our Bible.  Our questions in our prayers.

Keep warm little chickies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rootin' Shootin'

Still mourning the loss of my hen, I did a little internet detective work, trying to determine the predator.   It appears, based on extensive research (single Google search) and the blatant odorous clues around our home in the month leading up to the attack that the killer was likely...a skunk.

Ugh. Really? A skunk?  Google, you didn't by chance mean to say a vicious bobcat or fox?   Not something dangerous or even a little fast?  No, it seems it was in fact, a skunk.  An animal that I could have just called out of my window, "Shoo!" and it would have scurried off into the ditches.  It's just embarrassing.  What's interesting, I'd always thought skunks were vegetarians until now.  I'd likened skunks as the kindred critter version of me. (Yes, I think about these things. Don't judge me. Just love me.) They're so cute in their own little-don't get too close kind of way.  But, it seems my impression was wrong. No little skunk friends, we aren't the same.

Regardless of the culprit, I still take full responsibility for the chicken death.  It was an eye opening reminder that I need to do more to be able to protect my family.  While checking out a home last spring as I prepared a move from the suburbs of Chicago, this was the sticker that greeted me at the door of my soon to be home...

And this was the greeting after I moved in....

I felt a false sense of security that the sticker alone might turn a potential intruder away.  But now I've decided that this love armor needs a little more fierceness in it.  A little more, 'Don't mess with my kids or my chickens' with a shoulder roll and zig-zag finger snap thrown in.  As it were, Groupon happened to have a deal for an introductory gun class.  Perfect.  Not because I want a gun, mind you.  I recognize God's protective hand over my babies for the past four years and give Him alone the credit for their surviving their good intention-ed Momma's parenting debacles thus far.  I don't need to go testing the waters by putting a gun in the house.

Nonetheless, wouldn't it be a good idea to know how to shoot a gun should the need ever arise?  I decided yes.  And as it were, Groupon happened to have an introductory gun safety class.

I recruited my adventure loving, fellow Groupon addict friend, Samantha who lovingly agreed to drive way out to the country and shoot stuff with me for a day.   We met at the 'training facility', which turned out to be an ex-marine's creepy basement at the end of a loooonngg wooded driveway.  Oops.  That's the trouble with Groupon, I suppose.  It didn't quite match up with the state of the art facility posted on their website.  But, a Groupon's a Groupon, and the class was full so we listened intently as the instructors droned on and on about their abilities: how they could shoot stuff real good, how their kids could shoot stuff good, how they could escape stuff, how they'd been on television about shooting stuff, and in universities teaching about shooting stuff.  Then, they switched gears to share accounts of people who knew not how to protect themselves and the horrible things that happened to to them.  Feeling ill from both accounts, I was strangely relieved when the guns were passed around the class.  Sam was already an experienced shooter and doesn't have chickens to protect so she generously handed most of the preparation tasks over to me as we learned the mechanisms involved.

I'd been so very proud of my strong-normous milking hands and was unnerved to discover how difficult of a time I had loading the gun.  Also, Sergeant Chauvinist was so hovering, jumping in to the rescue every time I dropped a bullet or accidentally started waving a gun around as I spoke.  I didn't want rescuing, I wanted to learn on my own.  But, my hands shook and my palms were sweaty.  And it was hard to talk without my hands as suggested as a safety tip by the instructor. Finally, we made it to the shooting range, and I was relieved to discover shooting stuff is easy.

If loading a gun is hard and shooting a gun is easy, a BB gun would seem the logical solution to protecting my kin.  Oh, and the women's self defense course that I was talked into signing up for after the introductory gun class.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When Bad Things Happen To Good Chickens

I'll save the gory details.  (As best I can anyway, because both motherhood and country living have really made their mark on my conversational tact.)  It has happened.  A critter got one of my sweet chickens.  It was inevitable I suppose.  You know, given that it's owner can't remember to put shoes on her children some days, it was only a matter of time before the chicken coop door was left open one night.  Okay, more than one night, but one night was all it took.

Every night (well, except for those three) after closing up the chickens for the night, I would take the extra step of wrapping the entire coop in a large sheet of chicken wire.  I'm not sure this does anything from a protection standpoint, but it gives me a little peace of mind, like when my children wear knee pads and helmets just to hang around the house. Well, on this night, in an effort to expedite the evening routine, I diligently wrapped up the chicken coop in wire before dinnertime, while the chickens were still in the yard, leaving just the door space open.  My intention was to save 30 seconds of time by completing step two before step one and  close the door later in the evening when they were tucked away.  My intentions were good.  But I forgot.

 “God save us from people who mean well.” (Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy)

I don't know what your definition of gory is, so please excuse my censored recall of the events surrounding my chicken's death.  I first awoke that morning, with a strangely ominous feeling.  The sky was still dark and the clock at my bedside flashed 4:08.  When I awake at strange times in the night, I for some reason think of 1 Samuel 3 and try to spend that time in prayer.  In the blanketed silence of this old farmhouse, before my mind busies with distracting thoughts,  my prayers are less rambling requests, more listening, more feeling.  I prayed for a time, then fell back asleep.  I awoke again at sunrise, this time to the sounds of my chickens bickering with each other. They do that, these chickens.  Two of them have been henpecking the third.  Chicken-bullying.  I spent half a second thinking about what I could do about this henpecking situation and decided to consult my chicken raising book that very day to help find a solution.  But first, I had to sleep some more.  After an interrupted night of sleep, the kids and I made our way downstairs later than usual and I hurried outside to let the chickens out before making breakfast.  But, as I reached the coop, I saw the door was open.  My stomach dropped, thinking of the noises I'd heard that morning.  I saw the pile of feathers.  My eyes scanned the yard.  In the distance by the pine trees, I saw two chickens, two kittens, and one dog, all standing strangely together in a weird animal cluster.  And then I saw little Rojo (as named by A), lying in the grass, feet extended straight in the air.

