Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

All great farms start with meager beginnings.  I actually just made that up, but true or not, today we started a garden!  I checked with my landlords first to make sure they were okay with their yard being dug up.  Well, I actually left them a voicemail.  My purpose in the voicemail was to ask if we could raise some chickens.  My sister, Carrie feels the asking is unnecessary and that when you are on a farm it should be assumed that some sort of livestock would accompany the renters.  My Dad thinks the shed next to our garage (the shed that belongs to the landlords) is the perfect hen house and that I should run that by them just to be sure, but agrees I shouldn’t have to ask permission to raise chickens in the country.  I, the realist of the group, just imagine a conversation ending quickly after a laugh and “Chickens?! Umm no, you can’t have chickens.” So, I’ve been putting this conversation off for quite awhile, reading books and blogs about chickens at night, dreaming of being a real farmer with real livestock. Today, my official to-do list read: Call about chickens.  So I did.  And I breathed a sigh of relief when the voice-mail picked up so I could rattle, “Hi! This is Christi-sorry, I should have called your cell phone.  Just wanted to tell you that I painted so if you want to feel free to come by and check it out and if you don’t like it I’ll, um, un-paint it.  And also wanted to see if we could plant a garden?  Didn’t want to tear up your yard if it wasn’t okay with you.  And um, oh just I was thinking about, just wondering if renters in the past, um would you consider, ummm, how would you feelaboutchickensbye!

 Well, I was just on pins and needles all afternoon waiting for a response.  I really knew the garden would be okay, I just asked as a kind of courtesy so they could see how courteous I was and be obliged to honor my chicken request.  So the kids and I ventured out to learn all things gardening.  A was such a little worker….

And E pretended to be a cat…..

And A worked…..

And E found worms!  Lots and lots of worms!

Just as we were putting the corn in the ground, my landlords pulled into my driveway.  Like a child caught licking the last cookie crumbs from her face, my kids and I bounded for the front yard, covered in all things gardening, the excitement of a visitor outweighing the sheepishness of my impulsive gardening.  We chatted, visited.  I showed them the newly painted rooms.  They loved them (Phew!  How does one un-paint a wood-paneled room??).

Then, “And of course you can plant a garden.  And I didn’t quite catch the last part of your message?”

I gave myself a mental admonishing, Enunciate! Christi! Avoid awkward social encounters by articulating!  Do as you teach for crying out loud!  Realizing my inner scolding was playing out on my facial expressions, I rejoined the real conversation.

“Oh, ummm.  Chickens.  We would really like to have a couple of chickens."


"I’d keep them outside of course.”


The landlord looked like she wanted to laugh. “Chickens?”  Oh, here we go.  “Really??”

I think she really wanted me to say I was joking.  I put on my most responsible and serious face although I'm pretty sure I had dirt smudges on it.  So... they’ll talk it over.  And I wait on pins and needles.  But maybe I take the garden strategy….

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Go West Young Mom

The idea for a vacation started when I was at the post office last Christmas, kids in tow to send packages to my Mom and Dad in Colorado.  Stepping into the post office, my children looked around incredulously at the line extending like a trail of ants through the post office.  "Is this Colorado?", A asked, each word spoken deliberately, excitedly.  The post office patrons collectively chuckled and I made a vow that 2012 would be the year I ventured with my children onto an airplane.

Spring rolled around and we were Colorado bound!  I return home from the trip a wiser mother with these reflections from a three-hour plane ride to share...

1. Sometimes you need to know when to set aside your standards of being a techie-free mom.  And I will be sure to set them aside next vacation.

2. An airplane bathroom reaches max capacity at three people.  They should update their fire warning.

3. A 'Stranger Danger' discussion with three-year olds should be ongoing, not 45 minutes before arriving at the airport so as not to traumatize wide-eyed innocent minds.  Whatever.  It did the trick.

4.  Add to bucket list: design invisible leash that keeps child at a safe distance but prevents judgmental glances from other adults in airport.

