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."


Monday, July 16, 2012

Beneath the Red, White, and Blue

Something is missing.

Does it jump out?  The empty pole?  Of course it does. A flag in front of a country home is the equivalent to a Pottery Barn spiral topiary in front of a home in the Chicago suburbs. 

A lonely microphone stand on an empty stage, wistful for its singer, the chipped white flag pole  stood empty for several months after I'd moved in.  Hanging a flag wasn't really high on my priority list of getting our home in order to be honest.  Four months after settling in, however, I was ready to fly my country's colors and mark my home as complete.  I bought a fairly respectable flag (at least according to the description of itself on the package), only to discover that the pole was also missing the necessary rope and hardware.  Although it took me four months to put this flag-raising plan into action, I sort of selfishly anticipated that everyone else in the world would drop their existing activity and recognize the importance of my current project.  In an immediate phone call, I notified my landlord of the flagpole's missing parts with the urgency most tenants would save for burst pipes or an electrical fire.  Luckily, country folk are typically of the patriotic sort and he responded with equally reciprocated urgency, walking over some rope he'd picked up at Ace Hardware shortly after my call.  "If you aren't able to, I could come over and hang it for you." he kindly offered in greeting. I opened my mouth to return, "That's very kind of you, thanks I'd love that." but for some reason instead heard, "Oh, no...that's okay, I can get it." resonate into the air between us.  "I would just need a...uh, ladder, right?"  He nodded.  "I've been meaning to get one of those anyway, so no problem-thanks for the rope."  I stared into the sky at the swaying pole apprehensively, wondering what diagnosis I could label this disconnect between my thoughts and words as.

My landlord said a flagpole is hung with a ladder.  My uncle almost choked when he heard my plan.  "A ladder?!  No, no, no. The flagpole slides out of the ground!  It's in an anchor.  You attach the flag from the ground and slide it back into its anchor."  Phew.  I was relieved to have found another source of knowledge about flag hanging before driving home from town with a ladder strapped haphazardly on top of my Hyundai.  The next day, I strapped on my gardening/chicken catching gloves and walked over to the flag pole.  One hernia later, I realized that flag pole was not going to be removed from its anchor unless Thor were to fall from the sky to my aid.  Luckily, a third option was set before me, and it seemed easier and safer than the previous two suggestions. "Oh, I'll just bring a tractor over and lift you up to the top so you can hang your flag", my Dad suggested when I called him to discuss this critically urgent matter. "Great!  Come on over!  I'll make some lemonade!", I squeaked with delight.  Finally, a flag!  But...not so fast, we're on country time now.  I won't go so far as to call my family un-patriotic (something about wheat harvest and 16 hour work days in a 100 degree combine cab for the next two weeks was mentioned) but I was given plenty of time to stare at this empty pole in my yard and exercise my blossoming patience.  At last, one day I heard an old tractor chugging down the road.  It stopped in front of my flag pole and my children watched excitedly as I stepped into the bucket.  

My stomach dropped as I rose into the sky and my knees folded under me.  "Stand up!"  my Dad urged as I hunched down, holding onto the bucket for dear life.  I scowled down at him.  It's not so easy to take advice from a man who has fallen off more silos and roofs than I can count.  "I will."  And I did, knees a little shaky, I rose and stretched up, rope in hand, reaching for the pulley. Reaching, reaching as high as I could stretch.  And...coming up a mere four feet short.

"I didn't really take this possibility into account" my Dad pondered.  Ever the problem solver, he quickly shimmied up the tractor into the raised bucket and got the job done.

It's official.  We're a chicken-raising, cow milking, flag-waving family.  Now if I could just smother this desire to run out and give that flag-pole a coat of fresh, white paint.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Once Upon a Heat Wave

When it's so hot you could fry an egg-and lately that seems all we've been doing, you know it's a heat wave.   Midsummer heat waves are wonderful in retrospect.  Huddled up in the shivering winter, I'll look back and remember these sweltering summer days with a romantic recall.  Its a different kind of reality in this blistering drought of a summer though.  Only during the cool hours between two and six in the morning do I have the energy required to complete the chores of the day.  I move room to room, picking up a trail of clothing, of sweaty layers shed listlessly onto the floor as the heat rises with each hour of the day. The afternoons are heavy with heat and irritability, leaving little more energy than that required to sit in the shade of the front porch, licking popsicles, the three of us, chickens and dog looking on a short distance away, just waiting for the nod of approval to sweep in and peck or lick up drips of popsicle sweetness.  We spend our time doing little more than waiting out this incessant heat; waiting for rain, a breeze, an air conditioner salesman. 

We finish our morning chores of watering the garden and cleaning the chicken coop just as the temperature reaches that point when it becomes necessary to retreat inside for a few hours.  As we make our way in, Miss Stacey-as named by E (in honor of her preschool teacher), skitters past us and up the chicken ramp, settling into her newly cleaned and fluffy nesting box. A watches her and pauses, then urges us to go ahead inside.  "I'll be in in just a minute", he says, as nonchalantly as a three-year old can. I smile, and E and I head into our home, already only slightly cooler than the outdoors.  I watch him from the kitchen window as E settles me into an elaborate game of pretend in which I am a Momma Horse, allowing me a little quiet time as Momma Horse doesn't have much to say in this particular pretend game's script.  I watch as A stands waiting outside of the chicken coop, lifting the cover to peek into the nesting box, closing it, waiting, lifting its cover again.  There is definitely a lot more checking than waiting going on here, but he is intent on being present for the miracle of egg laying.  The pretend game concludes and Momma Horse is released to make lunch.  After a time, I head out to fetch A. The grass, long browned and burned by the sun, crunches under my sandals. I see his cheeks are pink, his blond hair darkened and curling with sweat, his eyes still determined, and poor Stacey still sitting in her nesting box trying to get a little chicken privacy.   He heads in without protest, eagerly gulping down a glass of cold milk I hand him once inside.  

How I empathize with the little guy.  Waiting.  It's as difficult for an adult as it is for a three year-old, but on a different level.  Waiting? Just the idea strikes irritability in my already heat-wave shortened fuse.  But as John Ortberg writes, 

“Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.”   

I  have so many plans, goals, and ambitions.  So much that I want to do in life that sometimes sleep alludes me.  Waiting just seems a waste of the precious time we have here in this life.  But right now, I feel called to wait.  And it's so against my impulsive and impatient nature that I know for certain this could only be God's clear voice directing me.  So I wait.   And I turn my ambitions into obedience, my plans into prayers.  As does my son, and for him the wait is short as a few minutes later in the still heat of the afternoon a familiar clucking sound causes us to jump up from the lunch table smiling and head out the door together to collect another fresh egg.