I know better than to get attached to farm animals.  I know better, but I still get attached to farm animals.  I felt horrible, knowing my seemingly simple oversight had led to the death of my poor chicken.  Also, I had a dead chicken in my yard that appeared to be traumatizing all of my other pets and would likely soon traumatize my children, when they discovered their Mom in tears in the front yard.  I pulled myself together and grabbed a snow shovel, preparing to dispose of the carcass before A and E made their way outside.  Right.  Quickly dispose of a chicken carcass.  It takes me an average of 45 minutes to work up the nerve to sweep a mousetrap out of the bathroom cupboard on the occasion that a mouse is caught.  Needless to say, the kids eventually wandered outside only to find their Mom in her slippers and pjs, holding a snow shovel, chanting to herself: Dying is a part of living.  Dying is a part of living. Dying is a part of living.  Just do it, Christi!  Finally, I gave up.  I'll be brave next time.  I called my Dad.

We left the house to run our Friday errands before my Dad arrived.  My heart was heavy, and missed that little Rojo already.  I wondered if my other pets were fearful for their safety given their owner's obvious shortcomings in the area of pet protection
I called my Dad from the grocery store for a little support.  Beginner farmers make mistakes, right?  I needed to hear it from a reliable source.

"Hello?" he answered.

"Hello,"  I responded with the fallen voice of Eeyore.

"How are you doing?"

"Oh I feel just horrible.  How are you?"

"Well, I've had an interesting morning."  he said, sounding as Tigger-like as always, "I got to see what the inside of a chicken looks like.  Sliced right down the middle!  Hey, did you know you can see the egg?  Oh, wait.  Oh, I've got to run, okay, Bye!"

I stared at the blinking cell phone, mouth gaping, standing in the middle of the cereal aisle.  Note to self: don't EVER call your Dad for sensitive conversation topics.

We finished our town errands and headed back home.  I was emotionally exhausted and ready for the day to end.  The chickens were in their coop well before sunset and I secured them in, reassuring them with my words, although their beady eyes looked doubtful.  Surprisingly, there was an egg in one of the nesting boxes.  A squishy, iridescent brown egg, reflective of the traumatic stress inflicted on them early this morning.   The egg looked how I felt.  Too soft and sensitive for this farming life, but too soft and sensitive for a life away from it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sick Day

My sweet little girl is sick.  Upchucked all over her little self at daycare not three hours after dropping them off in the morning.   When her teacher called, my heart ached for not recognizing her whininess and listlessness as sickness, but rather attributing it to a new phase of morning crabbiness. I physically hurt that she'd had to be sick somewhere other than the comforts of her home, in the arms of someone other than her mother.  I made it to the daycare, knowing all was forgiven as E gently folded into my arms, her skin sensitive to the touch, hair sticky around her face.  Once home, I quickly made up a sick couch where E slept off and on throughout the day, and A and I sat around and watched her be sick.

The next day, her mind was ready to be over this being sick business, but her body wasn't quite, alternately singing, "I feel much, much better, Mom!  The fever is gone!", then crawling back onto the sick couch in exhaustion 20 minutes later having over-exerted herself.  Convincing a child that she is still sick is tough.  Even tougher was convincing A that his little adventure buddy was sick and needed rest to get better in order for this momma to go back to work!  As day 2 of watching E be sick progressed, he grew more and more restless.

"A." I whispered as E slept in the family room, "Why don't you go outside and play walnut field?" (Our newly made up game that involved throwing walnuts as far into the field as possible.  It was an expansion off of last week's game, walnut ball, which involved aiming and hitting a walnut against an assigned tree.) He shook his head, continuing to practice his indoor cartwheel, crashing into the sick couch where E slept. Shoots. I'd been hopeful that this game would provide entertainment until the walnuts were gone from the yard.  Or Spring 2014, whichever came first.

"Hey, let's go take down our garden." I whispered, trying again.  His face lit up, like Spencer Dog's when he hears the word walk mentioned in conversation.  A jumped eagerly at the idea-literally, bouncing around in front of me as I stumbled over him towards the garden.  To my delight though, once in the garden, he was a different child altogether.  Calm and respectful, he worked on the garden for over an hour, as I worked along side him taking periodic breaks to check on his sleeping sister.  I suppose he might say I was like a different mom altogether in the garden, patient and attentive without a phone or computer to distract me.  Together we worked, taking out corn stalks, pulling out tomato plants, talking about Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor's garden, and sharing the few remnants of the garden: small green tomatoes and a single wrinkled red pepper with our chickens who turned their beaks at our offerings.

As I don't actually know anything about preparing a garden for winter, I saw no harm in letting my four-year-old direct me,

"Mom!  Dig a carrot hole here!"..."You hoe this part and I'll shovel the dirt."..."My kids love to plant cabbage and carrots in the fall." (Some kids have imaginary friends, my son has imaginary offspring.  Whatever.)  We worked over the soil, digging and hoeing fervently, the fall wind noisily filling the breaks in our conversation.  Each time the hoe nicked the ground, a burst of soil flew into the air, carried away quickly on the wind, often into the face of whoever was standing downwind.  This made me think that hoeing up the garden in fall wasn't such a good idea, but we were having a great time and continued on anyway.  And continued, and continued.  Finally, finally A agreed to leave the garden with the promise to return soon.  Inside, I immediately hopped on the internet and requested Gardening for Dummies from the library.  If this is what gardening did to my son, I wanted more of it.  

