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.