The big mountains and even bigger skies weren't the only things welcoming us in Colorado.  Great Grandpa Pete and Great Grandma Louise had traveled by car from Arizona to surprise us!  The trip was enough to cause Grandpa to need oxygen on throughout the day, putting my own travel headaches into perspective.  Add to the mix, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Andrea, Uncle Tony, Brooklyn, Anthony, and baby Emma and the little cabin at the top of the mountain was full of happy family.  Each day of our vacations was blissfully identical.  A breakfast feast prepared by Mom, a morning kid-hike complete with lesson plans courtesy of a long nap for the kiddos and a simultaneous long run for mom around Lake Estes, ending the day with another fabulous meal from Mom.  Ahhhhh, vacations.

Looking out on Lily Lake

Schooling Great-Grandpa on the IPAD

Adventures in wilderness

Grandma caring for E after a tumble
The best surprise of the vacation

Another super-climber!
Grandpa giving tips

Andrea and the super-climber!

Nothing more relaxing than a hot tub of kids, right?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Neapolitan: The Compromise Ice Cream

Among the many monikers I could title the first year of my children’s lives, one that frequently bubbles to the front of my mind is, “They Year I Ate Ice Cream” .  A new mom living with my parents, I returned to work determined to continue nursing my two babies.  Work involved an hour commute each way.  A new mom’s dream, right?   Juggling the care of my precious newborns while I worked required me to alternate time at my Mom and Step Dad’s new home in the suburbs of Chicago and my Dad and Step Mom’s homestead farm in Northern Illinois.  Needless to say, I struggled most days to form a complete thought in my head, let alone care for my nutritional well being, save for my near excessive caffeine habit.  Luckily, what I was oblivious to must have been screechingly obvious to both sets of parents who swooped in with what must have seemed like the perfect medicine.  Doesn’t matter what ails you, from heart break to calcium deficiency,  ice cream will fix it.  At least according to the ones that raised me.

Like a family of drug pushers, every night, almost without fail, a huge bowl of ice cream was in front of me before I could hop up from the dinner meal and begin my frantic preparations of pumping, lunch packing, and laundry for the next day.  To cover their deviance, everyone else had an equally enormous bowl in front of them.  To call this a sacrifice on their part might seem like a joke, but I was pumping out eight ounces of liquid fat every three hours.  I was struggling to keep my pants up, and my parents were collectively unbuttoning their top buttons in attempts not to raise any suspicions that they were worried for my health.

At my mom’s home in the ‘burbs overlooking a pristine golf course, the flavors were a range of exotic experiments.  “Chocolate Moose Tracks”, my mom would say as a greeting as I walked in from work, eyes on the babies, sweeping them into my arms and breathing in their smells.  “Extreme Chocolate Moose Tracks!”, “Mocha Mint Explosion!”  Each night, a delectable sampling of flavors so rich my mouth watered as I inhaled bowl after bowl down.  On farm nights, it was different.  A heaping bowl of Breyers.  Pure, simple flavors savored around a dark kitchen table watching a giant sky filled with stars through the kitchen window.  What is interesting (as interesting as a story about ice cream can be) is that one time, I was just so overwhelmed with my love of Extreme Chocolate Moose Tracks that I brought some to the farm.  And it just didn’t fit.  As delicious as it was with my mom, it tasted weird at the farm.  But in their own element, they were delicious enough to eat every day for a year and never tire of them.

Fast forward 3 joyful years.  I don’t eat ice cream every night.  I can’t get by with sneaking it in a coffee cup anymore without my little toddlers noticing.  But when we do have ice cream, it’s not Mint Chocolate Chip (Aiden’s favorite).  It’s not Extreme Moose Tracks (that would be mine) or Bubble Gum Pink (or whatever other unnaturally pink flavor E can find).  It’s Neapolitan.  I remember years ago thinking to myself, “Who actually buys Neapolitan ice cream?”  It’s an unappetizing flavor combination if you ask me, and too small amounts of each flavor available.  Now, I know who buys Neapolitan.  Moms.  Moms who are short on freezer space anyway.  Or at least, Moms who are on a grocery budget.  Right?  Tell me I’m not alone here!  It’s a compromise ice cream.  Everyone is happy.  No, “But I wanted…” or “Why does he get…”  They’re just fascinated with the color scheme, the fact that they get to pick a flavor of their very own.  Me?  I’m less than fascinated with it.  To me, compromise ice cream just isn’t the same.  But as I sit for 10 quiet minutes watching my children in ice cream heaven: licking, slurping, biting, near face planting themselves into such a simple pleasure,  I suddenly change my stance and I realize that this is the furthest thing from a compromise.