Eventually, E awoke from her nap.  Slowly the spurts of feeling better lengthened and the sick fatigue backlash shortened.  She ate a few bites of dinner.  She's on the mend.  Oh, I pray she's on the mend.  And I find myself grateful once again for health-at the top of my gratitude list.  I hate, hate seeing my children sick.  But I love doing what I  can to help them get better. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Boys And Their Boots

I'm in the upstairs bathroom rinsing shampoo out of E's hair.  Hurriedly, because my internal timer is telling me that downstairs the steaming broccoli is wilting brown and the pasta sauce is likely spurting sauce bubbles out of the pot and onto the counter-top.  Outside, I hear A playing basketball in the driveway.  Through the open window, I hear the familiar "Mo-om" chant begin. I hear the back door open with a crash and the "Mom-ing" continue up the stairs, echoing down the hall until at last he's right behind me.

"Yes, A?" I turn my head to look at him, but my eyes focus on what are on his feet instead of what is coming from his mouth.  Farm boots.  In. The. House....Again!  My right eye starts to twitch.  I can't bring myself to look past him, afraid to see the trail of who knows what that has been tracked through the house having milked the cow, cared for the chickens, and cleaned the cat litter box all this afternoon.

"Boots."  I manage to whisper.  Then louder, "BOOTS!"  He looks down at his favorite fire truck boots, and his mistake registers on his face, possibly remembering the last fifty times this conversation has happened.  He looks back up at me, attempting his cutest, Who could ever be upset with this face? look.  My face is stone.  Impenetrable to cute little boy faces.  He backs away slowly, caking the dirt into the carpet in reverse.

WHY?  Why? Whyyyyy?

I can yell.

I can patiently reason.

I can have this crazy little silent tantrum dance that I do when I'm really, really angry that my children watch nervously, wondering if I've cracked.

I can have him scrub chicken poop off of the carpet (in a natural consequences sort of way, not in a child abuse sort of way I should maybe add).

NOTHING works!  It's like the boots are glued to his feet.

Which is ever so ironic given that just this very week, just three days ago, as I parked the car in the daycare parking lot and turned the ignition key to off, his little voice piped from the backseat, "Where are my shoes?"

"Where are your shoes?"  I repeated.  Hoping beyond hope that this was a guessing game, I replied, "On your feet?"


"Under your carseat?"


"Where are your shoes, A."  It wasn't a question this time.

"I don't know.  I thought you got them."

I carried him into the daycare on my hip.  Not angry, just defeated.  His teacher greeted us, and I held his little foot out to her, showing off his sock. Thank goodness it appeared clean.

"We forgot shoes."  I crinkled my face up, attempting my cutest, Who could be disgusted with this mother? look.  As if to say, Can you believe this? How crazy! It's never, ever happened before!  When in actuality, the very same thing happened this past summer when E arrived at Vacation Bible School without sandals.

"Oh no!"

"Ummm...Are the kids going outside today?"  I couldn't help but cast my eyes to clock on the wall behind the teacher. Three minutes until my eight o'clock appointment.  My house was 25 minutes from the daycare.  My house is 25 minutes from everywhere.

"He needs shoes."  She said it with compassion in her voice.  A mom's voice.

"They brushed their teeth."  (Today.)  I didn't care how pitiful it sounded.  I didn't want to be labeled as that mother.

She took pity on me, and showed me to the lost and found, where I found some nice, white sneakers that were just the right size.   Nice white sneakers treading through the house wouldn't have been such a big deal.  But rubber milking boots?

I don't want a spotless home.  I just want a home without manure stains on the carpet.

Remember the book, Love You Forever?  by Robert Munsch

Remember the line, "This kid is driving me crazy!"  Yeah, my kiddos do too.  They say it aloud in unison when we read the book together.

And remember the part where late at night, the mom crawls in and sings to her son?  I usually get choked up the first time she does this to her little infant, and am generally in full blown tears by the end of the book.  Come to think of it, A and E don't usually pick it out for a bedtime story anymore.

And isn't it the truth?  I don't sing it, but sometimes, late at night, after the chicken poop has been scrubbed from the floor, after the fish, chickens, dog, and cats have been fed, after the dishes have been done and my babies are fast asleep, I tuck them in one last time, breathing in the soft quiet, wanting to bottle up the feeling in my chest.  Wanting to rewind and redo the moments of anger and lost tempers, but remembering that tomorrow is a new day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bittersweet Birthdays

Many birthdays ago, I overheard my Mom explaining my poutiness at my 8th birthday party to the parent of one of my guests, "Oh, Christi always gets gloomy at birthday parties." As though she were expecting such a thing, and still went through all of the efforts and headaches involved in planning an ice cream birthday party for her oldest daughter. Needless to say, I increased the pout factor even more when I heard that.  A photo album holds a picture of a line of girls, holding up their ice cream sundaes to the camera, all smiles except for one spoiled, sullen birthday girl.  And whether the observation was true (yep) or became a self fulfilled prophesy (unlikely), I still find myself getting a little poopy around birthdays.

My children are approaching their 4th birthday.  Just in time too, because E is sooo over being three.  And while she is desperate to be four, dissolving into dramatic tears each morning, evening, and every half-hour in between  when she asks, "Mom, are we four yet?", I am desperately trying to figure out how to stop time. If they are getting older, then I'm getting older.  And really, aren't my children's, extended family's, and friend's birthdays all about me anyway?  Okaaaay, I'm trying.  Really trying, to put aside my slightly narcissistic view and share in my children's excitement about kissing their toddler years goodbye.  It's ridiculous, I know.  I should be drawing giant X's on the calendar days, counting down the hours until the big day.  Birthdays are fun! And the getting older part isn't so bad.  My children can feed and dress themselves.  They help out with chores.  They buckle their own seat-belts.   They back the car out of the garage (I kid, I kid).  And if this last month of year three is a preview of the year to come, it's starting out to be just adorable.  I'm reminded of why the four year-old class was my favorite to work in during my high school and college years working in daycares.  But, while I appreciate all of their cuteness and independence, I've been in a true funk about this approaching birthday.  I do NOT want my children to be any older!  I didn't when they were two months old, I didn't when they were two years old, and I sure as heck don't now.   Life is good.  Let's not mess with it by changing and growing.

So, I do what I do when I'm in a funk.  I cry.  I pout.  I sit in front of a mirror and over-pluck my eyebrows.  And eventually, I pray.  (Oh, if only I could someday have the brains to reverse the order, my brows would be so lush)  And then, I read this...

And I cried again.  But this time, I cried because of the warmth washing over me as I read the clear response to my prayers.  I read it again tonight, and it touched me, but days ago when I read it as the answer  "A mother fills, only to empty, and empty, and empty, which fills her full again, and isn’t this giving away the way to have it all?"  just after quietly praying out my questions to God, it rocked me.

Birthdays are a time to celebrate this glorious gift of life.  Not a checklist of goodbyes or expectations to meet.  Not a right way to feel, but a right way to live.  When Elijah died this summer, I came face to face with the deepest grief I hope never to share as I tightly hugged his moms at the funeral.  Just imagining their pain made it hard for me to breathe at night.  As she greeted his former therapy team, Pam managed to sternly advise, "Always have big birthday parties for your children. Every year [all three of them] I tried to get out of it. I didn't want to go through the hassle of throwing a big party, and now I'm so happy that we did."  This year, I had a big party for my big almost-four year-olds.  Bigger than I'd planned because it was shared with their one year-old cousin.  Big party or small, I celebrate their growth as I did their birth, pouring all of my love into them, as my heart stretches bigger, filling back up with more love than it started with.

"A crop is made by all the seasons and the only way to have it all — is not at the same time… but letting one season bring its yield into the next."

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Milking We Will Go

My sister, Carrie has a cow.

Nope, it's not a nursery rhyme.  Just lovely Carrie, and the first line of her future herd.

Several times a week, the kiddos and I truck on over to their Auntie and Uncle's farm to take a turn helping milk.  This is a small sacrifice of time and a rather uneven trade in my favor for an overwhelming supply of delicious raw milk.

Yes, Mom...salmonella, I know.

The process of milking the cow involves leading her twice a day by halter from her grazing area in the pasture to her handmade milking stall beside the barn.  Once she's securely tied in her stall, contentedly munching on grain, we each take a side on the cow, and sitting on overturned buckets slowly, stream by stream, fill two gallons with rich, frothy warm milk.  The first month or so of doing this, I would spend the milking time by churning (get it?) up ideas of how to make this milking process more efficient.  I mean, come on, milking by hand?  In 2012?  Adding to my frustration of the slow process, my large milking hands would cramp up before I was even halfway done with my side, and I'd have to take frequent breaks shaking them in the air before continuing.  As the summer plugged on, however, I found myself enjoying milking time more and more. And as my hands grew stronger, I found myself re-introducing myself to everyone I could, showing off my super powerful handshake grip.  I even found myself enjoying milking in the early, early morning, being lulled back to sleep by the cadence of milk hitting the bucket underneath the cool moon.  And milking in the warm evening, my kiddos picking blackberries in the bush just behind us, running up and popping them in our mouths as we milked.  And A coming up beside me and ducking under my arm to stand between the cow and I, determined to get a stream of milk on his own doing.  Yes, I've quickly come to enjoy milking time.  It makes me wonder if I'll ever reach a point where I enjoy the slow process first, or if I will always have to be delayed in my appreciation of the longer road.

If we're lucky enough by the end of this milking process to have not had the milk pitcher kicked over, we move our gallon jugs safely out of the way, untie the cow and lead her back to pasture for the evening.  All of these transporting cow steps have gone along relatively smoothly, up until recently.  As the corn fields ripen, this lovely headstrong cow has other ideas in mind than pasturing on plain old boring grass.  I try to empathize; how would I feel being led by a field of hot cheesy pizza day after day without so much as a little taste?  I would feel like knocking over the person leading me and charging right into that pizza field, that's how!  Such has been the case recently with the cow.  Although generally good natured, one particular evening she saw me as a pesky nuisance.  A small interference standing between her and glutton paradise.  As I led this stubborn cow by her rope, she turned her head towards me suddenly, using it as a kind of head shovel, attempting to scoop and fling me out of her path.  As I sailed through the air (okay, possibly this is an exaggeration, but I was at least sort of on my tiptoes), I thought about what a beautiful day it was and what a shame that it was going to end in a head injury brought on by cow trampling.  Off in the way distance, my eyes met with a pair the same shade of blue as mine, except while mine had a frantic terrified gaze, his looked as if he were watching Superman himself battle the wild cow villain.  The gaze calmed me. I pulled myself together Superman style, and brought the cow’s head around towards me by pulling tightly on the halter, scolding her as if she were a child, and not a cow.  She stared at me vacantly, but by that time, having closely averted a head injury, my stare back at her was equally vacant.  That and I was suddenly starving for pizza. Tying her secure to a tree for the night, I left the cow to graze and headed back towards the barn.  My little guy ran from the blackberry bushes towards me, meeting me halfway, reaching his arms up to be held and I gladly obliged.

Motherhood.  This amazing experience that allows your weakest moments to become your strongest teachable moments.  One moment you're being flung around like a rag doll by a disgruntled cow, and the next feeling a little too proud for outsmarting a cow that first outsmarted you.  I'm no Superman, mind you.  I'm not even a Supermom.  I can't even sweep up a mousetrap without crying.  But, some of my best parenting moments may just be when my children watch me get back up again after stumbling.  Or after sailing through the air briefly.

Isaiah 40:28-31  Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary,and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cash, Credit, or Eggs?

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but several years ago, I lived far, far away in the tropical paradise of Hawaii where I spent my nights falling asleep to the sounds of the ocean crashing noisily against a sandbar outside of my window, my weekends camped out under the stars on the beach, and my days working in a hospital trying to pay for this simple life in paradise.  My boss at the hospital felt it his managerial duty to educate me in all things Hawaiian culture starting from day one of employment: chopstick etiquette, spam musubi, the basics in Pidgin-dialect (including the appropriateness of addressing a doctor as 'How'z it?').  Our therapy department also provided homecare services around the island, allowing for short reprieves from the hospital to drive alongside the ocean and visit those confined to their homes.  On one of my first days of employment, my boss informed me that in Hawaiian and Filipino culture, it is customary to give a visitor a gift when they leave and it is considered disrespectful for the visitor to refuse that gift.  Months later, thanks to my cultural education, I found myself graciously accepting two warm, peeled hard-boiled eggs (one for each hand) from an elderly Tagalog speaking wife of a patient that I was seeing one afternoon.  Not that I would have wolfed down two warm slippery eggs to begin with (not without a tub of Miracle Whip to go with it anyway!), but the fact that I had just spent the previous hour in a fourth story apartment building with minimal ventilation cleaning dried phlegm from her husband's mouth and trying to teach him to safely choke down applesauce had cleared my appetite for the rest of the afternoon.  Smiling and nodding at each other, I graciously accepted the eggs nonetheless as I headed out  the door towards my sweltering hot Honda.

I don't know where I was going with that story except to say, I have become an elderly Filipino grandmother in my social etiquettes.

Eggs have become my welcome to my home gift.  My thank you gift.  My currency.  I feel it speaks to my adaptation to country life when I truly feel that two child hair cuts for ten eggs is a pretty even trade.  A neighbor inviting my children over to her swing-set so this mom could go for an evening run?  Six eggs for you, neighbor!  A friend took some wonderful family photos for us last week and I'll be paying her in eggs for the next 18 months.  Another friend is going through a family crisis and all I have to offer is prayer and a basket of eggs.

When I first envisioned raising chickens, my selfish and a teensy bit unrealistic heart immediately envisioned cutting down my caseload at work and prepaying my children's tuition through college with the extra cash brought in by our egg stand at the end of the driveway.  A dreamer can dream, can't she?  Our three hens are amazing little egg layers thanks to the garden they ate through this summer and we average between two to three eggs a day.  The perfect amount to feed our little family, our dog on occasion, and a few left to give away.  Although I enjoy using eggs as currency, my favorite thing to do is give eggs 'just because'.  Just because you have been a friend more years of my life than not and mean more to me than I ever get a chance to say. I know, I know, they're just eggs, but my craft skills are limited to staple gun creations and my cooking is not much better. In the past three years, I've received more 'just because' gifts than I can remember receiving in my life.  Gifts much more generous than eggs, I must confess.  And each time I'm given a just because gift, tears fill the corners of my eyes.  Just because?  Really?  I'm humbled by the generosity of my friends in faith.  As I move forward in my walk with Christ, my thoughts drift to Him, lingering on the greatest gift that I have ever, could ever receive. Grace.  A gift that at one time I almost refused.  I think of this gift, of what's to come, and I think of what, years ago, I once thought to be paradise.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bedtime Stories For My Children

As I drove along the road the other day, watching the rolling fields beside me morph into subdivisions and then into apartment housing complexes, I relaxed thinking of how my commute has changed since moving to the country.  Commutes in the suburbs involved tolls, traffic, and the occasional spotting of wildlife which yielded a call to action...
One day, working in the suburbs, I was driving between appointments when I spotted a large turtle in the road.  'Oh, poor turtle', I thought to myself as I swerved to miss him.  'I hope someone stops to move him.'  Just as suddenly, I hit the brakes, my jaw fixed in determination.  Christi. I thought to myself. Do you want to be the kind of person who waits for someone to save a turtle? Or do you want to be the kind of person who saves turtles!   I flung open the car door and ran back down the road to save the turtle.  Upon reaching him, I realized he was much, much larger than he'd appeared from my car.  I tentatively reached my hands out to pick him up by his shell and move him to safety.  The turtle looked at me, stuck his neck out as far as it could and proceeded to flip out: hissing and lurching angrily toward me. Excuse me!?

I tried a different approach.  "Shoo-shoo now" I urged him.  This turtle may have had some bad rescue experiences in its past, but clearly I was here at his aid.  I continued coaxing it, my hands kind of dangling and waving strangely in front of me, my heart willing them to pick up the turtle, and my mind not letting that happen.  These writhing hand movements seemed to irritate the angry turtle even more and he crawled further towards the center of the road, hissing at me all the while.  I stood on the side of the road helpless as cars drove by, drivers pointing and laughing.  Yes, laughing.  And pointing.  My vision of turtle martyr-dome quickly shifted into the reality of being road-side street performer.  But, I could not give up; The turtle would surely get hit, and given his size it would be the humans injured in the accident, not the turtle.  And I would be forced to be the kind of person who tries to save a turtle but then quits and gets back in their car.  Finally, down the road a garbage truck approached and slowed.  The truck pulled over and the driver got out.

"This turtle, he's going to get run over" I offered as the reason for the turtle being in the middle of the road and me standing beside him, doing absolutely nothing except waving my giant hands around.  Some circumstances don't really need explanation as the garbage truck driver just looked at me dumbfounded.

"Lady, this is a snapping turtle."  I nodded as if I of course already knew this.  "They'll bite your finger off.  If you get something in its mouth, it'll bite and won't release its jaw."  Snapping turtle.  Mental note.  The garbage man then proceeded to save the giant snapping turtle by kicking it out of the road with his huge garbage man boot.  He kicked it, flipping it onto its back, then onto its belly, then onto it's back again until it was finally off of the road and in the safety of the ditch.  Still hissing angrily, the turtle walked off into the grasses.

What else was there to say? "Right.  Thanks so much for stopping!" I called over my shoulder, hurrying embarrassed to my car and grateful that my head carried a little more influence than my heart in the movements of my hands.

These days,  I stick to the map on commutes and don't leave my vehicle except for scheduled stops. No unanticipated detours, I've learned my lesson...wait, is that a baby raccoon up there?

Monday, September 3, 2012


One lazy afternoon early in July, A, E, and I were huddled around a game board in a small circle on the living room floor, spinning a spinner and carefully counting out plastic cherries, plucking them from the tree and into the bucket and back again.  The quiet noise of a car engine was heard down the road.   Without a word, my son shot up from the floor, ran to the window and peered out, his little head turning as his eyes followed the car passing by our house.  When it was out of sight, he turned away from the window and rejoined the game, lying on his belly, hands propped under his chin.

"Who was it?" I asked, watching E spin and spin until the spinner landed on her favorite spot: a bird carrying away a cherry from the tree.

"I don't know." he replied.  And the game continued on in the quiet summer.

This weekend we said so long to summer.  A bittersweet goodbye because despite the enticement of all things fall: apple orchards, cool and crisp mornings, hay rides and birthdays, this summer has been a joyful awakening in the beauty in slow.

Slowing down, learning to wait, growing (or at least trying to) a garden, learning about adventures held in chicken raising, watching kittens entertain themselves with nothing more than a fallen stick on the ground.  It's been a summer of savoring days when the sunshine sticks around until nine at night and my children and I are still swimming in the pond well after dinnertime, and that feeling of urgency can be squelched for a season.  It's a conscious effort for me, though.  Many days I feel like I'm trying to be Phoebe, when I'm so very Monica...

I try and approach learning to slow as training for a race or studying for an exam (see? Monica.). I've found with small daily practices, taking time to read the Bible each morning, spending time in prayer, looking for God's purpose in my every day, peace becomes a little more ingrained each day.

Each season holds its own special treasures.  I look back on the season of raising my infants which has melted into this season with my small children, and I'm grateful for the quiet days when the most exciting thing that happens is a car driving by our house in the middle of the afternoon.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Foundation Work

First something dug up the bell pepper.  A critter that wanted its hole right where my pepper was planted.  It didn't eat the pepper, which was even more insulting.  Just unearthed it one night.  I found it the next morning lying limply next to its hole.  I quickly replanted it, fertilized it, watered it, liking myself a sort of transplant surgeon, but the transplant wasn't a success as the pepper hasn't been the same since.

Then there were the tomatoes.  Tomatoes aplenty we had.  Fat, I mean big, fat green tomatoes, just waiting for the sun to warm their flesh red.  And the smell.  Oh, the smell of garden tomatoes.  One day, I walked out to the garden just to smell those tomatoes.  I knelt on the ground and studied the plants.  The smile on my face slowly fading as I studied the plants, but didn't see the tomatoes.  I looked and looked and finally spotted it.  A single shell of a tomato there in the dirt beside the plant.  

As I pondered this what-done-it gardening mystery, my head turned oh so slowly over my shoulder at my three chickens, nonchalantly scratching in the grass behind me.  I glared angrily.  They continued scratching, oblivious to my dirty looks.

I shook my anger off.  You can't really be angry at a chicken.   Well, you can, but that just makes you silly.   When confronted with a chicken ransacked garden, you are faced with two options:

 Option 1: Take it in cheerful stride as my sister, Carrie, did after her chickens ate through their kale supply.  "I just eat my vegetables in the form of eggs," she said with a smile and a shrug, and went about her day.

 Option 2: Put up a fence.  This is the more expensive and less tasty option, but the option I took nonetheless.  In part, because it had been on my farming bucket list to learn how to build a proper fence.  And what better time to build one (other than the obvious answer of eight weeks ago)?

One successful fence-building lesson later, the chickens and I sat on the grass outside of the fence, looking in at the sorry state of the garden.  They pecked around wondering how to get through the fence and I sat wondering where I'd gone wrong with this gardening adventure. The embarrassing state of the few stalks of corn actually producing ears couldn't be explained by critters or even the drought as I had been diligent in watering, weeding, and fertilizing throughout the summer.  Wasn't there something about seeing the fruits of my labor?  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the daily rituals of gardening immensely.  I'd just sort of thought something would come of it at the end of the season.  And by something, I mean something edible.  As I sat there thinking with my chickens, I recalled that more often than not, when we were weeding, the kids and I would share a laugh upon digging up a little plastic army guy several inches in the soil.  Tossing it into the bonfire pile, the weeding would continue, not giving it too much thought.  But now, my little chicken brain thought really hard and recalled weeding up little plastic bottles and metal lids on occasion at the southern end of the garden.  Was it possible that our garden site-picked as the spot because it was sparse in growing grass and therefore easier to dig-was actually a green army guy wasteland of sorts?  The chickens and I looked at each other.

I'm obviously no garden expert, but I suspect the soil had something to do with the pitiful results of this garden.  You can't build a bountiful garden on a poor foundation, right? No matter how hard you work, how much you prune and care, it is in vain if the very foundation is toxic.  Foundation work.

I'm not too disheartened, as I did enjoy the process of gardening.  And I'm sure we'll enjoy our four ears of dioxin and bishphenol rich corn.  And this fall, we'll be sure to start in on that foundation work.

Life lesson learned.  Christi: 1  Chickens: 0

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Twirl Factor

I'm ashamed to admit it, but for awhile I tried my best to change it.

Another admission, (what a gift the anonymity of a blog provides for parental confessions!), sometimes I try to 'mold' my children into the little people I'd like them to someday become.  I lose myself and quickly forget that God had something very special in mind when He created my children, making them just the way He wanted.  As a mom, I have many, many jobs to do in raising these little ones, none of which include molding them into something.  The potter has already done his work.  It was only recently that a dear friend, Beth, changed my frame of reference as a mom by bringing this to my attention, and I often still need reminders as they grow.

A reminder came recently in the daily struggles of getting E dressed each morning.  

You see, E loooooves dresses.  Loves, loves, loves them.  The sparkly-er and poofy-er, the better.  I'm all for sparkly and poofy, but children need balance, right?  Mornings had become a repetitive struggle reminiscent of Groundhog Day.  E would ask for a dress that was dirty, weather inappropriate, a dress just for church, etc.  I'd offer a few choices of what I felt to be appropriate substitute outfits, only to have them rejected by a sassy-faced  three-year old.  I tried all of my parenting techniques to help us ease through this stage, but my attempts to broaden her fashion repertoire to include jumpers or blue jeans, even skirts were met with pouting if not a full fledged tantrum.  Worry started to set in as I am a worrying sort of mom (more about that another time).  I wanted E to understand from an early age that her beauty comes from the inside, to recognize the special gifts that God gave to her in making her spirit beautiful, and that all the other stuff is just bonus cuteness (minus the tantrums and sassy-faces).  As Beth Moore teaches in her book, So Long Insecurity, I pray that my little girl will have such strong roots in her faith, that her security will be found in Him when those yucky peer-pressure teenage years hit.  And I know that this root system begins with me.  And I help to pick out her clothes...follow me? My intentions were good, right?  But an ugly side to my parenting surfaced and a morning power struggle ensued several times a week.  And while I haven't read all of Mrs. Moore's book, I strongly suspect her message does not suggest building a young lady's self confidence by having morning battles over poofy princess dresses.

One day, shortly after breakfast, but before heading out for the day, something urged me to sit and watch.  So, I sat and watched.  Just quietly watched, as my daughter danced in the sunbeams.  Twirling and twirling around, smiling to herself, her eyes cast downward at her dress watching it rise and fall around her.  How innocent and beautiful, and I quickly chastised myself for my assumptions and worries.  I had been, up until this moment, assuming that my insecurities would someday become her insecurities.  I had become so focused on E's respect and obedience that I had completely gone of course and it took just this moment to bring me back to the right path.  It was like solving a problem backwards.  Lost in the moment watching my little girl, I wished again for the days when the most important factor in getting dressed in the morning was choosing the dress that will twirl the highest, that would put a melody in my mind, and dancing in my steps.

As with all stages of childhood, the dress stage is slowly fading, and most mornings run smoothly.  Although, it's entirely possible that E sensed my relaxing my grip a little and relaxed hers as well.  Either way, the issue of course is not the stage, not the item of clothing.   It's recognizing the miracle of God's handiwork in my children, taking the time to quietly observe, and rejoicing.  Always rejoicing.  

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  2 Corinthians 4:7

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Case of the Staple Gun and Adult-Onset ADD

Toss the duct tape aside! Unplug the hot glue gun!  Momma's got a new domestic tool in her handbag!

One of the many perks of working in home-care is first dibs on dumpster diving, which I regularly take advantage of.  Last fall, on my way to an appointment, I spotted an old, beat-up looking ottoman on the road, set out for trash.  The pleather corners were chewed up and the legs were a little loose, and I suspected that with a little work it would be just perfect for a mudroom. I grabbed the steering wheel and veered the car sharply, parking along side of the road in such a way as to block any other would be scavenger's view of my find.  I heaved the furniture item into my car and hauled it to its new home in my garage where it waited until I moved here to our farmhouse several months ago. Our farmhouse that was complete with a mudroom, I might add.

The ottoman remained in its shabby state until one perfect crafting Saturday happened upon me. I indulged in a purchase of some fabric and a super deluxe staple gun  at a hobby store.  I was just giddy with excitement.   A staple gun!  The crafting world was now my oyster!  I can't sew, you see.  Or rather, I'm sure I could, I did learn how, but I don't have the patience for it at all.  I blame my mother, of course.  Just as my daughter will someday blame me for all of her domestic challenges.  Actually to be fair, my mother is an excellent seamstress.  As a child, I was the only troop member who proudly boasted Brownie patches sewn over holes in my bathing suit acquired from a summer of climbing trees in my purple one-piece.  She just doesn't enjoy sewing.  My mom and I share a creative bug combined with the attention span of a goldfish, as I was reminded during my first attempt at reupholstering.

I went staple gun crazy, imagining the possibilities before me with each squeeze of the trigger.  New curtains! Halloween costumes! Repairing that tear in the armrest of the couch!  I was a little squeeze happy and ran out of staples well before my mental crafting list was completed, but not before I discovered that a staple gun's accomplishments do not include recovering a dog bed.  Some things are better left to duct tape, I suppose. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chickens? What chickens?

Here come the cat videos!


We're in love.

The kind of love only kittens can bring to a home.

This past week, I've found myself so enamored with these fluffy little bundles of adorableness that I worry I may be mistaken for a cat person.  And a cat person I am not.  Or, a cat person I wasn't.  It's kind of hard to deny though when I find myself sitting outside on these cool summer evenings, drinking tea and recording video clips of my cats.  I see not too much wrong with this because my children are too young to have this conversation with their friends:

"Wait, you mean your mom doesn't sit outside at night video-taping cats?"

But these kittens are so cute and match-y and tolerate my kiddos hugging and toting and hugging them so well that I can't help but have the utmost affection for them.  Even Spencer Dog wants in on the kitten love.  The kittens aren't having it, doing their best to look scary and hiss little kitten hisses at his attempts at affection.  This doesn't seem to faze Spence too much, and I'm sure he'll win them over soon.

I pulled our red wagon home from our neighbor's house carrying my children who in turn carried their very new kittens in their laps and began what would turn into a week of teaching the important concepts of gentleness, and kindness, and self-control, and scratching and hissing mean the kittens want some time alone. (Don't you wish humans gave signals so easy to read?)

Although both kittens are grey with similar markings, initially they were pretty easy to tell apart as one had a gooey, drippy eye and the other...uh, didn't.  It was decided that goopy-eyed kitten would be A's and he named him Buzz Lightyear.  The non-goopy eyed kitten was named Minnie Mouse by E.  A soon figured out that goopy-eyed Buzz would be so much more lovable if he wasn't so goopy-eyed, so he set to work on playing the ol' switch-a-roo with E.

"Here you go, E. Here's Minnie", he'd carry a kitten to his sister, cleverly aiming the goopy eye away from her.  His shenanigans didn't fool E though and Buzz is still Buzz and Minnie is still Minnie, and the eye cleared up nicely thanks to a diet of raw milk, and now it's really hard to tell Buzz from Minnie.  No matter, as we don't usually call them by name anyhow.  Around here, we're starting to refer to our pets by species.  Dogs, cats, chickens, goat.  Just kidding about the goat.  Just a feeler, really.  Testing the word out in writing before I casually drop it into my next conversation with the landlords and see what kind of reaction I get.

Okay, just one more cat video...


Seriously, last one, I promise...


Sunday, July 22, 2012


How do you like to go up in a swing, 
Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
Ever a child can do! 

Up in the air and over the wall, 
Till I can see so wide, 
River and trees and cattle and all 
Over the countryside-- 

Till I look down on the garden green, 
Down on the roof so brown-- 
Up in the air I go flying again, 
Up in the air and down! 
Robert Louis Stevenson

"Under-dog me!" "Please Mom!  Under-dog meeeee!", they holler, standing in the shade of the tree, two  swings dangle from it's branches, beckoning. 

"Okay!  I'm on my way!" I call back, smiling.  "Just let me _______ (insert household task) really quick and I'll be right there!" 

It's not my intention to brush my children off.  I love pushing them on the swing.  I love watching them shine their faces to the sky, eyes squinting in laughter as they swing higher and higher, then fall back down towards my outstretched arms and hands that catch them, then send them off into the sky again.  No, its not that I don't want to push them on the swing.  It's just that little voice in my head that tells me how much more I will enjoy pushing them once the dishes are done, or the sidewalk is swept, or the clothes are switched from the washer to the dryer, or... the list goes on.  Why does it take a conscious effort to put chores aside to play with my children?  Why isn't the opposite true?  Why does it sometimes take a note on my daily to-do list:  play with your children.?  Just as pray. and  read God's word. are often bullet points on that never ending, always growing list.  That I have to be reminded daily to do the things that bring me the most joy and peace in my life seems so counter-intuitive to me.  If only there were more hours in the day, I often think.  But would I fill them as I should, praying more, playing more, or would I take up ironing and make my windows sparkle?  

Over the past year, I've taken to dropping to my knees when I feel the nudge to pray for someone.  I used to put it off, I'll pray after I finish getting breakfast on the table. Or, I'll pray before bed tonight.  But then, one thing would lead to another and the thought would be gone.  (My apologies to those who were on my prayer list during these times).  A change came when I started listening to these nudges and responding, dropping whatever I was doing: brushing my teeth, making coffee, sitting on the floor: in the bathroom, by the dog dish, and spending time in prayer.  Immediately, I felt a deepening in my relationship with Christ.

I pray the same will hold true as I look to deepen my relationship with my children.  To listen to those little voices calling for me, asking for my time, and to respond immediately, not after ____.  Because if I remember correctly from my teenager-hood, the tables will someday turn and it will be me begging for windows of their time in the years to come.  Psalm 39:4-5 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.""nofollow"